CEBU, Philippines – Over 300 politicians from Cebu joined President Rodrigo Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) over the weekend.
Among them were former Cebu governor and current 3rd District Representative Gwen Garcia, as well as majority of Team Rama, the local party of former Cebu City mayor Mike Rama.
Rama had been included in Duterte’s list of local officials allegedly involved in the drug trade. (READ: Duterte names officials linked to drugs)
In a press conference on Sunday, August 28, Rama said his local allies consulted with him before shifting parties.
“[They] decided to join PDP-Laban because we want to be partners for change. We believe in federalism and the fight against criminality and drugs. But in order for President Duterte’s programs to be more effective, it must have proper cooperation and coordination from the grassroots level,” he said.
Would the party welcome Rama if he decides to join too?
“Mura’g di na maayo ipa-take oath if naa pa ka sa lista. Bisan ako gusto nako i-welcome ang tanan but if naa ka sa listahan, murag dili sa,” House Speaker Panteleon Alvarez told reporters at the oath-taking ceremony.
(It wouldn’t be a good time because he’s on the list. Even if I could let him in, it wouldn’t be a good idea.)
But Alvarez said he accepted Rama’s allies into the party because “the crime of one [is] not the fault [of] all.”
Rama clarified he would want to join PDP-Laban later, but will first focus on clearing his name.
New PDP-Laban members
Alvarez administered the oath to the new party members with Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino. The House Speaker said he is planning to recruit more members for the party “down to the barangay level.”
The other officials came from the towns of Aloguinsan, Asturias, Bantayan, Balamban, Barili, Borbon, Consolacion, Cordova, Liloan, and Medellin.
Before Saturday, August 27, nearly all municipal and city mayors in Cebu either belonged to the Liberal Party (LP) or the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Mandaue City Mayor Luigi Quisumbing was the first to announce in Cebu that he was leaving the LP for PDP-Laban.
“For us, it is important not to only say we are supportive (of Duterte’s agenda), but to show our support by joining PDP-Laban to be able to make sure we can fully support the President,” Quisumbing told local media.
Despite not having any support from Cebu politicians in the elections, Duterte won 1.1 million votes in the vote-rich province of 2.7 million voters.
Duterte’s family is originally from Cebu City. His father Vicente Duterte once served as mayor of Danao City before moving to Davao.
But the President’s cousin, current Danao City Mayor Ramon “Nito” Durano III, and the other Duranos serving in public office in Cebu’s 5th District were not among those who switched parties.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who was often compared to Duterte during his previous terms for his tough anti-crime and anti-drug policies, also did not join PDP-Laban.
A longtime LP member, Osmeña supported Manuel Roxas II and Leni Robredo in the last polls. Osmeña, who had been in the headlines recently for conflicts with the new local police leadership, would not say if he is interested in joining Duterte’s party in the future. – Ryan Macasero/Rappler.com