FVR wants Lakas to be super party

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — — Former President Fidel Ramos wants the ruling party Lakas Christian-Muslim Democrats to merge with two other parties and get Senate President Manuel Villar and Senator Loren Legarda into the roster of potential standard-bearer for the 2010 polls.

Ramos, chairman emeritus of Lakas, made known his sentiments through his spokesman who said the former president was dissatisfied with the way the Lakas merger with Kampi was proceeding.

Ramos would also like Lakas to have Villar’s Nacionalista Party and Nationalist People’s Coalition as partners for the 2010 elections, Ed Malay said. Nacionalista and NPC are members of the old Lakas-led coalition.

With the two parties under its wings, Lakas could emerge as a super party and dominate the 2010 elections, according to Malay.

Ramos was not happy with the process as exemplified in the Lakas-Kampi regional agreement in Davao City where the first regional merger was signed without prior consultation with party leaders. “He does not want this [merger] rammed into the throats of our members,” Malay said.

Lakas secretary general Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri declined to react on Ramos’ idea except to say that the former leader failed to attend the regional meeting in Baguio City because of health reasons. He just had a surgery to remove potentially cancerous facial warts, Zubiri said. “But it is not life-threatening,” Zubiri said in an interview.

Ramos stayed at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa for four days and was discharged on Wednesday.

“He’s not really opposed to the merger with Kampi but he wants to merge with other member-parties in the coalition, specifically NP and NPC which already have presidential candidates of their own,” Malay said.

Ramos’ vision for Lakas as a super party will include Nacionalista and NPC, thus effectively wiping out the opposition in the 2010 presidential race, according to sources.

Villar is considered a strong presidential bet while NPC counts on Legarda, Senator Francis Escudero, and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro among its potential standard bearer.

“So far, Lakas only has two candidates—[Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani] Fernando and [Quezon City Mayor Sonny] Belmonte and Kampi does not even have one yet,” Malay said. “We have to expand our choices by including other political parties if we really want a super party by 2010.”

Kampi chairman Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said it could take a year to finish all the regional mergers before the final merger is done at the national level, with Lakas as the surviving party.

Both parties also agreed to adopt the “equity of the incumbent” principle to prevent a repeat of the debacle the administration suffered during the 2007 senatorial elections. Lack of coordination saw candidates from Lakas and Kampi running against each other at the local level.

Of the 12 administration candidates during last year’s polls, only three managed to win—a failure attributed largely to the fact that many local candidates from Lakas and Kampi have failed to campaign for the national candidates as they fought against each other in the regional level.

Mrs. Arroyo, Lakas chairman, said the merger of the country’s two biggest political parties, which account for almost 200 national and 8,000 local officials, will result in continuity in policies to move the country forward. She is also the moving force behind the creation of Kampi in the 1980s.

“Our unity will bring us to First World status within the next generation,” the President said after witnessing the signing of the regional merger declaration.

Earlier, Mrs. Arroyo said the Lakas-Kampi merger will signal the success of whoever will be chosen as the administration’s standard bearer in the 2010 presidential elections.

“We will continue to work hard to fulfill our Philippine Reform Agenda until the day I turn the national leadership over to my successor, who I’m sure will be whoever Lakas-Kampi will support, because we will work for victory to propagate our agenda,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Meanwhile, 200 officials of the six provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region pledged their support for the Lakas-Kampi regional merger, the second of such deals to be signed by the two parties. They signed up for the merger at the Camp John Hay grounds.

Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan of Lakas and Kalinga Rep. Manuel Agyao of Kampi signed the declaration of merger.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, Lakas president, said once the merger is completed, the unified party will have in its fold 143 congressmen, 55 governors, 85 city mayors, 945 municipal mayors and over 7,000 vice governors, councilors and board members.