MANILA, April 6, 2004
By Paolo Romero - Former President Joseph Estrada’s party has accused the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party of trying to sow dissension within the opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino to weaken the presidential bid of KNP bet Fernando Poe Jr.

Horacio Morales, president of the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino, denied reports that he is part of a faction trying to wrest control of the KNP election campaign because PMP candidates are being left out.

His party has always respected free discussions on party matters, he said.

"We got this from reliable sources that all these reports of ‘dissension’ are coming from the administration’s dirty tricks department. The administration party is definitely desperate amid the defections of their regional leaders to the KNP," Morales said. He did not elaborate.

"If there are differences in opinion within the opposition, it’s not about power struggle but on how to make the campaign efficient and more effective," he added.

Morales, a member of the KNP’s executive committee, said the PMP always respected the decisions of the coalition’s highest policy-making body.

As to the reported infighting among coalition members on the selection of candidates for local posts, Morales said areas are declared "free zones" if there are conflicts on who to proclaim in campaign rallies there.

The executive committee’s arbitration panel has resolved about 85 percent of disputes on which candidates to support in the local elections, he added.

Sources in the KNP earlier said Morales and the group of Sen. Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Tessie Aquino-Oreta of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), are fighting over management of the campaign.

Morales was allegedly criticizing the way Sotto and Oreta are running the campaign.

The KNP is composed of the LDP, PMP, the PDP-Laban, and a faction of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

The PMP reportedly complained their local candidates are deliberately being left out in endorsements and proclamation rallies, KNP sources said.

Morales and the PMP bloc have allegedly asked Estrada, the party’s founder and a key Poe ally, to air their sentiment.

It was not clear if Estrada has interceded but the KNP source said Oreta has earlier explained to the former president about the need to follow a "selection process."

The PMP officials reportedly felt dismayed that the KNP local candidates are dominated by the LDP.

Another KNP official disclosed that Morales’ camp has been approaching some disgruntled leaders and members of Poe’s campaign staff in an effort to convince them to join the PMP in case they take over the campaign operations.

Morales reportedly said Poe’s opinion poll ratings proved that the campaign was floundering.

Poe slightly leads President Arroyo in the latest survey of respected pollster Social Weather Stations but Malacañang says it is still a statistical tie and anybody’s race.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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