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Comelec's early proclamations put PHL democracy at risk - Ex-CJ Panganiban

Raising the specter of an electoral system, even an entire democratic system, gone haywire, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban characterized the Commission on Elections' proclamation of the first nine Senate candidates as without legal and factual basis. In an opinion piece he wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Panganiban argued that when the first six Senate candidates and then the next three candidates were proclaimed, not enough votes were counted to guarantee their victory in the elections. There were still enough votes left uncounted that would have allowed another candidate to surpass their votes. When Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Nancy Binay and Sonny Angara were proclaimed by the Comelec on May 16 the official canvass of the Comelec covered only 72 out of the 304 certificates of canvass (COCs). “These 72 COCs represented just a little more than 13 million of the country’s 52 million registered voters. Definitely, then, the unreported votes are several times more than the canvassed votes. Even if only 70 percent of the registered voters actually voted, still the uncanvassed ballots will easily swamp the canvassed ones,” explained Panganiban. The former Chief Justice did point out the Comelec's argument that the first two proclamations were justified by using “grouped” canvass reports as well as certificates of canvass (COC). Formerly. COCs were used exclusively as the basis for senatorial proclamations. Grouped canvass reports refer to a consolidated tally of votes per position from the provincial and city canvassers that have not yet transmitted their COC to the Comelec. The COC, on the other hand, contains the total votes from provinces, highly-urbanized cities and overseas absentee voting centers. It also reflects the grouped canvass reports. Comelec Resolution No. 9706 validated the use grouped canvass reports as a "basis to determine the votes obtained by all the candidates for senator." The latest resolution was promulgated Thursday at 9 a.m. but was only made available on Friday. However, Panganiban pointed out a legal stumbling block to the use of the grouped  reports, “If the Comelec wants to change its rules of proclamation even at the risk of offending jurisprudence, it is required by law to first publish its new rules and wait for the mandatory lapse of seven days after publication before it can use the new rules.” Panganiban painted a scenario where the country would have had to swallow the legal conundrum of having a final canvass that did not match the proclamations – an unproclaimed candidate would have  more votes than a “proclaimed” senator. Neither the Comelec nor the Supreme Court would be able to correct this as this is the exclusive prerogative of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET). And since six members of the SET would come from the Senate, it can only begin its work after the Senate is convened in July, at which point nine senators would be occupying seats without having won an election. Panganiban thus lauded Senators-elect Nancy Binay and Koko Pimentel for having the wisdom to refuse participation “in the tainted proclamation rites." The ex-CJ shared Pimentel's view that the proclamation rites were improper, "arguing that candidates should not only win the elections fairly but also strictly observe the law.” — DVM, GMA News