MANILA,  JUNE 17, 2004
President Arroyo refused yesterday to call a special session of Congress despite opposition claims that the legislature’s adjournment last June 11 could put in question the authority of the joint committee to continue canvassing the votes for president and vice president.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo made her stand in consultation with her advisers and based on the precedents set by Congress in the 1992 and 1998 presidential elections.

"The President has definitely said no special session (of Congress) would be called," he said.

"We have had legal precedents. We had tried the 1992, and the 1998 canvass which were held under similar circumstances, and we believe that recognized tradition and practices of both houses of Congress form part of the rules. So we’re operating within the rules of the joint houses of Congress."

Bunye did not say why Mrs. Arroyo refused to call Congress to a special session, or if she had consulted with Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.

"The President just told us that there will be no special session," he said.

"The reasons for this has been explained to the President. At this time, there is no need to call for a special session. Anyway, the decision is there. At present, the President feels there is no need to call for special session."

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo is confident that her allies in Congress would ensure that the canvassing and the proclamation of a president would be completed before her term ends on June 30.

"We’re hoping that the proclamation will take place in accordance with the assessment of the Senate president and other leaders of Congress," he said.

"Just observe the basic rules. What’s the mandate of the joint committee? The joint committee is really after the canvassing of votes. They are not supposed to look into the underlying (election returns) and (statement of votes). We just have to respect those rules.

"If you would note the administration members of the joint committee have been constantly present. It’s the other side which are either absent or late for one reason or another, or they would prefer to knock off early again for one reason or another.

"But chairmen of this joint committee have been reasonable in trying to accommodate some of these requests."

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and other leaders of opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino have threatened to question before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the continued existence of the joint congressional committee. — Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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