PDP-Laban staying alive, picks Pacquiao, Velasco as Senate, House party heads
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines’ boxing icon and now Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, slated to be next Speaker after 15 months, would head the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) at the Senate and House of Representatives.
A statement released by Pacquiao’s Senate office on Thursday (Aug. 15) said the boxer and Velasco were picked by PDP-Laban president Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and party vice chair, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, to be the highest officials of the ruling party in the two chambers of Congress.
The decision was made at a meeting held at a Makati City hotel. The date of the meeting was not made known.
But the statement from Pacquiao’s office said the meeting was held as a loyalty check for party members amid rumors that PDP-Laban members were jumping ship to other parties, like National Unity Party (NUP) of the Puno brothers.
Pacquiao said he planned to meet with party members every month to help the party.
“There has to be something like this once a month for the party direction,” said Pacquiao, whose popularity as a boxer catapulted him to a Senate seat. “Whatever help I can give to improve the party and the economy, I’ll do it,” he said.
Pacquiao has now assumed the role of symbol of party unity. Recently, legislators and other party officials went to a party to celebrate Pacquiao’s latest ring victory over American boxer Keith Thurman.
Some PDP-Laban members reported to have bolted included Davao City Rep. Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte’s son, and 30 other legislators who were supposed to have sworn as members of NUP, a party formed by former leaders and members disgruntled at the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The entry of the younger Duterte and 30 other lawmakers into NUP prompted a loyalty check by PDP-Laban among its members. With the transfers, the PDP-Laban strength in the House could dwindle to just 65 from 95 members. NUP, in the meantime, would have 46 members in the chamber.
At the meeting in a Makati hotel, PDP-Laban president Pimentel reportedly thanked members who remained loyal to the party, which was barely existing until it offered itself as the elder Duterte’s vehicle for a presidential campaign.
Pimentel, at the dinner meeting, reportedly acknowledged that political butterflies were “inevitable” under the current setup. He also revealed plans for a national assembly of PDP-Laban leaders and members as a show of force for the party.
Other PDP Laban leaders who were present at the meeting included Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, Deputy Speaker Dong Gonzales, party secretary general Melvin Matibag, and spokesperson Ronwald Munsayac./TSB
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