MANILA - Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Wednesday blasted members of the administration party, PDP-Laban, who are supporting "outsiders" for the 2022 national elections.
Pimentel, executive vice-chairman and former president of PDP-Laban, said in a statement that a certain group is "actively re-organizing" the party from within, without proper authority.
The senator cited the actions of PDP-Laban vice-chairman and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi. The latter organized a meeting in Cebu City in late May even though PDP-Laban acting President and Senator Manny Pacquiao reportedly forbade it. But Malacañang noted that party chair President Rodrigo Duterte sanctioned the gathering.
"He (Cusi) not only excluded top party officials from the planning of the event, but he also kept the party president, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, from helping coordinate and fix the agenda for the said meeting, which is required under the party's Constitution," Pimentel said.
"Hence, we ask: Why the need for secrecy in the agenda?"
He then accused those who attended the Cebu meeting of planning to nominate a non-party member as the presidential bet of PDP-Laban.
"Worst of all, this group is hiding behind the popularity of the President in order to do this," Pimentel said.
The gathering in Cebu resulted in a call for Duterte to seek the vice-presidency in next year's elections, and for him to choose his running mate.
Due to the President's possible vice-presidential candidacy, his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, is being pushed as the 2022 bet of the administration.
Officials have shown support for the leader of the regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP).
Pimentel expressed his concern over the "future" of PDP-Laban amid strong support from party mates for an "outsider".
The senator, a long-time member of PDP-Laban, blasted the party's "newcomers" for trying to hijack the party for their "own selfish political interests".
Pimentel asserted that the party has its own "talented people" to run for the presidency in 2022.
"However, there is this rogue group which immediately wants to shoot down the possible candidacies of our legitimate, talented, credible, and proven party mates. We should not allow this to happen! The PDP-Laban candidate for President in the 2022 elections must come from the PDP-Laban members!" he said.
Pimentel urged the "rogue group" to leave PDP-Laban if it doesn't comply with party ideology and rules.
"You can always join the group of that party outsider whose presidential ambitions you are supporting. There will be no hard feelings between us," he said.
Cusi earlier denied he was pushing for an "outsider" as PDP-Laban's standard bearer. Duterte-Carpio has also said that she's not interested in joining her father's party.
Pacquiao is seen as a competitive presidential candidate when Duterte's 6-year term expires next June. Despite the senator's perceived intention to join the presidential race, PDP-Laban has no decision yet on who to support.
Pimentel earlier said their partymates should rally behind Pacquiao whatever national position the boxer-senator will be seeking next year as the latter can still run for another term as senator.