Outgoing Senate President Vicente Sotto III warned Thursday of a constitutional crisis if Congress would stop the official canvass of votes of the newly elected president and vice president in the May 9 elections.
“If that happens, we will be courting a constitutional crisis from the fact that Congress can no longer meet after June 3rd,” Sotto said.
“Who will then conduct the canvass as mandated by the Constitution?”
This developed as presumptive President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. told the Supreme Court in a filing yesterday that it cannot stop Congress from canvassing of votes and the proclamation of winners in the presidential and vice presidential race.
Citing various constitutional provisions, Marcos Jr., through lawyer Estelito Mendoza, said the language and intent of the provisions show they are “mandatory and the Supreme Court is without jurisdiction to prevent their implementation.”
Instead of a temporary restraining order, the Supreme Court on Thursday had issued a resolution giving Marcos Jr., the Commission on Elections, the Senate, and the House 15 days to file their comments on the petition of several human rights groups to stop the proclamation of winners in the recent national and local elections.
“Whereas, considering the allegations contained, the issues raised, and the arguments adduced in the petition, without necessarily giving due course thereto, it is necessary and proper to require the respondents to comment on the petition and prayer for temporary restraining order within a period of 15 days from notice hereof,” said the SC en banc resolution.
Among the constitutional provisions Marcos Jr. cited are the conditions on judicial review under Section 1 of Article VIII of Constitution, and an Article VII provision mandating that the president and vice president’s 6-year term starts on June 30 at 12 noon and ends on June 30 at 12 noon, six years later.
Marcos Jr. also invoked Section 4 of Article VII of the Constitution, which states that the election returns for the president and vice president shall be opened by the President of the Senate “not later than 30 days after the day of the election” during a joint public session of the Senate and the House of Representatives, which shall then canvass the votes.
“The person having the highest number of votes shall be proclaimed elected,” a portion of the provision said.
Marcos and running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio dominated the recent elections, each garnering over 31 million votes in the partial and unofficial results from the Comelec’s transparency servers. Sotto speculated about what would happen if no new president or vice president is proclaimed by June 30.
“What do they propose? Holdover? Tell me if that is not a crisis,” he said in reaction to petitions filed before the High Court seeking a stop to the congressional canvass of votes for presumptive president Marcos Jr.
But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said these petitions will not prosper.
He said the Supreme Court cannot restrain or stop 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.
Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Congress is constitutionally bound to canvass the results for the president and vice president.
He said nothing prevents them 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,” said Zubiri, who won a fresh mandate in the Senate in the last elections.
Zubiri said they only need a few days to complete this task.
“And we commit that before June 30 we shall have our new president and vice president — the ones elected by the sovereign will of 31 million Filipino people.”
The House of Representatives, meanwhile, has created its contingent to the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) that will canvass the votes for president and vice president in the last elections.
House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza said its members include House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Reps. Crispin Remulla (Cavite), Abraham Tolentino (Cavite), Juan Pablo Bondoc (Pampanga), Stella Luz Quimbo (Marikina City), Kristine Singson-Meehan (Ilocos Sur), and Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA).
The alternate members are House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms chairperson Juliet Marie de Leon Ferrer (Negros Occidental), Francisco Benitez (Negros Occidental), Johnny Pimentel (Surigao del Sur), and Manuel Jose Dalipe (Zamboanga City).
Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco and Sotto will preside over the NBOC.
A copy of the SC resolution was released by its Public Information Office headed by lawyer Brian Keith Hosaka to the media.
The resolution covers the petition filed by Fr. Christian Buenafe, Fides Lim, Ma. Edeliza Hernandez, Celia Lagman Sevilla, Roland Vibal, and Josephine Lascano, representatives of various human rights groups, namely the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Kapatid-Families and Friends of Political Prisoners (Kapatid), Medical Action Group, Inc. (MAG), Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance Inc. (FIND), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates Inc. (PAHRA) and Balay Rehabilitation Center Inc. (Balay).
The resolution did not mention a second petition filed by the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA).
CARMMA is also seeking the issuance of a TRO or writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin the Senate and the House from canvassing the votes cast in favor of Marcos and reverse the Comelec resolution dismissing their petition to disqualify Marcos.
The petitioner also asked the Court that in the event Marcos’ disqualification is granted, the candidate with the highest number of valid votes, in this case Vice President Leni Robredo, be allowed to assume the post as the next president.
The Buenafe et al petition, seeks to set aside the Jan. 17, 2022 and May 10, 2022 resolutions of the Comelec, which dismissed for lack of merit the petition they filed against Marcos Jr., for the denial or cancellation of his certificate of candidacy for the position of President, and denying his motion for partial reconsideration, respectively.
Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, San Beda Graduate School of Law Dean, said he expects the Court to uphold the Comelec in its decision to dismiss all the disqualification complaints against Marcos.
“While I cannot guess what the Supreme Court will do, in many cases in the past, the attitude of the Supreme Court has always been, if a person has been elected, they will not touch the question of disqualification because they believe the people have decided and this must be respected,” he told radio dzRH in a mix of English and Filipino.
In a separate development, Philippine National Police (PNP) director for operations, Maj. Gen. Valeriano de Leon, said that body-worn cameras will be used by police officers who will be deployed to secure the special elections in 12 barangays in Lanao del Sur to ensure that all operations and responses for the conduct of peaceful and credible polls are well-documented.