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PUBLISHER’S NOTES: Speakership `Brouhaha’: Which Alan?

IT’S A fascinating talk-of-the-town issue today. This ”brouhaha” about the House speakership is keeping tongues wagging lately. And yes saliva spewing all over!

Well, it started early on when the 2 Alan’s, namely Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano and Congressman Lord Alan Velasco battled for the top post of the so-called “lower house” of Congress. And with the reported assistance of ( “brokered by” is the term used) President Duterte, they allegedly agreed to a term-sharing “modus vivendi”: a 15-21 arrangement where Cayetano serves for 15 months and Velasco for 21 months. The turnover is supposed to happen 2 weeks from now on October 15. This is where this “brouhaha” is coming from.

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BACK TO BASICS — But be that as it may, this is a good time – like no other – to do our “back to basics info 101” on our government setup. Hopefully, this will also serve a dual purpose:

a) to brief and update the modern-day “millennials” today as they are more focused, I suspect, on hi-tech data oblivious of the rudiments of governance ; and

b) most importantly, this exercise will also help us, the “centennials”, to keep our minds active and somehow delay the onset of “dementia” which is undoubtedly starting to set in.

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FOR STARTERS – So, here goes!

Our government is composed of 3 independent branches of government: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. They don’t interfere at all on each other’s respective turfs. But there’s the time honored “check & balance rule”. For example, if Congress passes a law, the executive or the President can “veto” or oppose the bill. However, Congress can still “over-ride” that presidential veto by a 3/4 vote and the law becomes effective. In turn, the law passed by Congress can also be questioned in the judiciary by raising some constitutional issue against it.
The same is true with the judiciary. The lower courts and the appellate courts together with the Supreme Court reign supreme and their final decisions are deemed “ex cathedra” or cannot be questioned like Roman Catholic edicts and official papal pronouncements.

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ELECTORAL MANDATE — Our Philippine President is elected nationwide by plurality of votes by the Filipino qualified registered voters. He has a 6-year fixed term of office.

Our Senators are also elected nationally, with the top 24 winners composing the Philippine Senate, called the “upper house”. The terms of office of all 24 senators don’t end at the same time. An interval of 3 years is set (at 12 senators per group ) to insure the so-called senate “continuity” as a body.

On the other hand, congressmen who compose the so-called “lower house” are elected on a district level by their own constituents. They have 3-year fixed terms of office. In addition, “party-list” members as additional congressional members are also nominated by their respective “party” which garnered the required number of votes, to represent the so-called “marginalized” sector. This was supposedly to give a “voice” to the poor sectors that otherwise would not be heard considering the so-called “vagaries” of politics. ( I need not say more lest I will disparage many a politician, me included!)

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PARLIAMENTARY — There’s a big wide world of difference between our “unitary” form of government and the so-called “parliamentary” government in other countries in Europe. In the latter, the head of state or “prime minister” ( PM) is elected NOT directly by the citizenry as a whole but by their parliament members only. And the PM has no fixed term but can be voted out or removed from office by the majority members of parliament at any time when the majority “loses confidence” on the PM. That’s how a parliamentary system works. “He who rules in numbers, governs!”

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BROKERED? This brings us now in point to the so-called “speakership brouhaha”.

For one, the so-called “modus vivendi” brokered by the President, if true, does not sit well ( to say it nicely) with the sacrosanct “independence” of the executive and the legislative branches.
So those who pray to high heavens that the sharing arrangement be honored is barking at the wrong tree! They should instead implore or plead to members of Congress!
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FINAL VOTE — Let the members of Congress themselves make that crucial and final determination.
Hence, the latest Palace declaration saying that Malacanang will not interfere at all and will entirely leave the issue to the House itself is a welcome note.

As we all know, a vote was done a few days ago when Speaker Alan Cayetano resigned but the House promptly and overwhelmingly rejected his resignation outright. A good, astute move, Mr. Speaker! However, I have a suggestion ( a.k.a. unsolicited advice) to make, if I may. To finally settle this once and for all, I suggest that on October 15, Cong. Velasco and his supporters move to declare the speakership vacant and get another vote done! This will settle this brouhaha with finality — to clear all doubts.

So, let’s “roll the dice” and see which Alan the gods wish to favor! And which Alan the gods wish to destroy!
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