Will the struggle at the 'House of the People' affect our daily lives?
In this September 29,2020 photo posted by Sen. Christopher Lawrence Go (L), President Rodrigo Duterte meets with Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque) and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig-Pateros)
Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, released
Will the struggle at the 'House of the People' affect our daily lives?
(Philstar.com) - September 30, 2020 - 3:45pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 6:10 p.m.) — The power struggle between factions in the ruling coalition at the House of Representatives may delay passage of pending bills but will not likely affect the daily lives of Filipinos, political science and governance professors said.

A change in leadership will not likely affect passage of the proposed national budget for 2021 either, a task that the Palace has said is "non-negotiable" and that Congress historically focuses on in the second half of the year.

"For pending legislation, [there is not much impact] as it is the same coalition. If there is a change of leadership in the committees, there could be a delay of a few months. But, right now, they are just doing the budget anyway and they will try hard not to affect that," constitutional law professor Tony La Viña, a former dean of the Ateneo School of Government, told Philstar.com.

In a separate exchange, Dennis Coronacion, chair of the Political Science Department of the University of Santo Tomas, said that a change in the speakership of the House could mean some pending bills might be shelved "since the new speaker will set his own priorities."

This could also affect the chairpersonships of committees at the House and the bills pending before those panels since the chairs set the agendas for hearings and if hearings are held at all.

But, La Viña said, "for better or worse, this has no impact on the ordinary Filipino faced with COVID-19 and its health and economic impacts."

He said that the impasse between House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig-Pateros) and Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque) is "a shadow war between Speaker Cayetano and [Davao City] Mayor Sara [Duterte-Carpio]" and that that is the context that will be most affected by how this episode unfolds.

"It is a clash of politician blocs in the Duterte coalition — and how that is resolved will mean a lot for who could win in 2022 and who President [Rodrigo] Duterte would support," he said.

The president's daughter, leader of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago party, backed Rep. Isidro Ungab (Davao City) for the speakership in 2019. In March, she called Ungab's removal as chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations "grossly unacceptable."

In May 2019, Mayor Duterte-Carpio said that Cayetano had threatened to "break up the 'group'" if she endorsed Velasco for speaker. Cayetano said in July that he had met with the Davao City mayor to sort out the issue.

READ: Cayetano stays on as House speaker after offer to quit

Independence of the House

Coronacion said President Duterte's involvement in the leadership row — the parties met with him on Tuesday night — again puts the independence of the lower house in question. 

"Why did our congressmen have to bring in the president to settle their leadership issue?" he said.   

"It also complicates the process of selecting the Speaker of the House, who usually enjoys the support of the majority. What if Congressman Velasco fails to get the support of the majority in the House?" he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cayetano addressed the House in plenary and offered to resign, a move that his colleagues rejected in a vote of 184-1 and nine abstentions. 

"My fate and the fate of the 2021 budget and the fate of the leadership of the House is in your hands," said towards the end of his lengthy speech. 

According to reports on the meeting Tuesday night, Velasco would replace Cayetano as speaker in October, although reports coming out on Wednesday morning brought more questions than answers on the future of the House leadership.

In an interview in 2019, Coronacion said that Duterte's brokering of the term-sharing agreement between the two House members was not out of the ordinary since "the House of Representatives has always conformed to the wishes of Malacañang."

"It goes without saying that the speaker of the House is the anointed one of Malacañang," he said then.

Although the power struggle at the House may seem like a battle between political elephants, Coronacion said that Filipinos should still pay attention to it "because the performance of the congressmen affect their daily lives, especially in the time of pandemic." 

"For instance, if Congress continues to ignore the calls for the improvement of our social safety net measures, most of them might not recover at all from the impact of the pandemic," he said.

The Palace has highlighted the proposed national budget for 2021 as the biggest "stimulus package" for the pandemic-hit Philippines. — Jonathan de Santos with Kristine Joy Patag and Gaea Katreena Cabico

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