DAVAO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted that his eldest son Paolo had consulted him before announcing his decision to resign as vice mayor during a special session of the city council on Christmas Day.
The President said he did not influence in any way the decision of his son, whom he calls “Pulong,” but merely advised him to just do what he thinks is right.
He thinks it is possible that Pulong had grown weary of the issues and intrigues being hurled his way.
“Nagtanong siya kagabi . . . Habang naghihintay kami ng balita, tinanong niya ako. Sabi ko sa kanya, kako ikaw. You are in the position to do what is right. Kung ano lang ang tama sayo ay gawin mo [He asked me last night, while we were waiting for updates on the mall fire, about what I thought of his decision. I said, ‘it’s up to you. Just do what you think is right],” said the President late on Christmas Day, as he visited the families of the 37 people who died in a fire at NCCC Mall on December 23.
The President surmised that Pulong had felt hurt by insinuations he had abused his influence as presidential son to stage the controversial pictorial in Malacañang Palace of his daughter Isabelle, in a flaming red gown, ahead of her debut.
Pulong is separated from Isabelle’s mother, Lovely Sangkula, and had apparently not been involved in the pictorial, which drew flak because the seal of the President was used as backdrop, in violation of laws on the use of such.
In his opening statement that shocked the city council as it held a special session on Christmas to approve the release of the balance of Davao’s 2017 disaster funds, Pulong had alluded to his failed marriage to Sangkula as among the roots of his current problems. He cited his “very public squabble” with his and Lovely’s daughter among recent incidents that prompted his resignation, citing “delicadeza” and the need to protect his family.
Meanwhile, the vice mayor was also hurt, according to President Duterte, by an earlier controversy: allegations of Pulong’s involvement in the P6.4-billion shabu smuggling through Customs. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV alleged in a Senate hearing that Pulong is a key player in a so-called Davao Group of influence peddlers at Customs.
“Siguro yung sa anak niya na pictorial at yung nasaktan din sya sa mga insinuation. Napuno na siguro, pinatawag sila sa Congress for nothing [I guess Pulong was hurt by the controversy over his daughter’s pictorial; and maybe he was hurt by the insinuations on the smuggling; they were called to Congress for nothing],” said the President.
It remained unclear if the President would act in any way on the resignation, after Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said her brother’s resignation needed approval by the Office of the President and that he is deemed “on leave” in the meantime.