Sara: Imee, not Speaker, persuaded me on Vice President run

Janvic Mateo, Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Sara: Imee, not Speaker, persuaded me on Vice President run
Vice President Sara Duterte graces the exhibit “Gahum sa Buwak” or “Flower Power,” which features Davao’s female floral artists at a mall in Pasig on March 1, 2023.
STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — It was Sen. Imee Marcos and not Speaker Martin Romualdez who persuaded her to run for the second highest office, Vice President Sara Duterte said on Wednesday.

Duterte was reacting to Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr.’s statement that Romualdez was among those who convinced her to run under the UniTeam ticket of then presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

While previously thankful for Romualdez’s support for her candidacy, Duterte stressed it was “acutely inaccurate” for Barzaga to claim that the Speaker had “tremendously helped in pushing” her to run for vice president in 2022.

“It was Sen. Imee Marcos who eventually persuaded me to run as vice president – and it was a decision sealed only after President Bongbong Marcos agreed to the conditions I set before running for VP,” Duterte said. “There was no Speaker Romualdez in the picture.”

Barzaga also praised Romualdez for supposedly taking a “moral high road” amid supposed insults from the Vice President, apparently in reference to Duterte’s declaration in a recent event that she would never mention in public Marcos’ middle name – Romualdez. Marcos and Romualdez are cousins.

“A person who cannot distinguish between attack and humor has no place in politics — especially if one fails to understand that political bickering is just a facet of democracy and should not be used to equate with governance,” she said in response to Barzaga’s statement.

“On the one hand, how the recent political developments have become an opportunity for sycophants is quite amusing,” she added.

She maintained that the Marcos administration is stable and strong and that it has her all out-support, along with a majority of Filipinos.

Duterte was with Senator Marcos during an event in Pasay City early Wednesday, although she made no mention of the issue with the Speaker.

Campaign manager

Amid apparent tensions between Duterte and Romualdez, a clip of her speech during the oath taking of the Leyte congressman in Tacloban last year has circulated online.

In her speech, Duterte expressed gratitude to Romualdez for being one of her campaign managers.

“I made sure that I will be with you today so I can express my thankfulness for your support to my candidacy. And not only that, but for your love, your genuine love of my person,” Duterte told those in attendance.

“I’d like to personally thank, publicly thank, Congressman Martin Romualdez for taking me in in Lakas-CMD (Christian Muslim Democrats) and accepting the challenge to be one of my two campaign managers during the last elections… It was not without irritations and challenges, but you did very well,” she added.

Duterte joined Lakas-CMD in 2021 and filed as its substitute candidate for vice president. She also accepted the role of party co-chairperson, while Romualdez remained as its president.

Last month, Duterte resigned from the party after the House leadership demoted her close ally, former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

She did not directly address recent developments at the House of Representatives, but stressed that the trust of the Filipino people in her “cannot be poisoned by political toxicity or undermined by execrable political power play.”

“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,” she said in her statement after quitting Lakas-CMD.

“Nothing is more important to me than being able to meaningfully serve our fellow Filipinos and the Philippines — with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. leading the way. Trust that my word, my commitment will be immutable,” she added.

No mudslinging

Key House leaders, meanwhile, have reaffirmed their support for the Speaker saying they would rather help him shepherd priority legislation than engage in political mudslinging.

Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe and Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr. cited the 33 bills approved on third and final reading by the chamber and forwarded to the Senate.

Only nine of the 42 priority bills remain pending, according to the lawmakers.

Records from the lower legislative chamber also showed the processing of 9,600 measures in the first regular session (July 2022-May 2023), comprising 8,490 bills, 1,109 resolutions, and one petition. Of the 9,600 measures, 577 have been approved.

“All these political rumblings are unnecessary distractions that will only brake our momentum in ensuring the swift passage of President Marcos’ priority measures,” Dalipe said, noting that Romualdez is now busy with State of the Nation Address preparations.

Gonzales, who replaced former president Arroyo as senior deputy speaker in the House, lauded the Speaker for what he called a very productive legislative output. “We are focused on matters that are important to our people and to the Marcos administration,” he said.

“One thing is clear: Speaker Martin has created an atmosphere of certainty and trust. His strong, compassionate leadership brought all of us together to work on a single vision: to pass measures focused on achieving a prosperous, inclusive and resilient Philippines,” he pointed out.

“Our record speaks for itself. We are comprehensively addressing the everyday issues our people face: from the high cost of commodities, to unemployment and other economic challenges,” Gonzales stressed.

Reps. Dan Fernandez of Sta. Rosa, Laguna and Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur said there is no room for partisan politics in a country still reeling from the impact of the more than two-year pandemic lockdown.

Fernandez, chairman of the House committee on public order and safety, said he agrees with Vice President Duterte in expressing full support for the Marcos administration, but that such declaration is “better fleshed out if it is devoid of political bickering.”

“We can achieve these goals, which we all want for our people, if we do away with political bickering. We should instead work together and keep a laser focus on what needs to be done to ensure a vibrant and prosperous future for all Filipinos,” he said.

For his part, Pimentel reminded both administration and opposition lawmakers that “leadership movements” have already defused “tensions” in the chamber. “Let us not exaggerate this anymore,” he said.

“We have so much work to do in Congress to be able to fulfill the President’s agenda of economic renewal and prosperity for all Filipinos. As noted by the Vice President, political disagreements stand as part and parcel of the democratic process,” he said.

“Let us leave it at that and focus instead on realizing our collective goal of providing a safe, comfortable life for every Filipino,” the senior administration lawmaker from Mindanao said.

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