LACSON CAMP DID NOT FIND EVIDENCE OF MASSIVE FRAUD - 'BUTZ' AQUINO

MANILA,  JUNE 18, 2004
(STAR) 
By Paolo Romero  -  He may have been President Arroyo’s most vocal opponent during the campaign for the presidency, but independent candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson has made a turnaround.

Lacson and his camp have virtually exonerated the administration of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP)’s allegations of massive and systematic electoral fraud.

Makati City Rep. Agapito "Butz" Aquino, one of the 22 members of the joint canvassing committee of Congress, said the Lacson camp did not find any evidence of massive and widespread cheating based on copies of certificates of canvass (COCs), statements of votes (SOVs) and election returns (ERs). Aquino had supported Lacson’s bid for the presidency.

"We did find some discrepancies here and there, but they did not indicate or appear to be part or signs of systemic and massive cheating. They were small and disparate," Aquino said.

He said that while Lacson was not given an official copy of the COCs, because he was an independent opposition candidate, they have photocopies of the original documents, including SOVs and ERs.

Aquino said the opposition’s insistence that the joint committee go down and scrutinize SOVs and ERs only shows that they want to engage in a "fishing expedition," since the opposition has no evidence to back up its allegations.

Michael Defensor, Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign spokesman, said the total number of discrepancies cited by Poe’s lawyers as justification for their allegations amounts only to 20,000 votes.

Join canvassing committee member and Batanes Rep. Florencio Abad warned that while Poe’s allies may have already scuttled plans to walk out during the canvass proceedings, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so during the resumption of the joint session when the panel submits its report.

Administration lawyer Grace Maduramente warned that Poe’s allies will not accept defeat and challenged the opposition to explain "reliable reports" coming out in media that the opposition is engaged in a destabilization plot.

Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) chief Gabriel Claudio said the opposition is still desperately trying to delay and discredit the canvassing of votes for president and vice president to prepare for a possible no-proclamation scenario.

"If there would still be a walkout now with the President leading, it won’t be as effective because (KNP standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr.) is no longer in the lead," Claudio said. "The opposition has lost momentum."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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