GMA clears air on alleged ‘coup’

Former Philippine president and current Pampanga Second District Representative Gloria Arroyo (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP)

Demoted Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday broke her silence to rebut claims that she is plotting a “coup” against Speaker Martin Romualdez to oust him as top honcho of the lower chamber.

“When I learned that there were reports that I was suspected of plotting a ‘coup’ against Speaker Romualdez, I decided I must speak out to clarify my political position. Indeed, some of my actions may have been misconstrued, such as my recent trip with a delegation of Congressmen to Korea for some official meetings,” said the Pampanga lawmaker, noting that her political objective is solely focused on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Romualdez’s legislative agenda.

“To be clear, my political objectives are three: First, to represent the 2nd district of Pampanga. Second, to support the legislative agenda of Speaker Romualdez and President Marcos. Third, to use whatever experience I have as a former President to help out when I am called upon to do so,” she said.

Aside from her work as a legislator, she said her public interest going forward is to assist in alleviating tensions between the United States and China, given that she was a strong ally of both countries when she was President.

“So it should be noted that being Speaker once more is no longer part of my 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,” Arroyo added.

The drama in the House ensued after Arroyo was demoted as deputy speaker to replace the post of her Cabalen, Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., whom House members voted on Wednesday night to trade thrones to her as the chamber’s new senior deputy speaker.

Much ado over nothing

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday believed that the demotion of Macapagal-Arroyo as senior deputy speaker was “just a run-of-the-mill reorganization.”

In an interview with the reporters in Ilocos Norte, Marcos urged the public to refrain from making assumptions about the demotion of Macapagal-Arroyo’s rank in the House of Representatives, following an alleged ouster plot against Romualdez.

“If you have been in government long enough, you would have seen many of these… This is just part of reorganization and the Speaker’s prerogative as to how he feels the House should be organized,” Marcos explained.

“It happens. I don’t think not any of us know what it all means, where the chips will fall after all of this reorganization. But I don’t think it is — I think we should also be careful to not read too much into it,” Marcos added.

Marcos also pointed out that the public should not “read too much into” Arroyo’s demotion.

Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe was quick to set things straight, saying the switch of positions of Pampanga lawmakers is only to unburden Arroyo from “the heavy load required from the position,” which Arroyo rebuffed in a short statement as “the prerogative of the House.”

A day after her demotion, congratulatory messages from congressmen from prominent political parties in the House poured for Gonzales, as well as for Romualdez, which left things more sketchy.

“On the 17th of May 2023, I received news that Deputy Speaker Dong Gonzales was elected Senior Deputy Speaker in my place. My first reaction was that it is always the prerogative of the House to make changes in its leadership structure. Thus, I congratulate Dong, and I hope his new position will help him fulfill his mandate to represent our fellow Kapampangans,” Arroyo said.

No intention

On talks about ousting the House Speaker, it was Arroyo’s time to set the record straight. She declared that, despite her previous ambitions, she had no intention of succeeding Romualdez and that she respects Mr. Marcos’ choice to support his cousin.

“In the Philippines, the House leadership has traditionally been closely associated with the sitting President, and this relationship of deep trust between Speaker and President has been beneficial in smoothly enacting the legislative agenda of the President. I think this is acceptable because, in the Philippines, the check and balance needed in any democracy has traditionally been well-provided by the Senate,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo was first seated as the 17th Congress’ House Speaker after lawmakers voted out Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez for the Speakership with rumored backing from Vice President Sara Duterte.

Tensions flared when Duterte abruptly departed the ruling Lakas-CMD, which she co-leads with Romualdez.

Romualdez, Duterte, and Arroyo are all stalwarts of the ruling party.

Lakas-CMD was instrumental in the Marcos-Duterte ticket’s sweeping victory in last year’s May elections.

But for Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, president of the once-ruling Liberal Party, the positioning and contest for the 2028 presidential elections have begun even before the 2025 mid-term elections.

“The stripping of Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of her Senior Deputy Speaker position and the subsequent resignation of Vice President Sara Duterte from the ruling Lakas-CMD party are obviously related,” said the opposition solon, noting that Arroyo and Duterte were the women behind the fall of Alvarez in 2018 for the Speakership.

Lagman, meanwhile, believes that the “power play” and “intramurals” in Lakas-CMD may result in further resignations by Arroyo and Duterte loyalists.

“These political developments will have repercussions in the revamp of the Marcos cabinet,” Lagman said. “The Liberal Party, as the principal opposition party, will be keenly watchful of further developments as they unfold.”

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