Poe claims victory; Malacaņang sneers

By Julie S. Alipala and Rosa-May V. de Guzman
Inquirer News Service

'Self-proclamation'

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Fernando Poe Jr. Wednesday claimed victory in the May 10 presidential election and said Malacaņang was manipulating the figures to make it appear that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was winning.

"Panalo tayo (We won)," Poe said in a press conference at around 9 a.m. at the Garden Orchid Hotel in this city. He said he was leading by a wide margin in Mindanao but that his lead was not being projected in the media and in the quick count of the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel).

"We won in this election and they know that. You know what they have been doing," he told reporters.

But in Malacaņang, Ms Macapagal's spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said Poe should not be ridiculous.

Bunye aired the reminder that only the Commission on Elections could proclaim electoral winners. The Senate and the House of Representatives serve as the board of canvassers for the presidential and vice presidential election and proclaim the winners.

Poe and a number of officials of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP/Coalition of United Filipinos) were welcomed by their local party mates as well as those from the provinces of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

It was during his meeting with local KNP members that Poe was told he was leading in the canvass.

Renato Magbutay, assistant regional election director for Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, confirmed that the actor was leading by a wide margin in the three provinces.

South Cotabato Representative Lualhati Antonino said the administration wanted to rig the election results in vote-rich Mindanao. "That's why we are going around Mindanao," she said.

"Only the Comelec can officially proclaim a winning candidate, so anybody who does so, does so at his own risk," Bunye said. "But definitely, any proclamation, private or otherwise, will not count unless this is the proclamation of the Comelec."

Bunye, a lawyer, also said the Comelec could motu propio (on its own) act on Poe's "self-proclamation," and that it should be the lookout of the actor's lawyers to counsel their candidate on his actions.

"I won't give my legal advice for free," he said.

Destabilization

In Zamboanga, Poe accused Malacaņang of sowing disinformation about the alleged opposition-backed destabilization plot.

He said even the supposed arrest order for Colonel Jose Gamus of the 9th Infantry Brigade was a stage play.

"It's the other way around," he said, adding in Filipino that his political rivals were the ones responsible for the "anomalies" and the "destabilization."

Poe said he and other opposition candidates had come to Mindanao to prevent fraud in favor of Ms Macapagal, and not to incite unrest.

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, overall campaign manager of the KNP, said the situation in the country today resembled that in the martial law years.

Binay said the then strongman Ferdinand Marcos also used the military to ensure his and his allies' victory during elections.

But Lieutenant General Roy Kyamko, chief of the Armed Forces' Southern Command, said the military had always observed the sanctity of the electoral process.

Kyamko said the military had only provided security to ensure that the elections would be violence-free.

Malacaņang's hand

Senator Vicente Sotto III, Poe's campaign manager, said Malacaņang's hand was already apparent in certain places, as supposedly proved by Poe's zero vote even in areas where he was popular.

He accused the military of working to ensure Ms Macapagal's victory in Mindanao. He said soldiers were acting as boards of election inspectors in some areas and that Navy personnel in Tawi-Tawi had dumped official ballots into the sea.

Sotto likewise accused certain media outfits, including the Inquirer, of working with Malacaņang.

He said that unlike the ABC television network -- which was ordered by the Comelec on Monday to stop its quick count -- these media outfits had not been gagged and were merely under Malacaņang's control, "to condition the minds of the people that [Ms Macapagal] is winning in the electoral race."

According to Sotto, the TV networks ABS-CBN and GMA 7 vigorously conducted a quick count in the first two days of the elections using the results from Cebu City where Ms Macapagal was winning.

"But when the figures from the National Capital Region came in and showed that FPJ (Poe's initials) was catching up, they stopped their quick count," he said.

Sotto also told reporters that the Inquirer had rejected the KNP's advertisement supposedly showing actual certificates of canvass because it would allegedly contradict the paper's front page.

He said the Inquirer had questioned the personality and credibility of the advertisers despite their submission of affidavits. (The Inquirer rejected the ad because it did not conform with its advertising policy such as the advertiser refused to be named, among others.-ED)

'I have to go'

Bunye said Malacaņang was not concerned about the effect on the public of Poe's statements at a time when Congress' official canvass of the presidential election results had yet to begin.

"Well, the candidate proclaiming himself should be the one concerned. As far as we are concerned, we will only follow the Comelec," he said.

At the very least, he said, Poe was running "the risk of appearing ridiculous."

To end questions on the matter, Bunye used Poe's words whenever he excused himself from reporters during the campaign: "I have to go, I have to go."

KNP's accusations dismissed

In Cotabato City, Virgilio Leyretana, deputy presidential assistant for Mindanao, dismissed the KNP's accusations.

"If the administration had cheated here, the results could have been overwhelming," he said, adding that Poe had won by a wide margin against Ms Macapagal in some Mindanao provinces.

Leyretana aired the administration's supposed suspicion that the opposition had deployed "subterranean operatives" in Mindanao to muddle the election returns, particularly in areas where Ms Macapagal was leading.

"I am appealing to all those who blatantly distorted the facts and wanted to trample upon the sanctity of the ballots, to stop [making] innuendos that are divisive, unproductive, retrogressive and destructive," Leyretana said.

He said the losing candidates should abide by the rule of law and accept the decision of the majority "so that, together, we can move forward for the sake of our country and people."

But according to KNP senatorial candidate Francisco Tatad, "the disinformation has been consistent and without letup coming from the administration."

'Self-censorship'

At a KNP briefing in Manila, Poe's supporters assailed the so-called Big Three newspapers, including the Inquirer, for turning down the ad claiming that the actor was leading the count.

"This is worse than state censorship. This is self-censorship," said film director Carlitos Siguion-Reyna.

His wife, Bibeth Orteza, added: "What is happening is the biggest pornography and obscenity."

Susan Tagle, Poe's longtime aide and now head of his communication group, said the Inquirer initially accepted the ad Tuesday morning but later turned it down because it was supposedly "contrary" to the paper's previous headline saying that Ms Macapagal was leading the count.

Tagle said that Raul Palabrica, readers' advocate and ombudsman of the Inquirer, later recommended the ad's rejection because the information contained therein came from "dubious sources."

The KNP ad was published in the other broadsheets.

Tagle's group Wednesday came out with the maiden issue of a tabloid named "Bagong Umaga (New Morning)."
Its headline read: "FPJ panalo na! GMA (Macapagal-Arroyo) nananaginip pa rin (Poe wins! GMA still dreaming)."

The full-color tabloid, with a cover price of P5, lists Joel Paredes as editor in chief.

Paredes, who headed the Philippine Information Agency during the administration of President Joseph Estrada, did not respond to four calls on his mobile phone. With reports from Carlito Pablo and Juliet Labog-Javellana

19/05/2004

Bron : Inq7.net

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