By Ellson Quismorio
ACT-Teachers Party-List Rep. France Castro thinks it’s perfectly understandable why House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has designated an unprecedented 22 Deputy Speakers – with more rumored to be named – this 18th Congress.
“Ito yung pamamaraan niya na mag-reach out [sa kapwa kongresista]. Ang ugali niya is to reach out (This is his way of reaching out to fellow congressmen. His attitude is to reach out),” said Castro, a member of the minority.
According to the lady solon, the need for Cayetano to reach out stems from his somewhat modest base of support in the 305-member House of Representatives.
“May personal akong pagtingin na iyong atin Speaker ay hindi naman niya kaalyado yung karamihan. Na-endorse siya ng ating Pangulo kaya ito yung naging tsapa niya (My personal view is that our Speaker isn’t really allies with most of the members. He was endorsed by the President and this has served as his badge).”
Castro was alluding to the complicated House leadership set-up wherein Cayetano, who represents Taguig-Pateros, would share the Speaker’s post with the also Palace-endorsed Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
Cayetano will hold the position for the first 15 months, while Velasco will assume it for the final 21 months.
To a degree, the two are also sharing the limelight with Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez, another erstwhile Speakership contender who ended up as House Majority Leader.
So far it has been smooth sailing in the 18th Congress, and Cayetano has attributed this to the stewardship of his 22 Deputy Speakers. Word from the grapevine is that this figure will be raised to 24 sooner than later.
“I understand it [designating so many Deputy Speakers]…Medyo kakaiba ngayong Kongreso (This Congress is somewhat different),” Castro said.
“Lalo na ngayon mahigpit ang labanan, 15 months lang siya pero marami pang mangyayari. Hindi natin alam yung plano ni [Speaker Cayetano] after 15 months (Especially now the battle is tight, he will only be Speaker for 15 but a lot can still happen. We don’t know what Speaker Cayetano’s plans are after 15 months),” added the Makabayan lawmaker.
It was actually in the previous 17th Congress that the number of Deputy Speakers in the House ballooned, expanding from just six in the previous Congress to 14.
For additional context, there were only 292 House members during the 16th Congress. Further back in 2001 during the 12th Congress, which had just four Deputy Speakers, the House was only comprised of 225 members.
Castro does not think that the sudden increase in the number of Deputy Speakers diminishes the importance of the post. “Malaki parin ang role ng Deputy Speakers sa trabaho natin dito sa Kongreso (Deputy Speakers still have a huge role to play as far as work goes here in Congress).”
“Kasi more than 300 na kami ngayon…it’s up to the Speaker kung paano niya hahatiin itong trabaho na ito (it’s up to the Speaker how he will delegate the load of work),” she noted.