Speaker race

By: Artchil B. Fernandez

THE Du30 administration has grown so big it is drowning in its own fat. It has become so successful its success is sowing the seeds of its future implosion. This is clearly illustrated in the fight for the Speakership in the House of Representatives which also portends the future of present administration.

Four persons are contesting the Speakership – Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque, Martin Romualdez of Leyte, Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig and Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte. Each one of them claims to be ally of Du30, each proclaiming loyalty to him. But each of them represents a political bloc with its own agenda and pursuing its own interest.

Historically, only one vote matters in the contest for Speakership, that of the president.  Whoever is the preferred choice of the president, becomes leader of the House. Things changed under Du30’s rule.

Upon winning the presidency, Du30 chose Pantaleon Alvarez as House Speaker and he occupied the post until last year. Du30’s state of the nation address (Sona) last year was delayed for an hour when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA), in connivance with presidential daughter Sara Duterte, staged a coup ousting Alvarez. An embarrassed Du30 threatened to walk out from his own Sona if the leadership squabble was not resolved. Alvarez was eventually removed from his post after Du30 delivered his Sona and GMA took over the leadership of the House.

The speakership race is complicated this year. Prior to the election, Cayetano was peddling a story that the reason he resigned as foreign affairs secretary and sought a seat in the House was the promise of Du30 that he will be the next Speaker. But that was pre-election.  Post-election, the situation has dramatically changed.

Aside from Cayetano, three others threw their hats on the ring and Du30 decided to stay neutral in the Speakership race. Without Du30’s backing, Cayetano’s dream started to fade as two front runners emerged, Velasco and Romualdez.

Allies of Du30 gravitated into two blocs, that of Velasco and Romualdez. Alvarez, true to his being a spoiler sow intrigue in the Speaker race by declaring that if Du30’s son Polong wants to be Speaker he will withdraw from the race and back his bid.

Du30 reacted with his signature tantrum upon hearing his son’s name being floated in the Speakership race. He declared he will resign from the presidency if Polong enters the contest for House Speaker and reiterated his neutrality.

But neutrality did not prevent the contenders from seeking Du30’s blessings and even pursued him in Japan. Each of them took advantage of every photo opportunity just to be seen with Du30, projecting he has his blessings.

Considering itself as the dominant party in a super majority supporting Du30, the PDP-Laban declared that the Speakership should come from its rank. Polong hosted a dinner for the party and allies in Malacañang. PDP-Laban announced Velasco is its bet for the Speakership. The dinner was designed to create an impression Velasco had tacit backing of Du30.

The sidelined Cayetano sensing he is losing the contest may have bitterly complained to Du30 about his predicament. By this time, the Speakership race is becoming a political headache to Du30 despite his hands-off policy.  Du30 attempted to reconcile Cayetano and Velasco with a Solomonic solution – term sharing. The Speaker’s term will be split between them.

Cayetano was happy with the arrangement knowing his weak position in the race. But Velasco threw cold water to his ambition by refusing the term-sharing arrangement. Why would Velasco agree when he has a wider support, especially from Du30’s son Polong? All he can do was to cry foul and accuse Velasco of creating problem for Du30.

An exasperated Du30 said he will let GMA decide on the matter. This further dimmed Cayetano’s chance and bolstered Romualdez prospect. Romualdez who is backed by GMA is reportedly gaining the upper ground in the Speakership contest. This development did not set well with Velasco and the PDP-Laban who earlier claimed to have clinched the Speakership.

As allies of Du30 bicker and bitterly fight for the Speakership, Du30’s two children further complicated the situation. Polong announced this week he might seek the Speakership post declaring: “The House is divided. I might be able to unite it.” His sister Sara, not to be outdone, came up with her own solution.

Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Sara’s regional political party, proposed that the three main contenders for the Speakership move aside and give way to Davao City congressman Isidro Ungab. In endorsing Ungab for Speaker, Hugpong suggested Cayetano to become majority leader, Velasco to head the powerful appropriations committee while Romualdez to become chair of accounts committee.

What these developments indicate is, the Speakership post is far from settled. Whatever is the outcome of the fight for Speakership, the coalition Du30 cobbled will collapse in its own weight and its implosion is inevitable.

So far, what is clear is Cayetano’s Speakership dream is already over. The fight for Speakership is really between Velasco (backed by PDP-Laban and Du30’s children, granting their recent moves are mere posturing) and Romualdez who is supported by GMA.

The Speakership race will be settled but the bitter fight indicates Du30 is no longer in control of his coalition. Worst for him the outcome of the contest will create fissure in his coalition that will not heal but will only widen as the end of his term nears.