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Headlines

FPJ says he won elections

- Roel Pareño -
ZAMBOANGA CITY — Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. declared himself yesterday as the winner of the May 10 presidential elections, which he described as "tainted with fraud."

Poe made the declaration at a news conference at the Garden Orchid Hotel here while accusing President Arroyo of cheating him of victory.

"We have won the election and they know that," Poe said.

Malacañang ridiculed Poe’s claim, saying only the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is mandated to proclaim any winner in the May 10 polls.

Reacting to Poe’s self-proclamation, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said only the Comelec could officially declare the election winners. "He (Poe) runs the risk of being ridiculous," Bunye said.

"What we can say is anybody who proclaims outside Comelec rules will be doing so at his own risk," Bunye said.

Official results of the May 10 vote are not expected to be in for at least two more weeks due to the laborious manual counting of the ballots.

But Poe insisted he is already the winner of last week’s election because the majority of Filipinos have given him a six-year mandate to govern.

"I am not fighting for my presidency but for the people who believe there should be change," Poe said.

The movie star led the opposition in a barnstorming tour of Mindanao to gather evidence of fraud he alleged was committed by the administration.

"You know what is happening in Mindanao, what they are doing not just in Mindanao but in the whole Philippines," he said.

Poe was accompanied by KNP campaign manager Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, personal campaign manager Sen. Vicente Sotto III and other party officials in his "evidence gathering" tour.

In another forum in held in Cagayan de Oro City, Poe ruled out conceding to Mrs. Arroyo, saying: "I am not used to retreating."

"Nowhere is it in my dictionary that you can find the word, ‘quit’," he said.

Poe also lashed back at the administration for allegedly ordering the Department of Justice (DOJ) to threaten legal action against media outlets for publishing unauthorized election counts.

Poe said the alleged gag order issued by Comelec also suppressed the freedom of expression. He said this also an attempt to muzzle the press.

"Ang gag order na ginawa ng Comelec sa freedom of the press, hindi lang ang presidency is at stake, but the people’s will is at stake," Poe said.

As if to tout the gag order, the KNP came out with a tabloid "Bagong Umaga: Bayan ang Bida" with its maiden issue yesterday declaring Poe as the winner in the presidential elections with Mrs. Arroyo still "dreaming" of a victory.

The eight-page tabloid costs P5 each with Susan Tagle and Joel Paredes, top officials of the FPJ Communications Group, as the chairman of the editorial board and editor-in-chief, respectively.

Poe, on the other hand, questioned the tally results by the independent poll watchdog National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel).

He said the clearly partisan group was intentionally releasing voting results from Mrs. Arroyo’s known bailiwicks first in order to simulate that the incumbent was ahead in the count.

"Sa ngayon they are (partisan) pero lalabas ang katutuhanan na kami ang nananalo," Poe said.

Sotto and Binay joined in and claimed they cannot prevent the people from taking to the streets to protest the alleged massive cheating by the administration.

Sotto also accused Namfrel of conditioning the minds of the people by showing results that favor Mrs. Arroyo.
Fair And Square
In his daily briefing at Malacañang, Bunye reiterated the stand of the administration K-4 coalition that it would rather wait for the official tally and proclamation of the winners by the Comelec.

Bunye also warned Poe against proclaiming himself as the winner since he would prejudge the constitutional mandate of Congress in proclaiming the president and the vice president.

"As far as the results of the (presidential) elections are concerned, as we’ve said time and time again, it’s only Congress that can officially and finally proclaim any winning candidate," Bunye stressed.

Bunye shrugged off observations that the Palace was "concerned" about Poe’s declaration as the winner of the presidential race.

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

Bunye said Malacañang would also not take the initiative to stop Poe from declaring victory. "We don’t really control what he (Poe) does. What he does is his own concern," he said.

Bunye also denied allegations hurled by Poe’s camp that the President’s lead was the result of massive cheating. He said the administration has been playing the game "fair and square."

At the same time, two administration lawmakers called on Poe yesterday to accept his losing fate.

Davao del Sur Rep. Douglas Cagas and Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay also gave unsolicited advice to the actor to fire his media handlers. They are the very reason Poe "self-destructed," they said.

Both lawmakers said Poe "should now return to his roots and accept his defeat graciously, reflect on why he lost and admit he was really inadequate for the gargantuan task of leading the nation."
Presenting The Evidence
Poe led the KNP in a tour of key cities in Mindanao to find out among local party officials the allegations of massive cheating in their areas.

The party proceeded to Cagayan de Oro, General Santos and Davao cities. In each stop, Poe met local officials and supporters to take down their testimonies on alleged cheating by the administration.

Sotto said they will proceed to key cities in the Visayas to consolidate all their evidence to bolster their accusations.

"We’re here to confirm for ourselves, FPJ wants to see for himself, the reports that we’ve been receiving of massive disenfranchisement and other methods of fraud and we were astounded as to how widespread they are," Sotto said.

Sotto, however, refused to elaborate, saying only the KNP will soon release to the public the evidence they have gathered.

Sotto claimed they have official copies of certificates of canvass (COCs) that showed Poe leading the presidential race.

He said the same COCs will be presented before Congress on May 24 when it convenes in joint session as the National Board of Canvassers to proclaim the winners of the presidential and vice presidential positions.

Sotto remained confident that any discrepancy in the figures will be uncovered. He said this would bolster their claims of massive cheating.

"If at that point, they (administration) will insist on their figures and we will be pushed to the wall, we will present our case to the people," Sotto warned. "They will be answerable to the people."

Poe said he was leading in an unofficial count by private television station ABC-5 when the network was ordered Monday by the Comelec to stop reporting results.

The ABC-5 count began last Thursday, but it was ordered stopped on Monday, before it was able to update with Mrs. Arroyo in the lead.

Justice Secretary Merceditas Gutierrez has warned that people or groups disseminating "false news or information" about election results face possible legal action.

The station decried the decision, saying "our election coverage ... was premised to be precisely that - a report of the election count, ours and that of other organizations."

It also noted that other radio and television networks had conducted their own counts but were not stopped, although they later switched to reporting Namfrel results.

Bunye said critics were "barking up the wrong tree" since election affairs are handled by the Comelec.

He denied there was a threat to press freedom, saying the government agencies were "merely reminding" the public that only Namfrel is allowed by law to conduct a parallel count with the Comelec.

Comelec spokeswoman Milagros Desamito said the poll body only wanted a "written explanation" from ABC-5 regarding the basis for its count.

"We want the public to be informed, not misinformed," she said. "This is a temporary restraint on them."

At the same time, the KNP presented their proof in the person of the chairman of the Board of Elections Inspectors (BEI) from Cebu City who allegedly accepted a P1,000 bribe from the administration but voted for television evangelist, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, for president.

Ruseller Cabana, a supposed "walk-in" witness, was presented by the KNP to the media during the party’s daily news briefing at the KNP’s People’s Action and Tally Center at the Makati Coliseum yesterday.

When asked by newsmen to produce the evidence of the bribe, Cabana simply replied in halting Pilipino that he had already used it.

"That’s why I also knew the money was not fake because the store accepted it," Cabana said in a mix of Filipino and Cebuano.

KNP legal counsel Vic Lansang said Cabana signed a two-page sworn statement detailing his experience.

Cabana claimed Comelec "instructed all the Board of Election Inspectors not to give copies of the election returns to the opposition parties at the precinct level." He was assigned at Precinct No. 1198-A in Barangay San Nicolas Proper in Cebu City during the May 10 elections.

Cabana claimed he was approached by a person who handed him a letter containing a P1,000 bill with a reminder "not to forget" Mrs. Arroyo and the entire administration’s K-4 ticket. He said he simply left the letter inside his vehicle.

"The letter and the P1,000 bill wanted to influence the members of the BEI and solicit votes from that precinct," Cabana said in his affidavit.

Lansang later told reporters that despite having accepted the bribe, Cabana still voted for Villanueva. - With reports from Marichu Villanueva, Paolo Romero, Nikko Dizon, Delon Porcalla, AFP

ADMINISTRATION

BUNYE

COMELEC

ELECTION

KNP

MINDANAO

MRS. ARROYO

NAMFREL

POE

SOTTO

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