MANILA,  May 24, 2004
By Delon Porcalla  -  As all eyes are now on Congress for the official counting of votes, two administration lawmakers have urged their colleagues to perform their duty in an impartial and transparent manner.

In separate statements, Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay and Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles — both President Arroyo’s partymates at the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) — appealed for partisan politics to be set aside and asked their peers not to employ tactics to derail or stonewall tomorrow’s canvassing of votes for president and vice president.

They said various party affiliations of lawmakers should not impede the process.

"We hope Congress fulfills its commitment to complete the canvass in due time and through an impartial manner so that the real winners will already be proclaimed," said Pichay, who will assist in steering the floor proceedings during the canvass.

For his part, Nograles called on his fellow lawmakers to help Congress perform an unbiased canvass.

Malacañang earlier appealed to members of Congress to stick to the rules and the timetable within which they are mandated to tally election returns and proclaim the winners.

Congress - with the Senate and House of Representatives convening in a joint session as a national board of canvassers - is the sole body constitutionally mandated to proclaim the winning presidential and vice presidential bets.

Nograles, a member of the seven-man House contingent to the National Board of Canvassers, clarified that his association with the President’s party has nothing to do with his duty. "The President is only after a fair, impartial and expeditious tabulation and proclamation," he said.

Nograles cited well-established rules and practices, which previous Congresses had successfully employed in validating and proclaiming the results of two past presidential elections.

"Those who are out to derail this process will be guilty of turning their backs on their oath of office," Nograles said. "If they cannot keep their word to uphold the Constitution, then they should at least think of the welfare of the people they had sworn to represent in Congress."

Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and Senate President Franklin Drilon have named the composition of the 14-member National Board of Canvassers that will read and canvass the votes. It will endorse its findings to the entire Congress, which would then proclaim the presidential and vice presidential winners.

Both Drilon and De Venecia have assured the nation that the canvassing will be "credible" and "transparent."

Pichay, meantime, expressed confidence that the final tabulation of the canvassing board will "validate" the President’s victory, as per copies of the certificates of canvass (COCs) of Lakas-CMD showing that Mrs. Arroyo has "won over" opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. "by well over a million votes."

The President has been ahead of Poe since unofficial and partial quick counts started shortly after the May 10 polls. But her lead has been trimmed down from more than a million votes to some 700,000.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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