MANILA, March 23, 2004  (STAR) By Jess Diaz - Remember those TV ads flashing the images of Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Mohamad Mahathir of Malaysia and Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand?

Well, they were put out by the camp of opposition presidential hopeful Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who probably had the three strong-willed Asian leaders in the list of his heroes.

Thereís a new addition to that list: newly elected socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain.

"Iíll do a Zapatero!" the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief declared yesterday.

"You know who he is?" he asked journalists covering his campaign.

Answering his own question, Lacson said: "He is Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the new prime minister of Spain. His opponent topped all surveys and he was the darling of the press. But he got the biggest surprise of his life when he was beaten badly by Zapatero, the laggard in the surveys. So surveys are not a guarantee of winnability. There are such things as platform (of government), qualification, and most important, there are such things as country and the Filipino."

The former PNP chief was a consistent laggard in previous opinion polls, placing fourth behind former senator Raul Roco and front-runners Fernando Poe Jr. and President Arroyo.

He was ahead of the two Eddies ó evangelist Eddie Villanueva and Eddie Gil, who has since been disqualified by the Commission on Elections.

But Lacson does not believe in surveys and has repeatedly expressed his confidence that he would win the presidency.

In the course of a campaign swing of Southern Tagalog last month, he told journalists that he would get at least 50 percent of the votes in the region instead of his poor survey showing of less than 10 percent.

"This is my home region. If I donít get 50 percent of the votes here, call me a liar," he said. The opposition senator hails from Cavite, where Gov. Ireneo Maliksi, Rep. Gilbert Remulla and most mayors are supporting his candidacy.

Two weeks later, in Isabela, elated by the warm reception he got from residents of the province, Lacson said he and House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, his lone senatorial candidate, "will not only win the May election but win it big."

He reminded his listeners that he was No. 2 in Isabela in the list of winning 13 during the 2001 senatorial elections. Lacson was once a police commander in the province.

"But in May, please make me No. 1 because No. 2 wonít win the presidency," he told cheering supporters.

He cites the last senatorial elections whenever he expressed contempt for surveys. By his own account, the polls then never placed him anywhere near the Magic 13, but he landed No. 9.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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