‘Uniteam dissolved’ as VP Sara quits cabinet posts

Jun. 20, 2024
Photo from Philippine News Agency

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Vice President Sara Duterte resigned from her cabinet posts as education secretary and as vice-chair of the counter-insurgency agency National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

The announcement was made by Malacañang on Wednesday, June 19, saying the vice president handed her resignation letter that afternoon, which will take effect after 30 days on July 19.

“She declined to give a reason why. She will continue to serve as Vice President. We thank her for her service,” Malacañang’s Communications Office said.

A week earlier, during Independence Day ceremonies, Duterte told reporters in Davao that the Uniteam was only good during the elections.

With Duterte’s resignation, lawyer Harry Roque, who served as spokesperson for Rodrigo Duterte in his presidency, posted on Facebook that the “Uniteam has formally been dissolved and (Sara) has just become the leader of the opposition).”

Duterte’s resignation may signal an open rift long speculated between her and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who ran together under the Uniteam ticket in June 2022 that won by large margins.

But late last year, Vice President Duterte saw her P650-million confidential funds denied by the House of Representatives after she failed to provide audit for the use of past confidential funds.

In January this year, the vice president’s father, former President Rodrigo Duterte launched a series of rallies under the banner of Hakbang ng Maisug where he accused Marcos Jr. of attempts to change the Constitution.  

In the rallies, Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte, brother of Sara, openly called on Marcos Jr. to resign if he doesn’t have aspirations to help the country. 

The elder Duterte also chided Marcos Jr. as “bangag (high)” on illegal drugs. The President later shot back at Duterte on his rumored use of the pain reliever fentanyl.

Later, Duterte allies have either faced suspension, such as Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib, or arrest such as preacher Apollo Quiboloy, rumored to have provided resources to the Dutertes, who is facing cases on trafficking, child and sex abuses.  

Other allies were expelled from the Duterte-led Hugpong ng Pagbabago such as the Uys and Zamora in Davao Region.

Sara’s brother, Davao City First District Congressman Paolo Duterte, had his district budget stripped down and was questioned for receiving a huge P51-billion budget in his first term.  

More than 30 police officials in the city and the region were relieved over issues such as the killings of drug suspects and the failure to arrest Quiboloy, provoking Sebastian to question the Marcos Jr. administration over such moves.  

Duterte and Marcos Jr. have differing views on the West Philippine Sea, with Marcos Jr. openly criticizing China’s intrusion and hostilities on the Philippine Coast Guard while the vice president refused to comment on the issue. Duterte’s father has fostered ties with China during his presidency, which is now subject to criticism such as the entry of POGO (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators).

Marcos Jr. also toned down Duterte’s war on drugs campaign, as the former president may face possible arrest and investigation by the International Criminal Court due to extrajudicial killings under this campaign.

Political analyst Professor Ronald Llamas, in an interview with ANC last week, speculated that Sara Duterte is taking action to position herself as an opposition in preparation for the 2025 mid-term election, given that her survey ratings have declined, while another political figure, broadcaster turned Senator Raffy Tulfo, is tied with her in early presidential surveys.

“She has to do something disruptive. This could be part of the strategy that she has to scale up as leader of the opposition,” Llamas said. (davaotoday.com)

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