Comelec division junks Duterte disqualification cases

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Voting unanimously, a division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) dismissed yesterday all disqualification cases filed against presidential aspirant Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

In a 50-page resolution, the commissioners of the First Division denied for lack of merit the four petitions seeking to disqualify Duterte from the presidential race.

“The Comelec body has ruled that the punisher will live to die another day. It was a unanimous decision,” Commissioner Christian Robert Lim told reporters.

Apart from Lim, the Comelec body is composed of Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Luie Tito Guia.

The poll body consolidated the petitions filed by broadcaster Ruben Castor, University of the Philippines Student Council head John Paulo de las Nieves, and disqualified presidential bets Elly Pamatong and Rizalito David.

David is also a petitioner in Sen. Grace Poe’s disqualification case, which is awaiting resolution in the Supreme Court.

The petitioners asked the Comelec to cancel Duterte’s certificate of candidacy (COC) for president.

They questioned his substitution for Martin Diño as standard bearer of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan since the latter indicated in his COC that he was running for mayor of Pasay City and not for president.

The Comelec said Diño’s intent to run for president was clear despite his error.

The poll body cited the failure of Castor and De las Nieves to appear before the poll body during the preliminary hearing of their complaints.

The Comelec commissioners ruled that Diño had filed a valid COC for president, which he can withdraw under Section 73 of the Omnibus Election Code and for which he can be substituted until Dec. 10, 2015.

“The Commission’s First Division finds no material misrepresentations in Duterte’s COC for president. Hence, his candidacy is valid,” the ruling said.

The petitioners have five days to file a motion for reconsideration with the poll body.

According to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, Duterte is among six presidential candidates whose names will be included in the ballots, which will be printed at the National Printing Office starting Feb. 8.

The others are Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Sen. Grace Poe, Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II and OFW Family Club party-list Rep. Roy Señeres.

Presidential debates

With the dismissal of the disqualification cases filed against him, Duterte is ready to attend the series of presidential debates to be conducted by the Comelec leading to the May 9 general elections.

Christopher Go, Duterte’s aide, told The STAR yesterday the Davao mayor would not back out from any debate now that his disqualification cases have been junked.

Duterte earlier said he would not attend the debates unless he is declared an official presidential candidate.

The Comelec will hold the first presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro City on Feb.  21.

Duterte welcomed the dismissal by the Comelec of the consolidated petitions seeking his disqualification from the May elections.

“As the mayor stated earlier, he is confident that his COC was valid and can stand legal scrutiny. We respect the legal processes and call on the Comelec to dismiss with finality all the petitions to disqualify him as candidate for president,” a statement sent by Duterte’s camp said.

“In light of this development, we call on our supporters to continue to pray and resist and expose black propaganda circulating that Duterte would be disqualified,” it added.

Duterte calls Mar ‘gay’

Meanwhile, Duterte called Roxas “gay” after the latter criticized him for saying that he would end illegal drugs, heinous crimes and corruption in just six months if elected president.

“I will end drugs, crimes and corruption in six months. My contenders said it’s impossible. Bayot kasi kayo kaya hindi ninyo kaya,” Duterte told a forum organized by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City yesterday.

Bayot is a Visayan term for gay.

When a reporter asked if he was referring to Roxas, Duterte replied, “Di ba sinabi ko sa iyo, di tama talaga ako (Didn’t I tell you, see I was right).”

Asked if he is willing to make peace with Roxas, the mayor said, “I do not want to talk to losers.”

Duterte said he is confident Roxas will not win.

“Maniwala kayo matatalo yan… hindi yan aabot ng number one (Believe me he’ll lose, he won’t get to number one),” Duterte said.

Roxas earlier said Duterte was hitting him to boost his survey ratings.

Duterte slammed Caloocan City Rep. and LP stalwart Edgar Erice for describing him as “may katok.”

“He is no better than me,” Duterte said, referring to Erice as also being slightly unhinged.

Physically fit

Meanwhile, Duterte’s partner said the mayor has been taking maintenance medicine but reiterated that he is physically fit.

Cielito Avanceña said she is accompanying him in the campaign to check his health condition.

“He is OK. He is not hiding anything from the public. He’s been taking maintenance medicine but he is perfectly OK. He can travel alone,” Avanceña said.

Avanceña used to work as a nurse in the US. She has a daughter with Duterte. She accompanied Duterte to an event organized by the KMP at the UP Diliman.

Avanceña said she reads Bible verses with Duterte before leaving their house to campaign.

When asked about Duterte being a womanizer, Avanceña said that he has changed.

She added Duterte was merely joking when flirting with other women.

“He is really friendly and close to the people,” she said.

She said she would stay in Davao City if Duterte wins as president.  – With Edith Regalado, Mike Frialde, Robertzon Ramirez

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