Lame Duck President and House Leadership

Diliman Way

With Homobono A. Adaza

“A great leader is not a searcher for consensus
but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“What is right is not always popular and what is
popular is not always right.” – Albert Einstein.

What is a lame duck President? He is the top official not available for re-election who is at the tail-end of his term. Either of these two things are likely to happen to him – he loses so much of his power and influence over public and private sectors of society or retains or expands such power and influence.

What about President Rodrigo R. Duterte, to which category does he belong? The first test in defining him is the leadership of the House of Representatives. Initially, he appears to have lost grip of the situation. He wobbled. But as the struggle appeared unmanageable, he effectively recovered lost ground by putting his foot down.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had to capitulate, afraid of completely losing the perquisites of power and his grip over Taguig City.
So to retain his power and influence over his fiefdom that is Taguig City, he had to apologize to President Duterte for his refusal to give way to Congressman Lord Alan Velasco. In a sense, the solution had a biblical favor. Peter had to obey the Lord.

Winners: Who won? President Rodrigo Duterte proved he still wields the same power and influence as he did in the first days of his presidency. That is a lot to say of his leadership, in effect confirming what False Asia has revealed that the President has 91% trust and approval rating among our people. Of course, nobody who is sane believes that report – not even President Duterte The survey report of False Asia is an insult to science and the Filipino intelligence.

Who are the other winners? The Duterte leaders, followers, fanatics, oligarchs and opportunists who are having the time of their lives feasting and fattening themselves on the gravy of the land are the other winners. And in so winning, they keep trumpeting their usual theme song of how great is their leader!

Losers: Those who failed to seize the day and the moment are the losers. First, there is Former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. He gave the impression in his media declarations that he is made of sterner stuff. He looked like a molave but he turned out to be a bamboo – bending with the wind.

Second, the House of Representatives – behaving like a House of traditional politicians not having a mind of its own. It confirmed the public perception that the overwhelming majority of its members, to borrow the poetic line of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, are “the dumb driven
cattle” of President Duterte.

And third, the opposition which failed to seize the opportunity for a bold move.

Questions: Where is the place of former Speaker Cayetano in the current political equation? Nobody knows except President Duterte.. As Rudyard Kipling would have it, Cayetano risked his “winnings in one turn of pitch and toss”. And he lost in almost total disgrace. Does he have any role in the 2022 elections? It does not seem promising either. He badly miscalculated President Duterte and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the President’s powerful; daughter. He also underestimated now Speaker Lord Alan Velasco.

Cayetano’s mistake was overconfidence. Obviously, he either has not read Sun Tzu’s Art of War or he failed to remember the number one rule of warfare in that book which is – Know yourself, know your enemy. A hundred battles, a hundred victories. Failing to read the book or to remember the number one rule of warfare in that book, Cayetano did not only lose the battle, he also lost the war.

Cayetano lost the opportunity for outstanding leadership. If he planned well, he would not have lost his job. He would have towered over and above all current politicians, including President Duterte. Why? He would have proved he has got what it takes to be a leader. He could have ably demonstrated his adherence to the doctrine of separation of powers that – the House of Representatives, as part of Congress, is independent and co-equal with the executive and judicial departments of government.

Cayetano would have appeared a giant for the restoration of constitutionalism in the country. As Speaker, he could have outmatched President Duterte considering that Duterte is a lame duck President. He could have become a rallying point for the opposition in the country. Definitely, if he held his ground, he could have loomed large as a presidential candidate in 2022.

Any House Speaker nurses the ambition to be President of the Philippines and former Speaker Cayetano is no exception. But all that is lost now, reminiscent of the saying – For want of a shoe, a horse was lost. For want of a horse, a kingdom was lost.

On Speaker Velasco: I don’t know him. I’ve never meet him The first and only time I saw and heard Speaker Velasco was in an ANC interview before he officially assumed the position of House Speaker.
As a trial lawyer for decades, I have a good impression of the man. He looked young and tolerably good looking. He was reserved and quite humble in his behavior and his articulation that any member of the House of Representatives is qualified to be Speaker. I strongly disagree with him there as it takes a high degree of intelligence and political savvy to be a good Speaker, especially considering the dismal qualifications of majority of the current House members.

Speaker Velasco was quite honest to admit he is not only a devoted friend of President Duterte but also of his family. He vowed loyalty and obedience to the President. On that note, it is quite obvious the House under Speaker Velasco will toe the Duterte line. So it is all of the same, so they say. In this country, it seems, nothing exchanges except the seasons.

Will he be a good Speaker, despite his sworn blind obedience to the President? That remains to be seen. It is best to give him the benefit of the doubt – less benefit but more doubt, especially considering President Duterte does not behave like a lame duck President.

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