Manila, Feb. 7, 2003 - Opposition Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson yesterday welcomed the expression of support he has received from a respected Ilonggo political leader and an Ilocano political kingpin urging him to run for president in the 2004 electoral race.

Lacson said he felt "elated and honored" for getting the unsolicited support from former Sen. Rodolfo Ganzon, founding father of the Timawa Party of Iloilo City, and Mariano Tajon, three-term congressman and governor of Ilocos Sur.

He also thanked former Pagsanjan, Laguna Mayor Abner Afuang and the multisectoral group Citizens' Movement for Order for pledging to drum up support for his possible candidacy.

A multisectoral group of 120 concerned organizations and individuals had thrown their support behind Lacson and his crusade to attain peace and establish good government in the country.

"We are inspired by Lacson's simple but powerful call, 'What is right must be kept right, and what is wrong must be set right,' in instilling discipline among those who are entrusted to serve the public," declared the Citizens' Movement for Order in a two-page manifesto titled "Ping Lacson: The Man of the Hour."

In endorsing the candidacy of Lacson, Ganzon said the country "urgently needs today a man of valor and courage who respects law and order and, above all, the Constitution."

"Lacson is a man of discipline, of vision, and is the symbol of respect and intelligence with a strong political will," he added.

As a true leader who can weather the test of time, Lacson possesses the characteristics of a genuine Timawa, the former senator noted.

Tajon, a ranking Nationalist People's Coalition official in the Ilocos region, said all opposition parties should rally behind a single candidate for president like Lacson to seal the victory.

Among the co-convenors of the Citizens' Movement for Order are the national presidents of various organizations representing laborers, members of the academe and students, vendors, businessmen and young professionals, tricycle owners and drivers, barangay officials, tribes, senior citizens, homeowners, the urban poor, women's sector, peace and order and sports groups.

Saying Lacson is the answer to the challenge of the times, leaders of the movement said they "are highly motivated by his outstanding record of achievements, specially those which pertain to instilling discipline among those who are entrusted to serve the public.

"We are also elated by his courage to take on the bigger and more scandalous kotong endeavors such as purchased power adjustment (PPA) charges, and encouraged by his openness to new ideas and desire to learn from various sectors like what we represent," the statement added.

"We accept Senator Lacson's challenge for everyone to do his part in doing the right thing for our country and people," the groups said, "and join him in his crusade and commit our respective organizations and members to make him president in 2004."

Earlier, members of the opposition groups, including ousted President Joseph Estrada's mass-based organization Jeep (Citizens Movement for Justice, Economy, Environment and Peace), has formally announced their support for Lacson's bid for presidency in the 2004 elections.

While the move was apparently made to consolidate the opposition to rally behind Lacson, Jeep, however, could not say whether Estrada was consulted on its decision.

According to Buddy Garbanzos, Jeep president, there was no instruction from the jailed leader about the group's decision to support Lacson.

"I have not talked to the (jailed) president in a while," Garbanzos said, adding Jeep is supporting Lacson because of his ability and viability.

"We are supporting Lacson because we think he is the most viable candidate for 2004," he pointed out during the launching of the Citizens' Movement for Order, an umbrella organization which includes other movements that are closely identified with Estrada.

Garbanzos, citing news reports, however, said the deposed chief executive has given the go signal for the opposition to support Lacson's bid for the presidency in 2004.

Another convenor of the group, lawyer Estelita Cordero of the Save Ilocos Sur Alliance (Sisa), said they could no longer wait for action king Fernando Poe Jr. to decide on whether he would run in next year's presidential elections.

"We have to be fast," Cordero said.

He explained Sisa is pinning its hopes on Lacson as the only man who could stop jueteng in the country and incarcerate former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson.

"We will support anybody who could put Singson behind bars," Cordero, who had filed plunder and six graft cases against Singson, said.

Earlier, Estrada refused to identify whom to support in 2004 in an apparent bid to convince Poe to run for president.

The group, however, declined to come up with an official position on Lacson's running mate even as Garbanzos said administration ally Sen. Juan Flavier could be a good running mate with Lacson.

"There are efforts in that direction," he said.

But Alain del Pascua, national chairman of Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Kaakbay), explained endorsing Flavier as Lacson's running mate is not the official position of the newly formed group.

"Lacson would be the one to choose his vice president and we will support him," Del Pascua noted.

When asked about what happened with the reported candidacy of Poe, Del Pascua said: "As far as we are concerned, our candidate is Lacson."

According to Cordero, it is for the leaders of the opposition to decide whom to support.

But as of now, they are rallying behind Lacson.

The Philippine Confederation of Drivers Organizations-Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization said it will also support Lacson because of his effort to clean the streets of "rogue policemen." (Tribune)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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