MANILA,  July 3, 2004
By Paolo Romero  -  The long-dormant Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) party founded by President Arroyo in 1996 has been revived by a group of administration lawmakers and neophytes in the House of Representatives.

Newly elected Antipolo City Rep. Ronaldo Puno, who was a key strategist in the President’s election campaign, was elected as its interim president while Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier was named vice chairman.

Puno said at least 72 legislators, including some members of the opposition, have joined Kampi.

"Our common denominator here is that all of us have supported the President in the last elections, and we will pursue the legislative agenda of the President and her development programs. We would like to assist her in disseminating information on the socio-economic programs of the government," Puno told a press conference at the Galleria Suites in Pasig City.

Asked why they have to revive Kampi when there is an existing administration coalition that has been relatively successful in passing Malacañang-backed bills, Puno said, "Why not? A coalition is somewhat loose compared to a real party. I think a new group is the best way to put fresh energy in pushing for much-needed reforms."

The current administration coalition is composed of Lakas-Christian and Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the Liberal Party (LP) and the Nacionalista Party.

Mrs. Arroyo chairs both Lakas and LP.

Puno was quick to deny that Kampi would be challenging the mammoth Lakas-CMD as the dominant administration party and that he is aspiring for the speakership.

He stressed that Kampi is fully supporting Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., who is Lakas president, to lead the House.

"We need continuity in our pursuit for reforms and Speaker De Venecia has steered us through difficult times," he said.

Rep. Constantino Jaraula, who was among those who attended the meeting at Robinsons Galeria, affirmed this, saying that the group is supporting De Venecia.

Other members, however, have hinted that they are open to other candidates who may challenge the House leadership.

"As of now, we are supporting De Venecia but we are still open to other candidates," newly elected Sultan Kudarat Rep. Suharto Mangondato told The STAR.

Meanwhile, Quezon City Rep. Vincent Crisologo said that they are supportive of good governance but they have not yet decided whom to support in the speakership.

Since she ran and won as vice president in 1998, Mrs. Arroyo carried Lakas as her party, which was founded in 1992 by De Venecia former President Fidel Ramos.

With Kampi’s revival, Mrs. Arroyo would now have a powerful bloc — about a third of the more than 220 legislators — in the House that is not identified with any other political figure.

While the party organization has yet to be completely organized, Puno said those who have signified joining Kampi were not asked to leave their respective parties.

He also sought to dispel fears of party raids as they have allotted only three days starting today to accept new members.

"We don’t want to have any political baggage and other parties need not look over their shoulder and worry," Puno said. — with Perseus Echeminada

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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