PDP-Laban is a marriage of two renowned progressive political parties, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) and Lakas ng Bayan (Laban). The older party, Lakas ng Bayan, more popularly known as Laban, was formed by our national hero, former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., to launch the bids of the opposition candidates for the 1978 Interim Batasang Pambansa regional parliamentary elections. It’s acronym, “Laban,” which means to fight, symbolized the principal opposition to the Marcos regime and a call to arms to all those who defy the despotic rule imposed by the Martial Law in the country.
Despite the suppression of political rights and civil liberties, Laban fielded a complete slate of 21 candidates for assemblyman in Metro Manila led by Ninoy Aquino who was then in prison. However, he was allowed one television interview hosted by Ronnie Nathanielsz where he was able to pitch for his candidacy and the entire opposition bets. His family represented him in the campaign rallies, including Kris Aquino who was then a kid. The ruling party slate was led by no less than the First Lady, Imelda R. Marcos, and all the political heavyweights of the administration. On the eve of the election on April 6, 1976, Laban successfully staged a nationwide noise barrage to rally people’s support to the opposition. But it was a hollow show of force since the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, the political party of the ruling administration, swept the polls. There was reported massive cheating and electoral fraud and not a single candidate of Laban, including the late Ninoy Aquino, won. Popular politicians like Ramon Mitra, Ernesto Maceda, Neptali Gonzales. Teofisto Guingona, Nene Pimentel, Soc Rodrigo, Alejandro Roces and Jimmy Ferrer all suffered defeat. However, pockets of opposition particularly in Cebu, bannered by Pusyon Bisaya led by Hilario Davide Jr., vanquished the KBL candidates. Many Laban stalwarts after the elections went on exile to avoid prosecution like Carmen Planas, Ernesto Maceda and others. Some of those who stayed were arrested such as Nene Pimentel, Lorenzo Tañada, Soc Rodrigo and Ramon Mitra. Alex Boncayao joined the NPA and after his violent death, Alex Boncayao Brigade became the dreaded and notorious armed unit of the underground forces in the urban areas. Laban continued its opposition even after losing at the polls by conducting street protests and mass rallies and marches. Laban’s electoral loss did not silence the opposition. It only strengthened its resolve to oppose tyrannical rule. During the dark days of Martial Law, Laban, and later on joined by Partido Demokratiko Pilipino and other anti-Marcos groups like UNIDO and ATOM, kept the opposition alive. After the assassination of Ninoy, Laban was dissolved in 1986 and merged with PDP headed by Aquilino Pimentel and became known as Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan or PDP-Laban. PDP was founded by human-rights lawyer and leading oppositionist Nene Pimentel.
Lakas ng Bayan resurfaced in 1987 in the legislative election that year. As President Cory was already in power, Laban overwhelmingly won the elections taking 22 Senate seats out of 24 and a majority of the House seats.
Both parties were born out of principled politics. They were products of hard-fought struggles to preserve civil liberties and political freedom. Both formed during the difficult years of Martial Law, their founders and leaders, Ninoy Aquino, Lorenzo Tañada, Jose W. Diokno and Aquilino Pimentel suffered harassment, arrests and persecutions. Together with other politicians with conviction, they did not play footsie with the dictator and joined the ruling party. Instead they formed Laban and PDP and led the fight for freedom and democracy. They confronted power and intimidation with sheer courage and conviction. They undauntedly faced their abusers and defended the legality and morality of their cause before the courts, in the streets and in the hearts and minds of our people. The authoritarian regime gave rise to grave national issues, which became the rallying points of all opposition forces. Human-rights abuses, maltreatment of political prisoners, militarization, social and economic problems and labor unrest had unified our people against the government. The united opposition lost many battles but they eventually won the great EDSA Revolution, which ousted the abusive regime and gave us our first free breath after 14 years of Martial Law.
PDP-Laban played a substantive role in reclaiming many of our freedoms. In the past, the uncompromising stand of its founders and leaders against injustices, abuses and corruption had prevented authoritarian rulers from ensconcing themselves and their heirs in power. Now that it has become the ruling party, PDP-Laban has become less principled and unworthy of the names of its great founders. PDP-Laban has abandoned the people in their struggle to get a good and accountable government that they deserve. It has changed dramatically during the last few years and has become fundamentally unrecognizable from its original political philosophy and values. It has become a party based on personality and loyal only to one man. Very much like the GOP in the US where the party and its future revolves around Trump alone. What the PDP-Laban needs is to find its moral compass and a new manifesto that will revive the high ideals that will promote justice, freedom and dignity for the Filipino people. We hope that the party leaders will find their moorings, integrity and courage to provide us a political platform that we can support and offer us candidates who will be equal to our trust.