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MANILA, Philippines -- Stalwarts of the ruling Liberal Party admitted on Tuesday that the Nationalist People’s Coalition stands to gain more members from an alliance being formed in time for next year’s mid-term elections.
The LP, to which President Benigno Aquino III belongs, is joining forces with the NPC, founded by his uncle, business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., and the Nacionalista Party led by Senator Manuel Villar to field a common senatorial slate.
The three parties in the administration coalition meet thrice a week at LP headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City to prepare for the filing of certificates of candidacy next month.
“Realistically, every midterm election when the President is perceived to be at his strongest, politically and historically, everybody wants to gravitate to the administration party, which is the LP. The problem is when the LP could not absorb them all, they would gravitate to different parties,” House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said.
“Like (the opposition) Lakas, I don’t think people will stay in Lakas. But if they would not be accepted in the LP, the likelihood is the NPC would benefit from it,” he said in an interview.
Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya, LP secretary-general, agreed, saying it was a “natural recourse” for politicians unable to get into the LP to gravitate to the NPC, which is “perceived as a strong (ally) … many apply to LP, but some go to NPC, so there’s a natural growth there.”
However, despite the alliance, a number of NPC members -- notably Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero, and Cagayan Representative Jack Enrile -- will reportedly be running under the United Nationalist Alliance, composed of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s PDP-Laban and former President Joseph Estrada’s Partido ng Masang Pilipino.
But the LP stalwarts said they are not bothered by the gains the NPC stands to make.
The LP leads the House of Representatives, through Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and its membership in the chamber has more than doubled since President Benigno Aquino III assumed office.
From 40 representatives at the close of the 14th Congress, the LP now has 90 members in the 15th Congress. Aside from this, 40 governors are LP members.
The NPC, on the other hand, has 48 members of the House, Valenzuela Representative Rex Gatchalian, the party’s secretary general, said.
Gatchalian said 12 governors belong to the NPC and the party gained eight more members recently.
“The NPC is very excited with the new additions to our organization. Our new members carry the same vision and mission for the nation,” Gatchalian said.
“With them in our party, we will be able to mobilize campaign efforts for our national candidates in areas where we previously did not have a strong presence. They complement and improve our party’s reach thereby ensuring a stringer showing for our national candidates -- Senator Legarda and Congressman Jack Enrile.”
Abaya said the LP is “actively but not massively recruiting” members, although he added that they have intensified recruitment in the grassroots sectors, such as farmers, women, urban poor and labor.
“It’s been a quiet up-scaling, not massive. We’re continuously conducting basic orientation on liberalism and democracy as requirements for recruitment so that we will have continuous grassroots support,” he said.
Asked why some politicians are going to the NPC, he said, “We’ve probably reached the very core, those that were left are pretty much decided they want to stay in that party, at least for the coming elections.”
Abaya, the incoming transportation secretary, said LP members are required to abide by the party’s standards.
“There are certain public servants who might not fit into our general description of things, so we don’t approach them anymore. We don’t want to follow what Lakas did, we don’t want to grow exponentially because when the President leaves at the end of the day, they will also leave us as quickly as the President leaves,” Abaya said.