POSTSCRIPT / January 6, 2022 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Might as well reset polls, keep Duterte

The administration’s faction of the ruling PDP-Laban Party should just go straight to the point and move for the postponing of the May 9 national elections. That is what tampering with the tight timetable at this late date could lead to anyway.

The PDPL faction led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi is asking the Commission on Elections to reopen the filing of certificates of candidacy, which closed last Oct. 8, to allow the insertion of late nominees and substitute candidates.

Allowing more CoC filers could help correct the anomaly of President Duterte’s “ruling party” entering the election campaign without its own nominees or candidates for the top national positions of president and vice president.

The Cusi faction created its own problems and should solve them internally. The confusion of its stalwarts waiting for signals from above is evident in the flip-flopping of its nominees who file their CoCs only to withdraw them later.

President Duterte himself announced last August his intention to run for vice president. But when filing time came, he changed his mind and filed a CoC for senator. He went to the Comelec with Sen. Bong Go simultaneously filing his CoC for president.

That should have normalized the situation, but shortly after, Duterte took back his senatorial bid and Go withdrew his presidential candidacy. Later, Sen. Bato dela Rosa, another Duterte loyalist, rushed to the Comelec to take Go’s place as presidential bet.

That did not end their playing musical chairs. Dela Rosa, who had admitted not knowing exactly why he was suddenly running for president, also withdrew, presumably also upon instructions of Duterte.

If my above sequencing of their in-and-out antics turns out to be erroneous, I may have been confused or unable to keep up with their jumping around.

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Acceding to the Cusi camp’s petition to extend the CoC-filing deadline could trigger a chain of events that could derail preparations for the elections, including the Jan. 12 start of the pre-printing work on the ballots.

Tampering with the set election timetable could lead to more confusion that, on top of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, could become a convenient excuse for postponing the polls and the emergency holdover beyond June 30 by Duterte & Co.

We don’t blame those who now ask aloud if No-El (a No Elections scenario) is the big idea behind the seemingly contrived confusion.

The Cusi faction said the Comelec could accept late CoC filing since it still has to resolve anyway the petitions to disqualify ex-senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the presidential nominee of the Partido Federal ng Filipinas.

Also awaiting resolution are the challenged accreditation of some Party-list groups and the squabble for recognition of the Cusi faction and another camp led by senators Koko Pimentel and Manny Pacquiao.

The Comelec, six of whose seven commissioners are Duterte appointees, should be left alone by the politicians. The commissioners know what to do. Their job is difficult enough without its being complicated by political meddling.

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The Comelec opens tomorrow the preliminary conference of the parties in the petitions to disqualify Marcos on various grounds, including his convictions on income tax charges that his critics said had barred him for life from holding public office.

Commissioner Rowena Guanzon who will preside said the conference will start at 8:45 a.m. sharp. She advised everybody to bring their vaccination cards and be ready for anti-gen tests upon entering the 8th floor lobby.

“No mask, no entry. No bodyguards, no weapons,” she said in a tweet.

She also warned on Twitter that “Comelec has power of contempt like the Senate. Manila city jail. Don’t make us use it. Follow rules, court protocol, health protocol. Do not attempt to speak while a Commissioner or another lawyer is speaking. Never interrupt me.”

For the counsel of the parties, she had a separate warning: “Lawyers, prepare! I have low tolerance for incompetence.”

(If I may say so, I like the way the lady Commissioner is talking to the parties and all attendees.)

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Election lawyer Romy Macalintal said when we asked him about the disqualification cases against Marcos and related issues:

“The petition of the Cusi faction of PDP-Laban to reopen the period of CoC filing and postpone the printing of the ballots for the May elections is indeed unprecedented. Like a vagrant, it has no visible means of legal or factual support and should immediately be dismissed.

“The period to file CoCs was set by the Comelec from Oct. 1 to 8, 2021, pursuant to its power to set the deadline under Section 15 of RA 9369. This was implemented by the Comelec under Resolution No. 10717 promulgated on Aug. 8, 2021.

“The resolution could be reversed only by the Supreme Court – if Cusi could prove that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion. Cusi cannot just claim that the period set was ‘unreasonable, unnecessary and legally impossible.’

“Said resolution could be assailed only before the Supreme Court within 30 days upon its promulgation. Since it was promulgated on Aug. 8, 2021, the deadline to appeal to the SC was Sept. 8, 2021. Clearly, it is too late for Cusi to question the resolution.

“Likewise, the pendency of disqualification cases of some candidates and resolution of other issues involving Party-lists is not a valid reason to postpone the printing of ballots as it would greatly affect the timetable of the Comelec in preparing for the May elections.

“Anyway, the disqualification cases are well-taken care of by Section 6 of RA 6646 which provides for the procedures to be followed if ‘a candidate is not declared by final judgment before an election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the winning number of votes in such election.’

“It is surprising to note that a political party like PDP-Laban which claims to be the ‘ruling party’ could not even come up with its own presidential and vice presidential bets.

“Cusi’s claim that his party ‘did not have time to remedy the vacuum created by Senator Dela Rosa’s withdrawal’ might affect its accreditation as the dominant majority party in the said election.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 6, 2022)

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