President Rodrigo Duterte defended on Saturday the election of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi as the new president of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and blamed Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for setting the ground for the party to be divided.
Cusi’s election as PDP-Laban president comes weeks after he was expelled from the party along with two other officials.
For his part, former PDP-Laban president Senator Manny Pacquiao said he refuses to recognize his “ouster” as president of PDP-Laban.
Duterte defended the election of Cusi, saying there is nothing in the party’s by-laws “which would provide for an acting president solely upon the push and shove of the president,” in effect saying Pacquiao’s appointment as acting PDP-Laban president was questionable.
He added that Pimentel “started the ruckus” by appointing Pacquiao as the “acting president” of PDP-Laban late last year.
“You just do not push somebody there. ‘You can now serve as the president’. That is not how things are done,” Duterte said partly in Filipino. “It is Koko’s mistake, not Pacquiao’s. Pacquiao does not know anything.”
Duterte acknowledged that Pimentel might make a move to challenge the election of new PDP-Laban officers.
“Perhaps, Koko is now drafting a petition for the Comelec [Commission on Elections]). But let’s see). Let us see. Let us see. He was the one who started the ruckus,” he said partly in Filipino.
Duterte, however, reminded Pimentel that PDP-Laban, which was “asleep for 100 years,” only “woke up during the election and when I ran for the presidency under the ticket”.
Amid the feud within the PDP-Laban, Duterte called on his party mates to remain focused on their ultimate goal of bringing comfortable life to all Filipinos.
“Let us not be blinded by our own ambitions and let us not allow this party to advance personal interests,” Duterte said. “To my dear party mates, let us never lose sight of the founding principles from which this party was built on. And let us never forget that our end goal is always to improve welfare of the Filipino people.”
Duterte said the attendance of PDP-Laban members in the national assembly sends a “clear and resounding” message that the ruling party is “as strong as ever.”
“Despite all the challenges that we are facing, your unwavering support for this administration’s priorities – especially our campaign against illegal drugs, terrorism, corruption, and poverty – is truly reassuring,” he said.
Given that the PDP-Laban has “grown big” and that its members appear to be “united” until the end of his term, Duterte vowed to campaign for those who want to run in the 2022 local and national and elections.
Pimentel immediately issued a statement after Cusi was elected president to replace Pacquiao, saying that “the gathering hosted by Sec. Cusi is not recognized by the present PDP-Laban leadership.”
He also called the assembly of PDP-Laban at Clark, Pampanga on Saturday a “farce” and told members of the party to continue standing behind Pacquiao as party president.