Rival suspects effort to delay Halalan 2022 after Duterte ally seeks to reopen COC filing

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 03 2022 03:37 PM

Cusi wing says only 'exercising its rights' 

President Rodrigo Duterte, chairman of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino - Lakas ng Bayan (PDP- Laban), administers the oath to new members of the party during the ceremony and proclamation of local candidates at the Iligan Medical Center College Auditorium in Iligan City on Oct. 16, 2021. Ace Morandante, Presidential Photo/File
President Rodrigo Duterte, chairman of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino - Lakas ng Bayan (PDP- Laban), administers the oath to new members of the party during the ceremony and proclamation of local candidates at the Iligan Medical Center College Auditorium in Iligan City on Oct. 16, 2021. Ace Morandante, Presidential Photo/File

MANILA — A member of the self-titled "original" faction of PDP-Laban on Monday accused President Rodrigo Duterte's group of seeking to derail this year's elections by urging the poll body to reopen the filing of candidacies. 

"Even with a lame-duck leadership, they still want to be relevant and they are now begging the Comelec at another chance to offer whoever to become their standard-bearer," Lutgardo Barbo, vice chairman of the PDP-Laban wing under Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, said of their rival's appeal to the Comelec for a reopening of the COC filing.

Melvin Matibag, secretary general of the Duterte-backed PDP-Laban faction led by Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi, urged the Comelec to reopen the submission of certificates of candidacy and postpone the printing of ballots supposedly because it has yet to resolve cases against several contenders and party-list groups. 

The COC filing for the May 9, 2022 elections was held last Oct. 1 to 8.

"Their Petition may result in delaying and derailing the electoral process and benefit at a chance to have failed elections to prolong their hold on power. Delay in the printing of ballots and processing of CoCs will have that effect," Barbo said in a statement.

The Cusi wing was left without a standard-bearer for the upcoming polls after two of their supposed presidential bets, Senators Christopher Go and Ronald Dela Rosa, withdrew their candidacies. 

Without a standard-bearer and left with candidates who are not even party members, Barbo said, "Cusi and his gang of party crashers have already lost the clout and the leverage to claim any authority over the original members of the PDP Laban."

Barbo said in trying to reopen the COC filing, Cusi's group "admitted that it was impossible for them to comply with simple deadlines of the Comelec after their much-publicized hubris that they are in control of the Party and they are the team to beat."

"It is also an admission that they do not offer anything to the electorate other than their lust for continuous power," said Barbo, a Senate contender. 

CUSI WING SAYS LET COMELEC DECIDE 

The Cusi wing said it "is only exercising its rights under the election laws."

"Let the Comelec rule on the petition based on legal arguments/merits. Let us not focus on naysayers dwelling on conjectures and name-calling," the group said in a statement. 

"The petition is based on a constitutional precept on the exercise of suffrage. And as a consequence, it is also imploring on the Comelec to resolve all issues before the ballots are printed," it added. 

Aside from having no standard bearer, the Cusi group also lacks a vice presidential candidate. 

Duterte previously considered vying for the No. 2 job, before he ended up registering as a substitute candidate for senator under a different party. He withdrew from the Senate race in early December. 

The Comelec has yet to resolve the issue on which of the two factions is the legitimate PDP-Laban, a party co-founded by Pimentel's father, the late Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel, Jr.

SENATE 'CAN PRESERVE PRESIDENTIAL LINE OF SUCCESSION' 
 
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he "would not like to think" that the Cusi wing wanted to delay the election and pave the way for an extension of Duterte's term beyond June 30, 2022. 

"This is something the 1987 Constitution clearly forbids," said Lacson, who is running for president.

"As I have suggested earlier to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and some of my colleagues, the Senate must not allow this to happen."

Lacson said senators "can preserve the presidential line of succession" before Congress adjourns by electing a new Senate President whose term expires on June 30, 2025. 

"He/she shall act as President until a new President or Vice President shall have been chosen and qualified," said the senator. 

"Most of my colleagues have already agreed to this proposal, since democracy and the fundamental law of the land could be at risk," he added. 

But Lacson clarified, "I am not accusing the administration of any malevolent attempt in this possible scenario."

"What I’m only saying is that the Senate will always be the bulwark of our democracy, and I take pride in playing a major role in it," he said. 

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