The next game of thrones
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - May 22, 2019 - 12:00am

Most adult Filipinos might not give much importance to who becomes the Speaker of the House of the 18th Congress, but as the prophets go: Beware the Chosen One.  With as many as five to six potential candidates, we might think of the Speakership as a Game of Numbers, but it could be our very own “Game of Thrones” with a very bad ending. The fight or battle to become Speaker of the House is generally centered on having the power to lay claim or control over powerful committees of Congress and the funds or the allocation of funds toward projects in selected constituencies. Many of those supporting the candidates simply want a share of the spoils with little thought of the consequence of their choice. 

It’s interesting to note that there are about five congressmen being paraded as the future Speaker and only one congresswoman, namely former senator Loren Legarda. Legarda initially looks like someone on the outside of a horse race but she is probably the best bet if the members of Congress would focus on fair and equitable distribution of committees and funds. Legarda is the new girl in town or in the House of Representatives, but she is a veteran senator who has seen it all and fully understands the concept of “consensus building,” respect and team play. While I don’t know her intimately in terms of politics, her being new in the House of Representatives makes her the least “obligated” or indebted to the power blocks of former congresswoman Arroyo, former speaker Bebot Alvarez or the likes. It would be safe to assume that she owe no one but as a veteran senator she knows almost every major player in Congress along with reputation, both good or bad! That’s “The Good News.”

What is glaring in the race for Speakership is the fact that at least three if not four of the male contenders are allies or students of Gloria Arroyo when she was president or when she was speaker of the House. It is as if there is an on-going effort to stack the deck and increase the number of candidates so that no matter what, someone from the CGMA camp will get the crown. Obviously the outcome will be settled based on numbers so it will be interesting who will be bedfellows and who will be their ultimate candidate and will it really matter since in the end, the CGMA camp wins. That’s “The Bad News”. 

If there is “bad news,” the “worst news” is the possibility that next “Speaker of the House” could become the overlord who will sway Congress towards the removal of the current Vice President Leni Robredo by “hook or by crook” which will lead to the eventual assumption of Bongbong Marcos to the throne of the vice president. Given a pro-Duterte Senate and the presence of Imee Marcos in the incoming group of senators, Bongbong Marcos will now have sufficient representation in both houses of Congress if his cousin Martin Romualdez bags the position. While Martin Romualdez has historically been a “charmer” and consensus builder among allies, one cannot assume the same if the possibility and political pressure rises to install Bongbong Marcos as vice president. Such a situation will surely divide Filipinos to a much greater extent than we are now and the wrong moves will only make things worse. This may not be in the radar or plans of Martin Romualdez but it is something that needs to be considered in terms of the immediate future. For or against the idea, Martin will surely pay the price of being a “Romualdez.”

Now more than at any point in the history of the House of Representatives, the newly elected members of Congress need to decide wisely if they will vote based on personal political interest or chose a leader that will strengthen their ranks and the institution, or someone that will split Congress and the nation asunder.

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While elected officials are still enjoying their victories, it would be wise for all of them to spend a little time thinking of the fate and consequence confronting thousands of  “co-terminus” employees whose jobs officially ends in June, and hundreds of thousands of their relatives and dependents who will equally be disgruntled. People only talk about the political winners and losers after each elections, but no one has ever addressed how many thousands of Filipinos end up being jobless by June 2019 simply because their bosses lost in the recent elections. Many of them don’t enjoy tenure or have civil service eligibility, so it’s a case of out with the old and in with the new.

This practice of co-terminus employment is not good for politics, and definitely not good for civil service or governance, nor is it good for local economies. The bad part in all of it is that no one in Congress or the Executive department seems to have done anything in terms of policy or law to professionalize the staffing of local and national offices involving elected officials with three- to six-year term limits. First of all, no one seems to know if there is a specific number or limit to how many employees an elected official can hire. Then there is apparently no minimum qualification or process of hiring for “co-terminus” employees except that they are loyal supporters or relatives. A local official can stuff projects with employees not in the interest of fast tracking projects but to employ potential voters!

It is high time that standards be set not only to prequalify political employees but also to protect those who are qualified and contribute to public service and interest. Whether it’s ENDO in the private sector or “co-terminus” in government, time to end practices that are unfair and disruptive.

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Email: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

2019 MIDTERM ELECTIONS CONGRESS SPEAKERSHIP
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