It was fun while it lasted. But it’s sabong time. At least, that’s what recent goings-on in the congressional Grand Cocker Speakership Derby suggests.
Her Honor, Mayor Sara Duterte, may have teamed up with The Honorable Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the incumbent Speaker, to seize the speakership and collaborate on Hugpong ng Pagbabago, but it’s time to select a new Speaker. And so, a multiround elimination fiesta has been playing out in the press, with the two formidable ladies backing different candidates.
Her Honor waded in soon after the midterms and, in a dizzying blitzkrieg of comments, smashed the hopes and dreams of at least two speakership aspirants. Round 1 saw the (swift) elimination of Alan Peter Cayetano from the speakership qualifying round. Her Honor declared he was an extortionist, and refused to back him when he supposedly threatened to bolt the ruling coalition if she didn’t back him.
Round 2 featured a declaration of the continuing ineligibility of Pantaleon Alvarez, on the basis of his being a snake and a sneak. With Her Honor declaring him still outside the loyalist kulambo, Alvarez’s continuing ineligibility from consideration also kicked him to the curb in the qualifying round. And what’s more, she reminded the faithful, the man had been caught on video threatening to embarrass her. This was not only a throwback to his earlier boastful indiscretions—remember when he’d bragged he could impeach the President?—but proved he was on the same miserable extortionary level as Cayetano with his threats.
Round 3 was a sibling slugfest featuring Her Honor, the Mayor, daring dear old daddy to back her troublemaker of a brother, congressman-elect Pulong. It was a move increasingly showing the peck-and-slash style she first inherited from dear old daddy, but is making increasingly her own. The dare was this: Fine, we’ve already had to kick that good-for-nothing boy upstairs to the House, but will you put the piggery in the hands of this sibling of mine?
Dear old daddy, who himself once upon a time had said he found the piggery such a sty that he preferred to spend his congressional term snacking in the canteen or malling, had to fold. His finally giving in to Her Honor, by grumbling he’d rather quit if his son made a bid for the speakership, led, in turn, to his disgruntled son making passive-aggressive comments in response. Said Pulong, more or less: “I did not say I want to be Speaker… Someone whispered lies into your ear again, Mr. President.”
What Her Honor’s dare also did, by the way, was further trap the still-disgraced Alvarez, who at one point slavishly announced that, of course, if Pulong sought the speakership, he (Alvarez) would immediately and loyally withdraw his bid. But the way dear old dad got confronted by his daughter just proved to everyone watching that The Decider here would remain Her Honor the Mayor, and not His Former Excellency, the President.
Which brings us to Round 4, currently taking place: the opening of the final round between the last congressmen standing, Lord Allan Velasco in Her Honor the Mayor’s corner as Representative of The Coming Man Squad, and Ferdinand Martin Romualdez in the corner of the (current) Honorable Speaker of the House as the candidate of choice of The Thoroughbred Caucus. And it’s here where Her Honor is now publicly at odds with the Honorable incumbent Speaker over the selection of her successor.
While Inday Sara’s style is to barge in and belt out her opinions, the former president and current Speaker’s style is slicker. She let loose a serpent — Danilo Suarez of the Company Union, known as the House minority bloc — to hiss his deep thoughts to gathered reporters. Suarez first hissed honeyed words of praise: Sara is a dear friend, she’s a maverick with a terrific right hook, she’s the President’s daughter and a contender for the presidency — what she says matters. But this was preamble to what he had to say on GMA’s behalf: Romualdez, he pointed out, already enjoys the support of 126 representatives. GMA herself holds sway over a significant bloc in the House. Of course Her Honor or the President could weigh in, but, he seemed to infer, would that look nice?
Arroyo afterward snapped at reporters that she had no comment on the speakership fight — after all, Suarez had already done the talking. Inday Sara may have pinned down dear old dad, who might still personally prefer an Alvarez comeback, but he won’t run the risk of belying the hyperloyalism (publicly, at least) of his daughter, his only competent child. But he can remain silent, and see if she can tip the balance of power in the House.