Spectacle at the House

Posted October 14, 2020

In recent days, Philippine legislators have shown an ugly spectacle that make Filipinos shrink in shame.

At issue was the implementation of a gentlemen’s agreement, forged by the President himself, where the now former Speaker, Taguig Rep. Alan Cayetano, was to vacate the Speaker position in favor of the new Speaker Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

Clearly, Cayetano did not want to relinquish the post and he stage-managed a resignation that was ceremoniously not approved by a majority of the members of the House. Maybe sensing eventual defeat, Cayetano suspended the House plenary sessions on October 6—which was originally scheduled for October 17—putting the final approval of the country’s fiscal budget for 2021 in jeopardy. Then a flurry of events ensued.

President Rodrigo Duterte formally called for a special session of the House; Velasco staged a House plenary session outside the Batasang Pambansa with his supporters who elected him Speaker rather quickly. Then on the following day, the day of the start of the special session, Cayetano and Velasco met with President Duterte who apparently made the final choice—in favor of Velasco.

In a statement, Ben Punongbayan, Chairman and Founder of Buklod, a national political party, expressed that this whole extravaganza displays clearly the low standard of behaviour of the country’s present political leaders. “Firstly, there is the issue of the value of one’s word, which turned out to have no value. Secondly, the clear lack of conviction of some of our legislators. Obviously, many legislators who were pro-Cayetano switched allegiance to pro-Velasco in no time at all,” he said.

But there is a matter of greater importance in relation to political development. The legislators allowed the president to interfere in their internal affairs which action impairs the fundamental principle in the country’s form of government, that is separation of powers and, consequently, checks and balances in government.

According to Punongbayan, Philippine democracy—as framed in our Constitution—is not working and it has been like this for more than 70 decades now. “We need a really big change if we want to achieve sustained political and economic progress,” Punongbayan added.

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