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6 presidential bets see landslide win
The Philippine Star


As far as six of the Philippines' presidential bets are concerned, it'sall over but the counting. And they're all winners.

With election day still two days away, Vice President JosephEstrada and five other presidential aspirants are already ringing thebells of victory and issuing claims of landslide wins in Monday's
elections.

Estrada, standard bearer of the opposition Laban ng MakabayangMasang Pilipino (LAMMP), said he can already taste the sweetnessof victory after he was endorsed by the Iglesia ni Cristo and after hetopped a mock poll conducted among members of the religiousgroup El Shaddai.

Other candidates, however, are also laying the same claims.

Speaker Jose de Venecia of the ruling Lakas party said his victory isat hand while Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Raul Rocoexpressed optimisim they would sweep the presidential race.

Not to be outdone, former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa andformer Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim said they would be unbeatablecome Monday.

Estrada, who is the favorite among the 10 presidential aspirants,was given a blessing by Catholic priest Sonny Ramirez in a Thanksgiving Mass held at the Pinaglabanan Shrine in San Juan, the
Vice President's hometown where he started his political career as a mayor 28 years ago.

Ramirez, in his homily, addressed Estrada as "Mr. President" and asked God to give him wisdom in leading the country.

"Erap, don't forget God. Pray every day because you will face many difficulties. You will have plenty of enemies after you become president," Ramirez said.

Estrada attended the noon Mass with his wife Loi and two of their grown-up children.

In his short speech, Estrada said he is thankful to God "for blessing us all the way during our campaign." He said he has only one ambition in life and that is "to serve the millions of Filipinos who are poor."

After the Mass, Ramirez and other priests shouted, "Long live the President!"

The Mass coincided with the release of the results of a mock poll conducted among members of El Shaddai in Metro Manila and seven nearby provinces which showed Estrada being the most
preferred choice.

The survey, done by the Asia Research Organization, involved 1,350 members, of which 25 percent said they would vote for Estrada.

In other developments:

* De Venecia announced he is confident of winning over Estrada in Monday's polls even as he criticized Estrada for acting smug and starting to name members of his future Cabinet.

* Santiago held a mammoth miting de avance in Iloilo City last night where she expressed optimism that the "Miriam Magic" will still prevail come election day.

* Roco, who will hold his own miting de avance in Naga City tonight, topped a mock poll among bankers and executives while another informal poll among Catholic priests showed Lim as their
favorite.

* De Villa expressed optimism the Reporma machinery already set up in almost 80 percent of the archipelago will ensure his victory in the polls.

De Venecia, after holding a grand rally at the Liwasang Bonifacio last Thursday, said he would beat Estrada hands down, claiming the electorate would not vote for someone who "hides behind the shadow of his advisers."

He lambasted Estrada for announcing earlier a number of persons he would appoint to his Cabinet, saying this only proves that Estrada could not function well without advisers.

"He should not be too dependent on his advisers. His should be a government in which the president should run it and not one which is being run by advisers," he said.

De Venecia also reminded Estrada not to count his chicks before they are hatched since the elections are far from being over.

"Estrada has no candidate in one-third of the Philippines. For me not being represented in 30 percent of the voting precincts is like conceding defeat already. He cannot even produce a crowd of 50,000 like we have in our provincial sorties and miting de avance. And to think that he has been tagging along all his movie stars wherever he goes. We are going to win these elections," he said.

De Venecia has been endorsed by the Jesus Is Lord (JIL) movement, a religious group equal in strength to the El Shaddai which allegedly backs Estrada.

Meanwhile, Santiago said that judging from the immense turnout of people in her rallies and motorcades, she is very sure of her and her running mate Sen. Francisco "Kit" Tatad's victory in the polls.

"We will surprise self-deluding groups," Santiago said. "Our desperate opponents have failed in manipulating the minds of the people by rehashing results of spurious surveys. The immense
support we have shows that these surveys have no relation to reality."

Santiago has remained in the heat of the campaign despite the recent death of her younger brother. After her mammoth rally in her hometown in Iloilo last night, she is scheduled to hold a grand motorcade in Metro Manila today.

She said results of pre-election surveys have not daunted her a bit. In fact, for her, surveys don't matter.

"These are hard times. Maybe survey firms are also doing cost-cutting measures and merely shaving some points from certain candidates to boost the ratings of their favored candidates," she
said.

For Roco and Lim, however, surveys do matter. 
In a recent poll among 330 employees of Bankard, Roco topped all presidential aspirants, getting almost half of the votes.

Roco, who has been figuring prominently in surveys done in schools and among women's groups, said he and his running mate Irene "Inday" Santiago are confident they can pull an upset in the actual elections.

Roco's Aksyon Demokratiko group will hold its miting de avance in Naga City where the senator grew up and where he is a registered voter. The miting will be preceded by a motorcade that
would start from Legaspi City.

A consistent topnotcher in previous elections, Roco claims to have received 12.5 million votes in the 1995 senatorial polls, higher than Estrada's 10 million when he ran for senator in 1987.

In Manila, a mock poll among priests under Jaime Cardinal Sin showed Lim being the favorite.

Fr. Aris Sison, Sin's spokesman, told a radio station that Lim got 122 votes from priests in various parts of Metro Manila for a whopping 71 percent. Roco placed second with 31 votes and De Villa placed third with six votes.

Sison made it clear that the mock poll was only meant to find out the choice of the clergy and not to endorse Lim's candidacy.

Lim was formally cleared yesterday by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) which dismissed a disqualification case against him on the issue of his citizenship (see related story).

As this developed, De Villa said he is strongly confident of winning on Monday despite his low standing in surveys.

De Villa, who will lead his Reporma party's miting de avance at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City today, said "it is time for the people to make a stand against everything that was wrong and evil in this country."

The former defense chief said they have put everything in place in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, banking on 33 huge volunteer groups for assistance in campaigning and poll watching. He estimates Reporma's total membership at around 10 million.

De Villa said his running mate Oscar Orbos will steal much of votes coming from Pangasinan from De Venecia, being former governor of the province.

He is also counting on Mindanao since his wife Monica is a native of Dipolog City.

"And we have put in place anti-cheating mechanisms," De Villa said. "We will make sure that the people's will would prevail."

In a related development, the Comelec announced that all votes bearing the name "Santiago" would only be counted for Senator Santiago and not for Santiago Dumlao who is also running for
president.

The Comelec based its decision on a section of the Omnibus Election Code which that states when "on the ballot is written a word which is the first name of a candidate and which at the same
time is the surname of his opponent, the vote shall be counted in favor of the latter."

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