PING OPEN TO JOINING POE, OTHERS IN PROVING POLL FRAUD

MANILA,  May 15, 2004
(STAR)
By Jess Diaz  -  The camp of independent opposition presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson is open to joining the three other opponents of President Arroyo in proving cases of election cheating and other fraud.

House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, Lacson’s lone senatorial candidate, told journalists yesterday that they are in fact in the process of documenting cheating in areas where they find it.

"This is the reason why Ping Lacson has enjoined all his supporters to stay put in canvassing centers where potential fraud could happen and not to take part in any street protests yet," he said.

Padilla said volunteer lawyers are now spread throughout the country with instructions to monitor the vote count, gather evidence of fraud and bring cases of irregularities in the canvass and in the election documents such as the certificate of votes to the attention of the canvassing boards.

"Even if the irregularities do not involve Lacson votes or Padilla votes and they involve, for instance, votes for FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.) or Bro. Eddie (Villanueva) or Raul Roco, we will try to document these and report them to the concerned candidates. We envision a joint effort against cheating," he added.

The outgoing Nueva Vizcaya congressman stressed that all candidates must fight cheating "because it subverts our electoral process and the people’s will."

He also said Lacson supporters in his provinces and in the rest of Cagayan Valley are heeding the call of his standard-bearer for them to stay away in the meantime from street protests.

Besides the Lacson camp, the groups of Poe, Villanueva and Roco are gathering evidence of election fraud which they said they intend to submit to Cardinal Ricardo Vidal.

A few days before last Monday’s election, leaders of the Catholic Church led by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, on the basis of complaints by unnamed military and police officers, warned of possible cheating.

To avoid fraudulent elections and even killings, Lacson said politicians and government officials should stop treating public office "as a business, as a means to amass wealth."

"Nagpapatayan tayo dahil akala natin negosyo ang public office, akala natin maraming pera doon. Nakakahiya tayo sa foreign observers. Public office should be honest-to-goodness public service," he said.

He said voters should also stop going to politicians for money.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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