BATTLE OF THE QUICK COUNTS

MANILA,  May 21, 2004
(STAR)
By Edu Punay  -  The administration’s Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K-4) unveiled yesterday its own quick count, saying the results show it is a statistical impossibility for opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr. to catch up with President Arroyo’s lead of over a million votes.

Poe the other day claimed victory in the May 10 presidential election based on the quick count of his Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) being done at the Makati Coliseum in Makati City.

Poe had described the general elections as "tainted with fraud."

Results of the K-4 quick count presented to reporters at the K-4 headquarters in Makati City, however, showed Mrs. Arroyo with 12,029,850 votes compared to Poe’s 10,980,038. The quick count covers 93 percent of the total certificates of canvass (COCs) nationwide, K-4 officials said.

K-4 senatorial campaign manager Dodi Limcaoco also advised the KNP and other opposition groups to present evidence bolstering their claim of electoral fraud to the proper forum — the Commission on Elections (Comelec) — and not just to the media.

"It is clear there are those who are trying very hard to paint the administration as guilty of massive fraud without clear evidence to support such an assertion. They have even manufactured so-called evidence. They are also trying to use media to fan the flames of social unrest. Everyone should calmly await the results of the official canvass, and abide by the will of the people," he said.

The Comelec, on the other hand, is set to investigate the KNP and an opposition newspaper for publishing a quick count apart from that of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), which it said is the only organization authorized to conduct a quick count.

The poll body earlier stopped ABC -5 from airing the results of its own quick count. The television network has since explained its side and the case is now under deliberation.

"Comelec has the prerogative to regulate these (quick count) activities so there will be no confusion. And if there is confusion, people may be misled," Comelec Commissioner Resurreccion Borra said.

"For purposes of law and order and stability, there should be an effective enforcement of the law. So Comelec will look into this, if there is this so-called quick count without being accredited by the Comelec," he added.

Borra explained the KNP is not prohibited from making its own canvass of votes, but publishing the results is an entirely different matter.

He said the danger in having too many quick counts is that any discrepancy among them may make the public "suspect something has happened."

"Their (quick counts) must be legitimate," Borra said.

Namfrel, the poll body’s accredited citizen’s arm, is entitled to a copy of election returns from the polling precincts, just like registered political parties, on which it bases its quick count.

Meanwhile, Borra said Namfrel should count 100 percent of votes as provided in its accreditation. He is reacting to reports the election watchdog is winding down its operations halfway in its canvassing of votes.

"We will require them to explain why they are not able to finish what they are expected to do," he said. Vital Statistics

Claudio said they have counter-checked with the Comelec the certificates of canvass they used in their own quick count.

He dared KNP leaders to show solid proof that Poe won the presidential race, based on the KNP’s internal quick count.

"How on earth and on what basis can they proclaim their candidate without showing evidence?" Claudio asked.

He said Poe’s claim of victory was "an utter disregard of the constitutional process. Congress should be the one making the proclamation. They could be charged with inciting to sedition."

Claudio said they were forced to divulge the results of their own quick count to "expose the KNP claim of victory as devoid of legal and factual basis, to say the least. Or worse, utterly false, malicious and contemptuous of our electoral process."

He also said since the close of the polls last May 10, the K-4 has been "careful not to make assertions about the results of such elections."

"We have done so out of respect to the electoral process and the role of the Comelec and Congress in this matter," he said.

It is the role of Congress, sitting as the National Board of Cavnassers, to proclaim the winners in the presidential and vice presidential elections.

Based on the K-$’s quick count as of 9 p.m. on May 17, Poe dominated Luzon while Mrs. Arroyo won among voters in the Visayas, Mindanao, and overseas.

In Luzon, Poe led the race with 6,638,844 votes against the 5,023,166 votes cast for Mrs. Arroyo. He was ahead of the President by 1,615,678 votes.

But in the Visayas alone, Mrs. Arroyo is almost 2.5 million votes ahead of Poe. She garnered 4,090,519 votes while Poe got 1,766,977.

Mrs. Arroyo also led in Mindanao with 2,824,564 votes compared to Poe’s 2,533,474 votes.

Overseas absentee voters also favor Mrs. Arroyo, who leads Poe by 50,888.

"With 93 percent of the votes counted, it is statistically impossible for Poe to catch up," Claudio said.

He noted that Mrs. Arroyo may have won in only 45 out of 106 provinces, but her lead in these areas is enough to topple Poe’s lead in the remaining provinces.

Cebu alone — with approximately 900,000 voters — can cancel out Poe’s lead in 38 provinces. Mrs. Arroyo can also topple Poe in 12 provinces with her lead of over a million votes in Iloilo and Pampanga.

The K-4 quick count also showed that Mrs. Arroyo’s running mate, Sen. Noli de Castro, is leading the vice presidential race over Sen. Loren Legarda by 1,240,882 votes, culled from 85 percent of COCs.

No Claim Of Victory

Presidential political spokesman Michael Defensor, for his part, said the KNP assured him Poe has not claimed victory in the presidential race.

He said he talked to KNP spokesman Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero, who clarified to him that Poe’s declaration of victor is "internal for their group to boost their confidence going to the final canvassing."

Defensor said while it is Poe’s right to visit any part of the country, he should refrain from claiming victory in the presidential race.

At the same time, Defensor said the Arroyo administration has not taken any legal action pertaining to Poe’s proclamation in Mindanao.

"The action being taken now is to prevent anyone from disrupting or sabotaging the canvassing or the counting of the votes," he said.

Defensor advised Poe to be "responsible enough" to wait for the final results of the counting by Congress and that "as a political leader and as a presidential candidate, he should not agitate his supporters into taking drastic actions that might trigger ‘unpopular situations.’"

In a related development, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Reynaldo Wycoco assured the public there was no gag order or surveillance on any media group or practitioner.

Acting Justice Secretary Merceditas Gutierrez earlier threatened legal action against media groups publishing and airing "unauthorized" quick counts, a move that Malacañang said did not infringe on press freedom.

Wycoco clarified that the basic premise of Gutierrez’s statement is that the government respects the people’s right to speak their mind provided they do it within the bounds of the law.

He said these unauthorized quick counts apparently tend to cast doubt on the credibility and integrity of last week’s elections and, according to Gutierrez, endanger public order or harm the interest of the state.

Wycoco said Gutierrez was just appealing to the concerned groups to desist from disseminating "false news" on the results of the May 10 elections. "Otherwise, we shall be constrained to initiate criminal actions and prosecute the persons concerned if evidence warrants," he said. — With Jose Aravilla, Cecille Suerte Felipe


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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