ILOILO CITY, April 3, 2004
By Nikko Dizon No apologies from "Da King."

Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. has nothing to apologize for since there was no intention to embarrass GMA-7 television reporter Sandra Aguinaldo, his spokesman Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero said yesterday.

Escudero said Poe "perhaps only wanted to put some sense into what was happening behind him without any intention... to embarrass Aguinaldo."

"Given the circumstances, it is difficult to judge if that was the best thing to do. The question that should also be asked (is) if the distraction was also warranted at that time in the middle of the rally," Escudero said.

According to Escudero, Poe considers the issue "a closed case" since the actor is not angry with Aguinaldo at all.

"He said it was a misunderstanding. It was nothing personal. We did not mean to embarrass her with what he did," Escudero said.

But according to GMA-7, Aguinaldo was simply carrying out her duties as a broadcast journalist.

"As a reporter, it is her duty to report on news events, in this case, the campaign rally of Fernando Poe Jr. and the rest of the KNP ticket. In her job, doing ‘stand-uppers’ is often necessary to establish her presence close to the action," GMA-7 said in a faxed statement yesterday.

The broadcast firm stressed Aguinaldo has nothing to apologize for in doing her job.

Aguinaldo claimed she was berated by Poe during a campaign rally in nearby Tigbauan town here Thursday night.

While about to do a "stand up" for a live feed telecast for GMA-7’s "24 Oras" news program, Aguinaldo was surprised when Poe approached her from behind, thrust a microphone at her and blurted out: "Ikaw na lang kaya (why don’t you speak instead)!"

Aguinaldo later told "24 Oras" news anchor Mel Tiangco that Poe even followed it up with "Hindi nga, gusto mo ata magsalita (Why not? You seem to want to speak)?"

Aguinaldo said Poe berated her in front of many people who had gathered to see the actor at the town gym. She said Poe was apparently irritated by her presence on stage, which prompted the outburst.

Malacañang officials, led by Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye and campaign spokesman Michael Defensor, could only sympathize with Aguinaldo.

A former journalist, Bunye said Poe acted brashly against Aguinaldo.

"Having been a former newspaperman, and based on what I heard, what I saw on television, Sandra was just doing her job," Bunye said.

Defensor, for his part, said he could only sympathize with Aguinaldo.

He said Poe might have been too tired and confused and berated Aguinaldo during the incident.

Former President Fidel Ramos also gave his unsolicited advice to the actor.

"First of all, face the media squarely and learn to roll with the punches," Ramos said. "Because media must be seen as an asset for good governance."

Stand Upper Comedy

Aguinaldo herself said she does not expect Poe to apologize.

The television reporter said the incident "tells a lot" about Poe’s personality. "The video was clear," Aguinaldo said. "What happened tells a lot about him but I’ll leave it at that," she later told her colleagues covering Poe’s campaign trail.

But Poe’s campaign manager Sen. Vicente Sotto III described the incident as a "comedy" worthy of April Fool’s Day.

Sotto urged everyone involved to put the incident behind them and "put an end to this issue."

Sotto, however, admitted he was still sore at what happened between Poe and Aguinaldo. He said "people go overboard or overreact (to) certain things," referring to Aguinaldo’s getting a dressing down from Poe that night.

But when asked if both Poe and Aguinaldo went overboard, Sotto laughed sarcastically and said: "No comment."

Sotto also denied reports that he called up GMA-7 to demand that Aguinaldo be replaced by another reporter to cover Poe’s remaining campaign schedule.

Poe had skipped the motorcades and rallies in Sara town and Passi City here but Sotto explained it was because the movie actor was tied up in a meeting in Manila that had already been scheduled since last week.

However, Poe was expected to attend the grand rally set at the Freedom Park here, Sotto said.

Allies in the KNP, along with fellow movie actor Eddie Garcia, defended Poe’s actions saying they would have done the same pointing out the actor was distracted by Aguinaldo in the middle of a "serious" speech. T

he Shortest Fuse

Administration lawmakers warned yesterday Poe’s "short fuse" would threaten press freedom in the country if he becomes president.

Bulacan Rep. Willie Villarama and Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles said Poe’s treatment of members of the media is a preview of the loss of press freedom under his administration.

Villarama noted the incident was the third time the actor displayed his temper before journalists –an indication, he said, of the actor’s natural behavior which handlers cannot keep from the public.

Makati City Rep. Teodoro Locsin, a newspaperman himself, said Poe should appreciate media coverage.

"Be happy that the media is covering you," Locsin told Poe. "Every candidate hopes the media would be there... the more the merrier. The worst thing that can happen to a candidate is nobody (from the media is) covering him." Locsin gave an unsolicited advice to Poe and said "the candidate should also be prepared to take things as they are."

Presidential candidate Raul Roco said Poe "is showing his true color of being temperamental and boorish."

"Ngayon nakikita kung sino ang mataray. Pwede na natin siyang tawagin na hari ng pikon (Now we can see who is bitchy. We can now call him the king of short temper)," Roco told reporters during a break in a motorcade in Cardona, Rizal yesterday.

Roco even likened Poe to a gold-plated jewel whose shine fades off after being soaked in vinegar.

"They say their candidate is the perfect gentleman. Well, his behavior (last Thursday) is boorish, not of a perfect gentleman. That’s the problem with gold-plated jewel. When soaked in vinegar, it darkens," he said.

While he has been the least controversial among presidential candidates, Roco had long been tagged as the man with the shortest fuse.

Roco said Poe had apparently overtaken him when it comes to crankiness with reporters.

Evangelist and Bangon Pilipinas Movement standard-bearer Eddie Villanueva also weighed in and appealed to Poe to be "more circumspect and more responsible" in dealing with media personalities.

Villanueva, founder of the Jesus is Lord (JIL) movement, backtracked from his earlier vow not to criticize his rivals.

According to Villanueva, Poe should have exercised restraint if he wants to show he is capable of occupying the highest elected position in the land.

"He (Poe) should have waited for his speech to finish and for the reporter to wrap up her report before speaking with (Aguinaldo)," Villanueva added.

Villanueva in an earlier radio interview appealed for sobriety, claiming Poe was probably "too tired" when he berated Aguinaldo.

The militant party-list group Anakpawis also said Poe was at fault and should apologize to Aguinaldo.

In a statement, Anakpawis chairman and first nominee Crispin Beltran said Poe should apologize to the television reporter "for embarrassing her in front of a large crowd and on national television."

"Poe betrayed anew his short temper and reputed macho arrogance by accosting Aguinaldo while the latter was doing her report," Beltran said.

Some members of the media also joined in criticizing Poe.

In a statement, the Iloilo Press Club Inc. slammed the actor for the incident, saying "it was unfortunate that such ignoble act happened in Iloilo."

"Such disrespect of and insult to the press should never be tolerated as this might send a wrong signal that we can be shabbily treated by anyone at anytime," the group said. - With reports from Marichu Villanueva, Paolo Romero, Sheila Crisostomo, Evelyn Macairan, Katherine Adraneda, Ding Cervantes

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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