MANILA,  JUNE 16, 2004
By Gerry Baldo and Sherwin C. Olaes  -  The gloves are off for opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr.

Lambasting President Arroyo and her administration for their “greed for power,” Poe, known more popularly as FPJ yesterday directly accused her of attempting to steal the vote and the will of the people, making it clear to his supporters he will fight to uphold the people's will because this is more important than the presidency.

“It is not only the presidency that is at stake here. Even more important is the people's will that is at stake. And this is what we are going to fight for,” FPJ yesterday told a cheering audience in Malabon, during his visit to Malabon Mayor Amado Vicencio.

In a virtual declaration of war against Mrs. Arroyo and the bureaucratic machinery she continues to utilize to remain in power and position, Poe accused the President of cheating to win the vote, in an attempt to perpetuate herself in power.

Recalling the elections and the days following the polls, Poe told his audience in Pilipino: “You probably already know about the cheating that had occurred during the elections, and this happened because we have a President and an administration that is greedy for power and will do everything to remain in power.”

At the same time, the opposition presidential bet lashed out at the administration congressmen and senators for blindly supporting and protecting an illegitimate President.

Poe or FPJ, during the first stop in his post-election sortie in Metro Manila to thank his supporters, took the legislators to task for making themselves part of the cheating machinery of Mrs. Arroyo and Malacañang, whose administration he described as one that is selfish and protective of its interests and never of the interest of the many in society.

He scored the congressional allies of Mrs. Arroyo for their continued acts of ignoring the observations of the opposition members of the joint canvassing board on the necessity of referring to the statements of votes (SoV) and the certificates of election returns (CER) when the certificates of canvass' (CoC) authenticity and due execution of the documents are in question.

Poe pointed to the administration lawmakers' penchant for consistently voting down any and all objections posed by the opposition members to defer the canvassing of a questioned CoC.

He also scored the congressional allies of Mrs. Arroyo who are in the majority for preventing the opposition lawyers from even bringing out their evidence that would prove the fraud that was committed by the incumbent, intimating that the administration allies are determined to help Mrs. Arroyo steal the will of the electorate.

“I know you are aware of what is happening in Congress. The majority of our legislators are playing blind to the truth, even when they already know the truth of the cheating. If they have nothing to hide, if they are not afraid of the truth, why are they preventing the truth from being disclosed to the public?” Poe asked his supporters.

In a veiled call for the people's support to assert their true will, Poe reminded his supporters that Mrs. Arroyo does not have the mandate of the people.

“They (lawmakers) are trying to protect their President, the President that has no mandate of the people and that mandate from the people will never be given to her.”

He expressed apprehension over the administration members of Congress' railroad of the canvassing.

“What they are using as basis for the count are the fake CoC and what can therefore be expected is the proclamation of a fake President,” Poe told the cheering crowd.

In a message to the administration lawmakers, He stressed that the people “know they (lawmakers) are accountable to their constituents. They had better think well. What we are after is the truth, and only the truth.”

In a jampacked conference room at the Malabon City Hall, Poe wooed his supporters into asserting their right to protect their votes even as he underscored Mrs. Arroyo's abuse in using the government bureaucracy in rigging the elections.

“What you have to know is that the fight we have is a fight for the nation and the truth. All the weapons are being used by them. (Mrs. Arroyo and her allies). But we have a weapon that they do not have, and that is the truth,” the opposition presidential bet said.

Poe, however, dismissed reports that the KNP is gearing for another popular uprising.

“We must all remain calm. Let us not talk about an Edsa revolt for now,” he stressed, saying the stand of the KNP has always been for reconciliation on the condition that the true will of the people prevails.

“As the saying goes, the fight is far from over,” Poe noted, saying, “I am not used to retreating from any fight” and this is a fight for the people because at stake is the people's will.”

He thanked the people for their support in the last elections. “I and my family thank you for your support and your love.”

Meanwhile, Malacañang also yesterday, smarting from the charges raised by Poe Monday evening during a televised interview, advised FPJ to be “patriotic and behave like a statesman.”

Deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said, reacting to the charges raised by Poe on Mrs. Arroyo's “greed for power” and the fraud she committed in an attempt to steal the will of the people: “We just hope that it (Poe's statement) would not create a disorder. We have heard our President stressing that we should be all patriotic and (display) statesmanship. That is what we all should think about for the sake of our country. What is important now is that we finish the canvassing of votes in Congress to immediately proclaim the winner in (May 10) elections,” Saludo added.

When asked to react to Poe's statement that Congress, which is dominated by the President's allies, should refer to the source election documents as mandated by the law and the Constitution, Saludo skirted the issue, stressing that “Congress has its mandate on how it would canvass the votes, the CoC, SoV and the election returns. Our only wish is that the canvassing of votes should be more speedy.”

For his part, presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye blasted Poe on the latter's allegations that the administration engaged in massive and systematic cheating and that the canvassing in Congress is just a mere formality.

“We have always said our President has fought fairly and squarely. It's now up to members of Congress what the real score is, and if Congress would do its part, then we should know the official results within the next few days,” Bunye said.

During a TV interview aired last Monday, FPJ pointed the finger at Mrs. Arroyo and her administration as the destabilization culprits.

Poe said that if there are destabilization attempts against the administration, these are not coming from the opposition.

He added there is nothing to destabilize in the Arroyo government because it had been destabilized from the start with the rampant graft and corruption perpetrated under the Arroyo regime.

But Saludo hit back at Poe, saying the alleged rampant corruption at the time of the Estrada government was the reason Mrs. Arroyo made it to the presidency.

Estrada, FPJ's close friend, was ousted from power on Jan. 20, 2001 after Mrs. Arroyo and her elite mob, assisted by the military under its then Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes, staged a coup d'etat.

To this day, however, the Arroyo government has been unable to prove its plunder case against Estrada.

The Arroyo government, on the other hand, has been figuring high on the corruption list, with many charges of graft and corruption leveled against her and her government, which she and her allies have tried to evade by stonewalling investigations.

Saludo admitted that graft and corruption had been in the Arroyo administration but that they were exhausting efforts to eradicate it.

“You see, ever since, our government had been fighting this corruption. We are not denying that there is no corruption in our government...and you see that this administration has imposed measures to eradicate it. We consider corruption our enemy and we're fighting it seriously,” He said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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