Dismiss SC Petition - Drilon, JdV; Congress Leaders Invoke Doctrine of Separation of Powers

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The two leaders of Congress, along with the Solicitor General, yesterday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss a petition challenging the constitutionality of the canvass being made by a 22-man joint committee, contending that the procedure is within the powers of Congress.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Jose de Venecia and Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo said that for the Supreme Court to interfere with the manner the canvass is being made "is tantamount to encroaching on the delicate doctrine of separation of powers."

"The instant petition is yet another threat to wreak havoc to our constitutional order. The court should refuse petitioners unfounded plea to review the acts of Congress, particularly the adoption and implementation of the rules of the joint session."

Opposition Rep. Ruy Elias Lopez of Davao City had asked the High Court to stop immediately the canvass by the joint committee claiming that only Congress, as one whole body, should do the job under the Constitution.

But the High Court, while accepting the petition to study its merits, junked the request for a temporary restraining order.

Drilon, De Venecia and Benipayo also told the High Court that the system of canvassing of votes for president and vice president had been done during the 1961, 1965, 1981, 1986, 1992 and 1998 elections.

"The candidates and their counsels in this years electoral exercises are presumed to know that the procedure of canvassing in previous elections were through a joint committee. Would it not be anomalous if this Congress change the procedure of canvassing and do away with a joint committee? Would it not be tantamount to changing the rules in its last stage of canvassing and proclamation?"

Quoting legal experts like Dean Andres Bautista and Fr. Joaquin Bernas, the Congress leaders agreed that the previous system of canvassing had validated the practice and its use legitimate on the basis of practicality and wisdom.

At the same time, they said the power of Congress to enact its own rules is provided for in the Constitution.

Decide fast

Senate President Franklin Drilon yesterday urged the Supreme Court to decide within the week on the petition filed by Davao Rep. Ruy Elias Lopez against the creation by Congress of a 22-man joint committee to hold preliminary canvassing of the presidential and vicepresidential votes.

Drilon made this appeal after filing his 43-page comment, as required by the SC, on Lopezs petition filed on May 31, adding the Senate "will abide by whatever decision the Supreme Court promulgates on this issue."

"We are confident the Supreme Court will recognize the principle of separation of powers, as the power to proclaim the President and the Vice President pertains to Congress and the power to issue internal rules is lodged in Congress by the Constitution. …