Comelec junks petitions seeking to disqualify Davao mayor
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has breezed through legal hurdles to his presidential run with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) junking all four petitions seeking to disqualify him.
Voting 3-0, the poll body’s First Division threw out the complaints filed against Duterte by various personalities.
“Mr. Chairman [Juan Andres Bautista], I would like to announce that the First Division has ruled that the punisher will live to die another day,” Senior Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said after the voting on Wednesday.
Lim is the chairman of the First Division that has Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Luie Tito Guia as members.
Guanzon, according to Lim, wanted to file a separate opinion but she agreed to submit it on another day so as not to delay the promulgation.
The disqualification cases were separately filed by broadcasters Ruben Castor, Rizalito David, Ely Pamatong and John Paulo delas Nieves.
The petitioners have five days to file their motions for reconsideration (MR) with the commission en banc.
If the en banc upheld the decision of the First Division, the petitioners could elevate the case to the Supreme Court, just like what Poe did when she was disqualified by the same division.
Castro included as respondents Martin Diño, Duterte and the PDP-Laban party, while Pamatong, David and delas Nieves only had the mayor as respondent.
All four petitions principally questioned validity of Duterte’s substitution for Diño, claiming that the latter’s certificate of candidacy (COC) for President was invalid.
The petitions filed by Pamatong, David and delas Nieves also questioned the validity of Duterte’s COC.
But in its 50-page ruling, the First Division said it found no merit in the petitions.
It ruled that Diño filed a valid COC for President and a valid withdrawal as a candidate for President.
The division said Diño was not declared a nuisance candidate.
It added that Duterte did not commit any material misrepresentation in his COC for President.
The petitions of Castor and delas Nieves were dismissed for their failure to appear during preliminary conferences of their respective cases.
The First Division said the petitions were also filed late.
“Any question as to any material misrepresentation therein should have been brought within 25 days from 16 October 2015, or until 10 November 2015 in accordance with Section 78 of the OEC [Omnibus Election Code],” it noted.
The complaints filed by Pamatong and David were dismissed for lack of merit.
But even as it dismissed all four petitions, the First Division said the petitioners did raise some valid points on the issue of Duterte’s substitution for Diño.
“In particular, petitioners David and delas Nieves are correct in saying that to allow the substitution is, in a way, an unlawful extension of the period set in Resolution[s]9981 and 9984 for the filing of certificates of candidacy,” it noted.
The division shared the observation of delas Nieves that Diño’s intent in filing a COC for President is manifestly for the benefit of Duterte, who at the time was yet to decide whether to run for President.
It said the commission is well aware that the concept of substitution under Section 77 of the OEC is prone to abuse, and may even lead to the “bastardization” of the entire process.
The division, however, pointed out that the Comelec, on its own, cannot correct this mistake because of “its lack of authority to legislate and the prohibition against judicial legislation.”
“At the end of the day, any and all attempts to amend Section 77 by addressing its loopholes and restricting the possible abuse in its application is more properly subject of legislation, rather than this commission’s rule-making powers,” it said.
Sen. Alan Cayetano welcomed the Comelec decision, saying it was “a triumph of justice and the rule of law.”
“This is the victory of all those clamoring for real change. These are the people who are fed up with the country’s continued disorder as well as lack of security and equal opportunities. Their voices cannot be denied anymore,” the senator said in a statement.
Cayetano, Duterte’s running mate, said he and the mayor will attend debates and forums “so that the voting public can have informed choices.”
The senator, however, added that as the campaign period draws near, more attacks may be launched against them.