Congress requires a tested leader

"How did one lawmaker get this far?"Congress requires a tested leader



As one-half of the legislative branch of our democratic system of government, the House of Representatives plays a crucial role in implementing the constitutional mandate for the State to promote a “just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.”

Effective leadership of the House requires the Speaker to be able to unite 250 lawmakers from various districts and party-list groups as well as political parties behind the President’s priority legislative agenda. The Speaker must also listen to what opposition lawmakers are saying as part and parcel of democratic discourse.

More important, from where we sit, is that the Speaker must be able to earn the trust and respect of his colleagues.

When the 18th Congress convened last year, the Speakership was contested by at least three or four lawmakers. But when it seemed that no one wanted to give up the fight, the President stepped in and suggested a term-sharing deal between the two frontrunners.

Under the term-sharing deal, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano would sit as Speaker of the House for the first 15 months, while Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco would take over the post for the remaining 21 months. 

Capiz Rep.  Fredenil Castro raised a valid point in his privilege speech last September 22 when he said that one who wants to be the Speaker cannot quietly sit in one corner and wait for the post to be handed to him on a silver platter.

Alluding to Velasco who has relied on his term-sharing agreement with Cayetano to sit as the next Speaker , Castro said: “He did not work, he did not contribute, he did not defend this House, he did not lead. So why expect us to follow him?” 

Castro pointed out: “It was his mistake to think that he could just do nothing in 15 months and then just one day appear in Congress to claim the speakership as if it was his birthright.”

Cayetano enjoys a distinct advantage over Velasco in track record and experience in public office. 

Cayetano’s legislative skills were honed early on. At age 22, when he was still in law school, he emerged as the youngest and number one municipal councilor in Taguig City.

Afterward, he won a seat in the House as representative of the lone district of Taguig-Pateros. There, he earned praises for his eloquence and strong stand against graft and corruption. 

After completing three terms in Congress, Cayetano ran for senator in 2007 and won. He chaired the Blue Ribbon Committee and exposed several corruption scandals.

In 2013, on his second term, he was elected Senate Majority Floor Leader and chaired the Senate committee on rules. In 2016, he was designated chair of the Senate foreign relations committee. 

Cayetano’s legislative record is impressive. He was the main author of 43 bills, six of which were passed into law. Among these are the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) Act, Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003, Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, Strengthening the Magna Carta for PWDs, and the Domestic Workers Act (Kasambahay) Law. 

Cayetano’s political career reached a new high when he was chosen as Rodrigo Duterte’s running mate in the 2016 presidential elections. 

Apart from being a veteran legislator, Cayetano also served as Secretary of Foreign Affairs in the Duterte Cabinet. Here, he managed to protect the national interests in the international community while striving to maintain cordial relations with other countries.

In the Pulse Asia survey conducted in the first week of December last year—less than six months into his term as Speaker—Cayetano emerged as the third most trusted official in government, garnering a trust rating of 76 percent or an increase of 14 percentage points from his 62 percent rating in September.

As Speaker, Cayetano managed to get lawmakers to pass the 2020 national budget in only 20 working days. He also helped steer the passage of the President’s tax reform packages  and economic priority bills, as well as the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act  and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act aimed at addressing the Covid-19 public health crisis.  

As for Velasco, his track record leaves much to be desired. He practiced law in the Supreme Court office of his father, former Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.  He later assumed the post of provincial administrator of Marinduque and headed the provincial chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

At present, Velasco leads the House Committee on Energy. But this body does not appear to have passed any significant bill thus far to advance the interests of the energy sector. 

We understand that Velasco was offered by Cayetano the position of Deputy Speaker so he could prove his leadership skills, but he chose to turn it down. Last week, he said that he preferred to keep quiet out of respect for Cayetano but his deafening silence on pressing national issues showed that he is simply unprepared to take on the awesome responsibility of uniting lawmakers and leading the House in crafting laws that would benefit the nation in the years to come.

We therefore ask: How did he get this far with nothing more than overweening ambition and meager accomplishments?

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Topics: House of Representatives , Alan Peter Cayetano , Lord Allan Jay Velasco
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