By Ben Rosario
Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), a regional political party founded and headed by presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, Wednesday said that House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had insulted President Duterte by removing his personal choice as chairman of the House committee on appropriations.
“He was specifically chosen by President Duterte as chairman of the committee and the last time we checked, the President never ordered the removal of Ungab,” the HNP said in a statement issued Wednesday night.
The administration-backed political party added: “If anything, the removal was an insult and affront to the President – and not the party.”
The HNP issued the statement in reaction to Cayetano’s explanation during a press conference that Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, a loyal political ally of the Dutertes, was sacked as head of the powerful appropriations panel because their working relationship had become “untenable.”
Ungab was replaced by ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, a friend of Mayor Duterte’s elder brother, Davao City Rep. Paulo Duterte.
“But it is in no way a move against the party (HNP),” Cayetano said at the start of the press conference he gave on Wednesday afternoon.
The HNP pointed out that in its statement over the sacking of Ungab, the party did not decry the House leadership’s decision as “an attack on HNP.”
“The party emphasized our support for the credibility and honor of our member. We are loyal to those who are loyal to the President,” the HNP stated.
The party added: “HNP does not want to spar with Cayetano. We want to sit and watch his show.”
Ungab was one of the two senior administration congressmen Cayetano ordered removed for their alleged role in a supposed coup d’etat attempt for the speakership that Cayetano blamed on Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
The other solon, Mindoro Oriental Rep. Salvador Leachon was booted out as member and head of the House contingent in the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).
“The reason sa pagtanggal ni (for the removal of) Chairman Sid (Ungab) is simple lang: untenable working relationship,” Cayetano said.
However, Leachon said the House leadership got rid of Ungab for allegedly tipping off the executive department about the P80 billion alleged pork barrel insertions made by Cayetano allies.
Leachon said a P6 billion insertion in the 2020 General Appropriations Act was made by Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymond Villafuerte, a key Nacionalista Party ally of Cayetano.
Leachon’s HRET post was given to Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo.
Yap had to be replaced as chairman of the House committee on games and amusements in order to take over the appropriations panel. Abra Rep. Joseph Sto. Nino Bernos now heads the games and amusements panel.
Yap made legislative history in his new position which, by tradition, is reserved to senior, district congressmen. Aside from being the caretaker of the vacant lone congressional district of Benguet, Yap has already headed two of the most vital posts in the Lower House in just his eighth month as a congressman.