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Analysts weigh unfolding alignments between PDP-Laban and Sara Duterte’s party

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DAVAO Region’s top elected officials led by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio (center) and (from left) Governors Nelson L. Dayanghirang (Davao Oriental), Claude P. Bautista (Davao Occidental), Anthony G. del Rosario (Davao del Norte), and Jayvee Tyron L. Uy (Compostela Valley) at the launch of the Hugpong sa Pagbabago political party. — CARMENCITA A. CARILLO

By Charmaine A. Tadalan

WHERE stands the PDP-Laban, amid the political recruitments to the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) regional party?

“The PDP-Laban is on the way out,” University of the Philippines (UP) Law Professor Antonio G. La Viña told BusinessWorld in a phone interview Saturday when sought for comment about the unfolding alignments between the still-ruling PDP-Laban and the HNP, led by Davao City Mayor and presidential daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Mr. La Viña said this has always been the case in the Philippine political scene.

“There are no political parties in the Philippines. These are all personalities and they all revolve around the President. So, wala na ‘yon, (that’s nothing) there’s no PDP-Laban to talk about,” he also said.

Also sought ought for comment, PDP-Laban president Senator Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III said in a text message on Tuesday that “we don’t care what they say because we don’t care about ‘titles’ anyway.”

Mr. Pimentel also asserted that despite losing numbers, the PDP-Laban will continue to thrive as the party is steered by ideology.

“Even if we are back to a small party, we don’t really mind because we have an ideology to fight for, for the rest of our lives. Hence, we have meaning and purpose in our political life,” he also said. “So what’s the problem?”

The former Senate leader also said that while PDP-Laban and HNP are separate parties, the two remain strong allies in supporting President Duterte. “Allies of the President may belong to one or both of these parties but we are all on the same side; we all stand by the President,” Mr. Pimentel said separately in a statement, also on Tuesday.

The HNP on Monday witnessed the oath-taking of its newest recruit, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr.

Mr. Roque joined the roster of new members Senators Cynthia A. Villar and Joseph Victor G. Ejercito, Ilocos Norte Maria Imelda Josefa R. Marcos, and Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” T. Go, who is also a member of PDP-Laban.

The oath-takings follow on the heels of a national assembly by PDP-Laban at a Quezon City hotel last week. This was led by Messrs. Pimentel and Pantaleon D. Alvarez, who was ousted as House speaker on July 23, Mr. Duterte’s scheduled State of the Nation Address.

Also sought for comment, lawyer and political consultant Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco said in an emailed response, “Sadly, the fate of the PDP-Laban is now in the hands of President Duterte. Can this once glorious political party still be saved?”

“This could be the Solomonic solution the President may suggest to the leaders of these parties,” Mr. Yusingco said of a possible alliance between the PDP-Laban and the HNP.

University of the Philippines political science professor Maria Ela L. Atienza, said when also sought for comment: “Former Speaker Alvarez alienated a lot of members and Former Senate President Koko Pimentel failed to make sure that the new members will fall in line behind the programs and policies being pushed by the party.”

“Now, the infighting continues. We will further see how the HNP and PDP-Laban compete for dominance in preparation for the 2019 elections,” she added.

The recruitment of national personalities is in addition to the national political parties already eyeing a coalition with Mayor Duterte-Carpio’s HNP.

Asked whether this could lead to her vying for a national post, Mr. La Viña said, “I think the father and daughter are keeping their options open.”

“The reason why they have now chosen Hugpong (ng Pagbabago) is that they have control over it. They didn’t have that over PDP-Laban,” he added.

Ms. Atienza for her part said: “Right now, as a regional party, HNP can count on the support of many Mindanao-based politicians. But in attracting prominent non-Mindanao politicians, many original members will have to share influence and possibly be side-stepped by more influential non-Mindanao politicians.”

“The party can have a bigger national membership but loyalty and unity will be more difficult as people join not because of party programs but because of their desire to gain or maintain their political influence,” she also said.