MANILA, Philippines - Prospects of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assuming the post of Speaker in the House of Representatives was the crux of the discussion on ANC's "The Rundown" on Wednesday with Ricky Carandang and Ces Drilon.
Prof. Edmund Tayao of the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) political science department says it would be unlikely for the new administration to choose the former President for the speakership.
"She will be a significant personality in House of Representatives, but under a new administration, someone will hesitate to have her as speaker," says Tayao.
Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and Nacionalista Party's Manny Villar have said they won't allow it.
Still a force to reckon with
Former Malabon Rep. Federico Sandoval II, however, believes former Arroyo allies could have the numbers in Congress to make an Arroyo speakership happen under the new administration, going as far as saying President Arroyo would still be a force to reckon with whether or not it does.
"Even if she doesn't want to run for Speaker, she could be forced by party-mates because we could just disintegrate," Sandoval says.
This is what happens to every majority party after an election. It was the case for Lakas-NUCD in 1998, when Joseph Estrada assumed the presidency.
Sandoval recalls over 100 congressmen allied with Lakas, but only 19 remained. Everyone else jumped to the winning candidate.
"Being Speaker is all about the numbers game. And no one else can get the numbers unless the Liberal Party, NP, party-list coalesce with the majority, or the party-list groups with the majority," he says. "[Let's] Say she has 100 congressmen, she can be administration or opposition. This can be a significant bloc, especially if this goes opposition."
Sandoval likens the prospect to what happened with the rainbow coalition during the Estrada presidency, when Jose De Venecia tried to coalesce with Estrada but having failed still managed to get the numbers on his side.
A shoe-in for Speaker
Under a new and even hostile administration, Sandoval says, President Arroyo-- as the most senior member of Congress-- would be a shoe-in for the Speakership.
She has experience going for her. Not only was she a former President, she was a former legislator, having served 6 years as senator before winning the vice-presidency in 1998.
She also enjoys the support of former House allies who could very well pressure her to seek the Speakership.
And even if she chooses to elude the post, Sandoval adds, Mrs. Arroyo will still be a major figure in Congress, possibly becoming a significant force to help the next Speaker become Speaker or bring her supporters to the opposition.
"With President Arroyo running for Congress, she will be the most senior congressman. And even if she didn't want to run, the ruling majority will force her to run or, at the very least, be a major block in this Congress," Sandoval says.
He adds this could be the case even in an Aquino or Villar presidency. "Assuming we have 50 and the minority 40, and there's an impeachment, even if we're not part of minority, that's a very dangerous scenario. So, whether or not she or the party sides with minority or majority, that can be a significant swing vote."
Power of the purse
"The experience of a former President is an advantage if one is to become Speaker," Tayao contends, "but again, it's a question of whether a sitting president would allow a former president to be a Speaker."
Without the power of the purse under a hostile president, Tayao thinks prospects of an Arroyo speakership would still be possible. "While the power of the purse is no longer hers, and assuming the president who wins is from another political party, I don't think she will have the capacity to win enough numbers."
But Sandoval begs to disagree, saying it would still be possible for Mrs. Arroyo to exercise power over a majority of the House of Representatives. "The moment you enter Congress, you lobby for committee memberships and positions. You don't need pork barrel for this. As the Speaker, you should be able to apportion chairmanships properly among party members."
As for the issue President Arroyo will be facing after her term, Tayao says, Mrs. Arroyo can still enjoy parliamentary immunity in Congress for cases punishable by less than 6 years, but adds plunder is another story.
Citing how a lot of congressmen continue to face cases before the Sandiganbayan, Sandoval believes that in a post-Arroyo presidency, cases against her will still go on.