Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte won the first round of his legal battle for a slot in next year’s presidential elections after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday accepted his certificate of candidacy (COC) as a substitute candidate of
Round 2, however, is set to unfold on Friday morning when the Comelec’s First Division tackles a disqualification case against the tough-talking mayor.
The disqualification case has been submitted for resolution last Tuesday after the petitioner, broadcaster Ruben Castor, failed to appear before the Comelec for preliminary conference and marking of evidence in preparation for oral arguments the following day.
The First Division, headed by Commissioner Christian Robert Lim with Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Luie Tito Guia as members, is set to hear the case.
In his petition, Castor questioned the validity of Duterte’s COC, claiming it was “defective.”
Among those that the First Division will tackle in today’s hearing are Duterte’s notarized COC for mayor and President, the date he withdrew his COC for mayor and the date he filed his COC for President and the notarized contents of the two COC, among others.
Under the process of substitution, Duterte has to withdraw his COC for mayor of Davao City, take his oath as member of the PDP-Laban and submit a certificate of nomination and acceptance or CONA from his political party.
Just hours after Duterte’s COC for President was filed, Castor, represented by lawyers Oliver Lozano and Evangeline Lozano Endriano, immediately filed a petition seeking to nullify the mayor’s COC.
In seeking the disqualification of Duterte, he claimed that the COC of Martin Diño was not for President but for mayor of Pasay City (Metro Manila), thus he can only withdraw his candidacy for mayor, not for President.
Castor pointed out that Diño’s COC was void because it contains several material misrepresentation in violation of the mandatory provision of law or Article 5 of the Civil Code, and also Section 74 of the Omnibus Election Code.
“There is clearly no candidate for President who is withdrawing his candidacy for the same position of President; and there is none that respondent Duterte may substitute,” the petitioner said.
He noted that Duterte, although a member of the PDP-Laban, was not nominated by the party for mayor of Davao but by Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod, a local political party.
Substitution is allowed under Article IX, Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC).
The article states, “If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy, an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified.”
According to Lim, the Comelec has checked if the substitution of Duterte was valid in relation to the requirements of the Omnibus Election Code, but intrinsic issues, such as truthfulness of contents of the COC is still subject of a complaint that the First Division would still look into.
“So on matters of form, basically there was a compliance but in terms of the intrinsic validity of the COC, that’s subject of the case,” the Comelec official said.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the commissioners during an en banc session voted 6-1 clearing Duterte as a substitute for Diño, the PDP-Laban’s originally registered candidate for President.
“This means he is now on our list of candidates,” Bautista said. “It is an administrative move on the part of the Comelec en banc.”
The en banc resolution said “the Comelec resolves to acknowledge and accept the certificate of candidacy” of Duterte, as part of the poll body’s ministerial function.
“Accepting his substitution is administrative in nature. We looked at the form. But even the form has an issue but we decided, 6-1, to accept the COC administratively, but is subject to a pending disqualification case,” Bautista explained in Filipino.
Commissioner Lim explained that the ball is now with the First Division, which was designated to look into the disqualification case against Duterte.
“’The intrinsic issues have to be resolved by the division and then [they go] to the en banc,” he said.
Bautista said there is still “a potential” that Duterte may be disqualified.
“This [decision]is entirely without prejudice to the pending disqualification case in SPA
No. 15-94BC entitled Ruben H. Castor vs. Martin Diño, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban, or any other case that may be filed against him,” the en banc resolution read.
Commissioner Guanzon, the lone dissenter, said the issue regarding the mayor’s notarized documents should have been resolved first before the decision.
“I dissent. There is a pending case, Castor v. Duterte(15-194 DC) wherein the petitioner alleges that Duterte’s COC is void because it contains untruthful acts or misrepresentation.
There is also the issue regarding his notarized documents, the truth or falsity of which must be determined before his COC is accepted.”
Speculations that Duterte was eyeing a higher position in next year’s elections started to percolate as early as last year after the tough-talking mayor started going around the country on a “speaking tour” purportedly to drum up support to a call for a shift to a federal form of government.
Since then and until early November, he vehemently denied he is running for President and even threatened to shoot those behind the campaign to draft him as a presidential candidate.
The 70-year-old, however, had a change of heart late November after the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) ruled to allow Sen. Grace Poe to retain her Senate seat and dismiss a petition that questioned her citizenship.
The electoral tribunal’s case against Poe is pending with the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments on January 19.
Duterte, in announcing his presidential run, said he believes that Poe, being a foundling, is not a natural-born citizen and is thus not qualified to seek the presidency.
He added that the tribunal’s decision “cheapens the Constitution, the only thing that holds the country together.”
The two divisions of the Comelec recently ruled to cancel Poe’s COC for President.
Diño, a former Quezon City barangay (village) captain and secretary-general of PDP-Laban, filed his COC for President a few minutes before the 5 p.m. closing of the final day of the week-long COC filing period last October 16.
He was among those in the crowd outside the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila, waiting for Duterte’s arrival from Davao and supposed filing of his COC.
With the mayor nowhere in sight as the clock nears 5 p.m., Diño went inside the Comelec building and filed his COC as the official candidate of PDP-Laban.
Duterte by then had filed his COC for reelection as Davao City mayor.
The PDP-Laban, in its convention in mid-October, passed two resolutions. One resolution designated Duterte as the party’s choice as substitute candidate in case Diño withdraws his COC and the other said Duterte could not refuse the party’s decision.
Diño withdrew his COC.
Duterte through his lawyer withdrew his COC for Davao mayor and filed his COC as a substitute last November 27.
He went to the Comelec main office in last December 8 to reaffirm his COC.