MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III was elected Sunday as the new chairman of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino - Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-LABAN), replacing President Rodrigo Duterte, a faction of the ruling party said.
National and regional officers, and national committee chairmen led by Sen. Manny Pacquiao, whom the faction regards as still party President, held a national council meeting at 2 p.m., said Ron Munsayac, National Executive Director and Chairman of the Public Information Committee of PDP-Laban.
"The PDP Laban National Council elected Sen. Koko Pimentel as its Chairman & former Gov. Lutgardo Barbo as Vice Chairman," Munsayac said in an initial statement to the press.
Pimentel, a longtime member of the party and son of the late Sen. Nene Pimentel, one of the PDP-Laban founders, confirmed the development in a separate statement.
"Meron pong grupo na gustong agawin ang ating partido dahil meron silang plano sa pulitika na sikreto o hindi nila maipaliwanag nang mabuti, mga baguhan laman sa rating partido," said Pimentel, according to a PDP-Laban statement.
(There is a group that wants to take over the party because of their secret or inexplicable political plans, and these are newbies in the party.)
"Hindi po ang partido natin ang make or break sa eleksyon next year. Make or break po ang bansa natin. Ang kinabukasan ng bansa ang nakataya. Ganiyan kahalaga ang darating na eleksyon," he added.
(It's a make or break of the country, not of our party, in next year's elections. The future of our country is at stake. That's how important the upcoming elections is.)
Pacquiao briefly attended the virtual meeting even as he was airborne on his way home to the Philippines after his fight last week in Los Angeles against Cuba's Yordenis Ugas.
"PDP-Laban National Council, ang trabaho lang talaga niyan is to elect its chairman and vice chairman, and to set the date of our National Assembly... Si President Duterte, si vice chairman Cusi, at yung ibang mga kapartido namin, appointed sila sa party position nila since 2016. So, kung baga, way overdue na yung election," said Munsayac.
(The task of the PDP-Laban National Council is to elect its chairman and vice chairman, and to set the date of our National Assembly... President Duterte, vice chairman Cusi, and our other partymates were only appointed to their positions in the party since 2016. The election has been long overdue.)
The faction said the National Assembly set this month is expected to be attended by thousands of grassroots and party leaders and members.
In a separate statement, the other faction of the party led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and which is backed by Duterte, called Pimentel's election as chairman a "comedy".
"It's a 'comedy'. Sen. Koko Pimentel has no position in the PDP Laban. He is irrelevant and he does not represent the party. His group are pretenders and are attention seekers," said Atty. Melvin Matibag, Secretary General of the party as far as the Cusi wing is concerned.
The Cusi faction maintained that Duterte remains as the party chairman.
The Cusi faction had ousted Pacquiao as president during a gathering in July. Cusi was supposedly elected as replacement.
Pimentel said then that the "existing PDP-Laban leadership" does not recognize the July national assembly held in Clark, Pampanga.
The rift among members of PDP-Laban surfaced in March after efforts by some to seek support for a 2022 vice presidential bid of Duterte made rounds.
Pacquiao is rumored to be eyeing the country's highest office next year.
Filing of candidacy for the 2022 national elections opens on Oct. 1.
- reports from Sherrie Ann Torres and Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News