Errors of bright people
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - October 15, 2020 - 12:00am

In the days leading to the first session of Philippine Congress in 2019, only three men decided on who would be the Speaker of the House of Representatives. They were President Rodrigo Duterte and Congressmen Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Alan Velasco. President Duterte is the chief executive of our country and necessarily he is not a member of the legislature. He had no business in joining a discussion to select the speaker. So, of the three men who chose who would lead the lower house, actually only two of them, Cayetano and Velasco, mattered because they had the personality and the legal interest to aim for the speakership.

The first time I heard Cayetano was during the deliberation of congress whether to elevate to the senate an impeachment complaint lodged against then President Gloria Arroyo. Cayetano was brilliant. He displayed a scholarly knowledge of the constitution. His arguments championed the cause of the greatest majority. I was so awed that I. believed that he was destined to reach the top of the country’s political totem pole.

I did not know then who Velasco was. But I assumed that he was equally a bright guy. No one would aspire to lead such a forum of learned men as congress unless he was also intellectually gifted to jostle with the other great minds in the congressional free market of ideas. After all, an aspiring speaker should consider that most members of the legislature are brilliant.

Cayetano and Velasco are intellectual giants. As lawyers, they know what the fundamental law provides in so far as choosing a speaker is concerned. Yet, in meeting with the president they parlayed the speakership as If they owned it and as If all other congressmen were their vassals ready to bow to their choice. Duterte, Cayetano and Velasco arrogated unto themselves the absolute power to elect the top honcho of congress, forgetting the constitutional provision that the House of Representatives elects its speaker by a majority vote of all its members. Yes, according to the constitution the speaker is elected. This high position is not subject of agreement of two or three powerful people.

Why then did brilliant men in Pres Duterte, Cayetano and Velasco agree to  overlook, If not disregard, the constitutional mandate of having the speaker elected by its members? And worse, sign a contract among the three of them to fix a term something which the charter is silent about? And finally why did they decide that one of them would be speaker for fifteen months and the other for twenty one months? Perhaps, they did so because, in their mind, all other representatives were their minions unworthy to be speaker of the house!

When Cayetano towards the supposed end of their arrogant term sharing tried to stone wall against implementing their unconstitutional contract by claiming he had numbers, he actually thought that so much number of congressmen were at his merciful beck and dominant call. To me, he erred in assuming the speakership as his private largesse rather than a position open for democratic election.

Similarly, when Velasco countered Cayetano’s arrogant posturing and moved to enforce their agreed power-sharing, he also imagined to be possessed with overpowering authority over the rest of the legislators. Of course, he seemed right in his supposition because 186 congressmen apparently toed his line somewhat mindlessly.

The speakership maybe a political spoil, realistically speaking, but representatives obsessed at becoming the speaker err in thinking that their initial herds of supposed congressmen-supporters are their unthinking pawns who would follow them all the time and at all cost. The recent turmoil in the House of Representatives is proof that brilliant men tend to err If they trust their politics inside congress to fleeting and unprincipled alliances.

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