MANILA (UPDATE) - Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Saturday asserted his power as PDP-Laban president, saying he would stay in the ruling party despite a series of verbal attacks from President Rodrigo Duterte and other supposed allies.
Earlier this week, Duterte called Pacquiao a "liar" in a public speech, while PDP-Laban vice chair and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi told the boxer-senator to leave the party before he "burns the house."
"Hangga't ako po ang presidente gagampanan ko po 'yung trabaho ko," Pacquiao said in an online press conference.
"Ayaw ko po nasasabihin nung members ng aking partido na wala akong ginagawa," he said in a presser that was held two hours later than originally set.
(For as long as I am president I will do my job. I don't like being told that I am doing nothing.)
Pacquiao did not directly answer questions on whether infighting within the Philippines' largest political party was rooted in discussions about which member would be PDP-Laban's standard bearer in the upcoming national elections.
"Kung may mga member kami sa partido na iniisip nila na parang stepping stone lang para sa ibang vested interest, not in my time as president of the party," said Pacquiao, who has been vocal about his dream of becoming president.
(If there are party members who think it is just a stepping stone for other vested interests, not in my time as president of the party.)
Pacquiao said he has no plans to leave the ruling party even if several other political parties "have opened their doors" and are ready to welcome him as their new member.
"Marami pong naaawa sa akin dahil wala naman akong ginagawang masama," he said.
(Many take pity on me because I'm not doing anything wrong.)
"Marami pong salamat sa inyong willing na pagtanggap sa akin. Gusto ko ipaalam na nandito pa po ako sa PDP at gusto kong ayusin at turuan ang mga tiwaling miyembro ng partidong ito," he said.
(I would like to thank those willing to accept me. I want you to know that I am still with the PDP and I want to fix it and teach a lesson to corrupt members of the party.)
Pacquiao did not mention particular names, but his rift with Cusi began earlier this year after the Energy Secretary's camp started collecting signatures within the party to urge Duterte to run for Vice President next year.
Cusi then called for a party assembly in Cebu, which Pacquiao deemed illegal as the event allegedly did not go through his proper approval process prescribed under PDP-Laban's bylaws. It was, however, Duterte, the party chair, who called for the meeting, said Cusi.
Pacquiao issued a memo calling on members to ignore Cusi's event, but the gathering pushed through with Duterte's blessing.
The fighting senator likened himself and Cusi to a biblical story about two women fighting over a baby before King Solomon.
"'Yung hindi tunay na ina, gusto niyang hatiin nila 'yung bata. 'Yung tunay na ina, ayaw niya . . . Sila Cusi, gusto nilang buwagin ang partido dahil wala silang malasakit sa partido," he said, a Biblical reference to the judgment of Solomon.
(The illegitimate mother wants to cut the baby in half. The real mother doesn't want that . . . Cusi's camp wants to divide the party because they have no concern for it.)
The PDP-Laban president emphasized that the ruling party is not just composed of Cusi and some 5,000 elected officials who are part of the energy chief's faction.
"Baka hindi po alam ni Cusi, ang PDP-Laban ay hindi lang po ito composed of elected officials," he said.
(Cusi might not be aware that PDP-Laban is not just composed of elected officials.)
"There are 100,000 members of PDP from the grassroots level supporting me as president."
Pacquiao said he would call for a national assembly in September, when he returns to the Philippines after a boxing match in the United States in August.
Pacquiao said this does not mean that he intends to be pitted in a power struggle against Duterte.
"Nandoon pa rin 'yung respeto ko sa Pangulo. Maaaring hindi naiintindihan ng Pangulo. Maaaring maling impormasyon ang nakarating sa kaniya," he said.
(I still respect the Presidednt. Maybe he doesn't understand what's going on. Maybe wrong information reached him.)
"Wala pong dapat ikagalit ang pangulo sa akin . . . Hindi ko po siya inaaway."
(The President has no reason to be mad at me... I am not trying to bicker with him.)
This is not the first time PDP-Laban was embroiled in an internal power struggle shortly before the election season.
In 2018, a group from Mindanao claiming to be party members held an event at the Quezon Memorial Circle criticizing then PDP-Laban Secretary General Pantaleon Alvarez.
The group, led by PDP-Laban national council chair Rogelio Garcia, slammed Alvarez for leading the mass-oath taking of new party members without complying with the application process.
Old party members were not invited to PDP-Laban's 36th anniversary celebration at a hotel in Makati City, Garcia added.
The group issued a resolution declaring Alvarez persona non grata from the party, but then-party president Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III denied that PDP-Laban had made such a declaration.
In 2019, Alvarez accused the ruling party of keeping him in the dark about its decision to back Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco's bid for the House Speakership, which he was also vying for.
Alvarez was hoping to make a comeback as Speaker after he was ousted from the post in 2018 in a coup maneuvered by the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. Then-Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was installed in his place.
Alvarez eventually resigned from the ruling party.