MANILA,  JUNE 5, 2004
By Nikko Dizon  -  Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. will not dignify Senator-elect Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s remarks against him, his spokesman said yesterday.

Others in Poe’s camp, however, are fuming mad.

Santiago advised Poe last Thursday that after losing in the May 10 elections, he should simply cry in private and go back to making movies. He could also consider emigrating to another country and running for president there, she said.

Santiago noted that the best thing Poe could do for himself and for the country at this juncture was to join the government in its efforts to uplift the condition of the poor.

"We haven’t spoken about (Santiago’s comments) yet. But knowing him, he will just respect her personal opinion," Poe’s spokesman, Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero, told reporters.

Escudero also implied there was no point in dignifying Santiago’s comments with a counter-statement since she is allied with the administration.

"And we know who her client is," he added, referring to President Arroyo.

The FPJ Communication Group, in a statement, said the KNP "deplored the personal attack" of Santiago.

KNP legal counsel Rufus Rodriguez described Santiago’s remarks as "unbecoming of a lady senator, uncalled for, and condescending."

Manny Portes, who chairs the Freedom for Peace and Justice Movement, told The STAR that Santiago lost all credibility when she jumped the political fence because she was disappointed that Poe did not choose her to be his running mate in the May 10 elections.

"Look who’s talking now. She was on Poe’s side before and even openly challenged anyone that she will debate with anybody who attacks his person and qualifications. When Poe chose (Sen.) Loren Legarda to be his running mate, she switched positions and made a complete turnaround. She has lost her credibility," he said.

Administration lawmakers, however, called on Poe to heed Santiago’s advice to go back to movie-making. They added that the opposition’s unproven claims of massive cheating in the May 10 elections and their tactics to delay the canvass only show him as a sore loser.

Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrat Reps. Antonio Cuenco of Cebu and James Gordon of Olongapo City said Poe should not begrudge Santiago for her unsolicited advice since she drew from her own experience as a defeated presidential candidate.

Cuenco said Poe should learn from Santiago to deal with the pain of losing in private and take legal steps, rather than resorting to media to air his claims of widespread electoral fraud.

Santiago had filed a protest with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal when she lost to Fidel Ramos in 1992, but the Supreme Court ruled that she effectively abandoned her protest when she made a successful bid for the Senats in 1995.

"Like Santiago, Poe should learn to put national interest above personal ambition. His destructive, petty, vindictive behavior which he has demonstrated during and after the elections is only pulling him down," Cuenco said.

He added that the last elections had been a character test for Poe, whose confrontational behavior shattered his movie image as a heroic and noble gentleman.

"In his defeat, Poe now finds it hard to live up to his persona that won him the adulation of fans and the public before joining the political contest," Cuenco said.

Gordon said Santiago had been right in advising Poe to go to court with his claims of electoral fraud. "Poe is turning out to be a sore loser, heeding the wrong advice of his handlers. He will (earn) the people’s ire if the canvass will be delayed because of the opposition’s dilatory tactics," he said.

Gordon said Santiago is only showing concern for the actor by giving him advice that will make it easier for him to overcome his loss in the presidential election.

"We can only admire Santiago for being candid about her experience and for offering to help Poe cope with his loss," he said.

Malacañang, on the other hand, distanced itself from Santiago and her comments about Poe, despite Santiago’s successful bid for senator under the banner of the Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K-4).

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said they do not agree with everything Santiago said, particularly on what Poe should do as a loser in the presidential election.

"The good senator has a way with words but we don’t necessarily agree with everything she says. We agree with some, we disagree with others," he said.

Asked to elaborate on which points Malacañang agrees with, Bunye cited as an example the way "she handled her own self when she lost in the 1992 elections" to Ramos.

"But on the others we prefer not to make any further comments. She is supposed to raise the issues with respect to the canvassing. As far as the other statements (are concerned), this is something that is entirely her own," Bunye said.

On Poe’s repeated assertions that he won the May 10 elections, Bunye said everybody is entitled to his own opinion and assessment of the situation.

"We have a different view of the results and the outcome of the elections," he said.

The administration has maintained that Mrs. Arroyo won the elections, based on the initial tally of the Commission on Elections as well as the unofficial count of the National Movement for Free Elections and exit polls by the Social Weather Stations, which showed the President leading Poe by at least 900,000 votes. — With Marvin Sy

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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