By Charmaine A. Tadalan, July 15 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Philippine Star

THE PLANNED term-sharing of speaker aspirants Taguig 1st district Rep. Alan Peter S. Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco could disrupt reform impetus in the remaining three years of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term, analysts said on Thursday last week.

Mr. Duterte on Monday last week stepped in to end an impasse between the two speakership bets by endorsing Mr. Cayetano to lead the House of Representatives in the first 15 months, and Mr. Velasco for the remaining 21 months of the 18th Congress.

While both lawmakers vowed to push the President’s legislative agenda, University of the Philippines political science department chairperson Maria Ela L. Atienza said in an e-mail that “based on recent history and the fact that alliances in Congress are usually based on the popularity of the President, personal interests of legislators and the lack of programmatic and disciplined political parties, changes in House leadership as well as committee chairs and memberships can cause discontinuities in policy agenda, resentments and infighting within the coalition.”

“We also do not know if, by the time there will be a change in speakers, there will still be high presidential approval ratings and a supermajority coalition.”

Ms. Atienza also noted that the 2022 national elections could also distract lawmakers who will seek reelection or higher office.

“This is also true as the coming 2022 elections is an important consideration for legislators. They balance their own interests for survival and desire for reelection or election to higher posts vis-a-vis the president’s popularity, public sentiments, and strength of possible allies and interest or pressure groups.”

Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, senior research fellow at the Ateneo Policy Center, said different objectives of two presumptive House leaders could impact desired reforms.

“For sure the priority measures by the administration will be negatively impacted by the term-sharing because the two speakers have different objectives,” Mr. Yusingco said.

“They clearly are not on the same page as far as the direction of the House is concerned,” Mr. Yusingco said in a separate e-mail.

“A lack of coherence will be palpable in the leadership of the HoR. Lawmakers will likely just sit tight and do nothing. Their minds will already be focusing on 2022. So they will be concerned only about whatever pork they can get.”

Leyte 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, who is being eyed for the post of majority leader, for his part, said discussions are under way to try to limit House leadership changes after Mr. Cayetano’s term.

“We are going to study the proposal of incoming Speaker Cayetano to limit the leadership change after 15 months to his position and [to] the head of the House committee on accounts so that legislative operations will remain unhampered,” Mr. Romualdez said in a mobile phone message, referring to the committee that tackles the internal budget of the House.

“We will wait for the positions of other House leaders from various political parties and influential blocs to determine if this is a workable solution to ensure a strong, stable and non-disruptive House leadership.”

Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III, who heads the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan as president, said leaders of the party met with Mr. Cayetano’s camp on Thursday evening to discuss ways to ensure smooth transition amid a House leadership change.

“If matagal nang na-decide ‘yung (If it had been long decided by the) entire body na we will change our leader [in the House], but we will not change our agenda, we will not change our working style, we will not change a lot of things, we are clear about the changes, then walang manggugulo (it shouldn’t be a messy transition).”