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Unsuccessful Philippine Presidential Candidate Poe Buried Amid High Security

  • Michael Barker

The Philippine army went on red alert Wednesday as Filipinos paid their last respects to movie actor and presidential aspirant Fernando Poe Jr., but the funeral went off without incident.

Thousands of people lined the streets or joined the funeral procession Wednesday as the man known as "Da King" of Philippine movies was laid to rest in a Manila cemetery.

Fernando Poe Jr., who was affectionately known by the initials FPJ, was defeated in a bid for president earlier this year. He died on December 14, three days after suffering a stroke during a party he hosted for employees of his movie company.

He was idolized by the masses for playing cinema roles for more than five decades that typically involved a "common man" triumphing over evil committed by the rich and powerful.

Mr. Poe ran for the presidency in May and lost a tight race to the incumbent, Gloria Arroyo. He and his supporters claimed that there had been widespread cheating by the Arroyo camp, and Mr. Poe had been contesting the result at the time of his death.

Speaking at a church service, fellow actor and close friend Eddie Garcia said Mr. Poe's death had robbed the country of a man who had dreamed of improving the lives of the millions of Filipinos who live in dire poverty.

"Now that Ronnie has gone," he said, "the icon of the unfulfilled aspirations of the downtrodden, the unfulfilled aspirations of the underdog, is gone"

Despite his big screen image as a champion of the little man, Mr. Poe was often criticized for lacking concrete policies to help the poor or to address other problems in the country.

He was popular nevertheless, and the government was worried that anti-Arroyo elements would use the funeral to stir up trouble. The military was put on full alert and imposed a tight security cordon around the presidential palace.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, speaking on national television before the event, said intelligence agents had uncovered a plan by some groups to use the funeral as a platform to turn people against the government.

While the funeral procession and burial went off largely without incident, many marchers repeatedly referred to Mr. Poe as the winner of the May election and called on President Arroyo to resign.

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