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Rumors of ouster, news of resignation: Worth a Netflix series

By Joel Pablo Salud Published May 19, 2023 4:27 pm

Recent news on House Speaker ousters and party resignations do not come in small degrees of shock or confusion. 

I’m talking about the recent demotion of former Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the resignation of Vice President and party chair Sara Duterte from Lakas-CMD a day after.

Both happened mere days from each other. Both are members of the same party. Both are a known tag-team in this political jiu jitsu. 

What is going on?

Rumors are rife. First, there’s the purported planned ouster of incumbent House Speaker Martin Romualdez by Arroyo. The digital grapevine suggests that Arroyo has been doing the rounds to get herself elected once more as House Speaker.  

Lest we forget, after she stepped down as President in 2010, Arroyo made a startling comeback as House Speaker in 2018 under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. Her comeback was aptly defined as a “coup,” replacing outgoing Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. 

The 2nd District Pampanga representative has been known to hatch political shakedowns in the past, which is nothing new this side of the political hippodrome. But slamming against Speaker Martin Romualdez, who is the cousin of incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., may have been one headbutt too many. 

Arroyo lost no time dousing rumors of a planned ouster against the current Speaker of the House, who was a key player in the UniTeam alliance. Obviously tight-lipped at first, Arroyo said the demotion is the “prerogative” of Congress. 

However, in a long statement released to the media a day later, Arroyo said, that being Speaker of the House is no longer part of her political objectives. “This has been my position ever since Speaker Romualdez was elected in the 19th Congress, and I continue to urge my Lakas-CMD party mates to support our party President in that role.”

If this was an attempt at damage control, it was a good one, though not entirely believable. With Arroyo, every other plot twist is conceivable. 

Those loyal to Arroyo averred that she’s only taking a breather from the load of work she once carried as former Senior Deputy Speaker, the second highest post in Congress. Reasonable as this may sound, Vice-President Sara Duterte’s “irrevocable resignation” could place everything that happened recently in a different light.

One thing I learned in politics is that what is not being said should carry more weight than what is openly served for public consumption.

It is hardly a secret that a tug-of-war is in the works between Duterte allies and Marcos’ loyalists. How this push-and-pull plays out will depend apparently on who gets control of Congress.

To Congress belongs the power of the purse—all bills involving appropriations, revenues, and tariffs that affect public infrastructure, jobs generation, development projects, and even military funding. Budget for the Commission on Elections comes from the General Appropriation’s Act.  

Thus, the House speakership occupies an extremely dominant role in governance. The power of the purse allows the House of Representatives to wield considerable influence in society—from the top of the political ladder down to the lower rungs of the barangay.  

The political implications are clear: He or she who holds the purse holds the nation and its power structures by the balls.

I can be wide off the mark here, but it seems to me that the tussle for the nation’s purse is well underway. For what reason? A whole bunch of excuses can be said. See, no political ambition moves without resources. Anyone who has played a computer game knows that in order to win, the player should be able to access more than enough resources to beat an enemy. 

Vice President Sara Duterte saw the scrimmage at the Lower House as “political toxicity” and “execrable political powerplay” that could undermine the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. This is Sara Duterte’s resignation spiel as now former member of Lakas-CMD, where she sat as chair.

If true, this alone should tell us that there is something bloating in the backdrop, something huge enough for two powerful queens to move on the virtual chessboard. No amount of political powerplay in government sees the light of day outside the involvement of money. And when money comes into the picture, all hell breaks loose. 

But where does Duterte’s resignation figure in all this? Is she distancing herself from the squabble between two party mates, Romualdez and Arroyo? Is her resignation a political statement, saying “Leave me out of it”? Is she out to preserve her loyalty to Marcos, should such loyalty even exist? Is her resignation an unintended consequence in this tug of war, if at all? I doubt the simplistic nature of these deductions.

Whatever behemoth lurks behind the scenes, one thing is certain: something’s up. And while we go about our daily routines worrying about our next TikTok video, a plot is being hatched by extremely powerful people. Wherever that plot leads to is a question we must answer and not a minute too soon. 

I have said this time and again: If you want to know the ins and outs of current-day Philippine politics, watch Gloria Arroyo.  

Her long silences, her sudden shifts and shoves, her little twitches and turns, are all worth a five-season Netflix series. Isn’t it true that the biggest surprises come in small packages?