TALISAY CITY, Negros Occidental – Liberal Party (LP) bigwigs led by President Aquino trooped to vote-rich Negros Occidental on Saturday, May 5, to swear in new members and orient politicians who want to join the party.
It was a show of force for the ruling party. LP president and transportation secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, party vice-chair Senator Drilon, Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Jesse Robredo, and Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III led the gathering of newly sworn in party members and coalition allies.
Negros Occidental is among the country’s vote-richest provinces. It has 1.5-million registered voters, based on 2010 data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
About 230 Region 6 elected officials—composed of newly sworn in LP recruits and members of its coalition ally United Negros Alliance (UNA)—were present. They were led by Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo “Freddie” Maranon Jr. and Rep. Albee Benitez. Region 6 has a voting population of almost 4 million.
President Aquino led the orientation of new members. “If you are joining LP, it is because you want change. Let’s help each other so that the next generation will have a better life,” he said in a speech.
At least 36 municipal and city elected officials and 7 party district chairpersons took their oath before Roxas, according to a Malacanang statement. Before the oath-taking ceremony, LP also conducted basic orientation for aspiring members of the party.
Benitez sponsored the oath-taking, according to Tañada. Benitez, one of the richest congressmen, is a former member of the Nationalist People’s Coaltion. Many of the new recruits come from the former ruling party Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats of former President Arroyo.
LP stalwarts had said that LP is currently more concerned with party building in different provinces and municipalities. Nevertheless, Roxas introduced Tañada and former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros as LP “secret” senatorial candidates in the 2013 elections. Akbayan is also LP’s coalition ally.
In a previous LP gathering in Oriental Mindoro, President Aquino also introduced Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director-general Joel Villanueva as potentional LP senatorial candidates.
Unless they coalesce, the LP senatorial slate will battle it out with the candidates the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)–a coalition between Vice President Jejomar Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan and former President Joseph Estraday’s Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino.
LP’s coalition ally, the United Negros Alliance–also UNA–earlier said they will question before the Comelec the name of the Binay-led coaltion.
LP saw its number dwindle in recent decades. The last LP president before President Aquino was President Diosdao Macapagal. In the 14th Congress, there were about 20 LP members in the House of Representatives. Now, there are about 80. – Rappler.com