Press Release
October 16, 2006

Drilon hails Comelec decision invalidating
Atienza rump election as LP president

Liberal Party (LP) President Franklin Drilon hailed the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) today declaring the rump LP elections conducted by rival Manila Mayor Lito Atienza at the Manila Hotel last March 2 as illegal and null and void, thus upholding Drilon's leadership of the 60-year-old party.

"I hail the decision of the Comelec declaring the Mayor Atienza's rump party elections at the Manila Hotel last March 2, 2006 as illegal and therefore null and void," Drilon said in a statement.

"I maintain that our actions were consistent with the Constitution and by-laws of the LP and I never doubted that the legality of our case will eventually be upheld by the Comelec and any other court of law," he added. "I now appeal to all LP members to allow this Comelec ruling to signal the beginning of the reunification of the party whose tradition of principled politics continues to serve as a source of hope for many Filipinos."

In a 17-page decision, the Comelec granted the petition filed by Drilon asking that Atienza and his pro-GMA cohorts be prohibited from misrepresenting themselves as the new officers of the LP, maintaining that the rump elections held at the Manila Hotel, were illegal, illegitimate and violated party rules.

Drilon also asked the Comelec to nullify the results of the rump elections and to stop Atienza's group from performing their "duties and functions" as illegitimate party officers.

In his decision, Comelec Commissioners Benjamin Abalos, Resurreccion Borra, Florentino Tuazon Jr., Romeo Brawner, Rene Sarmiento and Nicodemo Ferrer also set the holding of "elections of LP officers on Nov. 13, 2006 at 10:00 a.m. at Manila Hotel at the expense of the LP to be supervised by the Commission."

Bukidnon Rep. Neric Acosta, who is also LP Secretary General, said LP lawyers would have to study the Comelec order for the holding of LP elections.

"We are not adverse to holding elections. But we have directed our lawyers to study its implications on the remaining terms of office of the legitimate party officers," Acosta said. "Off hand, I can venture to say that this is the first time in the history of Philippine politics that a government entity, such as the Comelec, would directly interfere in a highly internal party matter such as conducting elections."

Acosta also welcomed the Comelec decision, saying it "upheld the important of the role played by political parties in strengthening and reforming our democratic institutions."

Sen. Mar Roxas, another LP stalwart, also welcomed the Comelec decision. "The decision of the Comelec reflects the role and importance of a Constitution as a source of stability in any organization, let alone a country. We have always stood by the principles enshrined in our Constitution and by-laws and so we gladly welcome this decision as an affirmation of that basic truth."

Drilon said he hoped the Comelec decision would bring about unity among LP members.

"I say, let the healing process begin," Drilon further said. "There is much to be done to achieve the aspirations for political, economic and social reform laid down by our forebearers 60 years ago. "Our differences anchored to petty political interests are minuscule compared to noble LP mission to provide an equitable, just and progressive Filipino society."

"Once again, I extend my hand of friendship to all Liberals who share our vision of making the LP the dominant political party in the Philippines soon. As destiny would have it, this is the party of the future," Drilon said.

In his petition, Drilon said the he continued to exercise authority and control as party president over the LP headquarters and all provincial and city chapters despite the failed attempt by Malacanang to takeover the political party.

Former education secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad, LP immediate past president Butch Abad said those who took part in Malacanang's failed takeover bid were "automatically resigned" for organizing a breakaway group. This, he said, is mandated under LP rules covering "acts of individual members that are inimical to the interests of the party."

Among those named as respondents in the suit were Atienza, Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, Presidential Legal Adviser Eduardo Nachura, Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao and several others.

Asis said elections of officers in any political party must conform to the party's internal rules and regulations. "Any election in violation and contravention of the Charter of the Party is null and void, should not be recognized and produces no legal and binding effect on the Party and the public in general," Asis said.

The petition noted the rump elections held by Atienza and President Arroyo's Cabinet members were "unlawfully and improperly" conducted as there was no notice of elections given to members of the LP National Executive Committee (NECO), the party's highest policy making body.

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