Once moribund party finds new life with victories, coffee book
MANILA, Philippines—Some 600 people gathered in a restaurant in Pasay City Thursday night as the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) marked its 30th anniversary with the launch of a coffee table book detailing the party’s history.
It will be four more months before the party turns three decades old—on Feb. 6, 2012—but Thursday was the eve of the 69th birthday of PDP-Laban stalwart Vice President Jejomar Binay.
The party deemed it more proper to hold a celebration of the milestones on that fortuitous date, 11/11/11.
“The late (Foreign Secretary) Blas Ople once called PDP-Laban a Volkswagen party because its members, all accounted for, could fit inside the tiny car,” Binay noted that night.
But the Vice President and other party members were optimistic that changing political fortunes could once again put PDP-Laban in the forefront, as it once was years ago.
PDP-Laban is a marriage between two political parties—the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino (PDP) and Lakas ng Bayan (Laban), established by the then imprisoned former Sen. Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino Jr. in the late 1970s and which fielded a Senate ticket in an open challenge to the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
On Feb. 6, 1982, PDP—composed of antidictatorship oppositionists from Mindanao—was inaugurated as a national party in its first national convention held at Club Filipino in Cebu City.
“Because of one common advocacy, it was on this occasion that the PDP and Laban formalized their merger,” the leaders explained.
The respected former Sen. Lorenzo Tañada of Laban was chosen as honorary chair of the newly formed group.
For a good part of 1983, PDP-Laban was always present at rallies against the Marcos dictatorship.
Before Aquino’s death on Aug. 21, 1983, PDP-Laban described its activities as “fruitful and meaningful … because it was during this year when the party expanded very rapidly all over the country.”
It had an education council with a nationwide network that engaged in “massive training of the grassroots to enlighten (people) on prevailing political realities.”
Aquino’s murder put the party at the center of mass actions against Marcos’ strongman rule.
In 1986, Aquino’s widow, Corazon (Cory) Aquino, ran for president under the PDP-Laban banner in a snap election called by Marcos.
Her rise to power after the downfall of Marcos made PDP-Laban perhaps the most formidable political party at the time.
In the first days of her presidency, Cory Aquino abolished the Marcos-created Batasang Pambansa.
She also replaced all holdover local officials with officers in charge or OICs.
Two of PDP-Laban’s top honchos were given major roles following this development: Binay was appointed OIC of Makati City and Mindanao-based Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. became Minister of Local Government.
“Almost all OICS (in) provincial, municipal and barangay levels (decided) to join PDP-Laban, thinking that membership would give them security of tenure,” the book notes.
It was a roller coaster ride for the party in the years that followed.
PDP-Laban forged a tactical alliance with the Liberal Party in 1992. Former Senate President Jovito Salonga of the LP ran for president with PDP-Laban’s Pimentel as his running mate.
They even had a complete senatorial slate.
However, both Salonga and Pimentel lost. Among the senatorial bets, only Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada Jr. won a seat.
“The alliance was not successful due to financial and internal problems that beset both parties,” PDP-Laban said in the book.
Pimentel won a Senate seat in 1998 and again in 2004.
Three years later, his son Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III ran for senator but lost. He however won an election protest and took his seat in the Senate in mid-2011.
Binay, incumbent party chair, predicted that the greatly diminished party would soon become a political force to reckon with, mainly because of his planned foray into the presidential derby in 2016.
“Often it felt that the party was composed only of Nene and myself. But we had a lot of silent workers and the party owes a lot to them,” the Vice President said in Filipino.
“We will give other political parties a good fight in the coming political activities,” he assured the guests.
“PDP-Laban is now a leading party. If I say leading party, I think the party and myself are now accepted and given attention as players in the coming 2013 and 2016 (elections),” Binay said.
“We are no longer meek, we have cast away our inferiority complex. After all, we already have a vice president and a senator and we expect more victories to come,” he said.
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