by Fel V. Maragay
Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza said yesterday he would file today his certificate of candidacy for mayor of Manila as a Liberal Party member, defying an expulsion order issued against him by a rival faction that now controls the party.
Atienza described the rival faction as a “mafia” of usurpers who committed an illegal act by ousting him and other members of the pro-administration faction that he heads.
“I have always been a Liberal. I was born a Liberal, I grew up a Liberal. I have never switched parties even during the darks days of Martial Law,” he told newsmen.
Saying he has been with the party for more than 50 years, Atienza expressed dismay that reconciliation talks between his group and the party leadership broke down because this did not sit well with a clique led by former Senate President Franklin Drilon (party chairman).
“We tried to open the channels for possible reconciliation. But obviously, the Liberal Party faction of Drilon prevails. Sad to say, the reconciliation effort did not take off. Maybe in their view, that was no longer needed because their candidate [for president Senator Noynoy Aquino] is very, very popular,” he said.
Asked by newsmen if he will accept an endorsement of his candidacy by President Gloria Arroyo and the ruling Lakas-Kampi, Atienza said he would welcome administration support but this does not mean he will join the ruling party.
“I am going to run for mayor as a Liberal and anybody that will endorse me will definitely be most welcome,” he said.
Atienza and the other leaders of his faction were expelled from the LP on the eve of a general assembly in November 2007, which was called to elect a new set of party officials.
He said their arbitrary expulsion was in total disregard of a Supreme Court order that the leadership dispute in the party should be settled by a new election of LP officials.
But leaders of the Drilon-led faction have blamed Atienza for the collapse of the reconciliation talks. They said he was asking for “whimsical” demands like having them publicly apologize to him and his group for their expulsion.
Atienza, who served as Manila mayor for three consecutive terms, said that genuine Liberals like him have been thrown out of the party while the LP has been hostaged by newcomers who now control the party.
“That was an injustice committed against us. We are asking for a genuine, democratic solution to the leadership issue as mandated by the Supreme Court decision and as provided by our party rules,” he said.
With Atienza’s political comeback, it will be a three-cornered fight among him, incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim and former National Police chief Avelino Razon for the mayorship of Manila.