San Juan, Metro Manila, April 30, 2003 -- Leaders of national and local 
political parties and other groups yesterday launched the United Opposition 
coalition and endorsed Sen. Panfilo Lacson as their "tentative" or initial 
standard bearer for the 2004 presidential elections.

The coalition is composed of members of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino 
(PMP), Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), Liberal Party, Nacionalista 
Party and local political groups like the Partido Magdalo of Cavite and 
Timawa Party of Iloilo City.

The coalition, which met at Club Filipino in San Juan, also includes 
representatives of youth, women and labor organizations.

Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile was designated as chairman of the United 

In a statement, the coalition expressed alarm over "the rapid deterioration 
of the social, economic and political order and the administration's 
continuing attack on the constitutional order of the rule of law."

Coalition members said they were "convinced that the administration is 
determined to destroy the opposition through physical intimidation and 
threats of arrest and possible liquidation of its leaders, as a way of 
diverting public attention from the regime of corruption, crime and lies 
that has swept the nation since Jan. 20, 2001."

The United Opposition said it "decided to unite under a common program and 
a common flag to wage the democratic fight for national survival against 
the venal and oppressive Arroyo leadership."

Enrile said Lacson would serve as the "face" of the political opposition, 
especially since its overall chairman, President Joseph Estrada, is under 
detention and could not fully represent the opposition.

"We have to make up because our commander is detained. Masyadong maraming 
commanders ngayon. Remember that too many cooks would spoil the soup," he 

Enrile said the United Opposition is "ready to face the administration in 
the political combat in 2004."

He added: "Wala kaming ibang itinuturing na kalaban sa administrayon para 
sa pulitika sa 2004 kundi si President Arroyo."

Enrile said it would be easy to defeat Arroyo because "she is only trying 
to pretend to be the pilot of the Filipino ship but in truth, she is not 
really a pilot."

He clarified that the endorsement of Lacson was not official yet since "the 
doors of the United Opposition remain open to other possible candidates for 
the presidency."

"The announcement (of Lacson as tentative standard bearer) does not 
foreclose the entry of other presidential candidates. We continue to 
maintain an open mind," Enrile said.

He said the early announcement of Lacson as possible standard bearer was 
aimed at preventing a repeat of the 1992 situation when the opposition had 
several candidates running for president.

As a result, Fidel Ramos won the presidency with only a plurality vote, 
Enrile said.

With a single candidate, Enrile said "it would be an opposition year next 

Enrile recalled that in 1965, Ferdinand Marcos sought his help in running 
against President Diosdado Macapagal.

"Marcos won. He trashed Macapagal in the 1965 presidential race. Today, I 
am again at the helm of helping another opposition candidate become 
president. I am confident that another Macapagal would be trashed and 
defeated by the candidate of the opposition," Enrile said.

San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito expressed hope that Lacson would enforce radical 
political, social and economic reforms when he becomes president.

"Ito ay isang panibagong pag-asa para sa oposisyon at para sa bayan," 
Ejercito said.

Makati Rep. Agapito "Butz" Aquino, LDP secretary general, said he has been 
searching for a politician who could stand the scrutiny of government 
critics, the Church and the public on radical issues such as population 
control and pork barrel, and someone who could lead by example.

"Mula pa pagkabata ko hinihanap ko na ang taong ito. Nakita ko lahat ng ito 
kay Senator Panfilo Lacson," Aquino said. "I am here to support Sen. Lacson 
if and when he decides to run for president next year."

Rep. Rolex Suplico, LDP regional director, said: "Ping is our man for 2004. 
He has the right qualifications to fit the job description for president."

Suplico said the greatest asset of Lacson is his deep knowledge of 
maintaining peace and order, considering his background as a graduate of 
the Philippine Military Academy and PNP chief.

Rep. Didagen Dilangalen said Lacson would be "good for the country, 
especially for Mindanao. He could bring peace and order to this country."

"Lacson is the answer to the country's problem in governance," Rep. Gilbert 
Remulla said.

House minority leader and LDP stalwart Carlos Padilla said that while the 
LDP has yet to decide on who would be its standard bearer, it is obvious 
that many of its members are supporting Lacson's bid, as indicated by the 
presence of many LDP members at the launching.

Rep. Plaridel Abaya of the Liberal Party-Cavite said: "I do not belong to 
the opposition. I am with the ruling coalition in the House. But I can see 
the problems. We are looking for leadership but could find none. I know 
Ping has the qualities for good leadership."

Also present were former Sen. Eva Estrada-Kalaw of the Nacionalista Party, 
former Supreme Court Justice Santiago Kapunan, Jamby Madrigal, Governors 
Luningning Lazaro of Laguna, Ayong Maliksi of Cavite, Rona Ganzon of Iloilo 
City, Rep. Ronnie Zamora, PMP president Horacio "Boy" Morales, former 
Philippine Tourism Authority chief Angelito "Lito" Banayo, former 
Immigration chief Rufus Rodriguez and Ilocos radio commentator Efren 
Rafanan, survivor of an ambush he blamed on former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis 
"Chavit" Singson.

Lacson, in accepting the endorsement of the United Opposition, vowed to 
ensure that the rule of law would once be again observed, noting that this 
was trampled upon when the Supreme Court sided with Arroyo in declaring 
that she is the new president.

"There is hardly any rule of law. What rules the land is anarchy and 
indirection, caused by the ineffectiveness of a leadership that has shown 
feeble political will in dealing with the many problems that beset society. 
Afraid to make hard decisions, it instead rules by propaganda and empty 
promises," Lacson said.

"Tayo ngayon ay isang bansa kung saan walang sumusunod sa batas, pagkat 
mismong ang liderato ay hindi marunong rumespeto sa batas. Hindi maaaring 
magpatuloy ang ganito. Nasa bingit na ng kawalang pag-asa ang bayan natin. 
Sukdulan na ang hirap na dinaranas ng mamamayan," he said.

Lacson said the opposition would provide a "tough, no-nonsense leadership."

Sen. Edgardo Angara, LDP president, said his party has yet to decide on who 
would be its standard bearer.

"At the right time, the LDP will choose our own candidate. We don't want to 
choose our candidate at this time because it is against the law," Angara 
said, pointing out that the election law provides that the campaign period 
for the 2004 polls should begin in November this year.

"So you can be disqualified if you start campaigning before the allowed 
period," he said.

Angara also clarified the LDP has not formally coalesced with any political 
party, sayiong LDP members present in the launching of the United 
Opposition coalition attended the affair in their personal capacities.

Senate minority leader Vicente Sotto III said that while it was still too 
early to make any official endorsements for next year's race, there was 
nothing wrong with what the United Opposition coalition did since it merely 
endorsed Lacson as its standard bearer.

However, he echoed Angara's position that the endorsement of Lacson could 
be considered as a violation of the Election Code.

Malacaņang refused comment. Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said 
President Arroyo has more important matters to attend to. (By JOAN DAIRO, 

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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