MANILA,  JUNE 25, 2004
By Nikko Dizon and Pia Lee-Brago  -  Despite the proclamation of President Arroyo and Vice President-elect Noli de Castro at dawn yesterday, leaders of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) refused to throw in the towel, vowing to prove that KNP presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. and his running mate Loren Legarda won the last elections.

Poe has yet to make an official statement on Mrs. Arroyo’s proclamation.

However, re-elected Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, an influential KNP leader, said Poe’s supporters might take to the streets if the truth about the elections is not revealed.

Speaking after his oath-taking at Makati City Hall yesterday, Binay said if one election return had been opened during the canvassing of votes in Congress, it would have significantly changed the results.

"Hangga’t hindi nilalabas ang katotohanan, hindi titigilan ng sinuman, lalo na ng oposisyon sa pamumuno ni FPJ na ilabas ang katotohanan," he said.

On the other hand, Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero, Poe’s spokesman, said the proclamation of Mrs. Arroyo by Congress must not be questioned because the opposition had participated in the canvassing of votes for president and vice president, and took park in debates in Congress, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers.

"Yung pagkilala ay hindi na siguro dapat tanungin pa o kwestyunin dahil sa ngayon nag-participate ang opposition sa buong proseso hanggang sa dulo," he said.

"In fact, umabot pa hanggang sa botohan. Natalo kami sa boto. Hindi kami sang-ayon sa naging resulta subalit hindi rin naman nangangahulugan na sa parte naming mambabatas ay lalabas pa kami sa apat na sulok ng Kongreso upang k’westyunin pa yung prosesong naisagawa bagama’t hindi kami sang-ayon."

Poe has no plan to file a protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal "kung saan wala namang kahihinatnan," he added.

Escudero spoke before the Association of Political Science Majors and Alpha Beta Fraternity at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

In separate interviews, outgoing Sen. Vicente Sotto III, KNP executive committee member, and former representative Mike Romero, KNP spokesman, said the party will pursue all legal means to prove that Poe and Legarda had won the elections, not Mrs. Arroyo and De Castro.

Sotto said the fight is not yet over, and that at this point, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal is the only legal recourse that he could think of that Poe could take.

"Yes, basically, it’s unacceptable that the rules and the laws were not followed (by the joint congressional canvass committee)," Sotto said.

"So paano yun? Ganun na lang? Our voices were not heard. We were always voted down. I basically support the call of the opposition to continue the fight," he said.

On the other hand, Romero said as far as the KNP is concerned, they will exhaust all legal remedies to prove the victory of Poe and Legarda.

"We will see what our lawyers will do and what cases will be brought up the by (KNP) leadership," he said.

Meanwhile, leaders of the grassroots organizations that supported Poe’s presidential bid expressed sadness over the proclamation of Mrs. Arroyo.

"We are saddened because it was like the nail that sealed the coffin so to speak," said actor Rez Cortez, national coordinator of the National Coordinating Center for Volunteers.

"We have the right to freedom of movement and expression," he said. "If she suppressed this right before, hopefully now that she has been proclaimed, she will let us really express our feelings."

Boots Cadsawan, chairman of Filipinos for Peace, Justice, and Progress Movement (FPJPM), said he was saddened that Congress, by proclaiming Mrs. Arroyo and De Castro, had legalized vote shaving and padding.

"It’s up to the people if they will accept the next six years," he said.

Two years ago, Cadsawan led a signature campaign to convince Poe to run for president.

The FPJPM was supposed to hold a prayer rally at the Makati Coliseum yesterday, which Cortez said was expected to gather as many as 7,000 people.

But Cadsawan said they called off the activity after learning that the venue had already been reserved for another event.

Poe’s supporters and leftist groups held pocket rallies in different parts of Metro Manila like the People Power Monument along EDSA in Quezon City yesterday.

They were also set to hold a noise barrage dubbed "Cry for Hope" at the Mabuhay Rotunda in Quezon City late yesterday afternoon.

Text messages assailing the proclamation of Mrs. Arroyo have also begun circulating, with one alluding to the allegation that Mrs. Arroyo "stole" the presidency from Poe.

"Just like a thief in the wee hours of the morning, the bogus president was proclaimed by the bogus Congress based on bogus certificates of canvass," read the text message.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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