Supreme Court fails to block canvassing

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to issue a ruling on a petition questioning the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to dismiss a case to cancel the certificate of canvass (COC) of President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Instead of issuing a restraining order or injunction, the court released a press statement on its decision to give the Comelec, the Senate and the House of Representatives 15 days within which to comment on the petition filed by a group led by Fr. Christian Buenafe.

The Senate and the House expect to start canvassing the votes for president and vice president on May 25, the final phase before the winners are officially proclaimed. That means the lawmakers have enough time to proceed with the canvassing and proclamation before submitting a comment to the Supreme Court.

Last May 10, the Comelec dismissed all appeals for the disqualification cases filed against Marcos.

Even before the Supreme Court issued its statement, Senate leaders were in agreement that the court cannot stop Congress from canvassing the votes for president and vice president.

Zubiri said Congress is constitutionally bound to canvass the presidential and vice presidential results.

“Nothing prevents us 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,” he said in a statement.

“We 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,” Zubiri added.

Last May 16, a group challenged the May 10 resolution of the Comelec en banc which ruled against the disqualification of Marcos Jr.

The petitioners — Fr. Christian Buenafe, Fides Lim, Ma. Edeliza Hernandez, Celia Lagman Sevilla, Roland C. Vibal, and Josephine Lascano — asked the court to block the Comelec and Congress from proclaiming Marcos as the winner in the presidential election.

Last Wednesday, a group of Martial Law survivors and religious and youth rights advocates led by the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (Carmma) also petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse the Comelec dismissal of the petitions to disqualify Marcos.

“That Marcos Jr. was even able to run is not only a blatant mockery but a shameless bastardization of our democracy and electoral exercise. With Marcos Jr.’s now-questionable win in the 2022 national elections, the Comelec en banc’s decision to dismiss our disqualification petition against him rubs salt on the wounds of injustice,” said Carmma convenor Bonifacio Ilagan, one of the petitioners.

“It is a slap on the faces of all the victims who suffered unspeakable atrocities under the Marcos dictatorship,” Ilagan added.

Marcos and his running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio won the presidency and vice presidency respectively, with each obtaining over 31 million votes.

Sotto said if Congress starts on May 24, it can finish the canvassing by May 26 and proclaim Marcos and Duterte-Carpio on the same day.

He said the proclamation will still follow immediately even if the canvassing finishes late in the evening.

“Check the previous procs (proclamations). I remember [on] June 6, 2004, [then winning presidential candidate] Gloria [Macapagal Arroyo] was proclaimed [president] just before dawn. I will never forget because I voted against [it]. Then [I] walked out,” he said.

The Senate has received 88.44 percent or 153 of the total 173 COCs expected to be transmitted to the chamber.

Among the transmitted COCs and election returns (ERs) were those from Sulu, the United States and Australia.

The Senate is expected to transfer the COCs and ERs to the House of Representatives at dawn on May 23, after which the two chambers will convene in a joint session for the canvassing.