Philippines

Duterte takes the side of Cusi in PDP-Laban row

By Azer Parrocha 

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi (Presidential file photo)

MANILA (Philippines News Agency) – President Rodrigo Duterte recognizes the leadership of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi in his ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) even after officers from the camp of party President and Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao voted to expel him, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) expelled Cusi and two other party mates, accusing them of violating the party’s constitution.

Roque said Duterte, chair of the PDP-Laban, does not acknowledge the NEC’s expulsion of Cusi, who also serves as the party’s vice chair.

“He (Duterte) recognizes the leadership of Secretary Cusi that is why he will attend the party special meeting on July 17,” he said in a press briefing in San Juan city.

Citing the President, Roque said he hopes that the party will be able to identify a legal solution to resolving conflict among its members.

“All I can say is what the President has said on the matter. We will resolve all existing disputes within PDP-Laban legally,” he added.

In a statement issued Friday, Cusi belittled the order to expel him, describing Pacquiao as having been “clearly misguided” by his advisors.

“Senator Pacquiao demeans himself by resorting to underhanded tactics. Whoever advises him clearly doesn’t care about him and his reputation. I pity Sen. Pacquiao, he is clearly misguided. The PDP Laban activities on July 16 and 17 will push through as scheduled and as confirmed by our party Chairman. See you then,” Cusi said.

Last week, Roque said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) may step in to resolve the conflict between factions in PDP-Laban.

“Legally, there’s a procedure. If there’s an intra-party dispute, then the Comelec will have jurisdiction to rule on it,” he said.

Pacquiao’s tax evasion case

Meanwhile, Roque challenged Pacquiao anew to do fulfill his duty as senator by proving corruption in government, including identifying offices involved in irregularities.

“Mga alegasyon po ni Senator Pacquiao ay alegasyon. Walang detalye tapos umalis siya. Ang inasahan sana ng Presidente gagampanan niya yung papel niya bilang isang senador na talagang mag-iimbestiga sa senado pero hindi po ‘yan nangyari (Senator Pacquiao’s allegations are allegations. There are no details and then he just left. The President is expecting him to fulfill his duty as senator by investigating these corruption claims but it didn’t happen),” he said.

Pacquiao is currently in Los Angeles, US to prepare for his upcoming fight against undefeated Errol Spence in August. He is aiming for Spence’s World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation bantamweight crowns.

“Kung ikaw ay tunay na naninindigan sa korupsyon sa iyong pamumuhay, dapat wala kang korupsyon at hindi pagbabayad ng tamang buwis ay isang form ng korupsyon (If you truly stand for the corruption in your lifestyle, you yourself should have no corruption and not paying the right taxes is a form of corruption),” Roque added.

In a taped meeting with PDP-Laban executives and government officials aired on July 7, Duterte criticized Pacquiao for his previous tax evasion case.

In 2013, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) lodged a tax evasion case against Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee for alleged tax deficiencies in 2008 and 2009.

The BIR claimed Pacquiao had a total of PHP2.26-billion underpaid taxes for 2008 and 2009, including those for his earnings in his boxing matches overseas.

Pacquiao’s total tax liabilities blew up to PHP3.29 billion due to penalties and surcharges. (PNA)

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