The short end of the stick

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Very harsh words were being exchanged as the ongoing party intramurals heat up among top leaders of the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). Directly involved in the intra-party quarrels is no less than President Rodrigo Duterte who is the nominal chieftain of the PDP-Laban. At Clark City last Saturday, President Duterte hurled his latest tirades on the father-and-son co-founders of the PDP-Laban.

While acknowledging the party that supported him in the May, 2016 elections, President Duterte lambasted the late Senate president Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. and his namesake son, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III who are the recognized co-founders of the PDP-Laban. “It was a father-and-son party. Period. And they are not even recognized in Cagayan de Oro City. Totoo ‘yan. I am not trying to throw an insult. They cannot win. Magtakbo yang si Koko, maski barangay captain talo ‘yan sa kanila,” President Duterte ranted.

The President particularly censured the younger Pimentel of mishandling the party affairs as current vice chairman of the PDP-Laban national executive committee. The Chief Executive echoed the laments of their partymates when Pimentel turned over the leadership to Sen.Manny Pacquiao as “acting” president of the PDP-Laban in December last year without going through the party’s election process.

“Ang nagkamali diyan si Koko. Hindi si Pacquiao. Pacquiao does not know anything. Kung anong sabihin – totoo – kung ano mang sabihin, hindi naman nagbabasa ‘yan eh,” the President bristled. A few days earlier, the President strongly took exceptions to Pacquiao’s allegations of unmitigated “corruption” persists in government. Calling several times the world boxing champion-turned Senator as “punch drunk,” President Duterte challenged Pacquiao to give specifics of the alleged corruption under his present administration.

Thus, before he left to fight for boxing title bout scheduled next month in the United States, Pacquiao filed a Senate Resolution seeking a legislative inquiry into alleged mis-use of multi-million pesos worth of “ayuda” or cash subsidy distributed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for families economically dislocated by the on-going coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Guesting in my Kapihan sa Manila Bay last week, Pimentel justified his actions for selecting Pacquiao to take over the helm of the PDP-Laban. Citing he merely wanted what is best for the party, Pimentel admitted he was grooming Pacquiao as the most winnable, if not most qualified PDP-Laban candidate for the next presidential elections. This is the “continuity” that their partymates wish for, Pimentel pointed out, by ensuring the next elected successor of President Duterte would be another PDP-Laban.

Insisting he knows by heart the PDP-Laban constitution which he claimed having wrote himself, Pimentel, however, could not point the basis of his appointing Pacquiao as “acting” president of the party. Nonetheless, Pimentel announced at the same Kapihan sa Manila Bay zoom webinar that the PDP-Laban will hold its party convention to pick their candidates once Pacquiao returns from the US this September.

With battle lines clearly drawn between the two feuding PDP-Laban camps, President Duterte, however, has not counted out Pimentel.

In the meeting at Clark City, both Pacquiao and Pimentel lost their respective posts when all positions were declared vacant. Pacquiao was replaced by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi as the newly elected PDP-Laban president while Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles was voted to replace Pimentel.

Ironically, Cusi along with two other PDP-Laban party officials were earlier ousted in a Resolution approved by Pacquiao and Pimentel. Cusi was sanctioned for proceeding with PDP-Laban meeting in Cebu last May when they invoked the need for “continuity” and approved a Resolution asking President Duterte to run as their party’s vice presidential (VP) candidate in the coming May, 2022 elections.

“And I think Secretary Cusi did not like it. So from there, it spiraled into a more vicious narratives of charge and countercharge,” the President noted.

Set to step down from office on June 30,2022 at the end of his six-year term, the outgoing President told his partymates he agrees on the need for him to make a run for VP. Throwing another bombshell, he invoked immunity from suits amid threats of prosecution by his political enemies. The President’s theory though was quickly shot down by legal and constitutional experts who included his own Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra. They all declared the country’s 1987 Constitution did not grant the VP post such immunity from suit unlike the presidency.

The Chief Executive expects the Pimentel camp “to fight tool and nail” to keep the PDP-Laban to themselves. “Especially Koko. Ano talaga – parang kanila talaga ‘yan eh at totoo naman. It was the founding Pimentel, the old man who really ‘yung ginawa niya ito. It’s a work of love sa kanya. Pero ang problema, ang anak ang walang ano – walang diskarte na tama,” he fumed.

“And may I just remind Koko na itong party-ng PDP was asleep for a hundred years. It only woke up during the election and when I ran for the presidency under the ticket,” the former Davao City Mayor tooted.

To his credit, Pimentel vows the PDP-Laban Senators would not be distracted by the party intramurals in pushing for the administration’s priority legislative agenda still pending passage into law in the 18th Congress before they wind down before elections. In fact, Pimentel listed down several priority bills he was tasked to shepherd as chairman of the Senate committee on trade as well as the foreign relations committee.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is an expression of a person who cannot be hurt by insults, verbal abuse and unpleasant things that are said to him or her. Given the urgency of these measures pending at the 18th Congress, these bills might get the short end of the stick.

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