By Ellson Quismorio
The House Speakers, who will sit in the 18th Congress under the Palace-endorsed “15-21” term-sharing scheme, might get taken out “Alvarez style” if they’re not careful, says Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate.
“Three years ang term ng isang Speaker. Kung tumatakbo ka na Speaker, gusto mo talaga matapos yung three years (A Speaker’s term is three years long. If you’re running for Speaker, that means you want to finish the three years),” Zarate said.
“Ngayon ki-nut ka into 15 and 21 [months] (Now your term has been cut into 15 and 21 months)…the system itself has an inherent fail mechanism,” claimed the opposition lawmaker, who is himself vying for the Speakership.
Pointing to what happened to Davao del Norte 1st district Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez during last year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) event wherein he was unseated as Speaker, Zarate said, “I won’t be surprised if it happened again.”
“In fact si Speaker Alvarez naka two regular sessions siya (Speaker Alvarez was in position for two regular sessions). People thought [he was] secured, but he was ousted,” he said.
The 15-21 scheme, proposed no less by President Rodrigo Duterte, divides the three-year duration of the current 18th Congress between Speaker hopefuls Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
Nacionalista Party’s (NP) Cayetano, Duterte’s former running mate, will be the Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress under this plan. Velasco, Duterte’s party-mate over at Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), would then take over for the final 21 months.
“It’s only reflective of how fractious this administration coalition is,” Zarate said of the term-sharing scheme.
“Pwede pa ring ma-Alvarez yung nakaupo, especially since hindi na ganun ka solid [yung coalition] compared to before. Yung dating mga magkakaibigan nagbibirahan na (The sitting Speaker might still get the Alvarez treatment since the coalition isn’t as solid compared to before. Those who were friends before are now attacking each other).”
According to him, the administration coalition first showed cracks on its surface when former president, Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was installed as Speaker following Alvarez’s ouster. Both Arroyo and Alvarez are PDP-Laban stalwarts.
Zarate said that even if Cayetano could finish his 15-month term, there’s no guarantee of a smooth transition toward a Velasco leadership in the 305-member Lower Chamber.
“Hindi yan. Hindi smooth. Ang 15-21 ay hindi assurance na magiging smooth talaga (It won’t be smooth. The 15-21 scheme is not an assurance of a smooth transition),” he said.
Add to this the possibility that other Speaker-aspirants might look for “opportunities” to gain the post, Zarate said. Nearly 10 congressmen expressed a desire to become Speaker in the 18th Congress, it can be recalled.
In the end, Zarate said the term-sharing plan was all about the “politics of convenience and accommodation.”
President Duterte, chairman of PDP-Laban, will step down from Malacañang at the conclusion of the 18th Congress.