From the outside looking in, it seems apparent that President Duterte’s allies in the ruling PDP-Laban have made a mess of things.
First, they became embroiled in a power struggle that tore the party into two factions, one supporting the President, and the other, boxing champ and Senator Manny Pacquiao. Multiple expulsions ensued from both sides, leaving the ruling party in shambles.
Then the pro-Duterte faction, led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, put forward a presidential candidate who clearly had no intention of actually running for president, but was widely seen as an unqualified placeholder. That candidate, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, withdrew his candidacy on Nov. 13—two days before the deadline for the substitution of candidates, leaving the ruling party in the embarrassing position of having no presidential standard bearer.
In the meantime, eager perhaps to please his boss, Cusi lobbied hard to convince the President to run for the vice presidency and then, when that became untenable with the announcement that Mr. Duterte’s own daughter would seek the same position under a different party, he suggested that the Chief Executive seek a Senate seat instead. But even this dream was dashed, when Mr. Duterte dropped his Senate bid in December, just hours after his longtime aide and confidante Senator Christopher Go, withdrew his certificate of candidacy for president.
Now, this same group in the PDP-Laban wants the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to reopen the filing of candidacies, a process that officially ended in October. The Cusi faction also wants the poll body to hold off on printing ballots for the 2022 elections, supposedly because it has yet to resolve cases against several contenders and party-list groups.
But nobody is fooled by these desperate maneuvers.
The poll watchdog Kontra Daya said the petition was “clearly a mockery of election rules” and offered no compelling reason that the filing of candidacy, which expired three months ago, should suddenly be extended. The PDP faction, the group added, simply ignores deadlines set by the Comelec, to extend a process that lapsed months ago.
The pro-Pacquiao wing of the PDP-Laban, meanwhile, says the petition could be aimed at delaying next year’s election to enable the President—and those clinging to his coattails—to stay in power.
A spokesman for the group said the Cusi faction in effect has “admitted that it was impossible for them to comply with simple deadlines of the Comelec after their much-publicized hubris that they are in control of the party and they are the team to beat.”
“It is also an admission that they do not offer anything to the electorate other than their lust for continuous power,” the spokesman said.
Senators, meanwhile, say they are ready to throw a wrench in such a scheme by electing a Senate president who can serve as acting president, should there be an attempt to delay the May 2022 polls and extend President Duterte’s term.
The chaos that these hacks have created within their own party recalls the catchphrase of Oliver Hardy to his partner in mayhem, Stan Laurel, whenever they were caught in a pickle. But “another fine mess” isn’t all that funny, when it’s applied to our system of elections—and the fate of our democracy.