Aquino has unbeatable lead in Philippine vote tally

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Senator Benigno Aquino III had an insurmountable lead in the official tally of votes for the Philippine presidency on Thursday, and Congress was expected to declare him president early next week.

The canvass showed Aquino had 14.6 million votes, or 41.8 percent of 35 million valid votes tallied by Thursday evening, 5.5 million ahead of his nearest rival, former President Joseph Estrada, with less than a million votes still to be counted.

Those figures were in line with unofficial tallies from the election commission in the days after the May 10 vote. The poll agency has estimated around 38 million people cast their ballots.

Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri had said the canvass would be finished on Thursday and Congress could declare Aquino the winner on Monday or Tuesday, four weeks after the vote and three weeks ahead of the June 30 deadline.

He said the canvassing panel would not entertain protests or complaints that could delay the tally, saying candidates had to file cases with the Supreme Court for a recount or scrutiny of the ballots.

Improbable turnout

The race for vice-president was much closer, with Estrada's deputy Jejomar Binay leading Manual Roxas, Aquino's Liberal Party running mate, by around 640,000 votes on Thursday evening.

Lawyers and allies of Roxas questioned the high turnout of nearly 98 percent in some provinces in the south, as well as the large numbers of invalidated ballots.

"Based on our estimates, there were about 2.9 million votes for the vice president position that were not counted properly and we believe that these can change the outcome of the elections," said Florencio Abad, the party's campaign manager.

"It's either the automated election system was defective or someone had manipulated those machines to favor certain candidates."

On Thursday, more than 80,000 people in seven towns in the central and southern Philippines were able to vote after election failure was declared in the areas on May 10 due to violence and logistical problems.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the balloting in Lanao del Sur and Basilan provinces in the south went through with minor problems that would not affect the outcome of elections.

Balloting was briefly suspended in a Basilan town when a candidate and his bodyguards stormed a polling station, while reports of vote-buying were widespread.

"These are minor incidents," Sarmiento said. "What's important is the elections pushed through."

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