OPPOSITION'S PRESIDENTIAL BET KNOWN TODAY

Manila, April 29, 2003 -- The United Opposition will name today its 
"initial" standard bearer in the 2004 elections to dramatize its commitment 
to field a common slate against the Arroyo administration's candidates.

The initial choice will be announced by United Opposition chairman former 
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and leaders of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino and 
Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino this morning at Club Filipino in 
Greenhills, San Juan.

The PMP and LDP, along with smaller political opposition parties, have 
forged a "soft" coalition in preparation for the 2004 elections.

Enrile earlier said the initial standard bearer to be announced would have 
the endorsement of the opposition parties' leaders and former President 
Joseph Estrada. The initial choice, he said, would be open for reassessment 
six months later on the basis of the ability to win.

Enrile said the United Opposition move does not shut the door to other 
presidential aspirants.

Senate minority leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Luisa Ejercito-Estrada 
said it might be premature to name a candidate now as the initial choice 
could be targeted by the Arroyo administration for demolition.

Among the opposition frontrunners are Sen. Panfilo Lacson who has announced 
his availability and businessman Eduardo Cojuangco who remains undecided.

Sotto said the LDP has yet to forge a formal coalition with the PMP.

"At this point, hindi pa official ang commitment ng LDP sa PMP. Pero hindi 
naman namin mapipigil ang ibang LDP members na sumama sa coalition ng mga 
opposition parties," Sotto said, noting that LDP has internal rules that 
have to be complied with.

Highly reliable sources said the United Opposition would likely name either 
Lacson or action movie star Fernando Poe Jr.

One of the sources said that while Lacson has been emerging as the 
strongest contender, coalition leaders have not given up hope that Poe 
would reconsider his decision against entering politics.

Poe, the sources said, enjoys wide support among the D and E voters.

Lacson also has strong support among the masses and is acceptable to other 
classes because of his successful campaign against criminality when he was 
PNP chief. (By JOAN DAIRO, Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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