Duterte candidacy legal, says poll body

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte speaks before employees at Davao City hall a few days before he assumes office as a Philippine president. Reuters

MANILA - The Commission on Elections en banc has ruled that the candidacy of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is legal. This, after the poll body denied the Motions for Reconsideration filed by petitioners Ruben Castor, Elly Pamatong, Rizalito David and John Paulo Delas Nieves and upheld the earlier decision of the Comelec First Division to dismiss all petitions against PDP Laban's Martin Diño and President-elect Duterte.

The resolution was promulgated on March 31, 2016 but was only released to the media on Monday, a few days before the inauguration of Duterte as President.

In the decision, the Comelec en banc said the petitioners failed to prove that there are sufficient grounds to warrant the reversal of the decision of the First Division last February 2016.

Petitioners Pamatong, Castor, David and Delas Nieves earlier assailed the validity of Duterte's substitution of Martin Diño as the candidate of PDP Laban for President last November 27, 2015.

The petitioners argued that Diño's certificate of candidacy for president is not valid since the COC of Diño was for the position of Mayor of Pasay City, and not President of the Philippines.

Pamatong, David and Delas Nieves also questioned the validity of Duterte's substitute COC. Pamatong argued that Duterte is "the worst nuisance candidate this country ever had."

"As already pointed out, the question as to the validity of Diño's COC, Duterte's alleged status as a nuisance candidate, as well as the validity of latter's substitution for the elective position of President, among others, were sufficiently addressed, discussed, and resolved by the Commission (First Division) in its assailed Resolution," part of the 29-page Resolution read.

"Verily, Petitioners' Motions for Reconsideration are bereft of any new allegation or novel matter and issue which have not been previously passed upon by the Commission (First Division); neither did they prove and substantiate the errors of law allegedly committed by the Commission. Consequently, the Commission En Banc finds no reason to reverse the assailed Resolution."

In their decision, the Comelec en banc noted that the First Division's decision was correct when it determined that Diño's COC was valid.

The poll body said Diño clearly intended to file his candidacy for President, clarified further by the accompanying certificate of nomination and acceptance by PDP-Laban. As such, Diño may be substituted validly by Duterte as Presidential candidate of their party.

The poll body also noted that Duterte complied with all of the requirements for a valid substitution.

The en canc also ruled that the First Division committed no error when it dismissed the argument that Duterte committed material misrepresentation in his COC.

Petitioner Delas Nieves earlier claimed that this was because Duterte admitted to have killed alleged criminals in Davao City, yet claimed in his COC that he will "support and defend the Constitution... and will obey the laws, legal orders and decrees promulgated by the duly constituted authorities."

The poll body said that the petition has no basis as the statements "do not pertain to the qualification of Duterte for the elective office for which the latter seeks election." The en banc also said that issues affecting the qualification of Duterte for President must be brought before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.