MANILA, Philippines - All’s set for tomorrow’s filing of certificates of candidacy, signaling the start of the election season for the May 9, 2016 general polls.
“Ready or not it will come, so we have been preparing for this. This is the unofficial start of the election,” Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista declared yesterday.
The filing of COCs for 18,069 positions up for grabs in next year’s elections – from president down to local municipal councilor – runs from Oct. 12 to 16 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body would study whether to extend up to midnight on the last day.
“It’s all go now. Overall, we can say there is a lot more organization at this point compared to the previous elections. We are now trying to control a lot more things. It’s more organized,” Jimenez said.
Those who already announced their presidential and vice-presidential bids include former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo of the Liberal Party; Vice President Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance; Sens. Grace Poe and Francis Escudero running as independents and OFW Family Club party-list Rep. Roy Señeres.
The others running for vice president are Sens. Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Sen. Gringo Honasan was rumored to be Binay’s running mate.
Aside from president and vice president, the other posts at stake are 12 senators, 58 party-list representatives, 235 district congressmen, 81 governors; 81 vice governors and 772 members of Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial board members).
A total of 144 posts for city mayors; 144 city vice mayors; 1,610 city councilors; 1,490 municipal mayors; 1,490 municipal vice mayors; 11,924 municipal councilors; the governor for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; ARMM vice governor;; and 24 ARMM assemblymen are also included in the elections.
As a rule, candidates for congressmen in Metro Manila should submit their COCs to the Comelec-National Capital Region office, while aspirants for congressmen in the provinces as well as provincial officials should file their COCs with the office of the Provincial Election Supervisor (PES).
Candidates for congressmen in independent cities, cities and municipalities should file their COCs with the office of the city or municipal election officers.
Those gunning for ARMM governor and vice governor will submit their COCs to the office of the ARMM regional director, while those running for ARMM assemblymen will file their COCs with the PES.
Jimenez said they expect the bulk of the candidates to come on the second half of he week, although timing no longer matters since the elections had been automated in 2010.
“During the manual elections, the campaign period used to start a day after the last day of the filing of COC. So those who filed late had an advantage because they won’t be accused of premature campaigning,” he added.
But under the automated polls, the campaign period for nationally elected positions like the president, vice-president, senators and party-list would start on Feb. 9, 2016, while March 25, 2016 signals the start of the campaign for local elective positions.
The election period, on the other hand, will run from Jan. 10 to June 8, 2016.
Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia declared they are prepared for the COC filing despite the many challenges they faced, especially with the tight schedule for preparations.
“I think we are doing well… there was time constraint and it seemed there was no room for comfort. But by just doing our work, by continuing to access how we are regularly and improve, we made it,” he said.
The Comelec said it would limit to three the companions a candidate could bring along in the filing of the COC to ensure order inside the main office at Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros, Manila.
“We are doing this to prevent any untoward incident, especially when political luminaries and those from entertainment industry come to file. Each candidate can only bring three companions inside,” said Comelec director Julio Thaddeus Hernan, overseeing the overall security for the COC filing.
Comelec lawyers will be assigned to deal with candidates who may want to bring more than three companions.
Hernan added the lawyers have been tasked to explain the policy to the candidates before the filing.
Two lawmakers are proposing a level playing field in the May elections and in future electoral exercises.
Albay Rep. Grex Lagman has filed Bill 6210, which seeks mandatory resignation for an elective official aspiring for an office other than the one he is holding.
On the other hand, Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero authored Bill 6146, which proposes to ban government officials from seeking elective posts in the elections held immediately after their stint in the bureaucracy.
Escudero is the mother of vice presidential aspirant Sen. Francis Escudero.
The Lagman bill, if it were enacted into law, would affect Sen. Escudero, along with Poe and opponents Cayetano, Honasan, Trillanes and Marcos Jr.
They would all be considered resigned upon the filing of their certificates of candidacy.
Also affected are Vice President Binay, who is running for president, and Robrebo, vice presidential running mate of Liberal Party standard-bearer Roxas.
Rep. Lito Atienza of party-list group Buhay has proposed a similar resignation requirement for elective officials seeking higher or lower office.
He said the requirement was actually contained in the old election law, which Congress had amended specifically to benefit senators.
“Senators have a six-year term of office. So if they run for president or vice president mid-term and they lose, they can go back to the Senate and finish their tenure, as if nothing happened,” he said.
Lagman said the Fair Election Act of 2001 does not require resignation on the part of elective officials seeking the presidency or the vice presidency.
“The law is actually not fair and unethical. It is inequitable. It should be repealed,” he said.
“A compelling example of this electoral aberration that continues to give way to political adventurism and faulty policy on suffrage is when senators who have been elected to a six-year term during the previous midterm election decide to seek higher office halfway through their incumbency can simply resume their Senate posts right after elections – even if they lose their presidential or vice presidential bids,” he said.
Escudero said the purpose of her bill is to prevent public officials from taking advantage of their positions and government resources to promote their political ambitions.
“Undeniably, heads of government agencies, especially department secretaries, wield considerable political power and influence given their positions in government,” she said.
Her bill provides: “It shall be unlawful for any head of agencies of government to run for any elective positions in the elections immediately succeeding their incumbency regardless of tenure and severance from office.”
Covered by the proposed prohibition are heads of departments, bureaus and other state agencies and government corporations. –Jess Diaz