Manila Bulletin : SC on filing of petitions vs certificates of candidacy

25 September 2021

By Rey Panaligan | Manila Bulletin

The filing of a certificate of candidacy (COC) for the May 9, 2022 national and local elections (NLE) starts on Oct. 1.

If a registered voter or a duly registered political party, organization or coalition of political parties would challenge the COC of a particular candidate, when is the filing of the petition before the Commission on Elections (Comelec)?

This query was answered in a unanimous full court decision written by Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario. The decision was made public last Sept. 24.

The SC said that a petition anchored on the alleged inability of a candidate is in the nature of petitions to deny due course or cancel COCs under Section 78 of the Omnibus Elections Code.

It said that under Rule 23 of the Comelec’s Rules of Procedure, “the petition must be filed within five (5) days from the last day for filing of certificate of candidacy; but not later than twenty-five (25) days from the time of filing of the certificate of candidacy subject of the Petition.”

“In case of a substitute candidate, the Petition must be filed within five (5) days from the time the substitute candidate filed his certificate of candidacy,” the SC also said quoting from the Comelec rules.

With its reminder, the SC dismissed the petition filed by Saripoden Ariman Guro against the Comelec and Somerado Malomalo Guro in connection with the 2016 mayoralty election in Lumbaca-Unayan, Lanao del Sur.

It upheld the ruling handed down by the Comelec en banc on Sept. 25, 2017 affirming the order issued by the poll body’s first division on Oct. 19, 2016 in favor of Somerado’s candidacy.

In his petition filed on April 29, 2016 before the Comelec to disqualify Somerado as candidate for mayor, Saripoden — who was running for re-election as mayor – claimed that the former was not a registered voter in the municipality.

On June 13, 2016, Somerado denied Saripoden’s allegation as he pointed out that the Comelec had issued a resolution approving the recommendation of Director Teopisto R. Elnas, Jr. of the Election and Barangay Affairs Department (EBAD) for inclusion of his (Somerado’s) name in the supplemental list of voters.

Somerado also told the poll body that he was able to cast his vote and won as mayor in the May 2016 election.

The Comelec’s first division dismissed Saripoden’s petition with a ruling that his case was filed beyond the prescriptive period of 25 days for filing a petition for disqualification under Section 78 of the OEC. When the Comelec en banc affirmed the ruling, Saripoden elevated the issue before the SC.

In dismissing Saripoden’s petition, the SC said: “It bears noting that private respondent (Somerado) filed his COC on Oct.16, 2015 while petitioner (Saripoden) filed his petition before the Comelec on April 29, 2016, or after the lapse of a whopping one hundred ninety-six ( 196) days.”

Citing several decisions on the issue of late filing, the SC said it had previously relaxed the rules set by the Comelec because the issues raised by the parties in past cases involved public interests such as citizenship, residency, or failure to file on time because of typhoons or other calamities.

The SC said:

“On the ground that herein private respondent (Somerado) allegedly misrepresented himself as being a registered voter, We see no reason to depart from settled jurisprudence and accordingly rule that the reglementary period provided by law should likewise be strictly applied to such a disqualification.

“We find no circumstance in the case at bench analogous to those in the above cases (earlier decisions cited) to warrant a relaxation of the Comelec Rules of Procedure.

“Accordingly, no grave abuse of discretion can be attributed to the Comelec in denying petitioner’s petition on technical grounds. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby DISMISSED. The Resolution dated Sept. 25, 2017 of the Comelec En Banc in SPA No. 16-086 (DC), which affirmed the Order dated Oct.19, 2016 of the Comelec First Division, is AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.”