NAGA CITY,  May 8, 2004
By Sheila Crisostomo  —  Alyansa ng Pag-asa standard bearer Raul Roco received a hero’s welcome from his townmates here yesterday when he wrapped up his presidential campaign.

"We are very happy to be here. I’ve always begun and ended my political fight here in Naga. I trace my roots here. Naga has always been a source of pride for me," Roco told his supporters who met him at the Naga airport.

His supporters who welcomed him chanted: "Tuloy ang laban (The fight goes on), Roco-Aquino," in reference to his running mate, former Tarlac Rep. Herminio Aquino.

The mood was festive as Roco’s supporters wore his trademark floral shirt. Others were clad in floral vests or yellow shirts.

Among the five presidential contenders, only Roco has a regional bailiwick, which is the Bicol region. Mrs. Arroyo hails from Pampanga while movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. is from Pangasinan. Sen. Panfilo Lacson and evangelist Eduardo Villanueva, on the other hand, come from the provinces of Cavite and Bulacan, respectively.

Among those who welcomed Roco at the airport were members of his volunteer group, Aksyon Kabataan, who traveled all the way from Roco’s residence in La Vista, Quezon City to this city via a caravan.

From the airport, Roco’s supporters held a motorcade in Camarines Sur, which ended at the Plaza Rizal here last night.

Roco’s provincemates lined the street to have a glimpse of him or shake his hand. Others flashed the Alyansa’s "I Love You" hand sign when the motorcade passed by their houses.

While Roco opted to go back to his home province before the campaign period officially ends today, other Alyansa candidates also went home to their respective bailiwicks.

According to Aquino, who was in his hometown in Tarlac yesterday, the party decided to campaign separately to cover "as much area as possible."

"As the election is drawing near, we deem it necessary to focus on our respective bailiwicks. But although we are not together, we still stand as one. The fight goes on for the Alyansa ng Pag-asa," Aquino said in a telephone interview.

And while still being haunted by doubts about his health and limited logistics, the 62-year-old Roco is confident that he would win the presidency. He is banking on the votes of the youth, which has long been identified with him.

In 1998, Roco lost the presidential race but still landed a strong third due to the votes from the women and youth sectors.

"Ang boses ng kabataan nakalimutan na nila. Binabalewala ang lakas ng kabataan. Naniniwala akong sa tulong ng kabataan, makakamtan natin ang hinahangad nating pagbabago (The voice of the youth is forgotten. I believe that through the youth we can achieve our goal of change)," Roco noted in a press briefing.

Half of the country’s 43 million registered voters are young people. Roco is hopeful that he could get around 12 million or half of the youth votes at the very least.

Roco warned his rivals against cheating, claiming that the Filipino people will no longer tolerate it. He also urged the electorate to guard their votes to ensure a credible election.

He added that change is still not a lost cause for the Philippines if the electorate would choose the right person for the presidency.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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