POE, LACSON TO MAKE LAST-DITCH ATTEMPT AT UNITY MEET TODAY
MANILA, April 26, 2004 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. and independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson are expected to make a last-ditch attempt to meet today to forge a united opposition against President Arroyo.
Except for "commercial tapings," KNP officials said Poe has no pending appointments in the morning.
In the official KNP schedule, Poe will later hold a motorcade from Las Piñas, Muntinlupa and Parañaque cities at around 2 p.m. capped by a grand rally in Taguig and Pateros.
This leaves room for a possible one-on-one meeting between the actor and Lacson to finally consolidate their forces and unify the opposition ranks.
Reports of a possible meeting between the two opposition presidential candidates were further bolstered by the statement made by Lacson over the weekend that he is available to meet Poe today.
Poe on Saturday, however, refused to make a commitment to Lacson stressing he has yet to finalize his schedule.
Poe’ campaign manager and KNP executive committee member Makati City Rep. Jejomar Binay also refused to make a commitment.
"If it happens, then it happens," Binay said. "Don’t worry, we’ll tell you," he later told reporters.
Sources in the KNP executive committee disclosed Poe is in the position to push through with the unification talks with Lacson.
Sources said if the talks push through, it would be a "welcome bonus, but if it doesn’t, then it wouldn’t matter."
"If we are going to wait for them (Lacson’s camp) the assumption is we will be putting on hold some things in our campaign, which we would not do in the first place," the source said.
Other KNP sources admitted the chances of having a united opposition are getting bleaker by the day with two weeks left before election day.
The same sources pinned the blame on Lacson whom they said was intentionally sabotaging unity talks for still unknown reasons.
They noted Lacson and his key adviser and spokesman Lito Banayo have been issuing statements that tend to scuttle any efforts for unification.
"We have come to a point that we were asking in our meetings that does Ping really want a unification?" a ranking KNP leader asked.
"Or even maybe this could be a plot by FVR (former President Fidel Ramos) or the administration to divide us since this (did) not originate from us or from Senator Lacson’s side," the source said.
The same KNP official noted that Lacson even set the condition that Poe’s personal campaign manager Sen. Vicente Sotto III and Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino chairman Sen. Edgardo Angara be out of the picture before any unity talks could proceed.
"If he (Lacson) was really serious in uniting the opposition, why did he make public his demands?" the KNP official asked.
Another KNP official said they are not "banking too much" on the unity talks so as not to be too disappointed if the talks fail.
The source said the KNP is much more confident that Poe can go it alone and beat the administration in the May 10 polls.
The same KNP official said they are "confused" by Lacson’s true intentions in pursuing unity talks with Poe.
"To make an analogy, he (Lacson) is selling something at a very exorbitant price which makes you wonder whether he really wants to make the sale," the source said.
Poe’s spokesman, Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero, however, said it is never too late for the opposition to unite.
"With media, the news will be known all over the country in minutes and still achieve its desired effect," Escudero said.
The two sides have tried to forge a merger since January with the aim of presenting a single opposition presidential candidate and avoid splitting the anti-Arroyo vote.
But the talks failed after Lacson and Poe refused to back down from their presidential bids although both agreed to submit themselves to a selection process.
Poe and Lacson are under pressure to unify their campaigns and make a stronger challenge to Mrs. Arroyo, who now has a strong lead for the first time over Poe in the run-up to the election, based on the latest survey of respected pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS).
A unified opposition would have better chances of winning the presidential elections if Lacson withdraws from the race, according to the same survey.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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