For history to repeat itself

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

The founding fathers of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP–Laban) might be turning in their graves in extreme anger, disfavor, or regret even. The founding fathers of the PDP-Laban, now all deceased, were the late Senators Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., Lorenzo Tañada, and Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. Of the three, it was only ex-Senate president Pimentel who passed away in 2019 got to see their party installed in power at Malacañang former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as President of the country under the PDP-Laban flag.

Described as a center-left to left-wing political party in the Philippines, the three founders of the PDP-Laban sowed and nurtured the party ideology since they put it up in February, 1983. As the highest elected official of the PDP-Laban, President Duterte is the incumbent nominal chieftain of the ruling party in power.

With President Duterte now on the last stretch of his term, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, namesake son of the PDP-Laban co-founder, fears the “internal conflict” heating up among top party officials does not augur well for all concerned. Waxing sentimental, Pimentel metaphorically described the foundation of PDP-Laban as “invested in blood” by their founding fathers.

As the current chairman of the national executive council of the PDP-Laban, Pimentel sought to downplay the party issues as merely instigated by posturing of candidates in the upcoming presidential elections. Pimentel tried to explain the current PDP-Laban party dynamics when he spoke in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay via Zoom Webinar last Wednesday.

In the middle of the controversy, Pimentel noted, is Sen. Manny Pacquiao as the “acting” president of the PDP-Laban. It was Pimentel who turned over the party leadership to Pacquiao in December last year. At that time, Pimentel recalled, Pacquiao was already touted among the top picks in mock polls surveys to run for the next presidential elections. With Pacquiao as the most winnable PDP-Laban presidential standard-bearer, Pimentel vouched for him as best qualified to step in as “acting” president of the party.

Tracing the roots of their “internal conflict,” Pimentel pointed to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi who, as vice chairman of the PDP-Laban national council, convened a meeting in Cebu last May. Invoking the need for “continuity” of the programs and unfinished projects of his administration, a Resolution was approved in that Cebu gathering asking President Duterte to run as PDP-Laban candidate for vice president (VP).

Pimentel concurred with his partymates on the need to ensure “continuity” of the platform of government that President Duterte started for the PDP-Laban. But not through alleged “maneuvers” by other party leaders whom Pimentel accused of trying to take over the PDP-Laban. Worse, he rued, he blamed unnamed interlopers behind Cusi but who have questionable membership in the party.

Both Pimentel and Pacquiao did not attend the PDP-Laban gathering in Cebu. Subsequently, the Pacquiao camp who included Pimentel, ousted Cusi and two other stalwarts from their party. Pimentel admitted he was saddened by the ouster of their party officials, especially Cusi whom he personally recruited as the campaign manager of the PDP-Laban for the May, 2016 presidential elections.

In fairness to presidential daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, Pimentel cited, resigned first from PDP-Laban before she organized her own regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago. As a lawyer, Pimentel stressed, Mayor Sara respected the rule of law and observed the due process they all adhere under PDP-Laban ideology.

Pimentel declared the only way to ensure the “continuity” of PDP-Laban’s ideology is to closely adhere to democratic socialism, left-wing populism under a federal system of government. Despite sincere efforts of President Duterte, he conceded, the PDP-Laban failed in federalism campaign. However, Pimentel is not losing hope they can make fresh attempts on federal shift if another PDP-Laban wins the presidency again.

As of latest party inventory, Pimentel counts as many as 100,000 card-bearing PDP-Laban. Of this total, 7,000 are all politicians who were elected officials down to the town and municipal councilors. He conceded many of these elected officials joined PDP-Laban in bandwagon after President Duterte’s election victory.

But the rest of the PDP-Laban, he cited, are non-political followers who largely comprise the rabidly loyal members. They all stuck with PDP-Laban and survive the ups-and-downs of the party through these years, he added.

Will the PDP-Laban be able to iron out the kinks in their political machinery before the holding of the national and local elections next year? As far as Pimentel is concerned, there is enough time for their partymates to settle their “internal conflict” before the filing of certificates of candidacy from Oct. 1-8 set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Pimentel’s camp is not again joining PDP-Laban national council meeting today in Clark City in Pampanga. Whatever the results of Pacquiao’s boxing title bout in the US, Pimentel announced, the PDP-Laban will hold its party convention in September when their “acting” party president returns to Manila.

Cusi admitted their PDP-Laban camp is open to field an “outsider” other than Pacquiao as presidential standard-bearer.

But choosing an “outsider” as PDP-Laban presidential bet, Pimentel warned, is not the “continuity” they all desire in the party. Now on his second and last term at the Senate ending in 2025, Pimentel vows to work for history to repeat itself: To install into office at Malacañang for the next six years another PDP-Laban member elected under “democractic” principles of the party.

Lest, the PDP-Laban will go back to a ragtag party having members who all could fit in “Volkswagen,” Pimentel riposted to “jeepsize” jab by presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

Continuing the legacy of the founders of PDP-Laban, Pimentel sounds out his unity call to his partymates.

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