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Opinion

Who’s who guesses

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Over the weekend, comebacking Pampanga Congresswoman-elect, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) ended all speculations. Before tongues start wagging and political operators get into action, the former president issued an official statement endorsing Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez to be elected as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. This should douse cold waters to any other contenders to the leadership in the coming 19th Congress when it officially opens on July 25 this year.

Currently the House majority leader, Romualdez is the president of Lakas-CMD. On the other hand, ex-speaker GMA is the Lakas-CMD chairman emeritus. The Lakas-CMD is part of the developing “super majority” under the umbrella of various political parties that joined the UniTeam of presumptive president, ex-senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr. and presumptive vice president (VP), Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Marcos Jr. carried the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas while Mayor Sara is the chairman of the Lakas-CMD.

It’s another story at the Senate where there are as many as four contenders reportedly eyeing to become the next Senate president of the 19th Congress. Sen. Imee Marcos, a Nacionalista Party (NP) member of the present Senate majority bloc, has steered clear out of the race to become the first woman Senate president. The eldest sister of the presumptive president nonetheless remains the strongest ally of the next administration among the so-called 24 “independent republics” at the Senate.

Outgoing Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III who run but lost in the VP race would formally bid goodbye to his colleagues and would-be successor when the 18th Congress resumes sessions next week starting May 23. The next day, the Senate and the Lower House would be holding joint sessions as the national canvassing body and to officially proclaim Marcos Jr. and Mayor Sara as the duly elected President and VP, respectively. The 18th Congress bows out and adjourns sine die on June 3.

The incoming administration of President-elect Marcos Jr. is currently in the process of forming his new Cabinet officials and other appointees to various positions in the Executive Department. Lawyer Vic Rodriguez, chief of staff and spokesperson of the UniTeam, announced last Saturday the most important qualifications for the Cabinet position are the applicant’s “love for country and patriotism.”

The President-elect himself first announced last week the nomination of his VP running mate as incoming secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd). Although she first chose the Defense Department portfolio during the election campaign, the presidential daughter—who is a military reservist—accepted the DepEd post.

Former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. was announced the next day as the incoming Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary. Abalos quit as a Duterte Cabinet and joined the UniTeam presidential campaign.

Likewise, Rodriguez disclosed Marcos assigned him to lead his official transition team to meet with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea who heads the Presidential Transition Committee of President Duterte. Joining Rodriguez are, namely, former Davao del Norte Rep. Anton Lagdameo, ex-Manila Rep. Naida Angping, and South Cotabato Gov. Jun Tamayo. They too, themselves are among those bruited about to be appointed to certain key government posts in the new administration.

Rodriguez assuaged the public that all the applicants and nominees for different positions will undergo thorough vetting process in line with the president-elect’s program of government. With so much jockeying around, potential nominees to various government positions who have surnames of Romualdez and Marcos are being shot down due to “nepotism” grounds. But not—if they get elected into office.

In the case of elective officials, it is called as political dynasty where members of the family get elected one after the other’s term ends, or in many instances, get elected together.

Aside from his sister Sen. Imee, President-elect Marcos Jr. will also be having his eldest son Sandro at the Lower House as incoming Ilocos Norte Congressman. Incoming Speaker Romualdez has his wife, Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez of Tingog party-list, winning two seats in the House.

But issues of “nepotism” in the appointments of relatives to government positions are—most often than not—unfairly and unjustly applied even to the most qualified and most capable people for the job.

Take the case of Jose Manuel Romualdez, our current Philippine ambassador to the United States (US). Amb. Romualdez is a nephew of former First Lady (FL) Imelda R. Marcos. His father is FL’s first cousin. So he is a second cousin of the presumptive president as well as of the incoming House Speaker.

Although our country’s laws strictly ban “nepotism,” or relatives getting appointed to government positions, there are certain exemptions. Under the Civil Service guidelines for the Philippine bureaucracy, the “nepotism” rule does not apply to relatives of fourth degree level of consanguinity, or blood relations.

Appointed as Ambassador in July 2017, Romualdez has been keeping our country’s relations with the US on even keels even while President Duterte has publicly been dissing America. Amb. Romualdez could follow the career path of his immediate superior, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Romualdez still writes a regular opinion column at The Star and is the publisher of People Asia Magazine.

Locsin, assisted by Romualdez, represented President Duterte in the just concluded US-ASEAN Leaders’ Summit hosted by US President Joe Biden in Washington last week. To the duo’s credit, perhaps the US leader was the first foreign head of state to personally congratulate and talk to the presumptive president of the Philippines a few days after the election results were already irreversible.

For now, the “who’s who” names are being floated all over the place purportedly for appointment by the incoming leadership to help him run the country.

GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO

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