By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent
There was a note of urgency in President Duterte’s plan to call the ruling PDP-Laban to a caucus after the party came apart when about 3,000 self-proclaimed members elected a new set of officers replacing Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III as president and former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as secretary-general.
Duterte’s personal intervention was welcomed by Pimentel, who appealed for unity among party mates as he warned them against “fakes and usurpers” out to destroy the ruling party.
A supposedly general assembly of PDP-Laban at the Amoranto stadium in Quezon City last weekend elected Rogelio Garcia as president, Abbin Dalhani as executive vice-president, Willy Talag as secretary-general and special assistant to the President Bong Go as auditor. The breakaway group retained Duterte as party chairman.
All new party officers are from Mindanao, with Garcia claiming links with Hugpong ng Pagbabago, a regional political party formed by presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Garcia is a lawyer and a director of the Development Bank of the Philippines who previously headed the PDP-Laban national council while Talag is head of the Makati City Council.
“We’ve always shown support for Duterte, especially his plan to push for federalism,” Garcia told reporters. “All of us here, especially our regional leaders, will continue to support our chairman and President,” Talag said.
Garcia, who claimed to be part of Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago, said the party’s national council filed the list of the “new” officers before the Comelec on July 30.
Upon conveying the information that Duterte is about to call a unity caucus, Bong Go said the President was surprised by the development.
“I mentioned this to the President. I said, ‘Mayor there are factions in this. You are chairman in this faction and chairman in the other. I, too, am auditor in this faction and auditor in the other faction.”
Go said “established” party leaders dismissed the move as an unauthorized action by rogue or expelled members. “This is the party that took the President to the presidency, so it would be a pity if we don’t do anything about it,” Go said of the rift within the PDP-Laban.
Pimentel warned of saboteurs out to sow havoc and destroy the ruling PDP-Laban. “Once they succeed in their plot, they will jump (ship),” said Pimentel who noted that he spent his political life in the party founded by his father, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel II.
The younger Pimentel said PDP-Laban is the only party for him and he has been a member for the last 36 years.
Garcia said his group had opposed Pimentel’s and Alvarez’s move to swear in some 300,000 PDP-Laban members across the country in recent months, without going through seminars on the party’s goals.
Garcia also said he tried to air his faction’s concerns but Pimentel snubbed his requests for a meeting.
Go told reporters that Duterte will intervene in the row and set a meeting between Pimentel and Garcia and their respective followers.
While Pimentel is uncomfortable with the meeting as it could legitimize Garcia, whom he considers a usurper, Go said there could be no harm since all of them support Duterte.
The Senator described Garcia as a lawyer from General Santos who was “once a member” of PDP-Laban and whom he helped in the past for political activities.
“The reasoning was that all us are supporters of the President and politics is (only an) addition, so let’s allow the President (to set the meeting),” Pimentel said.
He said he remains confident in keeping his post in the party even if he was replaced recently as Senate president.
Cracks in PDP-Laban started to show with the replacement of Alvarez as speaker by Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.