MANILA, Philippines - And then there were more than 100 Vetallano Acostas.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has failed to decide 57 disqualification cases and 77 motions for reconsideration involving aspirants for various local positions before the official period for local campaigns started on March 26.
So as not to delay the printing of ballots, which started in February, the poll body allowed the names of questioned candidates to be put on the ballots, just in case the aspirants turn out to be qualified. In the event that the subjects of the complaints are disqualified after the ballots shall have been printed, votes for them would be simply be considered stray.
This is the same tack that the Comelec took in the cases of presidential candidate Vetallano Acosta of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan and of almost 30 party-list organizations. Their names have been printed on the ballots since the cases for their disqualification or their appeals are pending.
Commissioner Rene Sarmiento acknowledged that this could cause confusion as voters cast their votes using ballots that with a size and layout totally different from what they've been used to filling out for decades.
The Philippines is having its first nationwide automated elections in May. Ballots now bear the names of all candidates, and voters have to shade the ovals that correspond to their preferred candidates. The ballots are as long as 2 short bond papers, filled with national and local candidates on both sides. In past, manual elections, the ballot was half of a bond paper, with blanks under each position where the voters write the names of their candidates.
However, Sarmiento said, it would set back the poll body's timetable if they waited for all disqualification cases to be decided before they printed the more than 50 million ballots. The Comelec cannot recall printed ballots and reprint them to exclude the names of disqualified aspirants because people might suspect they are doing some monkey business.
“Baka magkaroon ng wrong perception na may ginagawa sa mga balota,” he said.
There 49,996 candidates vying for 17,874 various local positions across the country. From Dec. 2, 2009 to March 24, 2010, the Comelec received 283 disqualification cases, 221 of them involving local candidates.
But as of March 25, a day before the start of the local campaign period, the Comelec had resolved only 164 of these cases--the first division promulgated 84 cases; the second division, 80 cases. Two more cases were decided on March 26, when the campaigns have started. Fifty five have yet to be decided.
These undecided cases account for 36% of all disqualification cases filed with the poll body.
(See “Disqualification vs local candidates unresolved before March 26.”)
Among the subjects of unresolved disqualification cases are 14 congressional and 2 gubernatorial candidates.
They include (for congressman or congresswoman): Jaime Dulay (2nd district, La Union); Manuel Luis Sanchez (lone district, Catanduanes); Joseph Emilio Abaya (1st district, Cavite); Plaridel Abaya (1st district, Cavite); Milagrosa Tee Tan (2nd district, Samar); Gilbert Wargas (5th district, Cebu); Arthur Yap (3rd district, Bohol); Krisna Abordo (3rd district, Iloilo); Niel Tupas Sr. (4th district, Iloilo); Juan Margarito Neri (lone district, Camiguin); Jesus Emmanuel Paras (1st district, Bukidnon); Mylene Garcia (2nd district, Davao City); Ruy Elias Lopez (3rd district, Davao City); and Emmanuel Pacquiao (lone district, Sarangani).
Also included are (for governor): Junie Cua (Quirino) and Jose Alvarez (Palawan).
Of the 164 resolved case, 77 are still under appeal. The Comelec failed to resolve them with finality before March 26. for reconsideration that were left undecided before the official local campaign period. Only 12 out of the 89 motions for reconsideration filed with the poll body en banc were resolved as of March 25.
(See “Disqualification vs local candidates with motions for reconsideration unresolved before March 26.”)
Among the subjects of these pending motions for reconsideration are 5 congressional and 3 gubernatorial candidates. They are (for congressman or congresswoman): Uliran Joaquin (1st district, Laguna); Vivienne Tan (1st district, Quezon City); Richard Gomez (4th district, Leyte); Romeo Jalosjos Jr. (2nd district, Zamboanga Sibugay); and Roy Chiongbian (lone district, Sarangani).
They also include (for governor): Abraham Kahlil Mitra (Palawan); Raul Lee (Sorsogon); and Rommel Apolinario Jalosjos (Zamboanga Sibugay).
Gomez, Mitra, and Rommel Jalosjos are among the disqualified local candidates who appealed for reconsideration. The rest were declared qualified by the Comelec, but their opponents are questioning the poll body's decisions.
Comelec's Sarmiento said the poll body doesn't mind if these candidates with pending disqualification cases or reconsideration appeals proceed with campaigning.
"They are not totally disqualified, so it's their right to campaign," he said.
If these candidates are disqualified with finality mid-way into the campaign but still garner votes, their votes will become stray votes. “It's possible that some voters will still get confused, that is unavoidable,” Sarmiento said.
To lessen the confusion, Sarmiento said that the Comelec will be issuing resolutions informing voters of the disqualified candidates in their areas. (abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak)