MANILA,  JUNE 24, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva  -  Malacañang expressed hopes yesterday that opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. would remain "a man of his word" and refrain from joining or leading destabilization attempts against the administration.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the Palace is keeping faith in Poe’s public avowals not to instigate his followers instead of pursuing his allegations of electoral fraud before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

"We believe that FPJ is a man of his word," Bunye said. "We are banking on his declaration that he would not participate, in any way, in any move to destabilize the government."

Bunye renewed the Palace appeals to Poe and his allies after the defeated presidential candidate of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) again accused the camp of President Arroyo of committing massive electoral fraud.

At the same time, Poe and the KNP reiterated their demand to open up the election returns "to bring out the truth" on the actual results of the tabulation of the votes for president and vice president in Congress.

"We respect his (Poe’s) position," Bunye said. "They (fraud allegations) should properly be lodged before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal."

Bunye also reaffirmed the stand of the administration Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K-4) that Mrs. Arroyo won in a generally fair and credible election notwithstanding isolated cases of cheating and fraud in certain areas of the country.

"There is a time and place to obtain justice for those who believe they were cheated although we strongly maintain that on the whole the (May 10) polls have been clean," he said.

"There is always room for unity and reconciliation. Let us not turn the clock and set back the nation with unsubstantiated controversies," Bunye said.

Administration lawmakers said the decision of Poe not to pursue a formal protest before the PET only proves that there is no hard evidence to back up their allegations of massive cheating.

Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles and Nueva Ecija Rep. Aurelio Umali said the KNP have used their allegations of massive cheating as a propaganda tool to justify Poe’s defeat and derail the canvass and proclamation of Mrs. Arroyo by Congress.

Both lawmakers said the opposition have resorted to media grandstanding to cover up their lack of basis to support their charges.

Nograles said the opposition have the opportunity to prove their charges before the PET as the proper forum for such accusations provided by the Constitution.

"Truth and allegations of fraud and cheating can only be proven in an electoral tribunal. Poe is not serious in his charges of fraud because he lacks any acceptable proof. The opposition used their unproven cheating charges to discredit the President and derail her proclamation," Nograles said.

Umali, for his part, urged the opposition to stop maligning Mrs. Arroyo in the absence of any hard evidence to prove their accusations that she cheated her way through the May 10 vote.

Umali said the opposition is now trying to cast doubt on the integrity of the PET which is headed by Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

"The opposition is making every excuse and dragging even innocent people into their poll fraud fable. That’s how pathetic they are," Umali said.

Poe had said he would not bring his case before the PET as he expected to lose his case, but he threatened to bring the truth before public opinion.

According to Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Isidoro Real Jr., Poe may soon find himself deserted by his own supporters if he continues to propagate unproven cheating charges.

Real claimed Poe’s lack of leadership and character, which he displayed throughout the campaign, was apparent even now with his continued grumbling about unproven poll fraud to justify his loss. — with Edith Regalado

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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