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Vox Populi est Suprema Magnifique May 23, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, I, Lawyer, Seriously now….

Pag bad ka, lagot ka kay Joker!

On Sunday, May 20, 2007, I was engaged to be Joker Arroyo’s lead counsel in the canvassing of electoral returns for the Province of Cebu. The engagement has been highly educational, and to some extent, enlightening.

It’s tiring to be an election lawyer, and confusing, if I may add. You work long hours. It’s not unusual to be be slaving away until the wee hours of the morning, doing menial work. Just yesterday, May 22, I spent 21 hours in the Commission on Elections Regional Office, which included 10 hours of waiting for the ballot boxes to be carted in, and another 11 hours pacing around the room monitoring the canvassing of electoral returns. I couldn’t take it anymore, I was there at the office since 8:00am, so I left at 2:00am. I honestly felt guilty looking at the dedicated and hardworking watchers working under my wing. They, the COMELEC officials and the respective lawyers of both Kampi and Lakas-CMD were there to finish canvassing until it was done, with no stopping.

Indeed, rest is for the weak.

I woke up at 7:00 am today, and hurried over to the law office to pick up a case file that I had to study for a sur-rebuttal examination that I was going to do for a witness. I wasn’t ready yet, and I barely have my questions prepared. From there, I rushed back to the COMELEC to see how everyone was doing. The watchers I had last night were replaced with fresh ones at 6:00 this morning. But the same COMELEC officials were still there, as well as the same lawyers. They have not gotten any sleep.

We resumed canvassing and just as we were about to decide a crucial question regarding the national election returns, the chairman of the Board of Canvassers suddenly had a high blood pressure attack. He went pale and started having deep breaths. It was at that point that I hated our media men for just standing there taking pictures instead of giving the man some privacy and breathing space. Instead of helping the chairman to come down, they were adding to his sense of panic.

I rushed outside and deliberated calling my dad, who is a doctor. One of the calmer lawyers around asked if we could get a medic. We all decided to put the chairman in a police squad car and have him sent to a hospital. The Board called a recess to decide what to do next. The canvassing would resume at 1pm.

I hurried over to a nearby coffee shop in order to study the case files that I had with me, in order to prepare for my sur-rebuttal examination. As I was beginning to figure out the Complaint, my client’s son sent me a text message informing me that his dad (the witness we were about to put to the stand), was out of the country. I hurriedly had a txt conversation with the partner who was supervising the case and he told me to prepare an urgent motion for postponement, asking the court to reset hearing when the client gets back from abroad.

So, from the coffee shop, I hurriedly caught a cab and got to the office to have my motion printed and sent by our messenger. Since it was already 30 minutes from 1pm, I hurriedly caught another cab and went back to the COMELEC Regional Office. When I got in, the Board of Canvassers replaced the chairman with another member, and the former vice-chairman was now the new chairman. Canvassing of the national returns has resumed.

At around 3pm, the lawyers of Lakas-CMD were protesting the canvassing of national returns, arguing that it should be canvassed together with the local returns. Their intent was to prevent the lawyers from Kampi from delaying the case. At that point I got mad. They were dragging the rest of the national candidates along with the controversy by insisting that our returns be canvassed simultaneously with the hotly contested local returns. So, I stood up and debated against it.

Errr. Debated is such a strong word. Let me explain. The COMELEC Rules only allows the lead counsels of each party to speak in argument, hence, even though the two local parties had a battery of lawyers each, only their best and most veteran lawyers got to speak as lead counsel.

And then there was me. The only lawyer for a national candidate. With media flashing their lightbulbs and videotaping everything behind me. So, I did not so much as debate as squeak my argument against Lakas’ contentions. It was a bad case of stage fright. But I did manage to get my argument out, as convoluted as my speech was, and surprise, surprise… my contention won. The national canvass was to continue without the local one.

Finally the day was over. The only thing left to do for our part is to wait for the Statement of Votes tomorrow morning, and pray that our boy Joker will be among the Magic Dozen.

(By the way, during lulls in the canvassing, I wrote something really idiotic. I’ll post it after this.)


1. Manuel L. Quezon III: The Daily Dose » Blog Archive » Cease fire? - May 24, 2007

[…] The Magnificent Atty. Perez has an interesting account of what it’s like to be an election lawyer during canvassing (he’s representing Joker Arroyo in Cebu. RezeRed recounts the hassle teachers like her experienced, courtesy of the Comelec. […]

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