MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (search) won another term in office, according to a final election count announced Sunday. But the opposition, which has warned of a possible "people power" revolt, said its claims of electoral fraud were ignored and vowed to keep fighting.
The announcement of the tally from the May 10 election followed a bitter six-week vote count by a committee of lawmakers, marred by opposition claims that Arroyo's camp cheated her opponent, action film star Fernando Poe Jr., of some 2 million ballots.
"This has been the most contentious canvassing perhaps in Philippine history," House Speaker Jose de Venecia said. "I think tonight, the nation can sleep."
Still, the military and police have been put on full alert amid government warnings of possible destabilization plots.
"People power" revolts ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos (search) in 1986 and President Joseph Estrada (search) in 2001. Arroyo took over midway through Estrada's six-year term and was seeking an electoral mandate to continue economic and other reforms in the poor Southeast Asian nation that is one of Washington's closest allies.
"This is a sad time in the history of our country," Poe's party said in a statement. "What the majority in Congress has done is to abort the truth in the womb of our sacred electoral process."
It said pro-Arroyo lawmakers used their superior numbers in Congress to prevent the opposition from presenting evidence of electoral fraud.
Arroyo spokesman Ignacio Bunye countered that despite the delays, "the orderly processes set by our laws have ensured that the will of the people has prevailed."
The end of the count paved the way for Arroyo's proclamation as winner by the full Congress.
But the opposition said it will question the committee's report on the count later this week. It also could file a protest, after the proclamation, to the Supreme Court election tribunal, though that likely would take years to resolve.
The congressional committee worked through the weekend and finally finished counting the last of 176 provincial summaries of votes, called certificates of canvass, late Sunday.
Lawmakers and the audience broke into an applause, relieved that the acrimonious count was over. Some women approached legislators, handing them red roses. Opposition and the dominant pro-administration lawmakers shook hands.
"The canvass is over. Arroyo has won," Senate President Franklin Drilon said.
"It was very difficult, but this is democracy," he said, describing the infighting over the vote count as "harrowing."
Opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel called the long delays "a national disgrace" that should spur the government to work on computerizing the election system.
The final tally had Arroyo with 12,905,808 votes and Poe with 11,782,232, a difference of 1,123,576. Three other candidates were well behind.
Arroyo's vice presidential running mate, popular news anchor Noli de Castro, also won, according to the House-Senate committee tasked with counting the races for the country's top two offices.
In recent weeks, opposition lawmakers and lawyers have alleged that several vote certificates appeared to have been altered to rob Poe of up to 2 million votes. They doggedly demanded that voluminous vote records from small villages be opened to ensure against fraud.