MANILA,  May 14, 2004
By Jess Diaz  -  Opposition presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson urged President Arroyo yesterday to be sincere in her call for reconciliation with her political opponents.

"She should be sincere this time and not stab her opponents in the back using the reconciliation call," Lacson told a news conference.

Mrs. Arroyo informed Lacson of her reconciliation plan during last Sunday’s "unity Mass" organized by former President Corazon Aquino. The Mass was also attended by the three other presidential candidates, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., former senator Raul Roco and evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva.

Asked if he thought the President was sincere in proposing reconciliation, the former Philippine National Police chief said, "Yes, I saw sincerity in her face, if only because she made the offer inside the church."

"I think it’s about time that we all work together for the good of the country, and not for the good of any particular individual. Masyado na tayong lugmok," he said.

He said despite at least two instances in the past when he was treated badly by the administration, he was willing to give Mrs. Arroyo the benefit of the doubt.

Lacson did not go into specifics, but in the past he has narrated to journalists who covered him during the campaign that when the President took over from ousted President Joseph Estrada, he handed in his courtesy resignation.

He said he was surprised a few days later when Malacañang announced that "I was sacked."

He has also repeatedly complained that the administration was incessantly trying to revive the Kuratong Baleleng charges against him and more than 30 co-accused police officers despite the fact that the courts have dismissed the case six times.

The former PNP chief said while he was open to working with Mrs. Arroyo for the good of the country, he would remain her critic and would continue exposing "Jose Pidal and his ilk."

"We will engage in constructive criticism, and whoever will be elected president should listen," he said.

In August and September last year, he made a three-part exposé‚ in which he accused First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo of hiding about P260 million in supposedly illegal funds using the false name Jose Pidal. Arroyo has consistently denied the accusation.

Lacson laughed off rumors that he is open to reconciliation and his camp is shying away from post-election street protests because "I have been bought by Mrs. Arroyo."

"To those spreading these rumors, let them die sowing intrigues. I cannot be bought," he said.

Asked to react to the call of former President Fidel Ramos and Senate President Franklin Drilon for losing presidential candidates to concede defeat to calm the nation, the opposition senator said there are no winners and losers at this time.

He said the official count of votes for president and vice president hasn’t even started yet.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said it was "pleasantly surprised" at Lacson’s "most statesmanly" reaction to the President’s call for sobriety and prudence following the heated elections.

"We are all so pleasantly surprised... we’re happy with the reaction of the camp of Senator Lacson that ... instead of joining protest actions, they are just guarding the process," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

This was in stark contrast to the threats made by the opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino which was poised to take to the streets to denounce alleged massive cheating against their standard-bearer, Poe.

Bunye said yesterday that Lacson was the last person they expected to come out with such reconciliatory statements in response to Mrs. Arroyo’s calls for unity. — With Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved