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House should  decide  leadership issue by itself

The 15 months given to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano in the 15-21 agreement he had with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco are fast coming to a close. Under that agreement, Cayetano was to serve 15 months and Velasco 21 months. Cayetano’s 15 months end next month, October.

That 15-21 agreement was brokered by President Duterte when members of the new 18th Congress could not reach an agreement by themselves. There was no single dominant party in the 297-member House of Representatives when it met for the first time after the 2018 election.

The biggest was the President’s PDP-Laban with 94 members. Next were three parties generally supportive of the administration—the Nacionallsta Party (NP) with 37 members, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) with 33, and the National Unity Party (NUP) with 28. There were two generally opposition parties – the Liberal Party (LP) with 18 House members and Lakas with five. There were many elected by small organizations. And there were 60 party-list representatives.

President Duterte was asked to help break the impasse and he came up with a compromise agreement — the first 15 months for Cayetano of the NP and the next 21 months for the PDP-Laban’s Velasco. The arrangement went well and sometime ago, some congressmen began to talk of continuing the present arrangement.

Last Monday, Speaker Cayetano said it may be up to President Duterte. He himself said he will focus on pressing House needs this September and October, particularly the national budget.

Ideally, the House should be making its own decisions on its leadership. The President was asked to help in 2018 because the leading parties in Congress could not agree by themselves. He came up with a 15-21 compromise proposal which the House accepted. And the arrangement appears to have worked well.

Should the 15-21 compromise continue now that its first part is ending? That is all within the rights of the House to decide. Ideally, it should have been able to decide right from the start, without turning to President Duterte for help. It did not speak well of the the House as an independent body under the Constitution.

There is again talk of asking President Duterte to step in. This might be the realistic thing to do, considering his overall strong leadership and influence over most congressmen and their constituents.

But even if only to pay tribute to the constitutional principle of separation of powers, that Congress is an independent body like the Executive and the Judiciary, we hope the House of Representatives will be able to decide its own leadership question by itself.

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