Epic Speakership race

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Sad for the yellows and other members of the Opposition — the President will not resign. This is because his son, Rep. Paolo Duterte, backed out of the Speakership race. Sen. Bong Go and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles both said that the President is a man of his word, and will indeed resign if Paolo pursues his bid. This controversy fixed itself with a good father-and-son talk done last Thursday, as announced by Paolo, adding color to what is already an epic Speakership race.

The deadline date of 22 July is coming up and all the brouhaha on who the next Speaker will be is literally about to end. It has been a messy affair, with certain candidates coming to odds at each other, but all’s well that ends well in life, even in politics.

Last Saturday evening, a photo of the three contenders, Alan Peter Cayetano, Lord Allan Velasco, and Martin Romualdez, together with Duterte siblings — Mayor Sara Duterte and Rep. Paolo Duterte — was released to the media which brandished them as the “Duterte Coalition.” Obviously missing from the photo was former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez with his unsettled differences with Mayor Sara. With this latest development on the Speakership, we can expect an announcement to be made, sooner than later.

Employees and officials from the House from Representatives said that this is the most contested Speakership race ever. It has never happened that a clear Speaker was not known for this long, leaving a lot of organization decisions still up in the air. House leadership positions and committee chairmanships have not been decided on. There are nearly 70 House committees to be filled up with chairman, vice-chairman and membership slots. Aside from this, a huge pile of administrative work in the House is awaiting decisions and approvals by the next Speaker. Clearly, whoever the Speaker will be shall need to get the ground running as soon as possible, and his staff better be up to speed with the demands of the 304 new Congressmen.

Rep. Isidro Ungab was probably the most-searched Filipino politician last week on Google with the endorsement made by Hugpong ng Pagbabago, otherwise known as Mayor Sara Duterte’s posse. Fielded as the “unity bet” to end all squabbles, Rep. Ungab starts on a clean slate, although he is a returning legislator of the 3rd District of Davao City. He does not have the baggage of the other Speakership contenders and he is relatively a new face, despite his veteran status as a legislator, having previously been a Chairman of the House Committees on Appropriations and Ways and Means — both committees meant serious work.

When Ungab was first floated early last week, he was not given much credence by the media and staff since Paolo previously declared his intention to run, and attention was centered more on the President’s reaction, on whether he shall resign or not, as previously promised. The stock price of Ungab soared when Paolo declared that he will no longer run for the Speakership and instead endorsed Ungab as the compromise Speaker.

With the meeting of the supporters of the “Duterte Coalition,” does this mean that they have all agreed to an Ungab Speakership? Or will there be a term-sharing, as pushed by Cayetano? To recall, Cayetano has been pushing for the suggested 15-21 term-sharing agreement, coined as the Magellan Formula, that was approved by the President. It nearly happened, but was botched by Lord Allan Velasco and his wife Wen, who was named by Cayetano as Ramon Ang’s “girl Friday.” Sen. Koko Pimentel, President of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Party, later backed the term-sharing agreement, after consultation with Velasco and other members of the party, with the condition that Velasco must come first.

Constitutionalists will argue that having an “agreement” substitute an election to choose a Speaker is illegal, void and unconstitutional. Sure, there will still be an election, but is an exercise that the entire nation will know as rigged. An election must be a free democratic process, not done with the absolute knowledge of results, much less the consent that the term to be served shall be put an abrupt, yet scripted end, in order to give way for the next Speaker, who will also undergo a rigged election. This shall set a dangerous precedent that threatens the free democratic ideals of our society.

Whatever decision that the “Duterte Coalition” has come to, it should hopefully be in favor of a single Speaker for the entire three-year term. Should there be any issues with the chosen Speaker, they can always pull off the stunt they did in the 2018 State of the Nation Address yet again.

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