MANILA,  JUNE 12, 2004
By Angie M. Rosales  -  If plans miscarry for the administration, over its anticipated eventual proclamation of President Arroyo as the one who would emerge as winner in the May 10 presidential race, the opposition would not be caught flat-footed on June 30, the date of proclamation of the new leader of the country as mandated by the Constitution.

Both camps are all geared up for the proclamation and assumption of office of their respective bets.

The latest buzz is that the opposition would not be left behind as far as “preparations” are concerned, as actress Susan Roces, wife of Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr., also an actor, had already ordered her “gown” for her spouse's oath-taking.

If Mrs. Arroyo had reportedly enlisted couturier Inno Sotto to prepare her inaugural dress, Roces opted to tap a rather less popular fashion designer.

Sources yesterday said the incumbent had given the go-signal to her wardrobe consultant Joanne Zapanta-Andrada to have her dress prepared by Sotto even as canvassing of votes in the presidential and vice presidential races is still being done by Congress. (See related story)

Not so fast as “(Roces) firmly believes that FPJ (Poe's initials) won in this year's elections so it is only but logical that she has to prepare for the inauguration,” the same sources said.

The sources, however, would not name Roces' choice for couturier but said the latter is not among the so-called popular choices of the rich and famous in the country.

The reason, they said, is that the multi-awarded actress, popularly called Swannie, prefers unknown designers but whom she has known for several years.

The sources did not elaborate on the “details” of Roces' gown such as the color although they are not discounting the possibility of her picking a dress in blue since it is the known favorite color of her husband.

Mrs. Arroyo, the reports said, would have two choices — an aquamarine terno of French silk gauze if her oath-taking would be done indoors and a red coat dress if it would take place outdoors.

Poe himself is into the thick of preparations for his “inauguration” as he is now engaged in the process of creating a selection committee to fill up his Cabinet.

Earlier, opposition Rep. Francis Escudero said the selection of FPJ's advisers was based on the candidates' expertise.

These advisers, it was said, do not necessarily become members of Poe's official family.

FPJ has claimed victory in the May 10 presidential elections.

Votes for him, however, were deducted and added to the votes of his chief rival, Mrs. Arroyo, the KNP said.

KNP lawyers claimed Poe lost two million votes through vote-shaving, 600,000 of which were from Mindanao.

The Arroyo camp, on the other hand, claimed Mrs. Arroyo's votes were trimmed by two million.

The KNP has announced that Poe has instructed his staff to look for a place where he could take his oath as the 15th President of the Philippines on June 30.

Susan Tagle, director of FPJ Communications Group, also yesterday said they are considering at least four sites — three in Luzon and one in Mindanao — as the possible place for the inauguration.

It was Poe who gave the order to his aides “to prepare for the inauguration,” Tagle added.

The order came after copies of election returns that the KNP has showed Poe winning by a wide margin over Mrs. Arroyo.

“The shortlist of the inaugural sites have been submitted to FPJ and he will make public his choice soon,” Tagle said in a statement.

Among the places recommended to be inaugural sites are the Quirino Grandstand in Manila's Rizal Park, Lingayen in Pangasinan; National Hero Jose Rizal's hometown of Calamba in Laguna; and General Santos City in Mindanao.

Quirino Grandstand has been the traditional venue of presidential inaugurals for nearly 60 years, except during the inaugurations of Corazon Aquino, Joseph Estrada and Mrs. Arroyo.

Aquino took her oath of office at Club Filipino in San Juan, Metro Manila, after a successful civilian-backed military revolt in 1986.

Estrada, after being elected by a wide margin, chose to be inaugurated in Malolos, Bulacan.

Mrs. Arroyo rushed to the Edsa Shrine in Mandaluyong City to take her oath of office after Estrada decided to take his leave of absence from Malacañang in 2001.

“Mr. Poe is a stickler for tradition. He knows his history and 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,” the KNP statement said.

General Santos was included, the statement pointed out, “in case he would opt to start his first official day as President in Mindanao and to show the people there his commitment to develop the South from Day One in office.”

General Santos is also a perfect tableau for the emerging inaugural theme of national unity as the melting pot is proof that people from diverse backgrounds can work together to build a peaceful and progressive place, it said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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