Namfrel: It’s Sotto who’s trending
- Mike Frialde () - May 19, 2004 - 12:00am
The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) denied yesterday allegations by Sen. Vicente Sotto III that it was intentionally setting a trend to make it appear President Arroyo was leading the race.

"That is not true. We are tallying from all over the country. Where is he (Sotto) tallying ba?’ Namfrel secretary-general Guillermo Luz said.

Sotto, personal campaign manager of Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr., had accused Namfrel of deliberately tallying election returns from known bailiwicks of Mrs. Arroyo while leaving out results from areas known to favor Poe.

Luz dared Sotto to visit the Namfrel’s quick count center at the gymnasium of the La Salle-Greenhills in San Juan and see for himself if they are indeed involved in trending.

"He can come here. He is invited to visit us. I do not know the regions where they are malakas or mahina (strong or weak). We tally from everywhere. I do not care what regions come in. I’m looking for all the regions to make a report," Luz said.

Luz also dared Sotto to confer with KNP watchers before making accusations against Namfrel.

"Don’t his party watchers report to him? The bosses keep talking but they have watchers here (in La Salle)," he said.

The Namfrel executive also dared Sotto to present evidence of his allegation that the election watchdog is involved in trending.

"He might be the one trending. He is the one reading the information and he is thinking in his head ganito ang trend. Siya yon. He is the one trending, not us," an irked Luz said.

"I think they (KNP) have to present proof to the public, not to the Namfrel. They are beholden to their voters. They should show their evidence to the voters, not to Namfrel," he added.

In a television interview, Luz said Namfrel posts election returns on a first in, first out basis.

"We do report from which region they are coming from. You can see how many votes a candidate got from a region. So you can find out from which region the votes come from," he said.

As of 1 p.m. yesterday, Mrs. Arroyo was ahead by 1.3 million votes over Poe, with 5,107,734 votes to Poe’s 3,871,224.

Namfrel said 77,532 of the total 216,382 precincts or about 35.83 percent have already reported.

Poe outranked Mrs. Arroyo in Ilocos, Cagayan, Southern Tagalog, Zamboanga, Davao, Socsargen, Cordillera Administrative Region and Metro Manila, according to Namfrel’s quick count.

Mrs. Arroyo, meanwhile, ranked No. 1 in Central Luzon, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, the Caraga region and among overseas absentee voters.

Namfrel set a 72 percent "fighting target" for today and plans to tally the results from 75 percent of the precincts by Friday.

Meanwhile, Namfrel was granted until Saturday to hold the quick count at the school’s gym, according to an official of the election watchdog. They had initially been given only until last Sunday to conduct the count but delays in receiving text messages from volunteers in the field and the difficulty in retrieving election returns from the Board of Election Inspectors prompted them to seek an extension.

Luz said the verification process had taken up most of their time since some election returns contained incomplete data on the number of registered voters, those who actually voted and the polling precinct number.

He added that though they are delayed by as much as 20 percent, volunteers at some provincial and overseas chapters have closed shop and returned to their day jobs.

However, Luz said that in some areas where the Commission on Elections will hold special polls, Namfrel volunteers "usually go back to work" to conduct a quick count of the results.

Both Namfrel and the school’s security denied they received a bomb scare Sunday afternoon, but aside from 37 security guards, there are now 10 Mandaluyong policemen on duty and two bomb-sniffing dogs inspect the quick count center every hour. — With Evelyn Macairan

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