Alvarez finds no need to prolong 2018 budget plenary debates

MANILA, Philippines – The House opposition bloc finds the 5 days scheduled for plenary debates over the proposed 2018 budget is too short. But for House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the brevity of debates is not an issue at all.

Eh bakit ba natin patatagalin? Andami nating ginagawa dito sa House of Representatives. Hindi lang po yan ang ginagawa natin. I don’t see any reason kung bakit kailangan nating patagalin yan, e kung okay na naman,” he told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday, August 30.

(Why do we want to prolong it? We do a lot of things in the House of Representatives. That’s not our only job. I don’t see any reason why we should prolong it when there are no problems anyway.)

During a press conference on August 29, both Albay 1st district Representative Edcel Lagman and Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin raised the alarm over the “rush” in passing the 2018 proposed budget.

But as far as Alvarez is concerned, 5 days are enough to scrutinize and even “show off.”

Tama na yung 5 days para magpasikat diyan sa baba, susmaryosep (Five days are enough to show off at the plenary hall),” he said, motioning to the plenary hall.

But the House minority said they wanted to go over the budget with a fine-tooth comb, particularly given the failure of several agencies to spend their 2017 budgets properly.

Kung last year pinagbigyan ang budget… this year, asahan ninyo na mas matindi ang pagsusuri ng budget (If last year, we let them be, this year expect us to be tougher in scrutinizing the budget),” said Kabayan Representative Harry Roque in a separate press conference.

Alvarez thinks the scrutiny is more than enough.

Budget briefings at the committee level, depending on the government agency, last for as short as 2 minutes and as long as 6 hours. It’s a chance for legislators to scrutinize the budget, as well as ask questions directly concerning their districts or sectors.

After making it past panel debates, the budget of government agencies and departments go through pre-plenary deliberations before they are discussed at plenary or before the House as a whole.

Isipin mo antagal tagal na sa committees yan o, dini-deliberate. Lahat ng tanong mo, itanong mo na roon. Pagdating sa plenary pasikat ka pa rin. Huwag na, tama na yung limang araw para magpasikat,” he added.

(Think about it. The budget has been discussed for a long time at the committee level. All your questions, you ask there. And when it reaches plenary, you still want to show off? No need. Five days is enough to show off.)

Turning to reporters, Alvarez added in jest: “Subukan nyo ano, mag-boycott kayo diyan sa baba. Hindi yan limang araw, isang araw lang tapos na yan. Kayo yung dahilan eh.”

(Try to boycott the plenary hearings. That won’t last 5 days. It might even be over after one day. You’re why it takes too long.)

Alvarez leads a House that is dominated by members and allies of PDP-Laban, the ruling party. They are often referred to as the "supermajority." –