NAMFREL  QUICK  COUNT  VOLUNTEERS  TAKE  A  BREAK  TOMORROW

MANILA,  May 22, 2004
(STAR)
By Evelyn Macairan  -  Volunteers of the National Citizensí Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) will take a break tomorrow as they prepare to move from La Salle-Greenhills in San Juan to the RFM Building in Mandaluyong City.

Guillermo Luz, Namfrel secretary-general, said he would give his staff a day-off tomorrow after 12 days of non-stop operation. "Iíd like to give the staff some time off on Sunday to rest and then resume on Monday," he said.

Luz said they would keep communication lines open tomorrow, although the processing and canvassing of votes will be temporarily stopped, and they will continue to receive copies of election returns from field men via fax and e-mail.

"We are not cutting the lines, and give an opportunity to send for those operating in the field because there are still few," he said.

"They will go to an e-mail address, while we move the equipment."

Luz said they hope to complete counting more than 60 percent of the votes from the total number of precincts before they move out of La Salle.

"We will stop when we stop receiving the clean reports," he said. "We will not reach 100 percent because there are not 100 percent clean reports, and in some cases, we donít have the returns. We donít have a 100 percent pickup on the returns."

As of 1 p.m. yesterday, they have already tallied 56.06 percent of votes from 121,293 polling precincts, he added.

Luz said they will first set up their communication lines at the RFM building on Pioneer street before they pull out their equipment from the La Salle gymnasium in Greenhills.

On the other hand, Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos said yesterday he is confident that the poll body would be able to proclaim six of the winning senatorial candidates today or tomorrow.

"Hopefully we can make a partial proclamation, maybe (today) or (tomorrow), depending on how fast we can tabulate," he said.

"Especially if those that remain are small (like) Isabela, Zamboanga City, Lanao del Norte, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, and (overseas absentee ballots) from Portugal and Mali."

In the latest Comelec tally, the top six senatorial aspirants are Manuel Roxas II, Ramon Revilla Jr., Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Jamby Madrigal, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and Richard Gordon.

The poll body has actually counted almost all of the certificates of canvass, with those from 18 provinces yet to be delivered to the National Canvassing Center at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

Meanwhile, Luz has rejected allegations that Namfrel was favoring Mrs. Arroyo, saying that they have always been non-partisan.

"All of us in Namfrel sign a pledge of non-partisanship," he said. "It is at the back of all our identification cards. When we join Namfrel, we sign this pledge. And we are held by this pledge. We all sign this pledge. We stand by this pledge. Our word is our honor. So that will make it clear. We renew this pledge every election."

Luz also brushed aside allegations that Namfrel chairman Jose Concepcion Jr. is also biased for Mrs. Arroyo.

"On the accusation that Joecon (Concepcion) is pro-Gloria, I do not know what is the basis of that accusation," he said.

"I do not think that is true. I have worked with Joecon for many years and he is non-partisan."

The camp of independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson warned yesterday that the slow Comelec and Namfrel count is contributing to political unrest in the country. ó With reports from Jose Aravilla, Mike Frialde, Jose Rodel Clapano


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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