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Ramos: No shift from Joe to Rene
By Lynda T. Jumilla and Juliet L. Javellana, PDI


PRESIDENT Ramos yesterday denied he would junk the ruling party's standard-bearer, Jose de Venecia, in the final hours of the campaign period, which wraps up today.

''That's a complete falsehood, that is wrong, that is incorrect,'' said Mr. Ramos, who is Lakas chair and titular head. ''That sounds like the black propaganda of the opposition.''

But another presidential aspirant, Renato de Villa, insisted that Malaca¤ang and ''big financial backers'' would make a ''big shift'' from De Venecia and deliver a surprise victory to Mr. Ramos' former defense secretary.

''We have gone on motorcades and consultations and rallies during the last three months, and I myself have taken part personally in all of these,'' Mr. Ramos said Thursday night after the Lakas-NUCD miting de avance at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila. ''So, let the opposition worry about losing, not the administration
party.''

He pointed out that he had been making personal endorsements and spending 8 to 12 hours a day in motorcades, with or without De Venecia and the other candidates of the governing party.

The latest sign that De Venecia would be abandoned at the last minute is said to be a letter from Cabinet secretaries asking the President to give up on the Speaker.

Nobody, however, seems to have seen a copy of the letter asking the President to junk De Venecia. As of press time the Inquirer was still securing a copy. Presidential adviser for political affairs and Lakas deputy secretary general Gabriel Claudio said there was no such letter at all.

''Nothing can be more ridiculous and preposterous,'' Claudio told Malaca¤ang reporters. ''I have spoken to quite a few (of the Cabinet members) and they, too, were amazed and amused.''

''Practically all Cabinet members'' not only respect but also support the President's choice of presidential candidate, according to Claudio.

''This big shift may not be announced in public but the message to shift will be communicated through discreet channels,'' said a party statement from Renato de Villa's Reporma Party.

The shift and the ''syndicate scare'' presented by an Estrada presidency would bring about a surprise victory for De Villa, said the statement.

It said De Villa's supporters in Malaca¤ang could not come out in the open and would mobilize for De Villa on Monday, election day.

Inside info
It said De Villa, for whom the Ayala-Zobel family has declared support, still had the support of unidentified financial backers.

''Many of these backers have the inside information about the big shift which is why their support has not stopped following,'' said Reporma.

''I have no doubt in my mind that we will prevail because of the millions of dedicated supporters
nationwide,'' De Villa himself said while campaigning in Palawan.

Nobody, however, seems to have seen a copy of the letter asking the President to junk De Venecia. As of press time the Inquirer was still securing a copy. Presidential adviser for political affairs and Lakas deputy secretary general Gabriel Claudio said there was no such letter at all.

''Nothing can be more ridiculous and preposterous,'' Claudio told Malaca¤ang reporters. ''I have spoken to quite a few (of the Cabinet members) and they, too, were amazed and amused.''

''Practically all Cabinet members'' not only respect but also support the President's choice of presidential candidate, according to Claudio.

Reporma is also counting on voters' fears that an Estrada victory would bring ''Sindikato Inc.'' to
Malaca¤ang.  ''Many people are now alarmed about the very real threat of crime syndicates gaining control of Malaca¤ang,'' it said, explaining without mentioning Estrada's name that the candidate was surrounded by underworld characters like drug and gambling lords.

A surprise will be delivered by the votes of the ''moral forces'' who reject corruption, dirty politics and crony capitalism, according to the party.

Reporma counts Southern Tagalog and Southern
Mindanao as De Villa's bailiwicks, and hopes Tagalogs will unite to elect the first Tagalog president. De Villa is from Batangas.

Reporma's miting de avance at the Quezon City Memorial Circle tonight will be ''like New Year
festivities,'' according to organizers.

Erap presumptuous
De Venecia himself predicted a Lakas sweep of the elections even as he dismissed as ''presumptuous'' Vice President Joseph Estrada's announcement of his Cabinet members.

''It's too early, it's presumptuous and too premature,'' De Venecia said, referring to Estrada's Thursday statement naming four men he would appoint to the Cabinet if he became the next president.

Estrada had told reporters at the Philippine Stock Exchange that he would retain Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon and appoint Sen. Orlando Mercado as defense secretary, banker Edgardo Espiritu as finance secretary, and Rep. Ronaldo Zamora as executive secretary.

De Venecia said he also had his own set of Cabinet members in mind but would only reveal them ''after victory.''

He said Estrada should be prepared instead for defeat.

''We're going to defeat Estrada,'' he said after Thursday night's miting de avance. ''We're going to win this election overwhelmingly. We're going to sweep the elections. We're attacking on all fronts and we're winning on all fronts.''

He said Estrada's waterloo was that his party, the Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino, was not able to field local candidates in one-third of the available posts in the country. ''He has conceded defeat in one-third of the Philippines,'' he said.

Lito's weapon
Promdi standard-bearer Emilio ''Lito'' Osmena alsovowed to unleash ''a lot of surprises'' that would catapult him to Malacanang.

The former governor of Cebu, speaking before a crowd of about 15,000 during his miting de avance in Cebu City Thursday night, revealed his secret weapon--squatters in Metro Manila who he said have banded together to support him.

Osme¤a said he had slept in the slums where the squatters, most of them from the provinces, welcomed him ''like a king.''

''The squatters have united in our favor,'' he said. ''And these squatters are not covered by the surveys. This is our biggest surprise on May 11.''  After the Cebu City rally, Osme¤a admitted he had heard of stories that he would withdraw from the race a few days before election day. ''That's the black propaganda I have warned everybody from the very start,'' he told the Inquirer.

He said he suspected these stories came from the people around De Venecia and President Ramos who were worried about losing their positions in an Osmena administration.

Roco without padrino
Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer Raul Roco said his rising popularity was due to the fact that he owed no allegiance to a padrino or ''godfather'' or other interest groups.

''The Filipino people see that Roco has no padrino or godfather and that his presidency will be devoted to helping the small,'' Roco said.

Unlike other candidates who bring along celebrities in their campaign rallies, Roco said he has only mostly young volunteers.

The very first Bicolano to run for president and his running mate Inday Santiago will hold their miting de avance in Naga City in Roco's home province tonight.

Euphoric over Miriam
Miriam Defensor Santiago and running Francisco Tatad of the People's Reform Party are also sure to win Monday's elections, ''to the surprise of other self-deluding groups,'' according to a statement from the PRP media bureau.

Despite the death on Thursday of Santiago's younger brother, the presidential candidate proceeded with her own miting de avance at the Freedom Park in Iloilo City last night.   This afternoon, she will wrap up her campaign with a grand motorcade around Metro Manila PRP national campaign manager Esperanza Cabral said Santiago's support base has more than doubled in the past six years. Cabral described people's reaction to
the Miriam-Kit rallies as ''euphoric'' and ''overwhelming.''

''Other candidates have to hire movie stars or throw candies and canned goods to the crowd just to stir the people,'' said Cabral, ''but Miriam and Kit are the stars of their own campaign.

''Our desperate opponents have failed in manipulating the minds of the people by rehashing results of spurious surveys,'' she added. ''The immense support for Miriam and Kit clearly shows that these surveys have no relation to reality.''

Certain priests and bishops have expressed their private opinions that Santiago and Tatad would win by a landslide on Monday.

With reports from Connie E. Fernandez, PDI Visayas Bureau; Stella O. Gonzales, Armand Nocum and AP

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