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Congress: Count follows sked

It is mandated by the Constitution. I intend to fulfill that mandate as Senate President

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In every election, the House and the Senate follow a strict Constitutional requirement for the canvassing of votes that starts 24 May. | NOEL CELIS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Efforts to derail the canvass of the votes for the top two elective posts will not prosper as legislators vowed to undertake a quick and transparent process.

Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives will reconvene as the National Board of Canvassers (NBoC) at the Batasan complex in Quezon City on Monday. A day after, they will start validating election returns.

Under the 1987 Constitution, both chambers of Congress will release the official vote count in a joint public session and proclaim the winners of the presidential and vice-presidential elections.

It also requires the new president to assume office on 30 June.

“Yes, (it’s all systems go). It is mandated by the Constitution. I intend to fulfill that mandate as Senate President,” said Senator Vicente Sotto III, who will preside over the NBoC with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

NBoC members are eyeing the proclamation of the new president and vice president by Friday unless someone questions the result and delays the canvassing.

There was no reason to prolong the tallying of votes for the top government posts, said Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo, a member of the House contingent.

“In my opinion, there was none,” she told the Daily Tribune when asked if there could be an obstacle or challenge that may delay the canvassing. “We are optimistic that things will proceed smoothly. At any rate, we are prepared to handle various scenarios.”

Last 18 May, victims of Martial Law abuses asked for the Supreme Court’s intervention to stop the Senate and the House canvass, as they sought to strike down the certificate of candidacy of Bongbong Marcos Jr., who dominated the presidential race based on the partial and unofficial count of the Commission on Elections.

The High Court later on ordered Marcos, Comelec, the Senate, and the House to comment on the petition, without ordering to NBoC stop the canvassing of votes for president and vice president.

Way clear for Congress

Quimbo assured the public that the entire process would be transparent, noting that it would be aired over television and the Internet.

The lawmaker added that lawyers and representatives of candidates would be present at the plenary hall and were allowed to manifest their observations on the canvass documents.

“Rest assured the entire procedure will be transparent to the public,” she said.

Aside from Velasco and Quimbo, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Representatives Boying Remulla (Cavite 7th District), Abraham Tolentino (Cavite 8th District), Rimpy Bondoc (Pampanga 4th District), Kristine Singson-Meehan (Ilocos Sur 2nd District), and Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA) comprise the House contingent.

Representatives Juliet Ferrer (Negros Occidental 4th District), Kiko Benitez (Negros Occidental 3rd District), Manix Dalipe (Zamboanga City 2nd District), and Johnny Pimentel (Surigao del Sur 2nd District) will serve as alternate members.

Sotto and Senators Grace Poe, Franklin Drilon, Pia Cayetano, Francis Tolentino, Nancy Binay, Ralph Recto, and Cynthia Villar will form the Senate contingent.

The tabulation will be flashed on LED screens through document scanners inside the plenary hall. This time, there will be no manual tallies, unlike in the previous canvassings.

Around 460 individuals will be allowed inside the session hall to observe the tallying of votes, provided that they submit coronavirus tests taken within the last 24 hours with negative results.

Members of the media are also required to submit accreditation forms to cover the canvassing.

Marcos is leading the presidential race by a wide margin after garnering over 31 million votes, more than twice the 14.8 million votes got by his closest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo, according to Comelec tally.

Sotto previously said that Congress is bound by the Constitution to act as the NBoC and that a temporary restraining order or TRO from the SC could not stop the canvassing of votes.

Ready for handover

Transition activities in Malacañang are ongoing, but Palace officials said the incoming administration has yet to reach out to Cabinet members.

Acting Cabinet Secretary Melvin Matibag, Presidential Communications Operations Office chief Secretary Martin Andanar, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they started their preparations for the turnover of government business to their successors.

“We are guided by AO 47,” Matibag told the Tribune, referring to Administrative Order 47, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte to kick off transition activities.

Under the order, agencies and offices under the Executive branch should form their internal subcommittees or clusters to prepare their respective departments for the incoming administration.

No representative of presumptive President-elect Marcos has coordinated with Matibag, Andanar, and Lorenzana yet to discuss transition efforts in their respective offices.

“I think they will wait for the proclamation of President-elect BBM,” Matibag said.

Marcos has yet to name members of his transition team.

Some personalities are tapped to lead some offices in Malacañang according to some reports but the Marcos camp did not confirm it.

What’s certain was presumptive Vice President-elect Sara Duterte-Carpio will lead the education department, while Marcos Jr.’s campaign manager, Benhur Abalos, will take the helm of the interior department.

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