MANILA, Philippines – More than a year after the May 2016 elections, the Liberal Party (LP) held its first official gathering on Thursday, August 10, for a meeting of its National Executive Council (NECO).
Inside the University Hotel at the University of the Philippines Diliman, 49 or so members of the LP's NECO ratified the election of Vice President Leni Robredo as party chairperson and Senator Francis Pangilinan as party president. Former president Benigno Aquino III was also formally chosen as the party's chairman emeritus.
The 3 and other LP officials have been holding these posts since October 2016 but their selection were only made official on Thursday by at least 49 members of the NECO.
Robredo and Pangilinan will be holding their posts at least until 2019, according to the LP resolution. Robredo, as party chairperson, was given the power to appoint people to key positions and units in the party.
Also present during the meeting were senators Franklin Drilon and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte, Teddy Baguilat Jr, Josephine Ramirez-Sato, Edcel Lagman, Raul Daza, and Jorge Banal. Former House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr was also present during the meeting.
LP stalwarts and former party presidents Manuel Roxas II, Florencio Abad, and Wigberto Tañada also joined the meeting. Former acting president Joseph Emilio Abaya was present as well.
The LP has gone through many changes since Roxas, its 2016 standard-bearer, lost the elections.
As is expected in Philippine politics, the party saw its numbers dwindle almost immediately after Rodrigo Duterte, who ran under the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), won as president. Both chambers of Congress, which the LP used to dominate, is now led by PDP-Laban.
Many of its members switched from yellow to red immediately, particularly in the House of Representatives.
The party is currently in rebuilding or "rebranding" mode. Pangilinan and other key officials want "new blood" from different sectors to join the party.
"Sa krisis, sinasabi nila, nariyan din ang oportunidad. At narito tayo humaharap sa oportunidad na palakasin ang ating partido upang maging tunay na partido ng taumbayan," Pangilinan said.
(They say in crisis there is also opportunity. We are here now to face the opportunity to strengthen our party so it can be a true party of the people.)
During Duterte's first year, LP members in both chambers of Congress were part of the majority-led PDP-Laban. But the LP-led coalition in the Senate was forced to move to the minority after its members were kicked out of choice committee chairmanships. One of its members, former justice secretary Senator Leila de Lima, was also detained on drug charges which she denies.