MANILA,  May 21, 2004
By Nikko Dizon  -  Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. is already "looking for a place where he will take his oath as the 15th president of the Philippines at noon of June 30," according to the KNP.

The Quirino Grandstand at Manila’s Rizal Park, Lingayen in Pangasinan, Calamba City in Laguna and General Santos City in Mindanao are the locales on Poe’s list as possible inaugural venues.

Because Poe "is a stickler for tradition," the KNP secretariat said, "he wants to take his oath of office on the same spot where presidents before him had vowed before God and people to obey all laws of the land."

Lingayen is one of the choices because Poe traces his roots to Pangasinan and Calamba was included in the list for "historical reasons" since it is the birthplace of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Calamba is also located in the center of Southern Tagalog, the country’s most populous and richest region.

General Santos City is also on Poe’s list as a place where he can be sworn into office and start his first day of work to show his commitment to develop Mindanao.

"General Santos is also the perfect tableau for the emerging inaugural theme of national unity, as that melting pot is proof that people from diverse backgrounds can work together to build a peaceful, progressive place," FPJ Communications Group head Susan Tagle said.

In another development, former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Harriet Demetriou, acting as legal counsel for the KNP, has sought an audit into the manner by which the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) conducted its quick count.

Demetriou is asking Namfrel to submit a list of precincts reported and posted, inclusive of precinct numbers and precinct locations with actual votes for the presidential candidates.

She also wants copies of Namfrel’s "time log" indicating the exact time Namfrel received the certificates of election returns from the precincts, as well when these results were posted in the Namfrel tabulation center and published for public consumption.

Demetriou also asked for a copy of the Namfrel operator console log from its main server from day one of the counting to the present. She asked the poll watchdog to include explanations of the files, programs and other technical data used by Namfrel in collating the election results.

She also wants Namfrel to tell the KNP the number of voters who actually voted, based on its quick count reports, vis-a-vis the number of registered voters on a per region basis.

Demetriou also asked Namfrel chairman Jose Concepcion to explain what parameters Namfrel is using in deciding whether to post a report or not and the criteria it is adopting to "convert" the reported data from its original submitted forms to published format.

Her letter was sent after KNP chairman Sen. Edgardo Angara sent a letter of his own to Namfrel asking the poll watchdog to explain how President Arroyo’s votes could have surged past Poe’s overnight.

Poe’s personal campaign manager, Sen. Vicente Sotto III, said he expects a big debate once the joint session of Congress convenes to conduct the official canvass of votes for president and vice president on Monday.

"We expect a big debate in Congress," Sotto said. "We are going to fight it out in Congress."

Re-elected Davao City Rep. Elias Ruy Lopez agreed with Sotto, saying "it is troublesome. Really troublesome." He said there would be cases where the certificates of canvass would be contested — a situation that would be resolved by calling in Namfrel, the Comelec and other parties that received copies of the certificates of canvass so these copies could be compared.

"In case it would not be resolved, we shall request for the election returns and it would be a really long and tedious process," Lopez said.

He also said that the KNP has so far gathered cases of vote-buying, threats and intimidation, vote padding and the sale of certificates of canvass as part of its evidence of poll fraud.

In Davao City, Poe accused Malacañang of "poisoning the minds of the people that they are winning. Let us not be hypocrites here." Poe spoke before reporters at a press conference at the Grand Regal Hotel here.

Poe again said he won the presidential elections, adding that early results of the vote canvassing were manipulated to show Mrs. Arroyo in the lead.

He has urged groups involved in the canvassing of election results and the media to be honest in reporting the true results and not favor any candidates or parties.

"What these groups do is report only results in areas they are winning and they are not actually coming out with the true results," Poe said.

Poe arrived in Davao City Wednesday night before proceeding to the cities of Zamboanga and General Santos so he could personally check on reported massive poll fraud.

He was accompanied by Sotto, KNP executive committee chairman and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay and actor Eddie Garcia. Instead of proceeding to Cebu City as they had originally planned, they flew back to Manila to attend to certain important matters.

"There is massive fraud and we are going to prove it," Poe said, adding that the KNP’s lawyers have been instructed to look into allegations of cheating without letup.

He said the KNP is already evaluating the evidence it has gathered to back up their claims of massive cheating by the administration. "We shall submit our proof that will show who really is the true winner."

He added that the KNP will also present witnesses to their claims, including personnel from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Poe brushed aside allegations that the KNP is just grandstanding by airing its allegations of poll fraud against the Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan para sa Kinabukasan (K-4).

"We are not grandstanding," he said. "We just came here to show that there is cheating."

Binay said there is more than enough evidence to show the administration committed massive election fraud.

"We shall continue submitting the evidence we have gathered from the field to the different groups concerned," he said.

Besides giving copies of their evidence to the Comelec, the KNP will also furnish copies of their proof to election watchdog groups like the church-based Coalition on Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections.

Sotto said the KNP will continue to sustain the momentum is has gained by calling the public’s attention to the cheating in the May 10 elections. "We will still be going around the country to show that, indeed, there was cheating during the last elections," he said.

Poe took the opportunity during his swing through Mindanao’s main cities to thank "our volunteers, who, through their sweat, blood and even their own expense," worked with the KNP campaign "just so they could stand by what they believed in."

According to Sotto, "campaign funds have become a problem. We had to go through the eye of a needle — that is what we had to go through."

Unlike the K-4, which he described as having unlimited funds, the KNP was working on a very limited budget during the 90 days of the campaign period. — With Paolo Romero, Edith Regalado

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved