PDP Laban: A Fake Ruling Party in Agony?

For the first time since its founding in 1982, the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, or PDP Laban, found itself swept to power when its candidate for President—Rodrigo Duterte—won by an overwhelming majority vote in 2016. But his association with the party is at best illusory; by all indication, the PDP Laban which is being touted today as the ruling party is an impostor, a fake wielder of power.

Duterte made full use of PDP Laban to hinge his way through electoral victory, then forgot everything about the freeride when the party needed him most. When the going got rough, he ditched his party mates in favor of seemingly better-connected allies, such as in his endorsement of congressional leaders.

But whatever cold treatment his party mates may appear to be getting is not the issue. Recall that the riveting backdrop for the birth of PDP Laban was a national tragedy—of state forces becoming complicit to the murder and disappearances of so many people, mostly critics of government. Today’s killings of suspected criminals bring back ominous visions of that scary past. Jailed during Martial Law on fabricated charges, PDP founder Nene Pimentel envisioned the party to be champion of due process and the rule of law, and an anti-dote to human rights violations.

In his book, “Martial Law in the Philippines: My Story,” Pimentel wrote: “At this time, the country was being rent asunder by rebel guns that challenged martial law. The situation appeared to confront the people with only two alternatives: support martial law or go for rebellion. A number of us—first in Mindanao and then in the Visayas—thought that we should offer our people a third peaceful, nonviolent choice. That was the basic conceptual framework that led to the birth of the PDP….”

Pimentel warned the nation of falling into the “eroticism of violence.” He was defiant: “I cited  him [Timmerman] at length to lay the basis for my conclusion that, while it was not safe to condemn the extrajudicial killings in the country, we had to do it, I said: ‘To sit idly by is to be as guilty as the perpetrators of the violence which if left unchecked would destroy and make a mockery of all the things we hold dear like the sanctity of life, the values of freedom, peace and justice.” 

That the Duterte administration now faces serious accusations of human rights violations makes PDP Laban a ghost of what it once stood for. PDP Laban’s core principles of theism, authentic humanism, enlightened nationalism, democratic socialism, and consultative and participatory democracy, shone like a beacon of hope for newbie politicians brimming with idealism. That was how the likes of Oca Santos, Bobbit Sanchez, Lutz Barbo, Jojo Binay, and Ting Paterno, among others, became members. Their backgrounds and advocacies were diverse, but they were one in the defense of human rights.

The party was not immune to traditional politics, however. In all human history, kind has been known to promote kind, which has how Duterte got appointed as OIC Vice Mayor of Davao City. It was from that transient saddle that he built his career in politics. Binay, whose professional reputation preceded him, went through the same route. Proving to many that he was a good administrator, he—not Duterte—showed promise not too long ago as the future face of the party. But being a non-celebrity must have convinced Binay that billions were needed to propel one to the presidency, allowing bad company to tie his arms up along the way. He sputtered just as Duterte jet-skied his way to the top.

Duterte’s campaign promises included ending labor woes and protecting the integrity of national territory, both of which supported PDP Laban’s core principles.

The party believed that its own people (majority of them are poor) are a country’s most precious resource and, provided they are given their fair share of opportunities, in them lies that same country’s prospects for sustainable progress. The logo for this dream is summed up by Laban, acronym for Lakas ng Bayan (People Power).

When Duterte vetoes the Security of Tenure Bill (aka Endo Bill), he becomes a traitor of his own words. When he drops the ball in the fight for sovereign rights in West Philippine Sea, he becomes a traitor to the country and its people. Quite a shame when ideologues once hyped PDP up as acronym for “Pilipinas Dapat sa Pilipino.” In fact Cebu City was the site of the party’s founding convention to underscore the symbolism of the place where Lapulapu became the first Filipino to successfully drive foreign invaders away.

In what could be an agonizing turn of events for its founders, Duterte—three years after he rose to power—has accomplished the opposite ends of what PDP Laban preached and believed in.

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