Sneak peek into 18th Congress

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The proclamation of winning senators and partylist representatives was prepared as a red-carpet affair at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), but did not push through yesterday to await canvassing of votes from Washington DC. An estimated 200,000 votes are still expected to come in that could alter the composition of the Magic 12. It has been a tooth-and-nail battle between Senators Nancy Binay and JV Ejercito for the 12th spot, with Binay consistently having the upper hand. Both are scions of huge political families, affected by their public in-fighting among their siblings, but young enough to make a huge difference and make a comeback in the years to come.

Regardless, the composition of the Senate is now pretty obvious, leaving the opposition in shambles. The top officers of the Liberal Party (LP), Sen. Kiko Pangilinan and Rep. Kit Belmonte, submitted their resignations as campaign manager and secretary general, respectively. Vice President Leni Robredo was said to have refused to accept the resignations, though the deeds had already been done. We should expect new officers from the LP soon to be appointed and announced.

Senators are expected to retain Senate President Tito Sotto and Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri, leaving the talk as to who the new Senate committee chairpersons will be. The advantage of having a super majority is the ease of passing the President’s legislative priorities. Most controversial will be the expected discussion on bringing back the death penalty. Given the President’s strong stance against drugs, we can expect criminals to be executed for drug-related crimes before his term ends. The President’s allies may also open up talks for constitutional amendments and the passage of the next tax reform packages.

The same agenda cannot be said about the House of Representatives, since the Speakership is still up for grabs. Outgoing Speaker and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has certainly raised the bar high with her workaholic attitude and natural genius in economics and management. The next Speaker definitely will have huge shoes to fill.

Speaker Arroyo’s chosen one, incoming Congressman Martin Romualdez of Lakas-CMD is expected to continue her style of leadership. However, the other candidates for Speakership are expected to lobby intensively to both the President and the new congressmen. These include Partido Demokratiko Pilipino’s former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Lord Alan Velasco, and former Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party.

Looking at the composition of the House of Representatives for the 18th Congress, we see some diversity in the mix. This is primarily because more partylists were granted a seat to fill, and we have leading ACT-CIS to blame. The Tulfo star power brought in millions of votes for ACT-CIS, which effectively broke the curve in determining how many partylists can be granted a seat in Congress. Now, we have more partylists with a single seat, causing more variance in sectoral representation, if there is still such a thing. Yesterday, the Makabayan bloc held a press conference where Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay said that he shall initiate a revisit of the Party List Act since it has been bastardized, as it was originally intended to allow marginalized sectors to be represented. Now, it is a mere conduit for political dynasties.

In the same vein, it bears mentioning that we now have five husband-and-wife tandems in the House for the 18th Congress, to wit: Alan Peter and Lani Cayetano (Taguig); Martin and Yedda Romualdez (Leyte and Tingog Partylist); Horacio and Ging Suansing (Sultan Kudarat and Nueva Ecija); Bem and Josephine Noel (An Waray Partylist and Malabon); and Rashidin and Angelica Matba (Tawi-Tawi and Agusan del Norte).

Whoever the next Speaker will be, we can expect more work to be done in the second half of the President’s term. Unlike his predecessors, President Rodrigo Duterte has been riding on an unending wave of support from the masses, despite the noise caused by keyboard warriors, who evidently do not vote. This support has increased his political capital to push for legislation unlike never before. Who knows, by 2022, we can now be Federal Republic of the Philippines.

Email: darren.dejesus@dejesuslegal.com or tweet @darrendejesus

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