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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Require birth docs for poll bets—Comelec

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The Commission on Elections (Comelec) called on Congress to pass a law that would allow the poll body to refuse the certificates of candidacy (COCs) of certain candidates if they fail to submit the required documents such as a birth certificate.

In an interview, poll chairman George Garcia said at present, the Comelec’s role in accepting the COCs is purely ministerial.

“The Comelec has no right to reject a COC submitted to us. As long as all the items are filled out, we will accept it, regardless if the information they provided are not true,” the poll body chief added.

Garcia’s statement stemmed from the congressional inquiry on the citizenship of Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo who was being linked to the operations of Philippine Overseas gaming Offices (Pogo) in her town.

The poll chief said that Guo may be charged with perjury if she is proven to have misrepresented herself as a Filipino citizen when she filed her candidacy.

Meanwhile, the Comelec is already thinking of making improvements in the laws in preparation for future elections.

He said once the poll body completed their review on election laws and made recommendations on the rules, these will be submitted to Congress, which has the power to pass new laws and make amendments to existing laws.

“But definitely,  whatever Congress says, we will just implement. We can only do what they want us to implement,” Garcia said.

Under the present set up, the Comelec only requires aspiring candidates to submit a COC in which they declare they are Filipino citizens. Candidates in local positions in the country may be natural-born Filipinos or foreign nationals who become naturalized Filipino citizens.

“The Comelec’s role was only “ministerial,” with aspiring candidates only required to submit accomplished COCs under current laws and jurisprudence.

“The Comelec presumes that all the information the candidates put in their COCs are correct until a disqualification or cancellation of candidacy case is filed by a registered voter,” he said

As for Gou’s COC, the Comelec has forwarded it to the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality on May 10 via email.

The Senate panel had since then shared the information to members of the media on Tuesday.

The COC revealed that the 37-year-old Guo had declared Tarlac, Tarlac as her birthplace, and that she has been a resident in the Philippines for 35 years and two months, the last 18 years and two months in Bamban, Tarlac. This presumably makes her a Filipino citizen and not an émigré to a foreign country.

The mayor declared in her COC that her mayoralty bid had cost a total of P134,693.80, the lion’s share of which having gone to travel costs, personnel, and incidental personal overheads amounting to P85,047.80, having also spent for printing and distribution the amount of P39,646.

As an independent, no declaration of any contributions received, in cash or in kind, was made.

Meanwhile, two leaders of the Lower House have appealed for more stringent screening measures for Chinese students entering the country due to mounting national security concerns.

Assistant Majority Leaders Jil Bongalon (Ako Bicol Party-list) and Francisco Paolo Ortega V (La Union, 1st District) made the call as the Inter-Agency Committee on Foreign Students (IACFS) met to discuss the influx of Chinese nationals studying in the Philippines.

“This is a welcome development because what is at stake here is our national security, and one of the non-negotiables in our country is our national security,” Bongalon said.

Bongalon highlighted the need to ensure that these foreign students do not pose a security risk or threat to the Philippines.

Ortega, for his part, emphasized the importance of the inter-agency collaboration in addressing issues such as the influx of foreign nationals.

“I would just like to urge this newly-formed interagency to look into the issue because that is really their job,” Ortega said.

He said that part of their work is to look at trends, both national and international, as to why there is an influx of people at a certain area in order for government agencies to anticipate and address such trends proactively.

IACFS, which includes the Commission on Higher Education, Bureau of Immigration, National Bureau of Investigation, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Department of Foreign Affairs, and Department of Education, convened a crucial meeting on Monday following a call by both houses of Congress to look into the reasons for the surge of Chinese students in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan province.

Bongalon earlier proposed that the House should consider initiating a parallel investigation into the alleged ties between Mayor Alice Guo of Bamban town in Tarlac and China.

Guo is currently under investigation in the Senate for her alleged involvement in facilitating and supporting an illegal Chinese gambling site in Bamban.

Senators have raised doubts about Guo’s identity, even questioning if she holds Chinese citizenship due to her unclear background, including her lack of formal education.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline ‘Birth certificate’ not required for aspiring politicians; Comelec wants it changed


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