Champion boxer-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao’s biggest fight may not be against undefeated American champion Errol Spence.
It could be against Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi, who last week called for a national council meeting of the administration party PDP-Laban, without informing him.
Despite a call from Pacquiao to all PDP-Laban members to ignore the call, Cusi still proceeded with the meeting, which was held in Cebu and was attended by some 130 members of the administration party.
In return, Pacquiao landed a political blow, seemingly out of nowhere, when he took to the Senate floor and blamed Cusi for last week’s power outages in several areas in the country.
In a privilege speech, Pacquiao accused Cusi of not doing his job and focusing on politics instead.
Cusi ignored PDP-Laban’s rule that no meeting could be called without informing the party president.
Under the party hierarchy, President Duterte serves as chairman, Pacquiao is president, and Cusi is vice-chairman.
Cusi has been pushing for the party to draft President Duterte to run for vice-president next year, while recruiting his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio to serve as presidential standard bearer.
The Davao City mayor, however, said she had no intention of joining PDP-Laban.
Pacquiao said, “Let’s talk politics during election season. As long as the elections are not here yet, let’s not talk politics. Let’s talk instead about how we are going to contribute to resolving the problems of our country.”
Last week’s brownouts were an unnecessary inconvenience to the people, especially the poor who have no money to buy their own generators, said Pacquiao.
The man known worldwide as Pacman said the brownouts affected three of his fellow senators, who were forced to go offline during the hybrid plenary session last July 1.
His Senate privilege speech was the first time Pacquiao faced the public since the Cusi faction of the party went ahead with the national council meeting at the start of the week.
Pacquiao had tried to stop the meeting but backed down when he was informed that President Duterte had approved of it.
The meeting was ostensibly held to determine how the party could help the President in his final months in office. It was during the event that the attendees drafted a proposal calling on the President to run for vice-president.
PDP-Laban Executive Director Ron Munsayac downplayed the meeting, saying that the total number of attendees was less than one percent of the total membership of the party, estimated at around 100,000.
Reaction to the call for the President to slide down to vice-president were generally unwelcome, with some Constitutional experts pointing out that the charter specifically states that a former president cannot run for any position.
Others accused the party of pushing for a Duterte dynasty, despite earlier statements from the President himself that he was against dynasties. This, despite all three of his adult children occupying elected offices. Previously, the President was the only Duterte family member in politics.
Cusi never had an elective post, with the Energy portfolio the only government position he has held.
The Cebu-based Cusi became a billionaire in inter-island shipping of oil and petroleum products.
The PDP-Laban is the party that propelled Duterte to the presidency in 2016. He was recruited by Alan Peter Cayetano, who ran as vice-president. After losing to Leni Robredo, Cayetano was first appointed by President Duterte to the post of Foreign Affairs secretary, after which he ran for congressman, winning and eventually rising to the post of Speaker of the House.
Last week, Cayetano said he was thinking of running for president next year, although it is not clear if he will do so under the PDP-Laban banner.