Party implosion

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

It never fails: in all general elections since the end of the dictatorship, the dominant political party always implodes.

We’re seeing this again in the case of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan. Currently described as the ruling party, the PDP-Laban is headed inexorably toward a split that could reach all the way to the Supreme Court.

The faction of acting party president Sen. Manny Pacquiao and executive vice chairman Sen. Koko Pimentel has jumped the gun on opponents and announced the expulsion from the party of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi plus two other officials.

Cusi, who is party vice chairman, shrugged off the announcement as “fake news” and is preparing for the PDP-Laban national council meeting on July 17, during which his faction is expected to oust Pacquiao as acting president if not expel him as well.

The betting is split on how Cusi’s group might deal with Pimentel. Surely Koko Pimentel will lay claim to the “real” PDP-Laban and will want to preserve the legacy of his father, senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., who co-founded the party with Ninoy Aquino to fight the Marcos dictatorship.

Pacquiao, while a global boxing icon, is hardly a torchbearer for Ninoy Aquino and Nene Pimentel. But Pacquiao has not denied stories about his interest in running for president next year. Naturally, he hopes his party will back him.

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Cusi, obviously, represents a party faction that has other plans. Undeterred by Pacquiao’s jab about focusing on his work and addressing the power outages plaguing the country, Cusi is seen as a point man in efforts to ensure the “continuity” of the current administration.

Pacquiao, who has been shooting his mouth off about issues such as Duterte’s China-centric foreign policy, clearly does not figure in those plans.

Duterte has been shamelessly plugging his aide Bong Go as his successor, but this looks like a ruse for the real game plan, which is to expand the Davao dynasty to the entire country.

Last Friday Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio finally said in Cebu that she is “open” to running for president in 2022. If “Daughterte” is running for president, the father can’t vie for the second highest office in the land. That will smack too much of greed for power. Or is the greed being underestimated?

Sara has already said that a Duterte-Duterte tandem will “never happen.” So her father must be serious in pitching for House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez as vice presidential bet. Romualdez is a son of Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, brother of Imeldific, widow of Duterte’s idol for all time Ferdinand Marcos.

We don’t know where the President’s endorsement of Romualdez puts Gilbert Teodoro, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s “anointed” successor and defense chief, who has declared his intent to run next year as Mayor Sara’s running mate.

Cusi and his group have said they are ready to support Mayor Sara. There’s only one problem: Daughterte is not a member of PDP-Laban and has made it clear that she does not intend to be, thank you; she already has her regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago.

That support for the “outsider” Daughterte was the reason cited by Pacquiao’s camp for Cusi’s expulsion from the PDP-Laban. Pacquiao’s group has also called on those backing Cusi to leave the party.

*      *      *

Considering recent developments, the PDP-Laban might in fact see an exodus of its fair-weather members to Hugpong, which will likely have to register as a national party.

Among the parties reported to be seeking an alliance for 2022 with Hugpong so far are the Lakas-CMD of Arroyo and former speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.; billionaire Manny Villar’s Nacionalista; the late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s People’s Reform Party; Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, and political strategist Ronaldo Puno’s National Unity Party.

There’s a standing joke that before Rodrigo Duterte’s landslide win in 2016 under the PDP-Laban banner, you could fit the party’s members inside a Volkswagen Beetle.

After his victory, all the rats from the losing parties abandoned ship and jumped to the PDP-Laban, elevating it to its current position as the dominant political party.

Party switching is the norm in all elections in this country. There is no law against it, no punishment or even censure for political turncoats. After every election, politicians shamelessly flit like butterflies from losing parties to the winning one, and a new ruling party is born.

Being a turncoat is made easier by the fact that parties stand for nothing in this country. The PDP-Laban founded by Ninoy Aquino and Nene Pimentel fought Marcos’ authoritarian rule, but just look at the current party roster and you’ll see that things have gone downhill since then.

It’s doubtful that party members will see anything wrong with this. Political parties in this country take pride only in their numbers. They mouth the same motherhood statements on most topics and rarely have a party stand on controversial issues.

*      *      *

So what might be a bigger challenge for those opposed to “continuity” – Daughterte running for president, or Duterte for VP?

Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio is one of those who believe President Duterte was telling the truth when he said recently that his reported plan to seek the vice presidency was just “posturing” so he won’t be a lame duck in his final months.

As for Sara Duterte, early surveys on presidential races have been proven wrong in previous elections. In the 2019 race, all her candidates in Davao were trounced by her nemesis, ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

And if it’s popularity, Pacquiao and his rags-to-fantabulous-riches story cannot be easily counted out. Especially if he beats Errol Spence Jr. in their bout next month.

In Sara versus Pacman, political parties would hardly matter.

There are Pinoys groaning: aren’t there other candidates? Wala na bang iba? Why are we such gluttons for punishment? We seem determined to clinch our title as Asia’s basket case.

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