The ruling PDP-Laban on Monday approved a resolution to convince President Rodrigo Duterte to run for vice president and to choose his running mate in the 2022 elections during the party's National Council meeting in Cebu City that was boycotted by the party’s national president, Senator Manny Pacquiao.
PDP-Laban vice chairman, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, declared the resolution approved as no member objected. Members who attended the meeting were then asked to sign the resolution.
The camp of Pacquiao, however, accused the conveners of the Cebu City meeting of violating party rules.
Ron Munsayac, the party’s executive director and a spokesman for Pacquiao, noted that the position of vice chairman was a passive one, and the person occupying that post becomes acting chairman only if the chairman becomes incapacitated, is suspended, resigns, or is expelled from the party.
Since the PDP Laban chairman is not incapacitated, suspended, resigned, or expelled from the party, he said the vice chairman cannot usurp the functions of the chairman as provided for in the PDP Laban Constitution.
“The vice chairman cannot call for a meeting of the National Council, since only the real chairman can,” Munsayac said.
Munsayac also said the agenda for the Cebu meeting had not been cleared with the party’s president, Pacquiao.
Lawyer Melvin Matibag, PDP-Laban acting secretary-general, said assuming Duterte will run for Vice President, he has great weight in deciding who will run as a presidential candidate and the members will honor it.
Matibag refused to name potential candidates the President would choose, saying he would not want to second-guess Duterte’s decision, but assured that PDP-Laban has a lot of members and personalities who would be formidable presidential candidates.
On the issue of replacing Pacquiao as chairman, Matibag said by party law, the term of the council president lasts for two years, which is why PDP-Laban will hold a National Assembly on July 17 to elect a new set of officers for the council.
"Everybody right now is overcapacity. It is better that we have the national assembly to decide the leadership, but we do not want to preempt (what positions will be filled)," said Matibag.
Matibag also dismissed the possibility of removing Pacquiao from the party, saying they will assure a "fair" process in the removal of its members.
Cusi said PDP-Laban members who joined the meeting online would be provided a copy of the approved party resolution for their signature.
Among the members who joined the meeting via Zoom were Senators Francis Tolentino and Ronald dela Rosa.
Former party president Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel did not attend, citing scheduling conflicts.
PDP-Laban vice president for external affairs Raul Lambino said he had asked the National Council to adopt a resolution after receiving several petitions from different regions of the country asking Duterte to run for vice president.
During the meeting, Leyte Gov. Mic Petilla, Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap and Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone listed the accomplishments of the Duterte administration.
A recommendation was also made to suspend Munsayac from the party for "misinformation" without going into specifics, but the leadership said they should adhere to democratic processes.
The President’s spokesman said Duterte would run for vice president in next year’s election if he receives a message from God.
“If it is God’s will, he will make the proper announcement in due course,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
Roque also played down the rift within the party and said the President had no plans to step in to fix it.
“I think it's enough that the President signed in writing a memorandum authorizing Secretary Cusi to call the meeting today and made me announce it yesterday,” he said.
He said Duterte has decided to skip his PDP-Laban national assembly since he had a “full schedule” on Monday.
Duterte’s vice presidential run was broached by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, who said the President should serve as the running mate of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
While his party members squabbled, Duterte called on the PDP-Laban to remain united in focusing on the people’s welfare.
In a taped message during PDP-Laban’s national assembly on Monday, Duterte urged his party mates "to stand together and remain united not by personal interest but by our principles and values as we chart the future of our party and the rest of the nation.
Earlier, Pacquiao, the party's acting president, told party members to ignore Cusi’s invitation to attend the gathering, saying it was being held in violation of the party’s constitution.
Cracks in the party seemed to deepen in the House, where a party member attending the meeting online questioned the conduct of the national assembly.
Negros Oriental Rep. Arnie Teves moved for the adjournment of the event less than an hour after the national assembly was convened.
Teves, the party’s secretary-general, tried to raise a point of order while Cusi was delivering his opening statement.
Teves complained that he was bypassed when he was not consulted about the meeting and said there was no prior coordination with the party president, Pacquiao.
“I feel very disappointed, even angered,” Teves said, noting that the secretary-general should be given written notice of the meeting.
Sources said Teves was muted online so he could not interrupt Cusi.
Teves added the PDP-Laban rules also provide that the party should have coordinated the agenda of the national assembly with Pacquiao, who is the president of the party.
“I don’t think there was prior coordination with the president of the party,” Teves said, as he moved for the adjournment of the meeting. His motion was denied, however.
Evardone, who was the moderator of the national assembly, said the party's national chairman-- President Duterte--has given the go-signal for the meeting.
“The national chairman has authorized the vice chairman to call for this meeting and for that reason, I think this national council meeting is in order,” Evardone said.
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima urged the public to resist attempts by the President’s allies to push a Duterte-Duterte ticket for the 2022 presidential elections.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, on the other hand, said he would consider running for vice president if the position is given a more prominent role in governance.
“That will make me run, if we can upgrade the vice president into something really prominent...like for example, if the vice president will be handling the problem of illegal drugs and drug abuse, remove it from the plate of the president,” he said.
"The Office of the Vice President is something else…I have to admit I’m thinking about it unlike the other politicians who say they’re not running,” Sotto said in an interview on the ABS-CBN News Channel.
“That’s if I do away with the other inclination which is to retire,” he said.
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