Vice President Sara Duterte has announced her irrevocable resignation from Lakas-CMD, the largest and ruling party at the House of Representatives and where she was co-chair since November 2021.
In her short statement to media on Friday morning, Duterte distanced herself from a seeming shift in power at the House, where party president Ferdinand Romualdez is speaker.
“I am here today because of the trust of the Filipino people in me to lead and serve them and the country, and this cannot be poisoned by political toxicity or undermined by execrable powerplay,” she said without giving details. Duterte is concurrently education secretary and co-vice chair of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
In a statement on Friday morning, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. party co-chair said the party remains united and supportive of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and his cousin Romualdez.
“Our decades-long solidarity has witnessed and endured many trials which only strengthened our bond that is founded on our shared passion to serve our nation. Through the darkest of storms and greatest of tribulations, we have proven time and again that our unity will never be torn down,” he said.
Tension at the House
The announcement of her resignation comes days after the House removed Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Pampanga, 2nd District) as senior deputy speaker. Arroyo, a former president and former House speaker, remains a deputy speaker while Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr. was named senior deputy speaker.
The move was explained as meant to relieve “the heavy load required from the position.”
Arroyo initially only said that her demotion was a prerogative of the House but in a lengthier statement Thursday night addressed rumours of a brewing coup at the House. Arroyo said she has no plans of seeking the speakership and is focused on representing her legislative district, supporting the legislative agenda of Marcos and Romualdez and to “help out when I am called to do so.”
Arroyo added: “By this disavowal, I hope that we can preempt any needless politicking so that the House and our president can focus on the job at hand with minimum distraction.”
The shake-up at the House prompted statements of support for Marcos and Romualdez from the Nacionalista and PDP-Laban, and the nominally independent House minority bloc.
Political science professor Cleve Arguelles said Duterte’s breakaway from Lakas-CMD a move that appears to signal that she is with her political mentor Arroyo is “making it clear she isn’t happy with how the Speaker humiliated [former President Arroyo].”
“Like breaking it off with House leadership but still sticking with Marcos Jr. But is Malacanang running Batasan or is Cousin (Romualdez) is calling the shots?” Arguelles said on Twitter.
Historically, the House of Representatives has been quick to take its lead from the sitting president, with members often transferring to the administration party just before and after elections. This was further institutionalised by the support of a supermajority of the House for the administration while Duterte’s father Rodrigo was president.
The current administration has supermajorities at both chambers of the 19th Congress.
Duterte grateful to former party
Duterte, former mayor of Davao City, ran under Lakas-CMD after withdrawing as a mayoral candidate and resigning from her own regional Hugpong ng Pagbabago party. She reassumed chairpersonship of HNP a few days after joining Lakas-CMD, a national party.
“I am grateful to all the party members for the support that also once demonstrated that unity is possible to advance our shared dreams for our fellow Filipinos and our beloved country,” Duterte said.
She also called on political leaders to focus “on the work that must be done and leave a legacy of a strong and stable homeland.”
Marcos and Duterte rolled over their rivals on the back of a platform of unity and the promise to end divisiveness in Philippine politics.