OPPOSITION'S PRESIDENTIAL BET KNOWN SOON

Manila, April 26, 2003 -- The United Opposition will announce what it 
called its "initial" standard bearer for the 2004 presidential election 
next week, former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile said yesterday.

Enrile, who was designated chairman of the United Opposition, said the name 
that would be announced on April 29 would be the common choice of the 
Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), 
and other political parties that form the United Opposition.

He clarified that the opposition is not closing its doors to other 
presidential aspirants who would wish to run under the banner of the 
opposition coalition.

Enrile also explained that the initial choice would not necessarily be the 
official opposition candidate next year.

"The initial candidate would still be subjected to reassessment, depending 
on other opposition members who are interested in joining the presidential 
race," Enrile said.

Enrile said the United Opposition agreed it would field only one candidate. 
"We do not like to repeat what happened in 1992 when there was more than 
one opposition presidential candidate."

He said "this agreement was blessed by everybody all the way to the top," 
obviously referring to President Joseph Estrada who is the symbol of the 
opposition.

San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito expressed confidence that 2004 would be an 
opposition year. "Kahit sinong dalhin ng oposisyon, siguradong panalo ... 
the masses will have their revenge next year," Ejercito said.

Former Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Estrada could have another crack 
at the presidency since he failed to finish his six-year term.

"There could be an Estrada-Arroyo showdown. Mr. Estrada could run again 
under the Constitution because he is not covered by the term limit 
provision in the Charter. He did not finish his presidential term," 
Santiago said.

But Ejercito said the more popular candidate could either be Sen. Panfilo 
Lacson or businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco.

He said a team-up of the two would be a "dream team" for the opposition.

Ejercito said Lacson is known for his programs on peace and order while 
Cojuangco is respected for his managerial skills.

Enrile said he has yet to decide whether or not he would join the 
senatorial race next year.

"If they (opposition) want me in their ticket, I might be compelled to run 
in the interest of the party. Otherwise, I would opt to stay out of 
politics and enjoy the life of a retired politician," he said.

Former Sen. Francisco Tatad said he is not keen on running.

"I don't see myself running. I do not believe that the elections would be 
clean. And I don't believe that the Senate could still be saved. It has 
been discredited too much there is no way of saving it," he said. (By JOAN 
DAIRO, Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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