And then there were five Comelec final list out as Señeres withdraws

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – On the last working day before the printing of official ballots for the May elections on Monday, one of six candidates for president withdrew from the race, citing poor health.

OFW Family Club party-list Rep. Roy Señeres’ decision to drop out of the race has reduced to five the number of candidates vying for the country’s top position.

They are Vice President Jejomar Binay of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), Sen. Grace Poe who is running as an independent, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the People’s Reform Party, Rodrigo Duterte of the PDP-Laban and Manuel Roxas II of the ruling Liberal Party.

Señeres’ lawyer Candy Rivas, accompanied by his daughter Hannah, attempted to file a formal “statement of withdrawal” yesterday at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) main office in Intramuros, but the Law Department of the poll body did not accept the document, saying his presence was required.

Rivas maintained that while the 68-year-old Señeres was not bedridden, the candidate was “physically incapable” of doing the task himself.

The lawyer said they intend to come back either Monday – a non-working holiday – or Tuesday next week to file the statement with “attachments” like medical certificates and other pertinent documents.

The Comelec is open on Monday even if it is Chinese New Year, a non-working holiday.

In a statement read by Rivas, Señeres stated he was withdrawing “with the blessings of my family and upon the recommendation of my doctor who has advised me to avoid stress due to my long-standing diabetes so as to prevent the complications thereof.”

He said his decision “does not equate to the withdrawal of my advocacy, that is to fight for the rights and the welfare of our labor sector, particularly the overseas Filipino workers, their family members and our local workers who are victimized by the abusive practice of contractualization.”

Asked if any person or group had convinced Señeres to withdraw, Rivas stressed “he cannot be bought” and his decision was purely for medical reasons.

Señeres’ running mate Teodulo Cruz Malangen and senatorial bet Gion Villamor Gounet also filed their withdrawal yesterday. They belong to the Partido ng Manggagawa at Magsasaka political party.

Not accepted

John Rex Laudiangco, chief of the legal opinion and research division of the Comelec Law Department, said they did not accept Seneres’ withdrawal statement because “unfortunately, the rules require that withdrawal must be personally filed.”

“They stated that congressman Seneres is physically incapable to personally file so I told them that if they have a medical certificate or any doctor attestation or statement to that effect, they may do so,” he said.

Señeres was among six presidential aspirants announced earlier by Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista as being included in the ballots for the May election.

Laudiangco explained that Señeres’ withdrawal – once formally filed – would be elevated by the Law Department to the full commission for proper disposition.

Asked if Seneres’ name would be stricken off the official list of presidential candidates, he said it would likely be included in the official ballots to be printed by the National Printing Office (NPO) starting Monday.

“That’s what I told them – to withdraw your COC is one thing, to have your name removed from the ballot is another,” he said.

“I don’t know if the timeline will still permit the removal of any names, considering the list is already final and the start of printing is already Monday,” he added.  

Bautista said they have not yet come out with the final list of those who made it to the ballots.

But he assured the public the lists would be loaded on the Election Management System, and eventually on the printing system of the government-run NPO.

“Of course we will come out (with the finalized lists). It’s just a question of when,” he pointed out.

Of the five remaining candidates, Poe is facing disqualification cases before the Comelec and the Supreme Court. Her name will still be in the ballots as the Supreme Court is still hearing her appeal against her disqualification by the Comelec.

If Poe is disqualified, votes cast for her in the May elections would be considered stray votes.

The poll chief had also announced that the official candidates for vice president were Sens. Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Antonio Trillanes IV who are running as independent; Gringo Honasan of UNA, and Rep. Leni Robredo of LP.

Bautista declined to say how many senatorial aspirants would be included in the ballots, but he claimed more than 50 were eyeing a seat in the Senate.

Bautista stressed that even those with pending cases, like those concerning nuisance candidates, have been included in the ballots.

Comelec records show there are 115 party-list groups that would be included in the final printed lists. – Perseus Echeminada

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