"The doctrine of the separation of powers is a myth in this country."
It is true what they say that the kind of politics we have in this country necessarily reflects the character of our society. It is also equally true that the strengths and weaknesses of our politics are essentially the strengths and weaknesses of our society as well.
In the end, whether we like it or not, we deserve the kind of government that we have with the kind of politicians we vote into public office.
A very good example of this is what just happened in the Speakership row between Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco. It should not have ended the way it did, if only the term-sharing agreement was honored without them having to fight it out. The squabbling between the two camps in the last couple of weeks was embarrassing to say the least. Certainly, it damaged the reputation of the House.
Considering that a congressman’s term is only three years, the term-sharing agreement in 2019 did not make much sense. Those involved in brokering the deal should have known that human nature, being what it is, splitting three years for two Speakers will end up not satisfying either of the two as shown in the political drama we just witnessed. What can one really do in 15 or 21 months? The agreement reminds me of the ritual during every election of candidates signing an agreement for fair and honest elections, only to violate it. Why? Because no candidate wants to end up being cheated.
If we try to go deeper, it is not really that simple because of what is at stake. Ambition and control of funds are but two of the many reasons why it is not easy to let go of power once acquired. A gentlemen’s agreement, as we all understand, means that two honorable and distinguished persons bind themselves to abide by the conditions of what has been stipulated upon when the time comes for the agreement to be fulfilled.
In this case, it was even more elaborate, solemn and ceremonial because the President of the country was a witness to the agreement. A document was even signed. So, it was not only a handshake that sealed the deal which should have been enough between two honorable people. There was a signed document.
When former Speaker Cayetano suspended the session for about a month last October 6 which in the light of what happened last Monday and Tuesday, could only be interpreted as a preemptive strike, the President took notice because the move had the potential of delaying the passage of the 2021 government budget. He told the House in no uncertain terms to get their act together or he will be forced to make his own move. With that, he showed who the real Boss is. He demonstrated that the so-called doctrine of separation of powers between the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches is all a myth. There is no such thing in this democratic land of ours. Look at the way the two House leaders defer to the President. Both of them admitted that they will follow his orders. This says a lot.
In a very unusual Congressional meeting in Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City last Monday, Lord Allan Velasco was elected House Speaker and was officially ratified last Tuesday at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives. This demonstrates, beyond any doubt, the legitimacy of Velasco’s election. Even Alan Peter Cayetano was forced to accept reality.
What happened in the camps of the two Alans also gave us an opportunity to compare the contrasting leadership styles of the two House leaders. Former Speaker Cayetano, as far as I can see, is the consummate political operator and a go-getter. These traits are necessary if one wants to go far and survive the rough political jungle in this country.
Lord Allan Velasco, on the other hand, is low key and prefers to operate quietly. He does not speak more than he has to. When he was being nominated last Monday, there was a lot of talk about bringing back the dignity and the lost glory of the House. Whether his quiet demeanor and new leadership style will serve him well in the remaining months before the 2022 elections, we will have to wait and see.
In his first speech as the House Speaker, he made some promises about change, service and unity. He has 21 months to fulfill these promises. Whether he can pull them off and change the pork barrel politics, which the House is known to live by, to something honorable, would be something that we all would like to see.