Marcos Jr. administration

Bati na ba talaga? Martin, Sara get cozy in public months after rift

Dwight de Leon

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Bati na ba talaga? Martin, Sara get cozy in public months after rift

QUARREL OVER? Vice President Sara Duterte and House Speaker Martin Romualdez show a friendly body language towards each other on July 25, 2023, over a month after their feud became public.

RTVM screenshot

'The Speaker and the Vice President canoodling is always a very good sign,' President Marcos comments after seeing the two walk arm in arm, hold hands, and share a laugh

Just a month ago, Vice President Sara Duterte made statements in public that congressmen interpreted as an apparent swipe at House Speaker Martin Romualdez.

The latter’s allies even came out with separate press releases either directly criticizing the nation’s Number 2, or coming to the defense of the President’s cousin.

But that seemed to be another lifetime ago, if the two high-ranking officials’ public display of affection on Tuesday, July 25, were any indication that they have truly patched things up.

Sara Duterte and Martin walked arm in arm during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s sendoff to Malaysia, where he is set to meet Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah for a two-day state visit.

The two were all smiles and were seen holding hands at one point.

Bati na ba talaga? Martin, Sara get cozy in public months after rift
What happened before?

The rift became public in the aftermath of an internal quarrel in the House involving Martin Romualdez and his mentor, former president and current Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Sara, a very close ally of Arroyo, did not take it lightly when the House unceremoniously stripped her of the senior deputy speakership post back in May.

Bati na ba talaga? Martin, Sara get cozy in public months after rift

Days later, Martin issued a statement saying “occasional moves to destabilize the House should be nipped in the bud,” an apparent reference to circulating rumors that Arroyo’s demotion was due to the former president’s supposed attempt to launch a coup against her mentee. Arroyo repeatedly denied any ouster plot.

But the damage was done. Sara resigned from Lakas-CMD, decrying the “political toxicity” and “political power play” in the lower chamber.

Lakas-CMD is the dominant party in the House with 71 members. Martin Romualdez is party president, while Arroyo is chairperson emeritus. The two have been longtime allies who have fostered a mentor-mentee relationship.

Arroyo was also highly instrumental in Sara’s successful vice presidential campaign. According to political sources privy to negotiations then, Arroyo herself reached out to old allies and convinced them to back both Sara and Marcos in 2022.

In June, Sara deliberately refused to mention Marcos’ middle name – Romualdez – during an event, and also subsequently made an effort to clarify that the House Speaker took no part in her decision to seek the vice presidency.

Congressmen – mostly from the National Unity Party – took offense at these statements. Cavite 4th District Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said Sara was subjecting Martin to “vicious insinuations following the alleged attempt to oust him.”

Happy House?

But in the House, the State of the Nation Address (SONA) went on without any hint of internal drama.

Since Pantaleon Alvarez was embarrassingly ousted as speaker on the day of the SONA in 2018 and replaced by Arroyo, the question has always been whether such a thing would be repeated in the future.

There was, however, little of that concern on Monday, July 24, after Romualdez and Arroyo were seen talking to each other as they led the unveiling of a new digital wall at one of the lobbies of the building complex.

Bati na ba talaga? Martin, Sara get cozy in public months after rift

Before the House took a two-month break back in May, the mentor and mentee appeared to have let bygones be bygones when they exchanged pleasantries and smiled for a photo op during a plenary session.

Marcos, meanwhile, seemed relieved that his work wife Sara is getting along with his cousin.

“The Speaker and the Vice President canoodling is always a very good sign,” Marcos said on Tuesday before he formally delivered his speech. Sara Duterte is officer-in-charge while the President is away.

Are we convinced yet? –

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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.