MANILA — The endorsement of former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr.'s presidential bid in May by Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi and his followers in the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) is a mere "PR stunt", Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, son of the party's founder, said Tuesday.
Aside from supposedly serving as proof of the illegitimacy of their membership with PDP-Laban, the declaration of support for Marcos, who currently leads in presidential surveys, may have something to do with the Cusi camp's strategy of associating themselves with those in power, Pimentel said.
“Kami pong mga lehitimong PDP-Laban, alam namin na hijack lang po yung ginagawa nila, 'tsaka PR stunt lang po yan," Pimentel, interviewed on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo on Tuesday evening, said of the Cusi camp's Marcos endorsement.
[We, the legitimate members of PDP-Laban, know that the Cusi camp is just trying to hijack the party, and that their recent move is just a PR stunt.)
"Dinadaan lang tayo sa press release... Mayaman kasi silang grupo, maraming pera. Kaya, maganda media coverage nila... Yung mga iba, bagong sali lang, pa-lider-lider na, pa-hijack-hijack na ng partido, pinapalaki lang yung papel, kunyari ganyan sila ka-influential," he added.
(They try to project themselves to us through their press releases... It's because they are a well-funded group, they have plenty of money. That's why, they have a good media coverage... New members of the party are acting like leaders already, and even hijack the organization. They try to portray themselves as having major roles in the party, and that they are that influential.)
Pimentel, who is backing the presidential bid of his ally in the party, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, said the Marcos endorsement should serve as evidence that Cusi does not know the history of PDP-Laban and that he is not a legitimate member or leader of the party.
Cusi, as far as his group is concerned, is the party's incumbent president, with President Rodrigo Duterte as chairman.
The other faction, meanwhile, recognizes Pimentel as party chairman and Pacquiao as president. They also regard Cusi along with a few other members as already expelled from the party.
The Comelec has yet to resolve the petition of the Cusi wing that essentially seeks to determine which of the two factions is the legitimate PDP-Laban.
"Wala siyang kaalam-alam, hindi niya alam na binuo yang PDP-Laban sa panahon ng Marcos martial rule, para nga labanan ang Marcos martial rule," Pimentel said of Cusi. He was referring to the dictatorial rule of Bongbong's father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
(He has no knowledge the the PDP-Laban was formed during the time of the Marcos martial rule to oppose that.)
PDP-Laban was formed in 1982 after PDP, the largest opposition party at that time in Mindanao that was founded in the 1970s by the late Sen. Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., merged with Laban, also then the largest opposition party in Luzon.
Committing to cite the Marcos endorsement to get the Commission on Elections' declaration of the Cusi faction as illegitimate PDP-Laban members, Pimentel said, "Ibig sabihin n'un (That means), they are not really PDP-Laban members. They don't even understand what the party is about or the history of the party."
"Yung mga nakulong na mga kapartido, mga namatay na kapartido namin, hindi nila alam, wala silang kaalam-alam," he added.
(The Cusi group doesn't know about our party mates in the past who were jailed, who died.)
Pimentel's father was among those arrested and jailed during the Martial Law imposition from 1972 after protesting certain provisions in the Constitution that was drafted at that time.
Pimentel's sentiment was also shared by Pacquiao, who is eyeing the country's top post under PROMDI, and the camp of Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, another presidential aspirant in May.
"How a PDP-Laban... can now support the candidacy of their founding father's nemesis is beyond any principled choice," said Lito Banayo, the campaign manager of Domagoso.
"Ang gusto lang nila, magamit sa pulitika, magpabango. Siguro, (kung saan ang) ihip ng hangin, dun lang sila, sana mapansin sila. Siguro kung manalo, baka mag-apply, ma-appoint. Mga ganun lang po 'yan," Pimentel said of the Cusi group.
(It's just politics for them, and they are trying to create a good impression. Maybe, they go where the wind blows and then, they hope to be noticed. And maybe, when their bet wins, they will probably apply for positions and then get appointed. That's probably how they are.)
"Sakay-sakay lang naman 'yang mga 'yan eh. Kung sino ang in power, sakay-sakay eh," he added.
(They are just riding on others. They just want to ride on whoever is in power.)
In this regard, Pimentel issued a warning: "Kaya, kahit yung mananalo, mag-ingat din sa kanila, kasi ito yung mga tinatawag na fair weather friends, or fair weather people. Ihip ng hangin."
(So, whoever wins in the elections, they should be cautious of the Cusi group, because these are what we call 'fair weather friends' or 'fair weather people'. They go where the wind blows.)
Pimentel claims that Cusi is out to destroy PDP-Laban, saying that the latter’s group will eventually leave the party for another one after the May 9 elections.
"After the elections, wala namang ibang magre-rehabilitate nung partido kung hindi ako kasi ako lang naman ang invested diyan sa totoo, eh. Dugo, pawis, oras, energy, ibinuhos ko na diyan sa PDP-Laban," he said.
(After the elections, no one else will rehabilitate the party but me because honestly, I'm the only one who is invested here. I've poured blood, sweat, time and energy into PDP-Laban.)
Pimentel said Cusi's group actually has the right to put up their own party, if they want to, instead of hijacking the 40-year-old PDP-Laban party.
"Magbuo na lang sila ng sarili nilang partido para wala na kaming gulo. Pangalanan nila, Ihip Ng Hangin political party," he said.
(Why don't they just form their own party so we won't have trouble anymore. They can name it, Wind Blow political party.)
Noting the effects of the actions of Cusi's group, Pimentel said the Comelec should already resolve the PDP-Laban legitimacy contest, and treat all cases filed before it as urgent.
CUSI WING'S ENDORSEMENT OF MARCOS
A resolution signed by Cusi and his colleagues in their faction said "Senator Bongbong Marcos is the candidate whose platform is most aligned with the development program of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte."
"Bukod dun sa pag-continue, if you observe the behavior of former senator BBM - we know that everybody was criticized by the President, even BBM - but it's only BBM na wala siyang sinabi, walang masamang sinabi kay Pangulong Duterte," Melvin Matibag, who serves as secretary-general of the Cusi faction and Duterte's Cabinet Secretary, said during their press conference earlier in the day, referring to Marcos by his initials.
(Aside from continuity, if you observe the behavior of former senator BBM - we know that everybody was criticized by the President, even BBM - but it's only BBM who did not say anything back and did not speak ill of President Duterte.)
Late last year, Duterte called Marcos spoiled and a weak leader.
"In fact, pagkatapos nung mga nasabi sa kaniya, he is still willingly saying na, 'Itutuloy ko kung ano yung sinimulan ni Pangulo'. And that shows character of a candidate," Matibag continued.
(In fact, after what has been said about him, Marcos is still willingly saying, 'I will continue whatever the President has started'.)
The Cusi wing's resolution also stated that Marcos' "vision of governance is most aligned with PDP-Laban's 11-point agenda."
Told of Pimentel's initial reaction immediately about the Marcos endorsement, Cusi said at their press conference: "He is entitled to his opinion. And he has been opposed to us, so what do we expect? And with that, hindi na natin papatulan... We are moving forward."
Cusi's camp has no reaction yet to Pimentel's remarks during the TeleRadyo interview.
IS MARCOS ALSO ENDORSED BY DUTERTE?
While Cusi said their endorsement does not translate to Duterte's support for Marcos, Pimentel urged the chief executive to keep his hands off.
“Siguro kung ako rin ang nasa sitwasyon ni Pangulong Duterte, totohanin mo na, hands off muna. Ihanda mo na lang itong administration na i-turn over sa next president,” Pimentel said.
[If I were President Duterte, I would just keep my hands off and just prepare to turn over the administration to the next president.]
Duterte's acting spokesman, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, said it is unclear if the faction's endorsement of Marcos is also the chief executive’s personal position.
"Hintayin na lang natin si Pangulong Duterte kung ano ang kaniyang personal na desisyon," Andanar said in a press briefing during the day.
The PDP-Laban Cusi wing initially fielded Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa as their presidential bet in the May polls, along with Sen. Christoper "Bong" Go, Duterte's longtime aide, as vice presidential candidate.
The two, however, withdrew after Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, joined the vice presidential race under Lakas-CMD, in tandem with Marcos.
Go became a substitute presidential bet of the PDDS party, but backed out again.