MANILA,  May 28, 2004
A "true and speedy" canvass of votes is what former President Corazon Aquino prays for as the nation anxiously awaits who will be officially proclaimed as the countryís next president.

While Congress is locked in debates on rules to be adopted in the official vote count, Aquino, in a statement, called on the opposing legislators yesterday to reach a common ground so canvassing can start.

She expressed hopes that a "sincere desire for the truth," will speed up the canvass even as the constitutional task of Congress is both "hard and tedious."

"Let every word spoken in Congress bring understanding instead of delay, calm rather than more uncertainty, and a humble acceptance instead of hurt pride," said Aquino, a devout Catholic who came to power through the February 1986 people power revolt that saw rosaries and prayers win over guns and violence.

"That we may achieve the stability that comes only with justice, and the freedom that springs only from truth," she said.

Both chambers of Congress convened in joint session Tuesday as the National Board of Canvassers as required by the Constitution in order to officially count the votes and ultimately proclaim the winners for president and vice president.

The Charter says the proclamation of the next president should be made by June 30.

Aquino, a housewife around whom the people rallied to oust the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, prayed for the Filipino nation to have more "patience" and "understanding to appreciate the issues and the discernment to tell the real from false."

"Give us the patience to wait out an honest count as the Constitution requires," she said.

But at the same time, the former leader beseeched Congress to address the doubts of the people "with clarity and patience."

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, and the tongue of the wise brings healing," Mrs. Aquino said.

The scheduled canvassing of votes was derailed further Wednesday night when a "shut-up" note from a woman associated with Mrs. Aquino seated in the House gallery got the ire of Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen.

One thing led to another until Dilangalen, who has more than once aired his objections to the committee-level canvassing of votes, got into a verbal tussle with Deputy Speaker Raul Gonzalez over the disciplining of Suzette Pido, Dilangalenís note sender who admitted to be a supporter of President Arroyo.

Legislators supporting opposition bet Fernando Poe Jr., the Presidentís closest rival, want the whole plenary to conduct the canvass.

Administration lawmakers argue that the formation of a 14-man joint committee to count the votes is the faster way and has been the practice since 1961.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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