MANILA,  May 22, 2004
Eleven stalwarts of the Liberal Party (LP) who ran in the elections expressed their support yesterday for President Arroyo, whom they believe won the May 10 polls.

Led by senatorial candidate Mar Roxas II, the 11 newly elected officials from the LP met with the President over lunch at Malacañang. Roxas and re-electionist Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, another LP stalwart, were carried by the ticket of the Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K-4), the same coalition under which Mrs. Arroyo ran for president.

LP executive vice president and Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, however, admitted that Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. led the polls in Manila by over 70,000 votes.

Atienza said the President lost in Manila, a traditional opposition bailiwick, "but not as much as expected by the opposition."

"We did our best," he said. "That’s the best we could deliver — minimize the losses. That’s important in the total tally, it’s a big difference if they (the opposition) did not do what they projected to win big in Manila."

Citing the election results in the capital city, Atienza said the KNP should have every reason to believe that the elections were clean, honest and credible, contrary to claims made by Poe and the KNP leadership that massive cheating marred the elections.

The LP issued a one-page manifesto titled: "Let the people’s voice be heard, a plea for national unity." The manifesto expressed the LP’s appeal to all political parties and candidates "to leave the rancor and bitterness of the elections behind and take the high road of national unity and reconciliation."

In a press briefing after the LP officials’ luncheon with the President, Roxas said they were the ones who sought out the meeting with Mrs. Arroyo to express concern over Poe’s reported self-proclamation despite the fact that the joint session of Congress to canvass votes for president and vice president has not begun.

Congress is set to convene as a joint national canvassing body on Monday to begin the official ballot count for president and vice president based on the official Commission on Election (Comelec) returns.

It is precisely because of the coming joint session of Congress, Roxas said, that LP president and Batanes Rep. Florencio Abad and LP chairman and Senate President Franklin Drilon did not join the luncheon meeting with the President.

Abad and Drilon, Roxas said, "purposely recused themselves from this partisan activity, because they will be sitting as part of the national board of canvassers."

"Consciously, (Abad and Drilon) have recused themselves. Nonetheless, the LP is wholly supportive of President Arroyo in the just-concluded elections," he said.

As far as the LP is concerned, Mrs. Arroyo has won by a wide margin in many areas where the LP fielded local candidates over her four other challengers — Poe included, Roxas said.

"Because LP is all over the country and we have our own copy of the election results... the President enjoys the margin. We came here to show our support," Roxas, the apparent topnotcher in the Senate race said.

"The sum total of our gathering of election results show that out President won in our areas," he added. — Marichua Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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