Manila, Feb. 4, 2003 -- The administration party Lakas-CMD and the administration umbrella organization People Power Coalition have asked Sen. Juan Flavier to be their standard bearer in the 2004 elections. Flavier, a Malacaņang ally, confirmed the reports. He said Lakas insiders whom he refused to identify made the offer to him at a party meeting last week.

Flavier said the decision is not final yet because Lakas and PPC would want to see results of March surveys to be conducted by the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia.

"If I do well, that's good. If duty calls, as validated by support in the survey, I will consider (the offer)," Flavier said.

Opposition senators led by Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Sen. Edgardo Angara said Flavier would be a good and qualified presidential contender.

Lacson himself is among those being eyed by the political opposition as standard bearer. Angara, who has long been rumored to be eyeing the presidency, has declared he is not running in the 2004 presidential polls.

He made the declaration following President Arroyo's Dec. 30 announcement she is not seeking the presidency in 2004. President Arroyo co-chairs Lakas with Speaker Jose de Venecia who has said he is not running for prime minister if the form of government is changed to a parliamentary system under charter changes being pushed by the House.

Flavier, asked if he has the support of former President Fidel Ramos, Lakas chairman emeritus, said he has not seen Ramos or talked with him for two months now.

Flavier, health secretary in the Ramos administration, did not discount the possibility Ramos was the proponent of the proposal.

Aside from Lakas and PPC, former Senate President Ernesto Maceda, honorary president of the Nationalist People's Coalition, is supportive of Flavier as the next president of the country.

Maceda has practically endorsed Flavier in his regular radio program.

Lacson said Flavier has always been his "idol" and that he would willingly support his colleague's candidacy.

"I wish him all the luck. Matagal ko na talagang idol si Sen. Flavier," Lacson said.

Asked if Flavier would be a threat to his own presidential bid, Lacson said the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, to which he is affiliated, has not decided on who would be its standard bearer.

Opposition senators Tessie Aquino-Oreta, Luisa Ejercito-Estrada, John Osmeņa and Vicente Sotto III said Flavier would be a good choice because he is a "favorite" among the senators.

"He (Flavier) is a friend of everybody," Ejercito said.

"He (Flavier) is a doctor. He would cure the ills of this country," Oreta said.

Sotto said: "That's good. He would make a good unity president."

Osmeņa echoed: "He is very qualified. I don't see why he would not make it, not only in the surveys but in the election as well."

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, while saying Flavier is a good choice, cautioned Lakas against depending on surveys.

"Choosing a candidate should be based on definite platforms and programs, not only on surveys," he said.

Majority leader Loren Legarda-Leviste, known to be aspiring for the presidency herself, said Lakas has not yet made a decision on the matter.

"Hindi ko pa alam. We have not discussed it in Lakas yet," Legarda said. (By JOAN DAIRO, Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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