MANILA,  April 24, 2004
By Nikko Dizon - Actress-turned-Lipa City Mayor Vilma Santos believes Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. will have a hard time if he becomes president.

"It won’t be very easy for him. I know Ronnie (Poe’s nickname) will have a hard time," Santos told reporters Thursday night at her family’s home in Batangas when was asked if she thinks Poe will make a good president.

Not that she was belittling Poe’s abilities but Santos explained that if the tasks of being city mayor were already overwhelming — as she has discovered for herself — what more the responsibilities of the top man in government.

"I know the integrity and honesty of Ronnie. But in my personal experience, being a public servant is no joke. It takes a lot of sacrifice," Santos said.

The actress said that if Poe wins he might also need someone who will also "tutor" him until 4 a.m.

Santos revealed that her husband, administration Sen. Ralph Recto, did just that during her first term as mayor. Both of them were poring over thick books on politics and government up to the wee hours of the morning, she recalled.

It was Recto, she said, who made her take a crash course in public administration at the University of the Philippines as soon as she was elected in 1998.

The Lipa mayor said that as her "senior adviser," Recto also guides her, especially in preparing documents and official papers. "He told me that even if my intention is good, if I make a mistake in paper work, Ombudsman agad ako," said Santos, who, in her six years as mayor, has never been accused of graft and corruption.

On the other hand, Santos — a member of the administration Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats — said that Poe’s joining the presidential race has given the people more choices in the May 10 polls.

She stressed that she would not meddle in Poe’s political career though her friendship with "Da King" of Philippine movies is "beyond politics."

Last Thursday, the KNP accused Santos and Recto of denying the opposition a permit to rally in Lipa City. The couple denied the allegation, explaining that the KNP initially applied for rally at the town plaza for April 21, which she approved, but later changed it to April 22. But the city government had already granted a private organization a permit to use the venue for Earth Day celebrations on that date.

Meanwhile, Recto said that he favors a united opposition with one standard-bearer to face Mrs. Arroyo in the coming polls.

"It would be better if the opposition unite, then the people will have a clear choice between the opposition and the administration. Then hopefully the President will have a majority vote," Recto told reporters also on Thursday night.

He pointed out that having a majority president is more advantageous because it takes a while "for the people to support the new president" if he or she won only by plurality.

"If it’s a one-on-one (fight), surely we will have a majority vote," Recto said.

However, Recto admitted that as a supporter of Mrs. Arroyo, he was "glad" that the unification efforts between Poe and independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson appear to be in limbo.

But he said he is endorsing the candidacy of re-electionist Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. of KNP.

Recto explained that he and Pimentel espouse the same ideologies even if they often engage in debates in the Senate. He added that he believes K-4 senatorial bet Manuel Roxas II deserves to top the Senate race because of his "experience and intellect."

He did not mention though who he might junk among the K-4 senatorial candidates if he votes for Pimentel on May 10.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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