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Divisive campaign ends

The divisive campaign period ended yesterday with all five presidential candidates holding separate rallies in Metro Manila.

A last-minute effort to form a coalition aimed at preventing Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte from winning Monday’s election has fizzled out.

Sen. Grace Poe turned down Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas’ invitation for a dialogue, a move sanctioned by President Aquino.

“What’s there to talk about?” was Poe’s curt reply.

In an interview at the sidelines of her visit to Our Lady of Manaoag here, Poe said she is standing pat on her decision to pursue her independent bid.

“When it comes to (call for) unity, (I think) earlier on would have been better,” Poe told reporters during the ambush interview.

“At least they never had to resort to personal attacks against me, like the black propaganda they’ve been saying. None of those moves came from us,” she pointed out

As a result, both Roxas and Poe will go into the political exercise, trailing Duterte by double digit margins.

Supporters of the tough-talking Davao mayor gathered at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta.

In a statement yesterday, Duterte’s camp branded Roxas’ invitation to Poe as a sign of surrender.

“A victory by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has virtually become inevitable. Only a man on the verge of defeat (Roxas) can issue such frantic calls,” said Leoncio Evasco Jr., the national campaign manager of Duterte.

Evasco castigated Roxas for trying to subvert the sovereign will of the people by calling on the very rival he tried to eliminate to rally behind him and prevent Duterte from winning the presidency.

“It is not only an admission of defeat. It is also conceding that his kind is being repudiated by the people,” Evasco added.

Evasco said such call by Roxas also unmasks the true character of the Aquino regime – one in the face of debacle will abandon ship and run like headless chicken.

However, Roxas denied that his action was an admission of defeat.

Roxas claimed that recent surveys showed that his numbers are picking up.

“I am still confident of winning. The momentum of the people who have just decided is in favor of us,” said Roxas in a press briefing.

Roxas denied that the LP ship is sinking, citing an example in Aklan where a former Poe supporter joined their camp.

He said he had hoped to discuss unity with Poe, but he was rejected outright.

“She did not even bother to give this a chance. Mine is for unity talks because this is more than just Mar Roxas, this is more than just a single person,” he said. “This has to do with what would happen to the country after the elections.”

Meanwhile, Malacañang was disheartened that Poe rejected the call for unity offered by Aquino and Roxas.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III also said the call for unity was not a desperate move by the administration.

Quezon said Aquino offered the call for unity with Poe because there were people who already expressed fear of a Duterte government.

The camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay also confirmed that Aquino also reached out, but was told to just ensure clean and honest elections.

“Vice President Jejomar C. Binay believes the President should just ensure that the election is free from cheating, violence and intimidation,” said Salgado in a statement.

“Besides, such a call for unity sounds hollow considering that the President has been hitting the rivals of [LP bet Mar] Roxas throughout the campaign,” the UNA official said.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the other presidential contender, did not hold the traditional miting de avance and instead attended a street party organized by her supporters.
(Alexander Lopez, Madel Sabater-Namit, Hannah Torregoza, Aaron Recuenco and Ellson Quismorio)