PAGSANJAN, LAGUNA, April 19, 2004
By Paolo Romero — For Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr., no issue could be more sensitive than one affecting his wife.

Poe, who is uncomfortable dealing with journalists, avoided them anew after being informed that he will be asked to comment on the reports that his wife, actress Susan Roces, punched Roxas City vice-mayoral candidate Allan Celino over a "misunderstanding."

Reporters covering Poe’s sortie in Laguna since Saturday had been pressing his handlers for an interview since early yesterday. By mid-morning, they were advised that Poe would meet them for a "sit-down interview" at the residence of Pagsanjan Mayor Emilio Ramon Ejercito.

The journalists arrived at the Ejercito residence around noon and waited for Poe, who had lunch and met with local officials.

At past 3 p.m., the reporters — who had already set up their cameras and recorders at a table — learned that Poe would not push through with the interview and was about to leave.

They rushed outside to intercept Poe in an "ambush" interview.

As the reporters along with a number of fans began to gather around Poe as he walked out the door, his bodyguards signaled them not to ask any questions.

Even with microphones close to his face and journalists around him shouting questions, Poe refused to talk.

An Australian broadcast journalist who had been promised a one-on-one interview with Poe by his handlers angrily packed her gear after learning that the actor had left the Ejercito residence. She had been covering Poe’s sortie for two days, waiting for the interview.

It was later learned that Poe agreed to face the media and that he would raise three issues: his assessment of the campaign sortie in Laguna, the unification talks with independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson and the planned meeting with New People’s Army (NPA) spokesman Gregorio Rosal.

Poe’s temper suddenly flared up when he was informed that journalists may ask him to comment on the incident involving his wife.

"His demeanor suddenly changed," a source said, adding that Poe kept asking why the incident had to be played up by the media.

Sources said Poe was very angry with Celino, saying that he had known his wife for so long and that she would not do such a thing if there was no pressing reason.

Poe is known for his run-ins with journalists, which his detractors have pointed out as an indication of a character flaw that makes him unfit for the presidency.

Earlier, Poe complained that the media focused too much on his private life, particularly on his children out of wedlock. He appealed to the media to spare his family from intense scrutiny.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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