PDP-Laban eyes talks to settle 'misunderstanding'

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Senator Manny Pacquiao, PDP-Laban national president (L), and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, party vice chairman (R)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 28) — A PDP-Laban official denied cracks in the ruling party and downplayed the clashing orders from top leaders as a "very simple misunderstanding."

In a May 25 memorandum, Senator Manny Pacquiao – the party's national president – "strongly advised" partymates to ignore a letter from party vice chairman and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who called for a national assembly. The memo was also signed by PDP-Laban executive director Ron Munsayac.

"We will schedule a meeting very, very soon," to be attended by "all of the concerned officials," Munsayac told CNN Philippines on Friday.

"I just like to clarify na wala namang rift, wala namang schism, wala naman pong pagbibiyak. In fact, siguro at most this is a very simple misunderstanding between partymates kasi normal naman po na nagkaka-misunderstanding," Munsayac said.

[Translation: I just like to clarify there's no rift, no schism, no cracks. In fact, maybe at most this is a very simple misunderstanding between partymates and that's normal.]

He added that the executive committee, a smaller body that handles the party's day-to-day affairs, is meeting Friday night "about what's happening in the party lately," in the wake of opposing pronouncements from Pacquiao and Cusi.

Pacquiao will be there, Munsayac said. Cusi is not a member of the committe, but Munsayac said there will be a meeting with the vice chairman.

'Let's talk first'

Munsayac maintained Cusi was not in a position to convene the party. Echoing Pacquiao's memorandum, Munsayac said Cusi's May 19 call for a meeting was not sanctioned by the "authorized national council officials," and violates Sections 4 and 5, Article 16 of the party's constitution.

According to Munsayac and Pacquiao, these sections state that any call for a national council, assembly, or meeting, should be approved by both the party's chairman (President Rodrigo Duterte) and president (Pacquiao).

CNN Philippines obtained a copy of a May 19 letter signed by Cusi addressed to Pacquiao citing the same provisions.

"Dear Senator Pacquiao, in accordance with the authority under Sections 4 & 5, Article XVI of the PDP-Laban Constitution, a meeting of the National Council is called on May 31, 2021 in Cebu City," the letter read.

Munsayac said he and other leaders received a similar invitation. He believes what Cusi did violates the party's rules, but said imposing sanctions would be a "worst-case" scenario.

"Just to be very clear, hindi si Secretary Cusi ito ha (this does not refer to Secretary Cusi alone), this applies to all party members na pag proven po na (that if it's proven that) you are disloyal to the party, if you are creating division inside the party, if what you are doing is affecting the PDP-Laban, we have what we call a discipline committee, which will investigate the party member's actions," Munsayac said.

"And if it is believed to be very, very heavy, the worst case is expulsion. Pwede naman pong suspension rin, pwede ring reprimand. But again 'yun po ay talagang pag worst case na lang po talaga. Mag-meeting muna tayo, magusap muna tayo," he added.

[Translation: It can also be suspension or reprimand. But again that's really a worst case. Let's have a meeting first; let's talk first.]

CNN Philippines has requested comment from Cusi but he has yet to respond. In the document signed by Cusi, he said the agenda of the meeting he was calling for includes Duterte's report on his programs as chief executive, consultation with local government officials on the management of coronavirus transmissions, and "administrative matters in preparation for the 2022 national elections."

Munsayac said the party leadership believes talks about politics are ill-timed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and should probably kick off in September, a month before the filing of the certificates of candidacy.

Who will run?

Pacquiao and Cusi are both rumored to run for President in the May 2022 elections, but they have not confirmed their political plans. Reports from March also quoted them disagreeing about the party's possible candidates. Cusi cited a resolution urging Duterte to run for vice president, but Pacquiao said this was not sanctioned by him as party president.

In May, PDP-Laban's Bulacan chapter reportedly denounced Pacquiao's remark that he found Duterte's recent statements on the South China Sea dispute lacking.

During the 2019 midterm election season, then party president Senator Koko Pimentel and lawyer Rogelio Garcia submitted different sets of PDP-Laban officers to the Commission on Elections. The Supreme Court declared the Pimentel-led group as the legitimate chapter in the case filed by Garcia.