MANILA,  May 20, 2004
By Jess Diaz  -  Like his opposition rival, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson does not believe that the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) is doing an honest and impartial vote count.

Lacson said yesterday the family of businessman Jose Concepcion Jr., who heads Namfrel, supported the candidacy of President Arroyo.

In fact, the Concepcion-owned RFM Corp. produced during the election campaign bottled water bearing Mrs. Arroyo’s photo, he said.

"The problem with Namfrel is what it did in 1986. It stopped counting after the results showed that its candidate was leading. This time, how can you believe it if it distributes ‘GMA for President’ bottled water? Nothing good can be expected of it," he said.

He added that a Malacañang official even handed out samples of the bottled water to journalists covering the President.

Poe’s camp has accused Namfrel of partiality and resorting to trending, claiming the election watchdog has not included in its tally votes from Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog where the movie actor beat Mrs. Arroyo by a wide margin.

The actor’s lawyers are seeking the basis for the Namfrel tally, which shows the President leading Poe by more than one million votes.

Lacson told his lawyers and supporters to ignore Namfrel’s unofficial count and to keep watching the still-unfinished canvass in some provinces and cities.

"We asked our volunteers not to be distracted by the quick counts and exit polls. They should do their job and report the results accurately while guarding our votes," he said.

He said he was particularly addressing his appeal to his watchers in Mindanao, where he added "money flows for cheating purposes."

Lacson reiterated that he would not concede until the last vote is counted because premature conceding could open the floodgates to cheating.

He said dagdag-bawas operators usually work on the votes of those conceding defeat because these candidates are no longer interested in protecting the votes they received.

On another matter, Lacson said he harbors no grudge against his former boss, ousted President Joseph Estrada, who supported Poe’s presidential bid.

He said when he visited the former president at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City long before the election campaign started, Estrada would always tell him that he would support him in case Poe did not run.

"But if Poe will run, you have to understand I have to support him," he quoted the disgraced leader as saying.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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