MANILA, December 6, 2003  (STAR) By Paolo Romero - The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) appears to be divided over the issue of who between President Arroyo and action star Fernando Poe Jr. it will support in the May 2004 elections.

The NPC, founded by San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo Cojuangco, held its general assembly and Christmas party last night in Quezon City, but from all indications, the party has not made any decision yet on who to support.

A ranking NPC lawmaker said the party is still not sure about who to endorse among presidential aspirants, particularly between Mrs. Arroyo and Poe.

Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, however, said there are strong moves for the party to endorse Mrs. Arroyo and for it to also maintain its alliance with the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD).

"The Party is inclined to strengthen its coalition with Lakas," Aggabao said.

He said Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy, NPC chairman, met with Speaker and Lakas-CMD co-chairman Jose de Venecia last Monday and they agreed to strengthen their alliance in support of Mrs. Arroyo’s candidacy.

De Venecia also reportedly met this week with Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Maranon, head of the NPC contingent in the House.

Maranon reportedly agreed to let De Venecia confer individually with NPC congressmen to secure their allegiance to the coalition.

Meanwhile, Manila Rep. Harry Angping said Poe also has a very strong following in the party, with a faction pushing the NPC leadership to officially endorse the actor.

"FPJ’s strong showings in the surveys make him a sure winner," Angping said.

But while the NPC is aiming to come up with a party position, an option being considered is to give its leaders a free hand in choosing their own bets.

"The choices are tough, so we may play it safe and we make it to each his own," the source said.

Pampanga Rep. Francis Nepomuceno of the NPC earlier reportedly already sought "permission" from the party leadership to choose his own presidential candidate.

For its part, the Liberal Party (LP) also held a major meeting last night at the historic Club Filipino in San Juan reportedly to discuss the selection process.

Batanes Rep. Florencio Abad, LP president, said the party will most likely arrive at a consensus on whom to support.

"We will work for a consensus for us to make a party stand," Abad said. "Voting will be the last resort."

Abad admitted that because of the LP’s principles and philosophy, some of the presidential wannabes are already eliminated from the selection process.

He said while winnability is important, qualifications and integrity are more paramount since solving the country’s problems will be the next president’s main task.

Another ranking LP leader disclosed that the party is actually divided between endorsing Mrs. Arroyo and former education secretary Raul Roco.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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