Among the traditional political parties in the Philippines, it is Liberal Party that I admire the most. Its leaders–and many of its members–are less trapo than the other traditional politicians from other parties (especially Lakas).
Mention Liberal Party and these honorable names would come to mind: Ninoy Aquino, Jovito Salonga, Evelio Javier, Bobby Tañada, Franklin Drilon, and Grace Padaca, among others. LP members, along with the national democratic movement, fought the Marcos dictatorship. In 1991, its senators led the successful anti-US bases campain in the Senate.
LP is different from all other traditional parties because its existence does not depend on personalities. Like the progressive party-list groups we now have in Congress, LP has an ideology.
So imagine my disappointment–and anger–when LP personalities identified with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo staged a coup and snatched the party leadership from its current leaders last Thursday. The pro-Arroyo “Liberals” led by Manila Mayor Lito Atienza called a conference on decentralization, autonomy, and governance and–according to Drilon’s spokesperson–brought barangay captains and Manila City Hall employees to the event. They later declared all party leadership positions vacant, and elected a new set of officers. Atienza “replaced” Drilon as president while Presidential Chief of Staff Mike took over Atienza’s post as chairman.
But Drilon refused to recognize the “new officers.” Other LP officers such as as Former Education Secretary Florencio Abad–a former LP president–and Senators Kiko Pangilinan and Mar Roxas–grandson of the founder of Liberal party–were on Drilon’s side. Only 32 out of 104 national party executives attended the Atienza meeting, according to Abad and Roxas. Former party presidents Tañada and Raul Daza also support Drilon’s leadership.
The Thursday event highlighted the rift between pro-and-anti-Arroyo factions in the party. Last year, LP issued an Arroyo-resign statement, but rabid Arroyo supporters led by Atienza criticized the call.
Defensive as it always is, the Palace has denied it has something to do with the LP coup. Like we will believe them, anyway. Isn’t it ironic that those who have been crying coup were the same people who staged one?
Photo credit: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo inducts the newly-elected officers of the Liberal Party led by Manila Mayor Lito Atienza (4th from right) as party president, Thursday afternoon (March 2) at the Manila Hotel. Others in photo are (from left) Antique Governor Salvacion Saldivar-Perez, VP for Visayas; Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor, LP chairman; Manila 3rd District Rep. Miles Andrew Roces, LP deputy spokesperson [Note: Like Atienza, this guy never left Manny Pacquiao’s side during the heroes’ welcome for Pacquiao and Jimrex Jaca, He even occupied the space that should have belonged to Jaca.]; and Malabon-Navotas Rep. Ricky Sandoval II, VP for the National Capital Region. (Bong Manabat-OPS-NIB Photo)