By now, Alan Peter Cayetano is beginning to learn—or remember—a few lessons in politics the hard way, lessons he presumably first learned in school, but he thought in real life he could remain impervious to all that: In politics, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies; only permanent interests.
Nobody is indispensable, but Cayetano tried to hang on, despite the President’s order to end his term and honor what he and Lord Allan Velasco called “Gentlemen’s Agreement” to share 15-20 the speakership of the House of Representatives in July 2019. He thought he could be speaker beyond the wishes of the President who put him there in the first place, trying to maneuver everything to stay in power, even twisting words to suit his spin.
No way, Jose. Cayetano might have said that he had resigned all right, but the truth is, he was ousted as Speaker of the House. Up to the last minute, Cayetano was still trying to control the narrative.
He called Velasco an absentee congressman, someone too weak to lead a House of 299 members, and accused him of being behind a phantom black propaganda and a coup against him. The public heard non-stop Cayetano stopping short of saying that he alone was right, all others wrong, and that nothing would be done right unless he stayed as speaker. We didn’t hear Velasco fight back.
But when Velasco decided to show up for the first time in public in a one-on-one interview on morning TV, the public saw a hardly known, mild-mannered congressman from Marinduque, yes, possibly looking less experienced than Cayetano, but definitely not as loquacious, not scheming as the congressman from Taguig City.
Amid these quarantine months, when the public get to see their officials solely by their TV appearances, Velasco and Cayetano are two men too different from each other. They’re both the President’s men, but the public knows by now who to them seems the lesser evil.
When 186 House members formally cast their vote to install Velasco as the new House speaker on Tuesday, Cayetano was nowhere in sight in the halls of what he called the House of the People.
He was seen on camera minutes later announcing that he was resigning irrevocably as Speaker, something he should have done the morning after the President told him to honor the Gentleman’s Agreement last September 29.
No way, Jose. Cayetano might have said that he had resigned all right, but the truth is, he was ousted as Speaker of the House. Up to the last minute, Cayetano was still trying to control the narrative. He had been thrown out. He did not have to resign.
House had seen better men, even those with political dinosaur status like Jose De Venecia of Pangasinan, hanging on to that post till the bitter end. Until his House colleagues threw him out of speakership De Venecia was the last to believe it could happen to him in February 2008, described by a newspaper columnist as the night he was stabbed in the back by hundreds of knives.
"What is happening in our country?” he said, oblivious to the fact that his patron, President Gloria Arroyo, was convinced that he had outlived his usefulness.
In his farewell speech, De Venecia recited a long litany of the many things he did for Macapagal-Arroyo, short of saying he was ready to take a bullet for her.
His successor Prospero Nograles of Davao City took the floor, oblivious to De Venecia’s sorry plight. "It's been a long, tiring and emotional day for all of us. Now the issue is finally settled," Nograles said. "It's time to get back to work.”
All in a day’s work.
De Venecia was kicked out, and it was nothing but politics, pure and simple, all right. The truth is, no official has a Torrens title to any public post. It is not something he can keep forever. No one should be allowed to keep it forever.
Cayetano apologized to President Duterte for misreading him. Too late. But did he really misread the President? Or he simply refused to learn some lessons in politics? Indeed, as far as Cayetano was concerned, politics was not trying to teach him the obvious, which was to quit long ago, a lesson he refused to learn.
Time is up for Cayetano. There is nothing as powerless as an idea whose time has gone. There is nothing as hurting as seeing his fellow House members who used to sing paeans to him now ditching him.
Let the die be cast.
Images taken from Alan Peter Cayetano's Facebook page