MANILA, March 29, 2004
By Delon Porcalla - The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) may have declared it will not support any presidential candidate, but a party stalwart said yesterday most members have decided to cast their lot with President Arroyo.

"The number of individual NPC members supporting President Arroyo is almost overwhelming, as opposed to the number of those supporting her presidential rivals," NPC chairman Faustino Dy said.

In a statement, Dy said an "overwhelming number of NPC’s big guns" have endorsed the President’s bid for a full six-year term even as some of the party members have personally decided to support other presidential candidates.

Dy, the governor of Isabela, also expressed confidence Mrs. Arroyo would emerge the winner in the May 10 elections as a result of the support of local government officials as the campaign for local positions shifts to high gear.

Dy said a party meeting is scheduled today in Metro Manila. He, however, admitted the meeting, to be held in a still undisclosed place, has not been authorized by the party’s founder, industrialist Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

"No individual NPC member or group has the authority to announce the party’s choice of whom to support for the presidency. Any such statement or endorsement should be interpreted to mean merely a personal choice of NPC members concerned," Dy said.

Two NPC lawmakers — Davao City Rep. Vincent Garcia and Davao del Sur Rep. Douglas Cagas — said they decided to support Mrs. Arroyo to enable her to continue her programs.

Mrs. Arroyo took over the reins of the government for three years following the ouster of President Joseph Estrada in January 2001 on allegations of corruption. She is now seeking a full six-year term on May 10.

Garcia and Cagas said many Mindanaoans noted the efforts made by Mrs. Arroyo in putting up infrastructure projects and agriculture support systems in the region.

This is aside from the efforts of the Arroyo administration to forge peace pacts with the Muslim secessionist guerrillas and communist rebels to end the armed conflict in Mindanao, they said.

"We stand by the NPC leadership’s decision that has given us a free hand in choosing our candidate, which on my part is no one else but our hardworking and visionary President," Garcia said.

Garcia claimed Mrs. Arroyo will win in Davao City since she has never ceased to help local residents. "The concerns of our local industries and people have always been of paramount to the President," he said.

Cagas said almost all of his constituents will vote for Mrs. Arroyo as an expression of thanks and to support continuity in governance.

Tactical Advantage

Administration lawmaker Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay said those in the opposition may find themselves on the losing end in the May polls due to the lack of political machinery and support in the countryside.

Pichay particularly noted the NPC was refraining from officially endorsing any particular candidate, which leveled the playing field for all candidates.

But Mrs. Arroyo got the tactical advantage, according to Pichay, since an overwhelming number of NPC members expressed their support to the incumbent who has the machinery of the ruling party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas) behind her.

Pichay particularly mentioned Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. who, he said, lacks the financial support of big business groups to sustain his campaign.

He said Poe does not have the advantage of having an organized support machinery coming from local government units across the nation, unlike Lakas for Mrs. Arroyo.

Pichay revealed the KNP is running out of funds to sustain its campaign to court the support of businessmen.

"How can you expect any sane and well-meaning businessman to support someone like Poe?" he asked.

"Poe’s camp cannot expect support from businessmen who are wary that his presidency will bring about the country’s downfall because of his utter lack of experience and vision for the country. He cannot even deliver a substantive campaign speech, let alone present and defend a credible platform of government," Pichay added.

Pichay said the administration coalition, along with the NPC and other allied political parties, was able to field candidates in all levels down to the farthest municipalities as against the opposition which "could hardly match this as it is able to cover only 50 percent of the positions up for contest."

"The common goal of our administration candidates is to carry on the President to victory. With this reality, the local campaign will swing the momentum (to) the President," Pichay said.

On the other hand, independent Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the decision of the NPC not to endorse any presidential candidate could boost his chances for the presidency.

Lacson said the NPC decision virtually gave many of his friends in the party free rein to support his candidacy.

"We have many friends in the NPC. During the 2001 elections, where I ran for senator, I received votes from the NPC although I don’t belong to their party. It gives the local members of the NPC the flexibility to choose," Lacson said.

Lacson made the statement even as a mayoralty candidate in Baguio City under the KNP banner said Saturday night that he will be supporting the senator’s candidacy.

Mayoralty candidate Edgar Avila claimed he decided to go with Lacson because the situation at the KNP is now "chaotic." He did not elaborate.

Earlier, Lacson and his lone senatorial candidate, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla got the endorsements of three rival mayoralty bets, namely, Lino Madchiw, Zenaida Munar and Fernando Bajar, in Banawe, Ifugao.

Munar, for her part, said any rivalry among them is just a friendly contest, nothing personal. - With Jose Rodel Clapano

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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