PDP-Laban council opens nomination for new party leaders

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 16)— The PDP-Laban national council opened the nominations for a new set of leaders ahead of the formal election during the ruling party's national assembly this weekend.

The move was carried out during the council's meeting held Friday in Pampanga, led by party vice chairman Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

Nomination will be open until 10 a.m. on Saturday. Members can submit names to the newly-formed poll body chaired by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.

In an earlier interview with CNN Philippines, PDP-Laban secretary general Melvin Matibag confirmed the party will start the nomination process during the meeting, which was attended by over 100 members.

While the move can be seen as a way to unseat Senator Manny Pacquiao as party president, Matibag noted the boxer-turned-lawmaker can still be nominated in his absence.

Pacquiao is currently abroad to prepare for his upcoming match in August.

"I don't know (if he will be nominated) because he has his own group. If they will be attending, hindi ko alam ano gagawin nila but hopefully dumalo sila para whatever issues we have mapag-usapan sa national assembly," Matibag said.

[Translation: I don't know if he will be nominated because he has his own group. If they will be attending, I don't know what they will do there but hopefully they will attend so that whatever issues we have can be discussed in the national assembly.]

Over the past months, party chairman President Rodrigo Duterte and Pacquiao have been engaged in a word war after the senator accused the President of leading a corrupt government.

Pacquiao —  who is being floated as a presidential candidate for next year's polls —  also criticized Duterte for his soft stance against China on the West Philippine Sea issue.

Duterte is expected to grace Saturday's assembly at around 3 p.m., Matibag earlier said.

'Void' expulsion order

Matibag, Cusi, and PDP-Laban membership committee head Astra Naik were earlier "expelled" by the Pacquiao-led faction for allegedly violating the party's constitution — a move Cusi's group does not recognize.

READ: Pacquiao-led faction expels Cusi, 2 others from PDP-Laban

During the meeting, the national council declared the so-called expulsion order "null and void." Cusi also called for an end to the hostilities within the party.

"I ask all members, do not divide this party. Do not burn bridges," Cusi said during his opening remarks. "There are no factions in PDP-Laban. We all belong to one united and cohesive PDP-Laban. I call for party unity."

CNN Philippines Correspondent Eimor Santos contributed to this report.