Philippine movie icon Fernando Poe, who nearly unseated President Gloria Arroyo early this year, has been put on life support after falling into a coma following a massive stroke over the weekend, his spokesman said yesterday.
Poe, 64, was rushed to a Manila hospital on Sunday after he fell unconscious during a party at his studio compound. Doctors said he suffered from a blood clot in his brain.
"His blood pressure is being supported by medicines. I am going out on a limb by saying this but he can no longer support the basic functions of his body," said House of Representatives member Fran-cis Escudero, a spokesman for the political opposition.
"Even so we are still hoping and praying that he will be able to overcome this," he said.
A medical bulletin issued by his doctors at St. Luke's Hospital said Poe "is still in a coma and has multiple organ system involvement" and was in the intensive-care unit.
Politicians and film stars rushed to the actor's bedside, including former first lady Imelda Marcos and former president Corazon Aquino, who left a string of rosary beads purported to have healing powers.
Imee Marcos, an opposition member of Congress and the eldest daughter of Imelda Marcos, said one side of Poe's face was turning black.
Joseph Estrada, a former movie star who was ousted as the country's president by street protests in 2001, was allowed out of detention by the anti-graft court to visit his close friend in hospital for about an hour on Sunday evening.
"I know him," Estrada said. "He will fight this."
Dozens of people wearing Poe campaign T-shirts gathered outside the hospital as thousands of others held prayer vigils in Roman Catholic churches across the country.
Jejomar Binay, mayor of Manila's financial hub Makati, said the actor was hosting a party at his film studio on Saturday evening for politicians, movie friends and campaign backers when he felt dizzy and had searing pain in his head.
A self-made millionaire, Poe challenged Arroyo in the May polls but lost by over a million votes despite various exit polls claiming that he had won. He maintains that he was cheated, and a survey in September found that the majority of Filipinos believe he was cheated out of sure victory.
He is hugely popular in the Philippines, especially with the majority poor who identify with his roles portraying quick-fisted, Robin Hood-type heroes.