MANILA,  May 4, 2004
Independent opposition candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson is not backing out of the presidential race and giving way to his rival, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr.

In a statement entitled, "Walang Atrasan; Walang Urungan," Lacson said yesterday he and House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, his lone senatorial candidate, would not give up their crusade for meaningful reforms.

"Let me state with firm conviction and a determination characteristic of my whole public life that I will never give up this fight. We shall face all the obstacles, real or imagined, and submit ourselves to the true voice of the sovereign people, no matter what," he said.

The former Philippine National Police chief’s statement was apparently prompted by reports that Poe was taking steps to convince the bloc-voting Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to endorse him, including pressuring Lacson to withdraw his candidacy. The INC is reportedly inclined to support President Arroyo.

Lacson said his and Padilla’s fight "is not about power or the privileges that come with political power."

"Our fight is about effecting real and not cosmetic change in the way the politics of this country is practiced. A politics that will not compromise the people’s welfare and the national interest in the altar of expediency or self-interests. A no-nonsense leadership that will sincerely, and with utmost political will, seek to extirpate criminality and corruption. And bring back the rule of law to its full meaning where every man is equal before its eyes. These, we believe, are the conditions without which the flowering of equal opportunity and economic liberation for the poor will never materialize," he said.

He said he hoped that with God’s help, he and his "millions of supporters and followers who have kept the faith unflinchingly throughout these difficult days and weeks," would triumph on Monday and defeat K-4 (kahirapan, katiwalian, kurakot, at kriminalidad).

"Altogether, let us prove everyone else is wrong. This is our last chance to change endless misery into genuine hope. Let us think of our future and the future of our children and the next generations," he added.

Padilla shared his standard-bearer’s dogged determination to pursue their candidacies.

"We have gone this far. There are only a few days before Monday’s election. There is clearly no turning back for us," he said.

With the support of his House colleagues and local leaders, Padilla hopes to win a Senate seat.

He said this early there are signs that the administration would resort to foul tactics to win.

He revealed that their leaders in Eastern Samar reported to them over the weekend that in some towns in the province, his and Lacson’s name are missing in the Commission on Elections official list of candidates to be used on election day.

"We will bring this to the attention of the Comelec office in Manila," he said.

To prove that he is determined to pursue his candidacy from the start of the campaign, Lacson claimed Poe’s camp had offered "all sorts of blandishments, all kinds of compromises" so he would back out and give way to the movie actor.

"We have consistently refused. Our honor and self-respect cannot be compromised," he stressed.

The former top cop is still spewing fire at his party bosses in the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) who dumped him in favor of Poe.

He said months before the campaign, he had committed himself to a fair and credible process to select the opposition standard- bearer.

"But the leaders of the so-called united opposition have not only denied me due process. They have scorned me and my followers. To them, the only way to unite was for us to surrender to their choice and accept the verdict of manipulated surveys," he said.

Lacson and Poe still continue to meet despite their fruitless efforts to unite. They last met on Sunday night at the office of Makati Rep. Agapito Aquino, who is LDP secretary-general and a Lacson supporter.

San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, campaign managers respectively of Lacson and Poe, issued a joint statement yesterday about Sunday’s meeting, which they attended.

They said their candidates "agreed that unless and until a unification is in fact arrived at, they will pursue their respective candidacies until the elections on May 10, 2004."

"Both remain 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 statement said.

Zamora and Binay said their candidates also agreed to pool "assets and resources to guard against electoral fraud and other irregularities from the precinct level up to the canvassing of votes at the municipal, provincial and chartered city levels, and all the way to the National Board of Canvassers composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate assembled in joint session."

Besides Zamora and Aquino, those who attended the meeting for the Lacson side were Padilla, Iloilo Rep. Rolex Suplico and Lito Banayo, Lacson’s spokesman and political adviser.

Those who attended for the Poe camp, apart from Binay, were Senators Vicente Sotto III and Gregorio Honasan, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos, and former Rizal congressman Frisco San Juan.

The dialogue was held at Aquino’s office along Kalayaan Avenue near EDSA in Makati City. It lasted about two hours.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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