Press Release
March 5, 2006

Drilon asks Comelec to declare Atienza "illegitimate LP president"

Senate President and Liberal Party (LP) head Franklin Drilon has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to prohibit Manila Mayor Joselito Atienza and his pro-GMA allies from misrepresenting themselves as the new officers of the LP, reiterating that the romp elections held at the Manila Hotel last March 2, were illegal, illegitimate and violated party rules.

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 60 year-old political party.

In an 11-page petition filed in behalf of Drilon last Friday, LP legal counsel Alberto Arga asked the Comelec to nullify the results of the romp elections and to stop Atienzas group from performing their "duties and functions" as illegitimate party officers.

Former education secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad, LP immediate past president, announced that those who participated in the failed attempt to unseat Drilon "have resigned themselves from the Liberal Party."

Abad said those who took part in Malacanangs 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."

Over the weekend, past LP presidents former senator Wigberto Taada, Northern Samar Governor Raul Daza and Abad have expressed support for Drilon and called on party members nationwide to continue to support only the legitimate party officers.

In the Comelec petition, Arga acknowledged that the case involved "an intra-party and leadership dispute."

Arga explained the Supreme Court has recently upheld the "constitutional authority" of the Comelec to decide on cases involving "party identity, party standard-bearer and party leadership disputes," citing the LDP vs the Comelec case, among others.

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.

Arga said elections of officers in any political party must conform with the partys 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," Arga said.

The petition noted the romp elections held by Atienza and President Arroyos 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 partys highest policy making body.

"What some of the members of the party received was an invitation to a Conference on Decentralization and Local Autonomy and consultation and discussion on important matters concerning the Party," the petition said. Those who attended the meeting were hundreds of Manila barangay officials and Manila City Hall employees, witnesses said.

The petition pointed out that Drilon and the incumbent officers of the LP were elected for a three-year term starting in Nov. 30, 2004. "The fixed term of the officers cannot be abbreviated. No member of the Party can declare all election positions vacant as what happened yesterday in the romp elections. The terms of the following officials are set to expire in November 2007," the petition said.

The petition also pointed out that the LP Constitution and By-Laws "has not been amended" and it does not provide for the holding of a so-called "national assembly" being invoked by Atienzas pro-GMA group.

Under the LP Constitution, the petition added, only Drilon, as party president, can call and convene the National Directorate, National Executive Council or National Political Council."

The petition stressed that Atienza, as LP national chairman, was the "titular head" of the party whose function were merely ceremonial. "As titular head, he can only preside over the meetings of the National Directorate, National Executive Council and the National Political Council assuming said councils were properly called pursuant to the LP Constitution," the petition said.

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