POSTSCRIPT / January 6, 2022 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.)

* * *

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)

* * *

News RoundUp

Philippine STARComelec targets January 17 start of printing ballots
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MANILA — The Commission on Elections is targeting to start the printing of ballots for the May 9 national and local elections on Monday. Today, the poll body intends to complete the final ballot faces for printing, which bear the final list of candidates for national positions. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARPhilippines breaks record COVID-19 cases again with 39,004 new infections
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MANILA - The Philippines logged 39,004 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, topping the previous record of 37,207 cases set just a day before. The new infections bring the country’s total caseload to 3,168,379. Of this, 280,813 are currently sick. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARDOH sees community transmission of Omicron in Metro Manila
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MANILA - The Department of Health said Saturday that there is community transmission of the highly infectious Omicron variant in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the latest surge in infections in the country that is reaching unprecedented highs. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARGovernment simplifies processes to ramp up vaccination
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MANILA — Acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said those who want to get vaccinated do not need to register before going to inoculation sites and to secure a medical clearance unless they are suffering from certain illnesses. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARGov’t allows quarantine hotels to function as isolation facilities
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MANILA — Acting presidential spokesperson and task force co-chair Karlo Nograles announced Friday that they have approved the recommendation of the Department of Tourism for quarantine hotels to also function as isolation sites. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARMarcos camp disputes Carpio claim on ill-gotten wealth
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Philippine STARPhilippines agrees to buy India anti-ship missile system
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MANILA — The Philippines has agreed to buy an anti-ship missile system from India, the defense minister said Friday, shoring up its security in the face of growing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARPalace to rely on house-to-house vaccination of elderly, people with comorbidities
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MANILA - The government is counting on house-to-house campaigns to vaccinate senior citizens and other persons vulnerable to COVID-19 especially those who are living outside the National Capital Region Plus. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARRobredo prefers beating Marcos in polls instead of disqualification
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MANILA — If Vice President Leni Robredo had her way, she would rather beat her political rival, former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., in the upcoming elections instead of him being disqualified as a presidential candidate in the May polls. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARSchools in Metro Manila stop classes as Omicron cases surge
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MANILA — Schools in the Metro Manila were ordered Friday to suspend online classes for a week, as an Omicron-driven record surge in infections ravages the metropolis of 13 million. COVID-19 is ripping through the national capital region and surrounding provinces. (Jan 15)
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