FASTLANES: Where to, Koko, Pacman?

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 13 July) – The cracks in the ruling PDP-Laban party have become wide and clear.

Five days into the crucial 17 July 2022 meeting of the party, the President recognized the leadership of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who has been accused by party stalwarts senators Koko Pimentel and Manny Pacquiao of hijacking the ruling party.

The recognition by the President, who is head of the PDP-Laban, finally clears the cracks between the Duterte camp and the Pimentel, Pacquiao camp.

True, Koko Pimentel, the party’s executive vice president, is an influential force, being the son of one of the party’s founders, former Cagayan de Oro mayor and senator Nene Pimentel. Duterte’s ascension to the party helm as a freeloader indubitably eroded the influence of the party’s traditional leaders.

While many thought that the President’s filing of his certificate of candidacy by substituting a proxy who filed for the presidency under the PDP-Laban would upend the party whose power has been waning, with then Nene Pimentel ageing and retired from politics. He died on October 20, 2019.

But that would not be the case, instead of exploiting the favors it gave the President, the younger Pimentel opted for a power sharing in the Senate with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) stalwart Sen. Tito Sotto. From thereon, his influence in the ruling party sliding south.

And then came the fellow Mindanaoan senator who believes in destiny – boxing champion Manny Pacquiao who is also a member of the ruling party. The decision of the Pacman to run for president may have caused kinks in the plans of the Davao cacique. Thought to be hangers on in the PDP-Laban, they had tried to organize a party through the Hugpong ng Pagbabago movement. This however fizzled as candidates it had supported in 2019 were routed. Without a national party, they held on to the PDP-Laban, and eventually casting away Pimentel and of course the Pacman.

Many pundits are saying Pacman, the rag-to-riches-to-power boxer politician, may have already accepted his fate in the ruling party. The transfer of Chavit Singson, a close ally of the Pacman, to the NPC last June was seen as a preparation for their eventual demise from the ruling party. Chavit, a veteran politician, has been thought as the Pacman’s advance party.

While the NPC welcomes Chavit, NPC stalwarts are not to be taken lightly. So what followed next was the declaration of Senate President Sotto his openness to either run for president or vice president in tandem with Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Some pundits view this as just upping the ante or a way of saying – we’re no pushover and di kami cheap.

If the Pacman is booted out of the PDP to pave way for a Sara Duterte presidential bid, and eventually joins the NPC, where would that leave Koko Pimentel? While he is Nene’s son, Koko’s political career is not as stellar. His first array into politics, running as mayor of Cagayan de Oro, was a disaster. His first senate victory was marred by fraud, leading to fellow Mindanaoan senator Migz Zubiri, the supposed tailender in the 2007 election, to resign in 2011.

Koko can of course kowtow with the Duterte-led PDP-Laban, which many would think as so “unNene.” The late senator has shown pragmatism but when push comes to a shove, he draws the line, like when he resigned as Impeachment co-presider with the late Chief Justice Hilario Davide as soon the Estrada Impeachment Trial turned into a zarzuela.

Note that Sara or Pacman or whoever that supported this regime are not genuine opposition, but just parts of a fragmented ruling political party.

Koko supporting the opposition, with the original members of the PDP-Laban, is very possible, convenient and methinks, the logical thing to do. This should not be difficult as the other half of the PDP-Laban, the Lakas ng Bayan, was the brainchild of the late senator and martyr Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino.

(BenCyrus G. Ellorin is a former journalist. He is now the chairperson of the advocacy group and think tank Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and the Environment / Pinoy Aksyon. FB: @NoypiAksyon; Twitter: @Paksyon.)