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SC orders BBM, Comelec to answer petition vs COC

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star
SC orders BBM, Comelec to answer petition vs COC
Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, presumptive president-elect, speaks to reporters at the campaign headquarters in Mandaluyong City on May 11, 2022.
AFP / Ron Lopez

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC), convened as a whole yesterday, gave presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. 15 days to submit his comment on a petition filed by a group of martial law victims seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the canvassing of his votes and his proclamation as 17th president.

“Whereas, considering the allegations contained, the issues raised and the arguments adduced in the Petition, without necessarily giving due course thereto, it is necessary and proper to require the respondents to comment on the petition and prayer for temporary restraining order within a period of 15 days from notice hereof,” the SC said in a resolution.

Aside from Marcos, the other respondents in the case are the Commission on Elections, the Senate and House of Representatives.

The SC issued the resolution three days after petitioners, led by Fr. Christian Buenafe, filed a 70-page Petition for Certiorari.

For Marcos’ lawyer Estelito Mendoza, the 15-day period will leave no impediment to congressional canvassing of votes and the eventual proclamation of his client as president. The petitioners were pushing for immediate issuance of TRO.

Mendoza said he manifested to the SC the limits of its power of judicial review, which cannot supersede the duty of Congress to count the votes and proclaim winners in the presidential election under Article VII, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution.

“The President and the Vice-President shall be elected by direct vote of the people for a term of six years which shall begin at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date, six years thereafter,” Mendoza said, quoting from the Constitution.

The petitioners assailed the Jan. 17 resolution issued by the Comelec’s Second Division as well as the May 10 resolutions issued by the Comelec en banc dismissing the petition to cancel Marcos’ certificate of candidacy (COC).

They also requested that the SC cancel and declare void ab initio (from the beginning) Marcos’ COC for president that he filed last October. The petitioners also said voiding Marcos’ COC would mean the presidential candidate with the next highest number of votes should be proclaimed president.

Based on partial and unofficial tally, Marcos received 31,104,175 votes while Vice President Leni Robredo obtained the second highest number of votes with 14,822,051 votes.

“Decisions of this Court holding that the second-placer cannot be proclaimed winner if the first-placer is disqualified or declared ineligible should be limited to situations where the certificate of candidacy of the first-placer was valid at the time of filing,” the petitioners said.

“If the certificate is void ab initio, then legally the person who filed such void certificate of candidacy was never a candidate in the elections at any time. All votes for such non-candidate are stray votes and should not be counted,” the petitioners maintained.

In their petition before the SC, the petitioners claimed that Marcos had reportedly attempted to mislead the electorate for making misrepresentations in item 11 of his pro forma COC where he was asked if he was eligible “for the office I seek to be elected to.”

In Box 22 of the COC, he checked the “No” box in answer to the question “Have you ever been found liable for an offense which carries with it the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office, which has become final and executory?”

They reiterated that a Regional Trial Court in Quezon City convicted Marcos of failure to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.

The Senate and House of Representatives are set to convene on May 23 to canvass the votes cast for the positions of president and vice president, and to proclaim the candidates who obtained the highest number of votes for the two top government positions.

Constitutional crisis

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said an SC decision favoring the petitioners could spark a constitutional crisis.

“If that happens (SC stops Congress canvassing), we will be courting a constitutional crisis from the fact that Congress can no longer meet after June 3rd (sine die adjournment). Who will then conduct the canvass as mandated by the Constitution?” Sotto said in a Viber message to reporters.

“July 25 is a key date for Congress. So, no President or VP by June 30? What do they propose? Holdover? Tell me if that is not a crisis!” Sotto added.

Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon voiced the same opinion. “The petitions will not prosper,” Drilon noted. “The SC cannot restrain or stop the Congress, acting as the National Board of Canvassers, from performing its constitutional duty of canvassing the votes for President and Vice President of the Republic, and proclaiming the winner,” Drilon said.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said nothing can stop Congress from proclaiming the duly elected president and vice president as scheduled.

“Congress is constitutionally bound to canvass the results for the President and Vice President. Nothing prevents us from performing this duty to ensure the peaceful transfer of power. That is our democracy and that is our sworn duty to the Filipino people,” Zubiri said in a Viber message to reporters.

“We only need a few days to complete this task and we commit that before June 30 , we shall have our new President and Vice President. The ones elected by the sovereign will of 31 million Filipino people,” Zubiri added.

Zubiri said it is part of the duty of members of Congress to canvass all the votes for the two highest positions in the country.

“So don’t expect that this will not happen because it is our duty as members of Congress… That’s our job and we’re going to do it,” he added.

In a statement, the office of the majority leader said regular session would resume and start at 10 a.m. on Monday to allow the Senate to approve the concurrent resolution calling for the convening of the Joint Session for the Canvassing for President and Vice President. The joint session at the Batasan Pambansa is set for Tuesday and is expected to last until the next day.

“Hopefully the proclamation in the afternoon/evening and adjournment of the Joint Session Thursday, (then go back to the) regular session in the Senate,” Zubiri’s office said.

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. decried efforts to stop the proclamation of Marcos, saying his former Senate colleague should be given the chance to prove his worth.

“It is very disheartening that while his (Marcos) term is yet to begin at noon of June 30, it seems there are some who are already working to ensure he fails, even if it means taking the down the country as well,” Revilla said.

“We are at a crossroads. This is a crucial time for the nation, so all hands must be on deck. Let’s stop shooting ourselves in the foot and instead rally behind our leader and our flag,” he said.

Proclamation ready

For the House, all is set for the proclamation of the winning UniTeam tandem of Marcos and presumptive vice president Sara Duterte-Carpio on May 27.

On Tuesday morning, May 24, the House and the Senate will convene for joint session and create a joint committee for the official canvass of votes, which will have seven members and four alternate members from each chamber.

The House contingent for the canvass will be headed by Majority Leader Martin Romualdez of the first district of Leyte. The actual canvass of votes will be held from May 25 to May 26.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has vowed quick and efficient canvassing of votes by Congress sitting as NBOC.

The reelected Marinduque congressman said they would perform “our constitutional mandate to receive and canvass the votes for the two highest leaders of our country, our next president and vice president.”

After the proclamation of winners, the 18th Congress will then hold session for another week before adjourning on June 1.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said security arrangements are in place for the proclamation.

“The PNP will continue its monitoring, intelligence gathering, and other police functions to ensure a seamless and peaceful transition of power on June 30,” Maj. Gen. Valeriano de Leon, PNP Directorate for Operations chief and deputy commander of security task force on the elections, said in a statement.

While the elections were generally peaceful, De Leon said other regions must be secured to prevent post-election violence.

He said some groups and individuals continue to sow violence as a result of intense political rivalry, particularly at the local level.

Meanwhile, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said 98.73 percent of the physical election returns (ERs) have matched with the electronically transmitted results as of Wednesday.

PPCRV director for  affairs Jude Liao said they have received a total of 81,692 physical ERs as of Wednesday afternoon. Of the 65,171 encoded, 64,341 matched with the electronically transmitted ERs. Liao said 384 ERs are for revalidation. The PPCRV said it has received almost 80 percent of the physical ERs in the country.

In a Facebook post, the PPCRV said it has received a total of 85,859 ERs, representing 79.66 percent of the total. More than half of ERs received came from Northern and Southern Luzon. – Edu Punay, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Emmanuel Tupas, Ralph Edwin Villanueva

TRO

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