Term-sharing speakers


The wait is finally over. We have a new speaker, or rather, we have new speakers. Last Monday, after a two-hour meeting with the three frontrunners for the speakership, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that it has been decided: It will be Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano to be speaker for 15 months, or from July 2019 until October 2020, then Congressman Lord Velasco for the remainder of the term, or from October 2020 until June 2022. While Congressman Martin Romualdez will be majority floor leader for the entire three years.

The Magellan Formula will be heard for years to come. Whoever coined the term deserves an award. However, the naysayers will argue that it is unconstitutional. Article VI, Section 16(1) of the 1987 Constitution states, “The Senate shall elect its president and the House of Representatives, its speaker, by a majority vote of all its respective members. Each house shall choose such other officers as it may deem necessary.”

By coming up with a formula, it is thereby circumventing what was intended in the Constitution, and that is freely conducted elections meant to reflect the will of the people.

The most important thing here is that the congressmen should not put this agreement into writing, since that would be proof of this circumvention that may be questioned before the Supreme Court. For this agreement, their word to follow the Magellan Formula is all they have on each other.

And we expect them to follow it, since the president already announced it. With the booming and still increasing popularity of the president, it would be political suicide for Congressman Cayetano and his entire political family if he fails to honor his word. In any case, he can spend the 21 months after his speakership to campaign for the higher office that he is expected to run for in 2022. Congressman Cayetano also mentioned that he intends to capitalize on the start of the 18th Congress, where legislators and the executive branch are still hot to push for the passage of the difficult bills.

As for Congressman Velasco, his later assumption of the speakership is favorable to him since he can spend the first 15 months beefing up his credibility and experience since his youth may have served as a disadvantage to his initial bid to become speaker. Once he assumes the speakership, he is expected to have ripened up, ready to take on what is left to be done in the legislative agenda. It is common knowledge also that Congressman Velasco is bosom buddies with Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, and he may assist Mayor Sara should she ever decide to run for president in 2022. By that time, Congressman Velasco may be qualified and popular enough to run under her slate, as a senator.

People may think that Congressman Romualdez got the smallest portion of the pie, since he’s the only one who will not get a crack at the speakership. But the people must know that the position of majority floor leader is very influential and powerful, and for Congressman Romualdez to hold on to this for three years may mean a lot of work, but this shall translate to tons of political capital. Congressman Romualdez may have failed in his last bid for the Senate, but if he plays his cards right (and we know how good he is), then 2022 may just be his lucky year.

As for the other contenders who were not in Malacañang last Monday, we may expect some juicy committee chairmanships for them. Congressman Isidro Ungab — the chosen speaker of the Duterte siblings — will surely end up chairing the House Committee on Appropriations, a committee he chaired before. Former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez may get his preferred committees that might relate to Mindanao development, energy, or transportation, which are fields he is very familiar with. Congressman Carlos Zarate will certainly run for speaker on 22 July and he’ll be minority floor leader.

With this development, the 18th Congress is shaping up to be very interesting that will have two scripted elections for the speaker. With each speaker, we can also expect changes in the House leadership and committee chairmanships, which will consequently affect their staffing, meaning a lot more paperwork for the human resource and finance departments of the House. Despite these changes, let’s hope that the House will stick to the legislative agenda and pass landmark bills, including the budgets for years 2020 to 2022, right on schedule.

Email: darren.dejesus@gmail.com or tweet him @darrendejesus.