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Thursday, July 25, 2024

SC scolds poll body over VP bet’s exclusion

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The Supreme Court (SC) has reprimanded members of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) who did not include vice presidential aspirant Wilson Amad on the ballots for the May 2022 polls.

In a decision dated July 5 but made public last Tuesday, the SC admonished the Comelec for not complying with the temporary restraining order (TRO) that would have prevented Amad’s exclusion from the official ballots.

Amad’s omission came after the poll body en banc upheld on January 3, 2022, the first division’s finding on December 13, 2021, that he had failed to prove that he has a bona fide intention to run for vice president.

Comelec also doubted that Amad’s popularity in Northern Mindanao, coupled with the capitalization of the use of social media, will be enough to launch and sustain a nationwide campaign.

However, the high court said the 1987 Constitution only prescribes age, citizenship, voting and residence qualifications to be able to run for vice president.

“Clearly, being known throughout the Philippines and having an established network nationwide are not qualifications for vice president. In fact, the lack thereof [is] not even grounds to be declared a nuisance candidate in accordance with the Omnibus Election Code,” the ruling stated.

In Amad’s case, there was no evidence to prove that his filing of a certificate of candidacy was intended to put the election process in mockery or to cause confusion among voters, the SC said.

“Moreover, the Comelec’s allegation that Amad is only known within Northern Mindanao also does not establish that he has no bona fide intention to run for vice president,” it said.

“Thus, it is manifestly clear that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when, without any factual or legal basis, it denied Amad’s motion for reconsideration, and declared him a nuisance candidate.”

The Comelec knew that Amad had availed himself of remedies before the SC to challenge its declaration of him as a nuisance candidate as early as January 4, the high court said.

Amad obtained the TRO on January 20, but he learned from news reports the Comelec had already made public what looked to be the ballot face, which did not include his name among the list of vice-presidential candidates, on January 25.

“Notably, without considering Amad’s statutory right to challenge the Comelec dispositions, the Comelec proceeded with its pre-election activities, and even commenced the printing of the serialized ballots without Amad’s name on January 23, 2022, after the Court’s issuance of a TRO,” the SC said.

The Court found it proper to cite the members of Comelec in contempt for violation of the TRO and to impose the penalty of severe reprimand.

“On this note, however, the Court recognizes that the composition of the Comelec has changed since the issuance of the TRO and its consequent violation,” the decision read.

“As such, the Court clarifies that the resolution of this case only affects the Comelec and its membership, who were the ones directly responsible for the TRO’s violation,” it added.

According to the SC, the Comelec en banc decision was penned by Chairperson Sheriff Abas, with Commissioners Rowena Guanzon, Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo, Antonio Kho Jr., and Aimee Ferolino concurring.

Abas and Guanzon retired in February, while Kho is now a member of the high court. Kho did not participate in the deliberations on Amad’s petition at the SC.

Meanwhile, the Court called on the Comelec to immediately resolve all cases pending before it.

It also urged the poll body to publish its schedule of events, including pre-election activities, to inform the public or those who seek to challenge the Comelec’s rulings.

The Comelec welcomed the call by the SC to make public its activities and events.

“The Supreme Court and the Filipino people can expect Comelec to follow this decision and future rulings on election-related cases,” Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco said in a message to reporters.

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