MANILA,  May 8, 2004
By Edu Punay And Paolo Romero  -  The Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) of Fernando Poe Jr. downplayed yesterday the endorsements made by the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) and the El Shaddai charismatic movement to President Arroyo, saying this will not stop their victory in the May 10 elections.

Poe also dismissed the endorsements of the two religious groups on his main rival.

"That’s their (INC and El Shaddai) decision and I fully respect that," Poe said. "We’ll just have to work harder."

At the same time, Poe made a last-minute appeal to the people to vote for "a leader who loves the people and is loved in return."

As a sort of morale booster, KNP spokesman Miguel Romero claimed Poe would still get a lead of at least three million votes over President Arroyo despite the support of the two religious groups.

Citing the recent survey conducted by members of the academe, Romero even claimed Mrs. Arroyo "badly needed" the support of the two religious groups to overcome the winnability of Poe.

Romero cited the survey conducted by Proberz Inc., a group of college professors which predicted Poe will have a clear win over Mrs. Arroyo with a 13 percent advantage.

Romero said the survey is reflective of what could be the possible outcome of the presidential race on Monday, barring any election fraud.

"Although the administration has eight to 10 percent capacity to cheat, we can still win the election," he said.

KNP senatorial candidate Ernesto Maceda said he would place his 45 years of political experience to affirm his belief that Poe will snatch the presidency.

"Given that margin of cheating, Poe will get a realistic advantage of 18 percent," Maceda said.

"But I urge the people to be vigilant against election fraud because going beyond the administration’s capacity to cheat is garapalan na (too gross)," he said.

Maceda claimed their surveys showed Poe is leading in Laguna by as much as 60 percent over fellow opposition presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson with 12 percent while Mrs. Arroyo landed at third place with only eight percent.

"This is reflective of the sentiments of the voters in the Southern Luzon, which is an essential source of votes in a national election," explained the former senator.

KNP leader Lito Anzures also cited the Proberz survey, among other opinion poll surveys, which showed Poe winning by huge margin over Mrs. Arroyo.

Anzures said two decisive factors will favor the opposition in the current electoral campaign.

"First, is the extreme unpopularity of President Arroyo, and second, is the complete trust and confidence that the masses have in the charisma and leadership of FPJ (Poe’s initials) and the other KNP candidates," Anzures said.

While the KNP respects the decision of the INC and El Shaddai leaders, Anzures stressed their support for Mrs. Arroyo will not stop an opposition victory. He also claimed the "Muslim vote" is behind Poe and the KNP.

Anzures said the "faith of the masses" for Poe has been demonstrated by the "passionate" reception the movie star received in his campaign sorties. "We are winning on the ground, and we will win in the ballot box," he said.

Poe’s personal campaign manager Sen. Vicente Sotto III said that unlike other presidential candidates including Mrs. Arroyo, Poe decided to run because of the "huge clamor of the people."

"Elections is one of the few times were the rich and poor are equal, each has only one vote," Sotto said.

For his part, KNP senatorial candidate Francisco Tatad claimed policemen have been coerced to vote for the administration by their superiors during the conduct of the absentee voting in Southern Tagalog last April.

"According to inside informants, the police were openly told to vote for Arroyo or else be reassigned to Mindanao," Tatad claimed by citing personal sources.

He said senior officers stood by while their subordinates filled out their ballots. After each ballot is accomplished, they were inspected and made an informal tally which was later relayed to Malacañang, Tatad said.

To counter any cheating attempts, the KNP announced 5,000 lawyers will be deployed all across the country to watch and guard the canvassing of votes.

They also said some 1,000 more lawyers will join them in guarding the votes from the camp of Lacson.

Meanwhile, Makati City Mayor and KNP campaign manager Jejomar Binay said the opposition will launch a "gigantic miting de avance" with a massive torch parade in Makati City later tonight.

He said the program, which will start at 8 p.m., will be aired live over national television with a radio hookup.

Binay said Poe is expected to deliver a "fighting speech" to rally supporters against electoral cheating.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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