The end

Governance Matters
Former Vice President Jejomar Binay

The leadership tussle at the House of Representatives has finally reached its much-anticipated yet totally predictable denouement. 

As I write this column, 186 congressmen have voted to oust the congressman from Taguig as speaker of the House of Representatives.

I described the ouster as predictable because the congressman was as good as politically dead when he antagonized – in his desperate effort to conjure the image of political invincibility – the highest leader of the republic, the one person to whom he owes much of his political fortunes, and more. He accomplished this by holding the 2021 budget hostage to his ambition and openly defying the wishes of the President. He not only embarrassed the country’s leader, but created the perception of weakness. 

In the eyes of many observers, the congressman from Taguig damaged the widely held notion of a President who continues to enjoy deep political capital past the mid-point of his term. With his open defiance of the President, the congressman created the image of  a “lame duck president.” This is a label that is cutting and hurtful to any incumbent. An incumbent needs to project political strength, up until the end of his term if possible, so he can carry his agenda through, leave a positive legacy, and influence the choice of his successor. But such perception of strength, ironically, has been attacked not by outside political forces but from within.

Recall that it was the President himself who had twice brokered the power-sharing talks between the Taguig congressman and the legislator from Marinduque. In the last meeting, an agreement was reached for the transfer of leadership on October 14. But the next day, the Taguig congressman staged a vote on his motion to resign from his position, which was roundly rejected by his allies. It was a clear message that the deal brokered by the President himself was off. The President was reportedly so dismayed at his erstwhile running mate that he told the Marinduque congressman, “Pareho tayong na-denggoy (we were both fooled).”

The political flanking moves of the Taguig congressman were the acts of a desperate man. He may have thought he had outwitted his foes when he moved to suspend the session without having passed the 2021 budget on third and final reading. This would have denied his successor the chance to occupy the speakership on October 14 since the earliest the chamber can convene would be on November 16. A purge of House leaders identified with his antagonist quickly followed. For his allies, “pabaon” were generously extended. 

But this time, the congressman from Taguig overplayed his hand.

The senators insisted they would need the version of the 2021 budget as approved on third reading by the House. Without it, the approval of the budget would be delayed by a month. A re-enacted budget looms unless the House re-convenes and passes the budget on third reading.

The congressman from Taguig had strongly resisted all calls for a special session, citing the supposed poisoned air of politicking in the lower chamber. However, he had no choice but to follow the order of the President for them to convene in a special session to “resume” deliberations and approve the 2021 budget. That the period set by the President for the special session covers the date for the turn-over of leadership was seen by many as a signal that the Taguig congressman’s fate was sealed.

No other politician in contemporary history has displayed such contempt for the unwritten gentleman’s rules of politics than the Taguig congressman. And his recklessness, insufferable arrogance, and power-mad ways are all driven by his obsession with power. That power has now slipped from his hands, and he only has himself to blame. 

It had been bruited about that his actions were intended to consolidate power and resources for his presidential ambition. His recent public conduct gave us a glimpse of how he would wield the broad and awesome powers of the presidency, and it is both repulsive and frightening. It is something we do not wish to inflict on an already suffering nation.