By Joseph B.A. Marzan
Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. on Monday said that he was not privy to the resolution released by ruling Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-LABAN) pushing President Rodrigo Duterte as its vice-presidential bet in the 2022 National and Local Elections.
The resolution, which was leaked to the public last week, was signed by several PDP-LABAN members and officials.
PDP-LABAN president and Senator Manny Pacquiao has already disavowed the resolution in a press conference on Friday, stating that it was not an official resolution of the party.
Defensor, the provincial chairperson of PDP-LABAN in Iloilo, told Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo that he had not read the resolution in its entirety, and only learned about it when it was being questioned by the party’s senior officials in news reports.
Defensor also raised questions against the resolution since it was not issued by a body with the power to create resolutions that are binding to the entire party.
“When you do a resolution, that is a product of a collegial body. The sources of the resolution are either national membership convention, or executive committee meeting, or any collegial body that has the power to issue resolutions that will bind the whole party. If that is our basis, I wouldn’t know the status of the resolution,” Defensor said.
He also said that he did not have time to consult with other PDP-LABAN members and officials in Panay Island due to the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
He added that he was not in any meeting with party officials, and echoed Pacquiao in raising concerns about the legitimacy of the resolution which did not got through the party’s process.
“One thing is for sure, I was not part of any national membership meeting. Maybe there are things that I didn’t know. Some may have convened based on the by-laws of the party, and then they decided to make that decision and make that resolution, but the fact is, it is questioned by the president of the party,” he said.
As a local party official, Defensor believes that the selection of the party’s standard bearers in the upcoming elections should be left to the higher officials within the party.
He also said that he didn’t want to pre-empt Duterte or anyone who might be nominated by the party in the country’s highest positions.
“We have seen it many times that there are intramurals within the party in picking the candidate and other decisions of the party. But what is important is that every member of the party calls to nominate, depending on the by-laws. They can always nominate someone, or they can even nominate themselves,” the governor said.
Defensor welcomed conversations to push with a national convention for the party’s selection and nomination of its candidates, but highlighted that there were more pressing matters as of this time.
“We cannot have a national convention because we cannot have public gatherings. But if the question is, is it the right time for the party to talk, then why not? We have to ask for a dialogue so we can start picking our candidates. That can really happen, except that, again, we are faced with different circumstances and limitations because of the pandemic we are facing,” he said.
Commission on Elections-Region 6 (COMELEC-6) Director Atty. Dennis Ausan also told Aksyon Radyo Iloilo on Monday that based on the Constitution, there are no prohibitions for the current president to run as vice-president in the next election.
Under Section 4 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, the President is prohibited from running for re-election upon the expiry of his six-year term.
Ausan clarified that an incumbent president may run for a lower position in the government upon the expiry of his term, citing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who ran and won as representative in Pampanga’s 2nd district.
Ausan did not comment on the PDP-LABAN resolution, but he said the party may pass resolutions based on its internal regulations.
Political parties can only hold national conventions to select and nominate their candidates from Sept. 1 to 28, 2021.
This was based on the COMELEC’s calendar of activities for the 2022 elections, which was released on Feb. 10, 2021 via COMELEC Resolution No. 10695.
“They cannot do that yet. Holding of conventions outside the schedule set by the commission is unlawful. In fact, it can be taken against the political party, or it can in fact, lead to holding the organizers or those who caused the selection and nomination to be liable for an election offense,” Ausan said.
He also clarified that political parties may still hold conventions for other purposes outside of the dates given by the COMELEC.