Speakership war is a proxy war between the new and old oligarchs

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Is this speakership fight a proxy war between the old oligarchs and the new and emerging ones? Seems like it shortly after Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano mentioned in his emotional plenary speech of how deposed Deputy speaker Mikee Romero reportedly uses his political position for the benefit of his businesses. Who wins in the end?

What Cayetano said was nothing new. If you are to profile politicians who engage in politics, you will find nearly all of them engaged in business activities one way or another. Or, their friends are businessmen whom they consult or give projects to. 

Where does Romero gets his wealth? Romero is known for being a port operator, an energy investor, miner and airline owner. In 2018, he is the richest Congressman with a net worth of 8 billion pesos or roughly US$135 million. He stands at number 46 of the country’s 50 richest in 2020. He got his millions from being the sole energy provider in Mindanao and very soon, he will get several energy firms in the Luzon and Visayas area, that he intends to consolidate into one firm, One Power. When this happens, Romero will be the single most influential and wealthiest man in the country—and not just financially wealthy—he holds everybody by the balls by being the “energy king.”

And since Romero is a big player already in the acquisitions and power industry game, he of course, courts many enemies. Being an astute businessman, Romero plays the game well by entering into politics, something that his competitors in business would never do. That political hat gives Romero the power to dilute the influence and wealth of his competitors and make things easy for him to secure government and regulator’s licenses for his expanding empire, the way the Villars did with theirs. 

The only problem with oligarchs like Romero is that they presume regularity, or linearity, a fatal mistake when you are dabbling in politics. Politics is a game of mirages, the kind that baffles honest men and complicates the learned. There are no permanent political relationships—only those that benefit the parties. 

For example, Romero did the unthinkable and made a big conglomerate out of partylist groups. In business, conglomerates are controlled organisations under the command and power of an individual, usually the owner or a board. In politics, you cannot just impose your will on another without the corresponding repercussions. Political animals are always an endangered species that’s why there are no permanency in politics—it is an ever evolving field. Besides, one cannot guarantee the survival of a partylist let alone a Congressional representative. The political configurations change every three years and even with promises of financial campaign backing, politics is such a magnificent creature that it appears or vanishes on the power of its own will. 

Romero was shocked and politically defanged when Speaker Cayetano named him, and wrecked his reputation at the podium right then and there, and him, unable to provide a dutiful response. What Cayetano did was put Romero in his place. Romero may have his billions but Cayetano has his sharp political acumen, able to identify his friends and foes just by looking at them. 

Romero got cut and he was cut deeply by Cayetano. Of course, Romero is expected to give the ummp to Cayetano but the problem is, how to actually do it? Romero and his political friend, Congressman Velasco are political newbies getting their feet wet but unfortunately too early. They may have the political links with the biggies under this administration but Cayetano and his allies are considered true heavyweights in their class. These politicians might have been only in their late forties but being in politics for more than two decades sharpened their political skills even Machiavelli would have admired their work.

Unlike Romero and Velasco, Cayetano had his share of good and possibly bad fights in his career. What he possesses however, is the trust and confidence of other big time oligarchs, his predecessors. Cayetano is no push over. He already had his spurs during the time that Romero was still wetting his feet in business. 

Velasco, meanwhile acts like a typical La Salllian cono who calls for backup whenever he’s into a fight. He calls Paolo Duterte or DS Pulong out that was easily checkmated by Cayetano. No choice but to complain against Cayetano before the Main Man—the president himself—without even considering how humiliating and how unparliamentary conduct that was. Imagine you complained to the Chief Executive when such a dispute would have been resolved just by a caucus or a personal visit with Cayetano. 

Sources say Velasco wants to be the speaker so as his group composed of the emerging economic and political powers would be able to control the largesse of the budget. What they failed to understand is that this is’nt the time to play politics, to demand or dominate the sharing of the people’s monies or to complain about not enjoying the perks and privileges attached to the post. 

Politics now is all about survival. If the Duterte administration fails to enact a budget that will not lead to a resuscitation of the economy, chances are that social unrest would reach a certain level capable of ousting this administration from power. This budget is specifically for the survival of Duterte. The problem really is that Velasco and his group probably think this is for them only. Velasco’s acts right now just show how limited his understanding of politics really is. Let me add— this also shows his group’s impatience to consolidate all power to them. They want ultimate power but they simply don’t know how best to manage it. 

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