By Vanne Terrazola
The joint session of Congress called by President Duterte for the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao may delay the approval of the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget by the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said this Friday amid reports that the Chief Executive has approved the recommendation of government security officials and asked Congress to convene a joint session to tackle his request to extend the military rule in Mindanao beyond December 31, 2018.
“Well, that would delay the budget schedule,” Zubiri told reporters when asked about the implication of the upcoming joint session on their deliberations of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that Duterte may call for the joint session on martial law on Wednesday morning, December 12. The President, however, has yet to send his official request for a joint session.
The Senate has been holding sessions from morning to evening as it rushes the deliberation of the 2019 national budget.
Zubiri said the joint session will go against the Senate’s initial plan to approve the GAB on final reading on December 12.
“We plan to approve by Wednesday on second and third reading the budget and proceed now to a bicam[eral conference committee], and maybe have a special session next week to ratify,”Zubiri said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“Definitely, it (the joint session) will delay [the budget’s approval] because we will have to travel. Of course, we will go to the House of Representatives for the joint session. And because of that, passage of the budget on Wednesday will be delayed,” he added.
Zubiri, nevertheless, said he remains hopeful that they will be able to pass the 2019 budget on time, contrary to the apprehension by his colleagues.
Sotto said senators, anyway, may continue with the budget debates after the joint session. He said they could also extend plenary debates to December 14.