Senator Aquilino Pimentel III on Sunday blamed his partymates in the PDP-Laban for concealing their choice of candidates for national posts in next year's elections, a move that he said triggered bickering within the ruling party.
Pimentel, son of PDP-Laban founder Aquilino Pimentel Jr., dared the camp of expelled party vice chairman and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi to lay their cards on the table and state who they want to run for president, vice president and senator.
He noted that the camp of Senator Manny Pacquiao, PDP-Laban president, has been grooming him for national elections, regardless of the position.
"We have given Pacquiao a national profile,” he said.
But there were those inside the party that were alarmed when Pacquiao became party president, Pimentel said.
"They can't speak out the reason — do they have their own presidential contender within the party or outside the party?” he said.
He said the in-fighting in the PDP-Laban can be resolved if the Cusi camp is open about the candidates they support.
Cusi, deputy secretary general Melvin Matibag, and membership committee head Astra Naik were recently expelled by Pacquiao and the party's National Executive Committee for violating party rules by pushing for the presidential run of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who is not a member of the party.
The camp of Cusi has also been convincing President Rodrigo Duterte, the party's national chairman, to run for vice president next year.
Pimentel played down a National Council Assembly in Cebu last May that was convened by Cusi.
"You see there were just around 100 members when we are over 100,000 members," Pimentel said.
Matibag said Sunday he did not recognize his expulsion, saying his removal violated party bylaws.
He said the National Executive Council had no authority to discipline members.
Under the bylaws, he said, members can only be disciplined by the chapter or national council.
Matibag said that since he, Cusi and Naik are officers of the party, only the National Council, by a vote of two-thirds, can remove them.
He also denied that he and the other expelled members pledged allegiance to another party, saying the bylaws do not prevent the PDP-Laban from forming alliances with other parties.
Senate President Sotto III said a Luzon tour with Senator Panfilo Lacson would be part of the basis for their decision to run next year.
Sotto said once his party, the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), decided his vice-presidential run, he would contest the position, regardless of who else is running for the spot.
He also admitted that he is still in the process of convincing Lacson to run for president.
"We are getting the pulse of the private sector, local officials, and religious officials. We are asking them what they see as the problems of the country and what should be the government's program," Sotto said.
Sotto said those in Manila feel differently than those in the provinces, who say help from the government does not reach them.
Meanwhile, Lacson said the general election in 2022 may be the most serious and important in recent Philippine history, especially because of the problems the country is facing brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said Filipinos must think wisely and consider the current problems and issues carefully in selecting the next leaders who will address the huge problems facing the nation.
"This is serious, very serious especially because of the pandemic. I think the decision we will make in 2022 is the most serious and important decision we all have to make, and we should really think carefully," he said.
"My hope and prayer is that the campaign leading to the May 2022 polls will be a campaign of issues, and not a campaign of entertainment," he added.
Among the immediate problems facing the nation, he said, is the national debt that has ballooned to P11.071 trillion as of May, and the possibility it may continue to grow bigger before the end of the Duterte administration.
"There are now 110 million Filipinos. Easily each of us, even those born just today, will already be saddled with a debt of P100,000," Lacson said.
Lacson said Filipinos must choose a leader who sets and follows a single standard instead of being selective in dealing with graft and corruption.
Citing his personal experience as Philippine National Police chief from 1999 to 2001, Lacson said the culture of “kotong” (extortion) stopped and his men followed his strict "no-take policy" because he not only followed a single standard, but also showed leadership by example.
Also on Sunday, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo disputed the view from some constitutional experts that there were legal impediments to President Duterte's run for the vice presidency.
He also said it was illogical to believe that Duterte, as vice president, would control the Office of the President.