MALAYA: Lakas eyes JDV expulsion, sets merger with Kampi

By ANTHONY IAN CRUZ
Malaya
February 7, 2008

EXPULSION of former House Speaker Jose de Venecia from the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats “for acts inimical to the party” will be taken up at the Lakas national directorate meeting on Feb. 21.

In a press conference, Lakas secretary general Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said De Venecia’s privilege speech last Monday where he recited a litany of allegations against President Arroyo will be taken up by party leaders.

Former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay said De Venecia may be held liable for speaking out against Arroyo who is Lakas chairman.

De Venecia is Lakas president.

But Lakas chairman emeritus President Fidel Ramos said De Venecia will remain with the party.

Ramos said the matter was confirmed at a lunch yesterday by the President, De Venecia and himself.

He said De Venecia’s ouster and the election of Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles as Speaker was an “intra-party matter that would not affect the relation between Lakas and the Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino (Kampi) of President Arroyo.”

Ramos admitted that De Venecia might be replaced as Lakas president but he said this should be done within and following party processes.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has been quoted as saying that De Venecia could lose his post as Lakas president if he joins the opposition.

Ramos also confirmed that Lakas and Kampi will merge to underscore the “strong” relationship between the two parties.

“Lakas-CMD and Kampi will merge, with Lakas-CMD as survivor party. This process will be speeded up by a joint committee,” he said.

He said the decision for the merger was made by the President, Nograles, Kampi president and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, and Ermita.

He said that Lakas being the bigger, elder and internationally known party will take the lead in the merger.

The merger was confirmed by Puno, who in a radio interview said it is meant to consolidate the parties for the coming presidential elections and make them a “very, very strong force to reckon with in 2010.”

Puno said with the merger the administration will one field one candidate in all local and national levels.

Lakas has 90 members in the House. Kampi has about 50.

Ramos challenged De Venecia to substantiate his claim of graft and corruption in the government. “If you accuse you should present evidence otherwise it would amount to nothing.”

Ramos said as chair emeritus of Lakas he is ready to mediate between President Arroyo and De Venecia though he admitted it might take time for the wounds to settle. “Right now the issue is hot but time heals,” he said.

Nograles advised De Venecia to take a respite and think things over in the face of his possible ouster as Lakas president.

“The (former) Speaker must make up his mind. Once and for all, he should decide kung saan siya. If he stays with Lakas, it’s just okay, but he has to abide by the rules,” he said.

The Speaker said he would not allow Lakas to collapse just because De Venecia was ousted.

PALACE RETRIBUTION

The Makati Business Club said the ouster of De Venecia as speaker was a naked display of power by Malacañang

The group, in a statement, said it sent a strong signal to those who would fight corruption that to do so would mean “putting your business, your career, and perhaps, even your life on the line.”

“It was retribution for the acts of his son Joey de Venecia who exposed high government officials involved in corruption in the ZTE deal,” it said.

The MBC dubbed as a “charade” the claim that the President could not influence the decision on the House leadership.

“Whatever chance of resolving any political crisis involving the presidency, which the House is constitutionally mandated to initiate, is doomed in this administration. As this latest demonstration of impunity has clearly shown, the Executive will continue to be immune from indictment for any wrongdoing since it holds the key to political reckoning,” MBC said.

The group called deplorable the behavior of certain members of the House “whose lust for power could not be disguised.

“Many who were expected to vote out of principle or party discipline were disappointments. Since the motivation to reform and engage in moral regeneration are obviously empty words in that august body, the payback for these members must have been retention of or accession to positions of power. The avarice of those who accepted other considerations has also been grist for the rumor mill,” the MBC said. – With Ashzel Hachero, Regina Bengco and Wendell Vigilia

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