By Alyssa Nicole O. Tan, Reporter
and John Victor D. Ordoñez

THE SENATE on Monday approved a concurrent resolution for both houses of Congress to canvass the votes for president and vice-president in a joint session starting Tuesday.

Congress sitting as the National Board of Canvassers will count the votes from the May 9 election at the House of Representatives, according to a copy of Senate Concurrent Resolution 18.

Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. won the election by a landslide, according to the unofficial count from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) server.

Under the Senate order, each chamber will have seven regular members and four alternate members. The Speaker and Senate president will choose the chairman of each panel during the count.

The joint committee will settle questions and issues raised involving the certificates of canvass through a majority vote, with each panel voting separately.

If the two panels disagree, the decision of the chairman will prevail. In case of a deadlock, the matter will be resolved by the Speaker and the Senate president.

Congress seeks to proclaim the new president and vice-president by Wednesday evening.

As of Thursday last week, 90% or 156 of 173 certificates had been delivered to the Senate. The latest local transmission came from Sulu, while overseas absentee certificates came from the US, Australia, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Brunei.

The Senate had transferred the bulk of certificates and returns to the House of Representatives by Monday dawn.

Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco at the weekend said the canvassing of votes and proclamation of the winners would be “expeditious, transparent and credible.”

“We will perform our constitutional duty quickly and efficiently,” he said in a statement. “We will be combining accuracy and speed in order for us to meet our committed timeline.”

Lawmakers would proceed with the counting pending a disqualification lawsuit against the son and namesake of the late dictator that has reached the Supreme Court, Mr. Velasco said. “Nothing therein says that this duty is suspended while a case, which has already been dismissed by the Commission on Elections, is pending with the Supreme Court.

“We are bound to proclaim the winning president and vice-president and uphold the will of the people with dispatch,” he added.

The 18th Congress will adjourn sine die on June 4.

The high tribunal has ordered Mr. Marcos, Comelec and both houses of Congress to comment on one of two lawsuits seeking to void the presumptive president’s candidacy.

A group of taxpayers on May 16 asked the court to stop the count and void Mr. Marcos’ candidacy since he is allegedly unfit to become president after he was convicted of tax evasion in the 1990s.

The plaintiffs seek to overturn a Comelec ruling allowing Mr. Marcos to run for president, accusing him of lying about his qualifications. They said the election body had gravely abused its authority by failing to disqualify Mr. Marcos despite his conviction.

Meanwhile, Comelec might proclaim some party-list winners by Thursday, Election Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia told a news briefing.

If local governments transmit their votes from special elections by Tuesday night, the agency would proceed with the canvassing the next day and proclaim the winners by May 26, he said.

Comelec and security forces are in their final preparations for the special elections on Tuesday, which will be held in 12 villages and 15 precincts in the town of Tubaran, Lanao del Sur in southern Philippines.

A failure of elections was declared on May 11 in 14 villages in Binidayan, Butig and Tubaran due to violence.

Mr. Garcia said Comelec ordered special elections in Tubaran since the towns of Butig and Binidayan had already proclaimed their local officials.

About 850 policemen and 150 soldiers will be deployed for the special elections, Comelec Deputy Executive Director for Operations Teopisto E. Elnas, Jr. told the same briefing.

“All contingency vote-counting machines and SD cards have been delivered to the province and we will also follow the same rules of procedure as in the May 9 elections,” he added.

With 172 of 173 certificates of canvass completed, Lanao del Sur is the only area left to count as part of the official tally for this year’s senatorial and party-list race.

Mr. Garcia told DZBB radio on Sunday about 9,000 voters would participate in the special elections in the town of Tubaran, which have 11,557 registered voters.

Before the May 9 elections, the towns of Tubaran, Malabang, Maguing and Marawi City in Lanao del Sur were placed under the election body’s control.

Meanwhile, Mr. Garcia told the same briefing Comelec plans to provide P2,000 each for teachers who had to work extra hours due to delays caused by the breakdown of vote-counting machines.

“We cannot provide the P3,000 requested by the Department of Education (DepEd) since this is beyond our budget,” he said.

DepED earlier proposed an additional P3,000 pay for teachers who worked longer hours on election day as members of the electoral board due to machine failures.

Comelec’s random manual audit committee had audited 163 ballot boxes out of the 737 ballots retrieved from randomly selected clustered precincts as of 4 p.m. on Monday, it said in a Facebook post.

The random manual audit process verifies if vote-counting machines had counted votes correctly. The election body said the running accuracy rate of the audited votes was 99%.