Party giving Duterte second term, dousing Pacquiao presidential bid

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

The ruling PDP-Laban virtually is giving President Rody Duterte a forbidden second term. And it is dunking its foremost presidential aspirant Senator Manny Pacquiao.

Those are the implications of the party’s prod for its chairman Duterte to run for vice president in 2022 and choose his successor.

The Constitution limits a president to a single six-year term. That’s to prevent an incumbent from using the vast powers and resources of his office to prolong his tenure.

But running for VP and personally anointing a successor can have the same effect. Duterte can select one who thinks like and idolizes him, to continue all his policies and programs even if flawed. Critics say the anointed can even shield him from criminal prosecution for abuses in office.

More than those, the clone president can resign and hand over the office to vice president Duterte. He will thus reign anew.

Philippine laws are notable more for loopholes than enforcement. Politics is personality-, not issue-based. Parties are mere campaign funds conduits, not guardians of ideology and platform.

PDP-Laban leaders who want Duterte as VP are also urging his daughter, Davao City mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte-Carpio, to be the presidential standard bearer. Duterte has expressed preference for longtime aide now Senator Christopher “Bong” Go.

Sara and Go are noncommittal for now. But “Run, Sara, Run” tarps and calendars proliferated early this year, including in the remotest barangay of Pagasa, Kalayaan Islands, Palawan, in the Spratlys. Same with wristwatches and running shoes marked “Bong Go.” The official filing of candidacies is not till October.

The PDP-Laban National Council meeting approved Monday a “Resolution to convince the party chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte, to run as vice president in the 2022 national elections and for President Rodrigo Duterte to choose his runningmate for president.”

That eased out Pacquiao, long touted as a “presidentiable,” from the party selection process. Their rules call for a convention for that purpose a month before the October filing. The meeting was premature, executive director Ron Munsayac said.

An eight-world boxing titleholder, Pacquiao is his own man. No Duterte clone, he lamented last week as wanting the President’s stand against China’s increasing incursions in the West Philippine Sea. That was a departure from his previous silence on Duterte’s frequent mocking of Christian tenets, most recently the Fall from Paradise. Pacquiao is an evangelical Christian.

As PDP-Laban acting president, Pacquiao told officers to ignore vice chairman (and energy secretary) Alfonso Cusi’s invitation to the meeting. Allegedly it broke party rules since only the chairman with the president can assemble the National Council.

But Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque retorted that Duterte himself had authorized Cusi to convene, organize and preside over the meeting. That left Pacquiao asking to see the President to sort out matters. Roque is not a PDP-Laban member, Munsayac said.

Pacquiao has a stake in PDP-Laban. It was faltering in 2013 when then-president, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, invited him to join as congressional candidate. In 2016 Pacquiao led its senatorial ticket. His celebrity not only won the crowds; his multibillion-peso prize earnings also bankrolled party-mates’ congressional and local campaigns. Supporting Duterte to victory in 2016 suddenly made PDP-Laban the ruling party. Pacquiao continues to fund administrative expenses.

Sara, on the other hand, is not a PDP-Laban member. In the 2019 mid-term election, her Davao regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago endorsed 15 candidates for the 12 senatorial slots, some of them PDP-Laban.

Pinning Pacquiao against the ropes can only provoke the fighter to punch back. Expectedly, he will rally his party supporters against his belittlers. Expulsions are likely as with other parties torn by infighting in the past. Munsayac hinted as much when he said officers who attended Monday’s National Council meeting should just leave the party.

PDP stands for Partido Demokratiko Pilipino; Laban for Lakas ng Bayan. Founded respectively by Aquilino Pimentel Jr. in 1982 and democracy icon Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in 1978, PDP and Laban were the main opposition to Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship. PDP-Laban coalesced with other parties for Cory Aquino’s victory against Marcos in the 1986 snap presidential election.

Pacquiao’s loyalists are reviewing party principles – democracy, human rights, national sovereignty – to dissociate from the Duterte faction’s authoritarian ways, bloody war on drugs and acquiescence to China.

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“Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” is available as e-book and paperback. Get a free copy of “Chapter 1: Beijing’s Bullying and Duplicity.” Simply subscribe to my newsletter at: https://jariusbondoc.com/#subscribe. Book orders also accepted there.

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