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MANILA, Philippines -- The National Unity Party introduced itself Wednesday, four days before the election season officially begins with the filing of certificates of candidacy, and immediately announced its alignment with the administration.
Reggie Velasco, NUP executive director, said close to 400 party members, mostly local leaders, attended the convention at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.
Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino, NUP president, said although they will not field any senatorial candidates in next year’s elections, they are signing on Friday a coalition agreement with the Liberal Party, to which President Benigno Aquino III belongs.
And the new party approved a resolution naming Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. its chairman emeritus. Belmonte is also LP vice chairman.
Antonino acknowledged the “personal relationships between some of our members” and candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance but stressed that, “officially, we are obliged to support the entire (administration) slate because of the coalition agreement.”
UNA is the alliance forged by the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan of Vice President Jejomar Binay and former President Joseph Estrada’s Partido ng Masang Pilipino.
The administration coalition, on the other hand, counts the LP, the Nacionalista Party led by Senator Manuel Villar, and the Nationalist People’s Coalition, founded by businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., uncle of Aquino.
Senator Gregorio Honasan, who is seeking reelection under UNA, and Estrada’s son, San Juan Representative JV Ejercito, who is also reportedly running for senator, attended the NUP convention.
The NUP boasts 30 members in the House of Representatives, mostly former members of the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino, which was founded by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The new party also has 12 governors in its roster.
Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia, NUP chairman, described the party as a "political virgin" composed of "properly aged, premium minds and (a) new and attractive" crop of leaders.
"The NUP has yet to win an election, but neither has it lost any ... Quality, not quantity is the rule ... It will not only endure and survive in the political jungle, it will triumph and prevail. Just watch," he said.
Garcia, who is also House deputy speaker, said the party has "substantial" strongholds at the local level. In Cebu, for example, he said NUP controls three of the six districts.
Davao Representative Karlo Nograles said, "The NUP is a political party whose time has come ... It's a merry mix of the young and the young-once."
Belmonte hailed the NUP's partnership with the LP, and assured it would be accorded "equal treatment as with everybody else."
He described the NUP members were among the most hardworking in the House, helping him shepherd the passage of important bills. And he noted that 18 of the NUP members in the House either hold leadership positions or chair committees.