FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - July 6, 2019 - 12:00am

The squabble over who would be Speaker of the House of Representatives is quickly degenerating from power struggle to pure parody.

Over the past few days, as talk of a power-sharing deal crumbled, two important developments threated to make the leadership struggle even murkier.

Presidential son Paolo Duterte declared announced his intention to seek the speakership post if this would bring unity to the pro-administration supermajority in the lower house. The declaration was made even as President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he would resign from the presidency if his son seeks the speakership.

A day after, Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago coalition formally endorsed Davao City congressman Isidro Ungab as their bet for the speakership. Ungab is a four-term congressman and had held the chairmanships of both the Ways and Means and Appropriations committees.

President Duterte had it right in the first instance when he declared a hands-off policy as regards the House leadership. That is the correct posture. It is consistent with the principle of separation of powers – although this is largely honored in the breach through the length of our political history. If he stuck to his original position, he would have committed something truly revolutionary: giving up the illicit but de facto power of the president to name the House leader.

If he had stuck to his original position, he would have opened the way for legislators to substantially exercise their independence. That would have guaranteed a House leadership that is more stable because it is the product of genuine democratic choice.

Duterte should know a thing or two about the value of independence among legislators. In 1998, during his brief stint as congressman, Duterte was one of only 5 congressmen who voted for Joker Arroyo to be speaker. By voting according to the dictate of his conscience, he stood proud among his colleagues.

In the present controversy, however, the President allowed himself to be associated with the ridiculous time-sharing proposal that nearly all the congressmen dislike. The time-sharing proposal would make the House leadership a matter of political accommodation rather than democratic choice. It will also directly implicate the President in the process of selecting the House leader – something that heretofore was conducted only on the sly.

Time-sharing may work for serviced condo units. It cannot possibly work for a post that requires statesmanship of the highest order. It cannot be a method for getting work done in a chamber where collegiality enjoys the greatest premium.

Rep. Mike Defensor, recalling the time when Duterte followed his conscience and voted for Joker against the odds, said: “I will follow his example and vote my conscience and belief (in what) will be best for the Filipino nation. No deal nor arrangement can influence my stand.”

Defensor is a staunch supporter of the speakership bid of Martin Romualdez.

Democratic Solution

Democracy is also the answer to the chaos that now plagues the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).

We have not been performing well in international events. Our athletes do not need any more factionalism, cronyism and corruption in the main sporting institutions.

Only months after he won the presidency of the POC, Ricky Vargas resigned his post last month. He apparently could take no more of the politics that plagued tis institution for many years.

POC chairman Bambol Tolentino, correctly invoking the organization’s by-laws, called for special elections to replace Vargas. However, allies of Peping Cojuangco immediately moved for vice-president to have Joey Romasanta replace Vargas. Cojuangco presided over the POC until the discontent of the sports associations resulted in a vote that installed Vargas.

But Cojuangco remains obsessed with retaking leadership of the POC. On his mere say-so and without a formal vote, his ally Romasanta began exercising the role of POC president.

The POC’s by-laws require that the organizations chairman and president must have four years experience as president of a National Sports Association (NSA) of an Olympic sport at the time of election and must have been an active member of the POC General Assembly for two consecutive years before election. Romasanta is merely vice-president of the NSA for volleyball. He does not qualify even as the president for volleyball Peter Cayco hurriedly resigned to clear the way for him to meet the POC requirements.

There are speculations Romasanta might try to claim presidency of the NSA for karate. But this NSA was disaffiliated both by the world federation (WKF) and the Asian federation (AKF). POC by-laws state that to be a member, an NSA needs to be affiliated with the international federation governing the sport.

In their frantic effort to skirt around the rules and install one of their own, one Cojuangco ally argued that Romasanta must be qualified simply by adding up the years he served as vice-president for volleyball and karate. That is nonsense.

In its June 25 meeting, the board of the POC decided to tender their resignations to clear the way for elections for a full board. Romasanta hedged and then relented. Then he began acting as president even if he was not elected to the post. He even appointed a new secretary-general even as the rules require confirmation by the board. His actions amount to a coup.

The special elections that the majority of NSAs want must push through. This is the only way rid our sports establishment of the corruption and politicking that afflicted it for years – to the detriment of our athletes.

Perhaps Tolentino should rally everyone to restore Philippine sports to its former glory.

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