PING-POE TALKS NOW A FAILURE

ALAMINOS, PANGASINAN,  May 4, 2004
 
(STAR)
By Paolo Romero  —  Last-ditch efforts to unify the camps of Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. and independent candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson fizzled out yesterday after both sides failed to agree to field a single opposition candidate six days before the elections.

Only a "pooling of assets and resources to guard against electoral fraud and other irregularities," was agreed upon by the two opposition candidates, according to a joint statement issued by Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, the campaign managers of Poe and Lacson, respectively.

"Both candidates initially agreed that, unless and until a unification is... arrived at, they will pursue their respective candidacies until the elections on May 10," the joint statement said.

Binay and Zamora said both Poe and Lacson remained confident that the prevailing mood of the electorate "is firmly against the administration and they hope that one of them will ultimately make it to Malacañang."

The 11th-hour meeting was held at the office of Makati City Rep. Agapito Aquino, where Lacson and Poe agreed to guard the votes from the precinct level all the way up to the National Board of Canvassers composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate assembled in a joint session.

Poe and his personal campaign manager, Sen. Vicente Sotto III, however, denied that the talks held Sunday night in Makati City were a failure.

Guarding against poll fraud, Poe said, was all he and Lacson talked about as he addressed a rally attended by 2,000 people in Alaminos, adding that "I don’t consider it a failure."

A ranking KNP official acknowledged that the outcome of the latest round of talks between Lacson and Poe could be considered a failure.

"We’re very, very close to the elections and we’re still thinking whether the glass is half full or half empty," the KNP official said.

Sotto said neither side spoke of sliding down or withdrawing from the presidential race during the meeting Sunday. He also denied reports that concessions were offered or conditions were imposed by either camp to enable the opposition to field a single presidential candidate.

"Unification has many forms. As long as you’re both on the same side and not bickering, there’s unification," Sotto said.

"There’s still a chance to have one candidate because it’s not yet May 10," he added.

He said the Poe-Lacson meeting was very cordial and that, should unification be reached, it would still achieve the desired impact.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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