MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte believes he remains as chairman of his political party, after one of its wings removed him from the post over the weekend as the next elections near, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
The PDP-Laban faction headed by Senators Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III and Manny Pacquiao on Sunday elected the former as new chairman, replacing Duterte, who held the post in 2016, a year after joining again the party.
Duterte had no reaction to this development, said his spokesman Harry Roque.
"Sa pananaw ng Presidente, nananatili siyang chairman," said Roque, who is not a member of PDP-Laban.
"Kinakailangan po talaga na madesisyunan itong issue na 'to ng Korte Suprema at alam po 'yan ng Presidente," he added.
(From the President's viewpoint, he remains chairman. The Supreme Court needs to decide on this issue, and the President knows that.)
Duterte's backers refused to acknowledge Pimentel's election and branded the other faction as "pretenders and attention seekers". Pimentel is a longtime member of PDP-Laban and son of one of the party's founders, the late Sen. Nene Pimentel.
Video courtesy of PTV
Pacquiao, Duterte, and their respective supporters have been trying to wrest control of the PDP-Laban party ahead of elections in May next year by unilaterally electing their own members to leading party roles.
Duterte's faction is pushing for his candidacy next year as vice president in tandem with Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, while Pacquiao is rumored to be eyeing also the country's highest office.
The faction supported by Duterte recently booted out Pacquiao as party president, but Pacquiao has refused to step down.
The two men fell out in June after Pacquiao criticized Duterte's stance on the South China Sea territorial dispute with China, while the latter lashed back by lambasting the boxer's "shallow" foreign policy.
"President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is the PDP Laban party Chairman. He remains to be so and will continue to be so," the group led by the 76-year-old leader said in a separate statement.
The head of the Philippines' election commission was cited last week as saying it would have to decide based on documents and the party's constitution which faction is the legitimate representative of PDP-Laban.
The officially recognized faction will then have the authority to sign the Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA) of the party's candidates. Candidates who fail to submit a CONA will be deemed as independent bets.
Last week Duterte, who has been in power since 2016, said he would run for the vice presidency elections under the PDP-Laban banner. Under the constitution, a president can serve only one 6-year term.
The party's Cusi-led faction is due to hold a national convention on Sept. 8 where it is expected to endorse Go, Duterte's longtime aide, to be its presidential candidate even as the latter had already said he is declining the nomination.
Pacquiao, who lost his Aug. 21 boxing match with Cuban Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas, said he would announce next month if he will run for president in 2022.
The filing of candidacy for next year's elections opens on Oct. 1.
- With a report from Reuters