MANILA, March 9 2004
(MALAYA) By JOAN DAIRO and WENDELL VIGILIA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday shut the door to unification talks with Fernando Poe Jr.

Lacson, in a press briefing in Mandaue City, said: "I am not enthusiastic anymore. Let's forget about unification talks. We have reached a point when we should now go our separate ways."

Lacson added: "I don't see unification as possible right now. I have been bruised, battered, kissed, embraced, hugged, you name it, I don't think there is anything that has not been done to me. There is no point now that we should turn out backs. We're not talking anymore of a possible unification right now ... You know me. I will not go for concessions. There's no turning back in this advocacy, in this crusade. We have to do something to save this country."

Lacson was smarting from statements from Poe's campaign handler, Sen. Vicente Sotto, who said last week Poe would no longer hold unity talks with Lacson. This was after the Supreme Court dismissed a disqualification petition filed against Poe.

"I already saw how high-handed his political and campaign officers are reacting from the Supreme Court decision. Let's just forget about unity talks between me and FPJ," Lacson said.

Also over the weekend, Raul Roco said there talks at the "technical level" between his camp and Lacson's on the possibility of forming a "coalition government." He said the camp of Eddie Villanueva is also participating in the talks.

Lacson and Villanueva said there were no such talks.

Luis Sison, Villanueva's spokesman, said: "Walang nakikipag-usap sa amin tungkol diyan at mga ganyan."

Roco stood his ground and said "something will come out of the talks." As in his disclosure last Sunday, Roco still would not give details.

"What is important is that the consensus is still to replace the present administration ... Who to replace it with is the problem...," he said in Pangasinan.

On Roco's statement, Lacson said he does not know anything about the supposed unity talks.

He said "there were attempts (by the Roco camp) to communicate with us but we have not responded to the offers because we have not talked about it yet."

"I got the biggest surprise of my life when I read it in the newspapers. There are no such talks. I don't know anything about it," he said.

Roco, asked how Lacson could deny there were talks, said: "I don't know if it is easy, but if you are a candidate and you are being told that you must slide down, it is easy to deny it and he seems to be under the impression that there must be a slidedown."

Roco said he would not slide down to the vice presidential race.

"Lamang kami, mas malaki ang grupo namin and we have a greater capacity for organization," he said.

Asked if whether he believes that Lacson would have a change heart and join the coalition, Roco replied: "Hindi ko alam. In politics what you see might not be what is happening, sometimes you step back once, and step forward twice."

Pressed to disclose who are the members of the "technical teams," Roco said: "I told you there are technical discussions on that matter, wala akong detalye. Sinabi nila sa akin na pinag-uusapan nila."

Strangely, Roco did not dismiss the idea of inviting to the coalition President Arroyo and Poe. He referred to the two when he said the unity government aims to fight corruption and incompetence.

But he said: "If the shoe of incompetence fits her (GMA), let her walk away with it. If the shoe of incompetence fits the other candidate (FPJ), let him also walk away with it, parang Cinderella, ang magkasya, sa kanya."

Roco said what should be given more weight instead of asking who was sliding down is the validity of the idea of a "unity government" which he said is their "out-of-the-box" idea in replacing Arroyo.

"Gloria Arroyo is saying that she will be a transition president. There is confession of failure because three years niya is already a transition (period) because she took over by manipulation and by design," Roco said.

He added: "That should have been a transition (already), in fact she said she will be a transition into uniting the country and improving the economy and into having a credible elections and now she is backtracking on all three and she's saying she'll be a transition government, why should we elect a transition government? If you want to be in transition, you can go away and leave the others for permanent work, there cannot be a transition government every three years." (With Francis Earl Cueto)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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