TODAY’S scheduled “anointment” of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd as the Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer in the 2016 elections may do him more harm than good because such may constitute violations of election laws, according to a renowned election lawyer.
In a statement on Thursday, Romulo Macalintal warned members of the LP, including President Benigno Aquino 3rd who is to make the endorsement, that while premature campaigning is not prohibited, “there is such thing as prohibited premature political meeting or convention to nominate their candidates.”
Citing the announcement by LP stalwart and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone that Aquino is set to proclaim Roxas today as the “presidential candidate of the ruling Liberal Party in the May 9, 2016 elections” and such proclamation “will coincide with the birthday of Roxas’ mother,” Macalintal said the party must review first the provisions of the law.
“If the elections will be fully automated, political parties should take note of Section 13 of RA [Republic Act] 9369, Automated Election Law, which provides, “Political parties may hold political conventions to nominate their official candidates within thirty (30) days before the start of the period for filing a certificate of candidacy,” he added.
“If our elections will be through ‘hybrid system’ or half-manual and half-automated, Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code provides that in case of manual elections such political conventions could be held “within thirty days before the commencement of the campaign periods,” Macalintal explained.
Another problem, he pointed out, is that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has not yet issued its calendar of activities to guide political parties and the public of what to do and not what to do.
“Any violation of these provisions constitutes an election offense punishable by imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from holding public office,” Macalintal further warned.
In Malacanang, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said everything that pertains to the scheduled endorsement of Roxas by Aquino at the historic Club Filipino in San Juan City (Metro Manila) remains a “speculation” until it happens.
When pressed to provide an answer as to whether Aquino will attend the gathering, Coloma replie,: “Malalaman po lang natin ‘yan kapag naglahad na ng opisyal na schedule [We will only know if the official schedule of the endorsement is announced].”
The Presidential Communications Group usually provides the media with the President’s itinerary the night before the actual activities.
Sources of The Manila Times first bared two weeks ago the impending “anointment” of Roxas by Aquino.
In fact, they claimed that the LP and Aquino himself were still hoping that Sen. Grace Poe would agree to slide down as Roxas’ running mate.
In recent pre-election surveys, Poe had overtaken Vice President Jejomar Binay as the most likely winner if the elections were held at the time of the survey period.
According to a survey of Pulse Asia, if the 2016 presidential elections were to be held in June this year, 30 percent would vote for Poe while only 22 percent would vote for Binay, with Roxas lagging behind the two.
One source, who comes from the camp of Poe, said the LP is not yet naming whoever should run as Roxas’ running mate with the hope that the latest surveys would show that Roxas is “gaining.”
“They are still hopeful that once the results of the surveys come out and indicate Mar is catching up, Grace would be convinced to run with him. But it will not happen,” according to the source.
The same source earlier confided to this paper that Poe and Sen. Francis Escudero would only make their intentions to run in next year’s polls known once Roxas was endorsed.
While Roxas seemed “less popular” if the pollsters would be believed, the LP leadership remains confident that he has a great chance of beating other formidable bets for President.
Noting that Binay himself only had a low four percent rating before the 2010 elections, which he eventually won, Roxas may still pull a surprise win over him in 2016.