MANILA,  May 19, 2004
By Christina Mendez  -  Alleged destabilization efforts by the opposition aimed at stopping a possible proclamation of President Arroyo on June 30 will be thwarted by the Philippine National Police, a ranking PNP official declared yesterday.

A massive recruitment is allegedly ongoing in depressed areas in Metro Manila led by the People’s Movement Against Poverty (PMAP), which is allied with detained former President Joseph Estrada, the official - who is involved in the gathering of information on alleged destabilization moves - told The STAR.

Recruitments were said to be monitored at the Talanay area in Batasan Hills, Quezon City where alleged PMAP leader Resty Lopez promised P300 to P500 per participant.

"There will likely be attempts by the opposition to create a scenario that will prevent the proclamation of the official winners for president and vice president by June 30," said the source.

The police general, who requested anonymity, added "the recruitment of PMAP members and the move to enjoin other cause-oriented groups in the projected massive rallies will be used as part of the civilian component of the destabilization effort."

The planned rallies are believed to be similar to the May 1, 2001 attempt by Estrada’s followers to seize Malacañang after the ousted leader was arrested on graft and plunder charges.

According to the source, the PNP has doubled its efforts at gathering information, particularly against the opposition’s Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP), which is reportedly behind widespread efforts to discredit results of the canvassing.

The KNP has Fernando Poe Jr. as its standard-bearer, but the actor is trailing Mrs. Arroyo by over a million votes in unofficial and partial quick counts by an election watchdog. Poe is Estrada’s bosom buddy.

The President’s running mate, Sen. Noli de Castro is also leading Poe’s vice presidential bet Sen. Loren Legarda in the same quick count.

The KNP is accusing Malacañang of massive electoral fraud as it also doubts the credibility of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) in the conduct of its quick count.

Poe’s camp alleges that Namfrel is setting a trend to make it appear like the President is winning the race.

"They (alleged destabilizers) believe that Mr. Fernando Poe Jr. is winning in the polls, but they are awaiting for the canvassing to progress... before they conduct the massive protests," the police general said.

"It seems there are plans not to allow President Arroyo to take oath," added the source.

Poe has repeatedly called on his supporters to remain calm but vigilant in the counting of votes.

Poe’s spokesman Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero earlier said the KNP standard-bearer is not likely to support calls for massive protest actions even as opposition leaders have warned of massive rallies amid poll fraud allegations.

The police general refused to reveal the names of military and police officers allegedly tapped as part of the uniformed component of the alleged destabilization plot.

But the source warned that "they are being closely monitored."

In another interview, PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao said the national police is "continuously monitoring threats of destabilization." He did not go into specifics as the information is still being verified.

Meanwhile, former Army commander Jaime de los Santos refused yesterday to issue any statement on the latest development at the military with the relief of Army Col. Jose Gamus, deputy commander of the Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade based in Daraga, Albay.

"It will be unfair to comment right now," Delos Santos told The STAR in a telephone interview. De los Santos revealed last week that he and some 200 other retired military officers are guarding the canvassing of votes to ensure that the rightful president will take the oath of office.

Amid allegations of massive poll cheating by the administration, De los Santos had also warned that failure of the government to recognize the "will of the people" might lead to a "convergence of critical mass."

De los Santos seemed distant yesterday over issues pertaining reports tagging him in destabilization efforts and after the publicity generated by the order of the military to arrest Gamus for committing acts inimical to the Army’s rules and regulations.

Goltiao said it could only be a case of "misadventure" for Gamus for siding with Poe. Goltiao and Gamus are both members of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ’76. Goltiao refused to comment further, noting Gamus’ case should be better left for the military leadership to handle.

Some quarters at the PNP expressed their sentiments against the alleged move by some retired generals who have supposedly resorted to manipulating the minds of the people to advance their political interests.

"Who’s politicking? Aren’t all of those in the top PNP leadership engaged in politicking by supporting President Arroyo?" asked another senior police officer, disgruntled over the developments in the PNP and the AFP.

For his part, Gen. Guillermo Domondon, chairman of the Police Retirees’ Association Inc. (PRAI), said the retired generals will not allow the national police to be used in any destabilization move.

Speaking on behalf of the PNP active personnel, Goltiao maintained that the PNP will remain loyal to the chain of command and the leadership.

"The PNP is solidly behind the (PNP) leadership," Goltiao said. "We keep on tracking our personnel as part of normal operations. We have not monitored (any destabilization effort at the PNP), only in military camps."

He added that there is no need for the PNP leadership to conduct a headcount to account for its entire personnel, and make an inventory of its equipment because it is implementing the highest level of alert all over the country.

Although the threats have lessened in areas where the winners have been proclaimed, Goltiao said the PNP is re-implementing the conduct of chokepoints and checkpoints particularly within Metro Manila, but denied this is part of moves to thwart destabilization moves.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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