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Speakership contest has become a wearisome rigmarole

July 08, 2019

THE political struggle this early for the speakership of the House of Representatives has become a wearisome rigmarole among aspirants who have no track record in leading political parties or organizations, and no sterling achievements to show in the work of lawmaking.

We wish this were not the case, but this is what we see in the field of struggle.

Every day brings tidings about the sudden candidacy of someone for speaker, or the formation of another coalition, or speculation about who will be President Duterte’s chosen one in this contest.

Much of the talk is airy and lacks substance.

It would be a mercy if the decision of Rep. Paolo Duterte of Davao City to pull out of the race puts an end to all the jockeying and politicking that is now going on. He shows good sense and cool in recognizing that this is not ‘the right time’ for him to engage in power politics. He is a totally fresh face at the House, and all he has to lean on is the fact that he is the president’s son. The president earlier dismissed this fantasy by remarking that he would quit his office if his son runs for speaker.

It would be constructive if every aspirant for speaker similarly takes a long hard look at his bid for the lofty post, and assesses it realistically in terms of his chances for success and his prospective contribution to the vital role of the House in legislation and policymaking.

One implacable reality that must be faced is that the speakership race, like all elections, is a game of numbers. It is a majoritarian contest. Victory belongs to the one who has the votes on July 22.

The fact that some aspirants have accused their rivals of vote buying in the race is unfortunate; this evinces desperation rather than confidence in their own candidacy.

Another reality that must be faced is the fact that President Duterte is a factor in this race, regardless of whether he names his own choice or not. DU30 cannot dictate on the House, which alone must choose who will be its leader, but he is a factor nonetheless because the final test that must be hurdled is whether the prospective speaker can work effectively with the administration and its agenda.

The announcement the other day by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio and Rep. Paolo Duterte that they were forming a Davao coalition to unite the House of Representatives looks striking; but no one mistakes it as a policy decision by the president himself. Neither does it reflect a decision by the entire Duterte administration. Our political system is more serious than this suggests.

It is salutary that the absurd proposal of term-sharing the speakership has been dismissed by everyone as unproductive and unworkable. The author of this proposal should be allowed to languish in silence or defeat.

In quitting the race, Congressman Duterte declared that he will throw his support behind the speakership bid of another Davao City representative, Congressman Isidro Ungab.

Now, it is time to look at the credentials and policy goals of Congressman Ungab.

Someone still has to make the case before the nation why it is meritorious or imperative that the Speaker of the 18th Congress should come from Davao City or Mindanao.

The overt suggestion is that it would be good if the speaker comes from DU30’s backyard.

This was the implication when both the House and the Senate in the17th Congress picked as their leaders someone from Mindanao. As everyone knows and remembers, that arrangement did not last long. The realities and challenges of politics and policymaking wore out Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Koko Pimentel.

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