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DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – Several prominent Davao Oriental officials, once allies of the Duterte family, have shifted allegiance to House Speaker Martin Romualdez’s political party, the Lakas-CMD, further exposing the cracks in the Marcos Jr. administration’s UniTeam.
Davao Oriental 2nd District Representative Cheeno Miguel Almario said notable figures, including Davao Oriental Vice Governor Nelson Dayanghirang Jr. and provincial board members Andy Monday, Benjie Bulaong, Rochie Ravelo, Daud Linsag, and Harold Montes, joined the Lakas-CMD on Friday, November 24.
“They took their oath as Lakas-CMD members before Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez at the Speaker’s office,” Almario told Rappler on Saturday, November 25.
They were joined by Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Lakas-CMD secretary-general, Agusan del Norte Representative Jose “Joboy” Aquino II, and House Majority Leader Manuel Jose “Mannix” Dalipe.
Formerly members of the Nacionalista Party (NP) were Dayanghirang, Monday, and Bulaong, while Ravelo, Linsag, and Montes were members of Vice President Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago Party (HPP). Both parties had close ties with the previous administration.
Romualdez, currently the president of the Lakas-CMD, had Duterte as party chairperson from November 2021 until early this year. The Vice President resigned as a Lakas-CMD member in May.
The move of the officials from Davao Oriental has been perceived in the province as a shift from groups closely identified with former president Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter Sara to Romualdez’s faction.
A growing rift between Romualdez and Sara became more pronounced when the former president said that the Speaker, a first cousin of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., had set his eyes on the presidency.
The elder Duterte criticized the Romualdez-led House of Representatives after its members questioned Sara’s proposed confidential funds for her office and the Department of Education (DepEd) which she heads.
Also, two House committees have started tackling proposals for government cooperation with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) inquiry into the anti-drug campaign during the Duterte presidency, a move that did not sit well with Sara.
Almario said the exodus of Davao Oriental’s political leaders from the Duterte family’s allied political parties to Romualdez’s group had nothing to do with the “squabble” between the Speaker and the Vice President.
According to him, the decision to join Romualdez was something they had planned much earlier, and the oath-taking was incidental.
“It’s just a coincidence. We are doing this for the benefit of the people of Davao Oriental as this would mean more funds for development programs and projects,” Almario said.
In 2022, the former president endorsed the candidacy of Almario and his father, Joel Mayo, who unsuccessfully ran for the mayoral post of Mati City.
The Almarios and Vice Governor Dayanghirang, whose father Nelson Sr. is a former governor and now Davao Oriental’s 1st District representative, supported the tandem of Marcos Jr. and Sara in the 2022 national elections.
Almario and Nelson Sr. are among the congressmen who closed ranks to support the House leadership amid the verbal tirades from the elder Duterte.
“I wish to express my unwavering support for our esteemed Speaker, Martin Romualdez, and the leadership of the House. Under Speaker Romualdez’s guidance, the House has consistently demonstrated its commitment to good governance, transparency, and the welfare of the Filipino people. Being a part of this great institution gives me great pride and joy,” said Almario.
He said he and other congressmen respect the former president’s opinion about the Lower House but added, “Let the ax fall where it may.”
Citing a Commission on Audit (COA) report, Almario said the Lower House’s funds were dispensed responsibly, contrary to allegations made by the former president.
“Our records, which are open to public scrutiny, are a testament to our dedication to fiscal responsibility and transparency…. It is under [Romualdez’s] guidance that the House has remained steadfast in its commitment to uphold the rule of law and ensure that every peso of the people’s money is accounted for and spent wisely,” Almario said.
He added, “In these trying times, let us remember the importance of unity, understanding, and dialogue. Let us rise above personal and political divides and continue to prioritize the welfare of our nation and its people.” –Rappler.com