Congress begins canvassing votes for president, VP

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2022 02:17 PM | Updated as of May 24 2022 04:05 PM

The Senate receives certificates of canvass (COCs) for president and vice-president, Wednesday, May 18, 2022. Senate PRIB Photo
The Senate and the House of Representatives, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers, open on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, the first ballot box containing Certificates of Canvass (COCs) for votes cast for President and Vice President in the May 9 elections. Senate PRIB

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — Congress has convened a joint public session to sit as the National Board of Canvassers for the presidential and vice presidential races. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco convened their respective chambers. Twenty senators and 296 congressmen responded to the roll call, allowing the presence of a quorum to be declared.

Rules for the joint public session for the canvassing, which appear to be similar to the 2016 guidelines, were then approved. 

So far, one major difference is the new rules allowed boards of canvassers to explain discrepancies in the certificates of canvass through any means of communication deemed safe and reliable. In 2016, physical presence was required.

The lawmakers then proceeded to create a 14-man joint committee that will actually canvass the votes.

Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez will chair the respective panels.

Regular members for the Senate include Senators Franklin Drilon, Nancy Binay, Imee Marcos, Grace Poe, Ralph Recto, and Pia Cayetano. Representatives Jesus Crispin Remulla, Abraham Tolentino, Kristine Singson-Meehan, Sharon Garin, Manuel Jose Dalipe, and Juliette Ferrer were among the regular members of the House. 

Meanwhile, alternate members include Senators Lito Lapid, Risa Hontiveros, Koko Pimentel, and Ronald dela Rosa, as well as Representatives Juan Pablo Bondoc, Johnny Pimentel, Alfredo Garbin Jr., and Stella Quimbo. 

MARTIN, IMEE IN THE COMMITTEE

The rules forbid a member of Congress who is a candidate for president or vice-president from sitting in the joint committee. However, 2 relatives of leading presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., his sister Sen. Imee Marcos and first cousin Rep. Romualdez, are members of the committee.

Sotto and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, however, brushed off concerns about Imee's presence in the panel.

"What can a relative do? Hindi naman humahawak ng COC 'yan basta-basta o hindi naman tagabasa, kundi kasama 'yun sa committee na ino-observe ang bilangan,” Sotto said.

(She will not hold the COC and would not read off the votes, but rather, she will be part of the committee to observe the count.) 

“It is not a valid concern," Drilon added. "Because you can raise the same concern on Senate President Tito Sotto, you can raise the same concern on Senator Kiko Pangilinan… The National Canvassing Board has no discretion to rule on issues arising from the validity of the Certificates of Canvass, the number of votes appearing in the Certificates of Canvass." 

Both Pangilinan and Sotto ran for vice president and placed second and third, respectively, in partial, unofficial tallies. 

The joint session opened the certificates of canvass and supporting documents for turnover to the canvassing committee. 

The joint committee shall decide on all questions and issues raised involving the certificates of canvass by a majority vote of its members, each panel voting separately. 

Should the 2 panels disagree, the decision of the chairpersons shall prevail. In case of a deadlock, the matter shall be resolved by the Senate President and the House Speaker. 

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The joint committee shall canvass, in the order they were received, all electronically transmitted COCs in the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS), and all manually counted and physically delivered COCs that were not electronically transmitted.

Electronically transmitted COCs will be compared with printed copies physically delivered by the provincial and city board of canvassers. 

In his opening statement, Sotto reported that when they initialized the consolidation and canvassing system, there were zero votes. 

“The electronically transmitted certificates of canvass received by our CCS machine since then, from the boards of canvassers from the provinces, cities, and overseas posts, is now ready to be canvassed,“ Velasco added.

Sotto said the first local COC that the Senate received was from Malabon City which was delivered to the Senate at 6:56 p.m. on May 10.

The first Overseas Absentee Voting COC came from the Philippine Embassy in Cambodia and was delivered to the Senate on May 11 at 6:59 a.m., while the first COC received electronically was from San Juan City on May 9 at 10:28 p.m.

WEDNESDAY PROCLAMATION OF WINNERS EYED 

Both Sotto and Drilon said they expect the canvassing of the votes for president and vice president to end in "2 days' time," with the winners proclaimed by Wednesday night.

Drilon, a known ally of Vice President Leni Robredo said, he did not see any “concern” about the COCs that they would canvass.

“I am confident that the canvassing will go smoothly… I have no concerns at this time until of course, we will be attending the canvassing. All the canvass. I do not see at this point, any point of disagreement. This is electronically transmitted. COCs are electronically transmitted, but the paper trails are there,” he said.

“We do not expect any serious objections unless the COCs would have a incomplete records. Let’s say it does not match what was electronically transmitted. Other than that, we are not seeing any objection,” Sotto said.

Partial, unofficial results showed Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. with an insurmountable 16-million lead over Robredo. His running-mate Sara Duterte-Carpio also enjoyed a wide lead in the vice presidential race. 

“We expect the proclamation to be on time. If we can finish our work, we can proclaim the winner by Wednesday evening. That’s our tentative target. Or Thursday morning," Drilon said. 

Sotto meanwhile said that while Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio were invited to attend the canvassing committee's proclamation, they were not required to do so. 

Presumptive vice president Sara Duterte-Carpio is represented in the canvassing by her legal team, said her spokesperson, Liloan, Cebu Mayor Christina Frasco. 

"Like the rest of the nation, she is hopeful that the canvassing by the House of Representatives and the Senate will go smoothly," Frasco said in a statement. 

Once the canvassing process is finished, both houses of Congress will convene again to proclaim the 2 winning candidates.

In 2016, then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte did not attend his proclamation.

-- With reports from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News 

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