The bright rouge blush-on applied to his cheeks was a tad too disturbing. It made him look like a wooden marionette which he definitely was not.
It was disturbing on two levels. A puppet on strings was the last thing we need in the legislature. But for Alan Peter Cayetano’s typically pasty and fair complexion, his unpainted facade might have been too glaring for the TV cameras, especially when he was desperately trying to justify himself for that rather tasteless banner he was seen carrying on the House floor.
Politicians who grab any opportunity to hog the limelight on TV need credibility and an obviously fake blush painted on their cheeks does not help.
Cayetano however needs more than just cheek tints, cosmetics and makeup to regain the lost credibility he’s been experiencing in a series of controversies from the time he inserted himself into the campaign for a better presidency than the buffoonery we were afflicted with just prior to Rodrigo Duterte’s, all the way to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like a thin dead twig or a hollow grass reed used by monkeys as a probe that they insert into tight holes and crevices in search of ants and larvae as sustenance, the House Speaker has too often inserted himself into similar fissures.
The imagery can be far more graphic but this metaphor will have to do as we explore its dimensions to understand the politics of the politician who was once Duterte’s running mate for the vice presidency.
Cayetano had inserted himself then as he does now, from the decision of former Mayor Duterte to run for the presidency in 2016, to the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 and that stunt at the House of Representatives. Ever the showman, allow us to chronologically bracket his acts between two images.
One was during the presidential campaign in 2016. The other was at last week’s House session. In between, mostly spawned from the moment Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo surrendered the House speakership and Peter the opportunist claimed the House gavel, lies a litany of controversial acts that reaffirm our 2016 decision on him.
Before Duterte had made up his mind to throw his hat in the presidential ring in 2016, Cayetano forcibly preempted the question of who Duterte’s running mate might be. In highly visible places around the metropolis posters of him and Duterte started sprouting like weeds in a garden. Never mind the eventual polls that showed he was not as desired as his principal was, nor was he even seen as a potential successor. Betting that he might bask under Duterte’s limelight he clawed at the opportunity and hung unto Duterte’s coattails like a parasite.
Losing miserably to an unknown inexperienced incompetent, he then quickly grabbed the next opportunity and salivated for the Foreign Affairs portfolio, consequently holding it for a mere year.
He did not perform well. Note how he had substantially weakened our claim to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) by declaring our victory at the international arbitral courts as “disputed.” To aggravate matters, he then went so far as to allow a foreign power to exploit areas off the country’s northeastern coast opposite the WPS.
As temperatures in the kitchen rose, he was constantly being labelled derelict of his responsibilities. Some went overboard and labeled him a traitor. As the heat intensified, he resigned prematurely, dropped his portfolio and announced he would run in the May 2019 elections — an opportunity still then some eight long months away.
Eventually as a congressman he horse-traded a sequential sharing of the Speakership — a deal still in danger of betrayal as he has yet to fulfill a now delayed promise to yield his seat.
Power is after all addictive. Never mind that his speakership was largely characterized by controversy. From overseeing an attempt at term extensions offered as doggy biscuits to purchase canine loyalty, to resurrecting the illegal pork barrel to fund and fatten pet projects.
Not only is power addictive, it can also be expansive. Cayetano and his wife lord over Taguig’s two congressional districts. Conveniently gerrymandered, Taguig used to only have one.
Political privilege and entitlement lie at the root of the addiction to power and insatiable greed as novel opportunities are opened to politicians. We saw how that can turn ugly and even endanger the innocent with the recent Koko Pimentel scandal.
But long before Pimentel and his brazen practice of privilege, there was Peter the opportunist.