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‘Very high chance FPJ will run in ’04’

- Jose Aravilla -
"Chances are very high" that actor Fernando Poe Jr. will run for president in the 2004 elections, former senator Juan Ponce Enrile said yesterday.

He added that the opposition will field a common candidate and that the list has been whittled down to three: Poe, San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Enrile said they are considering one of the three as standard-bearer for the opposition, although he noted that only Lacson has so far "expressed his resolve in running for president."

Despite Poe’s silence on questions about his possible candidacy and reports that the action star known as "Da King" to his fans does not intend to seek the presidency, Enrile did not rule out the likelihood that ousted former President Joseph Estrada’s close friend would be a contender in the 2004 elections.

"I am not going to give a percentage (of probability Poe will run), but chances are very high that he will run (for president)," Enrile said, without elaborating.

The opposition, he said, remains intact and will give its full backing to only one presidential candidate next May.

He also said Lacson is very open in his intention to seek the presidency, adding that "discussions" with Lacson indicated the neophyte senator will give way to the opposition’s choice.

There are rumors, though, that Cojuangco — an Estrada ally whose Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) party is allied with the ruling People Power Coalition — may wind up running under the administration banner.

Enrile said such a scenario will pave the way for either Lacson or Poe bearing the opposition standard in 2004.
Jockeying for position
With the 2004 elections nearing and the revelation of the new set of "presidentiables" who will seek the helm of government, politicians have been seen jockeying for position — and the support of various influential organizations — to improve their chances in the national elections.

One organization whose favor is sought is the Council on Philippine Affairs, which once supported the Arroyo administration but is now alienated from it. The question is who COPA will support in the coming presidential derby.

According to COPA chairman William Esposo, the group will not support any presidential candidate in 2004 because it is non-partisan by policy. However, individual COPA members may support the candidates of their choice.

"Even if we supported a candidate, we will, in all likelihood, still advocate for or against certain issues during the new administration and COPA stands to lose the high ground if it was partisan to that president’s election," Esposo said.

Several misconceptions about COPA emerged in the past weeks, he admitted, especially when a front page photo showed two highly visible COPA officials, its founder Pastor "Boy" Saycon and former Tarlac congressman Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, sharing a smile with Danding Cojuangco, Peping’s cousin. The occasion was Saycon’s birthday party.

This photo, Esposo said, means nothing with regards to COPA’s political color. "If Peping and Saycon opt to support (Danding) Cojuangco, they are well within our own guidelines in COPA ... Peping politely said he is open, but he did not say for certain (if he is supportive of Danding)."

Some COPA members have expressed their preferences for president: former education secretary Raul Roco, Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Cojuangco and Poe.

COPA is a known player in the civil society sector that was instrumental in Estrada’s ouster in 2001 through the "Juetengate" exposes that led to the EDSA II popular revolt. The group’s spiritual adviser is Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin.
Mindanao chill
Down South, the political weather is turning decidedly chillier, with Davao Oriental Rep. Mayo Almario saying Mindanaons will not vote for senators who voted against using a constituent assembly mode to amend the 1987 Constitution.

In a statement, Almario said the senators who prefer the more expensive and longer process of amending the Constitution through a constitutional convention showed that developing Mindanao has never been on their priority lists, despite their campaign promises there.

"They should not toy around with our sentiments in Mindanao, for (the) election s (are) fast approaching and we are carefully observing them," he said.

The senators’ "cavalier attitude" toward Charter change, he said, contradicts their campaign train rhetoric. "When we hear the phrase ‘priority developments in Mindanao’ uttered again by these national electionists, (this statement will hold no) appeal, but will sound like rhetoric to us Mindanaons."

The senators who voted for a constitutional convention were Juan Flavier, Ramon Magsaysay, Francisco Pangilinan, John Osmeña, Aquilino Pimentel, Ramon Revilla and Teresa Aquino-Oreta. Most of them are believed to be eyeing the vice presidency.

Proponents in the House of the constituent assembly mode of Charter change, which involves convening both chambers of Congress to amend the Constitution, say it is cheaper and faster.

According to them, the constitutional convention mode of Charter change will cost P8 billion, take too long and will expose the Charter to many possible revisions. It would also be divisive and amendments will only take effect in 2010, they added.

Almario said a federal form of government, as one of the proposed amendments to the Charter, would give Muslims, Christians and Lumads in Mindanao a fuller opportunity and greater leeway in promoting their cultural identity and economic development.

"A federal form of government is our only chance towards real development and achievement of a lasting peace in Mindanao," he said. "Mindanao cannot wait any longer." With reports from Marvin Sy, Paolo Romero

ALMARIO

AQUILINO PIMENTEL

CHRISTIANS AND LUMADS

COJUANGCO

COJUANGCO AND POE

COPA

ENRILE

LACSON

MINDANAO

PEPING

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