DAVAO CITY, March 22, 2004  (STAR) By Paolo Romero — Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. said yesterday that Mindanao is "very close to my heart" and vowed to correct the Arroyo administration’s neglect of the southern part of the country.

In his messages during the rally here Saturday night and in General Santos City Friday, Poe — better known by his initials FPJ — said he has frequently visited Mindanao during his 40 years in the movie industry and has seen both its problems and opportunities.

"Malapit na malapit sa puso ko ang Mindanao (Mindanao is very close to my heart)," he said. "Mahigit 40 taon sinuportahan ninyo ako bilang artista at malaki ang utang na loob ko sa inyo (You have supported me as an actor for more than 40 years and I owe so much to you)."

Poe said he despised politics with its attendant mudslinging, but that he later relented and now seeks the presidency in response to the clamor of the people, particularly in Mindanao.

"Ginawa ninyo akong lawin, ginawa ninyo akong panday, at ngayon ginawa ninyo akong FPJ na kandidato (You’ve made me a hawk, you’ve made me a blacksmith, and now you’ve made me FPJ the presidential candidate)," he said, referring to two of his movies.

During the Davao rally, KNP senatorial candidate Jamby Madrigal told voters to choose the panday over the "pandak (short)," in obvious reference to President Arroyo.

Photojournalists covering the rally were also the subject of ridicule by Joed Serrano, a little-known show business figure hosting the event.

Minutes before Poe went on stage, Serrano and other show business personalities hosting the rally asked the people who were crowding the sides and back of the stage to clear the area and make way for the KNP standard-bearer.

Reporters and photographers — who were stationed at either side of the stage — were also asked to move back even if the area had already been cleared.

The crowd, asked by Serrano for the Visayan word for "press photographers," shouted back, "Maniniyot (shooter)!" Serrano, apparently seeing an opportunity to crack a joke, replied, "What, mang-iiyot?"

"Mang-iiyot" is a vulgar Visayan word referring to one who frequently engages in sex. Serrano repeated the word several times, but later substituted maniniyot in referring to the photographers.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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