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UPDATED: 09:20, June 24, 2004
Arroyo proclaimed president-elect
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The Philippine Congress Thursday proclaimed incumbent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the president-elect in the May 10 elections.

Arroyo's running mate Senator Noli de Castro, at the same time,was proclaimed vice president-elect.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker of the House of Representatives Jose de Venecia jointly made the proclamation before Arroyo and de Castro at a joint session of Congress before dawn Thursday after 10 straight hours of debates to approve a report of the joint congressional canvassing committee.

The long-awaited proclamation dispelled concerns that a furtherdelay would plunge the Southeast Asian nation into a constitutional crisis because Arroyo's term ends on June 30.

Drilon and de Venecia congratulated Arroyo and de Castro, who arrived at the House building shortly after 2 a.m. (1800 GMT Wednesday) and waited for about an hour to be proclaimed.

The Senate president and the House speaker raised hands of Arroyo and de Castro in a sign of victory.

"Their proclamation today should signal the start of a healing process after a very divisive electoral exercise. This election has shown us how difficult we stand as a divided nation," Drilon said.

He said the president should now begin extending the hand of reconciliation to her political foes, but he warned that the practice of "forging too many compromises is often mistaken for unprincipled political pragmatism."

"This fresh mandate should be translated into the political will needed to pursue economic and political reforms in the country. Now is the time we put partisan politics behind us and let governance begin," Drilon said.

Arroyo, 57, standard-bearer of the ruling coalition the Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan Para sa Kinabukasan (Coalitionof Honesty and Experience for the Future), won 12,905,808 votes out of the 32,269,100 votes cast for president, the final officialresults released by the joint canvassing committee showed.

She led her nearest rival movie star Fernando Poe Jr. by more than 1.12 million votes. Poe, 64, standard-bearer of the opposition coalition of Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (Coalition of United Filipinos), garnered 11,782,232 votes.

De Castro had 15,100,431 votes in the vice presidential race, as against the 14,218,709 votes for his closest rival, Poe's running mate Senator Loren Legarda.

The candidate with the highest number of votes is proclaimed the winner of the presidential or the vice presidential race, the country's Constitution stipulates.

Pro-opposition lawmakers allied with Poe warned that Arroyo's administration would be hounded by doubts because of what they described as a "flawed canvassing."

Throughout the lengthy canvassing process, opposition lawmakershad tried but failed to open electoral returns from precincts in abid to prove their allegation that Arroyo's camp has cheated in the election to ensure her a victory.

In their final chance to speak before the joint session before the vote on the report of the joint canvassing committee, Poe's allies said they were saddened by the "repression of truth" when administration lawmakers blocked the opening of the election returns.

Meanwhile, Arroyo's rivals in the bitterly contested race, except for Poe, acknowledged her victory but warned her of tough times ahead.

Speaking for his brother, former Senator Raul Roco, Representative Sulpicio Roco said Arroyo's 1.12-million-vote winning margin was "not enough" to "calm political waters."

Supporters of Poe have threatened to launch mass protests against alleged "comprehensive and systematic cheating" by the administration in the elections, citing cases of vote padding and shaving.

The government has dismissed the allegation as part of a plot to destabilize the government and warned that confirmed plotters "will be charged and prosecuted," although it had admitted to "local and isolated" incidents of election irregularities.

Poe, who had said earlier this month that Arroyo would be a "bogus" leader if she is proclaimed president, hinted on Tuesday that he may not be able to control some of his supporters who are impatient to get at the truth.

There were five presidential candidates and four vice presidential bets contending in the May 10 polls, and only Congress has the power to canvass their votes and proclaim the winners.

Source: Xinhua

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