Lakas-Kampi is no more—Lagman
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman on Sunday said the Lakas-Kampi coalition has “ceased to exist” and that only the Lakas-CMD (Christian Muslim Democrats) party remained to represent the minority in the lower house of Congress.
Lagman announced the “death” of the Lakas-Kampi partnership a week before his anticipated showdown with Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez over the minority leadership when Congress resumes sessions this week.
“There is no more Lakas-Kampi, there is only Lakas-CMD with a few remnants of Kampi most of whom formed their own party, the NUP (National Unity Party),” said Lagman in a phone interview.
Lagman stressed that he was the chairman of Lakas-CMD and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was only its chair emeritus. He would not say, however, if his defiance of Arroyo whom he accused of plotting his ouster from her hospital suite—showed her diminishing influence in the minority bloc.
“I am not ready to say that,” said Lagman.
Lakas-CMD, which was formed in 1991 by former President Fidel V. Ramos and former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., and Kampi, which was formed as the Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino in 1998 by Arroyo, merged in May 2009 to form what was then the union of the two biggest political parties in the Philippines.
Despite the coalition’s vaunted size, the Liberal Party (LP) rode on the surging popularity of Sen. Benigno S. Aquino III to win the presidency and control the lower house. A number of Lakas-Kampi members jumped ship and joined the LP a few weeks before the May 2010 elections.
Facilitate LP-led coalition
NUP executive director Reginald Velasco said that close to 30 Lakas-Kampi members, most of whom were originally from Kampi like Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, formed the NUP a few weeks after Arroyo stepped down from office in order to facilitate their participation in the LP-led coalition in the House.
He said Suarez, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez and Occidental Mindoro Rep. Amelia Villarosa were the few Kampi members still with the party.
Lagman was adamant that his move to retain his seat had nothing to do with Arroyo’s health problems or arrest.” This is totally independent of that. This is not about her, this is about the party,” he said.
Suarez agreed that the fight for the minority leadership was not about Arroyo. “It is not the role of the minority to defend the former president, she has her lawyers for that,” said Suarez.
Lagman insisted that he was “more competent, credible and qualified” to lead the minority, holding up a manifesto signed by most of the opposition bloc members.
Suarez, on the other hand, claimed he had 19 of the 29 minority members behind him.
“He is afraid of me because he cannot contend with me,” said Lagman.
In a phone interview, Suarez said Lagman was merely using Arroyo to curry favor with the majority, which he planned to join after his “imminent ouster.”
“He accused her (Arroyo) of plotting his removal when in fact she has nothing to do with it. He wants to join the majority and the majority apparently wants him too,” said Suarez, adding that he would demand a confidence vote on Lagman’s leadership when Congress reconvenes on Jan. 16.
Suarez said Lagman apparently wanted to strike an alliance with the majority group, or possibly the PDP-Laban party of Vice President Jejomar Binay, for the 2013 elections.
Majority leader Neptali Gonzales II said that Lagman would be a welcome addition to the majority bloc.
“I don’t see any problem if he joins our ranks. After all, he is equivalent to 80 percent of the minority,” said Gonzales in a text message.
‘Let’s see what happens’
But Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and LP stalwart Cavite Rep. Joseph E.A. Abaya were noncommittal.
“Let’s see what happens first,” said Belmonte.
“Difficult to comment on the affairs of the minority. As for any leader, it will boil down to trust, confidence and competence manifested by a show of hands,” said Abaya.
Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao said the Lagman-Suarez feud was just “fratricidal or a fight for lordship over perks and power.”
“In due course, the minority will unite around whom GMA (Arroyo) will annoint. Will the feisty affair damage the minority? Nope. They are not as remotely divided as the majority where some coalition partners refused to sign the impeachment complaint (against Chief Justice Renato Corona),” said Aggabao in a text message.
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