InquirerMichael Lim Ubac
MANILA, Philippines--Party intramurals among administration allies prompted two provincial governors on Sunday to bolt the ruling party Lakas-CMD even as they sought an alliance with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's own political party, the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi).
Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said she bolted Lakas to form her own local party "One Cebu."
Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., the Lakas national president, confirmed that Garcia was leaving Lakas -- the most dominant party in the ruling coalition -- but quickly told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that "she will still be supporting President Arroyo."
Bulacan Gov. Josie dela Cruz also bolted Lakas to join Kampi, prompting the Kampi president, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, to call for an emergency meeting of coalition leaders on Monday.
Villafuerte confirmed that both Garcia and dela Cruz had sought the endorsement of Kampi for the local polls, saying: "They have a proposal to align with Kampi. But we have not accepted them yet. An arbitration committee will decide on that."
Speaker De Venecia clarified that there was no exodus of Lakas' local officials to Kampi, saying party-switching within the "grand coalition of parties" was to be expected and would not hurt the administration's chances in the midterm elections in May.
"We're losing two governors, but we just got 12 governors three weeks ago," said the Speaker when reached by phone while inaugurating several infrastructure projects in his native Pangasinan.
Malacañang defenders were also quick to downplay the move by the governor of the vote-rich Cebu which had given the President a one-million vote lead over the late opposition presidential standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 elections.
Representatives Antonio Cuenco of Cebu City, the Lakas district chair, and Prospero Pichay Jr. of Surigao del Sur expressed confidence in the winnability of the administration coalition's unity ticket.
Pichay, a staunch ally of President Arroyo who is gunning for the Senate, said Garcia's move was "immaterial" to the impending administration victory, since all coalition members were solidly behind the leadership of the President.
Pichay said movements within the coalition were expected because of local politics, but at the end of the day, "all coalition members will support administration bets, especially the members of the Unity Ticket senatorial slate."
Opposition stalwart Rolex Suplico, a representative of Iloilo, had a different take on Garcia and Dela Cruz' defection to Kampi.
"The May elections are, among others, a political fight between Kampi and Lakas. This has already started this early as proven by the exodus of Lakas congressmen to Kampi. I'm not surprised that this has gone down to the level of local politics in the case of Garcia, who has just switched from Lakas to Kampi," said Suplico in a phone interview.
A Lakas official said Garcia's decision was prompted in part by the proposed creation of three new provinces out of Cebu.
Lakas executive director Roy Roquero said in phone interview that Garcia and her allies made no qualms about forming their own local party.
"They are forming a local party, One Cebu. They don't want Cebu to be subdivided," said Roquero.
Some congressmen of the province have proposed to divide the province into four new provinces: Rep. Simeon Kintanar has proposed to create a province called Cebu Del Sur which shall comprise the 2nd district of Cebu with Argao as the capital.
Rep. Antonio Yapha has also proposed to create a province called Cebu Occidental which shall comprise the 3rd district of Cebu with Toledo City as the capital.
Rep. Clavel Asas-Martinez has also proposed to create a province called as Cebu Del Norte which shall comprise the 4th district of Cebu with Bogo as the capital.
Reports also reached the Inquirer newspaper that five of Cebu's six congressmen had decided to field a common administration candidate for governor against Garcia, which could either be Martinez or Kintanar.
As regards Bulacan, an administration bailiwick in Central Luzon, Villafuerte admitted that the situation was "very difficult there."
"All three contending forces are all for GMA (President Arroyo)-- Josie (dela Cruz), (Roberto) "Obet" Pagdanganan and Bulacan Rep. Wilhelmino Sy Alvarado," he said.
Asked about Kampi's bet, he said: "I would not comment on that. We're not recruiting members, we only consider those who come to us."
Villafuerte said the first meeting of the arbitration committee would be Monday or Tuesday, "but that will not resolve anything-it will come up with a statement of principle."
"There should be an agreement of the guidelines and criteria for selection if there are competing or conflicting aspirant belonging to the coalition of parties under the administration coalition," he said.
Besides Villafuerte, the members of the arbitration committee are De Venecia, Rizal Rep. Michael "Jack" Duavit, secretary general of the Nationalist People's Coalition and Manila Mayor Lito Atienza of the pro-administration wing of the Liberal Party.
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