Confusion rises over PDP-Laban leadership change

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 27) —  PDP-Laban President and Senator Koko Pimentel dismissed the election of new leaders of the ruling party on Friday, insisting he is still the head.

Thousands of supposed regional party members attended the National Assembly at the Amoranto Stadium in Quezon City on Friday.

Their National Council elected its chairman Rogelio Garcia as party president. With the elections of new officers, Pimentel is ousted as party president and former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is removed as secretary-general.

But Pimentel shrugged off the event and the election of a new leader.

"As the president of PDP-Laban, this is an unauthorized event... Unofficial, unauthorized, rogue assembly using the name of PDP-Laban," he told CNN Philippines on Friday.

In an official statement, PDP-Laban called officers of the National Council "usurpers of party authority."

"(They) shall be dealt with in accordance with existing election and criminal laws and party laws," it read.

Pimentel said he is still party president. He added there is no way for the National Assembly attendees to seize power in the party that counts President Rodrigo Duterte and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as members.

"Siyempre. We change party leadership the proper way. Ang mga nag-elect sa kanila, paano natin malalaman na PDP-Laban members nga ang mga iyan? Hindi pwedeng in one day maha-hijack mo ang six-year-old political party. Meron tayong formality," he said.

He said an investigation will be conducted as to who is behind the unauthorized event. The senator said a rich and powerful person is behind the event to be able to rent the stadium and bring in hoards of regional leaders to Manila by tourist buses.

"These are pretenders. Who are these people? Kilala niyo ba sila?" he said. "Sa tingin ko merong malaking tao nasa likod nito kasi meron pang mga tourist buses na naandon, dinala ang mga tao doon... Somebody is actively coordinating this event," he said.

The supposed newly-elected PDP-Laban President Garcia denied Pimentel's accusations, saying they have no backer and they are not rogue members because they're legitimate members of the party even before Pimentel became senator.

Garcia said the National Council will file the new list of officers before the Commission on Elections on Monday.

In an interview on CNN Philippines' News Night, Garcia insisted that the event was authorized and that Pimentel is no longer the leader of the party.

"Nope, as of today, he (Pimentel) was deposed," he stressed, adding that he is open for an investigation.

"We're trying to reach them. Long before this national assembly today nagpapaabot na kami ng aming kamay na kami po ay mag-uusap, na pag-usapan natin ang mga problemang ito, itong mga sigalot na ito lalong lalo na po sa mass oath taking," he added.

Despite the turmoils, Garcia asserted that PDP-Laban remains a unified party.

"We're not hijacking the party. There is no faction in the party, we want the party to be united," he said.

The event comes a day after House Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya said some representatives from PDP-Laban are considering jumping ship to Lakas-CMD. He said Lakas-CMD may possibly merge with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio's regional party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago.

Consultative Committee spokesperson Ding Generoso said political turncoats will not be tolerated under the proposed shift to a federal government.

"The ConCom draft contains strong provisions against political turncoats, political butterflies and "balimbing" that virtually makes it impossible for politicians to switch parties and political allegiances without facing sanctions," he said in a statement. "If the ConCom proposals had been in place, more than half of the present members of the House who have been moving from one party to another would lose their seats and would be barred from running in the next elections."

CNN Philippines senior correspondent Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.