MANILA,  July 12, 2004
By Perseus Echeminada  -  This early, the feud among pro-administration solons identified with the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats and the revitalized Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino (Kampi) has turned for worse after a ranking Lakas congressman accused Kampi of sowing intrigue among party members.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers of Lakas chided Kampi yesterday for meddling in the selection of chairmanships of House committees, which he said is the sole prerogative of a sitting speaker.

"If they want to challenge the choice of the speaker then they must nominate their candidate and allow the members of the House to vote," Barbers told The STAR in a telephone interview.

There are still two weeks to go before Congress formally opens its session on July 26, during which Mrs. Arroyo will deliver her state of the nation address.

Barbers also belittled the supposed merger of Lakas and Kampi because Kampi is only a complimentary party of the government coalition, People Power Coalition (PPC).

Of the remaining political parties in the PPC, Kampi has the least number of members while Lakas is the dominant party.

On the other hand, Antipolo City Rep. Ronaldo Puno, who is Kampi interim president, said Kampi leaders and Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. are to settle the controversy over the distribution of committee chairmanship and other key posts at the House.

Puno also clarified that their group is supportive of De Veneciaís leadership in the chamber.

Kampi created a stir when they made known its opposition to the way chairmen of various committees are being handled by a few yet influential lawmakers.

Puno revived Kampi more than a week ago after being dormant following the successful 1998 vice presidential bid of Mrs. Arroyo, who founded the party a year earlier.

Mrs. Arroyo is also national chairman of Lakas, a party founded by De Venecia and former President Fidel Ramos in 1992.

Barbers welcomed the emergence of Kampi in the House but doubts if they can muster enough numbers to push for its agenda in the incoming 13th Congress.

He insisted that Lakas still stands as the controlling party in the House and that Kampi will remain as a complimentary group to push for the legislative agenda of President Arroyo.

"Thatís the essence of democracy (when) everyone can say his stand on certain issues but in the end the majority rules," Barbers said.

However, Kampi has attracted the attention of local chief executives particularly newly elected governors and mayors, according to a source within the party.

Even before the party can complete its slate at the House of Representatives, local officials are already inquiring how to join the Presidentís party, said the source, who requested anonymity.

"In social functions, newly elected officials have shown interest in becoming part of the party," the source said.

A newly elected opposition congressman said at least five solons from the opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) will join Kampi in the promotion of the Presidentís 10-point agenda in her next six years in office.

"We are proud to become party of the Presidentís party," he said.

Kampi, which has held its organization meeting last week at Robinsons Galleria in Pasig City, already has 72 members as of yesterday.

There has been talks about the possibler merger of Lakas and Kampi but Puno said its fate will depend on the issue of Charter change.

Kampi is batting for a constitutional convention while the camp of De Venecia is advocating a constituent assembly to effect changes in the Charter.

Puno said a constitutional convention will allow lawmakers to continue their legislative work and spare them from controversy in pushing their agenda in the amendment of the 1987 Constitution.

But De Veneciaís camp argued that a constitutional convention will cost the government at least P5 billion, which the government cannot affort at this point of economic crises.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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