How UniTeam's cracks began to show

Edith Regalado, Neil Jayson Servallos - Philstar.com
How UniTeam's cracks began to show
The UniTeam alliance of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio draws thousands of supporters at their campaign rally in Cagayan de Oro City on April 26, 2022.
The STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — Speculations that there were cracks in the UniTeam mounted when former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, an ally of Vice President Sara Duterte, was demoted from House senior deputy speaker to deputy speaker.

Sara resigned from the Romualdez-led Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party after Arroyo’s demotion.

Rumors of a rift among UniTeam members intensified after the House of Representatives, dominated by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s allies, realigned the combined P650-million confidential funds of the Office of the Vice President and Department of Education to agencies securing the West Philippine Sea.

The House lawmakers’ decision to strip the agencies led by Sara of intelligence funds angered her father, former president Rodrigo Duterte, who labeled the legislative chamber as the “most rotten” institution and accused Speaker Martin Romualdez of “swallowing” discretionary funds.

House members denied the accusation and approved a resolution affirming the chamber’s honor and integrity. Two Duterte allies who did not sign the resolution – Arroyo and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab – lost their posts as deputy speakers.

Things turned personal last January when Duterte claimed in an expletive-laden speech in Davao that Marcos is a drug addict, an allegation that the Marcos just laughed off.

Duterte also warned Marcos that the attempt of some administration allies to effect Charter change through a people’s initiative signature campaign could lead to his ouster, similar to the fate of the president’s late father and namesake in 1986. Marcos responded by linking Duterte’s tirades to his use of the highly addictive drug fentanyl.

Despite the word war, Marcos claimed that the UniTeam was still intact and “vibrant.”

In April, the political landscape took a surprising turn when First Lady Liza Marcos disclosed that she has come to view Sara negatively because the vice president laughed when her father was calling Marcos “bangag” or high on drugs during a rally in Davao City. Sara responded by saying that Liza’s personal feelings had nothing to do with her functions in the government.

Marcos had also defended Sara from critics calling for her removal from the Cabinet, saying the issue did not affect his working relations with his runningmate in the 2022 elections.

Sara made headlines this month when she said that the UniTeam had already served its purpose.

“The UniTeam was a tandem during the 2022 elections. The elections are over, we won and we are grateful to those who supported us,” she said during the 126th Independence Day celebration in Davao City last June 12.

“We are not candidates anymore,” she added.  Alexis Romero

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