MANILA, March 26, 2004
By Jess Diaz - Opposition presidential hopeful Sen. Panfilo Lacson accused First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo yesterday of tearing down his campaign posters and streamers.

"Mr. Arroyo, alias Jose Pidal, assisted by his Presidential Security Group (PSG) bodyguards, recently brought down my posters and streamers in Cagayan de Oro City, including those of Caloy Padilla, and destroyed them," he told journalists covering his campaign.

House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla is his lone senatorial candidate.

Lacson said he received reports from his supporters in Batangas that the First Gentleman and his PSG guards also destroyed his campaign materials in the province.

He said he had expected that the Arroyo administration would incessantly harass him, but that such tactics would backfire on his opponent, President Arroyo, and her husband.

"Itís up to them. Weíre the underdog here," he said.

A few days after the opposition senator and former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief launched his campaign in his home province of Cavite last Feb. 10, Lacson complained that PSG personnel cleared the streets of his posters and streamers hours before Mrs. Arroyo visited Imus town, his birthplace.

In August and September last year, Lacson made the now famous three-part Jose Pidal-Incredible Hulk exposť in which he accused the Presidentís husband of hiding about P260 million in supposedly illegal funds using the false name Jose Pidal. Arroyo has consistently denied the accusation.

The Senate launched an investigation, but not much came out of it. The probe is still hanging.

On the controversy surrounding the planned government takeover of Maynilad Water Services, Inc., Lacson said the report that the President is insisting on the plan despite strong opposition to it by various sectors only proves that "she has made a commitment on this matter."

He said Mrs. Arroyo and Maynilad owe it to the people to be transparent and to reveal the "real score" on the takeover plan.

On Monday, after speaking before businessmen in Makati City, the former PNP chief described the plan as "unconscionable" as it would result in taxpayers assuming billions in Maynilad loans.

Lacson also said emissaries of his opposition rival, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., are again arranging a meeting between him and Poe.

He said the emissaries included Senate colleague Loren Legarda, the actorís vice presidential running mate.

"Iím trying to find free time in my schedule," he added, indicating his lack of enthusiasm to meet again with Poe. The actorís camp canceled a meeting that was supposed to take place two weeks ago.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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