"A Speaker should be able to make friends with all members of the House."
President Duterte has finally decided that Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco will be Speaker of the House of Representatives beginning October 14 until the end of his term in 2022. This will be in accordance to the term-sharing agreement brokered by Duterte himself between Velasco and current Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
But is the President’s decision good for Congress?
When I covered Congress some years ago, I learned that if there is something that a Speaker of the House must possess, it is the ability to make friends with all members of the House. A Speaker must satisfy the needs of the House members, because these needs are also the needs of their constituents. They want to show their constituents that they have achieved something at the end of their terms. And then, they can hope to get re-elected.
This can only be possible if the representative is on good terms with the Speaker, who ensures the availability of the pork that is needed.
I covered Congress during the incumbency of my good friend, Speaker Joe de Venecia. I think he was the most effective Speaker we have ever had.
Let me go back to Velasco. I wonder whether he truly has the support of the super-majority of the House. Here lies the problem with the term-sharing agreement.
No less than 202 members of the House, in a manifesto, expressed their support for Cayetano to continue as Speaker. Those who signed the manifesto constitute the super-majority in the House.
Velasco has shown no leadership during the many deliberations at the House. It is a known fact that he is often absent from such activities.
As one House member put it, Velasco lacks the gravitas to be Speaker. This can be taken to mean approachability and ability to foster camaraderie among his colleagues.
I don’t know why Duterte has decided on Velasco, knowing full well that the super-majority is supporting somebody else.
Meanwhile, Cayetano has shown leadership so many times. He has led the realization of Duterte’s legislative agenda.
As it is, Velasco may have a difficult time doing his job.
Another development that could happen is the reorganization of the House committees by the new Speaker. This means replacing all the committee leaders. This might mean Velasco would create enemies. It could result in a divided House.
Nothing worse could happen at this time, when the enactment of the budget is a priority. Any delays will affect the priorities of the President. Next year, elective officials will all be thinking of the coming elections.
Obviously, Mr. Duterte failed to consider what could happen to his legislative agenda especially during the last 21 months of his presidency. He will have nobody to blame but himself.
I understand how frustrated the President must be feeling with his inability to end corruption in government. He vowed to do this, but now he is having a difficult time. He even said he would resign!
But we all know that as long as there is human discretion in government transactions, corruption will always be there.
And then, with just two years remaining in his term, Mr. Duterte should know that the illegal drugs menace will outlast his presidency. The reason is that so long as there are people using illegal drugs, there will be those who are willing to supply this.
Duterte also knows that smuggling of illegal drugs continues even during this pandemic.