UNLESS the Supreme Court rules with finality on the disqualification cases, both presidential aspirants Senator Grace Poe and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will still be included in the official ballot for the 2016 polls, the Commission on Elections chief Andres Bautista said Tuesday.
In a press conference, Bautista said that as long as there is pending case before them and the Supreme Court, the poll body will still include Poe and Duterte on the ballot.
“We can’t make a decision. If there’s no final decision, technically, we cannot remove their names from the ballot,” Bautista said in Filipino.
Poe has two pending disqualification cases and one motion to exclude her from the official ballot.
Durterte has a pending disqualification case before the Comelec’s 1st Division, which must decide if it will accept his substituting for the standard bearer of the PDP-Laban, Martin Diño, who dropped out of the race in favor of the mayor.
Bautista’s remarks came after a petitioner, former Senator Francisco Tatad, asked the Comelec Law Department to exclude Poe from the final list of candidates.
“In view of the decisions of the First and Second Divisions of this Commission granting the four petitions against the candidacy of Mrs. Grace Poe Llamanzares for president, of which I am one of the petitioners, and cancelling her Certificate of Candidacy for that same petition, I have the honor to request that her name be excluded or dropped from the list of certified candidates of the May 9, 2016 elections,” Tatad said.
With the rulings so far, Tatad said he was certain the Comelec en banc and the Supreme Court would rule against Poe.
“We believe that is is highly improbable that the five, out of six commissioners, who found Mrs. Llamanzares ineligible to run for President, for not being a natural-born citizen and a resident of the country for the last 10 years immediately preceding the election, will reverse themselves when they sit en banc,” he said.
“Any speculation that the Supreme Court might see the case differently is just that, pure speculation, while the rulings of the two divisions, based on a clear reading of the Constitution and the facts of the case, are unequivocal and certain,” Tatad added.
Earlier, the Comelec extended its dedline for releasing the final list of candidates for the 2016 national and local polls to Dec. 23.
After an en banc meeting, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said Bautista and other commissioners begged off again from voting on the petition of Estella Elamparo to strike Poe’s name from the official ballot.
“You can imagine... this is the sixth day [that we are having a special en banc meeting] and we have not yet voted on them [the Poe and Duterte cases]. The commissioners are still studying the cases, so we will meet again tomorrow,” Guanzon said.
She said the disqualification cases were not simple, which was why the en banc was taking so long.
Earlier, Bautista said they would no longer consolidate the two disqualification cases against Poe since Commissioner Robert Lim has decided to inhibit himself from the Elamparo petition.
He said they are still waiting for the Poe camp to finle a motion for reconsideration against the decision of the 1st Division which favored Tatad, Dela Salle University professor Antonio Contreras; and University of the East Law Dean Amado Valdez.
The Comelec on Tuesday also cancelled the hearing on the disqualification case against Duterte after the petitioner, broadcaster Ruben Castor, failed to appear before the poll body’s 1st Division.
Bautista said shortly after their no-show, Castor and his lawyer Oliver Lozano sent an urgent motion telling the Comelec that their presence was not needed for the proceedings to move forward.
“Tomorrow, the 1st Division will deliberate,” Bautista said.
The lawyers of Duterte and Diño, Vitaliano Aguirre and Ted Contacto said they were confident they could beat the disqualification petition.
On Nov. 27, Castor filed a petition shortly after Duterte’s lawyer filed his CoC and declaring that he will substitute Diño’s bid for president.
Castor argued that Duterte was not qualified as a substitute for Diño, who withdrew his presidential bid after the Comelec Law Department filed a petition to declare Diño as nuisance candidate.
The petitioner said that Diño can only withdraw his candidacy for mayor of Pasay City because that was the post that he wrote down in his Certificate of Candidacy.
The Comelec’s 2nd Division has dismissed the petition filed by the poll body’s law department to declare Diño a nuisance candidate, saying it was moot and academic.
It also granted Diño’s motion to withdraw his CoC and the law department’s subsequent motion to withdraw its petition against him.
Duterte then went to the Comelec office on Dec. 8 to ask if he needed to correct his CoC but the Law Department said that there was no need for him to file another CoC.
The Supreme Court was expected to deliberate Wednesday on the Comelec’s urgent plea to lift the temporary restraining order issued Dec. 1 stopping the poll body from implementing its policy of requiring voters to register with their biometrics before they are allowed to vote next year.
A source said the Comelec had asked the Court to lift the TRO because it would affect the conduct of the 2016 elections.
Earlier, the Court junked a petition from the Kabataan party-list group to extend the period for voters’ registration, siding with the Comelec on the question.
Aside from these cases, the tribunal might also act on the petition filed by Rizalito Davice on Dec. 8 questioning the Senate Elector Tribunal decision to dismiss his disqualification case against Poe in the 2013 senatorial elections.
A source told The Standard the case was included in the agenda for Wednesday’s special session.
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