NAGA CITY,  May 11, 2004
By Sheila Crisostomo  —  Alyansa ng Pag-asa standard-bearer Raul Roco urged voters yesterday to use the elections to free themselves from "ignorance, exploitation, oppression and corruption."

"The Filipino must decide. Freedom is the only known human invention today that can make you grow. That is why we must nurture it," said the former senator and education secretary, who returned here to vote with his family.

Saying he "will wait for the people’s judgment," Roco refused to predict victory for himself but expressed his gratitude to his fellow Bicolanos as well as the women and young voters who are believed to make up the bulk of his support.

"I can smell the people blessing us. It’s not so much victory. It’s the blessing of the people," he said.

Wearing a powder-blue version of his trademark floral shirt, Roco was met by applause when he alighted from his car shortly after 9 a.m. outside the gates of the Sta. Cruz Elementary School in Barangay Sta. Cruz.

He cast his vote in Precinct No. 238-A, where he was listed as voter No. 86. Voting with him in the same precinct was his wife Sonia and son Robbie Pierre.

Roco was also accompanied by his 87-year-old mother Rosario and brothers Camarines Sur congressman Sulpicio Roco Jr. and Ramon Roco, director of the Land Transportation Office for the Bicol Region.

Roco was kept under the spotlight as he filled out his ballot. He obliged reporters by showing them a straight vote for Alyansa’s national ticket, including running mate Herminio Aquino. He also voted for Alyansa’s local bet, Naga City mayor Jesse Robredo, who was running for re-election.

Outside the precinct, supporters lined up to shake Roco’s hand, while others gave him a hug or a kiss on the cheeks. He kept his mother in his protective embrace while his wife waved warmly to the crowd.

Mariano Cruz of Magsaysay street said that his support for Roco went beyond the candidate’s being a fellow Bicolano.

"His record speaks for itself. I believe that he has the best platform of government," said the 23-year-old Cruz.

But 70-year-old Elnora Cajade was less shy about voting for Bicol’s favorite son.

"Of course, Bicolanos should vote for a Bicolano," she said.

After voting, the Roco family flew back to Manila, where they would later proceed to their farm house in Antipolo City to "eat some fruit."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved