BUTZ AQUINO THREATENS TO SUSPEND ANGARA AS LDP PRESIDENT

TARLAC CITY, December 13, 2003  (STAR) By Benjie Villa — Makati City Rep. Agapito Aquino, suspended indefinitely from his position as secretary general of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, said he will initiate the suspension of Sen. Edgardo Angara as LDP president.

Aquino told local sectoral leaders here late Thursday that he would be compelled to move for Angara’s suspension if the senator continues his "acts of disloyalty and other actions inimical to the party."

The Tarlac lawmaker said he would initiate the suspension of Angara next week.

Aquino was among those sanctioned by Angara for proclaiming Sen. Panfilo Lacson as the united opposition’s bet in the May 2004 presidential elections. Angara said the proclamation of Lacson was "illegal."

Angara reportedly appointed Enrique Zaldivar as party secretary general to replace Aquino.

In a one-page letter he sent to Angara yesterday, Aquino reminded the LDP president that any move to replace him without conducting the necessary election is illegal under the party rules and constitution.

"Considering that the (LDP) national congress has not met to elect my replacement as secretary general, your action in replacing me is clearly illegal and unwarranted," Aquino told Angara.

"It was regrettable," Aquino said, that Angara was acting as "the party, the national congress and the executive council all rolled into one."

He said Angara’s "divisive brand of leadership" has caused many party members to leave, naming the late Senate president Neptali Gonzalez, President Arroyo, Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, former Tarlac congressman Jose Cojuangco and Sen. Rodolfo Biazon.

"The LDP was founded by my late brother, Benigno Aquino Jr., and I am not going to stand idly by and watch you drag my party down the road to perdition," Aquino said.

On the other hand, Minority Leader Carlos Padilla (Nueva Vizcaya) took a reconciliatory gesture towards Angara and declared a "ceasefire."

"If the government and the communist rebels can declare a ceasefire (this Christmas), why not on the political front," he told a weekly news forum at the Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City yesterday.

Padilla was also ordered suspended by Angara for declaring Lacson as the opposition standard bearer on Dec. 4.

Angara has also expelled Lacson from the LDP for accepting his supporters’ nomination as their presidential standard-bearer in next year’s elections.

He said Aquino and other Lacson supporters, including Padilla — head of the LDP contingent at the House of Representatives — have also dropped themselves from the party.

Padilla declared the ceasefire as he announced that talks are ongoing between opposition presidential aspirants actor Fernando Poe Jr. and Lacson.

Poe has been nominated as presidential bet by the opposition coalition led by Angara, six days after Lacson was proclaimed by LDP members led by Aquino and Padilla.

Padilla said there have been attempts by certain groups to widen the rift and weaken the opposition following Poe’s nomination.

He said Angara himself has denied expelling some party members for declaring Lacson as the official candidate.

Padilla said the one-on-one talks between Lacson and Poe would end the infighting at the LDP.

Padilla earlier blasted Angara, claiming their expulsion was illegitimate.

He said their falling out with their party head began some months back when Angara wanted to "dictate on us his choice of a presidential candidate."

Angara has openly preferred Poe as the united opposition’s candidate to be pitted against President Arroyo who is seeking a full six-year term next year.

Breaking The Stalemate

Both Lacson and Padilla appeared in Tarlac City late Thursday before members of the Tarlac Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Lacson expressed his confidence before the gathering that Poe will honor the LDP’s party policies to subject himself to the opposition’s "selection process" and hold a dialogue with him to break the stalemate.

Former Tarlac board member Rey Roy, president of the Peace for Progress Movement/Ping for President Movement-Tarlac chapter, said if ever the senator gives way to Poe, Lacson may just likely continue serving his last three years of his term in the Senate.

Lacson shot down suggestions that he should slide down and be Poe’s running mate.

In the end, however, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) may eventually decide who will be the legitimate candidate from the opposition.

Angara made a manifestation before Comelec yesterday that the official opposition candidate should be endorsed by him as LDP president and Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) leaders.

Comelec officials noted the intraparty conflict as between supporters of Poe and Lacson as well as the moves made by Angara in expelling some party members and officials from the mainstream opposition.

"Normally, these are intraparty matters. But if there are two candidates for the same party, the Comelec will decide based on the party’s constitution or by-laws," said Comelec legal department acting chief Alioden Dalaig.

Dalaig heads the Comelec office that will receive the certificates of candidacy (COC) starting Monday until Jan. 2.

Dalaig explained neither Poe nor Lacson can run as independent candidates for the position of president since they are required to be members of any accredited political party under election laws.

Comelec is required to furnish the administration and opposition parties copies of the certificates of canvass and are given priority slots for poll watchers in case of overcrowding of poll precincts.

Dalaig said a seven-man committee is tasked to review the COCs to weed out "nuisance" candidates by Jan. 15.

Support

Padilla, for his part, chided Angara for asserting his position as head of the LDP during last Wednesday’s launching of the opposition KNP to support Poe.

Padilla told the Tarlac gathering that Angara is not authorized by the LDP’s national leadership to represent the party in the KNP and the coalition’s eventual endorsement of Poe as its standard-bearer.

Padilla said a "majority" of the LDP leaders across the country were not informed about Wednesday’s political affair.

He said Angara’s presence in the launching of KNP was "on his own individual capacity."

"They (Angara and company) are like generals who have no soldiers behind them," said Padilla. "He (Angara) does not have a following in the LDP."

Padilla maintained "majority in the LDP are behind Senator Lacson."

On the other hand, LDP leaders in other regions expressed their support for Angara.

In a statement, Misamis Oriental Gov. Antonio Calingin, LDP chairman for Region 10, said Angara has the full support of party members in the region.

"We are fully behind our president," Calingin said. "His efforts to unify the opposition (through the KNP) have now borne fruit. He even sacrificed his own personal bid to become president of the country just to see the opposition united."

In the same statement, Zamboanga de Sibugay Gov. George Hofer also expressed his support for Angara.

He said 15 out of the 16 regional chapters of the LDP in Mindanao have all passed resolutions expressing their full support.

He said LDP regional leaders have commended Angara for taking the initiative of unifying all opposition parties under the KNP. - With Perseus Echeminada, Jose Aravilla  


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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