Prestigious vestiges

The last two months of a presidential term are always frenzied. All three big departments of government are busy. The Executive moves to cement its legacy and cooperates to ensure a smooth transition. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has engaged in a burst of activity. Among others: issuing executive orders on strengthening MSMEs and on the digitalization of government disbursements and collection, and vetoing the SIM card registration act. He even managed to give the High Court a full bench by naming respected jurist Ma. Filomena D. Singh as his final judicial appointment, to cap what has been an outstanding selection of justices during his term.

Congress is also winding up the 18th congressional session. Their profound constitutional responsibility still remains to be carried out, that of acting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBoC) and proclaiming the next president, Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., and next vice president, Sara Z. Duterte.

With a result as epochal as this, the canvass next week could be relatively uneventful. We may still see, however, some determined efforts to raise the threshold question of canvassing. There could be unsympathetic members of Congress invoking the recent last mile petitions filed with the Supreme Court in the hope of hijacking the proclamation.

To suspend the canvassing itself? Senators and congressmen will disagree. No member would allow the Supreme Court to order them to shirk their constitutional obligation. This is a classic check and balance scenario. As has been written, if you fail to defend your turf, you lose it.

But the prospect has been rendered moot. The Court took cognizance of the petitions. The Court, however, only asked incoming president Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Comelec, the Senate and the House to comment in 15 days or until June 3. June 3 is also the date of adjournment sine die. As to the prayer for restraining order or injunction, none were issued by the Court to deter Congress from the performance of their duty to canvass and proclaim. Hence, as planned, the May 24-27 timetable will push through. There will be enough time to comment on the petition but after the proclamation has been completed.

Too late the hero? To be sure, the Supreme Court is not precluded from ruling on the petition even post proclamation and post inauguration – whether on the merits or on technicality. They have the prerogative to decide to act even if the same might end up disenfranchising 31 million Filipinos and ignoring Vox Dei.

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At the canvass proper, we do not anticipate fireworks from presidential contenders Senators Ping Lacson and Manny Pacquiao. Both have long conceded. Senator Kiko Pangilinan, whose running mate Vice President Leni Robredo may be the beneficiary of any disqualification/invalidation of a Marcos Jr. candidacy, will be the likely Hercules to lead the labor during canvass. With his extensive experience in presidential canvassing, Sen. Pangilinan will know the best route navigating around the process. Senators Riza Hontiveros, Frank Drilon, Ralph Recto, Dick Gordon, Koko Pimentel and Leila de Lima (if allowed to participate) may flank him, should they be so inclined. Not all of them, however, have denounced the results. Landslide victories do have that effect, even on the most querulous.

Raising objections will only affect a miniscule number of certificates of canvass (CoCs). These are the same CoCs already canvassed by the Comelec for the senatorial and party-list elections. It’s unlikely that there will even be enough fodder to raise questions or objections. That is if Congress as the NBoC even allows any such questioning in the canvassing rules they adopt.

Even the PPCRV, the accredited citizens arm, has validated the results at the Election Return (ER) level with a 98.73 percent match rate with Comelec’s transparency servers. This effectively rules out transmission fraud.

Courting the vote. The Supreme Court, historically, is also pulled into the hostilities during this season. Their more common role is to act as the Presidential/Vice Presidential Electoral Tribunal, post proclamation. See Vice President Jojo Binay vs. Sec. Mar Roxas, Vice President Leni Robredo vs Sen. Ferdinand Marcos and the senator Loren Legarda protests in the past.

As for pre-election, in 2010 there was the challenge against the second candidacy of president Joseph E. Estrada. In 2016, candidate Senator Grace Poe had to endure the calvary of a citizenship challenge.

The present petition falls between pre-election and post-proclamation. It started as post-election then it will linger as a post-proclamation case until it eats into the new president’s actual term, beginning July, if the same should prosper.

The Supreme Court was an integral part of the first Marcos administration, with the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos relying extensively on constitutional cover for his actions. The pending petition should serve as the trial balloon to see how the second Marcos administration will fare in its relations with the Court.

SEAG update. The real race in the Southeast Asian Games medal tally is for second place. The host is pragmatically allowed to select events playing to its strengths. This ensures that member countries even agree to take on the monumental expense of hosting. Otherwise, the organization would have to host and spend.

Hence, Vietnam will top (just as we did when we hosted last 2019). Powerhouse Thailand looks to be a shoo in for second. The Philippines is a sure third in total medals but it’s the battle for the gold that counts. Indonesia and Singapore have both eclipsed us in the standings after the POC spoke of its optimism that we would finish 3rd overall. Hidilyn Diaz led the charge yesterday to add to our gold haul but, as of press time, we are still languishing at 5th.

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