Junk Pacquiao motion over party claim: Cusi’s PDP Laban

The PDP Laban led by its president Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi on Tuesday asked the Commission on Elections to junk the claim of Senators Manny Pacquiao and Aquilino Pimentel III as legitimate officials of the ruling party.

In a 29-page petition, Cusi, who is the incumbent party president, and PDP Laban Secretary General Atty. Melvin Matibag also asked the poll body to throw out the unauthorized 19 July 2021 Sworn Information Update Statements (SIUS) – containing the list of party officers — Pacquiao’s faction filed before the Comelec.

Pacquiao is reportedly considering a bid for the presidency. However, PDP Laban’s National Executive Council has endorsed Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go as the party’s presidential candidate with President Duterte as the senator’s vice presidential running mate.

“This is a petition to declare the group led by respondents as illegitimate officers/and or otherwise unauthorized representatives of petitioners PDP Laban,” Cusi said.

Likewise, the petitioners asked Comelec to stop Pacquiao and Pimentel from committing any acts that would run against the constitution of PDP Laban and usurp the authority of the legitimate officials of the ruling party.

“The matter is now with the COMELEC and we will let the established Law, Rules and Regulations prevail. We shall refrain from discussing the specific issues raised in our Petition out of respect to the Commission,” said Atty. Antonio Zulueta, one of the two lawyers representing the petitioners.

The petitioners cited that on 31 May 2021, the ruling party held a national council meeting in Cebu City “upon the direction of no less than the Chairman of PDP Laban, President (Rodrigo Roa) Duterte himself,” pursuant to his power under the party constitution.

In compliance with President Duterte’s directive dated 17 May 2021, Cusi said he ordered notices be sent to PDP Laban members “including respondents Pimentel and Pacquiao.” He said the stamps on the notices indicate they have been received by the two lawmakers.

Adopted during the national council meeting were 10 resolutions, including the appointment of Matibag as acting Secretary General and one commending Cusi.

On July 9, reports claimed Cusi and Matibag were expelled by Pacquiao’s faction from the ruling party but Cusi said President Duterte and the general membership did not recognize such action.

Pursuant to one of the resolutions the party adopted on 31 May, PDP Laban was set to hold its national assembly on 17 July 2021. The national assembly is the body that has the power to call elections of national officers.

During the 17 July national assembly, with President Duterte present, the body elected Cusi as President, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles as Executive Vice President, Matibag as Secretary General and Rianne Cuevas as National Treasurer, while Sen. Bong Go was elected as Auditor General.

Also elected were four vice presidents of the party, namely Edwin Olivarez (NCR), Atty. Raul Lambino (Luzon), Ben Evardone (Visayas), and Charito Plaza (Mindanao). However, Cusi said that unknown to them the petitioners organized a meeting on 29 August 2021 where they purportedly ousted President Duterte as party Chairman.

“The group led by respondents—including persons comprising and/or acting in representation of said group—should be declared illegitimate officers and/or otherwise unauthorized representatives of petitioner PDP Laban,” the petition said.

As such, Cusi should be considered as the duly elected President and concurrent Vice Chairman of PDP Laban, while Matibag should be deemed as the legitimate Secretary General of the party, according to the petitioners.

The petitioners said the election of Cusi and Matibag, “with the imprimatur” of President Duterte as the party chairman, should be the one recognized instead by the poll body.

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