President Rodrigo Duterte chose Rep. Alan Peter Cayeteno (Taguig-Pateros) as the new speaker of the House of Representatives with a new term-sharing deal, a move that was perceived to be in conflict with the Constitution.
Duterte previously said he kept his distance from the rate race for the post of speaker but recent events involving his allies in the lower chamber pressed him to make an endorsement.
Strong contenders for the top House seat days were Cayetano, Reps. Allan Velasco (Marinduque), Martin Romualdez (Leyte), and Isidro Ungab (Davao City).
These lawmakers were also members of the newly formed Duterte Coalition of presidential siblings Paolo Duterte and Sara Duterte.
Of these, Duterte chose Cayetano and Velasco to serve as the speaker through a division of terms.
Cayetano is to serve for the first 15 months and succeeded by Velasco for the remaining 21 months.
Romualdez, meanwhile, was chosen as the majority floor leader.
It’s not certain if an election will still take place among the congressmen on July 22 as required by law.
Duterte’s words were definite and phrased like an order: “Your speaker will be Alan Peter Cayetano. He shares the term with Lord Velasco.”
Some Filipinos aired their concern on the decision, which they likened to an official appointment. Appointment of the leader of a co-equal branch by a chief executive is not in line with provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
"The Senate shall elect its President and the House of Representatives its Speaker, by a majority vote of all its respective Members." Art. VI, sec. 16(1), 1987 Constitution #TheDocumentYouAllSworeToUpholdAndDefend
— Theodore Te (@TedTe) July 8, 2019
Inaapoint na ngayon ang House Speaker?
Hindi ba yon pinagbobotohan ng mga kongresista?
— Clintonology (@Simply_Clinton) July 8, 2019
A rift among his allies for the position prompted Duterte to make the surprise announcement.
“I tried to distance myself from the… But apparently I said it’s time that I talk. So ganun ho ang ano – that’s the setup,” he said.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed this.
“Since the election of the speaker has resulted in a bitter and fractious rivalry that threatens the break-up of political allies, the President, to save the unity of the alliance and avert its fragmentation, obliged to the request of the three candidates,” Panelo said referring to Romualdez, Cayetano and Velasco.
There should be an election
Section 16 of Article VI of the Constitution states that
“The Senate shall elect its President and the House of Representatives its Speaker, by a majority vote of all its respective Members.”
A president can, however, endorse a candidate who traditionally gets the support of the majority during election time.
Duterte previously asked former speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her preferred replacement but she did not publicly mention any names.
In 2018, the rivalry between Arroyo and then Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte) resulted in a surprise voting during the congressional hearing before the state of the nation address was delivered.
A similar scenario was brewing early this July before Dutere chose Cayetano and Velasco.
Being the highest ranking member in the lower chamber, the House speaker is influential in carrying out the legislative agenda of the administration.
Former speakers of the House include Jose de Venecia Jr. under the Ramos and Arroyo administrations, Manuel Villar under the Estrada administration, Arnulfo Fuentebella under the Estrada and Arroyo administrations and Feliciano Belmonte Jr. under the Aquino administration.
This year, Duterte hoped the Congress will speed up moves to make amendments in the main charter before his six-year term ends.
“If you want to change the Constitution, do it now habang buhay pa ako (while I’m still alive),” he said.—Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos