MANILA, December 6, 2003  (STAR) By Jess Diaz - Embattled Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino president Sen. Edgardo Angara jumped the gun yesterday on his disgruntled party mates by expelling Sen. Panfilo Lacson and his LDP supporters, including several congressmen.

Angara told radio stations dzBB and dzRH that for having accepted his LDP supporters’ nomination as their presidential standard bearer in next year’s elections, Lacson "is now out of the opposition nomination process and out of the LDP."

He said several congressmen and hundreds of LDP grassroots leaders are also now considered expelled from the party for proclaiming and nominating Lacson as their standard-bearer.

"Labas na sila sa aming partido at maghanap na sila ng ibang partido," he said.

Angara said with Lacson now out of the nomination process, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., who has expressed his availability to be the presidential candidate of the opposition, is now sure to be the "united" opposition standard-bearer.

Angara and another party leader, Sen. Vicente Sotto III, favor Poe’s presidential candidacy.

Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who was supposed to head a five-man panel that would bring Lacson and Poe together, agreed with Angara on the matter of Lacson now being out of the opposition nomination process.

"I think he has excluded himself from the selection process by accepting his supporters’ nomination," Enrile told reporters.

He said Poe would soon be proclaimed, "most likely by acclamation," as the opposition standard bearer. He said the one-on-one meeting that his panel has been trying to arrange between the two opposition presidential aspirants may no longer take place.

Enrile, who belongs to the Nacionalista Party, attended last Monday’s formation of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino. He plans to seek a Senate seat under the banner of a united opposition.

Last week, disgruntled LDP members led by Iloilo Rep. Rolex Suplico filed a formal complaint against Angara, whom they accused of disloyalty to their party for rooting for Poe, a non-party member.

Following party rules, they filed their complaint before Makati Rep. Agapito Aquino, who is LDP secretary general. Both Suplico and Aquino are Lacson supporters.

Reacting to his party boss’ announcement of his supposed expulsion, Lacson said he is not recognizing Angara’s "one-man" decision and still considers himself as a member of the LDP.

He said he would continue to carry the name "of the only political party I have joined and to which I belong."

The leader of the biggest opposition party enumerated the names of congressmen who he claimed are now considered expelled from the party. He said all those who attended Lacson’s proclamation and nomination at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan are now non-LDP members.

They included Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, who heads the LDP bloc in the House of Representatives, and party secretary general Aquino. The other congressmen-supporters of Lacson are Gilbert Remulla of Cavite, Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City, Emmylou Talino-Santos of North Cotabato, Ruffy Biazon of Muntinlupa and Abraham Mitra of Palawan.

Padilla and his colleagues have been loyal Angara followers until they decided to support Lacson, a decision that caused their falling out with their party boss.

Padilla complained that his party boss has started replacing his colleagues as party leaders in their regions and provinces.

For instance, he said Suplico has been replaced as West Visayas regional chairman by a former Aklan congressman who is a known Angara loyalist.

In another case, a barangay chairman has been named in place of Mitra as provincial party head in Palawan, he said.

"They did not even inform me. I learned about it over the radio," complained the son of the late Speaker Ramon Mitra, who was LDP founding chairman.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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