GMA REAFFIRMED COMMITMENT TO FAIR PLAY, NO CHEATING IN 2004 POLLS

MANILA, November 28, 2003  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - Despite her being the administration candidate, President Arroyo reaffirmed yesterday her commitment to fair play by ensuring clean and honest elections when the Commission on Elections (Comelec) implements the country’s first automated counting of ballots for the May 2004 general elections.

"Computerization is needed to strengthen our democracy by ensuring that the votes are counted accurately and on time," Mrs. Arroyo said.

The President issued the statement following accusations hurled by opposition leader Sen. Edgardo Angara that she is laying the groundwork for "massive fraud" in pushing for the nationwide implementation of computerized counting of ballots in the 2004 presidential elections.

"This is essential to good governance and national stability and we must give it a chance as a means to protect the ballot. Automated counting machines are there solely for this purpose and definitely not for cheating, so let us give this process a chance," Mrs. Arroyo replied.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye explained Mrs. Arroyo has been "partial" to Comelec’s position to implement the full computerization of the electoral process as against the calls made by lawmakers for selective implementation.

"The recommendation has not been in but the President is partial to automation. That is part of her electoral reform agenda, a full computerization as of 2004," Bunye said.

Mrs. Arroyo said Wednesday that she will make consultations with the Comelec in their request to veto the joint concurrent resolution by the Senate and the House of Representatives to initially implement the country’s first computerized voting in selected areas.

Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos called for Mrs. Arroyo to veto the joint resolutions, stressing the poll body is already prepared to go full blast in implementing the computerized ballot counting on a nationwide scale.

Bunye said Malacañang has yet to receive a copy of the joint resolution by Congress.

Abalos said yesterday the Comelec needs to get clear signals from Mrs. Arroyo on her position on the joint resolutions before the end of this month so as not to delay the delivery of the 1,991 automated counting machines.

"The President will make her formal statement (before that time)," Bunye said. — With Sheila Crisostomo


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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