Romualdez, Arroyo make peace after House plot drama
MANILA, Philippines — It seems all is well at the House of Representatives after last week’s political drama.
Speaker Martin Romualdez on Monday approached Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at her desk, in an apparent gesture to make peace with the former president who was widely speculated to be plotting to oust him.
The House was conducting a nominal vote on the third and final reading for a bill proposing a national infrastructure program, a priority measure of the Marcos administration, when the plenary session broke into applause at the sight of the two House leaders exchanging pleasantries.
During their brief interaction, Romualdez kissed Arroyo’s hand, bowing his head to it—in the traditional gesture of paying respect to the elderly—before returning to his rostrum to induct Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. of Pampanga’s third district as senior deputy Speaker.
It was Arroyo, a former president known by her initials GMA, who held that de facto No. 2 post in the House until last week when she was suddenly stripped of that post amid speculations of an ouster plot against Romualdez.
By the end of the plenary session on May 17, Arroyo, representative of Pampanga’s second district, was designated one of the chamber’s nine deputy Speakers.
She tersely denied plotting against Romualdez—saying of her virtual demotion that it was “the prerogative of the House”—while the Speaker himself addressed the coup rumors four days later, saying in a statement that “there is still much work to do, so occasional moves to destabilize the House should be nipped in the bud.”
During Gonzales’ oathtaking, Arroyo stood beside her cabalen (fellow Kapampangan) and successor. Afterward, they held hands with the Speaker for the customary photo op.
Members of Romualdez’s party, Lakas-CMD, and Gonzales’ party, PDP-Laban, were then called to a gathering at the chamber’s executive lounge immediately after Gonzales’ induction.
Last week’s agitation in the House was not the first time in Arroyo’s controversial political career.
In 2018 Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who had been in open enmity with then Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, was ousted right before the State of the Nation Address of then President Rodrigo Duterte—in an apparent power play that ended with Arroyo presiding over the Speaker’s rostrum. The elder Duterte later confirmed that it was his daughter who was behind Alvarez’s ouster.
The younger Duterte, now the Vice President and President Marcos’ education secretary, left Lakas-CMD two days after Arroyo’s demotion, thereby further fueling speculations of a growing division in the ruling coalition.
The Vice President said in a statement that she would not allow “political toxicity” and “execrable political power play” to get in the way of her work.
Duterte made no explicit reference to the House drama. But according to a source, her leaving the party was prompted by the move against Arroyo.
Before parting ways with Lakas-CMD, Duterte served as its chair, while Romualdez was the party president and Arroyo, chair emeritus. Lakas-CMD was the ruling party during Arroyo’s presidency.