Unseemly

    1019

    ‘Is Speaker Alan going back on the gentleman’s agreement forged some 18 months ago? He could do that, of course, but you and I know that he could only do that if he has the President’s blessing.’

    THIS whole House leadership drama, which is expected to come to a head soon, is unseemly, on many levels. I am most bothered by the fact that things like these do not do wonders for the image and reputation of the House of Representatives as a whole, or for its leaders in particular.

    First off, I have always thought that the idea of “term sharing” is a silly one. The leadership of the House is not like a condo by the beach (a natural beach, mind you) which you can co-own with others and agree on what dates of the year you will occupy the place. That’s what “term-sharing” makes it look like.

    Leadership changes are complex matters. They result in a game of musical chairs for key positions throughout the House. And this has implications in how the House runs its business.

    We also know that, more than the Senate, the House has always been deferential to the occupant of Malacanang, with no one taking the leadership against the wishes of the incumbent President. And ever since the time when then-Speaker Manuel B. Villar made a surprise move to impeach Joseph Estrada ages ago, you can imagine how Presidents are even more keen to have someone at the helm of the House whom they can trust 1,000%.

    And so this bubbling to the surface of alleged discontent among House members – from the Visayan bloc, a source tells me, and over “sharing” of “pork” – is nothing but unseemly. I can imagine what is being done to plug the holes as we speak; but the imagery in my mind leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I know that it has always been this way but forgive me if I had been hoping things would be different/better.

    I thought everyone had gone vegan and shunned pork, but that’s the naïve me speaking.

    The unseemliness of it all is compounded by the allegations that it is the President’s own son, Davao Rep. Paolo Duterte, who is stoking the “oust Cayetano” moves. Cong. Paolo, of all people, should know that realpolitik tells us that his father is the ultimate decider of this issue – so why not take up the matter privately with the President himself, maybe with Speaker Cayetano and Cong Lord Allan Velasco in tow, rather than have this become public?

    Loss of face could be avoided this way, something public officials/servants should be sensitive to. Because institutions get damaged in the process of squabbles like this one.

    And why launch “oust Cayetano” moves when there is an existing agreement that the Speakership will change hands this October?

    Then again we have to ask the question: Is Speaker Alan going back on the gentleman’s agreement forged some 18 months ago? He could do that, of course, but you and I know that he could only do that if he has the President’s blessing. And if he has that, then game over; he will have the backing of a majority of the House members for sure. Then we can all forget any leadership changes and focus on other things because the House leadership will remain as is.

    Cong. Lord Allan Velasco can pound on the door of the session hall as much as he wants demanding access to the Speaker’s chair, but it will be to no avail.

    In an ideal setting, it is the House membership that decides who sits as Speaker. But this is the Philippines; here, it is the President who makes that decision. Which is why all the noise is unseemly and damaging to the House as an institution that still needs some reputation-mending.

    The point is, the idea of term-sharing is silly to begin with, and it would be best for everyone for the President to just state outright that the current leadership will continue in place and nip this unnecessary and unseemly “turmoil” in the House so it can continue focusing on the business at hand.

    Unseemly can also describe what is happening in the US following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginzburg, an icon of the liberal wing of US society. Her death, with less than 50 days to go before the November presidential elections, provides incumbent President Donald Trump a chance to fill the vacancy with someone (a woman ideally) with a more conservative bent, tipping the Supreme Court more firmly away from its decades of liberal jurisprudence.

    And because Republicans control the Senate, any nominee chosen by POTUS is sure to be confirmed. That should be that.

    Problem is, with nine or so months to go before the end of the term of Barack Obama in 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died, resulting in the loss of perhaps the most iconic conservative justice in the court at that time. Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to replace Scalia. But the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold hearings on the nomination, arguing that because an election was coming up in November it would be best to let the newly-elected President choose the replacement to Scalia. This was a major change in tradition, and while it caused considerable uproar, the Republicans held their ground. And their gambit paid off when Trump upset Hillary Clinton at the polls and was able to keep the Scalia seat in the hands of the conservative minded wing of the Court.

    This time around the same Republican Senate is rushing to hold hearings on the nominee of the President, even if elections are just less than two months away. They’ve dropped their “let the people decide” mantra and are now invoking tradition. Again, the liberal wing of US society is in an uproar, but create noise is all they can do – until after the last mailed-in ballot is counted and someone is declared the winner of the 2020 presidential race.

    Around the world, many societies are already divided like never before. Unseemly actions by politicians who throw principles to the wind and act in furtherance of narrow, partisan interests further deepen that divide, when what is desperately needed is healing.
    Maybe things have to get far worse first before they get better?