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How Powerful is the Speaker? Enough for Duterte to Settle Cayetano-Velasco Row

Term-sharing deal will be honored, according to multiple reports.
Sep 29, 2020
(Clockwise from L-R) Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Sen. Bong Go meet with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang on Sept. 29, 2020. Photo courtesy of Sen. Bong Go.
Photo/s: Courtesy of Sen. Bong Go

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco will assume the leadership of the House of Representatives and will replace Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, pursuant to their term-sharing deal that was struck by President Rodrigo Duterte, according to multiple reports.

That Duterte had to intervene shows the clout of the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Philippine politics and in business.

Velasco and Cayetano met with Duterte late on Tuesday in Malacanang following reports that the incumbent Speaker's allies wanted him to stay in his post. The leadership change will happen on Oct. 14, reports said.

Who are the rivals for Speaker?

Marinduque Rep. Velasco is close to Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio. The Velasco couple even named one of their daughters after the mayor. They also helped campaign for Hugpong ng Pagbabago, the 2019 senatorial ticket backed by Sara.

Cayetano was Duterte's running mate in the 2016 elections. Before reclaiming his congressional seat in Taguig City, he was the President's foreign affairs secretary.

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Cayetano assumed the speakership in 2019, after the Speaker at that time, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reached the nine-year term limit. Velasco gunned for the same post but Duterte brokered a term-sharing deal: Cayetano will take the post first, followed by Velasco in October 2020.

What's in it for Duterte?

The President would have had a close ally at the top regardless of who between Cayetano and Velasco will become speaker. Traditionally, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has had close ties with the sitting president. Fidel Ramos had Jose de Venecia and Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino had Feliciano Belmonte.

A supportive House ensured the passage of key legislation and under Cayetano, it was the first and second Bayanihan or pandemic response law. Velasco's term will encompass debates for the remaining tax reform packages among others.

What are the powers of the Speaker?

In 2000, then Speaker Manny Villar led the impeachment of former President Joseph Estrada on corruption allegations. This illustrates the influence of the speaker to decide on an impeachment of impeachable officials.

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Despite multiple impeachment complaints during her nine-year term as president, Arroyo stayed in power since her ally, De Venecia, was speaker.

The Speaker also wields influence over budget deliberations because the annual national budget is submitted to the House first. He or she makes sure there is funding for projects, both national and local.

As shown in the recent ABS-CBN franchise hearings, the Speaker sets the pace for such applications that span transportation and telecommunications. Franchise bills needs to pass the House before they are elevated to the Senate.

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