By Ben Rosario
Four senior congressmen bolted President Duterte’s PDP-Laban party Wednesday to join the National Unity Party (NUP) and threaten the leadership term-sharing pact from being realized in the House of Representatives.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, NUP president, said the political party has not decided to close its doors to new members but clarified there is no active recruitment taking place.
With the NUP currently composed of 49 district congressmen, it remains the second largest political party in the Lower House, with PDP-Laban still dominating the numbers game with 66 elected district lawmakers as members.
However, the entry of Deputy Speaker Dan Fernandez, Senior Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, and Reps. Sandra Eriguel (La Union) and Rolando “Klarex” Uy into the NUP fold has been seen as a threat to the implementation of a term-sharing agreement between Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco, head of the PDP-Laban contingent in the Lower House.
Under the agreement personally brokered by Duterte, Velasco was supposed to take over the speakership post by the end of October this year.
Before Duterte acted as the go-between in the 2019 speakership race, the NUP and Cayetano’s party, the Nacionalista Party which has 41 members, joined forces to campaign for the incumbent speaker’s candidacy as House chief.
On the other hand, the PDP-Laban, backed by the Nationalist People’s Coalition currently with 34 congressmen-members, supported Velasco.
A third force headed by Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez had the backing of Lakas-CMD and several members from both the NUP and the PDP-Laban.
However, recent party switchings have given the NUP the key advantage of getting new members from Velasco’s PDP-Laban.
“If NUP continues to get quality members from PDP-Laban, I don’t see a changing of guards by October,” noted a senior administration lawmaker who requested anonymity.
Fernandez and Gonzales were former Liberal Party members who joined PDP-Laban following Duterte’s emergence to power in 2016.
Eriguel is the widow of the late Rep. Eufranio Eriguel who was murdered in what she claimed was a politically-motivated assassination.
ON the other hand, Uy is a third-term congressman from Cagayan de Oro City. He was also a recent PDP-Laban recruit before deciding to jump ship to NUP.