Battle at the Top

A few days left before the adjournment of the 17th Congress, the battle at the top begins as it could be the sign of possible alignments come the Presidential Elections in 2022. The battle at the top is also a symbolism of the weak political party system in the Philippines. 

At the adjournment of the 17th Congress, several questions loom on the leadership of the forthcoming 18th Congress which opens on 30 June 2019.

In the Senate, the continued stay of Sen. Tito Sotto as Senate President is not yet cast in stone. Nacionalista Party Senators are eyeing to field Sen. Cynthia Villar, the 2019 Senatorial Elections top-notcher, as the party's candidate for Senate President. The controversy for the post has been ignited by the desire of several neophyte senators to obtain chairmanship of key committees. Sen. Sotto has expressed his desire to follow traditions in the Senate, particularly the equity of the incumbent rule where incumbent Committee Chairpersons are given the prerogative to retain their positions. On 5 June 2019, a dinner was organized by Sen. Manny Pacquiao where senators were asked to list down their preferred committees in order to thresh out the leadership issues.

In the House of Representatives, a number of administration-allied candidates have openly expressed their desire to replace the retiring Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as House Speaker. Rep. Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque, Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig, and Rep. Martin Romualdez have emerged as the leading contenders in what is considered as a free-for-all speakership race. In the event that President Duterte does not endorse a particular candidate, it is speculated that it may boil down to a Romualdez-Cayetano tiff.

The battle at the top of both chambers is indicative of possible alignments come the Presidential Elections in 2022. There are talks that the Villars are eyeing a possible run at the Presidency while it has been rumored that Sen. Sotto is eyeing the Vice Presidency for 2022. Rep. Cayetano's intention to run for President continues to be talk of the town and a 3-year tenure as House Speaker will help him consolidate support within the preparatory window.

The battle at the top is also symbolic of our weak political party system in the country. In other countries, it is well-known that the party in power would automatically hold the highest post(s) in their legislature. In the Philippines, consensus leaders have often been elected by several parties allied to the Chief Executive.

The soft coalitions formed under the administration banner are likely to breakdown either in mid or late 2021 as several personalities within the Duterte camp will launch their own respective Presidential and Vice-Presidential campaigns. The configuration of parties in power in both chambers may also change by that time.

For now, it will be interesting to observe the posturing of Senators and Congressmen/Congresswomen alike. While it is known that Senators are considered Presidents-in-waiting, LGUs and House Representatives should not be counted out in a bigger battle at the top come 2022. One doesn't have to look that far back, as a local government head in the person of Rodrigo Duterte overcame a sitting Vice President in Jejomar Binay, Senator in Grace Poe and Cabinet Secretary in Mar Roxas to win the Presidency in convincing fashion.

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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