MANILA, Philippines – Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) is the latest testament to the failure of the country’s political party system. In the 2010 elections, 140 party members won seats in the House of Representatives. Two years later, Lakas is left with 28.
They now comprise the minority bloc in the House of Representatives.
Former party members scurried away as soon as they lost the last presidential election, and left a party divided and disgraced by its unpopular adopted daughter, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Many of them joined the new ruling party, the Liberal Party (LP). Many others--mostly belonging to Arroyo's Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) that Lakas was forced to merge with before--formed the National Unity Party (NUP). A few of them joined other major political parties.
It's an old story.
This also happened to Lakas in 1998, after the administration of its founder Fidel Ramos. When Joseph “Erap” Estrada of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) won the presidential election, Lakas membership dwindled. But Lakas returned to power 3 years later, when Estrada was ousted in Edsa 2 and Vice President Gloria Arroyo took over Malacañang.
Lie low in 2013
In spite of the exodus of members, Lakas, with its current membership, remains to be a relevant political party. It remains strong at the local level and can match the numbers of the administration's major coalition allies, the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC).
Lakas has 2 senators and 28 district representatives. It also remains to have 12 governors and 120 mayors, according to Lakas records.
Lakas President Sen Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr vowed that the party will survive under his leadership. But he said the party will "lie low" in the 2013 elections.
“This is a matter of political survival. We understand that. This is also what happened during the Estrada administration. I will stand by this party till the end and I intend to strengthen it further, hopefully in time for the 2016 elections,” Revilla told reporters after the Lakas convention in June 2012. (Revilla is rumored to have presidential ambitions.)
Lakas stalwart Occidental Mindoro Rep Amelita Villarosa, former party chairman, added: “You move on. You cannot have everything all the time. We will survive because we are a lot more on the LGU (local government unit) level. Our mayors are all there. We are filing our nominations under Lakas-CMD."
Obsession with Chacha
Lakas won 2 presidential elections: Fidel Ramos in 1992 and Arroyo in 2004. (Arroyo started her term in Malacañang in 2001 after the ouster of President Joseph Estrada.)
The party flourished throughout the 6 years and 9 years that they were in power, respectively.
The party was crucial in passing legislations necessary to advance the programs of Ramos and Arroyo. Even when Arroyo's popularity started going down in 2005 because of the "Hello, Garci" election cheating scandal, Arroyo remained powerful especially through her allies in the House of Representatives.
Christian and Muslim Democracy was an important ideology for Lakas, particularly for founders Ramos, Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr, and the late Sen Raul Manglapus. Not only in its name, Lakas-CMD always put extra focus on the development of Mindanao.
But what really defined Lakas was its tireless advocacy to amend the 1987 Constitution. It wanted to transform the form of government from presidential to parliamentary.
Lakas used very controversial means to advance Charter change. Seen as a ploy way to extend the terms of Ramos and Arroyo, civil society organizations and the Church heavily opposed it.
Lakas almost succeeded in achieving Charter change twice through the People's Initiative mode provided in the Constitution--in 1997 and in 2006. In both cases, the Supreme Court made a split decision, citing the absence of an enabling law.
The Arroyo administration would try again in 2009 through the Constituent Assembly (CA). This time it was led by Camarines Sur Rep Luis Villafuerte of Kampi. Villafuerte insisted on a new interpretation of CA, arguing that the three-fourths vote requirement meant Senate and the House of Representatives voting jointly. This would have allowed Lakas representatives to dominate the strongly anti-Charter change 24-member Senate.
But Villafuerte's move didn't move forward. This time, party members were split.
The party's division over pushing Charter change didn't mean Lakas was abandoning its long-time advocacy. It was preventing it from happening with Kampi calling the shots.
Kampi was the party formed for Arroyo's aborted presidential bid in 1998. She dissolved it after she agreed to run with De Venecia under the Lakas banner. However, when Arroyo became president, her husband Jose Miguel revived Kampi as a means to keep Lakas in check. With the same party chairman--President Arroyo--Lakas and Kampi were forced to merged.
Together, Lakas-Kampi-CMD controlled the House of Representatives and practically all elected positions from provincial to municipal levels.
All elections is local, as they say. If all Lakas members supported the Lakas ticket, how can they lose?
But, of course, party loyalty is not a popular trait among Filipino politicians. With Lakas presidential bet Gilberto Teodoro's dismal numbers, the Lakas politicians one-by-one abandoned Teodoro. Others secretly allied themselves--others not so secretly--with either LP or NP.
"The most painful thing was the betrayal," Teodoro would later say.
GMA out of the picture
After the 2010 elections, most of the Kampi members bolted the party to form the NUP, also a considerable block in the House of Representatives.
Lakas has a pending motion before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to revert its name from Lakas-Kampi-CMD to Lakas-CMD. With hardly any opposition, it's now a matter of formality.
Arroyo, who is now congresswoman of Pampanga, is also out of the picture. "GMA is taking a respite from politics. But she will still run," said Villarosa, a close ally of Arroyo.
The remaining party members are counting on Ramos to make a comeback.
Ramos distanced itself from the party after it merged with Kampi in 2008. Ramos joined Lakas co-founder former Pangasinan Rep Jose De Venecia Jr in calling on the Comelec) to reject the merger, but to no avail.
Revilla said it was Ramos himself who instructed him to take care of the party. "He assured me he would be behind me," Revilla told reporters in March.
“We will be looking back, going back to our roots. We will take care of those who have remained loyal to the party and fully support their candidacies in 2013. I myself plan to go to the provinces just to personally campaign for them,” he added.
The Lakas politicians now comprise the minority in the House of Representatives. But they are the so-called the token minority, offering token opposition.
"We are supporting the President. I am supporting President Aquino. He is taking care of my province, Occidental Mindoro. I have no complaint," said Villarosa.
Lakas had been in this state before. Only time will tell if the party will see a revival and transform itself. - Rappler.com