President Rodrigo Duterte “recognizes the leadership” of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the PDP-Laban vice president expelled by acting party president Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Malacañang said on Monday.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte would attend the party’s special meeting on July 17 organized by Cusi, which Pacquiao said was unauthorized, as a sign of support for Cusi.

“Iyong meeting ng PDP-Laban sa Clark, July 17 called by Secretary Cusi, it’s in the calendar of the president…All I can say is he recognizes the leadership of Secretary Cusi and that is why he will attend the party special meeting on July 17,” Roque said in a virtual presser.

The PDP-Laban faction of Pacquiao expelled Cusi PDP-Laban Deputy Secretary General Melvin Matibag and membership committee head Astra Naik on July 9 for allegedly backing members of another political party.

The PDP-Laban National Executive Committee also passed a resolution authorizing Pacquiao to create investigation committees to “probe complaints about party members who may have violated the party Constitution or may have committed acts inimical to the party by showing allegiance to another party.”

Drama within PDP-Laban surfaced in June after Pacquiao claimed corruption within the government tripled during Duterte’s term.

Duterte claimed Pacquiao only brought up the corruption allegations after he grew impatient waiting for PDP-Laban to choose its presidential bet.

Roque said Duterte would “resolve all existing disputes within PDP-Laban legally.”

The boxer-turned-politician is expected to seek the presidency in 2022, while Duterte is being pushed by party members to run for the vice presidency. John Ezekiel J. Hirro