MANILA,  JUNE 13, 2004
By Delon Porcalla And Jose Rodel Clapano  -  President Arroyo will maintain her lead over her closest rival Fernando Poe Jr. in the canvassing of votes by Congress, and will pull away when the 22-man joint congressional canvassing committee starts tabulating the 120th up to the last certificate of canvass, administration lawmakers said yesterday.

Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier, a substitute member of the House contingent to the joint panel, expressed confidence the Chief Executive will "pull away past halfway (through) the canvass."

"The President will pull away starting with the 120th COC and will lead all the way" until the176th COC, he said.

Javier said the opposition should stop making allegations of massive poll fraud, especially now that the canvass is being undertaken by Congress — even though the pace is slow — as these "genuine" documents are being scrutinized "in the most transparent and impartial manner."

"The debates during the past days would attest to the fairness of the canvass as the opposition were given adequate time to raise their points about the COCs. The COCs would eventually validate the fact that the President really won the elections," Javier said.

Eastern Samar Marcelino Libanan (NPC) said COCs from five provinces — Cebu, Pampanga, Iloilo, Bohol and Negros Occidental — will prove that Mrs. Arroyo won the elections.

When the panel tabulates votes from these areas, he said, the opposition will most likely employ more dilatory tactics.

Copies of COCs furnished to the Koalisyon ng Karanasan at Katapatan para sa Kinabukasan (K-4) by the Comelec showed Mrs. Arroyo garnered the highest margin in Cebu with 1,004,000 votes, followed by Pampanga with 557,992 votes, Iloilo with 430,568 votes, Bohol with 242,956 votes and Negros Occidental with 195,285 votes.

"We expect a validation of these margins during the canvass based on the same COCs that we find are authentic and duly executed," Libanan said. Votes for the President will be "overwhelming," he predicted.

Mrs. Arroyo maintained Friday a 27,262 vote lead against Poe who obtained 951,651 votes. So far, 80 COCs have already been tallied, with 96 more election forms left to be counted. Speaker Jose de Venecia said he expects the canvass to be over by June 19 or 22 and expressed confidence that they can beat the June 30 deadline.

‘Knp Hurting Nobody But Itself’

Meanwhile, a volunteer lawyer of the K-4, Grace Lee-Maduramente, said the KNP is hurting nobody but itself in its vain attempt to block the proclamation of a new president by June 30.

"At this point, the KNP should realize that the people are already exasperated and extremely annoyed by their relentless pursuit of a no-proclamation scenario," Maduramente said.

She said in a press statement that opposition Senator-elect Aquilino Pimentel Jr. bore the brunt of the public’s backlash against the KNP’s "plot to derail the national canvassing in Congress" with his five-hour filibuster Tuesday.

Several quarters and individual voters censured and castigated Pimentel for his tirade, including retired Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, who called Pimentel from his sickbed to plead for a smoother canvass of votes, she said.

Numerous volunteers of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) also called and sent messages to various media outlets expressing indignation over Pimentel’s denunciation of the alleged complicity of Namfrel in purported massive cheating during the May 10 elections.

Many of these voters publicly expressed their regret over having voted for Pimentel, Maduramente said.

"If the KNP and its allies are hurting, it is due to self-inflicted wounds incurred while trying to question the credibility and integrity of the elections by painting a picture of massive fraud to forestall the proclamation of President Arroyo as winner in the hotly-contested presidential race," she said.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said he discerned a vicious pattern in the opposition’s move to undermine the leadership of the President.

In a radio interview, Bunye said there was a correlation to the KNP’s strategies to derail the canvass, expose alleged widespread cheating at the polls and mounting street protests.

He said pro-KNP protesters dispersed by the police for lack of a rally permit were carrying cooking utensils and blankets — indicating they were prepared for a protracted demonstration.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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