DID House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. accidentally write his own epitaph during the last day of the regular session of Congress on June 10?
On a day when he was projected to exclaim “My cup runneth over” as in the 23rd Psalm, as his pet project of charter change received the ringing approval of his colleagues, the Speaker astonishingly blew instead the bugle of retreat, saying, “my best is not good enough.”
It is a line destined for immortality alongside BS Aquino’s “You are still alive, aren’t you,” and Mar Roxas’ “You are a Romualdez, the president is an Aquino.”
Cha-cha reduced to symbolic gesture
Whoa! What happened here?
At the Batasan on Wednesday, June 10, the setting was perfect. Unlike in previous weeks when the Chamber’s leadership could hardly muster a quorum, the House was in full dress and near full attendance. Perhaps sensing a payoff, 267 members reported for work.
High on the House agenda was voting on the speaker’s pet measure – the revision of the economic provisions of the Constitution, as embodied in the virus-sounding RBH1 (Resolution of Both Houses).
But then the bubble of expectation was punctured.
Addressing the House, and to the astonishment of his colleagues and the media, Speaker Belmonte announced his decision to cancel the vote on RBH1.
He tried to lay the blame on the Senate, where the senators were less enthusiastic about RBH1. Without Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to lead (as Senate president he had made a compact with Belmonte to move economic charter change), RHB1 became a foundling in the other chamber.
Later, in an interview with the media, Belmonte explained why he
aborted the House vote. He had failed to get the votes needed to approve the measure.
It was then that he confessed, “my best was not good enough.”
The quote is genuine because even the speaker’s own newspaper, the Philippine Star, ran the story on the front page of its July 11 edition.
Belmonte lamely declared that he would try instead to put the measure to a vote when Congress resumes its session on July 27, but only as a symbolic gesture.
Between sadness and elation
In the flush of this stunning admission, I did not know at first whether to be saddened or elated by the news.
On the one hand, I was saddened because such a humbling confession of ineffectuality appears to me troubling, coming as it does from the fourth highest official of the land. Belmonte is fourth in the line of succession to the presidency.
How effective will an ineffectual speaker be should he by chance be pole-vaulted into Malacanang?
But there is a silver lining to this news about Speaker Belmonte.
On the other hand, I was elated by the Speaker’s admission, because it means that the House railroad will be in temporary disarray. Having rammed through controversial measures and policies in the past, the House under Belmonte’s weak leadership won’t be able to ram down the nation’s throat controversial measures like the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). This is a relief.
If Belmonte should suddenly become energetic and the House railroad starts running again, the public will surely ask questions. Especially if the passenger is the BBL? Did President Aquino have a heart-to-heart talk with the Speaker?
The eyebrows of Philippine Star majority owner Manny “MVP” Pangilinan will rise several inches if Belmonte becomes suddenly effective on behalf of another cause. MVP was banking on the Speaker’s ability to get the charter-change bill approved by both houses of Congress. He was looking to economic charter change as the fig leaf that would hide and rationalize majority control by his foreign principal of major utility and media companies in the country.
The House railroad, like the MRT and LRT, is in need of an overhaul, perhaps even a change of management. But the fact that the 16th Congress will be gone in one year’s time makes reorganization an empty exercise today.
Belmonte is so yesterday
Even with an epitaph in store, Sonny Belmonte won’t just fade away, or perhaps retire.
With the politics of 2016 looming on the horizon, he will do his utmost to be relevant again. He will surely fight tooth-and-nail to keep his dynasty in Quezon City in place.
In spite of his crushing defeat on charter change, Belmonte has dispensed gratuitous advice to personages, who could wind up in the presidency next year.
He disclosed that he would probably support Sen. Grace Poe for president, regardless of her near-fatal shortcomings.
He gratuitously advised Mar Roxas to improve his survey ratings, and
muted his own role in the Liberal Party.
Now in the face of Vice President Binay’s bold decision to cut off ties with President Aquino and launch a full-scale war with the LP, Belmonte has been momentarily dumbfounded.
In the 2010 election, he took part in the cabal to double-cross Mar Roxas by backing Binay for vice president.
Now, with Roxas poised to become the standard bearer of the LP, Belmonte has to find another conspiracy to back?
What does a leader whose best is not good enough become?
As pundits are now saying of Hillary Clinton, we could say that Sonny Belmonte is so “yesterday.”