MANILA,  May 24, 2004
Opposition presidential candidate actor Fernando Poe Jr. appealed to Congress yesterday to conduct an honest and fair canvassing of votes for president and vice president when it convenes in joint session today as the National Canvassing Board.

In a statement, the standard-bearer of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) said not only the fate and fortune of the candidates are at stake in the counting, but the fate and fortune of the entire nation.

"What is essential is that the result of the election should reflect the true will of our people," Poe said.

"The survival and triumph of our democracy rests on the validity and integrity of the result of the canvassing. I reiterate my complete faith in democracy. I believe that the true will of the people is the voice of God. I bind myself to fully abide by the will of our people," his statement said.

Meanwhile, KNP senatorial candidate Francisco Tatad said yesterday members of Congress must be reminded that under the Constitution, the entire Congress, not a mere committee thereof, shall canvass the votes for president and vice president.

"Any deviation from that provision must be resisted, even if it had been done once or twice before," he said. "Congress should not allow the Constitution to be set aside by sheer numbers who may insist on something else. It must not allow itself to be tyrannized by any tyrannical majority."

Tatad warned of "unpredictable and unwanted results" if the canvassing of the votes for president and vice president is railroaded via a committee dominated by pro-administration members of Congress.

"The administration may use the tyranny of numbers to force its way to proclaim President Arroyo without bothering to look into the veracity of the opposition’s claims of electoral fraud," he said.

Tatad accused the Arroyo administration yesterday of "sowing terror" by spreading rumors of "no proclamation" when it anticipated that Poe would grab the lead in the national canvassing by Congress.

"It was another trick of the Arroyo camp to confuse the people," he said.

Tatad said the nation’s stability would depend on what Mrs. Arroyo and Congress, acting as the National Canvassing Board, would do in the next few days.

"If Mrs. Arroyo wants stability and peace, she must now lead the way," he said.

"She must show she is genuinely for it. She must show goodwill, and not simply call those who oppose her wishes and methods, ‘agents of anarchy,’ and threaten them with bodily harm and loss of civil liberties. This is no time for threats. The people are tired and angry, they will not be cowed by threats," Tatad said.

On the other hand, Poe’s spokesman Rep. Francis Escudero said the opposition has not thought of a "no proclamation" scenario, but would only want the national canvassing to be transparent and reflective of the people’s will.

"What we want is for the truth to come out and to prevent the entry of questionable certificates of canvass," he said. — Paolo Romero

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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