MANILA, April 6, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva - President Arroyo virtually received a post-birthday gift yesterday after lawmakers and local officials of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) in Tarlac expressed support for her bid for a six-year term on May 10.

A visibly elated Mrs. Arroyo got her birthday wish for unity when she flew to Capas town to join the commemoration of the infamous Death March. She was later treated to a luncheon by NPC leaders.

The expression of support came from three prominent families of the province during her post-birthday luncheon held at the Fortune Restaurant in Tarlac City hosted by Tarlac Rep. Gilbert Teodoro.

Teodoro is the top lieutenant of the NPC and nephew of party founder businessman Eduardo Cojuangco.

Among those who came to express their support were Tarlac second district Rep. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III of the Liberal Party and Rep. Jesli Lapus of the province’s third congressional district who is also a ranking NPC member.

"This is the first time that the Cojuangcos, the Aquinos and the Teodoros (are) united behind a candidate (in the person of) President Arroyo," Teodoro said.

During the luncheon meeting, Teodoro told the guests that it is only fitting that Mrs. Arroyo should be given a fresh mandate so that she can pursue her programs of government, particularly those that would benefit the marginalized sector of society.

Among the political figures who attended the meeting were Tarlac Gov. Jose Yap, Vice Governor Marcelino Aganon, municipal mayors led by Rodolfo Guerrero of Anao, Estelita Aquino of Moncada, Elpidio Ibarra of Paniqui, Wilfredo Sawit of Pura, Gil Beltran of Ramos, Reynaldo Malazo of San Manuel, Vicente Pacada of San Clemente, and Emmanuel Guiam of Victoria.

Most of the local officials in the province also belong to the NPC.

Teodoro told The STAR yesterday the support by the NPC leaders in the province for Mrs. Arroyo came after his uncle gave party members free rein to choose their candidates.

"Mr. Cojuangco is apolitical now. That’s why he is just an emeritus chairman of the NPC. He’s no longer into politics," Teodoro said.

Teodoro said that in his congressional district alone, they will carry Mrs. Arroyo and the entire administration senatorial slate with Sen. Noli de Castro as vice president.

Meanwhile, the President renewed her appeal to the public to keep the faith in the holding of honest, clean and orderly elections this year.

Mrs. Arroyo made the appeal as she claimed the "doomsday scenario" being peddled by the opposition is just to discredit the results of the May election.

"Let us shake off this doomsday syndrome about the forthcoming elections. It demeans our people to say that a close race is a recipe for post-election chaos," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo took exception to the statements made by opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) senatorial candidate Francisco Tatad.

Tatad claimed Malacañang is trying to brainwash the electorate into believing that a "virtual tie" in survey results occurred between Mrs. Arroyo and KNP standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr.

He said the virtual tie in surveys will be an opportunity for the administration to cheat in the elections during the counting of the ballots.

"We must have greater faith in the Filipino and our strong and courageous adherence to democracy," Mrs. Arroyo said.

"What is more important is to make every vote count and to safeguard the democratic process. For every election in our history, the will of the people and the strength of our institutions have upheld clean, honest and orderly polls," she said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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