MANILA, Philippines – The National Unity Party (NUP) credits its support for the successful speakership bid of Taguig City-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano as the main reason for its increased membership.
NUP chairperson and former interior chief Ronaldo “Ronnie” Puno said on Tuesday, August 6, that NUP members developed camaraderie with legislators from other parties back when negotiations were ongoing for the speakership battle.
The veteran political strategist believes this good relationship convinced 19 district lawmakers to transfer to NUP, and 12 party-list groups to sign a coalition agreement with them. Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte is also an adopted NUP member.
“Actually our membership doubled because, I think, mainly of the support for Speaker Cayetano, I think. Many of us have worked together during the early days of the Congress to help elect the new Speaker. So I think this camaraderie led to an increase in our new members,” Puno said on the sidelines of the oath-taking of its new members at the Seda Vertis North.
Puno’s younger brother, House Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno thinks Paolo Duterte’s inclusion in NUP drew other House members to the party as well. The presidential son, however, had a prior family commitment and was not present during the oath-taking. (READ: With Paolo Duterte in its ranks, NUP emerging as a force in House)
From just 25 lawmakers at the start of the 18th Congress, NUP more than doubled its membership in the House to 57. Of this number, 15 were former members of the ruling PDP-Laban, chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte.
NUP is now the second biggest bloc in the House, after PDP-Laban.
Former members of Lakas-Kampi-CMD who bolted the party following internal conflict among its members founded the NUP in 2011.
Puno said several lawmakers who took their oath on Tuesday were either returning NUP members who previously joined other parties, or children of longtime NUP members.
“Many of the people you are seeing here today mga anak ng mga kasama ko dati (are children of my colleagues before). So we have second generation members here; quite a few actually. And nakakataba ng puso (it warms my heart) because it means that, you know, like minds gravitate to the same area,” said Puno.
“We have been espousing the same things for so many years now. And I think that’s the stability of NUP, in that people just keep on coming back. Even if they are drawn away for some reason or another, local politics or even national politics, eventually bumabalik sila (they return) because everybody is comfortable in NUP,” he added.
Cayetano ‘very excited’ to work with NUP
Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler
Cayetano, who was invited by NUP to attend their meeting, thanked the party for supporting his speakership bid.
“I am very excited to work with you…. Minsan tinatanong ako, ‘Bakit ka napakalakas sa NUP?’ First of all, mali po ‘yon. Napakalakas sa akin ng NUP,” the Speaker said in a brief speech, drawing loud applause from NUP members.
(I am very excited to work with you.... Sometimes people ask me, ‘Why does NUP strongly favor you?’ First of all, that’s wrong. I strongly favor NUP.)
Cayetano is a member of the Nacionalista Party.
NUP, which also elected its new set officers on Tuesday, will now be led by Cavite 4th District Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr as party president. Puno will remain as party chairman.
Barzaga is replacing Capiz 2nd District Representative Fredenil Castro, who resigned both as NUP president and member out of delicadeza after he crossed party lines to support Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez for the speakership.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno was also elected as vice chairperson for political affairs.
NUP’s new set of officers is as follows: