MANILA,  May 14, 2004
By Rene Q. Bas, Assistant Executive Editor -  THE contrast between President Arroyo and Sen. Ping Lacson, on one side, and deposed President Joseph Estrada and his best friend Fernando Poe Jr., on the other, is literally that of light and darkness, peace and violence, development and destruction.

Without waiting for the official count to be properly completed, Estrada yesterday called the current electoral process a “robbery.”

“It is time for our people to protest. They stole the seat from me, now they’re stealing the victory from [Fernando Poe],” he said.

Trusting on nothing but hearsay and the whining of also-rans, Estrada claimed President Arroyo’s camp has cheated in Metro Manila and in Mindanao and the Visayas (where she is proving to be strong).

Estrada has also rejected out of hand President Arroyo’s call for the next government to be one of national unity.

“There is no way that I could agree to a unity government with Arroyo,” he said, adding a litany of complaints against exit polls and surveys which he claimed were manipulated by the administration.

Estrada’s outburst could have been nothing more than comic relief had it not been reflected in the attitude—and rhetoric—of Fernando Poe Jr., many of his own closest advisers, including misguided former military officials who have chosen to be with the KNP.

Cheating has been a feature of Philippine elections—from the first one we ever had to elect the first Commonwealth president, Manuel Quezon. The one held in 1998, in which Estrada got 38 percent of votes cast for president, itself witnessed considerable cheating—and not only by Estrada’s rivals but, his enemies swear, by Estrada partisans too.

Not only the Comelec and the PNP but even Namfrel and the Church groups that monitored Monday’s polls have said that there has been less cheating this time.

Estrada and his pal Fernando Poe have spoken irresponsibly—maybe even unpatriotically—for fomen­ting a crisis instead of promoting the spirit of national unity and peace.

Wisely, President Arroyo has counseled her friends and supporters not to celebrate prematurely on the basis of her early and narrow lead over Poe. She has told the nation that the entire electoral process should be allowed to function until it is complete and the winners are known.

Lacson has also spoken with statesmanship. He urges his followers not to heed agitators and reject calls for protests. Instead, he tells his supporters to do everything to keep things calm while being vigilant to stop cheaters from succeeding during the canvassing.

The Palace acted correctly on Thursday when it issued a warning to destabilizers, including oppo­sition politicians out to cause hysteria, that the full force of the law will be applied on those who would sow disorder.

Many of the politicians and experts who surround Fernando Poe Jr. are upright and intelligent men and women. They should do their best to exercise some influence on their man to keep him from causing—with Estrada—catastrophic violence that would only plunge this country into deeper a hellhole of chaos, poverty and suffering.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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