Duterte aides disagree over early proclamation

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Vitaliano Aguirre and Salvador Panelo. File Photo

MANILA - They may not be in power yet but some members of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte's team already disagree with each other over the call for an early proclamation of the winner in the 2016 presidential race.

Duterte's pick for Justice Secretary, Vitaliano Aguirre, disputed the call of Duterte's spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, for the concession of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and waiver of canvass from all the presidential candidates.

Aguirre said it is the constitutional duty of Congress to canvass the election results for the presidential and vice-presidential races and proclaim the winners. He said that even if Duterte's rivals concede, Congress still needs a tally that will be the basis for proclamation.

"Kahit magconcede, di naman maproproclaim si Mayor Duterte eh. Tatapusin ang bilang, tatapusin ang canvass bago siya i proclaim. Kasi under the Constitution, wala naman sinasabi dun pag nagconcede ang mga candidates, he will be immediately proclaimed, kahit basahin mo yung Constitution. Yung gusto namin, there must be an early proclamation but the early proclamation must be in accordance with the constitutional process," he said.

Another Duterte lawyer, Al Agra, also backed the continuation of the national canvassing.

"Otherwise, walang official count eh. We cannot base the official count based on the transparency server...It has to be Congress who will proclaim," he said.

Aguirre believes Panelo merely spoke his personal opinion when he urged the mayor's election rivals to already formalize their concession.

"Siguro personal opinion niya yun. Yun ang nakalagay sa constitutional process eh. Di mo maaaring shortcut yun. Dapat tapusin mo muna. Canvass mo, tabulate mo. Pag lumabas sa tabulation ikaw ang pinakamataas na boto, that's the only time that you will be proclaimed," he said.

Panelo earlier said there is no more question that Duterte won the presidential race after establishing a commanding lead of six million votes over his closest rival, administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas, based on the unofficial tally.

Aguirre, meanwhile, said there is no basis for a claim of constitutional crisis yet. He said the camp of Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. already wanted Duterte proclaimed ahead but the board ruled against it.

Agra noted that one possible reason for the call for early proclamation is because of possible delays if the results of the vice-presidential become an issue.

Marcos had earlier questioned the results of the unofficial count, which showed him losing in the vice-presidential race.

Agra, however, said the fear of delays are a non-issue since the canvassing is proceeding quickly.


Al Agrosino, another lawyer, said there is no conflict between them and Panelo. "Definitely there is none. We are working together with Atty. Panelo and we are working together for expeditious proclamation of President Duterte."

Aguirre said there are no cracks in the Duterte team.

"Di naman ito, there is no break or any crack in the Cabinet. Kuwan lang ito, I believe it's a matter of legal opinion on the part of Atty. Panelo and this team from PDP-Laban. He is representing the whole Duterte camp in so far as he represents [Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino] who merely adopted president Duterte as their candidate for president. In our case, it's PDP-Laban who appears in the [certificate of candidacy] of Mayor Duterte and the ballot as the one who supported and made Duterte their official candidate," he said.

He also pointed out that the Duterte camp has no official spokesperson for the canvassing in Congress.

The incoming justice chief said this is so far the fastest presidential canvass.

"This is the fastest canvassing in Philippine history. We thought it would last two weeks as in the case of President Aquino. He was proclaimed June 10, 2010...Proclamation of Mayor Duterte could be 10 days earlier than that of President Aquino. We would like to congratulate the joint public session," he said.

Aguirre holds out hope Duterte will attend his own proclamation.

"He must be one in upholding the process. Under the Constitution, the proclamation of the winning candidates needs the attendance of the President," he said.

He added: "He said he will not attend. I believe, sabi niya wag siya paniwalaan pag improbable yung sinasabi niya katulad yung sinasabi niyang five minutes ang kanyang inaugural speech after the oath taking. Sinasabi niya: 'Kayo paniwala ng paniwala kayo sa akin.' Eh hindi naman siguro magiging five minutes. Alam naman natin mag speech si President Duterte pag sa kanyang mga stories at least one hour to two hours. Five minutes is uncharacteristic of him."