The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said it is unlikely to extend the last day of filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) for national and local positions in the May 2016 polls.
“At this point, we don’t see any reason why we have to extend the filing,” Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista said in a news briefing.
He, however, added that on October 16–deadline for COC filing–they would still “accommodate” aspirants who are already inside the Comelec premises even beyond the 5 p.m. closing time.
The Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila, is accepting COCs from those who are seeking national positions such as President, Vice President and senator, during office hours or from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The five-day filing period started last Monday, October 12, and will end on Friday, October 16.
But according to Bautista, they were still open to the possibility of extending the filing hours.
As of Wednesday, a total of 57 individuals were vying for President, 11 for Vice President, 53 for 12 Senate seats and 53 for party-list recognition.
On Wednesday, a total of 20 people filed their COC for President, four for Vice President and 28 for senator.
The 20 people who wanted to join the presidential derby were virtually unknown, some were perennial nuisance candidates every election while others were below the minimum age requirement of 40.
Of the four who filed their COC for Vice President, it was only Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th who is more prominent.
It was a different story in the senatorial race as celebrities trooped to the Comelec main offices at the Palacio del Governador in Intramuros.
Among them were reelectionist Sen. Vicente Sotto 3rd, who was accompanied by his wife, actress-singer Helen Gamboa, and by Sen. Gregorio Honasan, who earlier filed his COC for Vice President.
“Senator Honasan always accompanies me whenever I file my candidacy,” Sotto told reporters as he clarified that he is supporting the candidacy of Sen. Grace Poe, not that of Honasan’s running mate, Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Former senator Francis Pangilinan was accompanied by his “mega star” wife, Sharon Cuneta, and their two children, Miel and Miguel; reelectionist Ralph Recto with wife ad so-called “Star for All Seasons” Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto; former sexy actress now Parañaque City (Metro Manila) Councilor Alma Moreno who was accompanied by his celebrity children and former Pampanga governor Mark Lapid with his father, outgoing Sen. Lito Lapid, in tow.
Former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino, who was embroiled in a controversy recently over an allegedly lewd dance performance, was escorted by local officials of Cavite as he filed his COC as an independent.
Senate President Frank Drilon’s COC was filed by his brother, Cesar, on his behalf.
Pasig City (Metro Manila) Rep. Roman Romulo was accompanied by his wife, Shalani Soledad, and father, former senator Alberto Romulo, while former senator Juan Miguel Zubiri was with his wife, Audrey.
Former party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros, who was unsuccessful in her 2010 and 2013 senatorial bid, formalized her third attempt by filing her COC while Princess Jacel Kiram, a member of the royal family of the Sultanate of Sulu, also registered herself as a candidate under the United Nationalist Alliance.
Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) Rep. Win Gatchalian, also filed his COC for senator. He was with his brother, Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, and their supporters.
The Comelec has been widely criticized for its inability to stop the filing of COC by candidates who are deemed to be just making a mockery of the election process.
Comelec chief Bautista, a former law dean, explained that the acceptance of COC of all candidates is a ministerial job on the part of the poll body because it does not have the discretion on which COC to accept and deny.
“Anybody may file a disqualification case against any candidate or the Comelec, on its own, may determine if a candidate is a nuisance or not,” he said. “It’s part of the democratic process.”
It is important, Bautista pointed out, that all COC filed would be accommodated by the Comelec so as to give a chance to every aspiring candidate to be considered for elective position.
But, he said, the acceptance of one’s COC is not a guarantee for inclusion in the list of official candidates whose names would be printed on ballots.
Bautista also pointed out that Batas Pambansa (BP) 881 or the Omnibus Election Code has a specific provision on the determination of nuisance candidates.
Article IX, Section 69, of BP 881 states, “The commission may motu propio or upon a verified petition of an interested party refuse to give due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy if it is shown that said certificate has been filed to put the election process in mockery or disrepute or to cause confusion among the voters by the similarity of the names of the registered candidates or by other circumstances or acts which clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office for which the certificate of candidacy has been filed and thus prevent a faithful determination of the true will of the electorate.”