Arroyo backs Romualdez for House speakership

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 14 2022 10:15 AM | Updated as of May 14 2022 11:24 PM

Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the opening session of the 17th Congress, hours before President Duterte's State of the Nation Address (SONA), Monday, July 23, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the opening session of the 17th Congress, hours before President Duterte's State of the Nation Address (SONA), Monday, July 23, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo nips in the bud what would have been a potential showdown with her political protege as she declared her support for House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez for the House Speakership of the 19th Congress.

In a statement Saturday morning, Arroyo, chair emeritus of Lakas-CMD Party where Romualdez is now president, told party mates to back Romualdez.

“I will be returning to the House on June 30, 2022. I would therefore like to advise the members of the Lakas-CMD that I am throwing my support for Majority Leader Martin Romualdez to be elected as House Speaker in the next Congress. I urge all members of our party to do the same,” said Arroyo, who ran unopposed as congressional representative of her bailiwick in the second district of Pampanga. 

In her statement, Arroyo reminded everyone of her long history with Romualdez, who rose to prominence as an Arroyo ally.

“Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and I have been working together for decades in a joint effort to do our best to serve the Filipino people. Since 2010, our partnership involved our service as fellow members of the House of Representatives,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo did not address reports that they fell out supposedly because Romualdez did not talk to her about the speakership, which many in their circle supposedly thought was going to be hers.

Romualdez belonged to a selected group of congressmen who were constant fixtures in Arroyo’s presidential overseas trips. 

As lawmakers, they stayed in the same minority bloc during the administration of Benigno Aquino III, under which period Arroyo was detained for plunder and electoral sabotage charges but these were eventually dismissed by courts.

Her allies, which included members of her family, backed Romualdez when they tried to elect him minority leader during the second half of the Aquino administration, a position he eventually lost to then San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora. 

Romualdez ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2016 but he had been acknowledged to be instrumental to efforts to make Arroyo speaker in the last year of the 17th Congress from 2018-2019.

This was not the first time Arroyo endorsed Romualdez for Speaker. In 2019, Arroyo marshaled her forces to help Romualdez gather signatures for his speakership bid, signaling he was her political heir. 

However, President Rodrigo Duterte opted to make Romualdez Majority Leader even after he showed up with 179 signatures for his speakership, as the chief executive brokered the term sharing agreement between incumbent Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and predecessor, incoming Senator Alan Peter Cayetano.

Both Arroyo and Romualdez had been fixtures at the UniTeam national campaign of presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and presumptive vice-president Inday Sara Duterte. Romualdez, however, was more visible with the winning election duo nationwide during the campaign.

Romualdez is first cousin to Marcos Jr., while Duterte is the chairman now of the Lakas CMD as its highest elected official.

Both Marcos Jr. and Duterte have yet to weigh in on the speakership. The House usually elects its speaker at the start of each congressional session. But in political reality, congressmen vote for whoever has the backing of the president as the speaker is the congressmen’s bridge to the the presidency.

But Romualdez already has the backing of incoming presidential son and incoming Ilocos Norte lawmaker Sandro Marcos, who worked at the Majority Leader’s office as political officer.

Presidential children who became congressmen during their parents’ terms usually play influential roles in the affairs of the House. Incumbent Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte is head of the House Accounts Committee, which manages the institutional finances of the House. Before that, he was deputy speaker. At one point, he was even touted as a potential Speaker until his father threatened to resign from the Presidency if it happens.

Mikey and Dato Arroyo were congressmen during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who incidentally counts Romualdez as a close ally. Aside from that Romualdez is also seen as a political protege of Arroyo who had previously been touted as a potential speaker of the 19th Congress. 

Apart from being the country’s fourth highest official, the Speaker of the House shepherds the President’s legislative agenda including the annual national budget and serves as rear guard defense in cases of presidential impeachment.

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