Speaker Velasco has arrived


    NOW it is official.

    The new Speaker of the House of Representatives is Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, edging out his rival Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig City. Only 42 years old, Velasco is one of the youngest congressmen to become Speaker, and if he plays his role well, he will have a luminous future in Philippine politics.

    As we write this, the House in its proper plenary venue, was voting Velasco into the Office of the Speaker. Before the representatives ratified the vote, Cayetano resigned in rage, shame, and ignominy — things that he imposed on himself when he adamantly refused to honor the 15-21 term-sharing agreement with Velasco, thereby spitting on his word and blowing some droplets on the shamed face of President Rodrigo Duterte, the broker-sponsor of the so-called gentleman’s agreement that proved to be a misnomer.

    Previous to this, Velasco’s supporters met at the Celebrity Sports Plaza to show their numbers, physically and online, to convince other lawmakers that they can swing the vote in favor of Velasco. Cayetano’s boastful claim that Velasco does not have the support of the majority of voting congressmen was just that — a boast.

    ‘This new development in the House has become sort of poetic justice for Velasco…’

    One thing is sure. The congresspersons who were unjustly removed by Cayetano because of perceived closeness to Velasco will regain their committee chairmanships and posts: Quezon’s Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan of the Committee on Health, Eric Martinez, Sharon Garin, and deputy speaker Mikee Romero. What happened was most unjust and unfair to Congresswoman Helen Tan, who had cooperated well with the House leadership in passing health-related legislation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, aside from the establishment of regional hospitals and a virology research center.

    In our previous editorial, we said that the President need not intervene again on September 29 if the two leaders would just honor their word, but it seemed one of them failed to do so.

    What happened was Cayetano, as the sitting speaker, maneuvered the House into passing a half-baked national budget and closing the plenary until November 16. When Duterte ordered a special session on October 13, Cayetano’s camp should have realized that the headwinds are against them, and that closing the House of Representatives to prevent the election of a new speaker is a mistake.

    The wily Cayetano did the motions of offering to resign and his minions rejecting the offer, and for a time it seemed that the ruse will work. The gambit was intended to satisfy Speaker Cayetano’s personal ego: to celebrate his 50th birthday as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Well, it was not to be. Win some, lose some.

    This new development in the House has become sort of poetic justice for Velasco, who would have become speaker at the start of the 18th Congress but deferred to Cayetano and Duterte so that the administration coalition would gain more strength.

    Velasco has these thoughts on being a leader: “The true measure of leadership comes not when things are easy, but especially when things are most difficult. Whether famine or feast, poverty or plenty, a leader will always rise to the challenge and respond to the call of service.”

    At their lowest point in the speakership fight, he told his supporters, “But then we are all here, and this is a testament to our indomitable spirit and our collective commitment to honoring our word. For what are we, who are we, if we cannot live up to our word? This is not the triumph of one, this is the triumph of everyone who believes that a promise is a promise.”