Political parties in the Philippines

Leadership dispute in Marcos’ party drags on months before election period begins

Rommel Rebollido

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Leadership dispute in Marcos’ party drags on months before election period begins

OATH-TAKING. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr leads the oath taking of the new members of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas at Malacañang Palace on Thursday, August 24, 2023.

Photo by KJ Rosales / PPA POOL

A faction within the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas says South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr., the leader of another PFP wing, has been reluctant to engage in mediation to settle the dispute

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Five months before the election period begins, a faction in the administration Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) rushed to resolve a leadership dispute and sought the immediate intervention of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Marcos’ party found itself with two sets of leaders and factions – one led by South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. and another headed by former governor and congressman Leandro Verceles Jr. of Catanduanes.

Both Tamayo and Verceles are claiming to be the party’s national president, each asserting they have the support of the majority of party members and are serving in line with the PFP’s constitution and by-laws.

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“This is where the Comelec must come in and determine who is telling the truth,” said Assam Ulangkaya, one of PFP’s founding officers in 2016, in an interview with Rappler on Monday, May 6.

‘Illegitimate and nuisance’

PFP was Marcos’ party when he ran for president in 2022.

Tamayo has been serving as PFP national president since he assumed the post in 2019, while Verceles was elected national president during a party general assembly in Pasig City on December 14, 2023.

Tamayo has refused to recognize the party’s general assembly and elections of executive officers in Pasig, even referring to it as “illegitimate and a nuisance activity by some few members and former members.”

In 2023, a day after the disputed PFP general assembly, Tamayo wrote on his social media account: “I remain the duly elected national president of the PFP according to its Constitution and By-Laws.”

Ulangkaya, who attended the Pasig gathering, said the decision to hold the general assembly was made by the party’s 68 officers representing 17 regional party chapters. The decision came, he said, after Tamayo failed to convene the assembly during his two-year term, which ended on September 18, 2023.

During the assembly in Pasig, Marcos was reelected PFP national chairman, and his son Sandro was named national vice chairman.

Aside from Verceles, who was named president then, Presidential Assistant Antonio Lagdameo Jr. was elected as the party’s national vice president, Antonio Rodriguez Jr. as secretary-general, Antonio Marfori as national treasurer, Rudyard Avila III as party general counsel, and Julius Caesar Aguiluz as senior political adviser.

Manuel Andal was also elected as vice president for political affairs, Ulangkaya as national auditor and vice president for Mindanao, Gabriel Sotto as vice president for Luzon, Lorenzo Sagucio Jr. as vice president for Visayas, and Saida Pukunum as chairperson for international affairs.

‘Ultra vires’

Ulangkaya said the PFP constitution and by-laws were explicit, specifically regarding the expired two-year terms that concluded on September 18, 2023.

“We assert that the position of former PFP national president Rey Tamayo Jr. is ultra vires,” according to Ulangkaya, claiming that it was he who invited Tamayo to PFP in 2018 when the latter was still mayor of Tupi town.

On March 6 of this year, the group of Verceles submitted a petition before the Comelec “to challenge the legitimacy of the authority” of Tamayo, Thompson Lantion as secretary-general, and George Briones as party general counsel, all of whom continue to hold on to their posts beyond their two-year terms.

Verceles said the omnibus petition they filed with Comelec was to resolve an intra-party leadership dispute, along with a plea for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction against the three.

The Comelec has yet to act on the petition even with the election period just around the corner, he said.

Open letter

In an open letter in April, the Verceles wing sought the intervention of Marcos to help resolve the ongoing dispute and “avoid a vacuum in party leadership.”

The letter called the attention of Marcos to the alleged reluctance of Tamayo to engage in mediation aimed at settling the leadership dispute, despite proposals for resolution based on the party’s constitution and by-laws.

“Tamayo’s steadfast refusal to participate has hindered progress in achieving a harmonious transition of power,” read part of the letter released by Verceles group.

Tamayo’s camp has yet to respond to a message requesting a comment on the points raised in the open letter. Rappler will update this story once the governor or his group issues a statement. –Rappler.com

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