MANILA,  JUNE 9, 2004
President Arroyo did not benefit from the alleged vote-padding that occurred in the absentee voting for policemen and soldiers, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye and Secretary Michael Defensor, Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign spokesman, said there was no reason for the opposition to accuse Mrs. Arroyo of being behind the alleged anomaly.

The questioned certificate of canvass (COCs) will "not alter" the one million vote lead of Mrs. Arroyo based on the count of the pro-administration Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan, they added.

Bunye said the congressional canvass of votes for president and vice president has been proceeding well despite the controversy.

"In regard to COC (No.) 21, an honest mistake was committed and President Arroyo did not benefit from it," he said.

"We acknowledge the efforts of all parties concerned to monitor and correct the discrepancies in the COCs, but to come up with sweeping accusations of fraud on the basis of an isolated case is unfair and uncalled for.

"At any rate, we are pleased that the formal canvassing of votes has been started, and we are confident that Congress is steadily moving forward to an early proclamation date."

On the other hand, Defensor said via phone patch that the questionable election returns could be temporarily set aside by the congressional joint committee until it has tabulated all problem-free certificates of canvass.

"What the (opposition) wants, based on the 28 COCs, is to question all the ERs," he said.

"It cannot be done that way. It (questionable ERs) can be set aside awhile, in fairness to the opposition, set them aside but the counting continues.

"But after all counting is done and if it’s only 40,000 (then) it cannot alter, or it cannot reverse the one million or 900,000 lead of the President (against opposition presidential front-runner Fernando Poe Jr.)."

Defensor said the opposition knows they have lost the elections so they are trying to convince the public that massive cheating occurred.

"What I am saying is, as a compromise and in the spirit of transparency, what should be set aside are the (questionable) ERs, and not the entire COC, but minus only from the total (of ERs) under one COC," he said."

Defensor said the rules adopted by the 22-man joint congressional committee can decide to set aside the questionable election returns if there are "manifest errors or alterations," and continue the tabulation.

"If after the tabulation and based on what ERs the (opposition) would present, these could alter the results, then count the ERs," he said. — Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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