MANILA, March 15, 2004
(STAR) By Jess Diaz - Opposition presidential hopeful Sen. Panfilo Lacson is definitely not sliding down to become a vice presidential candidate or quitting his campaign, his camp said yesterday.

"I think those options won’t be in Ping’s mind when he meets with FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.) tomorrow (Tuesday)," House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, Lacson’s lone senatorial candidate, told The STAR yesterday.

"He is definitely pursuing his candidacy whether the opposition becomes united again or stays fragmented as it is now, an ugly situation that is not (of) our making," Padilla said.

He said he and his standard-bearer are now on a full-steam-ahead mode "and there is no more turning back for us."

Padilla heads the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) bloc in the House of Representatives.

Makati Rep. Agapito Aquino, LDP secretary-general, is also of the view that Lacson is neither sliding down nor backing out.

He said Poe’s camp should forget about uniting the opposition if the condition for such unity is for Lacson to slide down or abandon his presidential campaign.

"After all, it is our party leaders who created this disunity among us," Aquino said. "Ping is definitely not sliding down or backing out."

Aquino, who along with some other LDP congressmen has been accompanying Lacson since the start of the election campaign last Feb. 10, pointed out that support for his candidate "is growing."

"We are gaining strength, while the other camp, I think, is losing support. If people see that you don’t have a platform of government, or if you have one you cannot sufficiently explain it, you are bound to lose support," he said.

"So we are not thinking that Ping will slide down. Baka si FPJ pa," he said in jest.

Lito Banayo, Lacson’s political adviser and spokesman, said tomorrow’s meeting was initiated by Poe’s camp.

He said a Poe emissary called while Lacson and his group were returning to Cebu City by helicopter last Thursday from a campaign sortie in Dumaguete City and neighboring areas in Negros Oriental.

"The emissary, apparently with FPJ’s clearance, proposed that the two candidates meet again tomorrow, and Ping agreed," he said.

He added that the go-between is the same person who had offered some concessions to Lacson in exchange for his backing out of the campaign.

"We all know that Ping rejected those offers, including an endorsement for the presidency in 2010, which means that he is determined to pursue his candidacy. In fairness to FPJ, we were not sure if he was aware of those offers," he stressed.

Banayo revealed that he and his candidate discussed what might come up in the scheduled meeting between Lacson and Poe.

"He told me he would go there to listen to FPJ. I asked him if he would agree to uniting the opposition again. And he said, Yes, if we are the standard-bearer," he said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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