DAGUPAN CITY, April 6, 2004
ó Presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson is still open to unification talks with rival Fernando Poe Jr. if he remains the opposition standard-bearer and the movie actor, his vice presidential running mate.

"Iím not withdrawing and Iím not even considering sliding down," he told reporters during a two-day campaign sortie in Pangasinan Sunday and Monday.

"If FPJ becomes vice presidential candidate, Loren Legarda becomes a senatorial candidate, and Ping Lacson remains as the presidential (bet), sa akin yun lang puwedeng mag-unify, otherwise, any unification na pag-uusapan namin (is) to pool our resources to thwart cheating by the administration ... and to protect the votes of the opposition and the other candidates as well."

Lacson said the parameters must be clear in any plan to unify the opposition, and that it does not include his withdrawal from the presidential race.

"If unification... would mean I will withdraw from the race, Iíve already clearly manifested yung desire ko to go on until election day," he said.

Poe may have "shut his door," but Lacson said he himself has not "shut my doors" to any possible unification talks.

Meanwhile, Lacson said policemen are again driving recovered stolen vehicles since he ordered them returned to their owners when he was he was chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) during the Estrada administration.

Asked if he does not fear losing votes from policemen on May 10, Lacson said, "Matagal na nila akong binawian (They have long gotten even)."

Lacson said some of them, like Chief Superintendent Eduardo Matillano and Transportation and Communications Undersecretary for Special Concerns Reynaldo Berroya, have been making his life miserable since 2001, when he resigned as PNP chief.

Lacson said Berroya and Matillano refused to follow his orders because they had been planning EDSA II, along with other personalities.

"So when they came into the corridors of the influence of power, they contributed so much to make my life miserable but I donít care," he said.

Lacson said that just like when he took office as PNP chief, he will carry out reforms to instill discipline and restore the peopleís trust and confidence in government, even if he is left with a few officers and men.

"Itís saddening that some of the programs I initiated at the PNP were no longer followed like the physical fitness test wherein pot-bellied policemen are a big no-no and shall maintain a waistline of 34 inches, the anti-kotong operation, among others because some PNP officers want themselves exempted from these programs," he said.

Lacson said kotong has returned to the streets because the PNP chief cannot impose on his men what he does not practice.

"Tumatanggap ka sa illegal activities, ninanakaw mo yong pera ng PNP tapos sasabihin mo sa mga pulis mo wag kayong mangongotong sa kalsada," he said.

"They will not follow, they will not obey, sabihin nila ikaw milyun-milyon ang tinatanggap mo, kami pa isa-isang daan lang sa kalsada pagbabawalan mo pa kami, you will not succeed, you will surely fail."

Lacson said his formula for reforming the police force was that he was practicing what he was telling his men to do.

"Itís leadership by example," he said.

Lacson said he set up the PNP foundation to receive contributions from the private sector to help procure equipment for the police.

Lacson said nobody was able to touch the fund because its charter provides that its seed money of P180 million be entrusted to a private group comprised of reputable people like Sen. Juan Flavier and anti-crime crusader Teresita Ang-See.

"We will really reform this government bureaucracy and Iím confident we can do it because Iíve already done it when I headed the PNP, and I know how to do it," he said.

A leader must also have political will, Lacson added. ó Cesar Ramirez, Eva Visperas

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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