JUNE 1, 2009 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla and Marvin Sy - Two ranking leaders of the new political party Lakas-Kampi-CMD yesterday asserted there was nothing sinister or hasty about the merger of the country’s two biggest political parties.

Speaker Prospero Nograles denied allegations that the political fusion was hastily done without any consultations with the members and officials concerned.

“This has been all over media since last year. We have been talking about this since last year. And developments have almost always been reported. There was no undue haste,” Nograles said.

Presidential adviser on political affairs and senior deputy secretary general of Lakas-CMD Gabriel Claudio said the merger with the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) had been properly done.

“It (merger) had been the subject of many caucuses since the 2007 elections,” he said, stressing the merger was properly done in consultation with its members.

He said ranking officials of both parties conducted their own caucuses with their members that led to the formation of a committee to oversee the process of the planned merger.

“The members of the national unification committee that managed the merger process are all members of the executive committees of the two former parties,” Claudio said.

Claudio admitted the national directorate of Lakas-CMD was not formally convened immediately before last Thursday’s merger assembly, but all of the caucuses held before were attended by members of both Lakas and Kampi.

Former President Fidel Ramos, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Lakas-CMD, slammed the merger, saying it was done with “undue haste” and its members had been kept in the dark regarding the details of the political union.

Interviewed over radio dzRH yesterday, Ramos clarified that he was not opposed to the political fusion but was just disappointed over the hasty merger.

“I am in favor of that (merger), but why didn’t they address not only the consultation, but also the substantive issues like what should be in the proposed constitution and bylaws (of the new merged party),” Ramos said in Filipino.

Ramos raised concerns over legal issues in the merger of the two distinct political parties into another political entity.

He said concerns on the proposed constitution and bylaws of the new party should be addressed, particularly on the transfer of the assets and properties in the absence of a self-dissolving provision.

Ramos explained this would pose a major problem to the new merged party because the entities identified with the ruling party, namely the Lakas-National Union of Christian Democrats, Lakas-Union of Muslim Democrats of the Philippines and the Lakas NUCD-UMDP, still exist and are registered at the Commission on Elections as separate and distinct political entities.

Ramos said he could not comprehend the hasty merger but suggested it could have been influenced “by the top,” referring to President Arroyo, chairman of Lakas-CMD.

The President left for South Korea yesterday and according to Ramos, those in charge of the merger apparently wanted to have the new party in place before Mrs. Arroyo left.

However, in spite of his misgivings about the merger, Ramos said there is still time to correct the mistakes.

The former president urged a review of the party constitution and bylaws and a more thorough consultation with members.

“My suggestion, and I hope they will listen to it, is to recall the proposed constitution and bylaws, don’t break up the tentative agreement on the merger… they have 45 days or more interval between the trips of the President (Arroyo) and the congressional recess. So there is enough time for harmonious consultation,” Ramos said.

Claudio, on the other hand, said the party has considered the inputs given by Ramos before the merger, including the retention of CMD in the name of the new merged party as well as the ideological principles and visions of Lakas-CMD.

Claudio said he had scheduled a meeting with Ramos and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita yesterday to thresh out the issues raised by the former president.

“We deeply value the opinions and admonitions of President Ramos, especially on party matters. He has been a guiding light of the party as chairman emeritus of Lakas and now of the unified Lakas-Kampi-CMD party,” Claudio said.

“If there were procedural lapses or shortcuts, we are prepared to explain them to President Ramos. I believe his complaints about the merger are procedural, not substantive,” he said.

Claudio said the new party’s constitution still considered Ramos as chairman emeritus while Mrs. Arroyo will also remain chairman of the party.

Kampi executive directors Ray Roquero and Reggie Velasco also said the merger will have beneficial effects on the local level.

Roquero said the issues raised by various party members in the local level have been addressed to ensure that only one administration candidate would be put up in the coming elections.

Roquero said the equity of the incumbent would be adopted where the sitting local official would automatically become the administration bet.

“The certificate of nomination will be issued to the incumbent who are seeking reelection,” he said.

Velasco, for his part, said the merger would greatly reduce political violence since political rivals belonging to the administration party should abide by the rule of the equity of the incumbent.

“Intense fighting at the local level will be avoided,” he said.

Nograles, for his part, said all positions in the new party are on interim status.

“Everybody is interim. Gabby (Claudio) will announce the positions at the proper time,” he said.

Nograles said party leaders are amenable to whatever Ramos would propose to solidify the merger.

“We’re flexible. I think we can work this out,” he said.

‘The Frog’

Nograles also defended the merger against administration critics, particularly the statements made by resigned party member Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. that the new party would eventually self-destruct.

“Maybe they are looking at the crack on their heads. This merger gives us 72 percent of all officials both in the local and national levels. Even if we give a margin of error of 20 percent we would still be the party to reckon with,” he added.

Nograles said the absence of the key leaders of the party does not necessarily reflect discontent among party members.

With regards to the absence of De Venecia, co-founder of Lakas, and former Kampi president Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, Nograles said there was nothing new with their decision to boycott the meeting, much less their decision to bolt the party.

“That has been predictable and predicted. They have been saying that (resigning) all along,” he said.

As for De Venecia’s resignation from the party on the eve of the merger, Nograles said it was a different case.

“He broke all his ties with Lakas. My personal advice to him was it’s better to cut and cut clean,” Nograles said.

“I take it (De Venecia is leaving Lakas) as a member. Because Lakas is now a defunct party, he cannot be a member of a party that does not exist anymore,” he added.

Former President Joseph Estrada led the opposition in claiming the merger of Lakas and Kampi is heading for a divorce.

Sen. Manuel Roxas II even branded the new party as “palaka,” the Filipino word for frog and an apparent acronym for Partidong Lakas at Kampi.

Estrada said the Lakas-Kampi merger took place even before it was announced, and that the new political party that emerged from the merger is “the same dog with a different collar.”

“It is heading for divorce soon,” Estrada said. “We defeated it. The United Opposition (UNO) defeated it in the 2004 presidential elections… we defeated it in the 2007 senatorial elections (and) we will defeat it again in 2010.”

UNO president Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay also said the merger between Lakas and Kampi is headed for political disaster.

Binay said the absence of big guns of the two parties in last Thursday’s merger event indicate the political marriage “is a shaky one and appears headed for divorce.”

He said the touted political machinery of the administration arising from the merger would fail to surmount the people’s dissatisfaction with the Arroyo administration.

Claudio countered that the merger would allow a political machinery consisting of 66 percent of the incumbent district representatives in Congress, 72 percent of the incumbent governors, 71 percent of the incumbent city mayors and 73 percent of the incumbent municipal mayors, among others.

“Not only for political dominance both at the local and national levels, (but there is the potential of) helping government achieve its goals to uplift the lives of our countrymen, are as tremendous as they are obvious,” Claudio said.

On being called palaka, Claudio said the lowly frog has one great skill – it can jump very high.

“As for the moniker palaka given by Sen. Roxas to the merged party, we don’t mind it at all,” he said.

“Lakas-Kampi-CMD will leapfrog over the opposition and help our country leapfrog into the next decade with clearer prospects of political stability and economic resiliency and progress,” he added. – With Jose Rodel Clapano


(STAR) President Arroyo has ordered yet another reorganization of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), moving the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government down from vice chairman to member.

Executive Order No. 799 designated the deputy executive secretary for finance and administration, Undersecretary Susana Vargas, as the new vice chairman of the PAOCC.

Vargas is directly under Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita who serves as chairman of the Anti-Terrorism Council.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno would now be among the members of the PAOCC along with National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr., Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and four representatives from the private sector.

The President is the chairman of the PAOCC.

The PAOCC has undergone several reorganizations since it was created in July 1998 by then President Joseph Estrada.

According to EO 799, the numerous changes in the membership of the PAOCC was meant to counter the pervasive influence of organized crime and to strengthen the coordination between and among agencies engaged in the fight against criminality.

Calls have been made to abolish the PAOCC because its functions are apparently redundant.

The PAOCC recently came under fire when its officers were charged with illegal arrest and raid and violations of human and political rights.

PAOCC directors Grepor Belgica and Mariano Villafuerte were among the respondents in the case filed by New Zealand businessman Anthony Joseph Charles Newman who was implicated in and arrested for allegedly conspiring with Magdalo members to rescue Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Gen. Danilo Lim and other Magdalo members detained on coup charges.

Belgica also claimed that the PAOCC was able to foil an alleged plot to assassinate President Arroyo with the arrest of Newman.

The allegations made by the PAOCC turned out to be false and the case was eventually revealed to be nothing more than a dispute between business rivals.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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