The bigger problem for the Liberals
FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star)
While all eyes are on who should be the presidential candidate of the Liberal Party — Noynoy or Mar — a deeper and more serious problem is being overlooked. An internal strife, unless it is solved amicably, is poised to destroy whatever is left of the party.
At present, the party is ruled by an executive committee led by Messrs. Jovito Salonga, Mar Roxas and Franklin Drilon. In a power struggle in 2005, this self-proclaimed ruling faction expelled rank and file members led by Secretary Lito Atienza by throwing out of the window all the rules that govern the party. In essence the dispute was about the decision-making process, not whether the Liberal Party should support the Arroyo government as it has been made out to be.
Members of the Atienza faction are fighting for democratic procedures based on party rules but this has fallen on deaf ears. The acts by the troika are described as dictatorial, fascist and whimsical.
The rank and file has rightly questioned how a party that cannot follow its own rules, discriminates against its members, and acts autocratically can run on a platform of liberalism and democracy. “The Liberal Party in the Philippines today as conceived by this ruling faction is anything but liberal,” adds the non-pedigreed lower ranks. That is the internal mess that has to be solved. It must confront the issue of electing its officers democratically. Otherwise how can it be trusted with democratic government?
The problem has come up again in relief because of the issue on how the party’s standard bearer is to be chosen. The Atienza side wants it done through a national convention with all its members. The Salonga-Drilon-Roxas side would limit the selection through a committee or a few members.
The thorn in the flesh is Secretary Lito Atienza who has been with the Liberal Party since he was 12 years old. Both his father and uncle were original founders of the party. He has insisted throughout the rift that he and his followers who make up the majority will fight the betrayal of liberal principles. He feels especially aggrieved because there was a time when he and Eva Kalaw were the only ones carrying the LP banner during the perilous days of martial law.
In a telephone interview, Atienza former Liberal Party chairman, told this column that he had not received any call from Salonga so he is not sure that his call for a convention (made through media) was sincere.
If it were sincere, members should have been called before any announcement of a convention. The members should be asked to do two things: have a proper election to end the leadership row that began in 2005 and then consolidate the entire membership, be it the rank and file or its leaders, into a strong party to compete in the 2010 presidential elections. Short of these two conditions, the internal fight can only grow bitter.
Atienza’s group counts on 90% of some 2,500 leaders all over the country. They want the leadership issue settled once and for all.
When that it is clear then LP members can nominate its presidential candidate. That would be the liberal and democratic way.