MANILA (UPDATE) - The two factions of ruling party PDP-Laban are in a squabble anew on Sunday, this time over the filing by Sen. Manny Pacquiao of his candidacy for President in next year's elections under the Cebu-based party PROMDI.
The faction led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said Pacquiao, who heads the other wing, has been dismissed automatically from the party, based on an Oct. 1, 2021 resolution by the PDP Laban National Executive Committee and "in accordance with the party constitution."
“Senator Pacquiao claims that he is the legitimate President of PDP Laban and even called his own National Assembly where he accepted their so-called proclamation as presidential candidate and yet he is running for president under PROMDI," Melvin Matibag, secretary general of the party's Cusi wing, said in a statement.
"Let’s call a spade a spade. If that is not disloyalty, betrayal, and abandonment of PDP Laban, I don’t know what is."
Matibag cited Section 6, Article VII of the PDP Laban Constitution which, according to him, states that a member's filing of COC under another political party is a ground for automatic expulsion.
Cusi on Monday confirmed Pacquiao's supposed expulsion.
"Yes, it is official. He has been expelled, the resolution issued by PDP was just a confirmation of what he did when he filed a COC under PROMDI," he told ANC's Headstart.
"We never wanted that to happen. It’s not us that caused the problem that started in December of 2020 and escalated in Feb when Senator Pacquiao questioned us why we are encouraging the President to run for vice president. That happened in a press conference rather than in a meeting."
Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, son of one of the founders of PDP-Laban who sides with Pacquiao, said Cusi and Matibag "do not know the facts" about the the boxer-senator's candidacy under PROMDI.
"There is a PDP LABAN, PROMDI, PCM ALLIANCE AGREEMENT called 'MP3 Alliance' where the alliance partners also proclaimed Sen. Manny Pacquiao as their presidential candidate. PDP LABAN National Executive Committee in a Resolution (No. 12) allowed Sen. Manny Pacquiao to use PROMDI CONA in order to consolidate his support base and alliance partners because Sen. Manny Pacquiao is already known and identified with PDP LABAN," Pimentel said.
"He was officially nominated and proclaimed as presidential candidate also by PROMDI n their National Assembly. Hence, everything is normal and in order per our party constitution."
Pimentel said the “issue” being propagated by Cusi and Matibag is "a figment of their imagination which they want to use for their own political propaganda."
Questioning the legitimacy of the Cusi-Matibag group, Pimentel asked, "How can expelled members and unauthorized people pretending and usurping positions of officers of PDP Laban ever issue a resolution with any legal effect?"
Recalling his group's reply to a petition filed by the Cusi wing at the Commission on Elections regarding their rivalry, Pimentel said, "Cusi and Matibag only base their claim on the alleged meeting they held in utter violation of the Party Constitution."
"They have no right whatsoever to speak for PDP Laban. All their acts are void from the beginning," said Pimentel.
Pacquiao's move to file under a different party "only proves that he doesn’t have the support of the grassroots members of the party that he repeatedly claimed he has," said Matibag.
“Bakit niya iiwanan ang PDP Laban kung tunay na libo-libo ang kaniyang mga taga-suporta sa partido?” he said.
(Why would he leave PDP-Laban if he truly has the support of thousands of party members?)
“The party was only a vehicle for his over-bearing presidential ambition. When it was no longer useful to him, iniwan na niya kami (he left us)."
Matibag said the motive of Pacquiao's faction in building alliances with PROMDI and the People’s Champ Movement (PCM) was "only to bring confusion to the many supporters of PDP Laban across the country."
Pimentel, for his part, questioned the development in Cusi's group after the filing by Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go of his candidacy for vice president, contrary to what the faction planned.
"They held a gathering in September where they publicly nominated Sen. Bong Go as their candidate for President and PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) for VP. Sen. BG publicly refused their nomination for president. Now, they have filed a COC with Sen. BG for VP without any formal and public nomination from their group," Pimentel said.
"What is happening to their group? Don’t they coordinate at all? Don’t they observe any formalities at all? Are they a group of people who just change their minds in an instant and then that is already the group’s decision?"
Go said he will run for vice president after Duterte withdrew his acceptance of the PDP-Laban nomination for the same post. This was not made public until Go's filing on Saturday.
On the same occasion, Duterte announced he is retiring from politics after he steps down in June 2022.
Pacquiao had fallen out with the ruling party after he was appointed as party president without the knowledge of Duterte, the party's chairman then, according to Cusi.
Pacquiao was supposedly ousted as acting president of PDP-Laban following the election of Cusi, the party's vice chair, during the ruling party's national assembly in Pampanga in July.
Once a close ally, Pacquiao had criticized Duterte over the last few months for the latter's stand on the West Philippine Sea and alleged corruption in government.
Pimentel, son of PDP founder late senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr, remains a party member and was elected as an "elder," Cusi said. He added that other elders include himself, Duterte, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, former Budget secretary Wendel Avisado, and lawyer Rogelio "Vic-Vic" Garcia.
The Comelec has yet to resolve the factions' battle for control of PDP-Laban.
- with reports from Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News