Proclamation set: Will Rody attend?

Marvin Sy , Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Even without the star of the party, Congress in joint session will proceed tomorrow with the proclamation of Rodrigo Duterte as president and Leni Robredo as vice president.

Duterte has repeatedly said he is skipping his proclamation by Congress and that he will fly to Manila only on inauguration day on June 30.

However, some of his allies, including Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, are trying to convince him to change his mind.

Based on the schedule set by the leaders of the two chambers, the joint session will
convene at 2 p.m. at the Batasang Pambansa, and first on its agenda is the approval of the report of the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) declaring Duterte and Robredo winners in the May 9 elections.

The Senate and the House convened on Tuesday to act as the NBOC and canvassed the votes from 167 certificates of canvass (COCs) from provinces, cities, municipalities, as well as local and overseas absentee voting.

The canvassing was the quickest in recent history, ending on Friday night with Duterte winning by a landslide with 16,601,997 votes and Robredo with 14,418,817 votes, narrowly beating her rival Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. by 263,473 votes.

Pimentel and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, heads of the NBOC joint canvassing committee, said the secretariat was working over the weekend to draft the report for approval in the joint session.

“The projected proclamation would be afternoon of Monday. It’s good we ended on a Friday so our staff could have the weekend to finish the Joint Committee report,” Pimentel told reporters.

“The canvassing went smoothly with the help of the candidates’ lawyers. We could not have done it by ourselves. The lawyers were all cooperative. So I also give credit to the candidates for having chosen very responsible lawyers to represent them,” he said.

He said if any of the candidates plans to file an election protest, she or he would have to gather all the information about under-votes to justify an election protest based on the issue.

The senator was referring to Marcos’ lawyers’ repeated manifestations during the canvassing that there were over three million under-votes or those unaccounted for or missing.

“Because for me personally, I cannot see, let’s say you discovered four million under-votes, how could that affect the results because the mandate of the canvassing is to count votes and not the non-votes or no votes,” Pimentel said.

He said the under votes were not used by Marcos’ lawyers to object to the canvassing proceedings last week.

During the canvassing, some lawyers identified with Duterte called for a separate proclamation for president on concerns that the proceedings would be delayed due to the close fight between Robredo and Marcos.

Prior to the canvassing, Marcos had been alleging that there was cheating in the polls.

However, Robredo’s election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said a separate proclamation for president and vice president would be illegal and unconstitutional.

Gonzales said the joint session of Congress was only suspended – not adjourned – to pave the way for the canvassing, which meant there was no need for quorum.

“But I’m sure many (lawmakers) will attend the proclamation,” he said in a telephone interview.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. will preside over the joint session.

Pimentel and Gonzales or some members of the joint canvassing committee are expected to deliver sponsorship speeches seeking the approval of the report.

Gonzales said he expects lawmakers allied with Marcos, like Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, to make manifestations or push for the rejection of the report on the results of the canvassing. Such manifestations are likely to be overruled, Gonzales pointed out.

Meanwhile, Pimentel said he would personally try to convince Duterte to attend his proclamation even if “personal presence is not a requirement” in such exercise.

Vitaliano Aguirre II,  Duterte’s choice for justice secretary, told reporters on Friday the incoming president might show up at Congress tomorrow after all.

Interviewed over radio dwIZ, Pimentel said he was told by Duterte’s aide Christopher Go that the incoming president was not going to attend his proclamation.

But Pimentel said he would still try to convince Duterte to attend the historic event.

In the event, Duterte would get to meet the members of the NBOC, most of whom would still be part of Congress when he assumes office, Pimentel said.

Pimentel stressed his absence would have no effect on the process at all.

He cited the case of some senatorial candidates who were unable to attend their proclamation before the Commission on Elections, such as Sens. Vicente Sotto III and Panfilo Lacson.

Pimentel said that it would be the first time that an elected president would not attend his own proclamation.

“There are so many firsts with him. The first mayor who became president, the first president who curses a lot,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel, chairman of the Senate panel of the NBOC, said the report of the panel is being finalized and would be promptly submitted to the secretariat of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday.

He said the report would be read out in joint session at 2 p.m. after which he expects some discussions among the members before the report is approved.

Once approved, a resolution would be read proclaiming the winners for president and vice president.

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