House of Representatives

Mass resignation in Paolo Duterte’s office after chief of staff ‘asked’ to resign

Mara Cepeda
Mass resignation in Paolo Duterte’s office after chief of staff ‘asked’ to resign
The mass resignation is triggered after ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap – Paolo Duterte's close ally – asks his chief of staff Sherwin Castañeda to resign

Seven congressional staff members of House Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte tendered their “irrevocable” resignation after a lawmaker allied with the presidential son asked his chief of staff to resign.

On Thursday, August 27, ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap confirmed to Rappler that 7 employees of his close ally Duterte had resigned from their posts after Yap asked chief of staff Sherwin Prose Castañeda to leave his post due to alleged “lapses.”

Duterte himself later issued a statement confirming the mass resignation from his office.

“For the details on why they resigned I think it would be best if Atty. Castañeda should answer that question because for me tapos na ang lahat and we parted ways na maayos (the issue is already over and we properly parted ways),” said the Davao City 1st District congressman.

It was Yap who had recommended Castañeda to be hired by the presidential son. When Castañeda resigned, 6 other staff members whom he hired followed suit. 

They are as follows:

  • Editha Vitto, legislative officer II
  • Emily Baylon, political affairs assistance III
  • Rex Barcenas, consultant
  • Denver Chua, supervising legislative staff officer
  • Ava Dominique de Leon, legislative staff assistant II
  • Gilmark Caasi, political affairs assistant II

“Ako kasi nag-endorse, ako nagpasok… Ako nagpakilala [kay Duterte]. So may mga lapses kasi while nasa Davao si Cong Pulong because of the lockdown. May mga lapses so I asked him to resign na lang,” Yap said in a phone interview. 

(I am the one who endorsed him, the one who brought him to the office… I am the one who introduced him to Duterte. So there were lapses while Cong Pulong was in Davao because of the lockdown. There were lapses so I just asked him to resign.)

Yap no longer elaborated when asked further to explain what Castañeda’s alleged lapses were.

“Parang unfair na rin kay Sherwin [‘pag sinabi ko pa]. Minor lapses lang. Ang sa akin kasi, one-strike policy,” he said.

(It would be unfair to Sherwin if I say more. They were just minor lapses. But I have a one-strike policy.)

In their letter to Duterte dated August 10 – a copy of which Rappler obtained – the 7 staff members said their resignation was to take effect on August 15.

“We thank you for the opportunity given to us to work in your office,” they said.

Rappler already reached out Castañeda for comment, but he did not answer Rappler’s phone call and has not replied to our other Viber messages as of posting.

The mass resignation at Duterte’s office comes at a crucial time, since the House is set to begin scrutinizing the proposed P4.5-trillion budget for 2021 – a process that requires thorough staff work.

Duterte, however, is already in the process of filling up the vacant positions with assistance from Yap.

He plans to bring in some of his “trusted” staff from his district office in Davao City to help run his office at the Batasang Pambansa.

“I’m almost done filling up the vacant positions with the help of congressman Yap’s staff. Hoping for a smooth transition and a more effective office for the constituents of the first District of Davao City,” he said.

Duterte and Yap are known close allies, often co-authoring several measures in the lower chamber like the bill renaming the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and a resolution that sought an investigation into the now-shutdown media giant ABS-CBN. – Rappler.com

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.