New party for Lakas turned LP lawmakers
- Jess Diaz () - February 4, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The 32 former members of Lakas-Kampi who have formed the new political party National Unity Party (NUP) would continue supporting the administration of President Aquino.

“Nothing changed as far as political support is concerned. We remain supportive of P-Noy (President Aquino) and Speaker Sonny (Feliciano) Belmonte Jr.,” Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas, Cavite told The STAR yesterday.

He said their political group would be part of the Liberal Party-led pro-administration coalition in the House of Representatives.

“As such, we see no changes in our assignments in various House committees, in the Commission on Appointments, House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, and other congressional bodies,” he said.

Barzaga was elected NUP vice president for external affairs. In the House, he is chairman of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms.

Elected party chairman was Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia, while Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino was elected party president.

Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez was chosen vice president for internal affairs and Bataan Rep. Albert Garcia as treasurer.

Barzaga said Alvarez and Antonino would continue to represent their group in the powerful Commission on Appointments, the body that is empowered to approve or reject Cabinet appointments.

He said the 32 congressmen-members of NUP comprised one of two Lakas-Kampi factions that supported Belmonte’s bid for Speaker.

Former budget secretary and now Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. led the other faction, while the third group became the House minority or opposition bloc.

“We did not raid the ranks of the minority, of which we were not part from the beginning. So they cannot expel us,” Barzaga said.

He was apparently referring to the threat of House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman that Lakas members who joined the NUP would be expelled for “acts inimical to the party.”

“No member of the minority joined us,” Barzaga said.

He said Lakas-Kampi could no longer expel them since they have ceased to be members of the former ruling party when they formed the NUP, which they have registered with the Commission on Elections.

“We formed NUP partly to dissociate ourselves from Lakas-Kampi,” he added.

In an eight-page petition, the NUP had named Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado as its secretary-general. The group claimed to have 3,000 members.

“As a party, the National Unity Party held its first organizational meeting on Dec. 7, 2010. At present, various local chapters have been set up throughout the Philippines which include the election of city/municipal chapter chairman together with the designation of the headquarters for each chapter,” the petition stated.

The group gave assurance that the party is not a religious sect or denomination or association organized for religious purposes and that “it does not and shall not advocate violence or unlawful means to seek its goal.”

The officers of the party’s central committee are congressmen Pablo Garcia (Cebu, 2nd District), chairman; Antonino (Nueva Ecija, 4th District), president; Barzaga (Dasmariñas, Cavite), vice president for external affairs; Alvarez (Palawan, 1st District), vice president for Internal Affairs; Albert Garcia (Bataan, 2nd District), treasurer and Reginald Velasco, executive director.

Among its members are nine governors including Gwendolyn Garcia (Cebu); Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado (Bulacan); Enrique Garcia Jr. (Bataan) and Adolph Edward Plaza (Agusan del Sur).

The party has 31 members in the House of Representatives, including Karlo Alexei Nograles (Davao City, 1st District); Roberto Puno (Antipolo, 1st District); Maria Theresa Bonoan-David (Manila, 4th District); Gabriel Quisumbing (Cebu, 6th District); Jorge Almonte (Misamis Occidental, 1st District); Maria Valentina Plaza (Agusan del Sur, 1st District) and Antonio Lagdameo Jr. (Davao del Norte, 2nd District).

“The National Unity Party possesses all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications set forth under the 1987 Constitution and other relevant laws,” the petition showed.

SC approves Lakas-Kampi merger

The Supreme Court (SC) recently affirmed its decision upholding the legality of the merger of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) in preparation for the May 2010 national elections after the Court denied with finality the petition filed by former House speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. to reverse its earlier decision.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had accredited the merged Lakas-Kampi as the dominant ruling party during the last presidential elections.

Former Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. was its standard-bearer. Teodoro finished fourth in the presidential race behind the winner President Aquino, former President Joseph Estrada and Sen. Manuel Villar.

In a resolution issued by the Supreme Court dated Jan. 11, 2011, the Court denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by De Venecia, who had earlier questioned the union of the two of the largest political parties in the country before the Comelec and the SC.

The Court ruled that De Venecia’s motion for reconsideration raised “no substantial arguments” which would warrant the reversal of its Dec. 16, 2009 resolution.

“No further pleadings or motions will be entertained,” the Court added.

In its original resolution, the Court held that De Venecia failed to show that the Comelec abused its discretion when it upheld the Lakas-Kampi merger in November 2009.

De Venecia is the erstwhile leader of Lakas, which he co-founded with former President Fidel Ramos as the latter’s vehicle for the 1992 presidential polls.

Kampi was formed as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s campaign vehicle in 1998.

According to the High Court, De Venecia failed “to sufficiently show that any grave abuse of discretion was committed by the Comelec in rendering the challenged resolution.”

In a resolution released on Dec. 16, the high tribunal said De Venecia failed to show that the Comelec abused its discretion when it upheld the merger.

The Comelec resolution approving the merger of Lakas and Kampi and accrediting it as the new majority party for the May 2010 elections “appears to be in accord with the facts and applicable laws and jurisprudence,” the tribunal added.

The Supreme Court also chided De Venecia for failing to observe technical requirements under the Rules of Court in filing a petition.

In his petition dated Nov. 23, De Venecia asked the Supreme Court to order the Comelec to cancel the registration of Lakas-Kampi as a political party, claiming that the Lakas members had not ratified the merger in a national assembly. With Sheila Crisostomo, Sandy Araneta

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