Congress begins the final count

Sets 24-hour canvassing to proclaim new President, VP this week

Congress is ready for a 24-hour canvass of the votes in the May 9 presidential and vice-presidential races, with canvassing set to begin Tuesday.

House of Representatives Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza said once the Senate and the House convene as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC), the process should be straightforward without any breaks or suspension of session.

READY FOR COUNTING. Security officers from the Senate deliver ballot boxes containing Certificates of Canvass and Election Returns to the House of Representatives before dawn Monday, as Congress is set to convene in a joint session to canvass the votes for presidential and vice presidential candidates in the May 9 elections. Senate PRIB

“The Congress, sitting as the NBOC, is duty-bound to make sure that the entire process of vote counting and transmission of results will be done expeditiously and with utmost transparency and integrity,” Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said in a statement.

“We will perform our constitutional duty quickly and efficiently. We will be combining accuracy and speed in order for us to meet our committed timeline,” he added.

Mendoza said the canvassing board will have alternate members who can take shifts during the planned 24-hour canvass. The Senate and the House will contribute seven regular members each to the committee, with four alternates.

He also said the canvassing this time would be faster than previous elections due to its automated nature.

Mendoza said the NBOC aims to finish canvassing by Friday. But should they be able to sustain a 24-hour canvass, they could proclaim the next president and vice president by Thursday morning, he said.

Velasco said that the canvassing would proceed despite a pending disqualification case against presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. before the Supreme Court.

“Our duty to canvass is mandated by the Constitution itself,” Velasco said. “Nothing therein says that this duty is suspended while a case, which has already been dismissed by the Commission on Elections, is pending with the Supreme Court.”

“We are bound to proclaim the winning President and Vice President, and uphold the will of the people with dispatch,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon agreed that canvassing would proceed.

“I don’t think there will be main questions or disputes, I hope not. I don’t see much of a problem. I would predict that in one week’s time, we should be able to proclaim the president and the vice president,” Drilon said.

In the same interview with CNN Philippines, Drilon warned of a constitutional crisis if they failed to proclaim the winners before June 30.

“If by virtue of the temporary restraining order that they issue, we could not proclaim a president and vice president on June 30, then you have a situation where there is a constitutional crisis because you have no president, you have no vice president,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said 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,” he said.

At least two petitions were earlier before the Supreme Court seeking to issue a temporary restraining order to stop Congress, sitting as National Board of Canvassers, from canvassing the votes of Marcos.

Even after Marcos is proclaimed president, Drilon said the petitions to cancel his certificate of candidacy could still be tackled before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

He said the issue of a TRO will be academic because “we would have proclaimed the president and vice president by that time.”

“But the issue of the respondent not being qualified for presidency because of various reasons alleged in the petition, the issue will be brought before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal,” Drilon said.

He added that the issue of the disqualification on its merits is not dead even if they proclaim the president and the vice president because the issue can be tackled in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, which has jurisdiction over the case.

Marcos is leading with over 31 million votes as compared to Vice President Leni Robredo’s 14 million votes in the Commission on Elections’ unofficial count.

With his comfortable lead, Marcos has already started choosing people that will make up his Cabinet once he is proclaimed.

The House of Representatives has received from the Senate around 150 certificates of canvass (COCs) and election returns (ERs) as both chambers will begin Tuesday afternoon the canvassing of votes cast for president and vice president last May 9.

Velasco and Senate President Vicente Sotto III will preside over the canvassing.

A total of 167 ballot boxes of COCs and 441 ballot boxes of ERs were unloaded in front of the House Main Entrance Building at 4:40 a.m. Monday.

The Senate transferred a total of 156 or 90.17 percent of the 173 certificates of canvass (COCs) and election returns (ERs) to the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is set to deploy officers at the House of Representatives in Quezon City to secure the canvassing of votes.

At a press briefing in Camp Crame Monday, PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. said police are ready against possible street protests by groups who have yet to accept the results of the elections.

Danao instructed police to observe maximum tolerance in dealing with protesters but also urged individuals to respect rules on holding protest actions.

“Everyone has his own right to express their own grievances. It is their right, but I appeal to them to do it in a proper forum,” Danao said.

Protesters are also warned that police will not hesitate to disperse them in areas where they are not allowed to gather.

In other developments:

• The Comelec said it will resume the registration of voters in June or the first week of July, as the poll body is preparing for the December 2022 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections. Comelec Commissioner George Garcia the Comelec will resume the registration of voters in June or July. “We are reminding qualified individuals who haven’t registered yet to look forward to the resumption of registration of voters this June or at least by the first week of July this year,” Garcia said in a press conference.

• Around 600 cops, including Special Action Force (SAF) troops, will be deployed in 12 barangays in Tubaran, Lanao del Sur for the special elections on Tuesday, Danao said. In a media briefing at Camp Crame Monday, Danao said aside from SAF, police assigned to guard the polls would also come from the Regional Mobile Force of the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR). “These are from the PNP contingent. All other police forces will come from the local (area),” Danao said.

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