Hugpong ng Pagbabago: Ungab’s ouster in House ‘grossly unacceptable’

Mara Cepeda
Hugpong ng Pagbabago: Ungab’s ouster in House ‘grossly unacceptable’
The regional party led by Mayor Sara Duterte lauds Davao City 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab for 'being a good soldier of President Rodrigo Duterte and for doing his job with pride and principle'

MANILA, Philippines – Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), the political alliance led by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, blasted the removal of its ally as chairman of a key House panel.

In a statement on Tuesday, March 3, HNP said it “strongly condemns” the removal of Davao City 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab as chairman of the House committee on appropriations amid the ongoing power struggle in the House of Representatives. 

“For HNP, the ouster of Ungab was grossly unacceptable as it is disadvantageous to the Duterte administration’s reform agenda for the Filipino people and the country,” the HNP said.

It also lauded Ungab for “being a good soldier of President Rodrigo Duterte and for doing his job with pride and principle.”

HNP issued the statement a day after Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano removed Ungab – as well as Mindoro 1st district Representative Salvador Leachon as House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) chairman – amid rumors of a House coup allegedly in support of the speakership of Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco.

Cayetano had said that he decided to remove Ungab and Leachon from key House posts as they were allegedly becoming “more interested in intrigues” than working with his leadership.

HNP had fielded Ungab for the speakership last year. Ungab also got the support of another Duterte sibling, Davao City 1st District Representative and Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte.

The Duterte siblings’ support made Ungab a threat in speakership race, but he later withdrew his bid after the President himself endorsed a term-sharing agreement between Cayetano, the President’s failed running mate in the 2016 elections; and Velasco, the candidate of the ruling PDP-Laban.

As House committee on appropriations chair, Ungab led the House’s scrutiny of the P4.1-trillion budget in 2020. But his stint was marred by clashes with Cayetano.

In 2019, Ungab clashed with Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, a staunch Cayetano ally, over how to handle the general appropriations bill. 

Rappler sources privy to Cayetano’s meeting with Ungab, Villafuerte, and other House leaders on September 2, 2019, said the Speaker supposedly threatened to move Ungab to another committee if the Davao City congressman did not cooperate with the House leadership in resolving his row with Villafuerte. 

Six months later, Cayetano finally found a reason to kick out Ungab, who allegedly drew the ire of the Speaker and his allies after he supposedly told the President and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado about the alleged multibillion-peso illegal insertions in the 2020 budget.

Under the House term-sharing agreement between Cayetano and Velasco that the President had suggested and greenlighted, Cayetano would be Speaker for the first 15 months, while Velasco will take the helm of the House for the remaining 21 months.

Velasco is friends with the Dutertes. During an event in Marinduque months ahead of the 2019 elections, both the President and Sara referred to him as the “next Speaker.”  – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.