Amid impeachment rumors, VP Duterte says she and Marcos are ‘OK’
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Sara Duterte on Sunday sought to allay rumors of a growing rift between herself and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. even as her office admitted it was looking into reports of impeachment talks supposedly brewing against her at the House of Representatives.
“We’re OK,” Duterte told reporters on the sidelines of the World Children’s Day celebration in Quezon City. “I believe I still have the trust of President Marcos.”
She said her office was conducting “due diligence” into reports that some House members were plotting to unseat her over her alleged misuse of the 2022 confidential funds for the Office of the Vice President (OVP).
“[We will] come out with a statement [at] the appropriate time,” Duterte said.
ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro was the first to claim that there were “informal discussions” among her colleagues about the vice president’s possible impeachment.
The opposition lawmaker, however, conceded that such talks were “premature,” although they did highlight “the growing rift in the supposed UniTeam,” referring to the coalition Marcos and Duterte formed for the 2022 national elections.
In the United States, where he is part of Marcos’ delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, House Speaker Martin Romualdez denied the impeachment talks. “I’m not aware of anything. Nothing filed, no news of that,” he told reporters.
“I don’t know your sources but there’s nothing in the offing, nothing in general,” Romualdez, a president’s cousin, added.
Asked about his relationship with Duterte, he responded: “Very good, very good.”
Aside from Romualdez, other House leaders also dismissed the reports, which Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe described as “fake news.”
“There is no substance to these discussions; no such thing has been deliberated [on] among party leaders or the House leadership,” ACT-CIS Rep. Erwin Tulfo added.
Public backlash forced the House leadership last month to strip both agencies led by Duterte — the OVP and Department of Education (DepEd) — of P500 million and P150 million in confidential funds, respectively, for fiscal year 2024. The P650 million would instead be realigned to agencies defending the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte also rescinded her request for confidential funds for the OVP and DepEd, a move lauded as “the right decision” by Romualdez, who served as her campaign manager when she ran for vice president last year under the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) party.
But in May, she quit the party, an unexpected move that fueled speculations about a rift between her and the House speaker.
Her resignation as Lakas-CMD chair, where Romualdez is president, came two days after her key House ally, Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a former president, was demoted to deputy speaker from senior deputy speaker.
Earlier this month, the House removed Arroyo and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab as deputy speakers after both failed to sign a resolution supporting Romualdez.
The resolution was prompted by Duterte’s father, former President Rodrigo Duterte, who went on a tirade on his “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa,” program which aired on Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) after a House committee decided to scrap his daughter’s confidential funds for next year.
The older Duterte called the lower chamber the “most rotten institution” in the country and said he would demand an audit of its funds should Romualdez run for president. He also accused the House speaker of orchestrating attacks against his daughter.
Spare AFP, PNP
Dalipe, on the other hand, asked the former president to spare the police and military from political intrigue that could cast doubt on their professionalism.
“I respectfully appeal to former President Rodrigo Duterte to recognize the paramount importance of keeping our Armed Forces [of the Philippines] and [Philippine] National Police free from partisan politics. These institutions serve as the bedrock of our nation’s security, and their effectiveness relies on unity and impartiality,” the House leader said in a statement on Sunday.
According to Dalipe, “We have already achieved so much in our quest to professionalize our military and police service. Let us not squander what we have accomplished by putting the AFP and the PNP in a bad light because of these baseless statements.”
He was referring to Duterte’s pronouncements last week on his TV program warning the House to be wary of the AFP and the PNP following what he claimed was an emerging alliance between Romualdez and Castro.
The Makabayan lawmaker has earned Duterte’s ire for questioning and criticizing his daughter’s request for confidential funds next year and her use of P125 million in confidential funds in 2022.
In his SMNI program, which aired on Oct. 11, the former President said the first target of the vice president’s intelligence fund should be “you, France,” referring to Castro. “I want to kill all you communists,” he added.
His remarks led Castro to sue him for grave threats in relation to the Cybercrime Prevention Act. On Nov. 15, the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office issued a subpoena against Duterte, directing him to present himself on Dec. 4 and 11 to answer the charges against him.
2028 ‘too far away’
According to Dalipe, military adventurism is over, with the AFP and PNP focused on their constitutional mandate as pillars of the country’s democracy and sovereignty.
“Our uniformed service must be insulated from partisan activities and should maintain the highest degree of professionalism,” he stressed.
He added that, as a former president, Duterte should prioritize the nation’s well-being over political interests and help foster an environment where the police and military could fulfill their duties without getting entangled in a divisive political agenda.
Dalipe further said it was unfair to involve the AFP and the PNP in political intrigue when these institutions were working hard to restore their credibility and high level of professionalism.
He also dismissed as “baseless” and “premature” Duterte’s statements about Romualdez’s supposed presidential ambitions, saying 2028 was “still too far away” and that the latter’s focus was the swift passage of the Marcos administration’s priority measures.