MANILA (UPDATED) — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday warned of a possible "constitutional crisis" if the petition to cancel presumptive president Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s candidacy prospers in the Supreme Court (SC).
"If that happens, we will be courting a constitutional crisis from the fact that Congress can no longer meet after June 3rd. Who will then conduct the canvass as mandated by the [Constitution]? July 25 is a key date for Congress," Sotto said in a statement.
July 25 is when both the Senate and House of Representatives convene for the first joint session of the 19th Congress, and when the incoming president delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
"So, no President or VP by June 30? What do they propose? Holdover? Tell me if that is not a crisis," Sotto added.
For his part, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that the petitions against Marcos Jr. filed before the Supreme Court "will not prosper."
"The Supreme Court cannot restrain or stop the Congress, acting as the National Board of Canvassers, from performing its constitutional duty of canvassing the votes for President and Vice President of the Republic, and proclaiming the winner," he said.
On Wednesday, a group of Martial Law survivors took to the SC their bid to have Marcos Jr. disqualified from the 2022 presidential race, as well as to stop the canvassing of votes for the son and namesake of the late dictator.
This was after the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) First Division junked the disqualification cases against the former senator based on his failure to file income tax returns, mostly due to lack of merit.
The Comelec had ruled Marcos is not perpetually disqualified from holding public office, was not convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, nor sentenced to more than 18 months in prison, contrary to the claims of petitioners.
Joanna Cariño, convenor of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) that filed the SC petitions, earlier said in an ANC interview that Marcos Jr.'s victory is a "failure of our education system."
"[Marcos] is not our president, we cannot accept him as the president," she had said.
Howard Calleja, the group's lawyer, said Thursday that he respects Sotto's pronouncements, but said that the real constitutional crisis is "if we proclaim without finality a convicted candidate perpetually disqualified to hold public office."
"I respect the view of the good Senate president. However, similarly as Congress has a mandate, so too does the judiciary to interpret and follow the rule of law being an independent branch of government. In the end, the real constitutional crisis is if we proclaim without finality a convicted candidate perpetually disqualified to hold public office," he said.
Marcos spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said that while they understand the democratic rights of the petitioners, they are confident that the "processes will uphold the overwhelming mandate" to the presumptive president.
He had also called on those seeking the cancellation of Marcos Jr.'s candidacy to respect the mandate given to him.