Says the Comelec spokesman, Maguindanao canvass ends in 4 days. But that’s his own opinion, and he could be wrong. How wrong? Oh, maybe wrong enough so that despite the Supreme Court scheduling a hearing, where the camps of Zubiri and Pimentel can argue why the high court should -or shouldn’t- intervene by means of a TRO, the Comelec can end up making the efforts of the court “moot and academic.”
Republic Act 7166 says (and it can also be found here):
Section 15. Pre-proclamation Cases Not Allowed in Elections for President Vice-President, Senator, and Member of the House of Representatives. – For purposes of the elections for President, Vice-President, Senator and Member of the House of Representatives, no pre-proclamation cases shall be allowed on matters relating to the preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of the election returns or the certificates of canvass, as the case may be. However, this does not preclude the authority of the appropriate canvassing body motu propio or upon written complaint of an interested person to correct manifest errors in the certificate of canvass or election returns before it.
Questions affecting the composition or proceedings of the board of canvassers may be initiated in the board or directly with the Commission in accordance with Section 19 hereof.
Any objection on the election returns before the city or municipal board of canvassers, or on the municipal certificates of canvass before the provincial board of canvassers or district boards of canvassers in Metro Manila Area, shall be specifically noticed in the minutes of their respective proceedings.
The section (19) referred to by the above section (15) is as follows:
Section 19. Consented Composition or Proceedings of the Board: Period to Appeal: Decision by the Commission. – Parties adversely affected by a ruling of the board of canvassers on questions affecting the composition or proceedings of the board may appeal the matter to the Commission within three (3) days from a ruling thereon. The Commission shall summarily decided the case within five (5) days from the filing thereof.
Which means, a candidate who questions the election results in a province, can question those results and the documents on which results are based, at two levels: the provincial board of canvassers, and the national board of canvassers, within certain limits.
But the Supreme Court, at this point, can only intervene so long as no final proclamation has been made by the Comelec; once the Comelec proclaims a senator -and only one proclamation is left, that for No. 12- then the body authorized to tackle any complaints is the Senate Electoral Tribunal. Therefore, the window of opportunity for Supreme Court intervention is before the Comelec, acting as the National Board of Canvassers, makes its proclamation.
What, in turn, will decide whether or not the National Board of Canvassers makes a proclamation? You would think, why, the Provincial Board of Canvassers. Except, that provincial board is out of the picture. Instead, a Special Board of Canvassers has been put in place, and it’s the special board that’s adding up the figures.
What figures? The votes for senator in Maguindanao. Votes based on what? The other set of Municipal Certificates of Canvass that the Comelec found -and which had to be looked for, gathered together, and resorted to, because the incredible Bedol had all the election documents that should have been the basis for the official figures. The stolen documents included the provincial canvass results, and the municipal canvass results -and the copies of these figures, that should have gone to interested parties, including the dominant opposition and administration parties, and electoral watchdog groups.
But the Comelec claims that, thank God, duplicates were found for municipal results, and while it’s sad the official provincial results remain missing, the results can be reconstituted based on the found documents -even though the political parties and watchdogs never got their copies, and so have no basis for proving, or disproving, the numbers that the special board’s counting in Maguindanao.
The special boarding doing the adding up in Maguindanao, has, in turn, responded to questions and objections raised by Koko Pimentel’s lawyers by saying the special board is only tasked -and only authorized- to look at the documents, add up the figures on them, and report the results to the National Board of Canvassers. The lawyers from both sides are free to watch, but any noises they make will have to be repeated in Manila. And if they don’t like it, tough.
But you might ask, so what? Seems fine. Let the lawyers make noise in Manila, let’s all get this over and done with in Maguindanao.
Except here’s the catch: this assumes the National Board of Canvassers is under an obligation to then stop, listen to, and attend to, one by one, any objections that might have been set aside in Maguindanao, and which Maguindanao said are properly Manila’s to attend to.
Not so. Manila’s ultimate concern is that it has a deadline: June 30, when the terms of the new senators begin. The Comelec can argue that it has an obligation to fill all the vacancies in the Senate, and that therefore it must proclaim the 12th senator-elect. And since it has a deadline to meet, while technically it can go over objections and requests for clarification, one by one, concerning the Mindanao votes and the documents on which they’re based, including the report on the Maguindanao results submitted by its special board of canvassers, it doesn’t have to do this. Not when it’s pressed for time.
Instead, it can do this: receive the report from the Maguindanao special board of canvassers. Order that the figures in the report be added to the national total. Declare that the national figures are complete; and, based on the completed national figures, proclaim the 12th senator-elect. Guess who that will be?
And in doing so, it can declare that the deadline was met; it acted on the basis of a document, the Maguindanao report of the special board of canvassers, which it resumed to be regular; argue, further, that it didn’t decide on any questions of authenticity, etc., but merely acted in good faith; and by so doing, it avoided passing judgement on the the actions of the Maguindanao special board, and itself avoided having to resolve any of the objections or clarify anything the lawyers raised in Maguindanao -and never had a chance to bring up again in Manila, because Manila acted on what Maguindanao submitted.
By making its proclamation, the Comelec not only washed its hands of the matter, it deprived the Supreme Court of any chance to intervene; and it proclaimed a senator and left it up to his main opponent to fight it out in the Senate electoral tribunal where for all we know, justice might be served, on June 29, 2013.
Perhaps now it makes more sense why Koko asks Court to stop Maguindanao canvass Comelec, Zubiri directed to file comments. In failing to act the other day, the Supreme Court risks compounding the problem: SC halt-count wish is no command: Abalos. As Patricio Diaz puts it, Abalos could have been less defiant:
By deferring to the Court, the Commission can erase all suspicions about its intentions.
But by all indication, the Commission is not deferring to the Court. The re-canvass of the municipal CoCs is already in progress. By its summary procedure, it may be finished before the Court could hear all sides and decide.
Two things can happen after the Court has heard all parties today. It may restrain the canvassing and hear the case on merits or dismiss the case outright. If the first, it may be too late to restrain the provincial re-canvassing; but there may be time to stop the national canvassing — unless the Commission will be able to outrace the Court.
Should the Court be able to restrain the national canvassing, neither Pimentel nor Zubiri could join the eleven earlier proclaimed. It will take a little more time for the Court to hear the case on merits.
Whether Pimentel or Zubiri eventually wins, the Court will extricate the Commission from some consequences of its mixed signals.
But it appears that, like Bedol daring the Commission to sue him, the Commission is resolved to finish the national canvass this week in time for the installation of the winning twelfth candidate — who is most likely to be Zubiri — on Saturday.
And as for the incredible Bedol, he roams freely despite Comelec’s arrest order but well, he’ll show up before the Comelec -in his own good time. It seems to me that when Namfrel calls May 14 elections ‘90% credible’, and its people submit a scathing report on the Lanao del Sur vote, it reminds us all the more why the incredible 10% deserve the harshest scrutiny.
Palace hands-off on broadband deal. Finance Sec. Teves says he’s not quitting, and he’ll go only if the President fires him. Meanwhile, Palace seeks truce on Commission on Appointments’ row (getting more and more unseemly: ‘2 ex-DepEd chiefs hit for cash, favors by CA members’ ). Overlooked at the time, but better late than never: A Nagueno in the Blogosphere undertakes a fascinating examination of the political ups and downs of Rep. Luis Villafuerte (see also his thoughts on the ongoing controversy over a proposed resort development in Tagaytay).
Here’s food for thought: Lacson: No revenge against Arroyo.
My Arab News column for this week is Philippine Economy: A Cautionary Tale.
Manuel Buencamino observes many of the goings-on involving the government are very convenient, wink wink.
The Inquirer editorial says up-to-now-nameless generals must step forward and put a face to their allegations.
The Business Mirror editorial says we must consider the option of nuclear power -and that the Bataan Nuclear Plant might just indeed, be viable after all.
In the blogosphere, New Economist asks if the tide of opinion has turned -against globalization. Blackshama says, on the other hand, that UP proves Karl Marx right -the state is withering away, as proven by the privatization of public education.
Torn and Frayed takes note of our gun-loving political culture. Edwin Lacierda on the constitutional questions that will have to be resolved sooner or later. Manuel Viloria points to an inspiring speech; while To the Tale, and Other Such Concerns reflects on cause and effect. Fats, Vitamins, and Minerals recounts an enjoyable visit to a park.
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