Aquino could be named Philippine president by June 4

Benigno Aquino could be officially declared winner of the Philippine presidential election as early as the end of next week, senior legislators said Wednesday, despite ongoing inquiries into alleged vote cheating.

An unofficial count of over 90 percent of the votes has given the 50-year-old Aquino an insurmountable lead and almost all of his major rivals have conceded to him, but by law only the parliament can declare the winner.

"The earliest (announcement) would be June 4 and the latest would be on June 15," Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said as both houses of Congress met for the official counting of the votes of the May 10 elections.

By law, a joint session of the two houses must declare the winner of the presidential election after tallying the votes.

Aquino’s victory was virtually confirmed by May 11 thanks to a new automated voting system that electronically counted most of the ballots just hours after polls closed.

In previous elections, votes were counted manually, a slow process vulnerable to cheating which took weeks to produce a final result.

The joint session, which is meant to count the votes and declare the winners of the presidential and vice-presidential elections, began on Monday but has been held up by inquiries into possible cheating in the election.

Although independent groups have said the polls was largely fair, some losing candidates have charged that they were cheated, alleging that unnamed election officials were asking for money to manipulate the results.

Enrile said that the legislators would not let the inquiries delay the count.

"We will not allow dilatory tactics or efforts to delay any proceedings," he said.

By law, Aquino and the other newly-elected officials take office on June 30 when President Gloria Arroyo bows out of office.