Activists urge Congress to recall national budget approval for needed amendments

Amid the unnecessary drama between former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and the newly-elected position holder Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Jay Velasco, activist groups are urging the Congress to withdraw the second reading approval of the proposed 2021 national budget to allow amendments.

With over 300 signatories representing groups from the sectors of agriculture, education, health, and civil society, activists dubbed last week’s approval of the proposed national budget as “hasty, premature, and undemocratic.”

Teddy Casiño, spokesperson of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said that the House Bill No. 7727 or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) should go through a period of amendments first before being approved on the third reading, adding that “the budgets of many agencies have yet to be tackled in plenary.”

The second-reading approval of the said budget, Casiño emphasized, is like effectively denying the public the opportunity to scrutinize the bill further through the respective elected representatives.

“As it is, the proposed budget appears oblivious to the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health, the economy, and the educational system,” the groups said in a statement.

“It is important therefore for our congressmen and senators to listen and act on the very urgent demands of our people to prioritize public health spending, social protection and economic stimulus, and the retooling of our educational system in the 2021 budget,” they added.

Joining the groups in the protest is the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines who called on House Speaker Velasco to show that his “never-say-die” effort to get the top post of the lower chamber is more than just for the position.

“In the past days, we cannot but watch in disgust lawmakers bickering over lucrative positions, all while our teachers struggle with printers and internet connection, studying sibling compete for gadget use, and food and education compete in the family budget,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio lamented.

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