MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) Former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. will remain president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats when the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi, Partner of the Free Filipino) merges with the ruling party, former president Fidel Ramos said Wednesday.
Ramos, Lakas chairman emeritus, also defended the tirade De Venecia delivered against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in his valedictory Monday evening, before he was ousted as Speaker.
He said De Venecia had the right to say what he did and that this would not affect his position as Lakas president.
Arroyo is Lakas chair and also chairman emeritus of Kampi, which reportedly spearheaded the campaign to unseat De Venecia and replace him with his Lakas party mate, Davao City Representative Prospero Nograles.
Following De Venecia?s scathing attack on the Arroyos, a number of Lakas members -- among them Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez -- called for his resignation or ouster as party president as well.
Ramos said he had the final say on such matters. ?There will be no immediate changes in the Lakas leadership set-up,? the former president said. ?This is a process that will take place over time with continuous consultations among leaders.?
He also confirmed that the name of Lakas-CMD would be retained after the merger.
Ramos? announcement confirms earlier statements about the Lakas-Kampi merger by Lakas executive director Ray Roquero and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.
At a news conference in Manila, Ermita said Kampi president Ronaldo Puno, the Interior secretary and Arroyo?s chief political adviser, "was instructed to hasten this move of merger."
"A joint committee will probably be created, composed of elected officials from Lakas [and] elected officials from Kampi, to talk about the parameters and criteria that need to be discussed prior to the formalization of the merger," said Ermita, himself a Lakas member.
Ermita said it was Nograles who confirmed the impending merger to him.
"He [Nograles] had spoken with Kampi officials. There will be a merger of Lakas and Kampi, with Lakas as survivor party," he said.
Nograles also said that he was staying with Lakas and pledged to urge former members who defected to other parties to return, Ermita said.
At the press conference, Ermita said he was not sure about De Venecia?s fate with the merger.
"Let's wait for the move of former Speaker De Venecia, whether he will say, ?I'm going down from where I am, as president of the party.? I'm sure there are already talks on how to deal with the situation."