MANILA,  May 28, 2004
By Nikko Dizon  -  Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) spokesman Mike Romero insisted yesterday it was opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. who won, contrary to the claim of the administration.

"We won by one million votes," Romero said in a telephone interview. He accused the administration of conditioning the minds of the people that President Arroyo won.

He said that as of May 25, the quick count of the KNP’s People’s Action and Tally Center (PATC) at the Makati Coliseum in Makati showed Poe leading Mrs. Arroyo by 500,000 votes. The latest figures were not available as of press time.

A KNP source told The STAR that the opposition plans to speak with some members of the military and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) who could help boost its claim of massive cheating by the administration.

The source said the opposition is eyeing military men who were relieved from their posts and demoted, as well as Comelec officials who were "forced to do something that they did not want to do."

"We are convincing them to step forward. We will need a Chavit vis-a-vis Erap, former allies who are dismayed with the administration. Something as dramatic as that," said the source, who asked not to be named.

In a separate interview, KNP campaign manager Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay said the opposition would "reveal" these witnesses during the national canvassing.

"We will present our witnesses if necessary. It depends on what will happen during the canvassing," Binay told The STAR, adding that the KNP already has many witnesses and he finds nothing wrong with convincing more people to come forward.

In a statement, the KNP also said lawyers for Poe will present "full-proof evidence of specific and massive cases of poll fraud in the May 10 elections" at the national canvassing of Congress for president and vice president.

As this developed, massive dagdag-bawas (vote shaving and padding) that allegedly robbed KNP vice presidential bet Sen. Loren Legarda of thousands of votes has been reported in at least one town in Sultan Kudarat.

Lawyer Ed Escueta, Legarda’s campaign manager, revealed yesterday that the former broadcaster clearly defeated Sen. Noli de Castro by a wide margin in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat but was robbed of victory through false and manufactured entries in the statements of votes.

Escueta said they would make available to the media illustrative data showing the discrepancies between the ERs and SVs of the polling precincts.

Meanwhile, Malacañang refused yesterday to issue gag orders on Palace officials who kept declaring the President has won the May 10 elections even as there is no formal proclamation yet by Congress.

As far as the Palace is concerned, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Secretary Gabriel Claudio and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Michael Defensor have not violated any rules nor breach of decorum in their supposed attempts to preempt Congress in proclaiming winners in the presidential and vice presidential elections.

Claudio and Defensor, respectively, served as official campaign manager and official presidential campaign spokesman of Mrs. Arroyo in the Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K-4).

Speaking over the government-run Radyo ng Bayan, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the two Palace officials, assisted by the President’s election lawyers Romulo Macalintal, were merely doing their job "to counter" the disinformation campaign of the opposition’s KNP that it was Poe who won the presidential elections based on their own unofficial tally.

"This is by way of explaining only and to balance the views (of the people) because if we do not explain the situation, it might create in the minds of the public that what the KNP has been claiming is true and factual," Bunye pointed out.

Bunye also cited that Macalintal presented in a press conference election results based on documents that the K-4 obtained as a party accredited by the Comelec.

"But these are not official and we know that the official count is being done by the joint session of Congress," he said.

Deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo also defended his two Palace colleagues, saying that "All that these people have done is simply cite what they say are tallies compiled by the Comelec based on the returns that were tabulated for the senatorial and party-list canvassing."

"We certainly do not want to be held in contempt. There is certainly no reason to tell people to stop sharing information with the public. We have freedom of information and that’s all they’re doing. We see no reason to stop them from undertaking information activities that they are doing," Saludo pointed out.

He denied reports that the Palace supposedly instructed officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to announce that Mrs. Arroyo and De Castro have won the May 10 elections during the briefing they gave last Monday before the members of the diplomatic community.

"We do not know if they (DFA) in fact made such a statement officially or unofficially. We do not know the basis of that statement because as you know canvassing has not started in Congress which is the only entity empowered to proclaim the winners of the presidential and vice presidential elections," Saludo pointed out.

He said though that he would check with DFA if there was such a declaration made by any government official during the briefing. — With Marichu Villanueva, Delon Porcalla

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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