MANILA, March 14, 2004
(STAR) By Jose Rodel Clapano - Two administration lawmakers said yesterday that movie actor Fernando Poe Jr.’s victory in the May 10 elections would mean a return to power of jailed former President Joseph Estrada.

Reps. Prospero Pichay and Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte, respectively, said that Estrada’s active and visible participation in the efforts of Poe’s party, the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino, to win the elections is ample proof of the former president’s return to power under a Poe presidency.

"Estrada is the director of the movie entitled "Ang Presidenteng Panday: Pilipinas Hindi Ka na Sisikatan ng Araw. Poe is his star, while (Sen. Panfilo) Lacson is only a supporting actor and the movie’s contrabida (villain)," Pichay said.

Pichay, chairman of the House committee on National Defense, said Poe’s pledge to give Estrada a fair trial was merely "for public consumption."

"How can Erap get a fair trial when that is just a line in the script that Erap gave to Poe? It is actually the former President who is calling the shots," Pichay said in a statement.

He warned that Estrada and his inner circle’s return to power through Poe’s victory would make the Philippines the laughing stock of the world and usher the country’s meltdown into chaos. "That is why the Communist Party of the Philipppines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) is backing Poe because they have analyzed the implications of a Poe presidency, which could be a fertile ground for a revolutionary takeover," Pichay said.

He added that Lacson is actually running his own presidential campaign in a parallel effort with Poe.

Barbers, for his part, said that Estrada himself had stepped in to unify the opposition with Poe as the standard bearer but Lacson is slated to give way before the May polls.

Pichay and Barbers said that the plan calls for both Poe and Lacson to adopt a "good-chop, bad cop" strategy, with Lacson tasked to conduct a relentless smear campaign against the administration in an attempt to reverse the President’s rising ratings in surveys.

They stressed that key people who held top positions in the Estrada administration were now in key posts in both Poe and Lacson’s campaigns, acting as his surrogates.

Barbers said that Estrada’s intervention to unify Poe and Lacson followed what was, for the opposition, an attempt to neutralize Mrs. Arroyo’s alarming rise in the Pulse Asia and Social Weather Station’s surveys and wrest her lead from Poe.

He said that Lacson, who admitted he stands no chance against Mrs. Arroyo, agreed to support Poe’s candidacy in exchange for concessions.

"Senator Lacson has already accepted he is not a winnable candidate. He has accepted reality," Barbers said.

Lacson earlier revealed that he and Poe are setting the final date for t their 4th talks over the possibility of unifying the opposition.

He maintained that he will not give way to Poe and that the perfect combination to defeat Mrs. Arroyo and her running mate, Sen. Noli de Castro, in the May 10 elections is for Ping-Poe tandem.

Meanwhile, in line with the "humane treatment" policy of Mrs. Arroyo for Estrada, Malacañang would not object to allow the former president to be moved in and out of his detention cell at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal to undergo a regular "traction" therapy at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye told dwIZ radio yesterday that the medical needs of Estrada must be attended to in the manner that befits the former president.

Bunye likewise disclosed that Mrs. Arroyo would not object if Estrada’s lawyers would file a new petition to place the former president under "house arrest."

"If you look at the experience of other countries where their former presidents face cases like in Indonesia and South Korea, those (house arrests) were allowed. So, if we look at international precedents, there were such cases like that," Bunye stressed, obviously referring to the "city arrest" imposed on former Indonesian President Soeharto and former South Korean presidents Choon do-whan and Roh Tae-woo. — With Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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