Alvarez jumps ship after calling gov’t pandemic response a ‘failure’

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    FORMER speaker Pantaleon Alvarez yesterday said he has resigned from the ruling party Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), a few months after calling the government’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic a “failure.”

    Alvarez, who was the PDP-Laban’s secretary general, jumped ship with less than two years left before the 2022 elections to “revive” the Reporma party of former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and push for “voters’ education.”

    “I intend to pursue a voter’s education campaign for Filipinos given the importance of the 2022 elections. Unfortunately, serving as a ranking officer and member of PDP-Laban while simultaneously handling this advocacy may be misconstrued by critics as politicking by the party presently in power,” Alvarez said in a letter to Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, the party’s president.

    He thanked PDP-Laban for supporting him in the 2016 and 2019 elections, saying the two campaigns led to historic electoral victories that “cannot be understated.”

    Alvarez said he has accepted De Villa’s offer for him to “lead and revive” Reporma which he said is as a “non-mainstream party not affiliated with any personality reportedly seeking the presidency.”

    “This way, the voter’s education campaign can proceed, and rightly be perceived, as politically neutral without risking possible backlash against PDP-Laban,” he said.

    Alvarez thanked the ruling party for its efforts to underscore the importance of empowering local governments which he said is a “prerequisite for a strong republic.”

    He lauded the party’s founder, the late Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., for championing the advocacy, saying he, too, is a Mindanaoan who has experienced “the neglect felt by Filipinos living in provinces far away from Manila.”

    While he did not mention President Duterte, the Davao del Norte lawmaker earlier said voters should be “wiser” next elections and elect an “intelligent” leader because having “audacity” is not enough to lead the country.

    “Let’s admit it. The handling of the COVID pandemic in the entire Philippines is a failure,” he said over his local radio program last August 28 which was has again been posted on Facebook. “Una, kining kinahanglan mupili ta presidente nga kahibalo muhandle imong covid. Kanang presidente nga utok (as he points to his head), utok, di lang paisog-isog (Choose a leader who can handle this COVID situation. One who actually has brains and not just all bravado).”

    His scathing comments came as a surprise because it was the first time for him to openly criticize the administration. He is still considered to be among the close allies of the President despite having lost the speaker’s post in the second half of the 17th Congress to then Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.

    Duterte only has less than two years left in office and it remains to be seen if his popularity will be enough to ensure the victory of the administration’s presidential candidate in 2022.

    Alvarez said that apart from the pandemic, the next president also needs to have the “balls” to address a potential conflict in the Pacific between the United States (US) and China.