A lawyer for PDP-Laban has failed to convince members of the First Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that the party’s original standard-bearer, Martin Diño, committed an “innocuous” mistake when he filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for President.
Commissioner Rowena Guazon, a member of the First Division, said she does not believe that the entry made in the COC indicating that Diño was running for mayor of Pasay City (Metro Manila) was an innocent error.
“Mr. Diño is well educated? He has a college degree? He has read this [COC]? I presumed he read this, required to read this?” Guanzon said in Friday’s hearing where she subjected PDP-Laban counsel Ted Contracto to intense questioning.
The First Division on Friday heard oral arguments on a disqualification case filed by broadcaster Ruben Castor against PDP-Laban’s substitute standard-bearer, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Castor questioned the validity of Diño’s COC and asked the Comelec to declare it null and void. Should the Comelec uphold the petition, Duterte’s candidacy would consequently be invalidated.
The line of reasoning that Guanzon used was similar to that used by the First Division when it rejected Sen. Grace Poe’s contention that she made an honest mistake when she stated in her 2012 COC for senator that she has been a resident of the Philippines for six years and six months.
Poe claimed that the entry was an “honest mistake” but the Comelec First Division ruled that “it is indeed incredible to think that respondent, a well-educated woman and already then a public servant with full staff support, including legal, would not know how to correctly declare the facts material to her candidacy for the 13 May 2013 elections.”
The First and Second Divisions of the Comelec earlier ruled to cancel Poe’s COC for President. Both rulings are under appeal with the Comelec en banc.
Duterte’s lawyer explained that Diño’s COC was filled up by a clerk at the PDP-Laban headquarters.
“Because of the circumstances and pressed for time, he was not able to browse through his COC,” Contracto said.
Unconvinced by his reply, Guazon sarcastically responded that running for President is not a game and one should take it seriously, including what one writes on his or her COC.
“He was running for President and I would assume that anybody running for President would read the COC well before he signs it. How can he be so in a hurry not to read his COC for President of the Republic? Are you saying that your defense was that he was in a hurry, he was pressed for time and just signed it?” Guanzon said.
Contracto answered her in the affirmative.
Castor’s counsel, Oliver Lozano, pointed out that their petition was for the declaration of the COC of Diño as “null and void” because of the respondent’s false declaration in his COC.
“He used the COC form for President thereby representing that he is running for President. But when he filed his COC, he stated that he is running for mayor of Pasay City and likewise stated that he resides in Barangay San Antonio, Quezon City,” Lozano said.
It violated, he added, a 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,” Lozano said.
He clarified that their petition was limited only to the COC of Diño, saying the substitution of Duterte as the official presidential candidate of PDP-Laban is “outside the ambit of our petition.”
Lozano admitted to being a Duterte supporter and even proposed a Duterte-Marcos tandem under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) or a KBL-PDP-Laban coalition.
Marcos is Ferdinand Marcos Jr., an independent candidate for Vice President.
Diño’s counsel, however, said he disagrees with Lozano’s question of law theory, citing Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), which states that any petition to declare or deny due course to a COC has to be filed within 5 days but not later than 25 days upon the filing of CPC.
“Respondent Diño filed his COC October 16, if you count 25 days the supposed deadline
was last November 10. But as of November 10 no verified petition has been filed with the commission, not until November 27,” Contracto pointed out.
He added that Lozano’s argument was based on the Civil Code, a general law, while his is the Omnibus Election Code, a special law, and “special law will prevail over general law.”
“This is our position, apart from the ruling of the Supreme Court [SC] in the case of Luna v. Comelec. The [SC] says a COC remains valid unless canceled by the Comelec,” Contracto said.
On the nuisance issue, he maintained that since Diño has withdrawn his COC after being summoned by the Comelec to explain why he should not be declared a nuisance candidate, there is no more COC to speak of and there is no basis to declare Dino a nuisance candidate.
During Guanzon’s interpellation, Contracto said what he was saying was that since his client has withdrawn, the petition to declare him a nuisance was no longer an issue and that the PDP-Laban can nominate a substitute candidate.
“I only speak for PDP-Laban because that was a decision of Diño to withdraw [and yes, I]agree that he can be substituted,” he added.
Contracto explained that the decision to withdraw is personal to a candidate and that the party cannot dictate but it can choose its candidate.
Guanzon told Contacto that he was raising a “new issue” and the issue was Lozano’s theory and argument that if there is a false declaration in the COC, it is void from the very beginning and that there was nothing to cancel.
In his rebuttal, Lozano pointed out that there is a whale of a difference between Dino’s intention in his COC to run for mayor and the intention of PDP Laban for him to run for President.
Lozano said the PDP-Laban cannot assert its intention to Dino, saying “it is the candidate that filed that should prevail.”
“We submit that to the determination of this honorable court. It is our humble submission that it is inconceivable that a college graduate, refutable president of the VACC (Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption) appearing before a notary and certified that its contents are correct,” he added.
Meanwhile, former Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the poll body should be consistent with its ruling.
He noted that if the Comelec allowed Duterte to be the substitute candidate for PDP-Laban despite the wrong information provided by Diño in his COC, it should also accept the error in the COC of Sen. Grace Poe.
According to Brillantes, the decision of the Comelec en banc to accept Duterte’s COC should also be used as basis in the case of Poe’s residency.
The counsel of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. when his candidacy was questioned in the 2004 elections, he said the younger Poe committed an honest mistake when she declared in her COC for senator that she had been a resident of the Philippines for six years and six months instead of seven years and eleven months.
“If the commission will be consistent, I think it should also allow the error in the residency and let her run and leave it up to the people,” Brillantes said in a radio interview.
He clarified that the Comelec did not disqualify Poe but only ruled to cancel her COC for President for allegedly committing “material misrepresentation” when she declared that she would be a resident of the Philippine for 10 years and 11 months by May 9, 2016.
Brillantes said the First Division only used as basis the COC of Poe in 2012 despite voluminous documents that would show that she was a resident of the Philippines as early as 2004.
Poe in her explanation said her declaration in her 2012 COC was a result of an “honest mistake” because she mistakenly computed the length of her residency only up to the day of the filing of her COC instead of the day of the election.
Brillantes said he cannot understand why the First Division zeroed in on Poe’s 2012 COC, which is immaterial and irrelevant, instead of the documents presented by Poe that would clearly show that she is already living in the Philippines as early as 2014.
“She [Poe] did not know better at the time since the residency requirement for senator was only two years. It did not really matter if it is six year and 6 months, or seven years or 10 years as long as she complied with the residency requirement for senator,” he explained.
It is also the reason why she did not make any correction in her 2012 COC even after she was elected as senator because there was no need to correct it at the time.
Brillantes said Poe needs to correct it because she is running for another position, which requires 10 years of residency, and she has evidence to prove that she has been residing in the Philippines for more than 10 years.