FIRING LINE: Palabra de Honor

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Sans the nightlife I most often enjoyed while catching the chatter on politics, I’ve spent recent breezy nights on the second-floor terrace or the swing by the garage just to feel the open air.

I live closer to the Cubao side of Quezon City, but I swear I caught a whiff of something cooking way out in the Batasan area. I know I’ve been imagining Chinese food lately (perhaps, so do you), but this nose of mine could not be mistaken that what’s simmering way out there is clearly “lutong Macau”.

For a few seconds last week, some of us held our breaths when presidential — of course, not prodigal — son Paolo Duterte said he’d rally fellow Mindanaoan congressmen to declare the seats of the Speaker and deputy speakers vacant. A coup in Congress? Nothing new, if you ask them.

But as it turns out, that was just one of his tantrums over uneven appropriations per legislative district in the proposed budget of the DPWH for 2021. So, nothing close to an unceremonious change of guard happened.

Who needs the drama, anyway, when Duterte family “bestie” — Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco — is, by virtue of a term-sharing agreement brokered by the President himself in July 2019, destined to take over as Speaker from Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano towards the end of next month?

Based on the gentleman’s agreement, Cayetano would take the helm of the House for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress then cede power to Velasco for the remaining 21 months until a new president and congress are elected in 2022.

It seems, though, that there is really something cooking in that House; because right after the coup-that-never-was sent babbles across the plenary, out of the flock of sheepy solons emerged the fiery “supermajority”.

And guess what! One by one, they were coming out of the bushes bleating Cayetano’s name, heaping praises upon his leadership, and lobbying for a nixing of the term-sharing agreement on the pretext that the unseen hand of the coronavirus pandemic has changed the playing field.

Last Sunday, after a night of making up with “Polong” Duterte the previous night, Cayetano’s future was made clear. Exactly 202 out of the 300-member House signed a manifesto supporting his continued and uninterrupted leadership of the Lower Chamber until 2022.

But I take exception for the one congressman who, in my view, put the bottom-line issue out there — “palabra de honor”. There stands an agreement, sealed by the handshake of the two gentlemen whose peers look up to them as their leader, and whose word is their bond before God, nation, the “poong Duterte”.

If all these are forsaken, isn’t it a shame that even thieves have this proverb, “there is honor among thieves”, while, apparently, in this august body, there is none? Oh, but wait… are there thieves in Congress?

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