[PHOTO AT LEFT: CONFLICTED: Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. meets the press yesterday. - Willy Perez]

MANILA, March 16, 2004  (STAR) By Sammy Santos - Vice President Teofisto Guingona will not accept any government position in a Fernando Poe Jr. administration.

"My acceptance of his offer to serve as his adviser on governance and public policy is only good until the (May 10) elections," Guingona said. "There has been no talk about any government position for me after the elections."

Speaking to reporters yesterday afternoon, Guingona also denied reports that he accepted Poe’s offer as adviser because his wife, Ruth de Lara-Guingona, was running for mayor of Gingoog City while his son Teofisto III was seeking a seat in Congress representing the second district of Bukidnon under the Koalis-yon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP).

"My decision to accept the offer of Mr. Poe to be his adviser had nothing to do with the candidacies of my wife and my son," he said.

Guingona said his wife and son decided to run for office only after he announced last November that he was not taking part in the May 10 elections so he could focus on pushing for the advocacies of the Bangon! reform movement.

"They are running for elective positions in separate provinces," he said. "So the prohibition against political dynasties does not apply here."

Guingona said he did not defect to the opposition but merely accepted Poe’s offer to be his adviser after the candidate adopted Ba-ngon’s eight-point program of action in his government platform.

"I did not join the KNP but I accepted FPJ’s invitation to be his adviser," Guingona said. "(I have remained) an independent after I resigned as president of the administration’s Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats in 2003."

Guingona said President Arroyo called him up last Friday and tried to convince him to defer his declaration of support for Poe.

Former President Fidel Ramos and Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. also tried to convince him not to accept Poe’s offer, he added.

On the other hand, Senate President Franklin Drilon said pro-administration political leaders were not surprised by Guingona’s decision to join Poe’s camp

"His wife, Ruth is running for mayor in Gingoog City as a Poe candidate," he said.

"A son is seeking a congressional seat also as a Poe candidate. Therefore, we had expected that since the family of Tito Guingona has already been designated as official candidates of FPJ, it was just a matter of time before the Vice President moved over." Drilon said.

It is "quite ironic" for Guingona to have jumped to Poe’s camp since he fired the first salvo that led to the impeachment of Poe’s buddy, then President Joseph Estrada, in 2000, he added. Estrada Allies Defect To GMA At Malacañang, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye announced the names of former Estrada allies who had joined Mrs. Arroyo:

Mayors Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City and Edward Hagedorn of Puerto Princesa City; former environment and natural resources secretary Antonio Cerilles; former governor Ito Ynares of Rizal, and Governors Tomas Joson of Nueva Ecija, Ningning Lazaro of Laguna and Faustino Dy of Isabela.

Meanwhile, four congressmen have expressed doubts on the ability of Guingona to deliver votes for Poe in Mindanao.

In a statement, Representatives Mayo Almario of Davao Oriental, Isidro Real of Zambonga del Sur, and Douglas Cagas and Benasing Macarambon of Lanao del Sur said Guingona has no following in Mindanao in contrast to President Arroyo, who is getting more support from "key figures" in the region.

"President Arroyo remains the strong candidate in Mindanao as the bandwagon effect of her candidacy continues with the defection of key supporters of former President Estrada to her camp," they said.

"Guingona’s defection was done for personal reasons which was to appease the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino to accommodate his wife, Ruthie who is running for mayor of Gingoog City and his son Teofisto lll who is seeking a congressional seat in Bukidnon."

Almario, chairman of the House special committee on Mindanao affairs, said Guingona’s defection has no impact on the candidacy of Mrs. Arroyo, who remains the most popular candidate in the South.

"Recent surveys which showed her topping in Mindanao attest to her impending victory in the South," he said.

Macarambon, House deputy majority leader, said Mrs. Arroyo’s "solid accomplishments" have greatly improved the lives of Mindanaoans.

"The President is sure to win in Lanao del Sur and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao," he said.

Cagas said Mrs. Arroyo is offering continuity of her projects and programs for the benefit of people in Mindanao.

"Poe has done nothing for us in the aspects of peace and order, poverty alleviation and regional stability," he said.

Real, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said Mrs. Arroyo enjoys "overwhelming support" in Mindanao because of her concrete achievements in infrastructures programs, agriculture support system, and peace efforts.

"The recent Pulse Asia Survey showing the President in the lead in Mindanao with 37.7 percent, followed by Poe with only 31 percent is an affirmation of her actual delivery of projects and programs down to the barangay level," he said.

In Cagayan de Oro City, KNP re-electionist Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. has compared Poe to Sir Galahad in Arthurian legend.

Speaking at a KNP rally at the City Amphitheater Saturday night, Pimentel said Poe’s inability to speak English is not a hindrance to good governance.

"Unsa may daotan kung si Fernando Poe makigharong sa uban sa mga lider sa laing mga nasud unya magtinagalog? (What’s wrong if Fernando Poe converses in Tagalog with the leaders of other nations?)" he asked.

"Si Fernando Poe dunay husto nga kasingkasing nga mosulbad sa problema sa atong nasud (Fernando Poe has the right heart to solve the problems of our country)," he said.

China’s Deng Xiaoping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and other leaders of advanced nations have led their countries to development and progress without knowing how to speak English, he added.

Pimentel then quoted a famous line from Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s book "The Little Prince" to drive home his point.

"It is with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye," he said.

Pimentel said Poe is the "one blessed by God to search for the Holy Grail," just like Sir Galahad.

"Just like Sir Galahad, Poe’s pureness of heart would also lead him to solve the puzzle that is hindering the country from marching onward to progress and development," he said. — With reports from Bong Fabe, Jess Diaz, Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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