EXPLAINER: Latest Comelec order on candidates with pending cases
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it was prepared for the conduct of elections on Monday (Oct. 30) but its latest order to suspend proclamation of winning candidates with pending election-related cases could mean an urgency to resolve cases quickly.
According to Memorandum No. 231111, the Comelec would suspend proclamation of candidates for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (BSK) elections, who face petitions to deny or cancel their certificates of candidacy, declare them as nuisance or seek to disqualify them.
It was the proposal of Comelec Chairman George Garcia.
Election lawyer Emil Marañon III told INQUIRER.net that in Sections 6 and 7 of Republic Act (RA) No. 6646, which was promulgated in 1988, a court or the Comelec, upon motion of the complainant or any intervenor, may suspend the proclamation of a candidate with a pending election offense case.
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However, he pointed out that based on the law, the evidence of guilt should be strong.
This is stated, too, in Section 600 of Comelec Resolution No. 10924—that when a petition remains unresolved by final judgment on the day of the elections, the division or the commission en banc may suspend the proclamation of a candidate, who is the respondent in the petition, even when he or she obtained the highest number of votes.
Marañon, however, said the proclamation of respondent candidates in a pending petition to declare a nuisance candidate should not be suspended, considering the latest Supreme Court (SC) decision in Uy vs. Comelec and Jalosjos.
He pointed out that in Sections 6 and 7 of RA No. 6646, “it is apparent that the power of the Comelec to suspend proclamation only covers disqualification cases and deny due course cases.”
According to data from Comelec as of Thursday (Oct. 25), 192 disqualification petitions—186 for premature campaigning and six for illegal campaigning—have been filed, with close to 8,500 show cause orders (SCOs)—7,103 for premature campaigning and 1,371 for illegal campaigning—issued. Most of the cases were filed motu proprio by the Comelec.
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At least 327 subpoenas for verified complaints have been issued and served, too.
Comelec said out of the almost 8,500 SCOs issued, 4,498 respondents—4,334 for premature campaigning and 154 for illegal campaigning—have already filed their answers.
It added that after initial assessment, at least 363 cases may prosper, while 1,006 complaints—877 for premature campaigning and 129 for illegal campaigning—have already been dropped for not having factual basis.
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With the challenge confronted by the Comelec now, Garcia said the commission is working to resolve the cases right away, especially before the day of the elections. He said, however, that there may be cases that could remain pending on the day of the elections, saying that the Comelec will work hard to resolve them one to two weeks after.
Lack of certainty
“As always, the best recourse for the Comelec should have been to resolve the cases as soon as possible, way before the elections,” he said. However, he stressed that the Comelec may have tried to resolve all the cases but realized that it cannot, especially with all the administrative responsibilities it is expected to work on, too.
There are close to 92 million registered voters for the BSK elections. They are expected to flock to 201,799 clustered precincts and 37,524 voting centers on the day of the election, which, the SC said, should be held this year since the law that postponed its conduct on Dec. 5, 2022 was not constitutional.
Marañon pointed out in a phone call that in the next conduct of elections, the Comelec should move to resolve the cases, especially with the release of its directive, saying that when cases are left pending before, or even after the elections, people may be confused when a candidate, who obtained the highest number of votes, will not be proclaimed.
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“When a winning candidate is not proclaimed because he or she has a pending case, people ask why he or she cannot take office despite the fact that he or she won,” he said. “The people will ask: Pinili namin pero bakit hindi nakaupo?”
“Because if we consider the idea behind elections—that the will of the people must be respected—in a way, when a candidate has been chosen by the people, there will be a confusion when the candidate they have voted for and won cannot take office,” Marañon said, stressing that the Comelec should work on preventing confusion on the part of the people.
He said the Comelec should be cautious in suspending proclamations because it certainly has an effect on the perception of the people about the election.
But aside from the issue of confusion, having the cases resolved quickly is really important, especially now that the Comelec stated that based on its analysis of the SC decision, candidates who will obtain the highest number of votes on the day of the election may already take office once proclaimed.
Provided, however, that he or she will take the oath of office and submit his or her Statement of Contributions and Expenditures.
Based on Comelec data, an order suspending the proclamation of 241 candidates, should they win in the elections, has already been issued. The list includes candidates for both barangay and SK councils.
A Philippine News Agency report said suspension orders against certain candidates in Bukidnon, Cagayan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Isabela, Bataan, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Samar, Iloilo, Lanao del Norte, Negros Oriental and Occidental, Leyte, Cebu, Capiz, Masbate, Nueva Vizcaya, Sorsogon, Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte, Biliran, and Agusan del Norte are also being prepared.
It was stated in a Comelec document that “as a reiteration of the policy in Section 600 of Comelec Resolution No. 1 0924, the Presiding Commissioners of each Division and the Chairman, as the presiding officer of the Commission En Banc, are licensed to issue the order of suspension of proclamation of respondent candidates in the above cases.”
When a winning barangay or SK chairperson is the one who is the respondent to a pending election offense case, the winning barangay kagawad or SK kagawad with the highest number of votes will serve as an acting official.
Over 1.41 million Filipinos have filed their COCs for 672,432 BSK seats.