DAVAO CITY, February 5, 2004 (STAR) By Edith Regalado - This early, the presidential campaign appears to be degenerating into name-calling.

Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. yesterday called Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus a "male prostitute" in retaliation for Corpusí public statement that Poeís running mate, Sen. Loren Legarda, was a "political prostitute."

Poeís comment was in response to questions about Corpusí use of "foul language" regarding Legarda. He had just arrived in this city for the mass oath-taking of members of the Fernando Poe Jr. for President Movement (FPJPM).

The movie icon and presidential candidate said, "You donít call a woman such names," adding that this was the reason why he called Corpus a "male prostitute."

In street parlance, "male prostitute" refers to a man who sells sexual favors to both men and women.

Legarda, for her part, said she now leaves the matter to Corpus and his conscience after Corpus was reprimanded verbally and in writing by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Narciso Abaya.

"I leave it to his conscience," a teary-eyed Legarda said, "but he should know he has hurt me and my family so much. No man, no person, has the right to call me names."

Legarda said she has never been called such names in her life and was offended with the label Corpus gave her.

Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen said Corpus allowed himself to be used by the Arroyo administration to destroy the opposition, particularly Legarda, who bolted the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) party last October.

Despite having been reprimanded by Abaya, Corpus was defiant, saying he had the documents to back up his statements.

Corpus said Legarda met with Council on Philippine Affairs (COPA) leader Pastor "Boy" Saycon in a number of meetings, during which the alleged plot to overthrow the government was discussed.

Saycon was been implicated in a fresh destabilization plot against the Arroyo administration and linked with the Kawal Pilipino group of soldiers calling for the ouster of Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

In a related development, KNP senatorial candidate Ernesto Herrera asked President Arroyo in a statement to take the moral high ground by removing Corpus from the ranks of the AFP.

"President Arroyo should not allow Mr. Corpus to continue to betray with impunity the ideals and the principles of the AFP," Herrera said. "Itís sad, but he had become a cancerous growth."

Herrera said Corpusí "malicious statements" against Legarda have fueled perceptions that the AFP is being used by the Arroyo administration against the opposition.

"The peso, the stock market and foreign investments are at all-time lows, while the budget deficit, prices of commodities and cases of graft and corruption are skyrocketing," he said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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