PDP-Laban rift continues: Pacquiao hits Cusi over Luzon blackouts

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Manny Pacquiao took to the Senate floor Wednesday to criticize Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi for politicking amid the rotational blackouts in Luzon, signaling a continued rift between the ruling PDP-Laban's acting president and its vice-chairman ahead of the 2022 polls. 

Tensions within President Rodrigo Duterte's party were on display last week when Pacquiao called on party members to snub Cusi's call for a national assembly on May 31 which he said was not authorized by the national council.

The assembly pushed through after presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who is not a part of PDP-Laban, revealed that it was Duterte, the party's chairman, who directed Cusi to preside over a meeting of the party. 

When the Luzon grid was placed under red alert on Monday, Cusi was in Cebu, presiding over the contested national council meeting.  

In his privilege speech on the blackouts, Pacquiao recalled that Cusi assured senators that there would be no blackouts in the summer. 

He also emphasized the ill effects of the rotational blackouts on students, businesses, and the storage of COVID-19 vaccines, calling for accountability from "all concerned agencies."

The senator further lamented that three of his colleagues were unable to attend Tuesday's plenary session through videoconference because they were affected by the blackouts. 

"It is sad to think that the officials who should be overseeing our problems in these times.... are putting politics first," the boxing icon-turned-senator said in a speech delivered mostly in Filipino.

"I am talking directly to Secretary Cusi... as a PDP member, a member of the party, whatever the situation, whatever the shortcomings we have affects our PDP members... We are all affected by the problems happening right now. Not just the small people but the big businessmen." 

Although he was worrying over how Cusi's handling of the blackouts might affect members of the PDP-Laban, Pacquiao also said that "now is not the time to talk about politics."

When he was asked by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon directly if the level of accountability he was seeking from Cusi was his resignation, Pacquiao said: "I know many officials from other countries when it comes to failures like this... they deliberately resign...they no longer need to be removed by the president."

During the same national assembly on Monday, the PDP-Laban adopted a resolution urging Duterte to run as vice president for 2022. Calls on Duterte to seek the second-highest post in the country were previously disowned by Pacquiao who urged members of the party to focus on the pandemic. 

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