MANILA, Philippines?The ruling Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats is keeping its options open in the 15th Congress, including striking an alliance with a broad coalition being pushed by the camp of the apparent President-elect, Benigno Aquino III, in the lower house.
Two top officials of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, who refused to be quoted by name because they were not authorized by the party, said the party members have not yet decided whether to field President Macapagal-Arroyo, incoming representative of Pampanga?s second district, against incoming Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. who is being pushed by the Aquino-backed Conscience and Reform (CORE) coalition of the Liberal Party.
The sources noted that they have made this decision out of their loyalty to the party rather than to the outgoing President.
In a press conference in Tarlac City, Aquino expected the CORE coalition to attract a deluge of members once the 15th Congress starts rolling in July. Aquino said that he was willing to work with lawmakers, including those who ran under other political banners in the last election.
"It behooves me to make sure we have a lot of allies who will support and advance the agenda. Mrs. Arroyo is the titular head of the coalition now but come the next Congress, that is another person they will be dealing with in Malacañang, and I am sure most of these people, if not a whole lot of them, the very, very clear majority, will be able to really exercise their conscience votes and choose to go under us rather than the previous dispensation. So we expect very significant numbers to be joining us,?? said Aquino.
The two sources said that it was possible that Lakas-Kampi-CMD could join the CORE coalition and back up Belmonte?s run. The two sources said the party remained the single biggest bloc in the House (109 have been proclaimed so far) and its members have unanimously voted to move as a single bloc in the battle for the speakership.
The Lakas-Kampi-CMD regional heads are to meet next week with Belmonte and his LP allies to discuss their offer to join the CORE coalition.
This was reached during a well-attended informal meeting Thursday night were the members elected President Arroyo as the party chair in the 15th Congress.
With a projected 280-member roster in the lower house, the CORE alliance needs to get at least 141 votes to install Belmonte as Speaker.
The LP currently has 44 elected members and has started negotiations with the Nationalist People?s Coalition, the Nacionalista Party, Lakas-Kampi-CMD and select party-list groups.
Deputy Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II was confident that CORE would get the numbers to elect Belmonte, noting that Lakas-Kampi members would gravitate toward Aquino after his proclamation.
President Arroyo has shown in her nine years in office that controlling pork barrel allocations to friends and foes was an effective tool in holding a broad coalition in the lower house. Aquino has already declared that he would retain the pork barrel system because of its benefits to districts that would not be getting a lot of state funds in the national budget.
Aquino said he has no problem working with allies of his bitter rival, Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. of the Nacionalista Party, as long as this would be for the good of the country.
"When I entered into this, I was ready to sacrifice everything for the common good,'' said Aquino.