POE FALLS ILL, SKIPS MINDORO SORTIE
CALAPAN CITY, ORIENTAL MINDORO, April 22, 2004 (STAR) — Presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. could not get up from bed that he had to skip his campaign sortie in the Mindoro provinces yesterday.
"He was feeling very sick, that’s the truth," said Sen. Vicente Sotto III, Poe’s personal campaign manager.
"(He could not get up from bed) because of cough, cold, and possible fever."
The "physical strain" of the campaign has caught up with Poe, who was not sickly until he joined politics, he added.
The rest of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) ticket barnstormed in different towns of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro.
Sotto said Poe made a "critical sacrifice" in skipping the Mindoro sortie so he could join the KNP campaigns in Batangas today, and in Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, and Masbate until Saturday.
"It’s critical that he be in (vote-rich Batangas, which is reportedly FPJ country)," he said.
Sotto said Poe sent him and actor Eddie Garcia to campaign in his place so the people of Mindoro would not feel bad.
"Siya ang pinakasusugod ng mga tao," he said. "Yung ibang (presidential candidate) hindi. People go to him and embrace him."
Sotto dismissed allegations Poe skipped the campaign to avoid the supposed infighting among rival KNP candidates in Calapan, who all wanted to be endorsed by their party’s standard-bearer.
"FPJ doesn’t have anything to do with the arbitration (of the KNP executive committee on local candidates)...," he said.
"His concentration is to win the presidency and not the mayoralship."
Poe earlier skipped the KNP’s campaign in Marawi City and Aklan after he also reportedly got sick.
When asked about the role of the local machinery in guarding KNP votes, Sotto said the party is hiring poll watchers for the job.
Sotto also dismissed threats of disgruntled KNP local candidates that they would abandon Poe.
"We’re not paying attention to those threats at this stage of the battle," he said.
Earlier, independent presidential candidate Panfilo Lacson and Bangon Pilipinas standard-bearer Eddie Villanueva skipped their provincial sorties after they supposedly fell ill. – Nikko Dizon
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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