JdV rejects Erap

PNS — PANGASINAN Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. politely rejected for now the proposal of former President Joseph Estrada for him to join the opposition despite his resignation as president of the country’s ruling party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD).

After his ouster as Speaker last February 5 and resignation yesterday as president of Lakas-CMD, De Venecia said he will remain with the party which he co-founded with former President Fidel V. Ramos, chairman emeritus of Lakas-CMD, in 1992.

In the meantime, De Venecia said he will be the conscience voice in Lakas-CMD now that President Arroyo, Lakas-CMD chairman, officially endorsed yesterday the proposed merger of the ruling party and Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi).

“President Erap and senior leaders from the opposition have invited me to join the opposition,” said De Venecia, who was Estrada’s opponent in the 1998 presidential election. “Pero sabi ko let me stay muna within the party and at the same time let me remain an independent force so that in my little capacity, I can be a conscience within our party for whatever its worth.”

It will be recalled that De Venecia revealed as early as last month immediately after he was ousted as Speaker that senior opposition leaders led by Estrada have offered him to join them.

Asked about the timetable for the merger, Nograles replied “ASAP” but, could not give direct answer which party will be the surviving one or if a new party will be formed.

“It will be the President, who is the chair of both parties, who will decide who is the surviving party. Or a new party for that matter,” he said.

President Arroyo, then a senator founded Kampi in 1997 for her supposed presidential bid in 1998 against De Venecia and Estrada.

But with the help of De Venecia’s persuasive power, President Arroyo instead run as his running-mate until First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo revived Kampi in 2004 that resulted in squabbles between candidates of Lakas-CMD and Kampi.

For now, De Venecia said he would remain with Lakas, “until there are new developments, until there are new demands on my person.”

While the closed-door meeting of national directorate meeting of Lakas-CMD was going on yesterday at Manila Hotel, House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao and Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong declared, “Nogi is now Lakas president” while House Senior Deputy Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales said De Venecia was the party’s president emeritus.

The party was scheduled also yesterday to discuss the formation of a committee to discuss the planned merger with KAMPI and another committee that would set the criteria for their presidential candidate for 2010.

Before the meeting started, Atty. Raul Lambino, lawyer of De Venecia, said his client sent words to him that “he is resigning from his post.”

The meeting was attended by Ramos, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Nograles, Datumanong, Gonzales, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Bayani Fernando, Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte and other congressmen and local officials belonging to the party.