TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—Days after the Romualdez family and their political rivals, the Petillas, received stinging public criticism for supposedly wanting to gate-crash Pope Francis’ lunch together with survivors of Typhoon Yolanda, the Romualdezes has vowed to stick with the program.
Speaking through his staff member Lea-Fuentes Apdo, Leyte congressman Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said he and his cousin Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez promised to stay out of the scheduled papal lunch.
However, both officials will still be among the five public personalities who will welcome the pope when he arrives at the airport on January 17 next year, Apdo said.
Another unidentified staff member said Romualdez was conscious of his role in the affair and would not use his connections including that of his aunt, the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, just so he could get close to the pope.
The other three in the welcoming party include Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, his mother Palo Mayor Remedios Petilla, and Palo Archbishop John Du.
Both families—who were once allies but are now bitter rivals—are considered to be the most prominent and powerful of all the political clans in Leyte.
The Petillas, on the other hand, have not yet released a statement regarding the supposed plan to gate-crash the pope’s lunch.
Father Amadeo Alvero, the communications director for the Archdiocese of Palo, also dismissed claims both families were exerting political pressure on them to join the lunch.
The representatives of both families will just welcome the pope and attend his Mass. Other than that, they have no other role, he said.
As for the 30 lunch-goers, the Archdiocese said it was keeping mum on their identities. However, other than being survivors of Typhoon Yolanda, they also come from a poor background, it said in a statement.
Aside from them, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Archbishop Du will also join the pope.