A great deal at stake in speakership issue 

Published October 2, 2020, 8:58 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Last July 6, 2019, President Duterte announced the result of his mediation on the speakership dispute in the House of Representatives.
He stressed that he only stepped in because the members of the new 18th Congress could not reach an agreement by themselves and they asked him to help as leader of the dominant party, the PDP-Laban. His solution was a 15-21 division of the speakership term—the first 15 months for the Nacionalista Party’s Alan Peter Cayetano and the subsequent 21 months for the PDP-Laban’s Lord Allan Velasco.
Cayetano thus assumed the speakership, organized the House, filling several key positions, including those of 24 deputy speakers, along with chairmanships of key committees – all with personnel and funding.
Cayetano’s 15 months are coming to a close on October 14. Now he seems to have the congressmen behind him and Velasco fears Cayetano may not yield the post as agreed upon.
Thus President Dutere was again called to mediate and at a meeting last Tuesday in Malacanang with the two contenders, each with seven allies with them, he told them to stick to the original “gentlemen’s agreement.” The next day, however, Cayetano announced his resignation as speaker, without waiting for October 14. This was quickly followed by voice vote by the House members rejecting the resignation, with no “nay” vote, a demonstration of Cayetano’s new strength in the House.
What now? we may ask the gentlemen and ladies of the House. Will they stand by this latest vote, evidently reflecting the speaker’s organizational ability and control, supported by the considerable powers and resources of the speaker’s office? Are they now heeding the call on them to assert this independence as members of the House of Representatives?
Or will political reality assert itself and we will see them return to their former state of disarray and once again agree to accept the advice of President Duterte? After all, they had originally asked him to help and he did. Will they now reject that help that was given in the form of a 15-21 compromise deal? Will they now declare they are an independent body and should be able to make their decisions?
October 14 – the date Cayetano is supposed to yield the speakership to Velasco under the Duterte sharing formula – is still 11 days away. Anything can happen between now and that crucial date.
At stake is the principle of independence of the House. If it cannot make its own independent decision on its basic organization, there might be questions about its independence in enacting the laws of the land.
But equally crucial to the politicians in Congress is the reality that President Duterte continues to hold considerable political power despite his single term as president. Will they now openly reject the compromise formula he offered and all agreed to follow 15 months ago?