NBOC won't look into poll fraud allegations

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

House security guard the entrance of the Batasang Pambansa on Monday. The Joint Public Session of Congress on Canvassing will commence on Tuesday to publicly count votes submitted and certified by the Board of Canvassers for the presidential and vice presidential races. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Congress, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) for president and vice president, will not look into allegations of electoral fraud.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, chair of the contingent of the House of Representatives to the Joint Congressional Canvassing Committee, explained that the NBOC is not a board of inquiry that will look into fraud allegations.

"The mandate is canvass and tabulate. It's not a board of inquiry. Hindi ka pwede mag-present ng ebidensiya... (Kung hindi), wala na tayong katapusan," Gonzales said.

He added that questions will have to be raised before the Supreme Court (SC) as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

He explained that the canvassing board only looks at the due execution of the certificates of canvass (COCs) and any discrepancies will be resolved by calling the local boards of canvassers.

"As a matter of rule, you don't go beyond the COC. Once you go beyond, hindi tayo matatapos, isang taon dito," he said.

For his part, Senator Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel III, chair of the Senate panel, said questions that might be raised by the camp of Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. will be recognized but these will also have to be specific.

"We will have to listen to objections, nasa rules po iyan to be approved this afternoon," he said.

"Once it is presented, hindi pwede wholesale na yung buong election titirahin mo. You have to pinpoint which COC is affected by your allegations of irregularity or fraud or whatever is your allegation."

READ: Marcos wants VP last to be proclaimed

Both houses of Congress are set to conduct marathon sessions to canvass the votes to proclaim the country's next president and vice president.

Pimentel bared the likely schedule. "2 [p.m.] to sawa, hanggang sa mapagod po kami," he said, also holding out the possibility of canvassing during weekends.

"Pinag-uusapan kung kakayanin physically, not only the members of the panel, even the staff we have to consider... No target date. The spirit of the law is that once you start, you continue until you finish your job."

NO SEPARATE PROCLAMATION FOR PRESIDENT, VP

The heads of the likely joint canvassing committee to be created by the joint public session of the House of Representatives and the Senate, likewise, revealed the members of the panel that will be created during the joint public session on Tuesday.

Gonzales ruled out the possibility of a separate proclamation for the positions of president and vice president since the vice- presidential race is more controversial than the presidential race.

Gonzales said the results for both positions will be based on the same document. The Congress will canvass 159 COCs from provinces, independent cities, local absentee voting and overseas absentee voting.

"When you talk about COC of a particular province, there's only one COC... Hindi pwedeng bulag ka sa observation for president, dilat sa VP," he said.

Pimentel, for his part, admitted that separate proclamations for president and vice president are theoretically possible, but it has never been done.

Gonzales added, any objections coming from the camp of Marcos will be subject to the ruling of the panel.

According to Gonzales, the speed of the canvass will depend on the objections that may be raised, first, against the proposed rules and later, on the COCs.

He noted that in 2010, it took the joint session four to five days before they finally came out with the rules that would govern the canvass.

MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE, SENATE

Gonzales said the House panel will be led by him, with congressmen Elpidio Barzaga, Miro Quimbo, Rufus Rodriguez, Rey Umali, Fred Castro as members for the majority and Bebot Bello as member for the minority. Alternate members for the majority are Oscar Rodriguez, Barry Gutierrez and Nonoy Andaya while the alternate member for the minority is Ronaldo Zamora.

Gonzales said the limited number of senators who can do the canvass forced them to reduce the committee's size, as rules exclude candidates or relatives of candidates. Seven senators ran for either president or vice president while two are related to the candidates.

Pimentel named the members of the Senate as Sonny Angara, Ralph Recto, Serge Osmena and Teofisto Guingona III for the majority, and Juan Ponce Enrile and Vicente Sotto for the minority. Alternates for the majority are Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villar and Bam Aquino even if he is a campaign manager for Liberal Party (LP) vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo.

PROCESS

Gonzales said House and Senate leaders met earlier Tuesday to refine the proposed rule of canvass. He walked media through the process that will begin with the joint public session of both Houses.

During that session, the rules will be approved and the nominees to the joint committee named. The body will then proceed with an electronic canvass.

Gonzales said the panel goes over each COC with the lawyers of the candidates. "Isa-isa ulit yan, electronically transmitted will be compared to physically transmitted to determine if the votes...will be the same."

Gonzales can only hope that the process will be quick.

KNOW THE WHOLE STORY