MANILA, January 7, 2004
(STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - President Arroyo defended yesterday the inclusion of opposition personalities in the senatorial slate of the administration’s Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K4).

The President defended her choice of senatorial candidates even as Palace aides belittled the latest survey results by IBON foundation showing actor Fernando Poe Jr. was the top choice among presidential candidates including Mrs. Arroyo.

In defending K-4’s senatorial slate, the President said each of the candidates was "well-meaning and patriotic leaders of various persuasions and walks of life."

"It is a slate that is fully united behind the fight for change," Mrs. Arroyo said.

She said each of the 11 candidates, including erstwhile allies of deposed President Joseph Estrada, have strong advocacies that "flow into my agenda of reforming the market, reforming agriculture, reforming our social assets, reforming the bureaucracy and reforming our institutions of law and order."

"K-4 is united behind a strong economy that will drive investments, build infrastructure, improve wages and accord the people the means for upliftment and enterprise," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Mrs. Arroyo stressed the K-4 slate represents a fight against corruption and change in the political system. "We shall win our fight because it is our nation’s best cause."

Presidential campaign spokesman Michael Defensor dismissed the charge of former senator Heherson Alvarez that the administration ticket’s platform of good governance was brushed aside by the inclusion of former Estrada supporters in the ticket.

"The ideals of good governance and the presence of these so-called persons who supported former President Estrada are not in conflict. These people also would say they are for good governance. The differences in the past were based on their political support on Estrada," Defensor said.

Defensor stressed Mrs. Arroyo’s healing and reconciliation efforts to the Estrada forces is part of the agenda by the administration ticket to promote the President’s policies and programs.

"The ideals of EDSA II continue, the fight against graft and corruption continue but healing and reconciliation must go on," Defensor said.

Defensor likewise twitted the IBON survey as not having been "scientifically done," compared to other surveys.

"I would rather react at a proper time when we have a more reliable and more genuine results of the surveys. I respect IBON, but I don’t think that (survey taking) is not their expertise," he said.

Defensor claimed Malacañang relies more on the surveys by professional pollsters Social Weather Station (SWS) of Mahar Mangahas and Pulse Asia Inc. of Felipe Miranda.

In the case of Alvarez, Defensor said the fate of the Lakas spokesman is not yet certain on whether he may get the 12th slot in the K-4 senatorial ticket.

He said the slot will be filled within the week before the Jan. 15 deadline of substitution of candidates.

The 12th slot was temporarily given to a certain "Attorney Kalaw" who reported filed his certificate of candidacy last Monday.

"The 12th slot is not reserved for any particular person. We’re still discussing it and we’re also still awaiting the decision of people concerned. We hope within the week we would be able to finalize it this week," Defensor said.

Defensor pointed out that the administration party is finalizing the Senate slate that has been filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last Monday.

Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign spokesman, however, admitted they are still hoping former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago will eventually decide to move over to the administration.

Santiago filed her certificate of candidacy before Comelec barely an hour before the deadline Monday under her own People’s Reform Party (PRP).

"We will welcome (Santiago’s) entry to the (administration) ticket," Defensor said.

Bulacan Rep. Wifrido Villarama, a former opposition lawmaker who joined the ruling party Lakas, said the superiority of K-4 senatorial line up will carry the administration to victory in the May elections.

Villarama said the K-4 ticket represents the government’s reconciliation program which would be thrust into reality.

"The (administration ticket’s) program brings together the spirit of reform and reconciliation so that our society can be finally united," Villarama said.

Taguig-Pateros Rep. Allan Peter Cayetano of Lakas, said the K-4 ticket "has an absolutely clear and superior program."

Cayetano said that while Poe may be sincere, the people behind him are the same personalities during the Estrada administration. "Thus, their programs are nothing new," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo, meanwhile, said her bid to seek a full six-year presidency in the May elections will not distract her from implementing the government’s total war policy against illegal drugs.

Mrs. Arroyo made the statement in a tele-conference with Anti-Drugs Task Force chief Deputy Director Edgar Aglipay while presenting to the media suspected drug lord William Gan.

"I won’t stop until our country is safe from these threats, until we have redeemed our children from the dangers it poses, and until our government and society have been cleared of corruption bred by drugs," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Mrs. Arroyo vowed to carry the drive to every barangay across the country even during the campaign period. She also pledged that her administration would go after the so-called "big fish" in the illegal drugs trade such as multinational syndicates, large-scale manufacturers and big-time traffickers and pushers.

Aglipay also reported Gan was arrested last Dec. 26, 2003.

Gan, who uses the aliases Willy Gan and James Go Ong, is suspected to be the leader of a transnational drug ring operating a shabu factory in Valenzuela City raided by police last Nov. 11, 2003.

Gan, whose arrest ended three months of intensive intelligence operations, was presented to the President through a television hookup from the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved