THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday threw out one of the four petitions seeking to disqualify Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte from the presidential race because the complainant failed to appear during the preliminary conference.
Dismissed by the poll body’s First Division was the complaint filed by John Paulo delas Nieves, chairman of the University of the Philippines Student Council.
A preliminary conference is required before oral arguments are held. Acting Clerk of the Commission Abigail Justine Lilagan said the petitioner’s failure to appear in the hearing is a ground for dismissal.
Lilagan, however, added that the First Division may still proceed with hearing the case if majority of the members will vote for it.
Three other petitions against Duterte are pending. The cases were filed by broadcasters Ruben Castor and Rizalito David and Elly Pamatong.
All petitions questioned the validity of Duterte’s substitution for former barangay (village) captain Martin Diño.
Although substitution is allowed under the law, the complainants claimed that Diño wrote in his certificate of candidacy (COC) that he was running for mayor of Pasay City (Metro Manila), not for President of the Philippines.
The petitioners also claimed that Diño’s COC was void because it contains several material misrepresentations that violate “the mandatory provisions of Article 5 of the Civil Code, and also Section 74 of the Omnibus Election Code.”
Substitution is allowed under Article IX, Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code.
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 belong[ing]to, and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who die[d], withdrew or was disqualified.”
But despite legal and technical questions on Duterte’s substitution, the Comelec, with a vote of 6-1, accepted the Davao City mayor’s COC for President and officially included him on the list of candidates for President in the May 2016 elections.
But Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista pointed out that there is a possibility that Duterte may still be disqualified by the First Division but that the ruling can be appealed before the commission en banc.
“Remember that when the en banc accepted the substitution, it was essentially peforming an administrative function. The First Division, in hearing the case, is performing a quasi-judicial function and that decision of the division can be appealed to the en banc,” the Comelec chief explained.