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A game of one upmanship


IN HIS time, the late President Ferdinand Marcos had always a common bluster each time the opposition threatened to challenge his leadership, or its legitimacy.

“I’m already in the saddle while they’re still on the stirrup”, he would boast.

It was the classic game of one-upmanship, of saying that he was at least one step ahead of the opposition, maybe a congenital gift but more likely the result of scars on  the trenches.

That skill is clearly evident in the ongoing discordance over the issue of speakership in the House of Representatives between the reigning champion, Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco, the challenger.  It’s no brainer to pick which one has it.

Whether it’s an inborn or acquired tactic, it’s a mindset that that doesn’t happen at the spur of the moment.  It’s must be a piece of grand design, personal or conspiratorial.

Even Marcos, no matter how exceptionally brilliant he portrayed himself to be, wasn’t alone in planning a monstrous plan that was martial law during his time.   He was enabled by some of the best and the brightest in his Cabinet, some of whom are still alive and kicking to tell the true story but demurre.

Not even President Duterte, who can be considered a master politician now, was  spared by Cayetano’s political brinkmanship.

“Nadengoy tayo,” was how he supposedly told Velasco when Cayetano offered to resign as speaker only to be rejected by majority of House members.   This stymied the scheduled takeover of Velasco as the next speaker based on an earlier term sharing deal brokered by Duterte himself.

Some things in life, including politics, are learned on the way down, according an adage.  Cayetano is the veteran,  Cayetano the greenhorn, and the former is taking the latter to school in real politik, to the latter’s chagrin.

Duterte’s astute remark is the equivalent of telling Velasco to  just grin and bear it , and charge Cayetano’s disingenous move  to experience.

The President  has stopped short of crossing sword with Cayetano and, why he did, it should be top secret.  But we can speculate on dynamics such as Duterte moving into the usual trajectory of being a lameduck as his term wanes, and possible leverages Cayetano has with him, like he’ll be nice to him if he becomes his successor.

This can be gleaned from the fact that while Duterte called for a special session of the House, it didn’t attempt so much as to tell Cayetano himself that his speakership is over and that Velasco’s turn should take place during the special session.

If the President’s call is just a ruse to cover the real intent of placing Velasco at the helm of the House,  then Cayetano must be in for a big surprise.

At this point, though, and this far into the game,  it’s naivete to think that Cayetano would be naive to think that all the President wants is to have the 2021 budget passed on time and, in all probably, his part of the budget, pork and all, remains intact.

Survival is instinct and no one knows this better than politicians of Cayetano’s caliber.  He knows what’s at stake now.

Velasco himself has an insight on why his rival is acting the way he does: presidential ambition.

Cayetano, he categorically said, wants to be a presidential  candidate in 2020.  If Cayetano is not obssessed by this, he’s strongly passionate about the ambition, and the line of distinction is almost blurred.

From this perspective, Velasco should  expect Cayetano to throw  every rule in the book or pull every  trick in the bag  to frustrate Velasco’s ascend to the speakerhip, deal or no deal.

Utilitarian theorists like John Mills have elucidated on the power of desire on somebody  that would give the ultimate thrill.  The end may only be the means for another end, consistent with so called great happiness principle.    Along this line, Cayetano’s tight grip on the speakership may not be an end in itself but a means to a higher end. Let the ethicists go hang.

And Velasco, and even Duterte, see Cayetano’s  unraveling before their very eyes.

Julius Ceazar was warned of the Ides of March when he went to the Roman Senate where was eventually assassinated by Roman senators headed by his stepson Brutus.

Will there be an Ides of October when Cayetano convenes the House for a special session from October 13-16? Those are dicey,  icky and iffy days for Cayetano.  But Cayetano seems prepared as he  welcomed Duterte’s call with some flatteries to boot.

But politics is not called  the art of the possible and the unexpected for nothing whichformer President Ronald Reagan mistook for the oldest profession.


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