MANILA,  JUNE 18, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva  -  Malacañang asserted yesterday it will "never yield to mob rule" as the government is committed to maintain law and order amid reports that the opposition will launch mass actions to delay the proclamation of winners in the May 10 presidential elections.

"We will never yield to mob rule," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said. "The constitutional process will never yield to any form of mob rule."

Bunye also announced Malacañang is preparing to deal with opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. on his plans to hold his own oath-taking and inaugural on June 30.

He said Malacañang is taking such reports as just "hypothetical at this time."

"We will deal with the problem (of Poe’s separate oath-taking) at a proper time," Bunye said.

Bunye noted with concern reports that Poe is personally leading destabilization moves against the administration in touring around the country to gather support on his accusations of massive cheating and electoral fraud.

Political allies and supporters in the KNP are reportedly gearing up for mass actions in Metro Manila to denounce the ongoing canvass of the votes for president and vice president in Congress.

Poe’s supporters alleged the administration cheated its way through the May 10 vote to make it appear President Arroyo won the elections.

Bunye reaffirmed the Palace’s position that the May 10 elections were generally peaceful and credible, citing the assessment by various organizations and foreign poll observers.

Bunye also dismissed talks of another power grab in the making by certain military officials as "coffee shop talk."

Bunye expressed anew hopes by Malacañang that Poe supporters are not that keen on carrying out coup attempts against the administration.

"The authorities are on top of the situation," Bunye said. "They are prepared to maintain law and order, enable democracy to take its course and protect the people from any attempt at destabilization."

‘The Assassins’

Bunye said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have laid out preparations to respond to specific threats to national security.

For their part, PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao said the entire force of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) in Metro Manila remains in full alert on reports that Poe supporters are gearing up for mass actions.

Goltiao said all groups identified with the opposition are being monitored, citing the peaceful dispersal of Poe rallyists led by actor Niño Muhlach near the vicinity of EDSA Shrine in Mandaluyong City Wednesday night.

Goltiao said the crowd that attempted to gather at the EDSA Shrine could be part of a bigger plan to launch simultaneous rallies to install Poe as president.

Goltiao, however, belittled the capability of Poe supporters to launch a "people power" type destabilization plot to unseat Mrs. Arroyo.

He said Poe’s allies always fail to muster enough support to launch mass actions anchored on their accusations of mass electoral fraud.

Goltiao said the PNP and the AFP vowed to support the duly constituted authority and would not support any destabilization plans against the government.

"The destabilization needs an armed component, which (Poe’s supporters) do not have. (All they have) is plain mass action," Goltiao said.

A report from the NCRPO’s regional intelligence and investigation division under Superintendent Rogelio Damazo revealed the supposed timetable and various activities of several groups for this week until early next month.

The report revealed pockets of mass actions are expected from militant groups which included the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Sanlakas, Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino and Freedom from Debt Coalition.

On the alleged plot by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) to assassinate Poe, the police spokesman said he has no knowledge that PNP chief Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. personally relayed the information to the actor.

Ebdane disclosed Wednesday that Poe is in great danger citing intelligence reports that two NPA hit men have been deployed in Metro Manila to assassinate the popular movie star, which would later be blamed on the Arroyo administration.

PNP intelligence chief Director Robert Delfin later identified the two alleged NPA hit men as Leo Velasco and Prudencio Kalubid.

Both are members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-special operations military staff, Delfin said.

Delfin added Kalubid is the chairman of the CPP-NPA’s regional party committee in Region 2 while Velasco served as former regional committee secretary of the NPA in Region 8.

History Repeating Itself

Despite efforts by the political opposition to delay the canvassing in Congress, Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo has not wavered in her call for unity.

"Unity and reconciliation are still our best hope," he said.

At the same time, Bunye renewed his calls for the opposition to allow the completion of the canvass in Congress to finally put an end to the prevailing post election tensions in the country.

"It’s about time that we set aside our personal and partisan political interests (and) take into account on what would benefit more the greater majority of our people and to have the proclamation of the May 10 winners be done and over with at the earliest possible time," Bunye said.

There were also fears and concerns of a possible repeat of two presidents in 1986 where Corazon Aquino was sworn in as President at the historic Club Filipino while deposed strongman Ferdinand Marcos took his oath of office in Malacañang.

Bunye said they would hold further public statements on preparations for oath-taking and inaugural ceremonies.

He said public disclosures on preparation for the inauguration of the President on June 30 would only add to the tensions generated by the ongoing canvass in Congress.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Ricardo Saludo, for his part, belied claims by Poe supporters that Mrs. Arroyo was swept into power in January 2001 by the same "mob rule" that the Palace is now warning about.

"I don’t think you can call a decision by the Supreme Court to swear in her (Mrs. Arroyo) as the next President as a mob rule. She was elevated to the presidency by an act that is under the Constitution," Saludo said.

Asked how the Palace would define "mob rule," Saludo replied: "It is when the processes of democracy and the Constitution are set aside in favor of the rule of the mob."

Saludo also concurred with Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign spokesman Michael Defensor that Poe has not yet gone over the brink.

Saludo said the government would continue to regard Poe’s public statements as still within his freedom of expression.

Defensor clarified yesterday that Poe has not yet committed any act that would be considered illegal when the actor claimed Mrs. Arroyo would end up as "bogus president" once Congress proclaims her based on the tabulation of "fake" certificates of canvass (COCs).

"The words itself were not illegal yet. This is well within his (Poe) rights to speak. But there are statements, though not coming from him but there are some of his urban poor group supporters calling up to arms their colleagues to grab power from Malacañang," Defensor said.

"Once they (Poe supporters) actually do this or try to overthrow the government, that is already outside the boundary of law and this already rebellion or inciting to sedition," he said. — With Christina Mendez

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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