Senate, House to convene as canvassing board today

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Senate, House to convene as canvassing board today
Maintenance crews and technicians prepare the session hall of the House of Representatives for the presidential and vice presidential canvass. Congress convenes today for the start of the canvass tomorrow.

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate and the House of Representatives will convene today as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) to canvass votes for president and vice president in the May 9 elections.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. will open the joint session at 2 p.m. at the House. The first item on their agenda is to approve the canvassing rules.

Once the rules are approved, NBOC will form a canvassing committee composed of eight members each from the Senate and the House, with five alternates each.

Belmonte and Drilon will be co-chairmen of the NBOC.

Under the Constitution, Congress acting as a canvassing board is tasked to canvass the votes and proclaim the winning president and vice president.

Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, however, said as of yesterday the two chambers were still finalizing the canvassing rules.

“We’re still finalizing the rules of canvass and I would rather that the joint session will be held on the assumption that we have already finalized the proposed rules because it would be difficult if we open the joint session, and we don’t have a draft,” Gonzales told reporters.

He said he expects the canvassing to be smooth but there could be some delays in the process as the vice presidential race is tight between Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte’s rivals have already conceded defeat.

He said for a speedy process, the canvassing committee may “note” the objections that may be raised by any of the lawyers of the presidential and vice presidential candidates and resolve them later.

“There are objections that are only for the purpose of entering into record but not necessarily deserving of ruling because there are objections that can be a ground for an electoral protest and Congress sitting as a canvassing board has the mandate to canvass and to tabulate, it’s not a court for the resolution of electoral protests,” Gonzales said.

One of the contentious issues, Gonzales said, was whether the canvassing committee or the joint session of Congress will open the ballot boxes.

If the joint session will be opening the ballot boxes, they will have to finish the task before turning over the same to the canvassing committee, which will take time, Gonzales said.

He said his counterpart in the Senate would be Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, who is president of PDP-Laban, the political party of incoming president Rodrigo Duterte.

 Palace confident

 Malacañang remains confident that the Senate and the House of Representatives would conduct an expeditious and impartial canvassing of votes once it convenes as the NBOC for the president and vice president.

“We have full trust and confidence that Congress, sitting as NBOC, will do its mandate in ensuring that the canvass of votes for the president and vice president is done properly, expeditiously, fairly and with integrity,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

The House, which resumed session yesterday following a three-month break, and the Senate is scheduled to meet today to form the NBOC.

The canvassing will be held on May 25.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte topped the presidential race while Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo reportedly won as vice president, based on the transparency server of the Commission on Elections, beating Marcos Jr.

Meanwhile, Coloma said there are no bills needing certification of urgency to be passed in Congress.

Coloma quoted Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Undersecretary Bernardito Sayo as saying that “no certification of urgency may be needed because most of the significant measures are already lined up for third reading.”

Besides, the outgoing administration of President Aquino that only has more than a month left might not have the time to finish floor deliberations on measures that would be brought to the floor for the first time.

Presumptive VP

Robredo’s lawyer Romulo Macalintal said yesterday that she should now be called presumptive vice president.

He said based on the certificates of canvass received by the Commission on Elections, Robredo led Marcos by 262,609 votes.

He said the number of unaccounted votes “will not materially affect Robredo’s lead.”

“Thus, Ms. Robredo is the ‘presumptive vice-president’ in the same manner that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is referred to now as the ‘presumptive president’ based on the results received by the Comelec although not yet officially canvassed by Congress,” he added.  – With Delon Porcalla, Jess Diaz


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