Rivals in today's battle for the Philippine presidency appealed for a clean fight yesterday as security forces were deployed across the country to avert disruption to polling. The runaway leader in opinion polls, Joseph Estrada, said after a breakfast with four other candidates at the presidential palace: 'Only cheating will make me lose.' Mr Estrada said the confidence of incumbent Fidel Ramos' protege, House Speaker Jose de Venecia, despite his low poll ratings, was 'worrying'. Polls show Mr Estrada, who is Vice-President, will win 33 per cent of the vote to Mr de Venecia's 15 per cent. Mr de Venecia sought to brush off accusations that the ruling party would resort to cheating or intimidation in the presidential, legislative and municipal polls. 'I'd rather not be president if I were to be associated with any wrongdoing,' he said. One of his campaign strategists, Jose Almonte, said Mr de Venecia's camp would not resort to anything illegal, just 'clean dirty tricks'. Former defence secretary Renato de Villa, third-placed candidate Senator Raul Roco and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim expressed fears of violence or electoral fraud. Commission on Elections chief Bernardo Pardo sought to ease their fears. 'There will be no postponements, no failure of elections,' he said. Much of the cheating occurs after polling, given that votes are still counted manually. But Jose Concepcion, leader of the watchdog National Movement for Free Elections, said: 'We have sufficient measures to prevent dagdag-bawas [cheating - the phrase translates as 'add-subtract'] . . . I think the days of dagdag-bawas are almost gone.' The Government is not taking any chances. The entire police force is on alert, with more than 95,000 of its 107,000 members in the field to guard election officers, man checkpoints and confiscate guns. Tens of thousands of soldiers are in 'election hot spots', mostly on southern Mindanao island. One in four voting districts has been labelled an 'area of concern' given their history of poll violence, fierce political rivalry or Muslim and communist guerilla activity. In Mindanao yesterday, about 150 armed men blocked roads to bar the transport of election materials to 37 towns in Lanao del Sur province, while 1,000 Muslim guerillas squared off against government troops. A supporter of a mayoral candidate was shot dead in the town of Dayugan. In the central Philippines four people were kidnapped. Police say 27 people have been killed in 65 violent acts during campaigning. The elections watchdog puts the toll at 34. Catholic Church leader Cardinal Jaime Sin prayed for those protecting ballot boxes, candidates and voters. He warned voting for Mr Estrada, a self-confessed adulterer and heavy drinker, would be disastrous, and while not endorsing Mr de Venecia, gave him a special private blessing. Mr Ramos and watchdog groups pledged their 'commitment to honest, orderly and peaceful elections'.