Convening canvassing board can wait – Drilon

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CONGRESS will not be able to convene as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) when it resumes session on May 23, Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Wednesday.

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According to Drilon, leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed to perform their legislative function first before convening as NBOC and tally the votes for President and Vice President from the recently held local and national elections.

The Senate President said he met with House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Tuesday and discussed the bills that are on the last stages of enactment, particularly the five bicameral conference committee reports that will have to be ratified by the House.

Aside from the bicameral committee reports, a number of local and franchise bills from the House of Representatives will be passed on third and final reading.

The Senate chief said given the legislative agenda, they expect to convene the NBOC by May 25 and the first order will be adoption of rules for canvassing.

He, however, refused to give a time frame as to when would they be able to proclaim the new President and Vice President because of the tight race for the vice presidency.

“I would refrain from making any predictions, given the fact that we do not know how things would evolve, or what questions will be raised,” Drilon explained.

While he sees no problem in the presidential contest, he said, questions are expected to be raised in the canvassing of votes for Vice President, where Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo are neck-and neck in the race for the nation’s second-highest post.

Selection of the nine-man panel that will compose the NBOC will be limited to only 12 incumbent senators.

Those who ran in the May 9 polls and the two senators who are detained will not be included in the selection.

Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada are held at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center on corruption charges.

“We have seven who ran as President and Vice President. Then we have two under detention, so that’s already nine. We also have Sen. Nancy Binay who is related to Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen. Pia [Cayetano]. That leaves us with thirteen,” Drilon said.

The Senate President was referring to Senators Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who ran for President, and Senators Francis Escudero, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes 4th and Gregorio Honasan, who all ran for Vice President.

“We have to constitute a committee of nine to do the actual canvass, so that leaves us only with thirteen senators, and that includes me. So there are only twelve senators from where we can choose the nine,” Drilon said.

He added that Congress has until June 30 to finish the canvassing and proclaim the new President and Vice President.

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