LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines?Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera?s road to Congress is being threatened by a blunder committed by her sister, whom she had replaced as candidate for a congressional seat in Quezon province?s first district.
Zaldy Gariguez, Nacionalista Party (NP) coordinator in Quezon, in a petition dated Jan. 4, asked Commission on Elections legal chief Ferdinand Rafanan to declare Elizabeth Anne Torres-Suarez as an ?independent candidate? and not as an official bet by the administration?s Lakas-Kampi-CMD.
Suarez, sister of the justice secretary but a virtual unknown in local politics, filed her certificate of candidacy shortly before midnight of December 1. This immediately created the speculation that Devanadera would eventually join the race by replacing her sister.
The justice secretary eventually replaced her sister on Dec. 14, the last day for the substitution of candidates for the May elections.
Under Section 13 of Comelec Resolution 8678, a registered candidate may be substituted by another candidate belonging to, and nominated by, the same political party not later than December 14, 2009.
However, Gariquez claimed that Suarez never signed her acceptance of the Lakas-Kampi nomination and thus, her replacement by Devanadera, a Lakas-Kampi official bet, was null and void.
In Gariguez?s letter to the Comelec?a copy and attachments were also sent to the Inquirer Tuesday?he attached photocopies of Suarez?s ?certificate of candidacy?(CoC) and ?certificate of nomination and acceptance? (CONA) from Lakas-Kampi-CMD signed by party president Miguel Rene Dominguez and party secretary general Francis Xavier Manglapus as secretary general dated Dec. 1.
However, Suarez?s CONA bore no signature above her printed name in the ?Acceptance? space below the document.
Gariguez argued that the absence of Suarez?s signature in the document made her an ?independent candidate? and not as the party official bet.
The NP provincial coordinator cited Sec. 6 of Comelec Resolution 8678 which states: ?The certificate of nomination of registered political parties or coalitions of political parties of their official candidates shall be filed, in five (5) copies, not later than the last day for filing of certificates of candidacy, duly signed and attested under oath by the party president, chairman, secretary-general or any other duly authorized officer and ?shall bear the acceptance of the nominee by affixing his signature in the space provided therein.?
Gariguez also submitted a copy of a Comelec legal opinion in response to a query by lawyer George Erwin Garcia dated Dec. 22, 2009. The poll body maintained that the CONA, to be valid, should contain the signatures of concerned party officials and the candidate being nominated.
The opinion of the Comelec-Legal Department issued by lawyers Rafanan and Josllyn Demesa also said: ?Thus, failure to observe any of the foregoing requirements invalidates the certification of nomination and acceptance on the ground of non-compliance with the Rules."
The poll lawyers cited three decided cases from the Supreme Court files mandating that signature requirements were ?mandatory in nature prior to the election."
The Comelec opinion also maintained that under Resolution 8678, ?an independent candidate is one who has not accepted a nomination from a registered political party."
However, the poll lawyers stressed that their opinion ?is not binding but only for enlightenment and guidance."
?It is subject to the ruling of the Commission En Banc on the matter if and when it is raised thereto,? the lawyers said.
The NP officials in Quezon maintained that should the poll body decide to invalidate Suarez?s CONA and declare her as an ?independent candidate," consequently, Devanadera?s substitution as official candidate by Lakas-Kampi-CMD was also null and void.
Sec. 13 of Resolution 8678 states: ?No substitute shall be allowed for any independent candidate."
Devanadera is set to challenge incumbent Rep. Mark Enverga (Nacionalista Party, first district).
Incidentally, Gariguez served as an ?executive assistant? during the administration of former Quezon Gov. Wilfrido Enverga, father of Mark.
The Inquirer tried to get Devanadera's comment on the matter through her mobile phone but failed to contact her.
Inquirer was able to contact Quezon Board Member Gelo Devanadera, son of the justice secretary, and asked him about the issue. He said he would try to get in touch with her mother.
Devanadera was a three-term mayor of Sampaloc town and once headed the Mayors League of the Philippines.