As COVID-19 ravages the Philippines, a bible thumper insults our intelligence

Published October 10, 2020, 5:23 AM

by Rj Nieto

RJ Nieto
RJ Nieto

We have been made too aware of the speakership catfight in the House of Representatives. On one side is Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano who, last year, agreed to a term sharing deal that entails his voluntary resignation this month. On the other side, the PDP-Laban Lord Allan Velasco, head of the House’s biggest political party.

If Cayetano just complied with the term-sharing agreement that he himself insisted on having, then the nation could have moved on and returned its focus on the COVID-19 pandemic that has been ravaging the erstwhile flourishing Philippine economy.

But that was not the case: after getting a taste of his lucrative position for 15 months, Cayetano didn’t want to let go.

In mid-September, Cayetano said he should remain as the speaker as he claims to enjoy majority support. Days later, his camp even went a step further when Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte accused Velasco of planning to delay the passage of the crucial 2021 National Budget.

President Rodrigo Duterte, acting as head of the Kilusang Pagbabago Coalition, mediated the rift when he called for a meeting with Cayetano and Velasco. There are various versions of what happened during the meeting, but what’s clear is that both sides agreed to a vote on the speakership on October 14th.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Alan Peter Cayetano / Facebook page/ MANILA BULLETIN)
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Alan Peter Cayetano / Facebook page/ MANILA BULLETIN)

At this point, minus the speakership drama, pretty much everything else in the House, especially the 2021 budget deliberations, was going quite smoothly .

At this point, the Cayetano-Velasco catfight was still a purely political skirmish.

But things took a turn for the worse during the October 7 House session.

While the budget debates were still ongoing, Cayetano abruptly declared the end of debates. He then moved to suspend House sessions until mid-November, effectively cancelling the October 14th vote for speaker.

Cayetano’s move squarely violated Section 16(5), Article VI, of the Constitution, which forbids the House from adjourning for more than three days without the Senate’s nod. The term he used — “suspension” — is just semantic acrobatics for adjournment.

Cayetano’s move effectively delayed the transmission to the Senate of the budget’s House version from October 14 to mid-November at the earliest. For the sake of holding onto power, he escalated the purely political skirmish into a full-blown national crisis.

If Cayetano and his allies did not want a speakership change because his replacement will just delay the budget, then why did he delay the budget himself?

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a New Normal, and we need a national budget that takes this New Normal into account. However, the speaker’s latest political stunt risks the reenactment of the previous national budget, a budget that was written before COVID-19 ravaged us.

How can the nation address the rampaging pandemic without a national budget that recognizes COVID-19 as a national disaster?

We need more IT infrastructure funding as more Filipinos engage in e-commerce and as schools shift to online learning. We need more healthcare funding as Filipinos continue to get infected with this virus. We need more fiscal support for ailing businesses as thousands have gone bankrupt after the economy ground to a halt.

But all of these may not happen because of what Cayetano did. He can bicker with anyone as much as he wants, but he should not sacrifice the welfare of this nation for the sake of his ambitions.

Cayetano loves to quote the Bible every chance he gets, but it appears that the Bible he reads excludes all the verses that mention greed.

I know for a fact that politicians want power. Running for office, after all, is inherently a quest to gain power. But power is sought not for power’s sake. Power is just a means to towards an end, and that end should be public welfare.

Too bad for us earthlings, Cayetano may not share the same view of power. And even if he does, his notion of power is a warped, twisted version that serves his aspirations more than those of the Filipino people.

And despite what he’s done, he has the gall to insult our intelligence by claiming that he has the nation’s best interests in mind. If there’s anything we can learn from Cayetano, that would be new and more creative ways to cringe.

Alan Peter Cayetano’s latest stunt suggests that while Alan Peter Cayetano may still love this country, Alan Peter Cayetano happens to love Alan Peter Cayetano more.

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