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Another pushover as Speaker?

I am the Speaker, I can always impeach the President,” Pantaleon Alvarez was supposed to have said. That was according to the President’s daughter Sara, although Alvarez, then the House Speaker, denied he made such a statement. Whether he did say it or not, the fact is that the Speaker can impeach the President. Speaker Manny Villar impeached President Joseph Estrada.

The speakership is a position of power. The person occupying it must be equal to the position. He must be a person of gravitas. He must be a man of accomplishments and of national significance, who people look up to for counsel and leadership. He must have had a long and substantive stint in the House of Representatives to have gained a good understanding of the complexity of the legislative process and of the diverse personalities involved. He must have a large number of congressmen as his political allies.

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Political pundits said that other than his close ties with President Duterte, Alvarez would not have been chosen as Speaker in 2016. Thus, when presidential daughter and Davao Mayor Sara turned against him, Alvarez was easily ousted from the speakership.

Villar was among the Top 5 richest men of the Philippines before he was elected to the House of Representatives—wealth he had grown through hard work and his own ingenuity. He bankrolled the campaigns of many other candidates for the House. By the time he was elected to a third term, the number of congressmen he had helped had increased, making his bid for the speakership a cinch.

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Are the aspirants for the speakership in the incoming Congress their own man, or only the fair-haired boys of powerful persons?

Alan Peter Cayetano has been a two-term senator and three-term congressman. He was at one time or another assistant majority leader, deputy majority leader and senior deputy minority leader in the House of Representatives. He gained national prominence when he led the move to impeach President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2005.

He was elected to the Senate in 2007. In that first term, he got the chairmanship of the high-profile blue ribbon committee. He enhanced his national prominence by pressing the investigation of the scandalous NBN-ZTE deal and the fertilizer scam.

He was reelected to the Senate in 2010.  He again captured the attention of the nation in 2015 when he initiated the Senate investigation on the charges of graft and corruption against then Vice President Jojo Binay and his son, Makati Mayor Junjun.

Barred from running for a third term in the Senate in 2016, he vied for the vice presidency but lost. He was Mr. Duterte’s secretary of foreign affairs when he resigned to run for representative of Taguig.

Lord Allan Velasco was elected the representative of Marinduque in 2010. He ran for reelection in 2013 but was defeated by Regina Reyes. However, he was proclaimed the Marinduque representative on Feb. 1, 2016, after the House Electoral Tribunal removed Reyes from her seat in the House for being an American citizen. If it were not for that technicality, Velasco would not be in Congress.

When PDP-Laban announced that it was nominating Velasco for the speakership, broadcast political commentators asked, “Who is he?”

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Martin Romualdez, a nephew of Imelda Marcos, was representative of the first district of Leyte from 2007 to 2016. He is the president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats. In 2009, he tried to deflect the bashing away from Arroyo when she and her presidential entourage of 28 ran up a bill of $20,000, or P960,000, for dinner at Le Cirque in New York. In 2016, he ran for the Senate. He lost.

Mr. Duterte has endorsed Cayetano as Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, and Velasco for the remaining 21 months. But the pronouncements of the presidential children Sara and Paolo suggest that their father’s endorsement of Cayetano is tenuous. Also, Cayetano created many enemies with his investigations during his stints in both houses of Congress.

Velasco is too inexperienced for the old stalwarts to respect him as their leader. Romualdez’s endorsers, Imelda Marcos and Gloria Arroyo, are out of power and out of Congress. So, whoever is chosen Speaker on July 22 would be a lightweight likely to be pushed off and over the Speaker’s rostrum anytime.

Oscar P. Lagman Jr. has been a keen observer of Philippine politics since his college days in the late 1950s.

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TAGS: manny villar, Pantaleon Alvarez, Sara Duterte, Speaker
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