"It does not stand for President Duterte’s Party."
Last Saturday’s national assembly of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) that ousted Sen. Manny Pacquiao as its president and installed a rabid Duterte follower in his place has all the makings of a virtual coup d’etat that could pave the way for another six years of authoritarian rule.
Let us not forget that the key word in the party’s name is “demokratiko” or “democratic.” If we go by the Lincolnian notion of democracy, it’s a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
The PDP should not be transformed into President Duterte’s Party.
The PDP was founded in 1982 by the late former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. to engage the Marcos dictatorship in electoral politics at a time when it seemed a quixotic effort to do so amid intense political repression. It later teamed up with the Laban ng Masa, founded by opposition leaders Ninoy Aquino and Lorenzo Tañada, staunch critics of despotic rule, to pursue its goal of justice, freedom and democracy at a dangerous period in our contemporary history, but was unable to put enough of their members in positions of power until after Edsa People Power in 1986.
I understand that the PDP leadership had already dropped the “Laban” part of their official name after 2016, but many still refer to the party by its old name by force of habit. Dropping “Laban” was the right thing to do, maybe because the ghosts of Ninoy and Lorenzo Tañada haunted PDP Chairman Rodrigo Duterte no end in his worst nightmares.
The PDP of today can hardly be called “democratic” when most of its new leaders have neither cut their teeth in the struggle to defend Philippine democracy in the past, nor shed their image as dyed-in-the-wool traditional politicians eager to prolong their grip on power.
That the PDP has been transformed from a powerful battering ram against dictatorship and political dynasties into a convenient vehicle for vested interests and perpetuation of power by both old and new politicians is the composition of the new leadership of the party following Sen. Pacquiao’s unceremonious ouster as Party President despite their claim that this followed the party’s constitution and by-laws.
News reports on the just concluded PDP “national assembly” quoted one Jovel Lopez, a PDP-Laban community leader in Bulacan and a party cadre since its founding in 1982, who said “party newcomers and interlopers are now trying to wrest control of the party...We are wondering why we now have so many politicians who have emerged to claim that they are PDP-Laban members but we, who are original members, are now being eased out. We will not allow these hitchhikers to gain control of the party that we established.”
That’s a very accurate description of what has happened to the PDP from a party old-timer who appears to have remained faithful to the vision of the late Nene Pimentel who’s not only turning but certainly even spinning in his grave in sheer disgust over what has happened to the party that he founded in 1982.
During Saturday’s PDP meeting that Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III described as illegal, Duterte blamed him for appointing Pacquiao as Acting President when his (Koko’s) term office under the PDP Constitution and by-laws ended.
That arrangement served the party well until Pacquiao started to raise questions about Duterte’s handling of our territorial dispute in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea and later about the extent of corruption in the current administration.
That’s when Duterte started calling Pacquiao names, among them “punch-drunk” and earlier, even “shit” for alleging that some P10.4 billion was missing in the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through the latter’s use of a private financial services provider as conduit for giving ayuda or financial assistance to families severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What’s clear at this point is that it’s now all-out war by the Duterte camp against the Pimentel-Pacquiao faction in the PDP after Duterte blamed Pimentel for appointing Pacquiao to a leadership position in the party.
How will Koko and Pacquiao respond to Duterte’s diatribes against them? That should be interesting to find out in the days ahead.
What’s also clear is that the PDP appears bent on supporting Sara Duterte as presidential bet, with President Duterte himself as vice-presidential candidate.
If the PDP nevertheless comes up with a Duterte-Duterte tandem in 2022 for “continuity” and to deal with “unfinished business,” what do they really want? Precisely what the PDP means by “continuity” and “unfinished business” are unclear. Maybe more infrastructure projects? More tax reform? But will there also be more extrajudicial killings? Or perhaps more misuse of public funds as Duterte himself has admitted has not stopped since he took office five years ago?
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