Dead ends

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Still in the middle of fighting the resurgence of the pandemic in our country, we were treated to a string of shock-and-awe political announcements from the sidelines. In March this year, it was suddenly announced that President Rodrigo Duterte was being drafted as vice presidential (VP) candidate for the May 9, 2022 elections. The ruling administration Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) launched a signature campaign to convince President Duterte to run for VP.

House Deputy Speaker and Valenzuela City Rep. Eric Martinez first revealed that several party stalwarts have already signed the resolution. The PDP-Laban resolution cited the urgency to ensure the “continuity” of projects and programs started by President Duterte.

In fact, Martinez disclosed Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, party vice-chairman of the PDP-Laban at that time, was “going around the country consulting” with their members regarding the resolution. As it turned out later, however, the purported PDP-Laban draft resolution was being passed among their partymates without the knowledge of Senators Manny Pacquiao and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III who were their “acting” president and Koko as vice chairman of their National Council, respectively.

Naturally, both Pacquiao and Koko fought back with all their might. But President Duterte, who is their nominal party chieftain, upheld the actions of Cusi et.al. Pacquiao threatened to take disciplinary actions against their partymates for allegedly violating party rules of the PDP-Laban. Supported by PDP-Laban members calling themselves as “the originals,” the boxing champion-turned politician installed Koko as the new chairman of the party’s National Council. Effectively, Pacquiao removed President Duterte as the titular head of the PDP-Laban.

To borrow one idiom, hell hath no fury than these men scorned.

Instead, however, it was Pacquiao who was unceremoniously booted out of the party leadership. His ouster came just after he lost his last professional boxing match in Las Vegas on August 21 this year. It was far worse for Koko whose namesake father, the late Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. was among the founding leaders of the PDP-Laban. The next thing Koko knew, the rug was being pulled under his feet.

In our Kapihan sa Manila Bay zoom webinar on July 14, Koko recalled it all started after he designated Pacquiao as “acting” president of the PDP-Laban in December last year. Koko admitted this was to start grooming Pacquiao as the most feasible and winnable candidate of the ruling party in the next presidential elections. But Koko did it the wrong way.

Obviously, the Cusi bloc deemed Pimentel dictated and imposed upon them his sole discretion when the party has a selection process for drafting the official candidates of the PDP-Laban. But actually, the PDP-Laban Cusi bloc have other presidential candidate in their mind who they think is more qualified and much more winnable than Pacquiao. Initially, the Cusi bloc floated the name of Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go. But even with President Duterte as his VP runningmate, Go vehemently rejected the PDP-Laban presidential draft.

The Pacquiao-Pimentel bloc though suspects the Go-Duterte tandem for PDP-Laban was just a “smokescreen” for their actual presidential candidate: Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. Consistently topping mock polls as the most preferred choice in both the presidential and VP race, Mayor Sara, however, repeatedly rejected also and ignored calls and petitions for her to run for higher national office.

While she dismissed survey ratings showing her winnability in the national race, Mayor Sara entered in coalition agreements in July this year with five national political parties. Except with PDP-Laban. As the founding leader of her own regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), Mayor Sara renewed coalition pacts with the Lakas-CMD; the Nacionalista Party (NP); the People’s Reform Party (PRP); the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP); and the National Unity Party (NUP) which previously coalesced with her during the May 2019 mid-term elections.

But when her name was dragged into the PDP-Laban party intramurals, Mayor Sara issued a press statement that publicly admonished President Duterte and Go to spare her from the political drama at Malacañang. It was at the same time Mayor Sara declared there should be only “one Duterte” to run for national office. Ostensibly, this was to disabuse persistent speculations the father-daughter team is gearing up again into what they’ve done in the past. She and her father have historically switched posts and got elected either as Mayor or Vice Mayor to keep the Duterte stranglehold in Davao City.

Meantime, Pacquiao filed his COC under the Cebu-based PROMDI while Koko elevated their party intramurals before the Commission on Elections (Comelec). If deep throat sources are correct, Koko’s bloc is getting back PDP-Laban.

President Duterte, on the other hand, withdrew from his nomination from the VP draft. The President was quoted telling his closest Cabinet advisers he will not run if his daughter eventually changes her mind to run for a national office. In his televised “talk to the people,” the President mused about his retirement from politics and just to prepare for his legal defense. He anticipates possible cases being readied against him once his presidential immunity from suits ends on June 30 next year.

Meanwhile, the PDP-Laban pulled out a hat trick anew at the closing hours of filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) last Oct. 8. They fielded Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa as their presidential candidate and Go as his VP runningmate. It was a day after Mayor Sara filed her COC for re-election as Davao City Mayor. Last week, the Cusi-led bloc of PDP-Laban announced they will convince President Duterte to run instead for the Senate. Question: Who is the “placeholder” to give way from among the eight pro-administration and PDP-Laban candidates in the 12-man senatorial race?

Still up in the air is the Nov. 15 deadline for substitution of candidates. Until then, these dead ends on this rigmarole in politics will fester on.


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