MANILA,  May 24, 2004
President Arroyo won in 12 of the country’s 20 poorest provinces, shattering the perception that opposition front-runner Fernando Poe Jr. is the "champion of the masses," a congressman said yesterday.

Butil party-list Rep. Benjamin Cruz, who chairs the House committee on the 20 depressed provinces, said based on the administration coalition’s copy of the provincial certificates of canvass (COCs), Mrs. Arroyo won in Antique, Agusan del Sur, Biliran, Benguet, Batanes, Guimaras, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Masbate, Surigao del Sur, Eastern Samar and Southern Leyte.

Poe, on the other hand, topped election results in Abra, Apayao, Aurora, Kalinga and Romblon.

Cruz said the COCs do not include the results from three other poor provinces — Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Basilan — which have yet to be submitted.

"The President’s victory in these poorest provinces has proven the massive impact of her pro-poor programs and the appreciation of local residents (for) what she has done to uplift their lives in the three years she has been in office," he said in a statement.

Cruz cited that Mrs. Arroyo identified her priority programs for the poor, which she vowed to fulfill should she be elected. These include barangay energization and electricity cost reduction, discounted medicine prices, scholarships for the poor, construction of school buildings, tripling of the amount of loans that can be availed by small businesses and the self-employed, creation of jobs till 2010 and the provision of clean water to all barangays.

"The opposition’s black propaganda against the President and her pro-poor programs failed to persuade the poor into rejecting the President because they themselves have experienced and benefited from these programs, which have a long-term positive effect on their lives," he said.

Cruz noted that Mrs. Arroyo’s clean water project alone benefited a total of 937,842 poor families in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, while her "Isang Iskolar Bawat Pamilya" aims to send one child each from five million families to college or vocational school.

The barangay energization program, on the other hand, has provided electricity to 4,326 far-flung barangays — compared to an average of 3,000 barangays under each of the three previous administrations, he added.

Liberal Party Rep. Florencio Abad of Batanes; Nationalist People’s Coalition Rep. Marcelino Libanan of Eastern Samar; and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrat Reps. Exequiel Javier of Antique, Prospero Pichay of Surigao del Sur, and Mauricio Domogan of Baguio City said the President’s victory in their provinces affirmed the people’s support and gratitude for her pro-poor programs. — Delon Porcalla

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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