Duterte to Cusi: Convene PDP-Laban party assembly despite Pacquiao’s warning
MANILA, Philippines — As the rift within the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party widens, Sen. Manny Pacquiao will try to meet with President Duterte to discuss the plans of the nominal ruling party for the 2022 elections, a party leader said on Sunday.
PDP-Laban executive director Ronwald Munsayac said Pacquiao, the party’s acting president, would set a meeting with the party chair, Duterte, “so the two party leaders can discuss and set the agenda for the legitimate national council meeting to be set a month before the filing of candidacies, or earlier if the chairman wishes.”
Munsayac issued the statement a day ahead of what he described as an illegitimate national assembly of the PDP-Laban on Monday that was called by the party vice chair, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
Last week, Pacquiao released a memorandum to all PDP-Laban members telling them that the meeting called by Cusi was not sanctioned under party rules, which required that any call for a national council, assembly or meeting must be approved only by the party chair and president.
But Duterte’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, issued a statement saying that the President had directed Cusi “to organize, convene and preside” over its national council meeting set on Monday in Cebu City.
“This move, which is part of the democratic exercise, aims to consult party members and have fruitful and productive exchanges on issues affecting PDP-Laban,” the presidential spokesperson said.
Pacquiao could not be reached for comment.
Cusi last week said the President, as party chair, had been solely vested with the power to call meetings of the national council under the party’s constitution. The energy secretary said Duterte had authorized the meeting of the council.
Reacting to Roque’s statement, Munsayac told reporters in a Viber thread that PDP-Laban has its own constitution and bylaws.
“It’s very clear that ONLY the Chairman (President Duterte) in coordination with the Party President (Manny Pacquiao) can call on the Party’s National Council and/or Assembly,” he said.
Set stage for Sara’s bid
“Also, if this purported council meeting [were] sanctioned by our chairman, how come we have not received any formal communication from the chairman/President Duterte, only an announcement from his spokesperson who isn’t even a party mate,” Munsayac said.
House insiders told the Inquirer that the PDP-Laban assembly might have been deliberately timed to fall on the 43rd birthday of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, to set the stage for a movement to convince her to run for president next year.
That could put Duterte’s daughter on a collision course with Pacquiao, who is rumored to have his own presidential ambitions in the 2022 polls. The younger Duterte is not a member of the PDP-Laban but wields influence within the party.
One source said Sara Duterte’s close friend, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, PDP-Laban’s executive vice president, had told his followers within the party to attend and observe Monday’s meeting despite Pacquiao’s warning that it was not a sanctioned activity.
Oust Pacquiao talk
There was talk over the weekend that the national assembly was called to oust Pacquiao and install a new party president, after the boxing champ-turned-politician angered party members for making statements they considered to be critical of Mr. Duterte.
Munsayac said it was “(s)o unfortunate that in the midst of the pandemic, politics is capturing the center stage.”
He added: “All our God-given energies should be directed to ensure that the country can still be great even after this crisis.” —WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING INQ
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