Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Is the new KNP party going to be Marcos’ next political vehicle?

Dwight de Leon

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Is the new KNP party going to be Marcos’ next political vehicle?

Photos courtesy of Rey Baniquet/PNA and Dwight de Leon/Rappler; Graphics by Nico Villarete/Rappler

'[President Marcos Jr.] is very supportive. Remember, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. used to have Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. BBM will have KNP,' says congressman and KNP officer Richard Gomez

Numerous former and current lawmakers visited the office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday, May 23, to formalize their group’s bid to be recognized as a new political party.

This meant the group – or the “socio-civic movement,” as they described it – faced clarificatory questions raised by Comelec officials who were hearing their petition for registration for the very first time.

But the elephant in the room is this: does President Marcos have a hand in the formation of the party?

The answer may vary, depending on who you ask.

Leyte 4th District Representative Richard Gomez – Kilusan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) vice president for Visayas – answered in the affirmative when reporters asked him whether the creation of KNP has the President’s backing.

“It could potentially be the President’s party,” he said. “He’s very supportive. Remember, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. used to have Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. BBM (Marcos Jr.) will have KNP.”

Bacolod City Mayor Albee Benitez – KNP president – said in a separate interview that it’s the chief executive’s prerogative whether to utilize the accreditation-pending party for his future plans.

“Once we get accreditation, we will ask the President if he wants to join us. It’s up to him,” Benitez said, adding that Marcos could use the party to field an administration ticket in the 2025 senatorial election if he wants to.

Even Chairman George Garcia seemed intrigued and wanted KNP secretary general and Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez to state on record who the group’s backers are at the national level.

“May I ask questions that may land in the front pages of tomorrow’s paper?” he asked during the hearing. “Your party name has nagkakaisa (united) in it. Somebody ran under the very strong campaign of unity. Are there any other elective incumbent official higher than congressman supporting, or is a member of, this party?”

“We do not have a senator as of yet, because we are not yet an accredited political party, but we assure you that there have been some [people] who have signified their intention to be members of the party, and we can assure you, higher officials [other] than senators are interested,” Rodriguez answered.

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Marcos ran for president in 2022 under the banner of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, but a year after his ascent to Malacañang, PFP has yet to become a power player in the country’s political arena. It is a non-factor in the House, with only two members.

In a separate interview with Rappler, PFP president and South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo downplayed the potential impact of KNP’s creation, insisting that Marcos remains committed to PFP. The two met just last week when Marcos attended the general assembly of the League of Provinces of the Philippines.

Tamayo recalled a conversation he had last year with Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Anton Lagdameo, who is PFP executive vice president.

“Albee Benitez talked to the President according to SAP Anton. The President told them they can make their own party [KNP] but just coalesce with PFP if they want,” Tamayo said.

Fast-growing party

According to lawyer Edward Gialogo who answered on behalf of the party during the hearing, the KNP already has 24,000 members across 17 regions.

Funding would come from its members, who would pay an annual joining fee of P1,000.

Rodriguez said that the party’s basic objectives are to promote unity, justice, and access to affordable health care, among others.

Zamboanga del Sur 1st District Representative Divina Grace Yu – KNP vice president for Mindanao – believes the “grassroots” approach is what sets the new group apart from established political parties.

“Our movement started from the local level, like the mayors, going up. Other parties started with the bigwigs at the top. Because we started at the bottom, we understand better the problems at the grassroots,” Yu said.

Supporting Romualdez

Most of KNP’s founding officers are incumbent lawmakers who are part of the PDP-Laban contingent in the House of Representatives. They said they would resign from former president Rodrigo Duterte’s party once KNP secures its accreditation papers.

But while they are not yet an official power player in the House, they are ready to make their presence felt, in the form of a statement of support for Speaker Martin Romualdez to be released on Wednesday, May 24.

The move would follow other power blocs in Congress which released press releases affirming their loyalty to Romualdez, in the wake of an alleged ouster plot that gripped the chamber last week.

“Let’s just support the [House] leadership so there would be no squabble,” said San Jose Del Monte Representative and KNP treasurer Rida Robes.

A House official who is familiar with the power dynamics in the chamber, however, is doubtful that KNP would have great success in becoming the administration party.

“How could that be, when you have Lakas-CMD with 71 members in the House? That party has Marcos’ cousin as the party president. Then Marcos also has the supermajority in Congress, a coalition of parties. What would you need KNP for?” the source, who chose to spoke anonymously, told Rappler.

Decision out by June

A resolution on KNP’s petition for registration would be released around June, according to Comelec Chairman Garcia.

He said the poll body would take note of concerns that the name is similar to lawyer Chel Diokno’s party Katipunan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KANP), although the election chief added that no one filed a petition opposing KNP’s accreditation bid.

“Political parties having similar acronyms is often not an issue. But we will definitely consider that,” he said.

Robes is positive that the group would be recognized as a national political party.

“We have complied with the legal requirements. I believe we didn’t miss a requirement,” she said. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.