Lakas may lose dominant status
By Sheila Crisostomo
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – The ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD may lose its bid to be named dominant majority party by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) due to numerous defections ahead of the May 10 polls.
“This (defection) is for evaluation. This will be factored in for purposes of determining what is the dominant majority and minority party,” Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said.
He said the poll body is expected to issue a resolution on the matter next week.
Last Wednesday, President Arroyo’s economic adviser Albay Gov. Joey Salcedo announced his defection to the Liberal Party.
LP presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Aquino III and his running mate Sen. Manuel Roxas II are survey frontrunners.
Sarmiento maintained that while Lakas is the lone applicant for dominant majority party status, there is no assurance that it would get the privilege.
The LP, the Nacionalista Party and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino have applied for the minority party status.
Sarmiento said that in evaluating applications for majority or minority party status, the Comelec checks a political party’s membership “like how many (members) are in government, how many are running in the elections.”
“We also study the track records. These things are being factored for purposes of making that decision,” he added.
Under Republic Act 9369 or the Poll Automation Law, the majority and the minority parties are entitled to the fifth and sixth copies of the election returns.
But Sarmiento said such privilege is insignificant in an automated system of elections, in which 30 copies of ERs are released.
“In manual election, only six copies of ERs were being produced. Now, there will be 30 copies so there are enough copies,” he said.
But the watchers of the dominant majority and minority parties are given priority in cramped precincts and they also have access to the data servers of the Comelec.
‘Palabra de honor’
Malacañang, meanwhile, said Salceda’s decision to bolt Lakas showed he had no word of honor.
Salceda earlier formed “Team Palabra de Honor” among governors to dramatize their commitment to support Lakas presidential bet Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr.
“Everything indeed has a cost as well as a return,” said deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar. “What was the cost of breaking his word?”
Former budget secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., for his part, denied reports that he was joining the LP, saying, “I am sticking it out with Gibo and the Lakas party.”
“I have not sent feelers to the Liberals and none have been sent to me. No offer has been made and none shall be accepted. I am happy where I am now,” Andaya said in a statement.
“Although it is becoming fashionable to don new party colors as we head towards the homestretch of the campaign, I will not change mine,” he said.
“Everything in this election will change – survey numbers, loyalties and political alignments, and even the direction where the political wind blows – but one thing remains constant: Gibo remains the best man for the job,” Andaya said.
With Salceda’s defection, Olivar said President Arroyo, as president emeritus of Lakas, would finally crack the whip on party members.
Mrs. Arroyo left earlier this week for Washington and Spain and is scheduled to be back this afternoon.
“Now, when she comes back from her trip, then that would be the first opportunity she would have over the past week to actually be on the ground and take another look at the current situation,” Olivar said.
Some administration governors also lashed out at Salceda for his defection to LP.
“With his (Salceda) actions he has lost all credibility. I hope the people of Albay will still vote for Gibo and teach their governor a lesson or two about betrayal and loss of palabra de honor,” Antique Gov. Salvacion Perez said.
“A warning to Noynoy (Aquino). If Salceda can do this to Gibo, he can also do this to you,” she said.
Negros Occidental Gov. Isidro Zayco also voiced his support for Teodoro despite the recent defections from Lakas. “Nothing has changed. We will support Gibo Teodoro for president all the way,” he said.
Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, spokesman of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines and secretary-general of the League of Provinces of the Philippines, said the defections have “reinvigorated” the party and given it “new dynamism.”
“Those who leave have their reasons. Maybe they don’t want change. I, personally, am for Gibo all the way,” Evardone said.
“They have not forgotten how in 2008, when we were hit by a strong typhoon and the province was completely isolated, Gibo himself arrived with a military crew aboard a C-130 plane loaded with relief goods and medical supplies,” he said.
“And to think he left the wake of his father to come to our aid. That’s the kind of person he is,” he said.
“Everything is status quo and we are 100 percent behind Gibo,” Agusan del Norte Gov. John Amante said.
“As for me, my loyalty to Gibo has not wavered. We are all for Gibo here in Sulu. There’s no way he can be defeated here,” Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said.
Lakas, meanwhile, said it was not losing sleep over the defections.
Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa, who is also Lakas chair, said 40 administration governors and 169 congressmen are still capable of delivering as much as 16 million votes for Teodoro.
“You do what you have to and campaign and see to it all matters requiring attention is attended to. We all have our areas of responsibility. We are all working,” Villarosa said.
“We are comfortable, we are confident,” she said, adding that the defections might even improve Teodoro’s campaigning. “Well, let us say that the ones who are there campaigning are steadfast, loyal, and committed to the campaign that we are handling for Gibo Teodoro and the party,” she said.
“If you talk about a few defections, of course we are not alarmed. Even if we lose 10 percent, we are still dominant because we are fielding 75 percent of (local officials) of the provinces. So we’re still the dominant party as of now,” presidential adviser on political affairs Prospero Pichay said.
He admitted the President was saddened by Salceda’s move.
“But then again the President always respects any decision to stay or bolt the party. We are a democratic country and we have a democratic party,” Pichay said.
“If you do not like our candidate then you should say goodbye to the President. But for us to be checking on every Cabinet member, whether he is for Gibo or not, I think that is not the right thing to do,” Pichay said.
NP spokesperson and senatorial candidate Adel Tamano, for his part, said his party expects to become bigger as the elections draw near.
“More will be joining the NP. For the local candidates, the dominant minority status is a big help for local candidates because that ER (election return) is very essential if you are protesting. So I think that is one of the come-ons we have,” Tamano said.
He also belittled survey results that showed an Aquino lead. “A lot of this (survey) is based on perception but the reality on the ground is different. The NP is the best organized party,” Tamano said. With Marvin Sy, Jess Diaz, Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero, Jaime Laude, Eva Visperas, and Edith Regalado