Why Comelec's Guanzon berated lawyer during canvassing

REPRIMANDED. Comelec Commissioner Rowena Ganzon berates counsel Romel Bagares of APPEND partylist when the latter motions the commission to produce data logs of the transmission of election returns.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

The quiet halls of the Philippine International Convention Center were shaken when Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon took the microphone on Wednesday, May 15.

At the venue for canvassing of official results in the 2019 elections, the feisty Comelec commissioner's voice filled the large halls as she berated a lawyer for bringing up issues related to the poll body’s transparency server before the National Board of Canvassers.

Lawyer Romel Bagares – who represented the Alliance of Philippine Partners in Enterprise Development (APPEND) party list – had just finished his manifestation wherein he requested for access to election data when Guanzon questioned him. (READ: Comelec execs open to audit of transparency server)

Bagares said APPEND party list wanted election data to review results after the Comelec’s transparency server suffered a 7-hour glitch on Monday, May 13.

Guanzon, however, was not taking it. “We are on continuing canvassing here. What is your objection according to the rules? Your objection and then you cite the rules please," she said.  

As the certificate of canvass for votes from Vatican City were displayed to the public, Bagares said he was not objecting, but presenting the party list’s request for election data. (READ: Was transmission of 2019 PH election results better or worse?)

It was this move that prompted Guanzon to reprimand Bagares.

“Well, that is not your business at this time. You have no standing to ask to open the logs. This is a canvassing and you should state your objection to this stage of the canvassing!” Guanzon said, rasing her voice. 

Lawyer of Append could not cite his objection to the votes being canvassed ( from Vatican) and the rule .I asked him 3x . This is a canvassing, not for grandstanding https://t.co/WC4xFG3Jsi — Rowena V. Guanzon (@commrguanzon) May 15, 2019

During the canvassing of results, poll commissioners sitting as the National Board of Canvassers limit manifestations to matters related to certificates of canvass. It does not tackle issues related to other parts of the election system to prevent delays in the days-long process. 

“Chair, may I move that this counsel’s microphone be turned off and the martial require him to sit down because he’s wasting our time already….Attorney, you sit down now before you get into trouble,” Guanzon said.

Soon after, Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas issued a stern warning to the room.

“It is clear enough. We give you our respect, you should also respect us. Otherwise, we cite you in contempt. Papalabasin namin kayo dito. Kung kailangan ikukulong namin kayo, gagawin namin (We’ll send you out. If we need to jail you, we will do it),” Abas said.

He added, “This is clear for all lawyers here. And lawyers – it doesn’t mean na dahil lawyer kayo, then kaya niyong interrupt 'yung ating canvassing (it doesn’t meant hat just because you are lawyers you can interrupt our canvassing).”

Canvassing na tayo. Hindi ito press con.” (We are canvassing. This is not a press con.) – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.