MANILA,  JUNE 21, 2004
Opposition Sen. Edgardo Angara said yesterday the congressional canvass has become "anomalous, defective and lopsided" with the walkout on Friday night of lawyers of presidential candidates Fernando Poe Jr. and evangelist Eddie Villanueva.

"President Arroyo’s allies can now run their express train faster to railroad the canvass and proclamation, but it will be a bogus proclamation," he said.

Angara, who founded the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino to serve as the political vehicle for Poe’s quest of the presidency, said the vote count has become one-way since no objections to the canvassing of even fraudulent certificates of canvass (COCs) would now be heard.

"All we will hear now would be remarks from Mrs. Arroyo’s lawyers and her allies in the joint committee that the COCs are all right, they are authentic and have been properly executed, there are no erasures and alternations," he said.

Those remarks would be followed by motions to tally the COCs, to which there would be no objections, he said.

He noted that since the tally started, it has always been Poe’s and Villanueva’s lawyers who have been exposing signs of fraud on the face of the COCs.

The KNP standard bearer’s lawyers walked out on Friday night to protest what they described as harassment and intimidation by the administration.

They took the move after charges of illegal detention and coercion were filed against Poe’s lead lawyers Harriet Demetriou, a former chairwoman of the Commission on Elections, and Rufus Rodriguez, a former immigration commissioner.

Shortly after the KNP panel left the canvassing hall at the Batasan complex in Quezon City, Villanueva’s legal team led by Salvador Panelo also walked out.

Panelo said Deputy Speaker Raul Gonzalez, who is presiding over the canvass jointly with Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, has shown extreme bias against him.

He said the House official did not like his speaking in Filipino in exposing the defects in certain COCs and cases of electoral fraud in the provinces the vote tallies came from.

"He did not like our people to understand what is going on here," he said.

Opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. seized upon Panelo’s complaint to urge Gonzalez to resign as joint canvassing committee co-chairman because of his "manifest bias."

Gonzalez later told journalists that he did not care if Panelo left "because his candidate clearly lost the elections."

Reacting to the deputy speaker’s claim that the KNP lawyers’ walkout was "pre-planned," Angara said, "How can that be? It was not the lawyers who filed the charges against their colleagues. It was the government. The lawyers just reacted to the filing of the charges."

As for the opposition members of the joint canvassing committee, Angara said he and his colleagues are not walking out.

"We will not give the administration that satisfaction. It is the administration that wants us to abandon our job here so they will have an unimpeded canvass," he said.

"We will continue to put in the record and tell our people the sordied story of this election even if Mrs. Arroyo’s allies use the sheer force of numbers to bamboozle us. Let the people and history be the judge," he added.

Asked if the opposition would recognize the President in the event Congress proclaims her as the winner in the May 10 elections, Angara said, "It is not for us to say she won, that’s the people’s prerogative. And more than half of them voted against her."

He said the votes for Poe and other opponents of Mrs. Arroyo are all votes against her.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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