Quezon City, Feb. 6, 2003 - A coalition claiming to have more than 120 organizations yesterday endorsed Sen. Panfilo Lacson for president in 2004.

The coalition, which calls itself the Citizens' Movement for Order, said Lacson's no-nonsense drive in promoting peace and order, which is widely considered as the impetus of sustained economic growth, makes him a good leader.

He has proven he is bent on wiping out criminality, corruption and other ills of society, said coalition members in a press briefing in Quezon City.

The coalition said it is composed of organizations from the academe, economic and livelihood sectors, homeowners associations, indigenous peoples, senior citizens, transport groups, urban poor sector, women sector, youth, sports, and peace and order groups.

Alain del Pascua, national chairman of Kaakbay, one of the coalition members, said they are optimistic that Lacson would win in 2004.

"Kami ay nabigyan ng mataas na motibasyon ng kanyang (Lacson) mga kahanga-hangang nagawa lalo na sa pagbibigay-disiplina sa mga lingkod ng bayan," Del Pascua said.

Asked about Lacson's possible running mate, Del Pascua said it could be administration Sen. Juan. Flavier.

"Magandang kombinasyon yan, si Senador Lacson sa peace and order, si Senador Flavier naman sa social services," he said.

Del Pascua clarified the coalition has not chosen a vice presidential bet. Lacson and Flavier are open to the idea.

But Lacson said the elections are still more than a year away. "It's only February 2003 and the elections are not until May 2004, so there is a lot of room for alignments. Everything may be finalized late this year or early next year."

"For all we know both of us might not be running. There are a number of possibilities that can still take place. But I am open to any possibilities that can be explored, but not this early," Lacson he said as he admitted it is very heart-warming and flattering to hear of initiatives of some groups to back his supposed presidential bid.

Flavier's name has been floated as possible standard bearer of the administration People Power Coalition following the announcement made by President Arroyo on Dec. 30 last year that she would not seek a mandate in 2004.

Efren de Luna, chairman of the transport group PCDO-ACTO, said Lacson, as PNP chief, almost if not totally wiped out "kotong" or mulcting policemen.

"Noong hepe pa ng PNP si Ping Lacson, doon lang lumakas ang loob ng mga driver na pumasada, dahil alam nila na walang pulis na mangongotong sa kanila. Si Ping Lacson lang ang heneral na talagang lumaban sa kotong. Ngayon, laganap na naman ang pangongotong ng mga pulis," he said.

De Luna said if Lacson managed to eliminate mulcting cops, the senator could do the same in the entire bureaucracy.

De Luna added that another proof of Lacson's will is his program in the PNP where he ordered all policemen to reduce their waist size to just 34 inches.

Abner Afuang, a former municipal mayor in Laguna, said he is confident that Lacson would move to stop the collection of the purchased power adjustment (PPA) when he is elected.

"Alam ninyo si Ping Lacson, buburahin niya yang PPA na sinimulan ni Pangulong Fidel Valdez Ramos. Nagtataka nga ako bakit hindi pa nakukulong yung mga sangkot diyan sa PPA na yan," Afuang said.

Afuang said the "strong republic" that President Arroyo wants to achieve is useless if rampant criminality is not curbed.

"Si Senador Lacson galit yan sa kriminal, kaya siya lang ang magbabalik ng kapayapaan at kaayusan sa bansa," he said.

Some of the groups under the coalition are Grand Order of the Unified Guardians Association; Citizens Movement for Justice, Economy, Environment and Peace (JEEP); Metro Manila Vendors Association; Save Ilocos Sur Alliance; Sulo ng Pilipino and the Tribal Council of Elders. (By LJUBOMIR GATDULA, with Joan Dairo)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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