POE'S  CAMP  WARNS  OF  PEOPLE  POWER  VS  POLL  CHEATERS

MANILA,  May 13, 2004
(STAR)
By Christina Mendez  -  A group of retired military generals warned yesterday of another "people power" uprising if national candidates continue to manipulate poll results to ensure victory.

Malacañang, however, was quick to downplay any post-election coup or destabilization scenario as they accused the political opposition of stirring up such rumors.

Opposition leaders are accusing President Arroyo’s side of corruption and plots to rig the vote count. Malacañang denies the charges and alleges that backers of opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. want to disrupt the results with violence.

In an official statement, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Monday’s national elections were supposed to be the best argument to end talks of a power grab.

The President herself said she already considers a victory that the supposed plot of a "no elections" (no-el) scenario did not succeed.

In an impromptu "thanksgiving luncheon" the President hosted for Palace reporters yesterday, she said it goes to show that the alleged "no-el" plot raised by the opposition against her administration was nothing more than black propaganda.

"You can just imagine what would have happened if one single bombing took palace and this could have been used for this no-el plot," the President pointed out.

For his part, Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign spokesman Michael Defensor admitted the Palace is concerned over supposed attempts by the opposition to stir public outrage over alleged cheating by the administration as a way of justifying fresh destabilization moves against the government.

Judging reports of alleged massive poll fraud from different groups, retired general Jaime de los Santos warned the situation might encourage the convergence of a critical mass.

"We cannot afford any crisis," said the former Army commander.

Reports of a mass uprising and revived plots of destabilization came a day after the Poe camp mobilized a crowd in Makati City and virtually accused the administration of massive poll fraud.

Apart from the retired generals, Poe’s camp also warned of a new "people power" revolt if their standard-bearer loses the presidential election through fraud.

The fighting words came as polls and surveys showed the count from Monday’s election going in different directions.

A statement from Poe’s Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) party said a repeat of "people power’ — the mass protests that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and President Joseph Estrada in 2001 — "will surely come out" if the vote count is tainted with fraud.

Poe’s camp has alleged widespread election irregularities, and he has urged his backers to "remain firm in our belief in the truth that victory is ours."

Amid the seeming restive situation in a nation where popular protests have knocked two leaders out of office, Malacañang called for sobriety and to respect the ultimate decision of the public once the canvassing of votes is finished.

"We have had enough of political bickering and desperate attempts to grab power for the last three years and we are hoping that the election has already settled these political issues," Bunye said.

As for Defensor, he said: "We are gone through the day of judgment. We have seen all kinds of smear campaigns, issues, talks about conflicts in the elections... We are still counting and we should all help to make sure there is no cheating."

In an interview with ANC cable television Tuesday night, Defensor expressed worry over the fiery rhetoric of certain candidates who appear to be losing after the release of exit poll results by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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