Drilon bloc loses fight for LP with COMELEC

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The Commission on Elections has unanimously ruled that the term of Senator Franklin Drilon as president of the Liberal Party has already expired. It also has called for the holding of elections to end the leadership vacuum in the country’s oldest political party.

According to Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, the so-called Drilon wing of LP has “failed to show evidence” that the amended Salonga constitution, which would have extended Drilon’s term to November 2007, was ratified.

The LP constitution is a major bone of contention in the party dispute, and has divided the 61-year-old party, into the Drilon wing and Atienza wing. Because of the infighting, the opposition coalition dropped the Drilon wing from its members who as a group wanted to be the dominant minority status for the May 14 polls.

“We have decided that it is no longer Drilon because they cannot show to us any evidence that the Salonga constitution was ratified. All they gave us was an affidavit saying that such a thing was done,” Abalos said.

“That is what we said in the compliance that was asked of us by the Supreme Court because they said that in our earlier resolution of the LP case there were pieces of evidence that were not submitted. We believe an immediate holding of elections will be best for the party,” Abalos said.

The Supreme Court is expected to come up with a resolution on the internal problem of LP this week.

The first resolution of Comelec that was adopted unanimously on March 28 already ruled that the supposed amendment to the 1999 LP constitution drafted during the term of former Senate President Jovito Salonga was not ratified.

In his affidavit submitted to the poll body, Salonga was joined by Northern Samar Gov. Raul Daza and former Education Secretary Florencio Abad in claiming that the LP constitution provides for the succession of the second highest in command should the LP presidency be vacated.

Drilon claimed that under the ratified Salonga constitution, which provides a three-year term for LP officials, his term should end in November 2007 and not in July 2005 as claimed by the LP faction of Manila Mayor Lito Atienza. Drilon assumed the party presidency after Abad was appointed education secretary.

A Comelec source said if the Supreme Court upholds the poll body’s resolution, then LP stands to lose much as far as its application for dominant minority status to get the sixth copy of the election return.

“It would swing both ways. If Drilon wins, then the Atienza-led faction will bolt out and vice-versa. The LP will end up with lesser members and a smaller chance of cornering the dominant party status.”

The party crisis started in July 8, 2005 when Drilon and 17 other LP members announced that they were unanimous in asking President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign.

The majority of LP leaders, led by Atienza, challenged the announcement, saying that it did not follow the usual process of the party in determining its stand on a very important national issue.

For more than a year, Drilon did not convene the LP’s executive committee, a power reserved only for the party president, to discuss the issue and forced more than 700 members to install Atienza as president.

LP Deputy Speaker Eric Singson expressed hope that the Comelec decision will expedite the resolution of the issue. “Now that the Comelec has spoken, perhaps it’s time to end this sad chapter in the party’s history. We have lost much and perhaps it is time to gather what we can and begin the task of rebuilding the party,” Singson wrote in the blog of the Atienza-led wing (www.liberalpartyphi lippines. blogspot. com).