PHOTO AT LEFT:  CAUCUS -  Senate President Franklin Drilon shows election documents to opposition Sen. Edgardo Angara while Speaker Jose de Venecia (seated right) and Sen. Vicente Sotto III listen during the continuation of the canvassing of votes at the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City yesterday. -Photo by Fernan Nebres]

MANILA,  JUNE 3, 2004 (STAR) By Jess Diaz  -  Outgoing Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen tangled yesterday with Senate President Franklin Drilon, asking him to produce two missing certificates of canvass.

"What did the Senate president do with the missing COCs from Camarines Norte?" Dilangalen asked at the start of the joint session of the two chambers of Congress sitting as the National Board of Canvassers.

The COCs were discovered missing late Tuesday night when lawmakers opened two ballot boxes from Camarines Norte.

Under the law and the Constitution, the first copies of the COC are to be sealed in ballot boxes and delivered to the Senate for use by Congress in the canvassing of votes for president and vice president.

These boxes are to be opened by the Senate president in a joint public session of Congress acting as a canvassing board.

Drilon told Dilangalen that had he approached him before the session started, he would not have hurled "innuendoes" against him.

He said the Senate committee in charge of receiving the ballot boxes did not find COCs inside them as reflected in its report.

What the committee found were envelopes "purported" to contain COCs and statements of votes, he said.

These are the same envelopes that were retrieved in the two ballot boxes from Camarines Norte on Tuesday night, he added.

But Dilangalen pointed out that the same Senate reception committee report Drilon referred to, of which the Maguindanao solon had a copy, stated that the panel found COCs in the ballot boxes.

His view was shared by Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III, who also had a copy of the report.

Sotto said he witnessed the opening of the Camarines Norte ballot boxes on Tuesday night and there were no envelopes "purported" to contain COCs as Drilon claimed.

Sen. Edgardo Angara urged Drilon to sufficiently explain to Congress and the public what happened to the missing COCs.

"Apparently, these COCs were delivered to the Senate, and when transported from the Senate to the Batasan complex, they disappeared," he said.

Drilon summoned the provincial board of canvassers for answers to what happened to the missing COCs.

Dilangalen also said the Senate violated the Constitution when it allowed the opening of the ballot boxes by its reception committee.

But Drilon said the boxes have to be opened so its contents can be checked and recorded.

Based on the copy of the COCs obtained by the opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., KNP standard bearer, received 70,566 votes in Camarines Norte against President Arroyo’s 37,846.

The KNP copy matched that of the administration K-4 coalition, which reflected the same figures.

Last night, Drilon informed Chairman Benjamin Abalos of the Commission on Elections that the COCs for Camarines Norte were not contained in the two ballot boxes sent to the Senate.

He asked Abalos to require the provincial board of canvassers to submit within two days "an explanation under oath of the non-inclusion of the said COCs in the submissions to the Senate."

Meanwhile, Dilangalen called for a criminal investigation into the case last night after Camarines Norte Rep. Renato Unico Jr. took the floor and said that according to provincial election officers and members of the provincial board of canvassers, the envelope inside the ballot box contained the missing COC when they turned it over to the Office of the Senate President. — with Paolo Romero

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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