Politics: A Game of One-upsmanship

It's game over for former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, and welcome back to power for former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo!

Months of rumors and speculation over a change in the house leadership finally became a reality after President Rodrigo Duterte's 3rd State of the Nation Address. Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was elected officially as the 21st Speaker of the House of Representatives and 1st Lady Speaker in Philippine political history on two separate occasions last Monday, 23 July 2018. While both the camps of Speaker Arroyo and former Speaker Alvarez seemed to have mended fences in a private meeting on 25 July 2018, the build-up towards the unexpected transition was made possible by Rep. Alvarez's callous and abrasive actions, and by the cunning political game plan of the former President-turned-House Speaker.

Former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez's rise to the House Speakership was brought about by his stature of being the only PDP-Laban congressional candidate who won in the 2016 Elections. Congressmen/women who were generally supportive of President Duterte rallied behind Rep. Alvarez's quest for the speakership. Upon his assumption to the post, however, he has allegedly made several questionable decisions that did not sit well with some members of the “supermajority.” These include the removal of committee chairmanships from those who voted against the death penalty bill; initial allocation of Php 1000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights; and constant threats of zero budget for congressmen/women who will not support federalism. His spat against Duterte's daughter Davao Mayor Sara Duterte and close ally Davao del Norte Rep. Tonyboy Floirendo also did not help him gain sympathy from the DDS supporters outside of Congress.

As Former Speaker Alvarez was busy throwing his weight in Congress, Rep. Arroyo slowly but surely positioned herself as a viable and natural choice for House Speaker. Her vast experience in political wheeling and dealing has helped her establish strong relationships and attract loyal politicians even to this date. Her investment on people eventually paid off as her congressional allies, who were mostly her former Cabinet Secretaries, LGU officials under LAKAS-KAMPI-CMD, and strong backers, laid down the ground work for her return in power. Her allies only have her 9-year presidency to look back as reference on how she managed the bureaucracy, legislative allies and loyal supporters.

Politics is a game of one-upsmanship. There are indeed no permanent friends or allies in politics, only permanent interests. While Rep. Alvarez knew that there were rumblings on his leadership in the Lower House, he seemed to have underestimated the rumors surrounding the uncertainty of his stay in power. Furthermore, he may have tinkered with the thought that former Rep. Arroyo would not attempt to unseat him given that he served as DOTC Secretary during her Presidency. On the other hand, Rep. Arroyo played it coy but astutely. Time and present political circumstances only prove Rep. Arroyo’s resilience against almost all odds--- against threats on her power, freedom, and life.

Today, Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stands as a master of the political game of one-upsmanship, and the latest victim was no less than former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. So, shall we now say, "Hello PNoy?

About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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