MANILA, Philippines - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is not interested in running for the Speakership of the 15th Congress, according to a Lakas-Kampi member who attended a party meeting Thursday.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said this was the impression given by the President in a meeting of Lakas-Kampi congressmen in Malacañan Thursday night.
In her opening statement alone, Barzaga said the president said she would rather help her party mates as an ordinary lawmaker, much like Sonia Gandhi who helped boost her party in India without becoming prime minister herself.
"That was the opening statement of the President, that she wants to be like Sonia Gandhi who helped the party without being prime minister. She's not interested in the Speakership," Barzaga said. "Based on her statement at the last meeting, it seems she's not keen on running for Speaker."
Barzaga admitted they do have party mates who have clamored for her to seek the Speakership, but they will also be monitoring developments first.
Barzaga said they now have to contend with the reality that they will no longer be the ruling party in the 15th Congress.
"May mga members na clamoring for her to run for Speaker. The final agreement is to keep our options open without declaring the President as the candidate for Speaker, as they stand by for developments. We're still assessing the situation. We have to face reality. We are no longer the ruling party because of the results of the presidential elections. We're keeping our options open," he said.
Raiding Lakas-Kampi ranks
Barzaga said the camp of Quezon City 4th district representative-elect Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte has started to raid their ranks.
A key issue on whether they would lose more members to the Belmonte camp would be access to pork barrel, often seen as a source of corruption, but officially the source of lawmakers' funds for projects in their districts.
"Actually, the political reality is, if there were defections during the campaign, it will be safe to assume there will be defections now. It would be logical and it's happening, the recruitments being made to support Speaker Belmonte. That's no secret," Barzaga said.
"Pinag uusapan na naman diyan pork barrel. Natatakot ang ibang congressman. If they don't have it, they won’t be able to seek re-election. This is one of the political realities which a seasoned politician knows. I assume everybody knows this, including the president," he added.
GMA assumes Lakas-Kampi party chairmanship
This developed as President Arroyo re-assumed the chairmanship of the Lakas-Kampi party.
The party's temporary chairman, Mindoro Occidental Rep. Amelita Villarosa, a close confidante of the president, resigned during the meeting.
"Because Villarosa resigned during the meeting from the party chairmanship, there was an immediate motion for her to assume party leadership, and I don't think the president would abandon the party since most, especially congressmen loyal to the party, think the best person to lead the party is the president. That was general perception," Barzaga said.
The meeting at the Palace was attended by 100 congressmen. They will meet again next week to decide on next move.