Congress to canvass votes for president, VP today

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Congress to canvass votes for president, VP today
This photo taken March 23, 2020 shows the House of Representatives in a special session to tackle proposed measures to grant President Rodrigo Duterte with additional powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The STAR / Felicer Santos

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate and House of Representatives are set to resume session today, more than three months after the national campaign period began and two weeks after the national and local elections.

As mandated in the 1987 Constitution, both houses of Congress will also hold a joint session at the House plenary hall for purposes of convening itself as a National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) that will tabulate the votes for the winning president and vice president in the May 9 polls.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the canvassing will start tomorrow unless the Supreme Court (SC) issues a temporary restraining order (TRO) following a petition filed against the canvassing of votes and proclamation of presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and presumptive vice president Sara Duterte-Carpio.

The House leader, along with outgoing Senate President Tito Sotto, also revealed that the proclamation for the two winners will most likely be done either this Friday, May 27 or Saturday, May 28, well before Congress adjourns sine die on June 3.

House secretary general Mark Llandro Mendoza said the canvassing will start on May 24 and last until May 27 where the winning presidential candidates in the recent May 9 elections might be proclaimed.

Mendoza discussed the issues with his Senate counterpart, Myra Marie Villarica.

Among the issues discussed earlier was the transfer of ballot boxes containing the certificates of canvass and election returns from the Senate to the House on May 23.

It was agreed upon that the consolidation and canvassing system machine would be transferred from the House Legislative-Executive Lounge to the Plenary Hall on May 24 before the joint session.

Mendoza said on May 24, the canvassing will begin at 2 p.m. while from May 25 to 27, the canvassing is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Under Article VII, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution, the Senate President should open all the certificates in the presence of the Senate and the House in a joint public session not later than 30 days after election day.

No stopping Congress in canvassing votes

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said yesterday there is no stopping Congress from canvassing the votes and proclaiming the winning presidential and vice-presidential candidates once it convenes as the NBOC this week.

“It’s the duty of the NBOC that is composed of the two chambers (Senate and House of Representatives) to proclaim the president and vice president,” Drilon told dzBB in Filipino.

Failure to proclaim the winners before June 30 can result in a constitutional crisis, he warned, even if he expressed confidence that the NBOC will be able to finish the canvassing and proclaim the winners in the presidential and vice-presidential race within one week.

Apart from Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Drilon, the Senate contingent to the NBOC includes Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, and Senators Grace Poe, Pia Cayetano, Francis Tolentino, Nancy Binay and Cynthia Villar.

“I do not foresee any problem that can slow down the canvassing of votes by the NBOC,” he said.

There are petitions filed in the SC to stop Congress from canvassing the votes for Marcos.

Drilon, however, believes the SC will respect Congress as a co-equal branch and will not issue a TRO to stop Congress from performing its constitutional duty to canvass the votes for president and vice president.

“The Supreme Court will not create that kind of situation where the Congress will defy them,” he said.

Once the winners are proclaimed, the petition will be moot and academic, he said.

But the former justice secretary said there is a remedy available to the losing parties, saying all is not lost once the winners are proclaimed.

He said any of the losing parties can file a case with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

The PET is an electoral tribunal that decides election protests involving the election of the president and vice president. It is composed of justices of the Supreme Court.

He cited the case filed by Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo in 2016.

Meanwhile, three Villafuertes in Camarines Sur have been reelected in the local polls – LRay on his third and last term as second district congressman, and his sons Migz as fifth district congressman, and Luigi as the provincial governor.

The trio all won by a landslide and have all been proclaimed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as the winners in their respective electoral races.

LRay’s sons beat the political clan Alfelors – Migz triumphed over Iriga City Mayor Madelaine Alfelor-Gazmen, while Luigi knocked out from the gubernatorial contest Rolando Andaya Jr., a former Camarines Sur congressman.

Andaya is also a former House majority leader and budget secretary.

Both Migz and Luigi ran as candidates of PDP-Laban, President Duterte’s political party, while LRay ran under the banner of the National Unity Party, one of the administration’s political allies where he is considered among its stalwarts. – Paolo Romero

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