Monday, February 02, 2009

Search for the Lakas party standard bearer -- down to four!

The Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) party gained prominence during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos. Some would argue that the party continues to hold influence today. Some would argue that, as with most parties whose highest leader is no longer in President, it has already faded and is now merely trying to show signs of life.

Becoming the standard bearer of Lakas CMD is by no means a small thing, certainly. But perhaps it will be more of a psychological advantage, more than anything.

Lakas shortlists 4 for standard bearer

By Christine AvendaƱo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:32:00 02/01/2009

MANILA, Philippines -- As President Macapagal Arroyo’s allies in Lakas and Kampi move to merge for the 2010 elections, Lakas officials have narrowed down to four its choices for possible standard bearer in the 2010 presidential election.

The four are "all perceived to be presidentiables" and "included a lady," according to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who is also Lakas secretary general.

Zubiri declined to identify the four persons now in the Lakas shortlist for possible presidential candidate.

"We don’t want to expose our hand…it’s too early," Zubiri told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview on Sunday.

Aside from indicating that one of the four was a woman, he said one of them also was a "home-grown talent" and "maybe a dark horse."

Zubiri said that the four were chosen from a shortlist of 10 possible candidates by Lakas officials led by party emeritus chair, former President Fidel Ramos, during the party’s executive committee meeting held at the Holiday Inn Resort in Clark Field in Pampanga, last week.

President Arroyo attended the meeting but did not stay long enough to participate in the group’s discussion on the presidential shortlist, Zubiri said.

Indeed, he said President Arroyo "may take a backseat in the choice of the presidential candidate so that she could concentrate on her work, especially the crisis the country is facing."

"Once Lakas and Kampi get together, we can make our own decisions…and eventually we will present to the President the possible candidate," the senator said.

In the meeting last week, President Arroyo said the two parties should "fight side by side" in the 2010 elections and sought for the merger of Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi).

Ms Arroyo is both Lakas incumbent national chair and Kampi’s founder.

Prior to the Lakas executive committee meeting, Lakas members had been mentioning as possible presidential bet Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr., Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando, Senator Richard Gordon, and Vice President Noli de Castro.

Zubiri said the session where Lakas officials considered the party’s choices for standard bearer became a "free" discussion as "we got the sentiments of our colleagues."

"There were those who lobbied for their candidate and others who questioned these candidates," he said.

In the end, Zubiri said the four choices passed the four-point criteria that were set by presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio in the party’s search for its standard bearer.

Among the criteria were the candidate’s “winnability” and if he or she would be able "to gel with party principles," Zubiri said.

Zubiri said that the four choices would undergo a "series of interviews and consultations" and described the process to be an "exciting" one as the party intended to follow the "US presidential style" in finally choosing its two final candidates.

He said that Lakas officials agreed they would have to pick its presidential bet before June.

"We may have a standard bearer by May," the Senate majority leader said.

The party had not talked about a possible vice presidential candidate as its final choice would "depend on who will be our standard bearer," Zubiri also said.

He reiterated that the 2010 presidential election would not be a battle between the administration and the opposition but a battle among "party-backed candidates," since several from the administration and opposition camps have been mulling running in 2010.

Asked whether the Lakas-Kampi merger would signal that the Arroyo administration had shelved Charter change for good, Zubiri said he could only speak for his party and that it was a "consensus" among leaders of Lakas that the presidential election in 2010 should push through.

He made it clear that Charter change was not in the agenda nor was it discussed during the party leaders’ meeting last week.

"My personal opinion is that the people are so ready for the 2010 presidential election…Otherwise, they would get angry if no election is held," Zubiri said.

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