MANILA, APRIL 16, 2011 (STAR) By Jess Diaz - Congressmen-allies of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo backtracked yesterday on their decision to mount a "frontal attack" on the Aquino administration.

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, who chairs the opposition Lakas party, said nothing would change in their group's "critical cooperation with the Aquino administration for the national interest."

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., Lakas party president, yesterday denied giving marching orders to party members to go on a full offensive against the Aquino administration.

In a statement, Revilla said that the party "remains an ally of the current administration in all its efforts to alleviate every Filipino's living condition, eradicate corruption in the government and improve the country's economic situation while continuing to play its role as a check and balance."

Surigao del Norte Rep. Jose Aquino II, the party's secretary-general, said Lakas has a "higher duty to the Filipino people to support government policies that hasten economic development and intensify efforts to fight poverty and corruption."

"(Lakas) is prepared and willing to cooperate with the administration on these policies as a matter of duty. But we will do it responsibly. And that means Lakas-Kampi will be vigilant and ready to criticize or denounce any backsliding by the administration when necessary," he said.

He said the country achieved unprecedented economic growth under the Arroyo presidency "not through political confrontation but through the power of alliances and national consensus."

He added that Lakas, as the new opposition party, "remains committed to this sure and tested path."

Lagman and Aquino did not say anything about the statements made on Thursday by their Lakas colleague Rep. Danilo Suarez of Quezon.

Suarez revealed in a Quezon City news forum that a small group of party leaders met last Monday and "agreed not to be docile, supportive and constructive anymore."

"We will go on the offensive and criticize this administration frontally. That was the marching order," he said.

When asked if the order came from Mrs. Arroyo, the titular head of Lakas, Suarez answered, "No, not from GMA. It came from our party president (Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.)."

Mrs. Arroyo, Revilla and Lagman attended the meeting. The two others who were there were Suarez and another close Arroyo ally, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.

Lakas executive director Ray Roquero told The STAR yesterday that as far as he knew, only the five party leaders met on Monday.

Revilla denied that mounting a frontal attack against the Aquino administration was discussed in the meeting. It's not the time for bickering and confrontation, he said.

Suarez said the decision was prompted by the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and the filing of charges against Mrs. Arroyo's eldest son Juan Miguel or Mikey, and former Surigao del Sur congressman and Local Water Utilities Administration chairman Prospero Pichay Jr.

"We felt that this administration has ordered a witch-hunt against us, that they will charge us one after the other until they finish us all off. We have to fight back," he said.

"After them (Gutierrez, Mikey and Pichay), who will be the next targets among us?" he said.

Other colleagues of Suarez in the opposition also distanced themselves from the confrontational stance that he said Lakas has taken.

"I take exception to the statement of Cong. Suarez, with all due respect to him. I don't wish this administration to fail. In fact, I want it to succeed because the nation will succeed with it," Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas said.

On the other hand, allies of President Aquino welcomed even a shift to confrontation from critical cooperation on the part of Arroyo's allies.

"We welcome it. As minority, that is their role. A vibrant minority is healthy for a democracy. They should be firm in their resolve," Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, secretary-general of the new ruling Liberal Party, said.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said, "That is really the role of the opposition in a democracy. They criticize and expose weaknesses in the incumbent administration and act as a counterweight or check on the government."

Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III said he doubted if the opposition really has exposés on corruption as Suarez claimed.

He said he was intrigued by the "contradictory statements" of his Quezon colleague and Revilla.

"That means that Senator Revilla is not being listened to," he said.

Another administration ally, Rep. Walden Bello of the party-list group Akbayan, said Suarez's statements were "a desperate effort to draw public attention from the impeachment trial (of Gutierrez) and the Mikey Arroyo tax evasion case." - With Marvin Sy


Aquino House allies welcome challenge from Arroyo camp By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 18:06:00 04/15/2011

Bring it on.

This was the message of some members of the Liberal Party-led coalition in the House of Representatives in response to a threat by an ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now a member of Congress, to retaliate to perceived attacks from the Aquino administration.

Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Ta? III of Quezon said, "We await whatever disclosures Representative (Danilo) Suarez will make, if there is really any."

Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio A. Abaya, LP secretary-general, said he welcomed the challenge posed by Suarez that the Arroyo bloc would launch an offensive against President Aquino for allegedly harassing its members with court cases, notably Ang Galing Pinoy Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo and Local Water Utilities Administration chair Prospero Pichay.

"As minority, that is their role. A vibrant minority is healthy for a democracy. They should be firm in their resolve," said Abaya.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said he found nothing threatening from the statement of Suarez because he was just living up to the role of the opposition in a democracy.

"They criticize and expose weaknesses in the incumbent administration and act as a counterweight or check on the government," said Angara.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte was not rattled by Suarez's statement as he said it had no impact on the alliances in the Lower House. Belmonte noted that the Lakas-Kampi members who joined the majority (around 20 representatives) remain firmly with the LP coalition.

But more than the threat made by Suarez, Ta? said the deputy minority leader's statement belied the divided stand of the Lakas-Kampi as leaders of the Arroyo party disowned Suarez's claim.

"What is intriguing is the contradictory statements issued by Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. and Representative Suarez on the position of Lakas vis-a-vis the Aquino administration. It just shows that Lakas is not united and Senator Revilla is not being listened to," said Ta?.

Suarez claimed Thursday morning that Revilla, as Lakas-Kampi president, had ordered his party members to retaliate against the attacks made by the administration on the young Arroyo and Pichay. Revilla, however, swiftly denied making any such order, saying this was not the time for strife.

Minority Leader Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, chair of Lakas-Kampi, issued a statement vowing to "pursue critical cooperation with the Aquino administration for the national interest but would resist being ensnared in partisan adventurism" with the "minority going to maintain this tempered posture and will not engage in virulent and baseless opposition.'

Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas denied Suarez's claims that Lakas-Kampi has made a party stand to attack the Aquino administration.

"I don't wish that this administration fails. In fact I want it to succeed because the nation will succeed with it. While I'm in the minority, I am unlike the previous opposition, which was destructive. I play my role as member of the minority, to debate on issues, policies and principles," said Cagas.


Senator Revilla opposition party's 'living amulet' By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez First Posted 19:45:00 02/24/2011

Filed Under: Bong Revilla Jr., Politics, Cinema

MANILA, Philippines—Just what it needs to perk up the party anew into the political arena, Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) now has an "amulet" when it elected as its president popular action star and Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.

"Kailangan natin pandayin ang mga susunod na hakbang ng partido at nandito na ang agimat na kinakailangan natin (Like a blacksmith, we need to strengthen the next steps of the party and here is the living amulet we need)," Revilla was quoted by wife, Cavite Representative Lani Mercado-Revilla as saying in his speech after being elected by members of the national council Thursday in a gathering in Ortigas, Pasig City.

Mercado-Revilla said her husband crafted his speech from his image as an action star and the movies he has done.

Revilla's father-actor, former Senator Ramon Sr., was known for his blockbuster films in the 1970s and 1980s whose lead characters used amulets that made them invincible to bullets and knives. In his younger days, Revilla did remakes of those films. He also had his versions of the popular "Panday" (blacksmith) film series originally starred in by his godfather, the late National Artist for Film, Fernando Poe Jr.

Thus, the words amulet and panday became associated with Revilla.

In attendance were some 149 members, including party bigwigs such as former President and Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.

Former President Fidel Ramos, one of the founders of Lakas-CMD and chairperson emeritus, did not show up in the gathering.

Arroyo relinquished her position to Lagman, who will now sit as party chairman. The Pampanga lawmaker will join Ramos as chairperson emeritus.

Elected vice chairpersons were Maguindanao Representative Simeon Datumanong, Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez, and Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya Jr.

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor was elected executive vice president, while Agusan del Norte Representative Jose Aquino II was secretary general.

"May dating si Bong. Sabi ko tama ang linya mo na ang partido Lakas-Kampi ngayon ay meron ng agimat (Senator Revilla has charismatic presence. I told him you're right when you said that the Lakas-Kampi party now has an amulet)," Ermita, chairman of the national advisory council, told reporters in an interview.

Former Speaker Prospero Nograles said Revilla represents the new generation of politicians, and it is now up to him to bring in new members.

Revilla, who is serving his second term as senator, topped the senatorial race in the May 2010 elections. He said his election will bring youth and freshness to the party, as he called on his partymates to unite and shun politics at this time.

"This is the new face of Lakas. The important thing now is to unite, no talk of politics," he said.

Revilla also said that even if perceived to be the opposition party, Lakas-Kampi "will not give the administration a headache" and will work closely with the government.

He said the new leaders will sit down and map out the direction of the party in the coming days.

Asked if Lakas-Kampi will have a stand on the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, Revilla said, "Let's cross the bridge when we get there."


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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