Palace defends state TV airing of PDP-Laban meet: PTV might get ‘scooped’
The meeting of the political party chaired by President Duterte to discuss its 2022 plans was a newsworthy event that deserved coverage, his spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday.
Defending the two-hour airing on Wednesday of the gathering of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) over state-run People’s Television (PTV), Roque said it could not be helped that Mr. Duterte was also a political personality.
“There is simply no way to separate the political personality of the President from his functions,” Roque said in a press briefing on Thursday.
Mr. Duterte attended the July 6 PDP-Laban meeting held at the Malacañang Golf Clubhouse, where he disclosed his inclination to run for vice president in next year’s elections.
A number of PDP-Laban members took turns speaking to convince him to run, ostensibly to ensure the continuity of his programs.
Questions immediately arose over the use of government resources to broadcast partisan political activity.
Elaborating on his earlier remark decrying the use of government time and resources for such a purpose, House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said: “Has the government station become the private property of PDP-Laban, or is it in line with President Duterte’s penchant for claiming taxpayers’ paid services and personnel as his own?”
But Roque defended PTV, saying: “What I know is whenever it’s newsworthy, it’s covered. If not, [PTV] will get scooped. PTV is still a news agency.”
He pointed out that PTV also had live coverage of the inurnment last week of former President Benigno Aquino III because it was a newsworthy event.
He also said Mr. Duterte was a longtime chair of PDP-Laban, with a political personality as well. “Because he was elected by the people, his position is principally political,” he added.
Roque said that despite the President’s active role in his party’s activities, addressing the pandemic remained his priority.
“It hasn’t changed, it’s still COVID-19,” Roque said, adding that the President could not help but be involved in party matters because of the 2022 elections.
“What do you do? COVID-19 or not, elections are coming up. So political parties have to prepare and candidates will have to file their certificates of candidacy in the first 10 days of October,” he said.
According to Roque, Mr. Duterte believed he was with the party’s “rightful leaders” when he met with the group on Tuesday.
Factions are dividing PDP-Laban—one identified with party president Sen. Manny Pacquiao and the other with party vice chair Alfonso Cusi.
Cusi, the energy secretary, was at the meeting with the President, who has been attacking Pacquiao for questioning his policy on the West Philippine Sea and alleging that corruption had worsened under his administration.
Pacquiao is in the United States training for a boxing match.
Mr. Duterte alluded to the rift during the meeting and said it had to be addressed in “the legal way.”
Roque said the Commission on Elections could rule on intra-party disputes.
As to which faction Mr. Duterte is backing, “I believe he was addressing persons [at the meeting] whom he believed were the rightful leaders of PDP-Laban,” Roque said.
But this does not mean that the President is disregarding Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, whose father founded the party, and who was not at the meeting, Roque said.
“I am saying that he met with individuals whom he thought and believed are the rightful leaders of PDP-Laban. But that is without prejudice to the role of Sen. Koko Pimentel, because we know that his family founded PDP-Laban,” Roque said.
At the meeting, Mr. Duterte appeared to endorse his aide, Sen. Bong Go, as a viable presidential candidate.
There have also been calls for Mr. Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, to run for president.
But if Mayor Duterte decides to do so, her father is “highly unlikely” to field a candidate against her, Roque said. —With a report from Nestor Corrales
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