MANILA, March 27, 2004
By Marvin Sy - For lack of a viable platform of governance, the opposition is resorting to political harassment.

President Arroyo yesterday said the disqualification suits filed against her are mere "harassment suits" that are a "mark of the emptiness that resides in the opposition, its lack of platform direction, its inherent resistance to reform and its inability to carve out a positive direction for the people."

"We are no longer surprised by this style of the opposition. It seems that they really do not have a good platform, so what they have opted to do is to file these harassment suits," she said.

The President said she expects more disqualification suits to be filed against her. She said the lawsuits are merely efforts by the opposition to harass her and distract her from her campaign for a full, six-year term.

"If this is the price to pay for public service, then so be it," she said as she expressed confidence that the voting public will be able to see through the ploys of the opposition and that the cases will be dismissed in due time.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the case filed against the President by lawyer and retired colonel Mariano Santiago alleging she used funds of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for her campaign will not prosper.

A total of seven disqualification cases have been filed against the President, covering allegations that range from electioneering — for the issuance of Philippine Health Insurance Co. (PhilHealth) cards bearing Mrs. Arroyo’s likeness — and the use of the road user’s tax of the DPWH for her campaign, to making a sweetheart deal with the Lopez family in the Maynilad bailout.

"Again, we can say that all of these are baseless and our President will continue to serve the people," Bunye said in an interview over radio station dzRB. "She will not be perturbed by these nuisance suits."

The President said that even drug traffickers are working to disqualify her and that Santiago served as the legal counsel of a drug queen. Santiago filed his lawsuit before the Office of the Ombudsman Thursday.

In Danao City in Cebu, Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. said the lawsuits against the President "must be karma ... They started it (mudslinging). It may just have boomeranged on them."

"I don’t know if they are experiencing karma that is just returning to them," Poe said. "If the question raised about me is with regards to my personality, the question raised about them is their use of funds."

Poe said he believes that the administration had a hand in the recently dismissed disqualification petition questioning his citizenship. Poe said former National Archives chief Ricardo Manapat is suspected of having tampered with his birth certificate.

He added that Mrs. Arroyo should be able to face the accusation that she is using public funds to boost her campaign, adding that it is up to the President to decide if she should withdraw from the presidential race as the disqualification cases filed against her pile up. — With Delon Porcalla, Nikko Dizon, Aurea Calica

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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