MANILA (UPDATE) - PDP-Laban members caught between the rift of the camps of Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi are just counting the days before committing to recognize the former's leadership of the ruling party, the boxer-turned-presidential aspirant said.
Pacquiao, who still identifies himself as the PDP-Laban party president despite a move by the Cusi wing ousting him last July, said in an interview Wednesday that he continues to lead efforts to "unite" the party again.
He said that in between his campaign sorties, he holds phone calls and Zoom meetings with PDP-Laban members.
"Yung mga tao na na-brainwash ni (Energy Secretary Alfonso) Cusi, 'yun ay tinatawagan natin na magkaisa tayo," Pacquiao said.
(Those people he brainwashed, those are the people I'm reaching out to for unity.)
According to him, many of the members that he was able to meet have realized that the leadership really belongs to him and Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, the party's chair as far as their camp is concerned.
Pacquiao begged off to identify the party members that he is referring to, and to say how many have committed to switch allegiance in his favor.
"Hindi na ako magbibigay ng numero dahil patuloy ang pakikipag-usap ko sa kanila. Pero sa awa ng Panginoon eh, unti-unti namang bumabalik sa tunay na partido," he said.
(I won't give you the number because I continue to talk with them. But with God's help, we are rebuilding the real party.)
He told them, though, to come out in the open once they make their final move, according to him.
"Hindi rin ako kumportable sa mga ganyan (sikretuhan). Kasi para kang namamangka sa dalawang ilog, o tatlong ilog pa. Eh mahirap naman 'yun. (Dapat) lumitaw," Pacquiao said.
"Pagdating naman ng panahon, 'pag diyan tayo (sa pwesto) nilagay ng Panginoon, 'yung ginagawa nila ay baka bumalik din sa kanila," he added.
(I'm also not comfortable with all the secrecy. It's like they're sailing on two, three boats. That's not good. Time will come, if God puts us in our place, they will get what they deserve.)
Pacquiao said "returning" members will be accepted by his camp with open arms and without any sanction.
"Tatanggapin ko. Naging biktima lang sila sa vested interest ni Cusi," he said.
(I will welcome them. They were only blinded by Cusi's vested interests.)
Cusi and Melvin Matibag, the faction's Secretary General, have yet to respond to ABS-CBN News' request for comment to Pacquiao's latest remarks.
The Cusi wing is backed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who, for them, is the party chairman.
Duterte joined PDP-Laban when he ran for the 2016 presidential elections. Pimentel, on the other hand, is the son of the party's co-founder, the late Sen. Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel, Jr.
Cusi said in past interviews it was Pacquiao who supposedly "burned bridges" with party members, recounting that the rift began in December last year when the the boxing champ was "suddenly" elected as acting president in a Thanksgiving party, in which Duterte was not invited.
In March, 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.
"It's not us that caused the problem. That started in December of 2020, and escalated in February when Sen. Pacquiao questioned us why we are encouraging the President to run for Vice President. And that happened in a presscon, rather than in a meeting. So, dun nagsimula lahat yun," Cusi said in an interview on ANC Headstart last Oct. 4.
Pacquiao and Duterte themselves got engaged in a word war after the former criticized his once close ally over his position on the South China Sea issue and alleged corruption under the current administration.
Although Pacquiao was endorsed by their wing to be the party's 2022 standard bearer, he filed his candidacy under the PROMDI party.
The Cusi wing, on the other hand, endorsed Duterte's longtime aide Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go for the presidential race, but the latter only registered for the vice president position during the filing of candidacy period in October. In a surprising development, it was Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, Duterte's first national police chief, who filed a candidacy for president under the said faction.
Dela Rosa and Go, however, withdrew their candidacies a month later after Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, registered as a substitute vice presidential aspirant under the Lakas-CMD party.
Go subsequently became a substitute presidential bet of the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS) party, although he recently announced he will back out of the race. The Commission on Elections has yet to receive his formal withdrawal as of Thursday.
Duterte also registered as a substitute senatorial candidate of the PDDS.
Following the developments, PDP-Laban is left without an official standard bearer in the 2022 elections.
The issue on which faction is the legitimate PDP-Laban remains pending at the Comelec.
Meanwhile, Pacquiao said he believes people who flood the streets each time he stages a motorcade will really vote for him on election day.