BOAC, Marinduque – Ahead of the assumption of office of the 18th Congress, the battle for the position of House Speaker has continued to heat up. Many names have emerged as potential contenders. But all indicators show that only three of the many candidates will gut it out: Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Jay Velasco of PDP-Laban, as well as Taguig 1st District Representative-elect Alan Peter Cayetano of Nacionalista Party and Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez of Lakas CMD.
Why is this race significant? For starters, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, besides being the presiding officer of the incoming House, will spearhead the pursuit or blocking, depending on the relationship, of the current administration’s legislative agenda.
More importantly, however, the next Speaker will set the political direction of the District and Partylist Representatives ahead of the 2022 presidential election, while also playing a key role in major political alignments and realignments ahead of the next election.
Let us turn now to the perspective of the Duterte administration. If indeed Mayor Sara Duterte has ambitions for the presidency or at least the vice presidency in 2022, it is more politically advantageous for the Duterte administration to have our good Congressman Velasco as the next House Speaker.
Now, why is it that it is more practical politically if Congressman Velasco becomes Speaker? He is the more viable option politically because he is the closest to the President and to Mayor Duterte, so his loyalty is more or less assured besides his membership in the Dutertes’ PDP-Laban. He is not a contender for the presidency in 2022, nor is he closely affiliated with any major contender besides Mayor Duterte.
At most, Congressman Velasco could be a senatorial candidate, with Mayor Duterte as the standard bearer or the vice presidential candidate, at least. But he does not pose any political threat against the Dutertes. He is a valuable asset not just in the pursuit of their legislative agenda, but also for 2022.
What about the other two major contenders? Cayetano is from the Nacionalista Party, and is rumored to be eyeing the Speakership as a stepping stone for a 2022 presidential or vice presidential run. He is essentially in the same pool as Mayor Duterte and can be considered as a major contender given his strong political background. And according to Mayor Duterte, Cayetano has also threatened to break the alliance between the Nacionalista Party and PDP-Laban if Cong. Velasco is officially endorsed as Speaker.
Romualdez, on the other hand, is the first cousin of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and the nephew of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos. A Romualdez Speakership would give Bongbong Marcos (who is also from the Nacionalista Party like Cayetano) major access to the resources of the House of Representatives.
Ahead of 2022, Marcos is also seen as a major contender. Besides the machinery of the Nacionalista Party, Marcos commands a massive voting bloc in the Solid North, which based on the results from 2016 is now composed of Regions 1, 2, 3, the Cordillera Administrative Region, Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite, as well as Romualdez country in Eastern Visayas.
For the moment, Cayetano and Marcos are seen as allies of the Duterte administration. But this alliance is not concrete, as we will see in the coming months and two years ahead of the filing of certificates of candidacy for 2022. And unlike Velasco, they pose machineries and political infrastructures that could challenge Mayor Duterte should she really pursue her rumored presidential ambitions.
The body language of the Nacionalista Party also speaks volumes about the 2022 presidential election. In the past 2019 midterm election, the Nacionalista Party was recognized as the second most powerful political party in the country. Despite the alliance signed with Mayor Duterte’s regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), the Nacionalista Party still consolidated its forces nationwide and ran provincial, city, and municipal slates against fellow HNP allies like the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Lakas, and PDP-Laban.
After PDP-Laban, it is the second most active political party ahead of 2022 and is so far the only party that can pose a major challenge to the administration, should the alliance fall apart. This is a major step forward for a political party that has been relatively quiet in recent years and did not field any presidential or vice presidential candidates in 2016.
Of course, the Dutertes could allow either Romualdez or Cayetano to take the speakership so as to keep them pleased and prevent agitation and polarization ahead of 2022. But, the ghost of a potential Marcos/Cayetano presidential/vice presidential bid (which would have at its disposal the resources of the House of Representatives) against Mayor Duterte would continue to haunt them.
It is still possible, however, that a deal could be placed or maybe is already in place, between the Dutertes and the Marcoses as Cayetano is ruled out of a deal after Mayor Duterte’s recent pronouncements, to prevent a head-on collision. The best possible outcome for both parties is a Marcos-Duterte or Duterte-Marcos tandem, since between Marcos and Cayetano, Marcos is still the stronger of the two. However, just to be sure, it is more practical for the Dutertes to hand the speakership (and in turn, the resources of the House) to Velasco. – Marinduquenews.com