By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III assured that President Duterte would not be endangered by the apparent in-fighting among members of the ruling Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) at the House of Representatives.
Pimentel, PDP-Laban president, made the assurance even as members of the administration party voted to oust Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez as their House Speaker and elect former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to replace him.
Alvarez and Arroyo are both PDP-Laban stalwarts and allies of Duterte.
“No, because we are not the only group supporting the President. There are several regional groups, other groups supporting the President,” Pimentel said in an interview Thursday.
Pimentel, on the other hand, expressed disappointment over the House leadership row involving his party mates.
“I was quite sad about it and [it was] unfortunate. They are supposed to be party members, and [belonging to] a party [means] you are like-minded individuals, that you have same plans with the party,” Pimentel admitted.
“They should have talked about it. Two factors: they belong to the majority and they belong to same party, yet they did not talk,” he said.
“But it has happened. So let this just be a lesson once we attained political maturity,” he noted.
“It’s just disappointing that party mates clashed when they should have talked. It should have been resolved within the party. Let this be a learning experience not only for our political party but with other parties,” he added.
Pimentel, however, clarified that the PDP-Laban would not sanction nor prevent their members should they decide to jump ship. What happened at the Lower Chamber was not an example of political turncoatism, he maintained.
“That’s okay. I have heard about that but there are no names so it might just be an intrigue. We are not forcing everyone to join the PDP-Laban so we will not force them to stay,” he said.
“Political parties are formed pursuant to our right to free association. If you don’t want to be associated with the PDP-Laban anymore, you are free to go,” he added.
The reported moving out of PDP-Laban members, he added, will not destroy, but rather benefit the party.
“Andami namin ngayon eh. Kaya nagkagulo na, we have never been this large,” Pimentel said.
“‘Yong mga lilipat sa ibang grupo, ‘yong lilipatan nila supportive of President din. Ayaw lang siguro nila sa aming mga personalities sa PDP-Laban. That’s okay with us, wala kaming problema doon,” he also noted.
He said Arroyo, nonetheless, showed that she will not transfer to other political parties after she met with majority members and her party mates.
“So her act shows her commitment to the party,” Pimentel said.
Senate slate affected
Pimentel admitted that the squabble at the House of Representatives has “distracted” PDP-Laban in preparing for the 2019 midterm elections.
While this has helped in addressing the pile-up of members, the senator said the House leadership row may disrupt their timetable for the May 2019 polls.
“We are distracted now and our timetable is disrupted anew. But anyway, there is still time,” Pimentel said.
Despite this, the shake-up at the House leadership, he added, would also show who among the PDP-Laban members are “invested in the long run” with the party’s objectives, particularly on federalism.