MANILA (3rd UPDATE) —Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi on Saturday was elected PDP-Laban's new president during the party's national assembly, replacing Sen. Manny Pacquiao.
President Rodrigo Duterte, the party's chairman, was present during the assembly in Clark, Pampanga and led the oath-taking of new officers.
Duterte also reiterated his support for Cusi, and dismissed the attempts of Pacquiao and party ally Sen. Koko Pimentel to take control of the party that Duterte leads but was founded by Pimentel's father, the late Aquilino 'Nene' Pimentel Jr.
"Pacquiao does not know anything. Hindi naman nagbabasa 'yan e. Basta kung ano lang sabihin ng mga ano niya, sunod," Duterte said.
(Pacquiao does not know anything. He does not even read. Whatever his people tell him, he just follows.)
In a statement, PDP-Laban members who support Pacquiao called the Clark assembly a "farce" and "illegal."
Sen. Pimentel said the party now faces a test, and urged his allies to stand by Pacquiao's side.
“Tayo po ay may hinaharap na pagsubok ngayon sa ating partido kaya ang importante ay manatili po tayong malakas at magtiwala sa liderato ng ating partido sa ilalim ng ating presidente na si Senator Manny Pacquiao,” he said.
(We are facing challenges today in our party, that's why it is important for us to be strong and to trust the party's leadership under Sen. Pacquiao.)
“Huwag po tayong mag-alala kasi ang talagang ipinaglalaban namin dito ay yung boses po ng ating mga chapter members sa buong bansa.”
(Let us not worry because we will fight for you, most especially for our chapter members nationwide.)
PDP-Laban Secretary-General Melvin Matibag earlier declared all national officer positions and committee chairs vacant, including Pacquiao's post as acting president, while Pacquiao remains in the United States training for a world title fight in August.
Eighty-two delegates attended the national assembly via video-conferencing, besides those physically present at the venue, to reach a quorum.
PARTY ASSEMBLY NOT RECOGNIZED
Pimentel, a long-time member of the party, said the "existing PDP-Laban leadership" does not recognize the national assembly.
He added that their faction will "continue to function as the party."
"Since Sec. Cusi wants to be a stickler for rules, then he should follow all the rules of the Party. You cannot make attendees to a PDP-Laban party assembly instant members of the party on the spot!" the lawmaker said.
Meanwhile, the other newly-elected party leaders are the following, according to Matibag:
- Executive Vice President - Cabinet Sec. Carlo Nograles
- VP for NCR - Edwin Olivarez
- VP for Luzon - Raul Lambino
- VP for Visayas - Ben Evardone
- VP for Mindanao - Charito Plaza
- National Treasurer Rianne Cuevas
- Auditor General - Sen. Bong Go
- Membership- Astravel Naik
- Education - Noel Felongco
- Finance -Antonio Kho
- Legal -Richard Nethercot
- Public Information - Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya
- Livelihood- Reymar Mansilungan
- Youth Affairs - Maria Katrina Nicole Contacto
CUSI SAYS DUTERTE HAS 'OVERWHELMING SUPPORT'
In his speech at the Royce Hotel in Clark, Pampanga, Cusi said the President enjoys "overwhelming support" from the Filipino public due to his anti-drugs and criminality drive.
"[President] Duterte enjoys overwhelming support from an overwhelming majority of Filipinos. The Filipinos now feel safer, they can go around without fear. They can use their cellphones without it being snatched," Cusi said.
"Despite the success of his advocacy... The successful advocacy against drugs and criminality has been vilified and publicly maligned by those who have outside perspective of the situation."
However, Duterte's drug war is a subject of possible investigation by the International Criminal Court, due to alleged crimes against humanity.
Analysis by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group indicates that the drug war death toll continues to rise. The number of drug-related deaths in the first 6 months this year is nearly twice higher from March to December last year, when lockdowns were strictly enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, research shows.
The energy secretary also called on his party mates to support Duterte's possible run in next year's elections.
"We in PDP-Laban appreciate what the president is doing, his achievement, his feat is unprecedented. I rally this great party in support of our own chairman. Let us help him in this upcoming election season," said the newly-elected party president.
"This national assembly should unite to advance and support the war against drugs and criminality advocated by our party chairman."
Over a week ago, Cusi was among those expelled from the party by the Pacquiao faction amid the growing rift between the two groups.
Some 10,000 PDP-Laban members supposedly signed a manifesto against Cusi and other officials, according to a statement by PDP-Laban executive-director Ron Munsayac.
Early this week, Matibag said the 2-day PDP-Laban assembly was meant to discuss the committee council reports, as well as hold elections for the party's new leaders.
- Reports from Dennis Gasgonia, Job Manahan, and Johnson Manabat, ABS-CBN News