TACLOBAN CITY, March 8, 2004
(STAR) By Paolo Romero — Opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. strongly denied an alleged plot to oust and replace him with a 15-man military junta should he win the May 10 elections.

Poe said this could not be possible since he can rein in the fractious military once he becomes president. "I’m fair," Poe said in Filipino. "I will treat them fairly."

When he was asked to elaborate on the problems in the military, Poe claimed one of the main problems in the Armed Forces is "favoritism and bias." But he stressed that this does not occur in the military alone but in all sectors of the government and society.

Poe expressed surprise over reports of a plan called "Oplan Kayumanggi/FPJ," which the military said was contained in several diskettes recovered in a trash bin following the failed mutiny in Oakwood Premier Ayala Center in in Makati City in July last year.

Poe told a news conference here that the plot may have been hatched by Ricardo Manapat, the erstwhile National Archives director who allegedly ordered the birth certificate of Poe and other documents to be forged to sustain the disqualification petition against the actor before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last January. He said it could be another attempt by the administration to discredit him and derail his campaign.

Poe also revealed before the news conference his platform of government but still gave no specifics on how he would implement them.

In a statement, Poe’s spokesman Rod Reyes spelled out yesterday Poe’s platform for the military which he called "social covenant."

Reyes said the covenant aims to restore the trust and confidence of the people in the government and its institutions. For the armed forces, a grievance mechanism should be established for the military’s rank and file.

Reyes said Poe plans to implement a national peace policy to reach out to all rebel groups and encourage them to return to the fold of law.

Poe also plans to "politicize" the top-level appointments in the military, as well as in the executive branch and the judiciary, Reyes said.

In an effort to counter the allegations of a supposed military plot against Poe, Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) senatorial candidate Ernesto Maceda defended the actor by launching a counter attack.

Maceda directed his attack against administration vice presidential candidate Sen. Noli de Castro. Maceda claimed before a crowd of supporters during a rally here Saturday night that the military does not respect De Castro for his lack of qualifications which might even trigger a coup.

"He will only cause instability in the military," Maceda said.

Ever since Poe made the declaration he will seek the presidency, his candidacy had unsettled financial markets and business people.

Investors are said to be concerned about Poe’s ability to govern given his lack of experience in government service and limited formal education.

On the other hand, Poe, who was forced to drop out of high school when his father died, said he can enforce fairness and impartiality in the business sector and the military since he is not a politician. "That is my advantage, not being a politician." he said. "Lahat tatanggalin pag may pagkakamali (We will remove from office those who have committed anomalies)."

Poe vowed to "level the playing field" for the business sector to enable industries to expand. He said the government will only interfere "if it will be good for the country."

On the issues of population control, Poe said he is pushing for responsible parenthood, adding many sectors had approached him for "consultations," over the issue.

On the environment, Poe said there must be "true and total reforestation" since previous attempts to save what is left of the forests have not escaped the clutches of corruption.

Poe led the entire KNP slate in a rally in Ormoc City in Leyte, the site of the November 1991 tragedy where some 8,000 people perished in flash floods blamed on deforestation.

Asked whether he is in favor of a total log ban, Poe said: "If I’m elected, we will study that because it depends on the region (where it should be implemented)."

Poe vowed to revive his flagging election campaign after the Supreme Court dismissed last week the petition to disqualify him by declaring he is a natural-born Filipino citizen fit to stand in the May 10 polls.

Poe had admitted that the disqualification suit affected him personally and was a distraction during the campaign. He said it was hard to get financial and other forms of support to enable the KNP to campaign during the pendency of the disqualification case.

His supporters are also worried that volunteers may not be able to financially sustain the campaign in the next two months.

In separate interviews, Boots Cadsawan, founding chairman of the Filipinos for Peace, Justice and Progress Movement (FPJPM) and Linggoy Alcuaz, former director of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), said volunteers have to dig deep into their pockets to get the campaign going.

They said volunteers have to pay out of their own pockets the cost of posters and campaign materials, aside from shouldering their own plane fare for provincial sorties. — With Nikko Dizon

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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