Comelec junks petition vs Tulfo: Civil status not qualification for senator
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Second Division has dismissed the petition seeking to cancel broadcaster Raffy Tulfo’s certificate of candidacy (COC), pointing out that his civil status “does not pertain to his qualification for elective office.”
The decision, penned by Second Division presiding commissioner and Comelec acting chairperson Socorro Inting, was dated December 17 but was only released to reporters on Thursday, February 17.
The Comelec Second Division dismissed the petition filed by Julieta Pearson, who claims to be Tulfo’s wife, due to “lack of merit.”
“The petition does not have any legal leg to stand on. On account of the foregoing disquisitions, it becomes readily apparent that the instant petition is bereft of any benefit. Hence, the instant petition must be denied,” the Comelec Second Division resolution reads.
Civil status irrelevant
The decision also noted that civil status is not a “material matter” when it comes to Tulfo’s qualification to run for senator, adding that there are no issues in his citizenship and his alleged pending cases — if any — that would affect his candidacy.
In his COC, Tulfo indicated that he is married to Jocelyn Tulfo. But Pearson, asserting herself as Tulfo’s legal spouse, asked the Comelec to cancel the TV personality’s COC because he allegedly misrepresented the name of his spouse.
On his radio show in 2019, Tulfo admitted that he fathered a child with Pearson.
“Respondent’s (Tulfo) civil status is not a material matter for the simple reason that it does not pertain to his qualification for elective office,” the resolution reads.
The resolution also cited the Supreme Court decision in Villafuerte vs. Comelec which said that for someone to have their COC canceled, one should make a material misrepresentation in relation to the “requisite residency, age, citizenship or any other legal qualification.”
“Respondent’s answer regarding his civil status does not pertain to his residency, age, citizenship or any other legal qualification,” notes the Comelec Second Division resolution.
To support her case, Pearson attached a marriage contract and marriage certificate which bear her name and the broadcaster, as well as a certificate of live birth of a certain Czelse Ishe Taracatac Tulfo, according to the ruling.
But the resolution noted “with disdain” the failure of Pearson’s camp to submit the copy of Tulfo’s COC.
“Because of her omission, we have no way of determining whether the entries as claimed by Petitioner to have been made by Respondent in his COC really exist,” it says.
“For a lack of a better way to put it, Petitioner’s evidence is grossly insufficient, considering that the COC it sought to cancel was not even attached to the petition,” it also states.
Pearson also claimed that Tulfo is currently facing criminal cases for R.A. 9262 or Violence Against Women and Children and bigamy – which he allegedly failed to also indicate in his COC.
Candidates are asked in the COC if they are found liable for an offense that could render an accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification.
The Comelec Second Divisions resolution, however, noted the cases mentioned by Pearson do not entail an accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from government office.
“Therefore, it is clear that the respondent has no obligation to state the details of the cases he is facing, if any,” it says.
Pearson moreover averred that Tulfo’s period of residence in the Philippines of 62 years and 2 months is false and that Tulfo’s dual citizenship could disqualify him from running for senator, even quoting Section 40 of the Local Government Code which states that those who have dual citizenship are disqualified from running for any elective local position.
“Other than Petitioner’s sweeping statements that Respondent lived in the United States and even married an American citizen, Petitioner utterly failed to substantiate these allegations by presenting evidence to prove the same,” the resolution states, adding that even if Tulfo’s period of residence is below 62 years and 2 months, it does not affect his eligibility at all since a candidate is only required to be a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.
Further, it says: “Petitioner is grossly mistaken — she is barking at the wrong tree” for pointing out that the Local Government Code is only meant to apply for candidates seeking a local position.
Tulfo, a consistent survey frontrunner, is running for senator as an independent candidate.