"The President should now step in."
The arrangement of term sharing as House Speaker between Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Alan Velasco looks like a dead deal after Cayetano publicly stated he wants to stay as Speaker up to 2022, the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.
As anyone who had a taste of power, Cayetano no longer wants to let go of the House helm, claiming that the majority coalition wants him to continue a “job well done.” Cayetano’s words, not mine—nor a House member’s who has yet to come out publicly to support the Taguig representative’s claim of overwhelming support.
Then again, a House Speaker’s power is vast. He has the power of steering the Nation Appropriations Act that allocates funds for congressmen’s district projects. He also signs and approves all their foreign travel allowances. A bigger travel allowance can include expenses if the congressman brings his family along—in some cases, his mistress to also enjoy his perks and privileges.
But a deal is a deal. As brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte, the arrangement is that Cayetano is supposed to serve as Speaker for 15 months. And then he turns over the Speakership to Velasco.
With this twist, we can expect a House in tumult with internecine politics taking priority over the passage of necessary bills for the people.
President Duterte has yet to make a statement on the House Speakership issue. Overworked and under supported by his Cabinet, the President, according to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, will work for a few days from his house in Davao. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will handle the volume of paperwork in Malacañang while the Chief Executive concentrates on the extension of martial law in Mindanao, the relief and rescue operations of earthquake victims in Cotabato and his home province of Davao—the two hardest-hit areas by three back-to-back 6.5-magnitude tremors, plus the flooding caused by Typhoon “Quiel” in Occidental Mindoro, Cagayan and Isabela.
The President’s health has become a cause for concern particularly after he took a spill while riding his motorcycle. He was late for the Asean heads of state photo op in Bangkok and was only too glad the Asia Pacific Economic Conference in Chile was canceled because of political unrest in the South American country.
Working out of the seat of government in Manila is not unusual. US Presidents have done this by taking their work to Camp David, the US presidents’ official residence outside of the White House in Washington.
The late US President Richard Nixon was remembered as also having taken his work to his residence in San Clemente, California.
We hope that after this short break from his rigid schedule in Malacañang, the President will be reenergized to tackle the volume of national problems from Manila.
Work while with partner Honeylet Avancena and their daughter would be good therapy for the President. He will also have time to spend with daughter Inday Sarah Duterte Carpio , the Davao City mayor and son Paolo.
But back to the House Speakership issue. The President should really enforce the gentleman’s agreement that he brokered between Cayetano and Velasco and tell the former that a deal is a deal. Otherwise, the President will look bad if Cayetano welshes on the deal and defies Duterte’s instructions. A lame duck president after three years, Duterte will appear even weaker if he cannot make Cayetano honor the brokered agreement.
Cayeteno, on the other hand, would also be damaged goods if he does not follow the agreed-upon deal. Whatever ambition he has for higher office is as good as dead in the water. He will be long remembered as someone who cannot be trusted.