MANILA,  May 26, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva  -  Malacañang will not claim an official victory for President Arroyo despite the revelation by a Commission on Elections (Comelec) official that she won the May 10 elections by a margin of over 900,000 votes, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said yesterday.

Bunye said it is still premature for anybody to claim victory at this stage since the two chambers of Congress, convening as the National Board of Canvassers, have yet to start their official tally of the certificates of canvass (COCs) and proclaim the winners of the presidential and vice presidential race.

The camp of Mrs. Arroyo’s running mate Sen. Noli de Castro, however, issued a statement that he will "be bidding goodbye to the Senate" since the Comelec’s official tally and the quick count by the People’s Tally and Action Center (PTAC) show that he is leading Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) bet Sen. Loren Legarda in the vice presidential race.

De Castro’s camp cited reports that Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K-4) legal counsel Romulo Macalintal said De Castro led Legarda by 1.2 million votes.

In the PTAC quick count that tabulated 72.26 percent of votes, De Castro got 12,239,977 votes as against 11,336,296 votes received by Legarda.

"It is now up to the lawyers of (De Castro) — namely Macalintal, Jesse Andres and Armando Marcelo — to make sure that in the official canvass before the joint session of Congress, the true results of the election will be reflected and that (De Castro) will be officially proclaimed as vice president in the most expeditious manner," the statement read.

Administration lawmakers, for their part, expressed confidence the congressional canvass will eventually validate the results of exit polls and quick counts pointing to Mrs. Arroyo’s victory.

The congressmen, who have been re-elected to their posts, cited the quick counts by ABS-CBN and GMA-7 television networks and the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel).

Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrat Reps. Antonio Cuenco of Cebu City, Mayo Almario of Davao Oriental and Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan said the Comelec figures are indisputable, "having been based on actual COCs and without the taint of partisan color."

Cuenco said the accuracy of the Comelec’s tally can be verified anytime, unlike the tabulations made by the opposition "which were obviously manipulated and concocted to create a false win for (KNP standard-bearer) Fernando Poe Jr."

The KNP claimed Monday that Poe is winning the presidential race, based on PTAC’s quick count, which they said has tabulated 70 percent of votes.

Almario observed that Poe "won in just one poll count and this was the one conducted by his KNP. We believe the congressional canvass, which will be done in utmost impartiality and transparency, will complement and affirm all tabulations and exit poll surveys."

The congressional canvass, according to Alvarado, "will reflect who really won the presidential race. The results are final and irrefutable. We believe the President will come out a winner in this ultimate tabulation by the people’s representatives."

Bunye told reporters in his daily press briefing yesterday that the President has not said anything but has only repeated her calls for sobriety and prudence while the electoral process in the country has yet to be completed.

"The only count that will matter is the official count of the national canvassing board. So we have to wait for this official count to be started and be completed. That’s the only time when anyone can really claim that a candidate won," he said.

Much as he would like to confirm Mrs. Arroyo’s victory in the presidential elections, Bunye said neither the Palace nor the Comelec is authorized to proclaim the winner of the presidential and vice presidential elections.

"The power is lodged in the joint session of Congress. So we do not wish to preempt their announcement," he said.

"We have to really go through the process because opening of the COCs in joint session is a separate proceeding. We just would like to have this started and completed as soon as possible. We’d like to appeal to everyone to ensure that the canvassing is done in a transparent, fair and equitable manner," Bunye added.

Last Monday, Macalintal and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Gabriel Claudio, who had functioned as K-4 campaign manager, said Mrs. Arroyo was virtually assured of victory over her four rivals for the presidency based on 173 out of 176 COCs the Comelec used to tally the results of the senatorial race.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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