MANILA, April 23, 2004
By Jess Diaz - Thanks, but no thanks.

This was the reaction of the camp of presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo Lacson to the statement of former President Fidel Ramos that it should be movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. who should slide down to vice president in the wake of the opposition’s move to unify its ranks.

Lacson though refused to impute malice on Ramos’ statement, saying that it only shows that "former President Ramos loves his country more than the KNP officials who keep on urging FPJ to stay and run for the presidency."

His lone senatorial candidate, House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, said he hoped that the former president "was not sowing intrigue between Lacson and FPJ."

He pointed out though that if Ramos was sincere in his appeal, it only shows that the former president sees in Lacson "the qualities of a leader who can steer the country out of its present troubles."

Meanwhile, Lacson said that his former boss, jailed former President Joseph Estrada, was only "imagining things" when he claimed that Lacson had already agreed to withdraw and run for senator if his survey ratings do not improve.

"I deny that. I did not enter into any agreement with the former president that when my rating in surveys will not improve, I will withdraw and just run for senator. I don’t need to run for senator because I’m still senator until 2007," Lacson said.

The recent survey conducted by the Ibon Foundation, Inc. showed that Lacson got an 11.2 percent acceptance rating.

"I want to be consistent," he stressed. "I’m not relying on surveys. I want to remain focused on our campaign. And I’m only relying on the perceptions given us by the people in the different areas that we have visited. So, that much I can say," Lacson emphasized.

On Wednesday, Ramos, chairman emeritus of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, called a news conference to appeal to the popular movie actor to just run as Lacson’s vice presidential candidate because Lacson has more experience in running the government.

Like Lacson, Ramos was head of the combined Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (precursor of the Philippine National Police) before he became defense secretary and then president.

Even Senate President Franklin Drilon, who is supporting Mrs. Arroyo’s quest for a full six-year term, believes that Lacson is the stronger opponent of Mrs. Arroyo than Poe. He said that his Senate colleague has several years of experience in government which Poe lacks.

However, opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who is running under Poe’s ticket, warned that Ramos’ statement was a "Trojan tactic" and that Lacson could be the Trojan horse of the Arroyo administration.

"Why would Poe, a frontrunner in surveys, slide down to be the vice presidential candidate of Lacson, who has consistently been in fourth place in opinion polls?

He said Lacson should clear the air since he is believed to be a Ramos’ protégé and not a genuine oppositionist.

He added that Ramos, whom he described as the "principal puppeteer of GMA (Mrs. Arroyo)," should not meddle with the opposition.

While on the campaign trail in Agusan del Sur, Lacson announced yesterday that he is not joining the political rallies to be staged on May 1 by other political parties, including Poe’s Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP), former senator Raul Roco’s Alyansa ng Pag-asa, and evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva’s Bangon Pilipinas, to protest the alleged misuse of public funds by the Arroyo administration.

Lacson explained that though he supports the call to raise a howl against the reported misuse of public funds, he’ll use a different approach.

"If I have my way, I will discourage mobilization and protest rallies because that will only lead to destabilization of the situation," Lacson said, adding that only innocent Filipinos will be directly affected by destabilization. — With Jose Rodel Clapano

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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