By Mario J. Mallari and Perseus Echeminada
President Rodrigo Duterte said unity in the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) party is non-negotiable at a meeting that stretched until the late part of Thursday but which did not touch the supposed party split.
Mr. Duterte instead called for another meeting on 1 September to end party intramurals.
“There is a need for us to unite, if not then we part ways,” a PDP member who attended the meeting quoted Duterte as saying.
On radio, presidential spokesman Harry Roque confirmed the statement issued by the President on the two factions to resolve their differences by September.
“If they really cannot resolve their differences, they can part ways. But right now, he (the President) told them to talk among themselves within the party,” Roque said.
PDP-Laban is expected to come up with a strong senatorial slate in the next year’s mid-term polls, bannered by Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, whose father “Nene” was among the founders of the party.
The President, who is party chairman, also laid out the requirement that only competent and honest politicians should be admitted to the PDP.
Mr. Duterte told the feuding members to unite and join him in the campaign against crime, illegal drugs and corruption.
More than a hundred party members attended the meeting but the squabble was not in the agenda, a party member who attended the meeting said.
The source said the meeting was supposed to be just between the feuding groups of “Koko” Pimentel and lawyer Rogelio Garcia but other party members, including members of the House of Representatives, decided to attend to show their support to the party and the President.
The source said the President did not elaborate on the party rift but asked for a new meeting to resolve it.
PDP gets Rody backing
Mr. Duterte also gave his unqualified support to the party, Pimentel, PDP president, said.
“The President said PDP is his party and that he is duty bound to campaign for its candidates,” Pimentel said.
“He required only two qualifications: competence and honesty. He said the 1 September meeting will be more “formal.”
The President sought the meeting last Thursday after a group led by Garcia and Willy Talag held a so-called national assembly that ousted Pimentel and Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez as president and secretary general, respectively.
Pimentel questioned the motivation of Garcia and Talag but stressed he would not cling to his PDP post.
Koko won’t cling to post
“I don’t cling to a position or title,” Pimentel, who is a former Senate President before being replaced by Sen. Vicente Sotto III in a very smooth transition last May, said.
Pimentel, nonetheless, added he will not relinquish his post to Garcia.
“But why is he going to eat what we planted, harvested, cooked and prepared? Why he? If the one who will eat is among us who worked hard to build the party, we can’t say anything. (But) not through short cut and easy jackpot,” he said.
Pimentel maintained that their group remains the legitimate PDP.
“No need for any settlement. No one recognizes them, except themselves. And maybe some media practitioners,” Pimentel said.
Garcia sends GMA offer
The Garcia faction said it will offer Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a PDP member, the post as national council chairman.
“That’s entirely different from the position of national chairman,” he said.
Garcia, however, admitted they have yet to talk to Arroyo.
Pimentel earlier said the PDP planned to offer Arroyo a position in the party but did not specify the post.