Sunday, November 18, 2018
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SENATE BILL SETS PENALTIES

Nuisance bets find ‘defender’ in Comelec

Lesser-known personalities hoping to run for government positions may have found a defender in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) after one of its commissioners described a Senate bill penalizing so-called nuisance candidates as “discriminatory.”

“I don’t like that because that may be discriminatory to candidates who think they are qualified only to be later declared nuisance candidates. That’s not their fault,” Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said on Friday.

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The poll official warned that under the measure authored by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, political aspirants who do not have the financial capability to campaign will be afraid to even file certificates of candidacy (COCs).

“If they don’t have money, we will send them to jail? That’s not good … This is a democracy,” Guanzon said on the sidelines of Friday’s launch of “Eleksyon 2019,” a media coverage partnership forged by the Inquirer, GMA 7, and over 20 schools, companies, legal organizations and civil society watchdogs.

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“We have to be inclusive. Everyone qualified to run under the Constitution should be allowed,” she said.

Guanzon made the remarks as the Comelec started its motu propio review of the list of persons who filed COCs for the 2019 midterm polls, to rid it of nuisance candidates and come up with a final roster by Dec. 15.

At the end of the five-day period for filing of COCs on Wednesday, the Comelec received applications from 152 senatorial aspirants, 182 party-list groups and more than 26,000 local election candidates.

In the 2016 general elections, only 50 out of 172 senatorial aspirants made it to the official list.

In the midterm elections in 2013, the Comelec approved a total of 84 senatorial contenders at the close of the COC filing. Only 33 made the final cut.

On May 13 next year, voters will elect a total of 18,095 officials nationwide, from senators to town councilors.

Tentative list

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Under the Omnibus Election Code, the Comelec may cancel a COC and declare the aspirant a nuisance if it is found that his or her candidacy aims to make a mockery or put the election process in disrepute.

Another ground for disqualification is if the candidate, on account of his or her name, just wanted to sow confusion among voters.

Meanwhile, election watchdog group Kontra Daya urged the Comelec on Friday to come out with its tentative list of party-list groups seeking to be elected in May ahead of its scheduled Nov. 5 release.

Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao said this was necessary for the public to “analyze as early as now the qualifications of the groups, particularly the list of nominees and their programs of actions.”

The group denounced how the party-list system, supposedly meant to give marginalized sectors a voice in Congress, has been bastardized as nominations “have become a matter of political expediency and do not appear to require actual membership and track record of advocacy.”

“The party-list system is not just a backdoor for the rich and powerful to enter Congress, it has become some kind of fallback option for the same rich and powerful,” Arao said.

Guanzon agreed that there was a need to review Republic Act No. 7941, or the Party-list System Act, because of the number of rich politicians crowding the system.

She noted that the Comelec, as an institution, could not do anything about it since the Supreme Court essentially allowed groups to have nominees who did not necessarily belong to the sector. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH

Click here for more elections stories.

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