Lakas has new leaders; lesser role for Arroyo seenBy Leila B. Salaverria |Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—With newly chosen leaders at the helm, the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s political party, is moving forward with an apparently diminished role for its erstwhile top official.
Lakas-CMD plans to endorse five senatorial candidates from President Aquino’s own Team PNoy in the 2013 elections. It will support five other candidates from the United Nationalist Alliance, and the selection of the candidates for endorsement would be entirely up to the party’s new leaders, with Arroyo having little say in the matter, according to its officials.
Lakas-CMD, which has no senatorial bets of its own, will announce the 10 names it would carry one month before the elections, according to party’s new president, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.
Arroyo, whom President Aquino has regularly criticized and blamed for the country’s woes, will not be involved in the party’s decision on whom to endorse for the Senate, according to party chairman Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. The party will chart its own course under its new officials, he said.
Arroyo is chairman emeritus of Lakas-CMD, along with former President Fidel Ramos, and she is the party’s candidate for the second district of Pampanga, where she is running for re-election.
“The party’s decision when it comes to that aspect would be made by the executive committee. The chairmen emeritus are the elders, but they won’t meddle in the party’s decision,” Revilla said at a press briefing.
Romualdez said that access to the former President was limited because she is detained in a hospital. The new party officials would decide its next moves, he said.
“I believe that since there’s already a new leadership, the new leadership has been given trust and confidence by the party elders to decide on this, so I think we can now move forward,” he said.
Arroyo does not have to be consulted about Lakas-CMD’s impending support for Liberal Party coalition candidates, according to deputy secretary general Raul Lambino. Lambino said the party did not consider getting her blessing or approval when it came to supporting senatorial candidates.
“It doesn’t matter whatever opinion or position GMA (Arroyo) will have on this matter because the party is now being run by Bong Revilla and Martin Romualdez. Their decision should be respected by everybody,” he said, when asked about Arroyo’s possible objection to her party supporting President Aquino’s candidates.
Lakas-CMD used to be the top political party in the country when Arroyo was the chief executive. But many of its members jumped ship in 2010, when a new President was elected.
The 10 senatorial candidates that Lakas-CMD plans to supports would be added to its own 800 to 900 candidates for local positions.
Revilla noted that with that many local candidates, Lakas-CMD was still a significant contender in politics.
“It’s still a party to reckon with. We can’t belittle this party,” he said.
Romualdez said Lakas-CMD will endorse only 10 senatorial candidates so that its local officials could be free to endorse two more candidates of their own choosing. He said the party’s endorsement would be significant for the candidates.
“As we can see, all of the senatorial candidates are jockeying for higher slots,” he said.
The party will also take some time to select the10 candidates because it wants to get a consensus from members, he said. He did not think that choosing them one month before the elections would be too late.
“As the say, one week is a lifetime in politics,” he said. “That will be sufficient and ample time to campaign and make a difference.”
In selecting the 10 candidates, the party will take into consideration common ideals, sincerity in helping the people, and their track record, he added.
Lakas-CMD elected a new set of officers on Tuesday to fill the vacuum created by the resignation of Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who used to be the party’s chairman.
Revilla is taking over the post that Lagman vacated, while Romualdez will be taking over the presidency from Revilla.
Romualdez said he and Revilla will work to strengthen and revitalize the party, and see to it that its candidates would be elected in May.
“The focus and main goal is to revitalize Lakas. What concerns other parties is their own lookout. We will strengthen the party and take it from there,” he said.
Lakas-CMD leaders plan to move around the country to promote their candidates and provide financial support, according to Revilla.