BAGUIO CITY, December 3, 2003  (STAR) By Jess Diaz - Opposition presidential hopeful Sen. Panfilo Lacson denounced MalacaŮang yesterday for what he described as its "relentless black propaganda campaign" against him.

He made the denunciation as he revealed that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine Information Agency, using taxpayersí money, have printed stickers that read "Droga, La(x)son sa Lipunan" which he said aim to put him in bad light.

But at the Palace, officials denied Lacsonís accusations. "Itís not true. There is no such basis for such allegations," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

Lacson said the stickers were designed in such a way that the word "lason" or poison would look like "Lacson," with the letter "c" replaced with the skull and bones insignia to make it appear like an "x."

He said the names of the two agencies that produced the stickers are printed on the "black propaganda" materials.

"I donít have anything against the distribution of anti-drug information materials but what they are doing is patently malicious and pure black propaganda. This only shows that my detractors in the Arroyo administration are that desperate," he stressed.

Lacson revealed that Palace "spin doctors" identified with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo are the brains behind the production and distribution of the materials.

"It is unthinkable that the President is using government money for such trivial acts of black propaganda. They used the courts to pin me down on false charges and now they are using black propaganda stickers to malign me," he said.

He said the stickers first appeared at the height of his Incredible Hulk exposť on the Presidentís husband, whom he had accused of hiding supposedly illegal funds using the false name Jose Pidal. Arroyo has denied the accusation.

He said he would not be surprised if former senator Raul Roco, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. and other presidential aspirants would also be the target of Malacanangís "foul and dirty game of politics."

"The Palace has a full-time crew of black propagandists and is even using sequestered media outlets for this purpose," he added.

For his part, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Secretary Michael Defensor said there is nothing wrong if the government produces anti-drug stickers to promote the campaign against illegal drugs.

"First of all, Iím not privy to any production of stickers. But if ever there is, I donít see any problem. I donít think he (Lacson) should feel alluded to," Defensor, who is the official campaign spokesman of President Arroyo, told The STAR.

"Lason is not Lacson. As my teacher once told me, wrong spelling is wrong," Defensor said and guffawed. "We have no such efforts against Ping."

In a related development, Lacson said he has long expected the decision of his former boss, ousted President Joseph Estrada, to support Poeís presidential bid.

"FPJ is his friend of 40 years, and I donít take it against him (Estrada) to support his friend," he said.

The supposed one-on-one meeting between Lacson and Poe, which a five-man panel that tasked to bring them together has set for today, wonít take place because the movie actor, according to his spokesman, Sen. Vicente Sotto III, is still down with the flu.

Lacson said for the sake of opposition unity, he can wait until his opposition rival becomes available for their one-on-one meeting.

As regards the decision of prosecutors to present to the public "new" evidence against him in connection with the Kuratong Baleleng case, Lacson said, "That is what they do best ó trial by publicity."

"When the court did not accept their evidence, they presented it to the public. What do you call that? Itís plain and simple trial by publicity," he said.

The courts have dismissed the Kuratong case against Lacson and more than 30 other police officers five times. ó With Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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