Doing the House a big favor

    1046

    ‘In so doing, the Speaker re-established in a way the independence of the House, as has been the intent of the framers of the Constitution based on the treatises of the political philosophers of the 18h and 19th centuries.’

    TWO days ago, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (note the single L) delivered a speech on the floor of the House that detailed the discussions he had with President Duterte and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan (double L) Velasco regarding the long-awaited leadership transition.

    This transition stems from a “term sharing” agreement that Cayetano and Velasco had hammered out with the President’s blessing more than a year-and-a-half ago, with Cayetano holding the position for the first 15 months and Velasco for the last 21 months of the second half of Duterte’s term.

    Under that agreement – at least according to the Speaker – he was to preside over the House in order to (among others) deliver two national budgets for the President. During normal times this should have been accomplished by now; but COVID intervened. Hence it is expected that a national budget will be finished, passed and signed into law by December. This is why Speaker Alan is arguing that his responsibility is to stay in office until that task is accomplished.

    Cong Lord Allan would have none of that. Again, according to Speaker Alan, the Marinduque solon is insistent that the transition happen NOW (Sept. 30, actually) or at best Oct. 14. When the President himself asked if a December transition was acceptable the Marinduque solon refused to budge.

    During his speech on the floor which I watched from start to almost the finish (I missed the Bible part), I was at time sympathetic and cringing. Sympathetic at the parts where the Speaker narrated the work of hammering out a budget and everything that accomplishing that requires – including meeting with various government agencies to clarify and agree on priorities – something Cong Lord Allan apparently gave little attention to; cringing at the parts where Speaker Alan was narrating their submissive posture to the President of the Philippines, on paper the head of a separate but co-equal branch of government.

    There are reasons the Constitution creates separate but co-equal branches of government, reasons that go into the heart of the principles of democracy and the sovereignty of the people and all that. As a political science student I was cringing at the thought that Speaker Alan – himself a political science graduate of UP and, not to mention, a graduate of law, with honors, from Ateneo – was acting in direct contradiction of these established political principles.

    Then again the scenario that the Speaker was painting for all of us to visualize was realpolitik, not Pol Sci 11 as taught to us by our professors in Diliman.

    The whole story unfolding on television was thus bringing out two sides of me: the shocked political science student who could only shake his head, and the smiling political observer who could only nod and smile.

    And then the Speaker “redeemed” himself. When he offered his resignation, triggering a motion to reject it (as it was so rejected), Speaker Alan was, perhaps unwittingly, doing the House a big favor. He was re-establishing the essence of a Speaker who is elected by the members of the House, not one dictated on the House by the Chief Executive.

    In so doing, the Speaker re-established in a way the independence of the House, as has been the intent of the framers of the Constitution based on the treatises of the political philosophers of the 18h and 19th centuries.

    As I’ve stated previously, I’ve always thought the term-sharing agreement was wrong from the start. Changing a key player of a basketball team in the heat of a game can change the dynamics significantly, and lose a game for a team otherwise playing well; what more changing the leadership of the House, especially as we are facing the worst health and economic crisis in years?

    But I’m now happier that there’s a silver lining amid all the drama. The House has chosen a Speaker for itself.

    (PS: advanced happy birthday to both Speaker Alan and Cong Lord Allan.)