Suspending inevitability

By: Artchil B. Fernandez

SENSING the early demise of his super-coalition, Du30 was forced to break his word (as he habitually does) and intervened in the fight for Speakership. Du30’s neutrality only accelerated the fragmentation of his political bloc and in his own words is “creating so much uncertainty.”

Taking everyone by surprise especially his allies, Du30 announced the 1521 or the Magellan solution to end the Speakership squabble.  Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco will share the term of Speaker Du30 declared. Cayetano will be Speaker for 15 months and the remaining 21 months will be served by Velasco. Martin Romualdez, on the other hand, will become the majority leader.

Prior to Du30’s intervention, the three are locked in a bitter fight for Speakership. Among the three, Cayetano had the weakest chance while Romualdez is reputed to have the widest support. Velasco, on the other hand, is backed by Du30’s children, Sara and Paolo and claims to have secured the Speakership before the president imposed his Solomonic solution.

Initially, Du30 is on his way of making history when he declared his hands-off policy in the Speaker race. In the past, presidents chose who is House Speaker and Du30’s neutral stance deviated from the practice. It turned out Du30 is no different from his predecessors and is not the president who will change things as he proclaims. He is a dyed in the wool trapo as other presidents were and remains a representative of the old, decayed, corrupt and rotten system.

With Du30’s belated intercession in the Speaker race, is everything now smooth and fine in his supermajority? Did he save his political bloc from implosion?

On paper, the oversized coalition supporting Du30 has been preserved with the Magellan solution he forced on everyone. Publicly, everyone appears to toe the line. But it is the calm before the storm. What Du30 did is simply suspending inevitability, delaying the inevitable collapse of his political coalition. The cracks are too obvious to ignore, the discontent prominently displayed in public.

Except for Cayetano who publicly gloated over the realization of his ambition to be Speaker, other players greeted Du30’s announcement with stunned silence. Velasco did not react publicly to the Magellan solution while Romualdez dryly said he supports the decision a few days later. While Cayetano rejoices, Velasco and Romualdez have every reason to be unhappy and discontented with the turn of events.

Had Du30 stayed on course and remained neutral, Cayetano did not have a chance to clinch the Speakership. Not even a dozen members of the House support his bid. Prior to Du30’s interference in the race, Cayetano’s Speaker ambition is dead.

Romualdez is likely the most dismayed among the contenders for Speakership. Backed by outgoing Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) and a bloated war chest he is said to have the broadest support. Had Du30 not interfered, Romualdez has the highest chance to be Speaker. Why would he settle for majority leader when he had a clear shot for the Speakership?

This Congress is Romualdez moment to lead the House. Nothing is certain after 2022 when a new president will replace Du30. It’s now or never for Romualdez and for him to miss his chance when the Speakership is within is grasp is a cruel twist of fate. Worst for Romualdez, Cayetano who does not stand a chance against him in a fair fight will occupy the Speaker post while his opportunity slipped away. What a bitter pill to swallow.  Romuladez could be smiling outside but he is certainly hurting inside.

Velasco’s silence says it all – his unhappiness and bitterness with the arrangement.  Backed by the Du30 siblings, he can give Romualdez a run for his money and give him a good fight. If his backers are to be believed, Velasco has already secured enough votes to win the Speakership. Why would Velasco share the Speakership with Cayetano who is a certified loser before Du30 rescued his ambition?

Grumblings and rumblings are heard from the House with Du30’s Magellan solution. A text message attributed to Sara Duterte is circulating among representatives urging them to ignore Cayetano and vote according to their preference. Sara Duterte disowned the text but according to Mike Defensor who received the message, it came from a junior congressman who was “very close” to Sara Duterte.

Not to be outdone, Paolo Duterte publicly declared that since no voting has taken place, the race to the Speakership is still on. A news report attributed to him said a coup is brewing which will sideline Cayetano.

If Du30 gets what he wanted and Cayetano is imposed on the super coalition, Cayetano will be an impotent leader. How could he lead when the majority is only coerced to back him? Cayetano will end up a mere figurehead with no real control and command of the members of Congress since their hearts belong to someone else.

It will be politically fatal for Du30 if his children will succeed in countermanding his decision and install Velasco. Should this happen, it means the supermajority has already imploded and Du30 is a lame duck president this early.

Whatever is the outcome, the Magellan solution is executed or scuttled, the disintegration of the supermajority has started. The cracks in the coalition will only widen and multiply as Du30’s term gets closer to its end. As 2022 nears, each faction will push its own agenda and will try to secure its future in the post-Du30 era.

Du30 can postpone but cannot stop the breakup of his coalition. His Magellan solution only fractured permanently his political bloc. As Du30 limps to the end of his term, the splintering of his coalition will seriously harm the realization of his agenda.