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Inquirer.net : The starting line: Comelec’s power over candidacies

News & Interviews
20 October 2021

By Cristina Eloisa Baclig | Inquirer.net

MANILA, Philippines—With over 300 certificates of candidacies (COC) submitted during filing week from Oct. 1 to Oct. 8, all eyes are now on the final list of candidates for next year’s elections — which is expected to be posted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) soon.

The Comelec said it was hoping to release its official list of candidates by December. Until then, the poll body will screen all candidates who filed their COC for president, vice president, and senator.

How does the Comelec sift through the long list of candidates? How does it decide when to reject a candidate’s COC? How does the Comelec weed out so-called nuisance candidates?

These questions have been answered here.

Cancelling COCs

Not all 97 candidates for president, 29 vice-presidential aspirants, and 176 senatorial hopefuls might make it to Comelec’s final list of candidates — which will be included in the ballot for the 2022 elections.

Under Rule 23 of the Comelec’s Rules of Procedure, the poll body has the authority to reject the COC of an individual for any elective office.

What is the ground for denial, rejection, or cancellation of COC?

Section 1 of the rule stated that registered voters and a registered political party, organization, or coalition of political parties may file a verified petition to deny due course to or cancel a COC if “any material representation contained therein as required by law is false.”

False material representation on a candidate’s COC may be about the candidate’s:

  • nationality or citizenship status
  • period of residency
  • residence
  • birth date and/or age
  • civil status

When can such petition be filed?

Section 2 explained that any petition must be filed within five days from the last day of filing of COC, “but not later than 25 days from the time of filing of the certificate of candidacy subject of the petition.”

Any petition against any substitute candidate must be filed within five days from the time the substitute candidate filed his or her COC.

Where to file petition?

The petition, according to Section 3, must be filed where the COC of the disputed candidate was filed. The petition can also be filed at the Office of the Clerk of the Commission.

“In case the petition is filed with the field officer, the field officer concerned shall instantly transmit 10 copies of the petition together with the payment received and duplicate copy of the official receipt issued to the Office of the Clerk of the Commission, Commission on Elections in Manila,” the rule stated.

“Petitions filed through mail and/or not in accordance with the herein rules shall not be accepted or docketed,” it added.

The petitioner can still re-file the petition in accordance with the rules before the period provided for the filing of petition.

The poll body may designate any of its officials, who are members of the Philippine Bar, to handle and hear the case. In cases involving barangay officials, designated officials may receive evidence.

After the Comelec receives the petition, both parties — the petitioner and the candidate who is the subject of the petition — will undergo a set procedure.

These procedures are further detailed by Comelec Resolution No. 9523.

Amid growing discussions on substitution of candidates, the poll body has clarified last week that candidates—who have been declared as placeholders for next year’s elections—are not instantly classified as nuisance candidates.

“A mere declaration to the contrary wouldn’t, in my opinion, be sufficient to overcome the intention to run which is manifested in the verified COC,” Jimenez told reporters in a Viber message when asked if the admission of being placeholder candidate could be ground to be declared as a nuisance candidate.

Who are considered nuisance candidates?

Under Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code, the poll body may “motu proprio or upon a verified petition of an interested party, refuse to give due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy” of individuals who fall under any of three categories:

Those who make a mockery of the election system
Those who seek to confuse voters through similarity of names between candidates
Those who have no bona fide or good faith in running for office.

Who may file petitions against suspected nuisance candidates?

Under Section 2 of Rule 24 of Comelec’s Rules of Procedures, any registered candidate vying for the same elective office may file with the Law Department of the Commission a petition to declare a candidate as a nuisance candidate.

When can these petitions be filed?

The petitions against nuisance candidates must be filed personally or through an authorized representative within five days from the last day for the filing of COC.

Meanwhile, petitions against a substitute candidate must be filed within five days from the time the substitute candidate filed his or her COC.

The Comelec, at any time before the elections, can motu proprio declare a candidate as a nuisance candidate, “subject to an opportunity to be heard.”

Disqualification
Under Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code, the following individuals or aspirants are considered disqualified:

  • Any candidate who has been declared as insane or incompetent by a competent authority.
  • Any candidate who has been sentenced by final judgment for subversion, rebellion, or for any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of over 18 months.
  • Any candidate who has committed a crime involving moral turpitude.

These candidates will be barred from running for office, “unless [they have] been given plenary pardon or granted amnesty.”

“This disqualifications to be a candidate herein provided shall be deemed removed upon the declaration by competent authority that said insanity or incompetence had been removed or after the expiration of a period of five years from his service of sentence, unless within the same period he again becomes disqualified,” the Election Code stated.

Candidates who have already filed their COC can also get disqualified if they are found guilty of committing any of the election offenses mentioned under Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code.

Such election offenses include:

  • Giving money or other material consideration to “influence, induce, or corrupt the voters or public officials performing electoral functions.”
  • Committing acts of terrorism to enhance his or her candidacy.
  • Spending an amount in excess of that allowed by the Election Code for his or her election campaign.
  • Soliciting, receiving, or making prohibited contributions.
  • Violating other provisions of the Election Code