2 party filings: Pacquiao-Cusi feud over control of PDP-Laban enters Comelec

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2021 06:48 PM | Updated as of Sep 01 2021 03:51 PM

MANILA— The battle for control of ruling party PDP-Laban now lies before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), a party official said Tuesday, after its 2 factions confirmed that they each filed documents required for political parties in the upcoming 2022 national elections.

Yung submission ng (The submission on) August 5, from point of view, that is the latest submission... that will be the valid submission," Melvin Matibag, who belongs to the faction led by Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi, told reporters in an online press conference.

"The Comelec will act motu proprio. They will call both groups at sasabihin nila na you present your documents. We're preparing something and we will be filing documents before the Comelec," he said.

The Sworn Information Update Statement (SIUS) — a document stating the party's office details, list of officers, list of elected members, and other information— is meant "to ensure that those in the registry are still in existence and continue to comply with the requirements of the Constitution," the Comelec said in an earlier circular.

The SIUS deemed legitimate by the Comelec will be used as the basis on which party officials would sign the Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA), a requirement for candidates who wish to run under a political party.

Candidates who fail to submit a CONA will be deemed as independent bets.

"We are not worried about it. 'Yung legal namin (Our legal team) is taking care of that," Matibag said, noting that a similar incident happened within PDP-Laban in 2018.

"Nagkaroon na din ng kasuhan na ganiyan. I was on the side of Sen. [Aquilino "Koko"] Pimentel na nanalo (who won)," he said.

(We already encountered that kind of case before.)

"It just so happened na ngayon sila ang nasa side na mali dahil hindi sumusunod sa konstitusyon na sinulat ni Sen. Pimentel," he said.

(It just so happened that now they are in the wrong because they did not follow our constitution which was written by Sen. Pimentel himself.)

Pimentel III is backing Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who has been vocal about his plans to run for president. Matibag is allied with Cusi and President Rodrigo Duterte, who is reportedly preparing to run as the vice president of Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go in the 2022 presidential elections.

Pimentel said their group is also not worried about the Comelec nullifying their camp's SIUS.

"Hindi naman 'yan contest kung sino ang huling nag-file [ng SIUS]," he told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

"Ang importante ay sino ba ang mayroong competence and authority to file a SIUS for a political party. Alangan namang the Comelec will accept any filing from just anybody," he said.

Both Pacquiao's and Cusi's camps have been claiming control over the party since March 2021.

The rift withing the ruling party began in March when Cusi's group began collecting signatures from PDP-Laban members to urge Duterte to run for vice president next year, when his term as president ends.

Pacquiao said the document was not authorized by other party officials.

Cusi's group then held assemblies in Cebu and in Clark, which Pacquiao and Pimentel labeled as "illegal."

In July, Pacquiao - who is PDP-Laban President - expelled Cusi, Matibag and another official from the ruling party for allegedly violating several provisions of the party's constitution.

Pacquiao said Cusi and Matibag have been "disloyal" to the party after they allegedly pushed a non-member to be PDP-Laban's standard bearer in 2022.

Cusi's group, including PDP-Laban chair Rodrigo Duterte, snubbed the ruling and went on to forge their own set of officers and a potential slate for the upcoming elections.

Earlier this month, Cusi's faction threatened to expel the boxer-senator from the ruling party should the lawmaker fail to explain alleged complaints on loyalty and violation of their constitution.