MANILA,  May 6, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva  -  It wasn’t a police raid. Just President Arroyo on her latest campaign sortie in downtown Manila.

Illegal sidewalk vendors on Ilaya street in Divisoria were caught by surprise yesterday when the President and her running mate Sen. Noli de Castro arrived with the blare of police sirens, making them think it was a raid.

What actually made the vendors jump to their feet, shut down their colorful umbrellas and gather their wares occupying most of the sidewalk was the sight of Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, who they thought was on an inspection trip to the market.

They realized it was a false alarm when they caught sight of Mrs. Arroyo, De Castro and Kris Aquino shaking hands with the people and waving at them.

Mrs. Arroyo was on her latest "palengke tour" in Metro Manila entering the homestretch of the campaign before the elections on Monday.

Official campaign spokesman Michael Defensor explained to reporters that the K-4 intentionally did not make any prior announcement on the presidential campaign schedule.

Defensor said it is both for reasons of security and strategy that the President and De Castro conduct lightning stops in areas where there are many "undecided but GMA-inclined voters."

"As you have observed, the President and the market (visit) had no preparation in terms of security. Not prepared in the sense that people do not know that the President was coming," Defensor said.

He pointed out the surprise sorties could preempt any people with bad intentions. He also expressed confidence that the Presidential Security Group headed by Col. Delfin Bangit knows how to handle the situation on the ground.

Traffic stood still for almost an hour as the presidential motorcade occupied the southbound lane of C. M. Recto Avenue.

The vendors were obviously happy to note that the presence of the President boosted their business as people swarmed the stalls to buy goods ranging from bottled mineral water to towels.

Atienza told The STAR that the city government is in the process of implementing his plan to put order and cleanliness in the area as part of his program of government if re-elected into office.

Atienza said it will be a "total sweep" for administration candidates in Manila.

Not taking chances that their goods might be confiscated later by the police, the vendors packed up even before the presidential motorcade moved on to its next stop.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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