The ruling political party PDP-Laban began Friday the process of electing its new national officers amid infighting within the group.
At the meeting of the national council members in Clark, Pampanga, the group led by party vice chairman Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi opened the nomination process and designated members of the election committee headed by National Police Commission vice chairperson Vitaliano Aguirre II.
The election will take place on Saturday, with President Rodrigo Duterte, chairman, presiding.
The party also approved Cusi’s suggestion to create a “council of elders” headed by Duterte.
Its initial members include Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Rogelio Garcia, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, and whoever is elected PDP-Laban president.
“Currently, all national officers and committee chairmen are acting in holdover or appointed capacity. Such a nomination and voting process is what is in accordance with our constitution. Gone are those days [when] only a few members will appoint our national officers,” Cusi said.
The faction of acting party president Senator Manny Pacquiao, currently in the United States, did not attend the meeting. He earlier warned attendees of possible sanctions as his faction considered it as an unauthorized assembly.
At the same time, Pacquiao warned that members of the PDP-Laban, including Duterte as party chairman, may face sanctions for attending gatherings which were not recognized by the ruling party as it is a violation of their Constitution.
“Definitely, there are sanctions. By-laws, rules of the party, Constitution of the party should be followed. The ideology of the party should also be followed,” said Pacquiao.
In an interview over DZBB, Pacquiao said the sanction will range from suspension to expulsion and this will not exempt even high-ranking officials of the party.
“If there are grounds, all members, even I, the president of the party, will be expelled,” said Pacquiao.
“But if they remove me due to vested interest, for the self-interest of others, then I will assert my authority. I have the support of the majority of PDP national members,” he said.
According to Pacquiao, they do not recognize the national assembly in Clark because it was not coordinated with him and the members of the national council.
During the said meeting, the PDP-Laban national council approved a motion which voided the “illegal” resolution of the Pacquiao-led wing that ousted Cusi as party vice-chairman and two others.
Cusi said he hoped that the council of elders would guide PDP-Laban in its journey towards becoming a party that “would really represent and lead the country to progress.”
Speaking at the national council’s meeting in Clark, Pampanga, party vice president for external affairs Lambino said the resolution ordering the expulsion of Cusi, deputy secretary-general Melvin Matibag, and membership committee head Astra Naik was “illegal” and “not in accordance with the party constitution and principles.”
PDP-Laban members in the House of Representatives led by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco have also expressed support for the “continued service” of Cusi as party vice chairman and immediate resolution of the issues and misunderstandings.
Malacañang has also said President Duterte still recognizes Cusi’s leadership.
“The only objective of the meeting is to advance the interests of PDP-Laban. There is no secret agenda, no secret candidate. There are no factions in PDP-Laban. We all belong to one united and cohesive PDP-Laban,” Cusi said.
“I call for a stop [to] all party hostilities. I ask all members: Do not divide this party. Do not burn bridges.”
“Let us work together in furtherance of our party’s collective interests. Let us not allow personal ambition to dictate upon our party members,” Cusi added.
At least 141 members of the 159-strong national council attended the meeting either physically or virtually.