MANILA,  May 21, 2004
By Jose Aravilla  -  If actor Fernando Poe Jr. can claim he was the winner in the presidential race, then nuisance candidate Eddie Gil can also proclaim himself as president, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos said yesterday.

Abalos made the statement yesterday, brushing aside the implications of the self-proclamation made by the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer in Zamboanga City last Wednesday.

Gil was disqualified by the poll body and the Supreme Court from the presidential race for being a "nuisance candidate."

"Eddie Gil, too, is saying that he is the president," Abalos said. "Of course everybody believes that he is the winner; let us not deny him (Poe) that belief. If that is what he believes, in the same manner Eddie Gil is saying that he is the president, let him be."

As to the legal basis of Poe’s self-proclamation, Abalos said "it is another thing" to consider.

In any case, Abalos stressed, Congress will do the job of proclaiming the winners for president and vice president. He said the Comelec has only to perform its mandate of transmitting certificates of canvass (COCs) to Congress.

Comelec Commissioner Resurreccion Borra shared Abalos’ view. "Well, wherever he (Poe) is happy, let us allow him," Borra said.

Malacañang, for its part, said it is up to Congress to initiate appropriate action against Poe for what administration officials called "unauthorized self-proclamation."

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Poe’s self-proclamation was "without legal basis."

Bunye stressed that only Congress, convening in joint session as the National Board of Canvassers, has the power to proclaim the winners in the presidential and vice presidential elections.

Congress is set to convene on Monday to begin the tally of election returns for the two national positions.

Even as the official counting has yet to be started by Congress, Poe declared himself the winner of the May 10 presidential elections, at the same time accusing incumbent President Arroyo of cheating him of victory.

Bunye earlier declared Poe runs the risk of being ridiculed for proclaiming himself victor.

He said Poe has prejudged Congress in its constitutional mandate of proclaiming the winner in the presidential elections.

"Perhaps, authorities concerned should take their own steps. As I said, it is only Congress that can proclaim the winning presidential candidate and perhaps, they should come out with (a) statement or whatever move that Congress may take to stop such kind of unauthorized proclamation," Bunye said.


Presidential campaign spokesman Michael Defensor said the administration K-4 is not contemplating any legal action against Poe and the KNP.

Defensor said the KNP camp, through spokesman Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero, clarified that Poe did not proclaim himself winner as reported.

Based on the explanation made by Escudero, Defensor said Poe was merely telling his supporters not to lose hope and to continue their vigilance in the counting of votes amid the reported massive cheating and fraud that deprived him of his projected victory over Mrs. Arroyo.

"Mr. Fernando Poe has these claims but with the clarifications of Chiz (Escudero), then we just have to take it as that," he said.

Asked if he was satisfied with Escudero’s explanation, Defensor said he is not in the position to assess the statements "but somehow it clarified the erroneous claims."

"And so with the statement of Congressman Chiz Escudero, I am sure that we have personalities in the opposition responsible enough to observe and to ensure that no personality or no groups in the opposition will be irresponsible so as not to accept the official count and the final result of the votes for the presidency," he said.

Defensor, however, called on Poe to be more responsible in his statements and prevent situations that may agitate his supporters.

He reassured the KNP that the government will not stop them from doing their own quick count even as Comelec is already underway to tally the results of last week’s national votes.

He said the government is implementing measures against possible disruption and sabotage of the canvassing of votes.

On the other hand, lawmakers slammed Poe for his self-proclamation.

‘Test Of Character’

Mindanao lawmakers led by Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay and Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte said the grueling presidential race has been a character test for Poe, which they claimed the actor failed miserably.

"Poe’s desperate gambit anchored on his unique amalgam of show business and traditional politics was actually becoming a horror movie and tragic-comedy all rolled into one, with investors deeply disturbed by his threats of destabilization and foreign observers merely amused at his antics," Pichay said.

Barbers said Poe has been self-destructing by proclaiming himself winner and for inflaming the people over the claims of cheating.

Barbers said Poe should wait for the results of the NBC canvass. "He should be statesman enough in respecting the rule of law and for working for unity and stability after the elections," he said.

A top police official also urged Poe to wait until the results of the official canvassing are announced.

Stressing his personal opinion, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao said Poe should be reminded the election process is not over yet.

"It is his (Poe’s) personal opinion (that he is the winner), that is his belief. But as far as we are concerned, we should first finish the election process," Goltiao said.

For the meantime, Goltiao said the PNP is continuously monitoring movements of some political groups which are said to be planning destabilization and massive protests to prevent any proclamation, particularly for Mrs. Arroyo.

"We are continuing our efforts in gathering information against these groups," Goltiao said. - With Marichu Villanueva, Delon Porcalla, Christina Mendez

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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