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Rough Cuts | Ungab’s ouster can ‘Ungab’ Cayetano as well

As we have expected the squabble at the Lower House brought about by the alleged plan to oust Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano also rocked Davao City.

Of course it is only natural because one of the first two major victims of the factional fighting in the Lower Chamber is from Davao City in the person of third district congressman Isidro “Sid” Ungab. The lawmaker from Davao City was unceremoniously bowled out as chairman of the most influential House Appropriations Committee.

Ungab who had been chair of that Congressional body for the last many terms that he had was never known to be the “talkative” type. In fact even during the previous Congresses that spanned the administrations of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III he was never involved in any controversy that had lingered in the pages of national newspapers or in the media in general.

That is why many, including us and the rest of the Davaoeños, were surprised that suddenly he was taken out from the chairmanship along with Mindoro Congressman Doy Leachon, chair of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET). We had mistaken Congressman Leachon as coming from a district in Masbate in yesterday’s column of ours. He actually represents a district in Mindoro. (We apologize for the inadvertence.)
Ungab’s ouster clearly did not sit well with Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio, founder of the home-grown political party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) where the former is a leading member. In fact the lady mayor of the President’s City had endorsed Ungab as an alternative candidate for the Speakership when the rivalry of then aspirants Cayetano and Lord Alan Velasco of Catanduanes was on a stand-off.

So it should not really be surprising to political observers if the Davao City mayor who led the HNP in entering into alliances with various local or regional political groups during the 2019 elections will raise a big howl over the Speaker’s move.

Sara is clearly aghast when she said Ungab’s ouster is unacceptable to the HNP. With such statement we can be certain that Mayor Sara could now be in the war footing. We know she will not take the Ungab ouster sitting down. The Davao City Mayor would most likely consider the House situation as payback time. That is, she would now be demanding support from those congressmen her HNP had endorsed in their district level campaign in 2019.

Intriguingly though, the mayor’s brother, first district congressman Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, has so far kept his silence on the Ungab kick-out. He hasn’t spoken a word. Lest it be forgotten that while the sibling almost always rally with their father’s political goals, in several instances they were known to be taking opposite positions on certain issues, the House Speakership included.

Meanwhile, Cayetano is far from being a neophyte politician. He has been senator, Foreign Affairs Secretary, head of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee. And he was able to get out of those stints unscathed, notwithstanding the controversies attendant to the very successful hosting of the biennial SEA Games.

So, we believe that he could not have taken his controversial move of ousting Ungab without weighing the potential repercussions of his action. We are certain that the Speaker could have advised the President of his plan and that the latter may have given him his thought on the potential outcome.

But whatever is the President’s advice to the Speaker, assuming that the latter indeed informed the chief executive of his plan, we have no idea. So, it is likely that Cayetano believes he is given by the President the notion of Congress as an independent branch of government and it is up to the Speaker to do what he thinks is best for the Lower House and for his own political agenda.

Clearly however, Cayetano is now walking on a tight rope. Any slight mistake on the steps he makes could lead him to fall off the political line. And he could put himself in oblivion. But if he is ready to take another course which is to join the ranks of the opposition, that move will most likely keep him afloat if indeed he’d really be “Ungabed” from the Speakership by the rival faction in the House.

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