CEBU CITY -- Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) standard bearer Joseph Estrada vowed Thursday to use his “charisma” to prevent President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo from becoming Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In a press conference here with members of the local and national media, Estrada said he does not believe that Arroyo will ever become House Speaker.

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“I don’t have any doubt that with me as President, she will never become Speaker. I will use my charm. I will convince her not to aspire for the Speakership of the House. I will ask her to give the others a chance.”

The former President added that Arroyo has already served the highest post in the land for nine years and she should give others a chance. “She has already served as president so why go for a lower position.”

For his part, PMP spokesman and former Ambassador Ernesto Maceda said no presidents in his right mind would allow to be a mere subordinate of a former President who will become a member of Congress.

“For her to become Speaker, she has to elect her president. If the president knows that this is only part of a series of steps to favor GMA’s plan to become Prime Minister, it’s against human nature that a duly elected president would allow to give the power to her,” Maceda said.

Arroyo’s decision to run for Congress in her province has met stiff opposition from the political opposition to the Roman Catholic Church, business and civic leaders who believed her decision to run for the Lower House is just the first step to her aspirations to regain power.

Her critics said she will aspire to become Speaker of the House of Representatives then move to amend the Constitution to allow for a shift to a parliamentary form of government, and finally crown herself prime minister.

Various efforts spearheaded by administration allies to amend the Constitution to a parliamentary form of government have failed repeatedly in the face of widespread opposition.

Winning Cebu

In his second visit to Cebu this year, Estrada said that he is not taking any chances in the May 10 elections in this province, known as a bailiwick of the administration.

They vowed not to repeat their 2004 debacle when the opposition presidential bet, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. lost by a slim margin to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It was said that Cebu provided the much-needed votes to Arroyo in the 2004 polls enabling her to edge Poe by a million votes.

On the other hand, Estrada may have won the 1998 presidential elections but he lost badly in the province to former governor Lito Osmena.

Maceda said they internalized the lessons of the previous presidential elections and are much better prepared today.

“In the 2004 elections FPJ (Poe’s nickname) has no watchers, no lawyers or watchdog groups to take care of his votes but this time it will not happen,” Maceda said, adding that they are working hard to avoid a repeat of the previous debacles.

For one thing, he said they would double the number of watchers to ensure that votes cast for Estrada and his running mate, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay and the rest of the party’s candidates would be counted.

“For every polling precinct, we will have at least two poll watchers and even four depending on the resources,” Maceda said. “This will not only be in Cebu but in the rest of the country as well.”

Another is to tap grassroots organization to help deliver the party’s message to the voters, he added.

“Here in Cebu as well as in other areas of the country we are going right to the voters that is why we are covering a lot of towns in our sortie. With or without local candidates, we are not worried since we are going directly to the voters,” Maceda said.

“We might even pull a surprise in Cebu,” he added.

Maceda also said “special arrangements” they have with local officials known to be supporters of administration bet, Gilbert Teodoro could also spell a difference for Estrada.

“We have special arrangements here like Governor Gwendolyn Garcia is for Gibo (Teodoro’s nickname) but his son-in-law, who is a mayor here in the province is for Erap (Estrada). Likewise, in the municipality of Sibunga and Dalaguete, the mayors are for Lakas but their fathers are for Erap.”

He added that in the province’s 5th District (known as the Durano district), the PMP has 10 official mayoralty candidates, four of whom are re-electionists.

Representative Ramon Durano of the 5th District is a member of the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC).

Maceda further said more administration allies are set to turn their backs on Teodoro, especially if his survey ratings does not improved in the coming days.

The PMP is also stepping up its campaign sorties to reclaim the “masa voters” who he said were “poached” by the camp of Senator Manny Villar (Nacionalista Party).

“We admit that Villar’s campaign has eaten some of our supporters and that is why we are working doubly hard to reclaim the masa votes,” said Maceda.

He added that they have already conceded the Class A, B and upper C segment of society to the other candidates adding that they would rather concentrate their resources and focus to the lower Class C and D.

“On our part, we have conceded the A, B and upper C votes and concentrate on the lower C and D voters. The upper classes have set standards biased against us.”

Erap’s camp likewise formulated what it calls the “sympathy strategy" to draw more people into voting for Estrada.

“We’re counting on the sympathy votes, because people know he (Estrada) was jailed for six years but for the wrong reasons,” said Maceda.

Estrada was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan in 2007 but was pardoned by Arroyo a month later.

Recent data provided by the Commission on Elections showed that Cebu province has a total of 2.416 million registered voters as of December 2009 making it one of the vote-rich provinces in the country.

In the 1998 elections, Estrada got 10.72 million votes of the total 26.90 million votes cast.

Of the total 1.3 million voters tallied in the province, Osmena got 903,352 votes (70 percent) while Estrada only got 187,028 votes (14 percent).

In 2004, the province also delivered 1,185,600 votes to Arroyo while Poe got only 181,000. (AH/Sunnex)