EL SHADDAI: INTELLIGENCE NOT HIGH PRIORITY PRESIDENTIAL QUALITY

MANILA, NOVEMBER 11,  2003  (STAR) By Jose Aravilla - The leader of the influential Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai has come up empty-handed in his search for a presidential candidate to support in 2004.

"Personally, I do not see any candidate we could support. This is because I am a perfectionist," El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde said yesterday.

Velarde said he has not found anyone in the present roster of choices who would fit his requirements for a good president.

For him, the ideal presidential candidate is one who can unite the country and is competent in handling crises. Intelligence is not a high-priority presidential quality, Velarde added.

But the 10-million strong El Shaddai will "decide at the last hour," who of those vying for the presidency it will support, Velarde said. "This time, we will really look into the issues."

The El Shaddai gathered at Manila’s Rizal Park for an overnight prayer vigil for reconciliation over the weekend.

The Commission on Elections estimated that the potential number of voters come May next year will be 38 million, making an El Shaddai vote crucial if the religious group will vote as one.

"We Filipinos have tried everybody, but where is our country right now? We have tried a widow, a military man, an economist and a movie celebrity," Velarde said, referring to former presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos, President Arroyo and ousted President Joseph Estrada. "We Filipinos love to take risks."

Last weekend’s prayer rally saw politicians rising early to be seen onstage with Velarde, though only a few of them were allowed to address the crowd of several thousand El Shaddai members gathered at the park.

Present at the prayer vigil’s closing rites on Sunday were: Senate President Franklin Drilon, Sen. Loren Legarda, Speaker Jose de Venecia, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando and Manila Mayor Lito Atienza.

The President delivered a statement before the El Shaddai just past midnight.

Meanwhile, opposition Sen. Edgardo Angara said yesterday movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. is joining the second wave of the opposition’s "roadshow" consultation in Legazpi City in Albay on Friday.

"I am 100 percent sure that FPJ (Poe) will join the oppositions roadshow in Legazpi on Friday," he said.

In an interview with Senate reporters, Angara also said he is "100 percent" sure Poe will run for president under the banner of the united opposition and will announce his candidacy in Legazpi City.

In a separate interview, Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Poe’s spokesman, said he was not informed by Poe of the actor’s attendance at the opposition roadshow consultation in Legazpi.

"We did not talk about the Legazpi thing," Sotto said. "We are set to meet on Wednesday and Thursday to finalize everything. I talked with him last night. I have not gotten word about it from Poe."

Sotto said it is possible that Poe might have indicated he will attend the opposition sortie to others or to Angara. "That could be an indicator (that Poe will run) if he comes (to Legazpi)," Sotto said.

Sotto earlier said Poe will make his decision between Nov. 7 and 15, adding that Poe’s family will support his candidacy.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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