Rift in PDP-Laban makes former supporters in CdeO wistful of its anti-dictatorship roots

PDP-Laban founder and former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. with his wife Lourdes “Bing” de la Llana at the oathtaking of Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno on June 30, 2013. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 11 June) – The squabble in the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) has left many of its former local supporters here nostalgic about the early 1980s when they were still marching on the streets against the regime of ousted president Ferdinand E. Marcos.

“Back then we were fighting for democracy. We were the beacon of democracy in the country,” NGO worker Edmund del Castillo recalled.

Del Castillo was still a student at Xavier University when protests against the Marcos dictatorship rocked the streets of Cagayan de Oro.

The PDP, founded in 1982 by then Cagayan de Oro mayor Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., started on its own in the struggle against the Marcos regime.

Pimentel Jr. became an assemblyman in 1984 representing the city in the Interim Batasang Pambansa. He served as senator from 1987 until 1992, and ran as vice president in 1992 but lost. He was again elected to the Senate for two more terms, 1998-2004 and 2004-2010.

“The party was pure in its principles back then. All we wanted was to topple Marcos and restore democracy,” said local journalist Uriel Quilinguing.

But in 1983, the PDP merged with the Lakas ng Bayan founded by Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., who was assassinated in the same year upon his arrival in Manila after living in exile in the United States. Aquino’s death heightened the resistance against Marcos.

“The PDP started losing its vision after the merger with the Lakas ng Bayan,” Quilinguing said.

He said the members of Lakas ng Bayan sidelined PDP members after the merger.

Like del Castillo, Quilinguing was drawn to the idealism of PDP in the fight against Marcos and his monolithic party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.

After the death of Senator Nene Pimentel on October 20, 2019, his son, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III assumed the presidency of the PDP-Laban.

Then candidate Rodrigo Duterte ran under the PDP-Laban in the 2016 elections. And, as expected, most politicians flocked to the party after Duterte won the presidency.

The PDP-Laban, however, has been wracked by infighting between one faction identified with Duterte and another one supporting the presidential ambition of Senator Manny Pacquiao, the current party president.

The factions came to blows when Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, PDP-Laban vice chair convened a meeting of party’s national council in Cebu last May 31 upon instructions from Duterte. Pacquiao questioned the meeting.

Manny Jaudian, PDP-Laban Northern Mindanao vice chair said they are eagerly waiting for the outcome of the national assembly of the party on July 17.

“Many of the issues including the party leadership will be threshed out during the assembly,” Jaudian said.

Party member Marlon Tabac, Barangay Agusan chair said he expects the Duterte faction to move for the ouster of Pacquiao as party president.

“If that is the case, party members in Cagayan de Oro will move to have Senator Koko Pimentel replace Pacquiao as president in the coalition,” Tabac said. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)