Leaders of the ruling party PDP-Laban have locked horns over the candidates it will be fielding for the 2022 elections, seven months before the filing of the certificate of candidacy and amid a raging pandemic.
PDP-Laban acting president Senator Manny Pacquiao threw a jab at Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, party vice-chairman, for pushing a resolution urging President Rodrigo Duterte to run for vice president next year.
“I am not the kind of person you can toy with. This is simply a warning: I am not fighting with you. I want us to become friends,” Pacquiao said in a press conference yesterday.
“Do not go back on your word that we should set aside politics and help our people first. Do not divide the minds of our partymates just to further your own interest. If you are going around to help our people, I will applaud you.”
“But if you go around talking about politics – don’t do that. Do not poison the minds of our party-mates to cause a division,” said the senator, whom political observers said will likely seek the presidency in next year’s polls.
Cusi, for his part, said partymates who attended a consultative meeting in Manila on March 8 agreed to execute and sign a resolution supporting Duterte as the PDP-Laban’s vice presidential bet next year.
“The common sentiment is continuity of service. It was instinctive on the part of the members because of their recognition that the pandemic and the natural disasters that converged in 2020 unreasonably interrupted the economic programs and infrastructure projects of the administration,” Cusi said in a statement.
“They were mindful of the past lessons wherein transition of power from one president to the next resulted in change of policies and directions, thus resulting in unfinished and unfulfilled projects, causing disservice to the Filipino people,” he added.
The party members who signed the resolution also used an amended PDP-Laban logo which now bore the clenched fist icon associated with the President.
Pacquiao was unaware of the resolution, which he described as unauthorized.
“That was not sanctioned by me, as acting president of the party. That was not authorized… The focus of the party now is to help people facing difficulties, help people going hungry – not politics,” Pacquiao added.
Duterte, in at least three recent speeches, teased Senator Christopher “Bong” Go that he will be the administration’s standard bearer for the 2022 elections.
Go, who earlier shunned calls for him to seek the highest position next year, said Friday he will only change his mind if Duterte agrees to serve as his runningmate.
“I could change my mind if President Duterte would run for Vice President,” he said.
Last month, chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said Go is qualified to succeed Duterte if Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio would not run for president next year.
Duterte himself rejected calls for his daughter to seek the presidency, saying it is not a woman’s job.
Duterte-Carpio said she will only consider gunning for the highest position in 2034 and only “if at that time, there is something I can do to help the country.”
“If Mayor Sara does not run, then we can have Senator Bong Go,” Panelo said as he floated the possibility of a Bong Go-Rodrigo Duterte tandem in 2022. “See, Go-Duterte. Does it not have a nice ring to it?”
However, Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said the President is focused on the vaccination program to stop the spread of the deadly virus and not on the 2022 polls.
“The President is focused on the vaccination because we need to find vaccines and distribute these as soon as possible. Now is not the time for politicking. Now is the time to focus on COVID-19,” Roque said.