Comelec: It’s go for Duterte run
It may be all systems go for Rodrigo Duterte, who vows “to act presidentiable” from now on, but it doesn’t mean he’s off the hook.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday accepted the certificate of candidacy (COC) filed by the controversial Davao City mayor as a substitute presidential candidate of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) for anticrime activist Martin Diño.
Comelec Chair Andres Bautista said the agency, sitting as a full body, had agreed “to acknowledge and accept” Duterte’s COC, saying this was simply a “ministerial function of the commission.”
“What this means is that he is now on our list of candidates. That was an administrative decision the Comelec en banc made,” Bautista said, adding that acceptance of Duterte’s COC was made as an exercise of the Comelec’s “administrative function.”
He said the disqualification case filed against Duterte by broadcaster Ruben Castor pending in the Comelec’s First Division would still have to be resolved, as part of the poll body’s “quasijudicial function.”
Six of the seven commissioners voted in favor of Duterte. The lone dissenter, Rowena Guanzon, said the matter should not have been tackled by the Comelec since Castor’s case against Duterte—which questioned the validity of his substitution of Diño—was still pending.
“I will now act presidentiable,” Duterte replied when asked for comment. He said he would henceforth ignore his rival Mar Roxas, the administration Liberal Party standard-bearer, whom he had engaged in a slapping, boxing and gun duels tit-for-tat on Roxas’ Wharton credentials and Duterte’s claims of a peaceful Davao City.
“I will not reply to his statements anymore. I will just snub him because he did not really graduate from Wharton. Besides, he is desperate to improve his ratings because he is last at number four, he is doing everything to be talked about because he knows he will never be President,” he said.
“I will tour the country and explain to the people what I intend to do with the peace process, law and order, the problems on illegal drugs, government reorganization and economic plans to improve the lives of Filipinos,” Duterte said in a telephone interview.
In her dissent to Thursday’s Comelec ruling, Guanzon said Castor maintained that Duterte’s COC was void because it contained “untruthful acts or misrepresentation.”
“There is also the issue regarding his notarized documents, the truth or falsity of which must be determined before his COC is accepted,” Guanzon, a member of the First Division, said in her handwritten dissent.
The hearing for the case in the First Division is scheduled on Friday. The notaries public who authenticated Duterte’s COC have been invited to give facts about the document.
Acceptance of Duterte’s COC was similar to the acknowledgment of Sen. Grace Poe’s COC for President when she went to the Comelec to file it in October.
Twists and turns
Two divisions of the Comelec have rejected Poe’s candidacy on the grounds that she lacked the 10-year residency requirement and, as a foundling, she is not a natural-born citizen explicitly required by the Constitution.
Poe has appealed the two cases to the Comelec en banc and plans to go to the Supreme Court if her plea is rejected.
Bautista said substitution was allowed under the election laws but subject to the approval of the Comelec en banc.
He said the Comelec consulted its law department regarding the COC on whether the procedure of substitution was complied with.
He said the Comelec was aware of the “twists and turns” of the “road taken by Duterte” regarding his candidacy. The Davao mayor had hemmed and hawed before finally agreeing to run for President in the May elections as a substitute.
Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, chair of the First Division, said the “intrinsic validity” of the substitution was the subject of the Castor case.
The Comelec’s administrative function is that of an “election manager,” Lim said, and this includes making sure the COC form is properly filled out and has the required documentary attachments.
There is still a “potential” that Duterte could be disqualified based on Castor’s case but whatever the decision of the division may still be appealed to the en banc by the parties to the case later on, Bautista added.
Castor, in his petition on Nov. 27, asked the Comelec to nullify Duterte’s COC. Diño, president of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, was initially the presidential candidate of PDP-Laban. He later withdrew in favor of Duterte.
Castor claimed that Duterte could not validly substitute for Diño since the COC filed by the latter contained errors. For instance, Diño indicated in the COC that he was running for mayor of Pasay City.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte’s independent running mate, welcomed the Comelec’s decision. “It has affirmed the right of Mayor Duterte to run. This now provides our people with clear choices on who can really bring about dramatic and real change in our country,” Cayetano said.
“We hope that the Comelec First Division will also be fair as it settles the disqualification issue against Mayor Duterte. This is a simple open and shut case and we are clearly on the side of the law and jurisprudence,” Cayetano said.
The more the merrier
Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, Poe’s spokesperson, said the voters should have a free hand in selecting the country’s leaders and that those who want to serve the people should be given a chance “in a true democracy.”
“With this positive decision, we are hopeful that the Comelec en banc applies consistency in rendering a decision on the (motion for reconsideration) of Senator Poe,” he said.
Vice President Jejomar Binay expressed hope that Duterte would overcome his legal problems. “Hopefully he could run,” he said in Tupi, South Cotabato province, during a campaign sortie. “Mayor Duterte is very qualified.”
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., an independent vice presidential candidate, said in a statement that the people were waiting for Duterte to “present his platform and style of governance in words and discourse more colorful than the usual.” With reports from Marlon Ramos, Christine O. Avendaño and Eldie Aguirre and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao
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