MANILA - Former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Sen. Manny Pacquiao used to be among President Rodrigo Duterte’s closest allies.
Now they’re getting together without him, just 2 weeks before the Commission on Elections accepts candidacies for the May 2022 national and local elections.
Alvarez and Pacquiao met Wednesday in an undisclosed location along with Ronwald Munsayac of the PDP-Laban wing of Sen. Koko Pimentel which Pacquiao now leads, and Edwin Jubahib, governor of Davao del Norte where Alvarez serves as a congressional representative for the province's first district.
“Discussing 2022 and possible alliances with old friends from PDP-Laban. We are all praying to have leaders that Filipinos need to help solve our problems amid the pandemic," Alvarez said in a Facebook post.
Alvarez told ABS-CBN News in a text message that “there’s a possibility of an alliance.”
His party, the Partido RePorma, will serve as the vehicle for the candidacy of its chairman Sen. Panfilo Lacson for the presidency. The latter's running mate, Sen. President Vicente Sotto III, chairs the Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition.
Sotto and Lacson have themselves been accused of being Duterte enablers by administration critics.
But while Alvarez floats the possibility of an alliance between his group and Pacquiao’s, he maintained there are no changes yet in so far as the Lacson-Sotto tandem is concerned.
Last July 1, the Lacson-Sotto tandem named Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Joel Villanueva, and Migz Zubiri among their 10 senatorial candidates.
This leaves 2 more slots open in the Lacson-Sotto ticket. Pacquiao, who has not yet announced his plans for 2022, is eligible for one more term for the Senate although he said he is also considering seeking the presidency.
The ties between Alvarez and the boxer-senator go back to the early days of the Duterte administration.
Both were members of the PDP-Laban at the start of President Rodrigo Duterte's term. As PDP Laban secretary-general, Alvarez was one of only three PDP Laban congressmen at the start of the Duterte administration.
As is the case with changing administrations, lawmakers joined the party then so Alvarez became House speaker.
Pacquiao was elected senator under the United Nationalist Alliance but joined the PDP-Laban and allied himself with Sen. Pimentel, son of the late PDP-Laban founder and former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel, who would go on to lead the party with Duterte.
PDP-Laban facilitated Duterte’s late entry into the 2016 presidential race by allowing him to substitute for Martin Dino weeks after the filing of candidacies.
However, times have changed.
Years after Alvarez lost the House Speakership in 2018 to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, he joined Reporma on November 15, 2020, and launched a voter education campaign.
Pacquiao meanwhile stayed in the PDP-Laban, becoming its interim President.
But in July 2021, he was "kicked out" by the faction of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi just as talk about Pacquiao’s possible presidential candidacy got traction. Cusi was PDP Laban Vice-Chair when Alvarez was Secretary-General.
Pacquiao's wing, before his "expulsion", also kicked Cusi out of PDP-Laban. The senator's faction later removed Duterte as chairman of the party.
Alvarez, Pacquiao, Lacson and Sotto have all joined the chorus of critics against the administration’s handling of the pandemic.
Munsayac and Pimentel, meanwhile, have accused the Cusi wing of preparing to give the party to the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio.