MANILA,  JUNE 25, 2004
By Jess Diaz and Paolo Romero  -  The political opposition is not likely to grant President Arroyo a honeymoon or grace period when she begins her new six-year term of office at month’s end.

Members of the opposition spurned the President’s gesture of reconciliation hours after she reached out to her political opponents.

"Most likely there will be no honeymoon," outgoing Sen. Vicente Sotto III told The STAR, at the same time adding that the May 10 polls were "the worst, the dirtiest and most anomalous elections ever."

Sotto, an ally of defeated opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr., said "one of the reasons there will be no honeymoon is because GMA’s mandate will always be doubtful."

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said yesterday he and his colleagues are not disposed to accept the President’s offer of reconciliation because "her word cannot be relied upon."

"Insincerity is written all over her face," he said in a radio interview.

Sotto, meanwhile, said that the proclamation date of Mrs. Arroyo and her running mate Noli de Castro was ominous, pointing out it signified 666 or the antichrist — June being the sixth month, 24 adding up to 6 and the year 2004 also totaling 6.

Numerologists had a bad feeling about this date, Sotto said, remaining serious.

Pimentel also said the days of harsh electoral words are over and that the time for hard work has begun.

"The days of harsh electoral words are over. The day of hard work has begun. Let’s all work to rebuild what is left of our plundered country. Let us seek justice but in peace and love," he said.

But Pimentel was also quick to point out that his statement did not really mean that he was heeding the President’s call for unity.

"Not really. When I issued the statement, I didn’t even know she wants unity," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo made the magnanimous offer minutes after the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives proclaimed her at about 3:30 yesterday morning at the Batasan complex in Quezon City. Pimentel and other opposition senators and congressmen left the House session hall before the President’s allies could proclaim her.

Before leaving, the Mindanao senator, who won re-election under the ticket of opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr., presented the minority’s version of the joint canvassing committee proceedings and the results of the May 10 presidential election.

He said Mrs. Arroyo robbed Poe of victory by preventing, through her allies in the congressional canvassing committee, the opening of precinct-level election returns.

"In our rough computation, had the joint committee allowed the opening of the relevant election returns, the truth would have surfaced that Mr. Poe won the presidency by some 510,000 votes. And so would Loren Legarda have won over Noli de Castro by some 702,000 votes," he said.

The joint committee canvass, based on provincial- and city-level certificates of canvass, showed that Mrs. Arroyo defeated Poe by 1.1 million votes. De Castro won over Legarda by nearly 900,000 votes.

Because the President’s allies stubbornly refused to open the ERs, Pimentel said "the truth of Mr. Poe’s and Ms. Legarda’s victory over their respective opponents remains hidden in the bowels of the ballot boxes containing the election returns."

He said the President’s supporters knew from the start that had they agreed to examine and tabulate the ERs, "Mrs. Arroyo would have to get out of Malacañang as a disgraced ex-president."

The senator also questioned Mrs. Arroyo’s basis for her unity calls, asking, "On what basis? Let cheats go scot-free and crooks laugh all the way to the banks?"

Pimentel added that people should also now realize that his actuations in Congress such as filibustering were not for any personal agenda.

"It was for the good of the country that we were after." he said.

Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, one of five opposition senators who served in the joint canvassing committee, said the canvassing panel, by refusing to resort to precinct tallies, suppressed the truth from coming out.

He said frankly, he did not know whether it was Mrs. Arroyo or Poe who won the presidency.

Sen. Luisa Ejercito said Mrs. Arroyo, who was vice president during the Estrada administration, drove her husband from power.

"And now, she stole FPJ’s victory," she said.

Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr., who served on the opposition panel during the canvass, voted for the report of the majority bloc.

He said he believed that it was Mrs. Arroyo who won the election but that he was only requested to be an alternate opposition canvasser. He did not say who made the request but it could have been Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, one of Poe’s campaign managers.

Locsin earned the ire of the majority during the canvass for calling them and their remarks and arguments alternately as "stupid," "silly" and "vacuous."

Candidates were given time to speak during the joint session on Thursday.

Makati Rep. Agapito Aquino made a short statement on behalf of his candidate, Sen. Panfilo Lacson who received 3.5 million votes. "We fought, we lost, we concede," Aquino said.

Party-list Rep. Joel Villanueva spoke for his father, evangelist Eddie Villanueva, who polled nearly two million votes.

He said his father was disappointed with the joint committee decision rejecting his request for the opening of at least three ballot boxes containing precinct tallies to ferret out the truth.

Villanueva’s request was contained in a letter he sent the committee last Sunday, when the panel finished the canvass.

He said if the returns in the three boxes contained no evidence of fraud, then the canvass results should be respected.

But if they showed signs of cheating, then all election returns should be "exposed to the sunlight," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the committee voted down the request minutes after it was presented by Pimentel and party-list Rep. Kim Bernardo Lokin. — with Edith Regalado

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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