/ 15 November 2020

Probably one of the most beloved stories in the Bible is the story of Simon Peter’s loyalty to Jesus Christ. He followed, defended, and spread his teachings throughout his life and as a result, he was widely considered as the Church’s first pope. However, it is a well-known fact that this master-disciple tale is not all sunshine and rainbows. In truth, what rivals the story about Peter’s loyalty is the story of his denial. During the Last Supper, Jesus Christ predicted that Simon Peter will disown him thrice before the rooster crows. Peter vehemently denied that this will ever happen, but as the Holy Scripture chronicled, Peter did exactly as predicted.

In modern times and more specifically in the Philippine political landscape, there is another Peter whose loyalty is at par with Simon Peter’s; at least the way he professes such loyalty. The difference is, it is not loyalty to Jesus Christ that we are speaking of, and most importantly, it appears that there is no redemption to this Peter’s commitment and dedication. Worse, it might be the total opposite. Actually, it really is.

Allan Peter Cayetano came from a prominent Filipino political family. It is safe to say that his father’s legacy propelled him (and his other family members) to the public consciousness, allowing them to follow his footsteps in public service. He started young as a politician and was the youngest of many things: the youngest councilor in the Philippines in 1992 at 22 years old; the youngest vice mayor of Taguig at 24; he was the youngest representative in the 11th Congress at 27; was the youngest “Working” senator in the 14th Congress; at 37, he was the youngest Chair of the high profile Senate Blue Ribbon Committee; and finally, was one of the youngest contenders for the Senate Presidency and was the youngest Minority Leader in the history of the Philippine Senate at age 39. These accomplishments are hard to miss as they are particularly listed in his biography published on the website of the Philippine senate. Hence, it is not a surprise really that he has his eyes set to occupy a higher office, if not the highest.

When Cayetano declared he was running as vice president in 2016, it was not a secret that his dream president was Rodrigo Duterte. He waited patiently for his decision and in the end, his wish was granted. If only all his wishes came true, it would have been a perfect story.

While on paper, Cayetano was Duterte’s vice president, their actual status was quite complicated. It was well-documented that Cayetano was not the only suitor to get Duterte’s yes; Antonio Trillanes tried but failed. But perhaps his biggest competition was Bongbong Marcos and throughout the campaign, there were red flags that suggest that Duterte is not fully committed to Cayetano. At one point in the campaign, Duterte openly declared that if he fails to stop corruption and criminality within three to six months, (which he did fail by the way), he will let Marcos take over, alluding that if he becomes president and fails, Marcos will succeed him. If it was an ordinary romantic relationship, that would have to make Duterte a player; but it was not, and Cayetano persevered and stood by Duterte, his dream partner. Unfortunately, Cayetano finished a far third in the vice presidential race behind the eventual winner Leni Robredo and Marcos.

Cayetano’s silver lining should have been the fact that Duterte was overwhelmingly voted as the president. However, it’s more of a line that indicates the end, instead of a beginning.

Cayetano went back to the senate as he still has three years as a senator. Being the defeated running mate of the incumbent president, it’s standard that people would think that he will be the next senate president. And Cayetano fully expected it as well. While theoretically an independent body, Duterte could have easily asked his allies in the upper chamber. Yet, it was Koko Pimentel who became the senate president. Still, Cayetano maintained his utmost loyalty to Duterte, acting as his primary defender in the upper chamber while continuously pushing for his legislative agenda. A year after, things looked to change for Cayetano when he was chosen by Duterte as secretary of foreign affairs. It looked promising from a perspective that Cayetano finally has a distinct role in the Duterte administration that separates him from others. Moreover, it benefits Cayetano in such a way that he can now freely defend Duterte without compromising the integrity and independence of the Senate.

His stint as the Philippines’ top diplomat would have been enough springboard to position Cayetano for a possible 2022 presidential run if not only for the controversies he made and conflicts he sought, particularly the internationally publicized Kuwait rescue mission which strained the relationship between the Philippines and Kuwait that happened under his watch.

From then on, Cayetano’s political roadmap appears to be in disarray. 2022 is fast approaching and he is far from the position he wants to be in. If he still wants to have a shot to be the next president, he needs to occupy not just a public office but a more visible one. The house speakership should have done the trick but since 2016, nothing is coming good to Cayetano’s way.

While Cayetano became the 22nd Speaker of the House of Representatives, his ascent was laborious and unique so to speak. While he occupied a public and very visible office, his stay was shortened as he had a term sharing agreement with Congressman Lord Allan Velasco. The agreement was simple: Cayetano will be the speaker for the first 15 months while Velasco will assume the position for the remaining 21 months. While it may have been shorter, Cayetano’s speakership will surely be remembered; but mostly for all the wrong reasons.

His speakership will be remembered more for the controversies it encountered than the significant laws it passed. To name a few, the 2019 SEAGames fiasco highlighted by a P50M cauldron, the non-renewal of the ABSCBN franchise, the ill-advised ‘we went to work so you can stay home’ banner during the early outbreak of COVID-19, and most pivotal and recent, is the speakership drama that led to his ungraceful exit, yet again. Whether the correct term is ousted or resigned (but he was really ousted by his peers), the fact remains that Cayetano received crumbs in return for his loyalty.

To summarize, Cayetano did not win in the VP race, set his eyes on the senate presidency only to be cast aside; quit the senate to be with DFA as his stepping stone for 2022; sought and became the house speaker only to publicly create a ruckus in the middle of a pandemic where millions of Filipino people’s lives are in limbo when he attempted to hold on to power and disregard the term sharing agreement. If Cayetano’s goal is to be remembered, he will be; but if his goal is to be remembered and be considered as the next president, he might as well kiss that dream goodbye.  He will never be the favorite; never was and never will be. Until when Peter will be in denial, only God knows.