Philippine Congress begins vote tally for president, vice president Eds: epa photos available =Manila (dpa) — The Philippine Congress on Thursday started the official tally of votes for the country’s next president and vice president over two weeks after elections were held.

More than 35 million Filipinos voted for a new president, vice president, hundreds of legislators and thousands of local officials on May 10.

The Philippines used a new automated election system in which voters fed their paper ballots into optical—scanning machines that then counted the votes and transmitted the results electronically to central servers.

The tally by the House of Representatives and the Senate was supposed to have started on Monday, but debates about concerns over the new automated system delayed the official proceedings.

Fraud allegations have also surfaced with witnesses alleging that operators rigged the elections despite the automation. Congress has launched an investigation into the charges.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said technical glitches that hounded the May 10 elections and the fraud allegations were causing doubts about the integrity of the system.

“There is a cloud hanging over our heads,” he said.

But House Speaker Prospero Nograles convinced Enrile and other members of the joint session to begin tallying election returns from overseas absentee voters, which were manually counted.

Nograles earlier said that the winners in the presidential and vice presidential races would be proclaimed by the middle of June.

Senator Benigno Aquino III, son of Philippine democracy heroes Corazon Aquino and Benigno Aquino Junior, is the apparent winner in the presidential race.

According to unofficial and partial results, Aquino is leading by over 5 million votes over his closest rival, former president Joseph Estrada.

Estrada’s running—mate, Jejomar Binay, mayor of the Philippines’ financial city of Makati, is leading the vice presidential race by a slim margin over Aquino’s partner, Senator Mar Roxas.

The winners in the presidential and vice presidential races are scheduled to take their oath of office on June 30, when their predecessors step down. dpa gl jg se 271224 GMT Mai 10

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