By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Morexette Marie B. Erram November 15,2017 - 11:16 PM

SETTING THE STAGE. Workers on Wednesday, November 15, 2017, start to assemble a stage in Plaza Independencia in downtown Cebu City that will be used for the mass oath-taking for the new members in Cebu of President Duterte’s PDP–Laban scheduled this Friday, November 17, 2017.


If your name is still on the list of narco-politicians, you are not allowed to join the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP–Laban), the party of President Rodrigo Duterte.

This was the instruction of Nixon “Jojo” Dizon, president of PDP–Laban-Cebu province chapter, to elected officials who want to join an estimated 50,000 local political leaders and individuals who will pledge allegiance to the administration party in a mass oath-taking scheduled tomorrow, (Friday), at Plaza Independencia in downtown Cebu City.

“Local chief executives and individuals who are in the narco list of President Duterte should consider the PDP–Laban party’s philosophy and regulation before deciding to participate the oath taking on Friday,” Dizon said in a statement yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mike Pato, co-founder of the Bisaya na Pud (BNP) organization, which is known as one of the major forces behind President Duterte’s candidacy in 2016, revealed in a separate statement that House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III will come to Cebu to officiate this Friday’s oath-taking ceremony.

“The President’s trusted partymates like House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III will lead other PDP–Laban bigwigs who will grace the mass oath-taking of 50,000 new members, including the municipal and city mayors in Cebu province,” Pato said.

Preparations for the ceremony at Plaza Independencia began yesterday, with the stage and tents now being set up.

In addition, the Cebu City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution, penned by Cebu City Councilor Raymond Garcia, authorizing the organizers to hold the event in Plaza Independencia, and utilize the space in Fort Maritima as parking areas.

At least 19 mayors from Cebu province, together with thousands of other elected officials ranging from vice mayors, town and city councilors to those in the barangay level, are expected to be sworn into PDP–Laban.

“In as much as we want to welcome everyone into the fold, there are party rules to follow, particularly in terms of recruitment and membership. The best way for these personalities who are in the “Duterte list” is to clear their names first before they can participate with any party activities, such as mass oath-taking and rallies,” added Dizon.

In 2016, the President revealed a list containing names of alleged narco-politicians in the country, three of whom were from Cebu, namely, Mayors Vicente Loot of Daanbantayan and Mariano Blanco III of Ronda; and former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama. All three mayors have denied their participation in the illegal drug trade.

Rama: it’s a waiting game

Rama yesterday affirmed that all his allies in Barug Team Rama will join the mass oath taking and hoped he would be also allowed to do so.

“Basta ang President moingon ‘ari ka sa PDP-Laban’ adto jud ko sad (If the President will invite me over to PDP–Laban, I will definitely go),” said Rama during a press conference called by Barug Team Rama.

Most of Barug’s members have affiliated with PDP–Laban last year but Rama, who was supposed to join them, was sidelined after he was included in the President’s list of alleged narco-politicians. Since then, he has been exhausting means to have a dialogue with the President and clear his name to prove his innocence but to no avail.

But even if his partymates have left him behind, Rama said it will still be advantageous to them that Barug members have aligned with PDP–Laban.

“No. (This is) very advantageous. Unity in diversity. We may be disagreeing but not disagreeable. So there is such a thing as PP — practical politics,” Rama said.

Rama stressed he will continue working on clearing his name and had submitted some documents to the President’s special assistant Bong Go.

“I just wanted my name delisted (from the narco list) because I have not seen any complaint and there is no investigation being conducted openly (against me),” said Rama.

Blanco, an erstwhile member of the dominant Liberal Party (LP), was among the 12 mayors from Cebu’s second and seventh districts who have left LP in favor of PDP–Laban.

Blanco: watch from a distance

As one of the mayors from the second district, Blanco was among those who visited Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III in the Capitol last week to formally inform the governor, as LP’s provincial head, that they would shift alliance.

But Blanco yesterday said he had “no choice but to watch the ceremony from the distance” after he was informed by officials of PDP–Laban in Cebu that he could not join the mass oath taking.

“Even before I was informed with the instructions, I knew that this point will come. Nevertheless, I (wanted) to switch parties because our congressman (Rep. Wilfredo Caminero, 2nd District) asked all mayors in the 2nd district of Cebu to join with PDP–Laban, and it’s also for the good of our people,” said Blanco.

“That’s their instructions. I have no choice but to watch the ceremony as an audience (in order) to witness it. I will also attend the event to show support to some of our barangay officials who will take part in the oath taking,” he added.

Last November 13, the National Police Commission in Central Visayas (Napolcom-7) stripped Blanco of his control over the Ronda police after the agency said it found probable grounds that the mayor, who is serving his last term, was allegedly “engaged in the illegal drug trade/activity after continuous validation by the intelligence agencies.”

“This allegation, it’s a big problem. It’s blocking my plans to extend my sincerest support for our President by joining him in PDP-Laban. But as I’ve said before, I am not a drug protector. And that’s why I want to clear my name as soon as possible,” explained Blanco.

Old hands, new party

On the other hand, all six mayors from Cebu’s first district and Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza of the sixth district are among the local chief executives in Cebu to be sworn as new members of PDP–Laban.

In a separate text messages sent to CDN, Cebu First District Rep. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr. revealed that all members from their family-led local party, Alang sa Kalambuan ug Kalinaw (Alayon), will join the oath-taking this Friday.

“Yes. All of Alayon mayors (Eduardo Gullas of Talisay City, Kristine Vanessa Chiong of Naga City, Nicepuro Apura of Carcar City, Elanito Peña of Minglanilla, Lakambini Reluya of San Fernando, and Caroline Bacaltos of Sibonga), vice mayors, barangay captains and barangay councilors will join,” said Gullas.

Radaza, on the other hand, told reporters yesterday that her group are officially members of PDP–Laban after they were sworn by Alvarez as new members last October 4, despite actions from their opposition reportedly aimed to discredit their partisanship.

But she will still take her oath as new member on Friday along with Vice Mayor Marcial Ycong and 11 out of the city’s 12 councilors.

Last week, the group of Engr. Rolando Patalinghug and Dr. Celedonio Sitoy, chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the PDP–Laban Lapu-Lapu chapter, signed a manifesto questioning the entry of Radaza’s group to the administration party without the recommendation of the local or regional office of the party and for not undergoing the required basic membership seminar.

Radaza, however, said she was not bothered by them, saying that her decision to join PDP–Laban was not “for her own personal interest but for the good of her constituents.”

Cebu Third District Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, who chairs the One Cebu party, also announced last Tuesday that some of their members will likewise join the mass oath-taking ceremony this Friday.

It can be recalled that One Cebu mayors: Christina Frasco of Liloan, Ace Binghay of Balamban, Marlon Garcia of Barili and Noel Dotillos of Borbon were among the more than 300 politicians in Cebu who were sworn as PDP–Laban members in August 2016.

One Cebu, which had initially backed the presidential bid of then Vice President Jejomar Binay in the May 2016 polls, made a last minute switch to Duterte after falling out between the Garcia-backed party and Binay.

Bakud stays independent

Despite expressing strong support for the Duterte administration, the Durano-led Barug Alang sa Kauswagan ug Demokrasya (Bakud) opted not to join the PDP–Laban.

Fifth District Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano VI said that although Bakud has passed a resolution urging their members to express strong support towards the administration of President Duterte, they have no plans to align with any national party.

“We have a local party, and we don’t see a need to (align) to another party. The important thing here is we’re supporting the programs of the administration,” stated Durano, who also sits as the party’s president.

Bakud, on Monday, passed a resolution urging their elected members to “promote a federal form of government, and efforts to eradicate nationwide criminality and abolish corruption in all levels of the Philippine government, and are encouraged to propose them to local legislation in support.”

“The resolution is a show of support on the President’s programs and campaigns against illegal drugs, criminality, and of course shift, to a federal form of government. No, this does not (necessarily mean we’re shifting to another party),” explained Durano.

Davide: no problem

For his part, Davide reiterated that he saw ‘‘no problem” with Cebu politicians, including some from LP, who have shifted alliances.

“We respect the decision of our allies to take oath with PDP. That’s politics. Padayon man atong serbisyo sa atong mga katawhan. Suporta man pud ta sa mga programa sa Presidente, paglingkod pa lang niya, labi na sa iyang agenda against illegal drugs (We will continue to serve the people. We have been supportive of the President’s program from the time he assumed office, especially his agenda against illegal drugs),” said Davide. /with CORRESPONDENTS DORIS MAY MONDRAGON AND CHRIS LIGAN

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