Cracks widen: Pacquiao camp ousts Duterte, picks Pimentel as PDP-Laban head | Inquirer News
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Cracks widen: Pacquiao camp ousts Duterte, picks Pimentel as PDP-Laban head

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 05:08 AM August 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The cracks in the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) appeared to have broken wide open on Sunday after the faction headed by Sen. Manny Pacquiao ousted President Rodrigo Duterte as party chair and replaced him with Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

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But according to an officer of the opposing group headed by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Duterte remains the leader of the party.

Members loyal to Pacquiao and claiming to be the “original” PDP-Laban party said they met on Sunday afternoon to elect Pimentel, along with a new vice chair, former Eastern Samar Gov. Lutgardo Barbo, who “replaced” Cusi, whose own followers picked him as their president in July.

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Duterte has sided with the Cusi wing and has publicly attacked Pacquiao and Pimentel since the ruling party splintered due to differences over its candidates in the 2022 elections.

“My party mate members of the National Council just elected me as the chairman of the PDP-Laban National Council,” Pimentel, son of the late PDP founder, former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., said in a Viber message.

Pacquiao, the party president, is being pushed by the Pimentel wing to be the PDP-Laban standard-bearer, while the Cusi faction has nominated the former special assistant to the president, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, with Duterte as his running mate.

The Pimentel wing, however, claims that the prospective Go-Duterte ticket is a mere smokescreen for the Cusi wing’s true presidential candidate, the president’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who is not a member of PDP-Laban and has her own regional party.

Pacquiao attended Sunday’s national council meeting virtually from the United States as he was about to board a flight back to Manila, PDP-Laban Executive Director Ronwald Munsayac said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.

The boxer-senator, who lost to Cuban fighter Yordenis Ugas on Aug. 21, will arrive in the country on Monday morning.

In a dzBB radio interview, Munsayac said it was “too harsh” to describe the group’s actions as “ousting” Duterte, who had chaired the PDP-Laban since 2016.

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“Our elections are way overdue,” he said, explaining that party officers were supposed to hold term for only two years.

Make or break

A statement issued by Munsayac quoted Pimentel as saying during their Sunday meeting: “There is a group that wants to take over our party because they have plans in politics that are either secret or they can’t explain. They are new to our party.”

Pimentel added: “It is not our party that is make-or-break in the elections next year. It’s our country that’s make-or-break. The future of our nation is at stake. That is how important the next election is.”

He and Munsayac did not respond when asked if they still considered Duterte a member of their group.

But Melvin Matibag, the secretary-general of the Cusi faction, branded the Pimentel wing’s actions as “a comedy.”

“Sen. Koko Pimentel has no position in the PDP-Laban. He is irrelevant and he does not represent the party. His group [members] are pretenders and attention seekers,” he said in a statement.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is the PDP-Laban party chairman. He remains to be so and will continue to be so,” Matibag added.

The rift in the ruling party began in May after Pacquiao, who was sworn in by Pimentel as PDP-Laban president in December last year, “strongly advised” members from participating in the national assembly called by then vice chair Cusi.

Pacquiao had earlier warned Cusi not to “divide” the party after the latter reportedly went around the country to consult party mates about a resolution urging Duterte to run for vice president next year.

Shortly after, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement that Duterte had directed Cusi “to organize, convene and preside” over its national council meeting set on May 31 in Cebu City.

In July, the PDP-Laban expelled Cusi and two other officials — Matibag (then the deputy secretary general) and membership committee head Astra Naik for violating party rules “by showing allegiance to a political party apart from PDP-Laban.”

Cusi, however, pushed through with the party’s national council meeting on July 16 in Pampanga province, followed the next day by a national assembly in which Pacquiao was ousted as party president. He was replaced by Cusi.

Although the “original” PDP-Laban members condemned the “illegal assembly” and said the events there had no force and effect, Duterte swore in the new set of officers.

He also boasted that it was his candidacy for president in 2016 that revived the party.

Pimentel, meanwhile, said the disputes within the PDP-Laban might be brought to the Commission on Elections for resolution.

—WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
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TAGS: 2022 elections, Aquilino Pimentel III, Koko Pimentel, Manny Pacquiao, PDP-Laban, Rodrigo Duterte
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