MANILA,  JUNE 24, 2004
Malacañang has allegedly funneled P500 million to one of its fiercest critics, losing presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson, to divide the opposition during the election campaign.

About P25 million a week was allegedly coursed by the Palace to the former national police chief through a "prominent tycoon" identified only as "LT," a group of retired military and police generals allied with Fernando Poe Jr. said in a statement to the press yesterday.

"It’s about time that Lacson should be true to himself and be man enough to show his usual color," the Alliance of Generals and Flags Officers (AGFO) said.

Lacson’s camp has refused to give any comment. Lacson is currently out of the country.

At a press conference, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Ricardo Saludo denied the allegation and urged the opposition to accept President Arroyo’s call for political reconciliation.

Filipinos have grown tired of the political bickering and want the country to move on after a bitter election campaign, he said.

The AGFO has accused Lacson of making an "unholy alliance" with Mrs. Arroyo for heeding her call for political reconciliation in the wake of a bitter election campaign that saw the camps of Mrs. Arroyo and Poe trading accusations.

In a statement issued Monday, Lacson vowed to "remain as a watchdog and fiscalizer" even as he urged "everybody to leave politics behind and give the president-elect the chance to rebuild the country."

His gesture of conciliation followed a similar move made three weeks earlier by former senator Raul Roco.

"His statement was expected from someone who obviously betrayed his supporters and abandoned his followers by selling off his presidential bid with the administration in exchange for the dropping of the controversial Kuratong Baleleng case and for a campaign kitty of P500 million," the group said in a statement.

The group was referring to the May 1995 case in which Lacson was allegedly involved in a summary execution of 11 robbery gang members when he was then head of a police task force.

The case is under review by a Quezon City regional trial court.

"Lacson, during the latter part of the campaign, sounded more as a great apologist or prophet of President Arroyo than being an opposition candidate as he miraculously stopped his tirades against First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and the endemic corruption of the Arroyo administration," the group said.

Lacson figured last year in a widely publicized dispute with the President’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo.

In a series of speeches at the Senate, he accused Mr. Arroyo of being involved in money laundering, a charge which Mr. Arroyo has denied.

"The best barometer for the past four months" was all of Lacson’s known critics have been quiet, the AGFO added.

Poe’s coalition, the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP), claims the Arroyo administration robbed the political novice of victory in last month’s presidential race.

The KNP has vowed to fiercely contest the expected proclamation of Mrs. Arroyo by Congress as the winner in the polls.

Mrs. Arroyo’s spokesman Ignacio Bunye earlier quashed speculation that Lacson had stopped his attacks in exchange for a clean exit from the multiple murder charges filed against him in the Kuratong Baleleng case.

Lacson earlier urged Mrs. Arroyo to be sincere in her call for reconciliation with her political opponents "and not stab her opponents in the back."

Lacson became a nemesis of the administration because of his ties with deposed President Joseph Estrada.

In 1998, Estrada appointed Lacson as chief of the Philippine National Police. Lacson resigned on Jan. 21, 2001, after Estrada was ousted in a military-backed popular protest. He ran for the Senate in May 2001 under Estrada’s coalition and won.

In the run-up to the 2001 polls, the government unsuccessfully tried to link Lacson to several high-profile crimes committed by a police task force which he headed when he was then national police chief.

The enmity worsened last year when Lacson accused Mrs. Arroyo’s husband of laundering millions of pesos in secret local bank accounts under the name Jose Pidal. — with Jaime Laude

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved