Congress nixes Marcos plea
As Congress formally began the canvassing of votes for President and Vice President, its joint committee promptly shot down a motion from the camp of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to canvass the votes for the two positions separately.
The count proceeded, and the canvassing committee ending its first session after opening 48 certificates of canvass (COCs) and canvassing 45 of them.
As of 9:30 last night, the running total in the tight vice presidential race showed Liberal Party candidate Leni Robredo in the lead with 3,576,643 votes.
Marcos was a close second, with 3,281,151.
Earlier, before the panel could open any COC, lawyer Didagen Dilangalen from the Marcos camp asked for the separate canvassing of the votes for President so that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte could be proclaimed ahead of time, pointing out that his rivals had already conceded.
Dilangalen, a former member of the House of Representatives, also noted that the race for the vice presidency was “hotly contested.”
“Separate canvassing of the presidential and vice presidential votes is not only prudent and appropriate, it is likewise perfectly legal,” he said.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, stopping the Marcos lawyer in the middle of his speech, informed him that the joint committee would proceed on a per COC basis, adding that he would just treat Dilangalen’s manifestation as an opening statement.
Dilangalen then made a motion to ask for the separate canvass.
But Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, the head of the canvassing panel for the House, said that only members of the canvassing committee could raise a motion. Thus, Dilangalen’s request could not be recognized.
“We are just following what is provided for by the Constitution and under our rules that we should canvass what is asked us by the rules,” Gonzales said.
The rules state that the joint committee will canvass, in the order they were received, the electronically transmitted COCs and the manually counted and physically delivered COCs.
Gonzales also said Dilangalen would be recognized if he had an objection to or observation on a particular COC. The panel could also not act on the request for the separate canvassing without going through the respective COCs, he said.
He then asked Dilangalen to take his seat.
“This is not the proper time for you to make the manifestation,” he added.
The panel then proceeded with the opening of the COCs, with Davao del Sur votes first up for the count.
For the Davao del Sur votes, the panel found that five COCs were electronically transmitted, with four of the COCs bearing the same figures, which were the same as the ones in the physically delivered COCs.
The panel decided to canvass the votes in the COC that matched with the hard copy, but asked the Commission on Elections to submit an explanation on why there was a Davao del Sur COC with different numbers.
Dilangalen asked the panel what were the secret markings of the COCs from Davao del Sur that would be used to determine their authenticity.
He asked how the panel could be sure that the electronically transmitted and manually delivered COCs were authentic. He said it was not enough that the figures in the two documents matched.
But Pimentel said nobody from the committee questioned the authenticity of the Davao del Sur COC or asked that its canvassing be deferred.
Romulo Macalintal, lawyer for Marcos’ rival Leni Robredo, also said counsels of the candidates could only object to the COCs or ask for their inclusion in the canvassing.
Macalintal said if Dilangalen believed the secret markings were not contained in the COCs, he should object to the inclusion of the COCs.
But Dilangalen did not ask for the exclusion of the Davao del Sur COC.
Marcos got more votes than Robredo in Davao del Sur, although it was Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano who topped the race for the vice presidency in the province.
Cebu City COC
Another Marcos lawyer, George Garcia, sought the deferment of the COC for Cebu City, saying there was a difference in the number of clustered precincts in the canvass report and in the COC for the city.
Garcia wondered why the consolidation and canvassing system would print a canvass report ahead of the printing of the COC. He said there should be an explanation from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
But Pimentel said he found the grounds cited by Garcia to defer the canvassing of the Cebu City COCs to be “not so substantial.”
“You actually don’t have another authentic copy of the city COC. You have a partial election report of the city COC in Cebu. We are not comparing the orange to the apple,” he said.
Gonzales said the task of the canvassing committee was to make sure the statement of votes in the electronically transmitted COC was the same as the one in the manually transmitted COC.
In the case of Cebu City, there was no variance between the two, Gonzales pointed out.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga also said that given the absence of discrepancy between the transmitted COCs, the panel was duty-bound to continue with the canvass.
The panel suspended the canvassing of the COC for Laguna province after finding discrepancies between the COC generated by the canvassing and consolidation system and the amended COC sent by the provincial board of canvassers (PBOC).
Also suspended was the canvassing of the COC from Ilocos Sur province, a known Marcos bailiwick.
Senator-elect Leila de Lima and Garcia agreed on the suspension of the Ilocos Sur COC canvassing.
Garcia said this showed that a province could print the COC even if not all of the municipalities under it had submitted results.
“It would appear that the original COC was printed absent a particular municipality,” Garcia said.
He also noted that the amended COC later submitted by the PBOC was manually prepared and printed from an ordinary computer instead of the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS).
But Macalintal said this issue was explained during the canvassing of senators’ votes by the Comelec.
He said that instead of the results from Rizal province, what was included was the results from the preelection test of the machine there. The CCS thought all the votes from the municipalities were in and thus printed the COC.
When the board reconvened to amend the COC, all parties were notified and nobody objected, Macalintal said.
But the congressional panel decided to call the PBOC members to appear before it and explain the discrepancies.
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