A FACTION of a splintered movement that once campaigned for the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 presidential elections expressed its allegiance to the candidacy of former President Joseph Estrada and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.

The announcement of the “FPJ for Erap-Binay Movement” was made by the group in a in a press conference Monday morning at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City attended by Estrada and his campaign manager Ernesto Maceda, and Binay.

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In a statement, the group said Estrada remains the man to beat in the upcoming polls and that he still embodies the aspirations and hope of the poor.

“Today, we are faced with a daunting task of choosing the next President of the Republic of the Philippines. Para sa akin at sa paniwala ko at sa inyong lahat, iisa lang ang kandidato na pwedeng ipagpatuloy ang ipinaglalaban ni FPJ. Isang tunay na kaibigan na siyang pinakamalapit kay FPJ. Siya ay walang iba kundi ang unang ninakawan sa pagkapangulo, si Pangulong Joseph Erap Ejercito Estrada,” the group’s statement read by actor Rez Cortez said.

The group further said Estrada made the right choice in Binay as his running mate.

“Sa paniwala ng mga FPJ supporters, nagtitiwala kami sa pinili ni pangulong Erap na maging running mate niya si Mayor Binay,” they said, adding that both fought against injustice, cheating, and corruption of the present dispensation.

Cortez who also heads the National Coalition of Concerned Volunteers (NCCV) said the group had split into two camps last year following the decision of several of their members to back the presidential bid of Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, standard bearer of the Liberal Party (LP).

But Cortez said the Estrada faction was much bigger and had more members following than those supporting Aquino’s bid.

Those who supported Aquino are headed by Manuel Portes, national chair of the Freedom, Peace, and Justice Movement (FPJM).

Portes said his members have decided to rally behind the senator, who, they believed, held the qualities that they admired in Poe.

He claimed to have initiated the signature campaign for the late actor’s run for the presidency in 2004.

But Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Poe’s daughter, stressed then that the groups affiliated with his father have yet to come up with a common candidate to back up in this year’s national election.

The Poe family also had yet to make any formal announcements if they were supporting Estrada or any of the presidentiables whose candidacy was approved by the Commission on Election (Comelec).

In his speech, Estrada thanked the group for their support, saying his friend must be vindicated, and so must he.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo won over Poe though her term was clouded by widespread accusation of electoral fraud that culminated in the release of the controversial “Hello Garci” scandal in 2005.

Estrada said that like Poe, he owed his showbiz and political career to the poor, which was why he did all he could to pay them back.

“If FPJ were alive, I'm sure he would support me and help me give the poor a better life. We wouldn't have made a name for ourselves without the poor,” he said.

For his part, Maceda remained unfazed by the low survey ratings of Estrada adding that the voice of the people will prevail and that they are confident of his victory.

“His ratings were on the upswing as shown by surveys in cities like Kidapawan in North Cotabato and Davao showing him to be in a very strong position,” he added.

Recent opinion polls conducted by survey firms Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed Estrada behind Aquino and Senator Manuel Villar, the standard bearer of the Nacionalista Party. (AH/Sunnex)