Meet Pimentel's 'life partner' leading PDP-Laban's humanitarian arm

MANILA, Philippines – Her name is Kathryna Yu. Not many people know her but she stands behind the third most powerful person in the country.

While Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III is busy strengthening the ruling party PDP-Laban for the 2019 polls, Yu gives him her full support as she makes it her job to focus on the party's non-political side.

In fact, the 35-year-old Yu now heads the newly formed PDP-Laban Cares, the humanitarian arm of the party headed by Pimentel. She is joined by other women party mates, as well as House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s girlfriend, Jennifer Maliwanag.

Aside from this, Yu is a chef by profession and is currently managing Pimentel’s law firm. In 2017, Yu regularly joined Pimentel in his official travels abroad.

CHINA. Yu with several members of the PDP-Laban during a trip to Beijing, China in 2017. Photo from Pimentel's official Facebook account

CHINA. Yu with several members of the PDP-Laban during a trip to Beijing, China in 2017.

Photo from Pimentel's official Facebook account

LONDON. Senators with Yu and Poe's husband Neil Llamanzares during a London trip courtesy of the UK government. Photo from Pimentel's official Facebook account

LONDON. Senators with Yu and Poe's husband Neil Llamanzares during a London trip courtesy of the UK government.

Photo from Pimentel's official Facebook account

RUSSIA. PDP-Laban signs agreement with Russia' ruling party. Photo from Pimentel

RUSSIA. PDP-Laban signs agreement with Russia' ruling party.

Photo from Pimentel

In an interview with Senate reporters in July 2017, she said that her mom’s sister and Pimentel’s sister are classmates. Just like the Pimentels, Yu also hails from Marikina.

The relatively low-profile partner of Pimentel also told Rappler that she would rather not be known to the public.

“I prefer not to be known in public. What’s essential for me is to help and make a difference in my own way without any expectations in return. My help for SP is unconditional, it is just a coincidence that I am now the Chair of PDP Cares but I knew at a young age that charity was my calling. I believe that PDP Laban Cares is my destiny,” Yu told Rappler.

“Growing up, I was already exposed in this kind of environment because my father has an NGO and an international mission group. I believe I am where I am now for a reason which is to help others and at the same time, as a life partner, to help Senator Koko in his public service the best way I can,” she added.

PDP-Laban Cares

The idea for the ruling party’s humanitarian arm started after President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao.

FUNDRAISING EVENT. Pimentel and Yu here with Alvarez's girlfriend Jennifer Maliwanag during a PDP-Laban Cares fundraising event in Taguig. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

FUNDRAISING EVENT. Pimentel and Yu here with Alvarez's girlfriend Jennifer Maliwanag during a PDP-Laban Cares fundraising event in Taguig.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

Yu recalled she and some friends and partymates conducted relief operations in Marawi City. At the time, there was no formal organization yet.

It was Pimentel who decided to create a civic arm in August.

Talagang wala kami sa pulitika. Ang vision lang namin tumulong nang tumulong especially sa nasalanta ng national calamity (We really are not into politics. Our only vision is to help especially to victims of national calamity)," Yu said.

Asked if the efforts of PDP-Laban Cares nationwide are meant to help boost the party’s chances in 2019, Pimented denied it.

“No, they are autonomous, they have their own schedule, sometimes they invite us, sometimes they don’t,” the Senate leader said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Sabi namin there is a political party but people think ang political party ay puro pamumulitika lamang. (We said there is a political party but people think all political parties do is politics.) There must be a separate unit within the party dedicated and focused only on helping people in need of help," he said.

Photo from Pimentel's official Facebook account

But how about funding?

Yu said they get money through fund-raising events and from friends and party mates. It remains unclear if this is from public or private funds.

“No [foreign help], puro friends lang yung mga tumutulong, partymates. From sponsors, friends, partymates, and yung sila na rin kasi, di na kami nagsosolicit, natutuwa ako kasi tuloy-tuloy funds, so tuloy-tuloy din ang pag-tulong,” Yu said.

(No [foreign help], just friends and partymates. We get help from sponsors, friends, partymates, sometimes we don't need to solicit anymore, they come to us. I am happy because the funds continue to pour in so the help continues as well.)

“They do fundraising. Sabi ko sa kanila kayo na magpasalamat sa sponsors kasi di ko sila kilala (I told them you thank your sponsors because I do not know them),” Pimentel said.

‘Mama Kath’

Aside from helping with the party, Yu has been helping raise Pimentel’s two boys from his previous marriage, which is yet to be annulled. The two school-age children would call her “Mama Kath.”

Yu would attend to the kids’ entrance exams and even first days of school. In one post on her social media account, she was also seen preparing for one of the boys’ birthday party.

In one public event, a cartoon film showing for the PDP Laban Cares' fundraising, Yu was seen with youngest Akio.

Photo from handout

– Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.

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