TACLOBAN CITY ? Staunch allies of outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are starting to jump from Ms Arroyo?s political party to that of incoming President Benigno Aquino III in a phenomenon that critics said transformed officials into political butterflies.
In Leyte, leaders of Ms Arroyo?s Lakas-Kampi-CMD were the first to jump ship, setting off a ritual of defections of other party members.
Representative-elect Sergio Apostol, of Leyte?s second district, said Representative-elect Feliciano ?Sonny? Belmonte and Senator-elect Franklin Drilon would be in Leyte to administer oaths of membership to the Liberal Party to a still undetermined number of mayors, including 12 allies of Apostol.
Apostol, however, said there was no fixed date yet for the oath-taking of mayors because he still has to coordinate with Representatives-elect Jose Carlos Cari (Leyte, 5th district) and Andres Salvacion (Leyte, 3rd district), who are also bringing in mayors to the LP.
Apostol, Cari, and Salvacion ran and won as Lakas-Kampi-CMD members but bolted the party and joined LP.
Apostol said on Saturday that he took his oath as a member of LP on June 25 at the LP headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City.
Other Eastern Visayas congressmen-elect who were sworn in as LP members were Cari, Salvacion, Roger Espina of Biliran, Mel Senen Sarmiento of Samar and Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar.
Evardone ran as an independent for congressman. In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, he said he decided to join LP because he wanted to help ?protect the country?s economic gains.?
Apostol, a staunch ally of Ms Arroyo, said he had committed to support the outgoing President if she ran for Speaker.
But since Ms Arroyo was out of the race for the House top post, Apostol said he instead sought her permission to join LP.
?She did not say no or don?t,? he said, recalling how Ms Arroyo reacted when her permission was sought.
He said before joining LP, he had consulted his mayors and they all agreed with his plan to join LP.
Reached through his mobile phone, Sarmiento admitted that he had already joined LP, his previous party.
?We got separated under the LP-Atienza wing who opted to support [Ms Arroyo] after the Hyatt 10 incident,? he said.
Hyatt 10 refers to 10 members of Ms Arroyo?s Cabinet who resigned en masse in July 2005 in the wake of the so-called ?Hello Garci? scandal, which was generated by wiretapped phone conversations between ex-Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and Ms Arroyo.
The phone conversations, Ms Arroyo?s critics had said, were proof of Ms Arroyo?s role in manipulating results of the 2004 elections that she won by a margin of about a million votes over the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.
Amid the defections, one legislator was expected to stick with Ms Arroyo?s party ? the outgoing President?s brother-in-law, Representative Ignacio Arroyo Jr.
Ignacio on Saturday said Ms Arroyo wanted to play a less visible role in Lakas-Kampi-CMD although she wanted to strengthen the party.
?On questions about the speakership, she refers us to Representative Lagman. The President is all set for a quieter political life. She is happier, having less stress, now that her presidency is ending,? he said.
Ignacio, however, may stand alone in supporting Lagman. Six other congressmen in Negros Occidental previously allied with Ms Arroyo are supporting the LP candidate for Speaker, Quezon City Representative Feliciano Belmonte.
They include Representatives Julio Ledesma IV (1st district), Alfredo Marańon III (2nd district), Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (3rd district), Jeffrey Ferrer (4th district), Mercedes Alvarez (6th district) and Anthony Golez (Bacolod, lone district).
Golez was previously one of Ms Arroyo?s spokespersons. With a report from Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas