SORSOGON CITY, April 2, 2004
Opposition presidential hopeful Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson reiterated his accusation yesterday that President Arroyo has been sabotaging his campaign.

He made the charge again minutes after his scheduled address before new police recruits here was cancelled at the last minute.

The former Philippine National Police chief told journalists covering his Bicol campaign sortie that Malacañang must have been behind the cancellation.

He said he did not demand an explanation from his former police officers in Sorsogon.

"I understand their situation and the pressure they have to bear," he said.

House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, Lacson’s lone senatorial candidate, said it is only the Palace that could have ordered the PNP leadership to scrap his standard bearer’s scheduled appearance before hundreds of police recruits here.

"The Sorsogon PNP would not have done that without orders from Malacañang. Ping Lacson’s former subordinates love and respect him. That’s why they had invited him to speak before their new recruits," he said.

Lacson said had his speaking engagement pushed through, he would have told the new policemen to be true to their job, to render honest public service and not to succumb to the temptation of kotong (extortion).

He said he would have hammered away at the same message had his appearance before a convention of the National Prosecutors’ League in nearby Naga City not been abruptly scrapped on Wednesday.

The day before, Tuesday, Mrs. Arroyo addressed the convention and promised prosecutors a salary increase.

"I and Caloy Padilla have long expected these harassment tactics. We have to live with them. They are part of dirty politics, which the incumbent professes not to do but which in reality she practices," Lacson said.

Padilla said the lights went out in Iriga City in the middle of a rally on Wednesday night, but he refused to call it harassment.

Lacson said he welcomed the Supreme Court decision dismissing the disqualification case filed against the President by opposition senatorial candidates Boots Anson-Roa and Amina Rasul, but maintained that Mrs. Arroyo has been using taxpayers’ money to promote her candidacy.

He cited as "clear examples" the President’s disbursement of funds for her P1.4 billion "Kalsada Natin, Alagaan Natin" project and P728 million worth of fertilizer and pesticides for congressmen and local officials supporting her quest for a full six-year term.

"It’s more than P2 billion down the drain. The huge sum could have otherwise been used for classrooms or roads, which people can see and verify," he said.

He added that the Supreme Court decision would allow the people to choose who would be the candidate who can best lead the nation up to 2010.

On another matter, Lacson said he did not care if Mrs. Arroyo named his nemesis, retired Chief Superintendent Reynaldo Berroya, to her Cabinet. — Jess Diaz

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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