MANILA,  JUNE 10, 2004
Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. predicted yesterday that the canvassing of votes for president and vice president by a joint Senate-House committee would now proceed at a faster pace.

"I think the joint committee will now be more decisive in limiting delay and preventing further attempts at filibustering because this is obviously against the national interest. We want now to complete the canvass at the soonest possible opportunity," he said in an interview.

He said the committee would take "more decisive actions" in the coming days to cut short "protracted speeches."

"We believe that we have given enough of the democratic space to the leaders of the minority in the joint committee," he said.

De Venecia estimated that the canvassing panel could finish its job "in two weeks, more or less, but long before the constitutional deadline of June 30. That’s for sure."

"If we are lucky, the most likely date would be June 20, June 24, thereabouts," he said.

On Tuesday, re-elected opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. resorted to filibustering, speaking continuously for more than three hours. He spent an additional two hours questioning an official of the Commission on Elections, who was summoned to explain discrepancies in the certificates of canvass for absentee votes.

Yesterday, Pimentel reiterated his proposed compromise to expedite the canvass.

He said if the majority blocs in the canvassing panel agreed to go down to the precinct-level election returns in 15 provinces where the opposition claims its standard- bearer, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., was cheated, they would not scrutinize the certificates of canvass (COCs) in other provinces.

"I hope the majority will listen to the position of the minority so that the truth and the will of the people will prevail. Besides, we believe that the correct process is to refer to the source documents, and if we do this, the canvassing will move at a faster pace," he said.

He said he was forced to resort to filibustering on Monday because of the majority’s "obstinate objection" to the opposition proposal to open the election returns in the case of the "defective" COC for absentee votes.

Pimentel warned the majority composed of allies of President Arroyo that the opposition "will not budge an inch to any attempt by the administration to railroad the canvass through sheer force of numbers." — Jess Diaz

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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