By Alyssa Nicole O. Tan, Reporter

CONGRESS on Tuesday met in a joint public session to count the votes for president and vice-president in the May 9 elections.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III and Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco presided over the session held at the House of Representatives.

He noted that out of 173 certificates of canvass (COC), the Senate was still expecting the delivery of 8  certificates.

Mr. Sotto told his fellow lawmakers they should be “mindful of our moral duty” to resist attempts by some people to derail the proclamation of a new president and vice-president.

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

Senators and congressmen created a 14-man joint committee that will count the votes. Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri and House Majority Leader Martin G. Romualdez will head the two panels.

Regular members for the Senate are Senators Franklin M. Drilon, Nancy S. Binay, María Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos, Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Ralph G. Recto and Pilar “Pia” S. Cayetano.

Making up the House panel are Reps. Jesus Crispin C. Remulla, Abraham Tolentino, Kristine Singson-Meehan, Sharon S. Garin, Manuel Jose M. Dalipe and Juliet Marie D. Ferrer.

The alternate members were Senators Lito M. Lapid, Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, Aquilino “Koko” L. Pimentel III and Ronald M. dela Rosa, as well as Reps. Juan Pablo Bondoc, Johnny T. Pimentel, Alfredo A. Garbin Jr., and Stella Luz A. Quimbo.

During the session, the lawyers of presidential candidates recognized the authenticity of the election results that will be revealed after the official canvassing.

Romulo B. Macalintal, Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo’s lawyer, cited her call for her supporters to accept the election results.

“Although there are still questions about this election that need to be addressed, the voice of the people is becoming clearer,” he said. “We need to listen to this voice because in the end, we share only one nation.”

“We interpose no objection to the inclusion of the canvass of all certificates of canvass for president from the various provincial and municipal boards of canvassers,” he added.

“We would like to recognize and thank the patriotism exhibited by Vice-President Leni Robredo for expressly recognizing the integrity and the result of the recently concluded general elections,” Marcos lawyer Victor D. Rodriguez said.

Mr. Zubiri said this would significantly speed up the counting.

“They will no longer object to the results of the elections which would definitely hasten our proceedings,” he said. “We thank their graciousness as well as their patriotism in this time when we need the nation to heal from the very emotionally charged election of 2022.”

Mr. Sotto said they do not expect any serious objections to the results of the canvass “unless the COC will have incomplete records or does not match what was electronically transmitted.”

Lawmakers opened the certificates of canvass and supporting documents that were turned over to the canvassing committee.

The joint committee will decide all questions and issues raised involving the certificates of canvass by a majority vote of its members, with each panel voting separately.

In case of a disagreement, the decision of the chairmen will prevail. In case of a deadlock, the Senate president and Speaker will resolve the matter.

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

Certificates and returns to be received by the Senate include those from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Syria, Morocco, Iran, Argentina and Brazil.

Ballot boxes being delivered to the House include certificates from Chile, South Africa, Timor Leste, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Czech Republic and Nigeria. They were also awaiting local certificates from Lanao Del Sur.

A group of taxpayers on May 16 asked the Supreme 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.

Martial Law victims of Mr. Marcos’ father and namesake have also filed a similar lawsuit that seeks to overturn a Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision that favored the presidential frontrunner, who won the elections by a landslide.  

The High Court has ordered Mr. Marcos Jr., Comelec, the Senate and House to comment on the first lawsuit.

“Unreasonable, unnecessary or deliberate delays in the canvass so that Congress would be prevented from proclaiming a new president and new vice president before noon of June 30 may just be the greatest disservice to the country,” Mr. Sotto said.

Mr. Velasco said it is Congress’ duty to ensure that the votes are counted correctly. — with Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza