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MANILA, Philippines – Who is really in charge?
The question arises with contradicting statements coming from leaders of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s political party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
This week, party leaders and members issued opposing statements on the status of Sen Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III as PDP-Laban president. Pimentel has announced that he is running with the rival administration slate for 2013 as guest candidate but wants to stay as head of PDP-Laban.
The PDP-Laban belongs to the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), which is fielding a separate senatorial slate against the administration coalition in the 2013 elections.
Asked to clarify the issue, Binay spokesperson Joey Salgado said that the Vice President is now in charge of PDP-Laban.
Binay is chairman and one of the founders of the party, along with Pimentel’s father, former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr.
“VP is aware of a previous commitment made by Senator Koko to go on leave. My understanding is that VP will take over his duties,” Salgado said in a text message to Rappler.
In an earlier statement to ABS-CBN News, PDP-Laban Secretary General Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr also said that Binay is taking over PDP-Laban but Pimentel will stay on as “nominal president.”
“We are thankful that [VP Binay] has accepted this arrangement since Koko cannot attend to the party’s commitment to UNA in the agreement with PMP which he himself signed,” Cojuangco said.
Cojuangco was referring to UNA, the coalition between PDP-Laban and former President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) for the 2013 polls. UNA calls itself the “constructive opposition” to the ruling Liberal Party.
Reacting to the announcement, Pimentel said he found it a solomonic decision for Binay to take over because the party already shifted into campaign mode. He reiterated that he is in charge simply of party matters, not campaign or coalition issues.
The conflict is rooted in Pimentel’s decision to bolt UNA in July over the inclusion of resigned Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri in its senatorial slate. PMP and later on UNA decided to accept Zubiri even if Pimentel accuses him of cheating in the 2007 polls.
The statements coming from Binay and Cojuangco as well as an earlier statement from UNA Spokesperson JV Bautista directly contradict the pronouncement of Pimentel that he has not and does not plan to take a leave of absence.
Bautista announced on Tuesday, August 28, that Pimentel already went on leave.
“I do not know where that came from because in the first place, nobody talked to me. I did not file for any leave. I did not mention any intention of going on leave,” Pimentel told Rappler on Wednesday, August 29.
In the same interview, Pimentel had questioned Bautista’s standing to make a major announcement for the party. The senator said he has been a party member since 1982 and invested time, energy, resources and talent for the party.
“Was that his (Bautista) personal idea? Did that come from him or did somebody tell him to say those things? If somebody told him, it means there is a plan because it’s more than one person, there must be an agenda,” said Pimentel.
The statements of the Binay camp and Cojuangco, however, show that there is already an agreement in the leadership to exclude Pimentel from party affairs. Rumors of a coup against Pimentel circulated already last week.
It seems the senator is out of the loop. Pimentel said Bautista’s announcement that he supposedly had gone on leave caught him by surprise. He only found out from party members who asked him about it via text message.
In a separate interview with Rappler on Wednesday, Bautista said that it was PDP-Laban member and Manila City Councilor Bernie Ang who told Binay that Pimentel committed to going on leave.
Bautista said Ang relayed this during a meeting of party leaders at Binay’s office at the Coconut Palace on August 23. Pimentel was not present.
The UNA spokesperson said Ang supposedly got the commitment from Pimentel in a party meeting on August 20.
“So the Vice President said, ‘If he offered [to go on leave], we will accept it.’ He approved it. VP Binay said he will take charge of the affairs of PDP-Laban, including the duties of the president,” Bautista said.
‘Party in chaos’
Pimentel admitted that his decision to bolt UNA has caused confusion in his party.
“Aaminin ko nagkakagulo nga kami sa party ngayon dahil sa sitwasyon na (I admit we’re having problems in the party because of the situation that) the party is officially in a coalition agreement and yet I cannot join the agreement because our coalition partner brought somebody into the coalition that in conscience I cannot run with.”
Pimentel said his solution was for him to inhibit himself from campaign matters but take charge of other affairs like membership and the formation of chapters.
Bautista, however, said that Pimentel’s solution is impractical and unacceptable to other party leaders.
“How can he remain as PDP-Laban president and run under a different political [alliance]? That’s totally untenable and disruptive, causing confusion,” said Bautista. – Rappler.com
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