Congress preparing for presidential vote count – Nograles
By Jess Diaz
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives and the Senate have started preparations for the counting of votes for president and vice president on May 31, Speaker Prospero Nograles said yesterday.
“We are committed to fulfill our constitutional mandate as the national board of canvassers for presidential and vice presidential votes. The world is keenly watching the May 10 elections. We cannot afford to fail,” he said.
Nograles also urged the Commission on Elections and its automation contractor Smartmatic-TIM to move fast to address the malfunctioning of some precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
He said the Comelec should assure the public that these machines and their software would work on Monday.
Under the Constitution, it is Congress that is empowered to count the votes for president and vice president and proclaim the winners.
The counting will start on May 31 when the House and the Senate resume session.
Some lawmakers have criticized the decision to reconvene three weeks after the elections, saying a 21-day period is a long wait during which unofficial tabulations would have already determined the winning presidential and vice presidential candidates.
Since Monday’s election is computerized, Congress should have opted to convene much earlier to start its canvass, they said.
Nograles said a bicameral team led by House Secretary General Marilyn Yap and her Senate counterpart Emma Reyes has been tasked to draft the canvassing rules for submission to the two chambers when session resumes.
He said House and Senate officials have met with Comelec commissioners on how to expedite the canvassing, which will be done at the Batasan complex in Quezon City.
Under the Constitution, the Comelec would transmit the provincial and city results for president and vice president to the Senate president for safekeeping.
The Senate president would send the results to Congress when it begins its task as a canvassing board.
In the past, the results were written in certificates of canvass (COCs) filled out by members of the city and provincial board of canvassers.
In the old manual system, it took weeks before the canvassing boards could send the COCs to Congress.
It is not clear what kind of document the boards would now transmit to Congress with the automation of the elections, but it should not take long to prepare such document since counting at the provincial and city levels is also computerized.
Nograles also urged the people to remain vigilant against any attempt to subvert their will on Monday.
The Senate, for its part, has assured the public of transparency in the canvassing of elections returns.
“The Senate is tasked to ensure faithful compliance with the constitutional mandate and to provide for orderly and systematic proceeding of the canvassing of COCs and ERs of candidates for the position of President and Vice President,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said.
“In this regard, we have put in place rules and guidelines (Policy Order 2010-006) that will strictly be enforced 24 hours a day, everyday, starting at 6 p.m. of May 10, for as long as COCs and ERs will be brought and delivered to the Senate grounds, and subsequently transported to the House of Representatives for canvassing,” Enrile added. – With Christina Mendez, Donnabelle Gatdula, Evelyn Macairan and Pia Lee-Brago