House of Representatives

Martin-Sara Duterte rift: House leaders back Romualdez, decry ‘political bickering’

Dwight de Leon

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Martin-Sara Duterte rift: House leaders back Romualdez, decry ‘political bickering’

COURTESY CALL. Vice President Sara Duterte pays Speaker Martin Romualdez a visit in the House on September 14, 2022.

House press and public affairs bureau

Lawmakers allied with Speaker Romualdez issue press statements lamenting the political rift which they say won't do the broad administration alliance any good

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Sara Duterte’s comments which seemingly take a swipe at Speaker Martin Romualdez are no longer sitting well with some House leaders, who have come to his defense in a series of separate press releases.

The statements sent to the media by the congressmen were fueled by Duterte’s deliberate refusal to mention President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s middle name, Romualdez, during an event on Monday, June 5, and her subsequent clarification on Wednesday, June 7, that the House Speaker took no part in her decision to seek the vice presidency.

The message is clear based on their press releases: the political bickering is not productive for the House, and not helpful to the broad administration alliance.

The highest-ranking congressional official so far to back Romualdez is Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe from Lakas-CMD.

“The House of Representatives will not be slowed down by premature partisanship. All these political rumblings are unnecessary distractions that will only [break] our momentum in ensuring the swift passage of President Marcos’ priority measures,” Dalipe said on Thursday, June 8.

PR blast from National Unity Party

Representatives of the National Unity Party (NUP), among the biggest contingents in the House after Lakas-CMD, have also publicly expressed their support for Speaker Romualdez.

“Our nation’s leaders would break faith with this broad and deep public support for national unity were we to waste our time with vacuous political discord that could only break apart the super-majority coalition in both the House and the Senate—and wreak havoc on the ‘Agenda for Peace and Prosperity’ of President Marcos to improve the lives of all Filipinos,” NUP president LRay Villafuerte said on Wednesday, June 7.

The first immediate reaction to Duterte’s comments came from House natural resources panel chairman Elpidio Barzaga Jr., a stalwart of the NUP and a former deputy speaker.

In a sharply-worded statement on Wednesday afternoon, Barzaga commended Romualdez for “taking the moral high road” despite “being the obvious subject of her [Duterte] vicious insinuations following the alleged attempt to oust him.”

“The Speaker worked hard for then-Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s vice-presidential bid because he genuinely believed that she would make a difference. Their rift is sad news and I hope that it will be mended soon,” Barzaga said.

Duterte on Wednesday evening issued a rebuttal, saying it was Senator Imee Marcos, not Romualdez, who convinced her to run for vice president.

“How the recent political developments have become an opportunity for sycophants is quite amusing,” Duterte said, responding to Barzaga.

“Let me reiterate this, however – the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is stable and strong,” she added.

On Thursday morning, House public order committee chairperson and former deputy speaker Dan Fernandez appealed to Duterte not to allow the rift to take a turn for the worse.

“This all-out support for our President can be better fleshed out if it is devoid of political bickering. We appeal to Vice President Inday Sara, who ran and won on a platform espousing unity, to join the President in translating this call for unity into action,” said Fernandez, also an NUP member.

In an apparent response to these developments, Romualdez, on Thursday, said: “We will not allow any distraction to derail our efforts at finding appropriate and timely solutions to the problems affecting the lives of our people.”

PDP-Laban’s take

All these happened after the Romualdez-led House abruptly stripped his longtime mentor, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, of the senior deputy speakership post.

The rumor was that Arroyo had tried engineering a coup against Romualdez, especially after the latter issued a statement saying “occasional moves to destabilize the House should be nipped in the bud.” But the congresswoman repeatedly denied moving to oust her mentee.

Duterte subsequently resigned from Lakas-CMD, a move that was seen as an expression of support for Arroyo.

Romualdez and Arroyo appeared to have buried the hatchet since then, having been seen together in multiple events.

PDP-Laban, the party of Sara’s father, former president Rodrigo Duterte, issued a statement on Thursday, claiming the dispute has been resolved.

“The tensions have already been defused following the leadership movements in the House. Let us not exaggerate this anymore,” said PDP-Laban deputy secretary-general Johnny Pimentel.

“As noted by the Vice President, political disagreements stand as part and parcel of the democratic process,” he added. “Let us leave it at that and focus instead on realizing our collective goal of providing a safe, comfortable life for every Filipino.” –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.