Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Nonchalant Marcos downplays House drama; teases cousin-Speaker

Bea Cupin

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Nonchalant Marcos downplays House drama; teases cousin-Speaker

TRAVEL DELEGATION. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is joined by Arroyo (to his right) and Romualdez (to his left) during a meeting with NuScale in Washington DC on May 1.

Presidential Communications Offi

The President introduces his cousin as coming ‘from his war bunker in the House of Representatives’

In the aftermath of a dramatic and unexpected change at the House of Representatives, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. seemed unperturbed as he hopped from one event to another in Central Luzon and the Ilocos Region. 

On Wednesday, May 17, the Marcos-allied House voted to demote former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from senior deputy speaker to deputy speaker of the 19th Congress. The House is led by Martin Romualdez, a cousin of the President. 

Marcos was so flippant on May 19, in fact, that he joked about the situation twice in events in Zambales and Clark, Pampanga where Romualdez was with his party. 

“Also joining us here is – from his war bunker in the House of Representatives is Speaker, Speaker Martin Romualdez,” said Marcos, who was on board the BRP Davao del Sur to watch a demonstration by the Philippine Navy. 

In the next event in Clark, where governor members of the League of Provinces of the Philippines were gathered, Marcos quipped after he was introduced by Romualdez: “Thank you very much to our Speaker of the House of Representatives. I won’t make any comments about the speakership as of yet.”

At Clark, Marcos, Romualdez, and the rest of the presidential party were greeted by Pampanga Vice Governor Lilia Pineda. Pineda, “Nanay” to those who intimately know her, also happens to be Arroyo’s very close ally and friend. 

Romualdez thanked Pineda for hosting the LPP gathering, but made no mention of the situation at the Batasan or the “war bunker,” as Marcos put it. 

“If you’ve been in government long enough, you’ll have seen many of these. In my term as congressman, nakatatlo ‘ata kaming ganyan (we’ve seen this happen thrice). It’s just part of the reorganization,” he’d say later, when asked by media about Arroyo’s demotion. 

Arroyo is a huge figure in Philippine politics and is largely credited with the rare coalescence of political forces that led to both Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte’s easy path to a 2022 win. 

But with the win secured came the harder task: organizing a ruling coalition made up of big and ambitious personalities in Philippine politics. 

Arroyo herself once eyed the speakership, but stepped aside once she realized the “wisdom” of having Romualdez as a congressional leader. 

In Philippine politics, while Congress is a co-equal branch of government, the House is almost always a supermajority of legislators allied with the president. 

The House Speaker is rarely antagonistic towards the President – the last time a House Speaker switched sides, then-president Erap Estrada found himself impeached. 

Marcos seemingly distanced himself from the House ruckus while pointing out that it’s Romualdez’s prerogative to organize the House as he sees fit.

Even some members of Lakas-CMD – which Romualdez heads and Arroyo is chairman emeritus of – were caught surprised by the swift move to demote the former president. 

Both Arroyo and Romualdez have been constants in Marcos’ trips abroad. The President has even called the former president his “secret weapon” when speaking to fellow heads of state and even business leaders. 

Arroyo has denied rumors she was seeking the speakership. Romualdez himself has stayed quiet about movements both in the House and in Lakas-CMD. Early Friday, Sara Duterte announced she was leaving Lakas, her vehicle in the 2022 polls.

Even as his two favorites in the House seemed to be in an awkward situation, Marcos was again nonchalant. “I don’t think any of us know what it all means, where the chips will fall after all this reorganization. I think we should also be careful to not read too much into it,” he told media in a chance interview at Pagudpud in his home province of Ilocos Norte. 

“I see it as run-of-the-mill, comes-once-in-a-while reorganization that happens in the House,” he added. 

Will Romualdez, who no longer joined the Pagudpud event, be on a war footing in the Batasan? And will his cousin, the President, still remain cool and collected then? – Rappler.com 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.