‘Been there, done that’

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

What is happening at present with the PDP-Laban as the incumbent ruling party of President Rodrigo Duterte is just history repeating itself. This early, Senate minority leader Senator Franklin Drilon sees this eventuality given the history of political party system in our country. Like the rest of us Filipinos, Drilon merely echoes what we have all witnessed through these years.

In the case of Drilon, he has been in government and in politics for the past 33 years. Currently the vice chairman of the Liberal Party (LP), Drilon admitted their party previously had the same experience when the late ex-president Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III assumed office in June, 2010. In our weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay last Wednesday, Drilon cited the influx to LP from other political parties, mostly from the ranks of the Lakas-CMD immediately after PNoy was installed as the 15th president of the Republic and LP came back into power as the ruling party.

Not too long ago, Drilon quipped, LP members could fit in all in the Volkswagen, or fondly called as the Beetle car. That’s how few the remaining members of LP when their ranks were decimated through the years by political jumpers and butterflies.

The Lakas-CMD administration party was headed by the sitting president at that time, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Typical of Philippine politics, Drilon recalled the same fate befell to LP after PNoy stepped down from power in June, 2016.

This is the vicious cycle that would likely happen to the PDP-Laban as well, Drilon concluded.

Thus, Drilon is not surprised at all when fellow Senator Manny Pacquiao currently got embroiled in this developing political cycle as the “acting” president of the PDP-Laban (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan). Drilon boldly predicted Pacquiao will be ousted from the ruling party when it convenes – as announced – later this month.

Pacquiao is touted as a potential candidate in the next presidential elections in May, 2022. But not all the PDP-Laban leaders are exactly looking at Pacquiao as their presidential standard-bearer. In fact, PDP-Laban stalwarts convened in Cebu last May despite Pacquiao’s disavowal of that meeting.

But the PDP-Laban’s nominal chieftain, President Duterte gave his blessings to proceed with the Cebu gathering. At the end of the Cebu meeting, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, as PDP-Laban vice chairman, approved a Resolution endorsing President Duterte to run as the party’s vice presidential candidate in next year’s election.

Lately, Pacquiao found himself at the receiving end of the latest attack coming no less from President Duterte. The outgoing President scored Pacquiao for accusing the Duterte administration as “twice or thrice” as corrupt. And in the same weekly televised “talk to the people” last Monday night, Mr. Duterte casually mentioned the PDP-Laban Resolution might not be a bad idea at all.

But as to whether LP will be open to accept Pacquiao to their folds, Drilon hemmed and hawed. As far as LP is concerned, Drilon disclosed, they are still waiting the final decision of Vice President Leni Robredo whether or not she will become their party’s presidential standard bearer in next year’s elections. Drilon conceded the PDP-Laban intramurals will consequently benefit the ranks of the opposition.

Drilon asserted the PDP-Laban will be decimated the same way because Filipinos continue to thrive on “personality-based politics.” He vividly recalled how the ruling administration party of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) got split up a year before the May, 1992 presidential elections. Drilon was then the executive secretary of Mrs. Aquino during her last year in office at Malacañang in June, 1992.

The LDP was formed out of the Lakas ng Bayan (Laban) party of Mrs. Aquino’s slain husband, ex-Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. along with other political parties that coalesced with them, including the PDP-Laban of the late Senate president Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Sr.

The LDP stalwarts and members jumped ship after Mrs. Aquino chose ex-Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) as her “anointed” successor over the late LDP chieftain former House Speaker Ramon Mitra Sr. Without any political background then, FVR formed his own Lakas ng Tao-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD). It was loosely organized by the political figures led by FVR’s late sister, former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani and fellow province-mate from Pangasinan, then ordinary Congressman Jose de Venecia and former Cabinet colleague, the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul Manglapus.

When FVR became president, Drilon served as Justice Secretary and became a card-bearing member of the Lakas-CMD. Drilon finally launched his own political career when he run and won as Senator during the 1995 elections. He had a falling out with the FVR administration and joined the LP before he got re-elected for a second term at the Senate until 2007.

The Lakas-CMD suffered mass defections when FVR was succeeded into office by former president Joseph Estrada. Carried by his own Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), Mr. Estrada won by a landslide margin over De Venecia as the administration-backed candidate in the 1998 presidential elections. Same old faces of political butterflies joined en masse the PMP as the new ruling party then.

Meanwhile, Drilon got elected back at the Senate in 2010. He was re-elected in 2016 and is now serving his second and last term. He became Senate president three times. Twice of which, Drilon was Senate chief at the 15th and 16th Congress during the six-year term of PNoy.

At 75 years old, Drilon has ruled out his running for the presidency. He, however, vows to continue his role as chief fiscalizer as Senate minority leader when President Duterte ceremonially opens the third and last sessions of the 18th Congress this July 26.

Drilon’s favorite quip is: “been there, done that.”  For someone having sat on the front row seat right at the ringside of politics, he enjoys the clear view watching the power play in and out of Malacañang.

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