Lakas to remain dominant party
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Although plagued by defections, the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD remains the dominant political party, according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez.
Jimenez was responding to a pronouncement from Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento that Lakas may lose its dominant party status due to continuing defections.
“The possibility (of being stripped of the status) is there but with the number of elected officials still with the party, Lakas-Kampi remains the dominant party,” Jimenez said at the weekly Balitaan sa Rembrandt news forum.
Jimenez said the recent defections from Lakas – although high profile – were not enough to offset the number of card bearing members who are candidates in the May 10 polls.
President Arroyo’s economic adviser, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, recently announced his defection to the Liberal Party. The LP’s standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III and his running mate Sen. Manuel Roxas II have consistently topped the surveys.
Lakas’ presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro has been consistently a poor fourth in surveys.
The Comelec spokesman also justified the merger of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and the Nacionalista Party of Sen. Manuel Villar, saying it was made in accordance with all legal requirements.
He said the allegation that the merger had no blessings from NPC founder businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. should have been raised during the Comelec’s deliberation on the matter.
Jimenez said officials of both parties filed the merger petition.
He said Cojuangco, chairman emeritus of the party, is just a titular head and that the legal process only recognizes officials registered with the Comelec.
Support for Gibo
Meanwhile, Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo has voiced his support for Teodoro.
“Yes, I am for Gibo, based on criteria, track record, integrity and capacity to govern,” he told the Church-run Radio Veritas.
“He is a very positive person, not a member of the mudslinger club… He is the kind of leader who can heal our country’s problem on divisiveness,” he said.
Bagaforo’s comments came amid the heated exchange of accusations between Aquino and Villar.
The prelate also debunked claims that Teodoro is Mrs. Arroyo’s lackey.
“He (Teodoro) can never be a puppet president. He knows where he stands, his loyalty is to the people,” he said, adding that unlike other candidates, the Lakas standard-bearer has “no messianic syndrome.”
Among the candidates, Bagaforo said only Teodoro has “clear vision and dreams for the country.”
A group called “Volunteers for Gibo,” meanwhile, said Teodoro has kept his mass support base despite the defections.
“The composition of the party can change, the members can change, the leadership can change, but the volunteers and the people who ardently support Gibo are here not because of the Lakas party, or other politicos under Lakas. We’re here for Gibo and for what he stands for,” said the group’s founder Andrew Masigan.
“Gibo is the antithesis of the trapo (traditional politician). It’s not only us (the volunteers) who are sick and tired of those trapos – everyone is,” Masigan said.
“We are passionate about supporting Gibo because he represents change,” he said. “It is indisputable that he is waging a dignified campaign never before seen in Philippine politics.”
Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Lagdameo Jr. also voiced his support for the former defense secretary.
“I fully support the continued run of Gibo for the presidency despite all obstacles being faced (by him),” he said.
“Our voters know who they should really support as president, and that’s Gibo,” Lagdameo said.
Madeline Marfori, presidential adviser for special projects in Mindanao, has also expressed support for Teodoro.
“I’m personally supporting Gibo for his decisiveness and integrity,” she said.
“What differentiates Gibo from the rest of the presidential candidates is that he alone has a concrete program to move the country forward – and to greater heights – in the post-Arroyo administration,” Sarangani Gov. Miguel Dominguez said.
Rallying the youth
In Davao City, Teodoro appealed to the country’s youth for support.
“We call on our youth to support us. This is the time to show our powers amidst this political mindset. We need to work double time,” Teodoro said.
“It is time to come out and rally and let our voices be counted,” he said.
“Let us show that we are sick and tired of contemporary politics. We want to change the country for the better,” he added.
He also stressed he was unfazed by the defections, and thanked Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) presidential candidate Joseph Estrada for calling him the most competent among the presidential candidates, next to Estrada.
“I am happy. I am confident. I know things would turn out right,” Teodoro said. – Perseus Echeminada, Jaime Laude, Edith Regalado, and Evelyn Macairan