President Rodrigo Duterte directed his partymate and energy minister to organize and convene a PDP-Laban council meeting on Monday, his spokesman said Sunday.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao is opposing the conduct of a National Assembly of the PDP-Laban on that same day and had earlier warned Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi, the party's vice chairman, against talking about politics at this time.
Referring to the council meeting, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said, "This move, which is part of the democratic exercise, aims to consult party members and have fruitful and productive exchanges on issues affecting PDP-Laban."
Pacquiao and Cusi had clashed in March when the senator told the cabinet official not to "poison" the minds of their partymates into discussing politics at this time after a party resolution urging Duterte to run for vice president in 2022 circulated.
The boxing champion told his partymates in a memorandum to ignore Cusi's invitation to the national assembly, saying it was not sanctioned by national council officials, a violation of the party's constitution.
"Any call for a national assembly, council, or meeting must be approved by both the Chairman (President Rodrigo Duterte) and the President (Pacquiao) only," the memorandum read, adding that now is not the time for politics as the country faces the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, Cusi said the national assembly was being called to "assess where the party is" in terms of supporting its chairman, President Duterte.
"Although a minority of our partymates are trying to discourage the participation of the members, we wish to reiterate that the assembly is part and parcel of the democratic process that every major political party should embrace," he said.
"Verily, the National Council Meeting is an important political process that we must encourage as it pertains to one of the basic tenets of PDP Laban --- consultative and participatory democracy," he added.
On Sunday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that it was Duterte, the party chairman, who directed Cusi to organize and preside over the council meeting.
PDP-Laban executive director Ronwald Munsayac said only Duterte and Pacquiao could call for a national assembly. He also cast doubt on the President's supposed blessing for the meeting, saying that they did not receive any formal communication to that effect.
Munsayac said Pacquiao would request for a meeting with the President "so the two party leaders can discuss and set the agenda for the legitimate national council meeting." The meeting can be set a month before the filing of candidacies in October or earlier, depending on what Duterte wants, he added.
The PDP-Laban Bulacan provincial chapter also denounced Pacquiao for supposedly criticizing the President's stance on the West Philippine Sea issue. The senator denied such accusation.