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Balimbing season starts in the House

Judging from the way he managed the cumbersome affairs of the House days following his assumption and the way he steered the 2021 budget deliberation, he could be more effective than his predecessor.



Before the dust of the speakership squabble between Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Alan Velasco settled, congressmen have started switching loyalties. In fact, it was the core of the impasse. Both camps claimed to have the majority. Up to the day of the installation of Velasco, a lieutenant of Cayetano was claiming in a morning talk show that they have the numbers waving an alleged manifesto of support.

The change of leadership triggered the influx of “balimbings” to the Velasco camp.

Balimbing is an indigenous Philippine starfruit with four to five sides. In local political argot, we call a person balimbing who changes party loyalty and affiliation at the drop of a hat to promote his personal and political interest. He has no loyalty but to himself. This is a pedestrian sight in our political landscape and has become a norm.

The new Speaker will be swarmed with brown-nosers. Some have claimed that their electronic signature was “copy pasted” in the manifesto peddled earlier by the Cayetano clique. The irony is that sometimes the one who is loyal to a leader is sidetracked by the glib and sweet-talking charlatan. It is amazing to see some politicians undergo alchemy from critics to ass-kissers to get a bigger slice of the budget cake. This is often seen in turnovers of the lever of power.

It will be a test of the power of discernment of Velasco to separate the frenemies from friends. There will be favor seekers dressed in sheep’s clothing, beguiling Velasco. He should be careful. They could be the mythical Trojan horse who could sabotage the new leadership. Up to the last minute, Cayetano indicated that he will not step down without a fight. The tug-of-war between the two camps had engendered bad blood among followers. The pain and agony of defeat will not easily heal.

The wily and cunning politician that he is, Cayetano, although throwing in the towel and professing support for Velasco, can still pull a rabbit out of the hat. He could break away and entice as an opposition leader in the sunset term of the President. And proven by his legislative acumen and tactical maneuvers, he can be an effective and strong opposition in the legislative chamber, finding fault where none exist in the management of the House.

The victory of Velasco was pyrrhic. There was so much mudslinging and underhanded tactics, which could result to vendetta, reprisals and recriminations. Already we are seeing them with the revamp in top House positions. This is a fact of life played out 10 times in the legislative Chamber.

Looking back, the veteran seasoned politician that is Cayetano could have foreseen his downfall. The eleventh-hour support coming from the President’s family was the tipping point that sealed his fate. Most fence-sitting congressmen saw it as the anointment and go-signal of the President for Velasco; hence, the bandwagon.

It is a sad commentary that turncoatism has become a part of our political culture. This is a cancer that rots the moral fiber, honor and dignity of our leader-politicians. Many shamelessly switch political and personal affiliations like a “butterfly.” This is a political culture that thrives in a presidential from of government. Personality-based politics in our present government structure paves the way for and nurtures this culture. It is less seen in a parliamentary government, governed principally by parties, platforms and ideologies.

Perhaps we should take another shot at a parliamentary system in case of a constitutional amendment. The governmental structure of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, patterned after Malaysia, is parliamentary. While it can hardly qualify as a model for experiment, we can learn something from it as a tool of governance.

Meantime, disproving the accusation of the Cayetano camp that Velasco is a tyro and doesn’t have what it takes to be a Speaker, he is showing to be more than equal to the task. The office suits him to a tee. Judging from the way he managed the cumbersome affairs of the House days following his assumption and the way he steered the 2021 budget deliberation, he could be more effective than his predecessor.

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