MANILA, March 11, 2004
(STAR) By Paolo Romero - The endorsement made by former President Joseph Estrada for his friend Fernando Poe Jr. will ensure the victory of the opposition presidential candidate in the May 10 elections, Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) campaign manager Sen. Vicente Sotto III declared yesterday.

"Well and good because politics is addition, elections is addition," Sotto said. "I’m sure Poe is expecting that."

Sotto said Estrada’s endorsement of Poe is a "big factor" in ensuring the victory of the opposition in the May polls.

Poe’s spokesman Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero said Estrada is a plus factor for the presidential bid of the actor.

"Even Malacañang admits that there’s an Erap (Estrada) factor, that’s why they have been wooing him," Escudero said, referring to claims that President Arroyo is currying favor with supporters of Estrada and Poe, her top rival in the May presidential election.

Estrada still commands sizable support, especially among the poor who overwhelmingly voted for him in 1998. He was forced to abandon the presidency in January 2001 amid massive anti-corruption protests that Mrs. Arroyo, then his separately elected vice president, helped lead.

Estrada, during an interview with STAR publisher and "Impact" television program host Max Soliven, said he will support Poe "all the way" in the May polls.

Estrada’s son, former San Juan mayor Jing-goy Estrada, and Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, who are both running in the KNP senatorial slate, said the Erap factor can deliver at least 11 million votes for Poe.

Dilangalen said loyal followers of the deposed leader comprise about 20 to 30 percent of the voting population.

The younger Estrada said their prediction holds true as long as "cheating is excluded."

For his part, KNP spokesman Rodolfo Reyes said Estrada’s support for Poe will pave the way for Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to declare their support for the movie star.

"With Erap going all the way for him, the INC will go for FPJ," Reyes said.

With the INC endorsement, their block voting will further boost Poe’s chances of becoming the next president, Reyes said.

Reyes claimed a 10-million strong alliance of 80 non-government organizations and sectoral groups has expressed support for Poe.

Among the groups who signed a manifesto of support are Filipinos for Progress, Justice and Peace Movement (FPJPM), the FPJ Volunteers Brigade, Freedom, Peace and Justice Movement (FPJM), Executives and Professional Women for FPJ, Alliance of Generals for Peace and Orderly Elections (AGPOE), Youth Volunteers for FPJ, Concerned Entrepreneurs and Professionals for Poe, Calabarzon Worker’s Alliance, Association of Integrated Muslims Sector, Artista para kay FPJ and Batang Panday movement. — With Nikko Dizon

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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