Comelec reviewing fielding of Duterte

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - It may not be possible for the PDP-Laban to field Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as its presidential candidate through substitution, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista said yesterday.

Bautista made the statement on ANC in reaction to the withdrawal by Martin Diño of his certificate of candidacy (COC) and his nomination of his party mate Duterte as substitute.

Diño was supposedly PDP-Laban’s presidential candidate. However, on Thursday, in a text message to journalists, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said Diño’s COC indicated that he was running for mayor of Pasay City and not for president.

Duterte has repeatedly said he is not interested in the presidency.

Macalintal believed it is now impossible for Duterte to run as “substitute” presidential candidate of PDP-Laban.

He said PDP-Laban’s endorsement and nomination would be insufficient to enable Duterte to run as presidential candidate in the coming May 2016 elections.

“First the PDP-Laban endorsement of Duterte cannot serve as basis for the Davao mayor to become a substitute candidate for Diño because there is no certificate of nomination and certificate of acceptance of nomination from Duterte,” Macalintal explained.

“The nomination needs to be accepted by Duterte and there is no such thing as party just making the nomination. There must be an acceptance of the nomination,” he added.

Macalintal said Diño’s COC before the Comelec was also defective since he declared that he is running for mayor of Pasay City.

“The defective COC would bar any attempt for Diño to be substituted by Duterte,” the election lawyer pointed out.

Macalintal, however, said Duterte can still run as substitute candidate if he eventually changes his mind and decides to seek the presidency.

Since Duterte cannot run under PDP-Laban, Macalintal said the Davao mayor can become a substitute presidential bet of other major political parties.

“He cannot only substitute for Diño, but he can be substitute bet of a candidate from a major political party who may quit the race,” Macalintal pointed out.

Bautista said there would be legal complications if PDP-Laban fields the Davao City mayor as a substitute candidate.

“First, we will have to look at Mr. Diño’s COC. I have not seen it, but if indeed he indicated that he was a candidate for mayor of Pasay City, then his political party could nominate a substitute for that position. They cannot nominate for another post,” Bautista said.

He said it is PDP-Laban and not Diño that would make the nomination and the substitute candidate would have to accept it.

“We will also have to determine if the nomination and acceptance should have been made at the same time that the original candidate withdraws his COC,” he added, though he pointed out that substitution by political parties is allowed until Dec. 10.

Diño admitted that his withdrawn COC showed that he was a candidate for Pasay City mayor.

“It was a clerical error made by the PDP-Laban headquarters. Why would I run for mayor of Pasay City? I am not even a Pasay resident. I am a resident of Quezon City (where he was a barangay chairman),” he said.

Diño said the Comelec recognized him as a presidential candidate when it sent him a letter asking him to justify his candidacy for the top elective post.

However, Bautista said it is Diño’s COC that would guide them in determining for what position a substitute candidate may be nominated.

“The COC is the binding document,” he said.

In withdrawing his COC on Thursday, the former barangay chairman said he felt insulted by the Comelec letter. He indicated in his certificate of withdrawal that his substitute is Duterte.

The Comelec has asked Diño and more than 100 other presidential hopefuls how they could mount a national campaign and why they should not be declared as nuisance candidates.

Bautista said no candidate has so far been declared a nuisance.

On the other hand, PDP-Laban officials are seeking an audience with Duterte in the effort to consult the mayor on what they perceived as “political slur” against the party on the part of the Comelec.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, president of PDP-Laban, said Duterte should decide whether he would run for president under the party.

“It’s time for Mayor Duterte to decide. His commitment is that he will listen to the party sentiment. We will still discuss this,” Pimentel said. 

“He cannot say he has no free will since he can decide on this,” he added.

Pimentel thinks Duterte has to tell the public about his final decision on the presidency so that everybody can now work on this decision.

“There is no need to prolong his decision because of the time lag. Diño has withdrawn his bid. We might be cited for technicality,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said there is still a glimmer of hope that Duterte will run when asked if the mayor might still change his mind despite saying repeatedly in public that he is not running for president. 

“Yes, but I cannot really give a categorical yes,” he added.

A party official, meanwhile, said the integrity of the political party was put into question with Diño being branded as a nuisance candidate by the Comelec. – Mayen Jaymalin, Perseus Echeminada, Christina Mendez

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