Planned LP-NPC-NP coalition 'creating confusion'

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 07 2012 04:23 AM | Updated as of Jul 08 2012 07:26 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The planned coalition between the ruling Liberal Party, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and Nacionalista Party (NP) is creating confusion and chaos among thousands of members of the three parties, according to a ranking LP member.

But the LP leadership said the impending alliance is good for the party and NP officials “recognize what is important for the country so they will rise above political differences.”

Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada, deputy speaker in the House of Representatives, said a lot of LP senatorial candidates and local leaders are now anxious about what will happen to them.

The reported alliance between the three powerhouse political parties, however, did not bother former President Joseph Estrada, who heads the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) which coalesced with Vice President Jejomar Binay’s PDP-Laban to form the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

The UNA is said to be headed for a collision course with the LP coalition in the 2016 presidential election.

“I am sure this is also the case with NPC and NP. The members of all the parties concerned don’t know yet how many senatorial slots will go to each of the three parties,” Tañada said in a radio interview.

Tañada said he supports efforts of the ruling party to forge a coalition with NPC and NP not only for the May 2013 elections but for the duration of President Aquino’s term as well.

“We don’t know who will compose the LP component. The minimum standard should be that LP’s coalition partners should support the President’s reform agenda during his term, which expires in 2016,” he said, adding that the President needs the Senate to advance his good governance, transparency and accountability advocacies.

Among those being eyed as common candidates of the three parties are Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda, who belong to NPC, and Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV, and former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar who are NP members.

Tañada admitted that he is not as popular as the four senators up for reelection in 2013, but added, “The elections still a long way to go and anything can still happen.”

He said he was confident that he would land in the LP slate of the coalition ticket because he has the support of his party leaders, including Sen. Franklin Drilon and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

He urged LP, NPC and NP leaders to clarify the parameters of the coalition to clear up confusion.

“The local level will be particularly messier. In Taguig, for instance, the Cayetanos are with NP, while their political rivals, the Tingas, are with LP,” he said.

He said coalition leaders should explain how such rivalries would be resolved.

“Or is the coalition only for the senatorial level and the local fight is a free-for-all?” he asked.

Strange bedfellows

The LP justified its impending coalition with Villar’s NP – whom President Aquino virtually branded as corrupt in the 2010 campaign.

Secretary Edwin Lacierda, a former LP spokesman, said Villar – who surprised many when he voted to convict former chief justice Renato Corona - “has been supportive of some of the administration’s measures in the Senate.”

“It was fine. You’re looking at the party itself. You’re looking at the NP and who will be there; you’re looking at Alan Cayetano, who stood for good governance. So, we’re looking at party principles transcend individual differences,” he justified further.

He said one cannot use as basis or barometer the Senate impeachment trial on Corona, where both Villar and Cayetano voted to expel the chief magistrate, since their NP colleague Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. voted to acquit.

Lacierda also noted that the Senate report about anomalies in the C-5 road project, whose stretch of roads in Cavite covered several of Villar’s subdivisions, has not reached conclusion and hasn’t been released.

“Despite the investigation made by Senate President Enrile and you could please refer to the records of the Senate, it was not approved by the Senate as a whole,” Lacierda said.

Aquino confirms alliance

On Thursday, President Aquino confirmed the coalition for purposes of fielding common candidates for the May 2013 senatorial elections.

The President’s uncle, billionaire businessman and San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. is the founder and principal funder of NPC, while another billionaire businessman, Sen. Villar, is NP president.

Aquino defeated Villar in the 2010 presidential election. Cojuangco lost to Fidel Ramos in the 1992 presidential polls.

Sen. Drilon, an LP stalwart, earlier conceded they cannot fill up the 12-man LP slate and will be recruiting from other parties, primarily because the administration party does not have enough senatorial candidates next year.

However, he ruled out any talks of common candidate with the UNA.

“There are a number of coalition talks going on. I am not at liberty to reveal them. In reality, we cannot have a pure LP slate. We do not have a monopoly of politics. So, we will have coalitions with the number of political parties,” he said.

At present, the most certain among so-called LP senatorial candidates are Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, Tesda director-general Joel Villanueva, Customs commissioner Ruffy Biazon, ex-Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros and Aquino’s cousin Paolo Benigno or Bam.

Technically, however, only Biazon is an original LP member. Angara is with Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, Villanueva with party-list Citizens Battle Against Corruption, Hontiveros with Akbayan and Bam with non-government organization Kaya Natin.

But rumors have it that Biazon prefers to stay at the Bureau of Customs and let his father, former senator and now Muntinlupa congressman Rodolfo, return to the Senate, while Ruffy’s wife will run for Congress in their lone Muntinlupa district.

Other possible LP senatorial contenders are Tañada (an LP original), ex-senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., MTRCB chief Grace Poe-Llamanzares and incumbent Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, who left UNA.

As for NPC, re-electionist Senators Escudero and Legarda, who both topped the May 2007 senatorial polls, will be joining the administration slate.

There are also talks that Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian - son of plastics magnate William Gatchalian - might be included in the NPC lineup.

Sherwin can either join the LP-NP-NPC coalition or UNA, which has close ties with former President Estrada, who heads the PMP. Sherwin’s younger brother, congressman Rex, is an NPC official in the House of Representatives.

Estrada, on the hand, said the UNA is ready to slug it out with the LP coalition with Legarda, reelectonist Sen. Gregorio Honasan, Representatives Jackie Enrile, J.V. Ejercito, Mitos Magsaysay and former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri in their lineup.

Mrs. Villar announced the possible inclusion of Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño in their senatorial lineup. It was not clear whether the Villars would push for the inclusion of Casiño and NP spokesman and former Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers in the coalition ticket.

Villar also announced that the NP is willing to adopt Pimentel, who bolted UNA because of the inclusion of Zubiri in the coalition’s senatorial lineup.

The possible adoption by the Villars of a Bayan Muna member is not without precedent.

In 2010, Sen. Villar, then a presidential candidate, included then Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo in his senatorial ticket. – With Delon Porcalla, Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero, Danny Dangcalan, Edith Regalado