EDITORIAL | From unity to toxicity, what’s next for Duterte-Marcos-Arroyo?

May. 24, 2023

It’s been one year since the Marcos-Duterte tandem stunned the nation with a landslide win. It was a victory made improbable as it evaded debates and swept questions of its thin platform under one slogan: UNITY. 

But exactly 375 days later, on May 19, Vice President Sara Duterte has resigned from the party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), the party that brokered the unity. Two days before that, its emeritus chair, ex-President and current representative of Pampanga Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was demoted from senior deputy speaker to deputy speaker in the House of Representatives, amidst report of Arroyo brewing another ploy to unseat the House Speaker, Martin Romualdez, who happens to be Lakas-CMD president. 

It is one year into the UniTeam alliance in power, but we are seeing such moves that will “crack’ the alliance, the political opposition says. Duterte also explains the situation better in two words taken from her resignation statement: “toxicity” and “powerplay”. 

Where is the powerplay and toxic politics happening? 

Opposition figure France Castro, deputy minority leader and representative of ACT Teachers Partylist, points out in an interview with ANC that there have been differences between Romualdez and Arroyo brewing of late. One of which is Arroyo issuing a resolution urging House allies to make an ‘unequivocal defense’ of former President Rodrigo Duterte from the probe of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on his controversial “war on drugs” and human rights record. Romualdez has not supported this resolution. (https://verafiles.org/articles/are-allies-incriminating-duterte-in-icc-probe

But Castro believes the ultimate reason for easing Arroyo from Marcos’ inner circle has to do with the 2028 elections. There are talks that the Marcoses are grooming Romualdez for the presidency. Such move reneges on the unity with Duterte, who was earlier a strong contender for the 2022 presidency until she acceded with the help of Arroyo to run as VP. 

For this reason, Duterte’s resignation is seen as “sympathizing” with Arroyo, who is acting as her mentor in the national political scene, and whose ties go back to 2018 when they worked to unseat Pantaleon Alvarez as House Speaker. 

Duterte has also realized that as the Marcoses have power that extends to the ruling party Lakas-CMD, she has no solid party that will back the possible 2028 bid for the presidency. 

What will happen in the next few months will be a realignment in Congress, Castro says, between those loyal to the Arroyo and Duterte group and those who still remain in the Uniteam under Marcos. 

Already, Duterte’s camp is starting its propaganda on their social media pages, sniping at the Marcoses’ ambitions and monopoly of power while projecting Sara as a public servant. https://bit.ly/3Ms2LYl 

But powerplay can’t be just coming from one side. Arroyo herself has admitted she had ambitions to reclaim the House Speaker post after the 2022 UniTeam victory. Sara Duterte herself is making her brand of leadership as a red-tagger at the expense of militarizing the education department. 

But whatever happens in this powerplay, that word unity doesn’t hold that same magic as it was in 2022. Castro said in the first place, what was the unity of Marcos and Duterte about? What were its guiding principles? Was it to unite to uplift the poor, to save the millions from the toll of the pandemic, and to stir us in the right direction? 

This turn of events should make us realize that unity should be based on principles and platform rather than personalities and popularity, which fizzles out because of powerplay. 

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