A brief history of PDP-Laban: The early 1980s TMT

A brief history of PDP-Laban: The early 1980s Featured

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EARLIER this month, we witnessed the fait accompli takeover of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), the party that catapulted Rodrigo "Deegong" Duterte to the presidency in 2016. To recall, it was the symbiosis between Deegong and PDP-Laban that brought about this feat. But in some symbiotic relationship, one faction tends to be dominant - a twin in the womb cannibalizing a weak sibling, and the man was ruthless - from the time he ruled Davao as mayor and built a formidable political dynasty.

The instincts of PDP-Laban's eminence grise, Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., correctly assessed Duterte propelling PDP-Laban to greater heights; but failed to anticipate an ingrato's lament disparaging PDP-Laban as a "father and son political party," belittling the founder and insulting its adherents. Duterte was unknown in Davao in 1986. His mother, Nanay Soling, was the person we, the fledgling Davao PDP-Laban, wanted then-president Corazon Aquino to appoint as vice mayor to complement our then-officer in charge mayor Zafiro Respicio. The mother declined, substituting her son instead. Thus, the debut of the Deegong in politics. The rest is history!


In some ways, PDP-Laban's capture by Duterte and his minions was not totally unexpected. The intramurals could be traced back to the illegal precipitate appointment by Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel 3rd in December 2020 of Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao as "acting president," a violation of its cherished tenet - "party process." But this move was not done without rhyme or reason. Koko acceded to Manny's salivating for the Philippine presidency. It was perhaps Koko's means of wresting back control of the party post-Duterte - as a kingmaker to an unschooled and naive but rich politician bent on cashing in on his reputation as "ang pangbansang kamao." Except that Koko's and Manny's amateurish moves were too early. The Deegong will not be made a lame duck, the worst thing that can happen to an alpha-politician with an eye toward perpetuating his dynasty. PDP-Laban's deterioration was fast, deadly and immediate. Like Jojo Binay before him in July 2015, Pacquiao's premature declaration invited a political maelstrom guaranteeing an early downfall. With the Deegong acting as the puppeteer, he has caused his underlings to advance the idea of his running for the vice presidency. This keeps him in play preventing a lame-duck presidency. This script was a near repeat in Davao in 2010 when daughter Sara ran as mayor with Tatay as her vice. This kept the ambitious in his orbit at bay, stunned and immobilized.

I don't think the Deegong will run for VP under a marionette as titular president. I surmise Duterte will eventually allow Sara to run for the presidency in this "moro-moro." So far, Sara is doing excellently well, being coy - keeping her cards close to her chest, before calling "all in."

Meantime, the PDP-Laban will go the way of traditional political ruling parties - peopled by pragmatic and opportunistic powerful politicians with the acquiescence of the original intelligentsia providing cover with a patina of its ideological language and symbolisms having been co-opted, bought and paid for with sinecures and lucrative positions in government, undersecretary/assistant secretary appointments, and government board seats. The traditional symbolic "left hand swearing in" complementing the DDS "sieg-heil" of a fist bump will simply caricature their mumbo-jumbo tenets - makadiyos, makabayan, makatao, etc.

When Nene Pimentel invited a winnable presidentiable into the fold, it also marked the beginning of the end of his vision of building a sustainable ideologically correct political party, setting in motion its perversion by the most traditional political genius of them all. The Deegong! Nene's progeny at the helm never had a fighting chance.

In retrospect the current events recall a similar scenario eerily paralleling circumstances occurring 33 years ago. Nene Pimentel founded the party along with a handful of us from Cagayan de Oro and Davao shortly after the Manila 1978 "noise barrage." We named this Pilipino Democratic Party (PDP)-Partido Dapat sa Pilipino.

Political journey

These excerpts are from a yet unpublished book written by this columnist circa 1997:

"The transformation of the PDP-Laban as an ideology-based political party to one that became a traditionalist patronage-centered party was a slow burn. Several factors contributed to this conversion. For one, it has not really internalized the political principles it claimed to operate under within the three years of its early existence prior to being drawn to the Cory government after the 1986 People Power Revolution.

"The critical mechanism to provide and imprint the Christian Social Democratic creed to its members and acolytes through the basic membership seminars (BMS) was not successfully put in place. What originally started as a three-day immersion on party tenets that began in Mindanao was cast aside once PDP decided to merge with Ninoy Aquino's Lakas ng Bayan (Laban). A critical mass of membership may have been attained but the inculcation of the ideological precepts did not keep in step.

"The PDP was an innovative idea from successful European models. It was not meant to be just transplanted from these mature societies, but certain features could be adapted to counter home-grown patronage-based politics. PDP was then touted as 'left of center' of the political spectrum with its Jesuit-influenced founders, steeped in Christian social teachings articulated through the papal encyclicals.

"A true ideology-based Filipino version of a political party that reflected the profile of its society was envisioned; a mass-based dues-paying membership, free from the shackles of patronage; practicing internal democracy in its methods and choices; a collective leadership whose decision-making process is arrived at through consensus; and one that must serve its community requiring its continued existence beyond campaign and election periods. This was the PDP we envisioned.

Internalization of concepts

"The three years of organizing (1982-1985), was not enough to internalize these concepts, so one by one, these tenets were surrendered to the exigencies of the times. The first to go was the P250 annual dues. What was meant to fund the party's basic needs and give the members a sense of ownership was eliminated by the populist arguments that the amounts were too much for the poor members to pay. So, the party had to revert to the patronage system where members look up to their local leaders to have their dues paid, for the privilege of membership and voting rights.

"When it was conceptualized in Mindanao, PDP was religious in conducting the three-day basic membership seminars (BMS). This was meant for the party members to imbibe the basis for the party's existence, its principles, platforms and structures. This type of immersion was necessary to enable prospective members to form friendships, deepen bonds and foment trust especially under martial law conditions. But the organizing reached fever pitch after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. All steps were eliminated to gain adherents and warm bodies. Peping Cojuangco, Cory's brother, with the acquiescence of the "leadership in Metro Manila, did away with the intensive BMS and exacted the half-day sessions. This twin decisions to eliminate membership dues and shorten the BMS opened the party to the onslaught of shrewd politicians steeped in the ways of traditional politics."

Next week, Aug. 4, 2021: Two wings of PDP-Laban000
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