MANILA,  April 27, 2004
By Efren L. Danao , Senior Reporter Ma. Theresa Torres , Reporter and Sammy Martin , Correspondent -  THE Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) on Monday charged that the latest Malacañang-sponsored survey on the presidential candidates is “part of Oplan Checkmate to ‘manipulate’ public perception in the hope of stopping the Fernando Poe Jr. juggernaut.”

Former senator Francisco Tatad, senatorial candidate of the KNP, said part of Oplan Checkmate says, “The surveys should show our candidate [Mrs. Arroyo] steadily moving up while the enemy [Poe] moves down or remains static. This would immediately cut off his funding support, even if the masa continues to show up in his rallies.”

He said that the existence of Oplan Checkmate was revealed last week, but was “completely censored by the pro-Arroyo media.”

President Arroyo, meanwhile, is unfazed by the recent allegation of the presidential candidate Panfilo Lacson that the administration is manipulating survey results to condition the minds of voters that she would win the election.

The President admits that she needs the highest mandate she could get, but pointed that it would be through “the most credible electoral process.”

“I ask the people to give me this mandate and to see to it that the voting is clean, honest and orderly,” she said.

Tatad said Oplan Checkmate has not been accelerated.

“The mere publication of the alleged survey is already in violation of the Fair Elections Act, which prohibits publications of surveys affecting national candidates 15 days before an election. The pro-Arroyo media have definitely exceeded their zeal in putting out this latest propaganda,” he said.

Tatad said the survey “merely confirms the plot described in Oplan Checkmate, which calls for use of fabricated surveys to show that Mrs. Arroyo has allegedly overtaken Poe, regardless of the truth.”

Tatad said the suppression from the media of Oplan Checkmate, an important story affecting the campaign, “violates not only the canons of journalism but also an express provision of the Fair Elections Act.”

The law provides in Section 6, Paragraph 5, “All members of [the] media, television, radio or print, shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. They shall recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.”

Tatad said the cooperation of the media is very important for carrying out Oplan Checkmate. He read another part of the alleged plan, which states that “with the media behind us, the surveys will prepare the voters, the foreign diplomatic corps and business community for an inevitable administration sweep.”

He said he had been identified by the scheme as the one opposition candidate who should not be allowed to win, much less register in the surveys “regardless of the number of his votes.”

Tatad said this was probably because he alone on the KNP ticket has been saying that Mrs. Arroyo is a usurper, who has no right to ask to be voted into office, and that he has also recently exposed a number of multibillion-peso scams, which he intends to inquire into if elected.

“The claim that Mrs. Gloria Arroyo now enjoys a commanding lead over the real presidential front-runner Fernando Poe Jr. is the very opposite of what any honest observer sees on the ground, where the FPJ fever continues to spread. It merely confirms the plot described in Oplan Checkmate, which calls for the use of fabricated surveys to show that Mrs. Arroyo has allegedly overtaken Poe, regardless of the truth,” Tatad said.

The Senate majority leader, Francis Pangilinan, said the “clear” preference of voters for President Arroyo in all recent surveys across all sectors shows that the Philippines has an “intelligent and thinking voting population.”

Pangilinan said these survey results debunk the opposition’s claim that it is strong in certain sectors.

“The recent surveys show this is simply not true. This indicates a growing maturity in our electorate. Let’s build on this confidence so we can prepare for the long-term reforms that our country direly needs,” he said.

Lacson, at a press conference, presented two witnesses alleging that the recent survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia, where President Arroyo outran Poe, were both rigged by the Palace.

The President’s spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said it is highly unlikely that Malacañang would get involved with rigging surveys or resort to any form of cheating to ensure victory in the May 10 election.

“The Palace is not in any way involved in the conduct of these surveys. The President is always for a clean, honest, orderly and credible election,” he said.

Bunye also doubts that Lacson’s latest attempt to put a dent on the President’s candidacy will succeed.

“It is just like any of his previous disclosures, which are largely unsupportive,” Bunye said. He was alluding to Lacson’s previous allegations that President Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, is using, as milking cow, several government agencies to collect campaign funds for his wife.

Recent surveys conducted by the SWS and Pulse Asia showed that Mrs. Arroyo is already the front-runner in the presidential derby.

The most recent survey done by NFO Trend showed that the President already has a 10.5-percent lead over Poe.

The survey conducted from April 20 to 22 showed voter preference for the President soared to 36.9 percent over Poe’s 26.4 percent.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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