Arroyo, De Venecia reunite as Lakas-CMD vow to ‘win’ members back

MANILA, Philippines – The Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) party is out to regain its power in the House as two of its longtime stalwarts reunited on Monday, March 9: former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and former House speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.

De Venecia, who is co-chairman of the party, hosted a luncheon for the Lakas-CMD lawmakers in the House at the Sampaguita Gardens in Quezon City. The guest of honor was Arroyo, the party’s president emeritus who had been De Venecia’s running mate in the 1998 elections.  

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, the party president, said Lakas-CMD is currently “rebuilding” in the House.

Once before in 2006, the party was torn by factionalism between supporters of Arroyo and former president Fidel Ramos, also Lakas-CMD chairman emeritus. Supporters were split then over a proposal to scrap mid-term elections in 2007.

“Our team is in the process of rebuilding Lakas-CMD and we will just have to win them (former members) back again,” Romualdez said in his speech during the meeting. 

Lakas-CMD had once been a formidable force in Philippine politics during the 9-year presidency of Arroyo from 2001 to 2010, with a majority of House members joining the party of the former president. (READ: Lakas-CMD: Relevant for how long?) 

But when Arroyo was succeeded by Benigno Aquino III in 2010, most of these legislators then jumped ship to his Liberal Party. The pattern of party switching was only repeated when then-Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte ran and won for president in 2016 under the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). 

Lakas-CMD now has a total of 30 members and allies in the House under the 18th Congress: 15 congressional lawmakers as members and 15 party-list legislators who signed a coalition agreement with the pary. 

Slowly, Lakas-CMD is seeing its numbers rise in the House as PDP-Laban legislators continue to bolt the ruling party to either join Lakas or the National Unity Party

In his speech on Monday, De Venecia said many of the country’s political problems “rise from our lack of political groupings able to think coherently of the national interest.” 

"As part of any thorough-going political reform, we need to build up strong political parties, to institutionalize – and therefore stabilize – political decision-making,” added the man who was elected House speaker 5 times. 

Still, De Venecia said Lakas-CMD "can be proud of our achievements" in the past 28 years since it was created.

Apart from Romualdez, other Lakas-CMD members who attended the lunch meeting were Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay Jr, Quezon 3rd District Representative Aleta Suarez, Lapu-Lapu City Representative Paz Radasa, Lanao del Sur 2nd District Representative Yasser Balindong, Misamis Oriental 1st District Representative Christian Unabia, Catanduanes Representative Hector Sanchez, Southern Leyte Representative Roger Mercado, and Pangasinan 4th District Representative Christopher de Venecia, the former House speaker's son.

Allies turned foes turned allies again

Arroyo and De Venecia, both political heavyweights, have had a complicated relationship over the years. 

Arroyo’s 9-year presidency was marred by multiple corruption allegations, but she survived her term as she had loyal lieutenants like De Venecia. 

But their relationship turned sour in 2007 after De Venecia’s son, Jose de Venecia III, linked Arroyo’s husband and then-first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo to the allegedly anomalous $329.48-million National Broadband Network deal with China's Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation (NBN-ZTE).  

Roughly a year later, De Venecia would deliver a privilege speech in Congress condemning the alleged widespread corruption under the Arroyo presidency. This prompted Arroyo’s children – former Pampanga congressman Juan Miguel Arroyo and former Camarins Sur representative Diosdado “Dado” Arroyo – to orchestrate De Venecia’s ouster.

They succeeded in unseating De Venecia, who was replaced by then-Davao City congressman Prospero Nograles Jr in February 2008. 

Arroyo and De Venecia have since reconciled. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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