'Grossly unacceptable': Sara Duterte hits ally's removal from House post

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 3) – Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is not happy with the removal of her friend, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, as head of the House Committee on Appropriations on Monday's major shake-up in the lower chamber.

In a statement Tuesday, Duterte-Carpio claimed that the removal of Ungab from his post "was grossly unacceptable."

"For HNP (Hugpong ng Pagbabago), 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," she said in a statement.

“We fully support Congressman Ungab’s work in the congress,” she said in a separate interview.

Duterte-Carpio previously endorsed Ungab for the speakership last year through HNP, her regional party, after Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano gunned for the post.

Duterte-Carpio, however, noted that she does not have any personal knowledge on the alleged coup attempt.

The Davao City mayor called Ungab a "good soldier" of her father, President Rodrigo Duterte, and also lauded her friend for "doing his job with pride and principle."

It was not just Ungab who was booted out from his post. Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador "Doy" Leachon, a known ally of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, was removed Monday from his post as the head of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

Cayetano, who earlier had a rift with the presidential daughter for endorsing Velasco for the speakership last year, held a two-hour caucus with some congressmen on Monday night after the reshuffle.

When asked why Ungab and Leachon had to be removed, Cayetano simply claimed that he did not have a good working relationship with the two who were allegedly more interested in "funds and intrigues."

"Working relationship din lang. As I said last week, yung hindi kaya na suportahan ako, umalis muna bumalik na lang sila kapag si Velasco na, 'di ba...They are more interested talaga in funds, intrigues, et cetera here rather than getting things done," Cayetano said in an interview with reporters.

[Translation: It's really a matter of working relationship. As I said last week, if they cannot support me, they should just return when it's Velasco's term...they are really more interested in funds, intrigues, etcetera here rather than getting things done.]

ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap replaced Ungab as the appropriations panel head, while Kabayan Party-list Rep. Ron Salo replaced Leachon.

Sara the 'kingmaker'

Duterte-Carpio was instrumental in the ouster of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in 2018. Then-Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over his post.

Even then, the President warned about his daughter's influence in the past.

“Be careful with that woman. She can even oust the Speaker. She operated in Davao. Tingnan mo ang nangyari sa Congress, [may] natanggal," Duterte said in a speech.

Prior to Monday's scuffle, Velasco posted photos of him and Duterte-Carpio after having a motorcycle ride together.

"Happy Women’s Month! Shoutout to one of the strongest Women I know.. Mayor Inday Sara. Thank you for the weekend ride Mayor Inday," Velasco wrote in the caption.

Velasco already belied the supposed "coup" plan to change the House leadership, claiming that he continues to honor the term-sharing agreement brokered by the President.

To prevent the pro-administration coalition in the House from splintering, President Rodrigo Duterte brokered a "15-21" term-sharing deal between Cayetano and Velasco last July. Under the deal, Cayetano is expected to serve for only 15 months and Velasco for the remaining 21 months. Cayetano will only serve as Speaker until October this year.

CNN Philippines' Pearl Gajunera contributed to this report.