Merger finalized by June

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE merger of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino will have been finalized by June, giving the two big parties enough time to prepare for a strong ticket in 2010, Speaker Prospero Nograles said yesterday.

“(It) may not be one hundred percent, but majority of provinces, cities and districts will be merged. That’s our plan,” he told reporters.

Another Lakas stalwart, House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong, said the party is keen on a mer-ger.

Datumanong said Gabby Claudio, head of the national consolidation and unification committee that will discuss the merger with Kampi, was given two weeks to report to the Lakas executive committee the results of merger efforts.

“We have to wait for that. But we are looking forward to the merger of the two major political parties. The merger is possible. It has happened already in two regions, Region 11 (Davao) and Region 1, it can also be possible in other regions,” he said.

Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay also expressed support for the merger.

“The President’s call should be supported to maintain the administration’s strength as elections draw near. It would help in preventing other parties to raid Lakas members,” she said.

Mrs. Arroyo sought the merger on Thursday, saying both parties should fight “side by side in 2010.”

Nograles is optimistic that everything will have been ironed out before the President delivers her State of the Nation Address in June.

Malacañang admitted there will be difficulties but these obstacles “are just transient and not insurmountable.”

Claudio said it will be difficult to unify the two parties. Earlier efforts failed because most of their candidates decided to run against each other in 2007.

“Of course there are some difficulties because of differences between certain personalities as well as political conflicts at the local level. But these obstacles are transient and not insurmountable,” Claudio said.

“What is important is for both Lakas and Kampi to rise above parochial politics, as they are foresworn to do, and look at the bigger picture of national interest,” he said.

Claudio said there was a consensus during the Lakas executive committee meeting to support and work for the merger. He said Lakas members are expected to “reach out” to Kampi to express their willingness to the merger as directed by the President.

He stressed the importance of the Lakas-Kampi merger saying it will ensure the administration “a most formidable unified organization.”

He said this would not only secure the victory of their candidates in 2010 but also help the President in the present challenges of governance particularly in her efforts to cushion the impact of the global economic crisis.

But Kampi President Luis Villafuerte is still opposed to the plan, saying majority of party members “are not open to it.”

If Lakas will insist on a merger, it should first resolve the problem in the local level, he said.

“The merger is impossible. There are sensitive issues that should be resolved first in the grassroots level,” Villafuerte said.

However, he said he is hopeful for a merger provided that both parties will look for solutions on some of the serious problems.

“What I am saying is I’m still hopeful with the merger. Basta first we should look into the problem in the local level and analyze the local situation. Second, there should be compatibility,” he said.