SOTTO: 'FULL-COURT PRESS' FOR FPJ CAMPAIGN

MANILA, April 13, 2004
 
(STAR)
Comparing the remaining campaign period to the last two minutes of a basketball game, Sen. Vicente Sotto III said yesterday that it is time for a "full-court press."

In basketball, a full-court press refers to a pressure defense employed on both sides of the court to regain ball possession.

Sotto also clarified reports that he had been replaced by Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, saying "these reports are erroneous and merely the creation of a columnist."

He has not resigned nor has he been replaced as the "personal campaign manager of Fernando Poe Jr. By personal campaign manager, it means that my only focus is FPJ and no one else," Sotto told The STAR.

He said that the Makati mayor is in charge of "overall campaign management," which includes the entire Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) stable of candidates for president, vice president and senators.

Binay, Sotto said, "was put on active status to fortify the overall campaign management." But this, Sotto said, should not be confused with his role as "personal campaign manager," of which he remains.

The full-court press the KNP will initiate for the remainder of the campaign period will intensify at the local level, according to Sotto, who recently returned from the United States where he spent the Holy Week.

A KNP source said Binay’s appointment was made final in an executive committee meeting last week, which Poe attended.

"It was an appreciable change that showed that the principal (Poe) takes the bull by the horns," the source said.

Binay’s spokesman, Lito Anzures, said Sotto was aware of the Makati mayor’s appointment.

"This was not a drastic, overnight decision. Sotto knew about this even before he left for the United States for his Holy Week break. Matagal na na pinag-usapan ito (This has long been discussed)," Anzures, who also sits at execom meetings, said.

In explaining Binay’s appointment, Anzures said everybody in the KNP has been "asked to step up their efforts because we are nearing the homestretch."

"Perhaps the KNP was looking up to Binay because of his experience in running a campaign especially in the local level," he said.

The political machinery in the local level has become a crucial factor in the campaign, Anzures pointed out, especially since the administration has allegedly been "twisting the arms" of the local candidates to support the candidacy of President Arroyo.

Anzures also likened the new setup in the KNP as having two coaches in a basketball team.

"One is the playing coach, like Sotto, who is forced to go to the field because Poe wants him there. There is another coach, like Binay, who would be left in the war room," he said.

Binay, however, will also join some of the provincial campaign sorties of the KNP to feel the pulse of the local candidates, Anzures added.

Poe’s spokesman Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero, for his part, belied reports that Binay had replaced Sotto as the coalition’s campaign manager.

"To begin with, there was no position of campaign manager to be replaced. The story (that came out in newspapers) doesn’t even have any leg to stand on," he said.

Escudero said it was only in the news that Sotto was being identified as the KNP campaign manager and even Poe’s personal campaign manager. The KNP, he explained, never had a formally designated campaign manager.

The KNP executive committee, made up of leaders of the four political parties comprising the coalition, decides on matters related to the election campaign. Binay is a member of the execom, being the president of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban).

However, Escudero acknowledged that it was only "natural" for Binay to have a more active participation in the campaign because of what he can contribute from his experience as a long-time local chief executive and the KNP’s National Capital Region (NCR) chairman.

"We have been having difficulties in the field with many local candidates competing with each other for Poe’s endorsement," he said. — Nikko Dizon


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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