Duterte can still be excluded from race: Comelec

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Duterte can still be excluded from race: Comelec 1
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. File Photo

MANILA - Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is in the official list of candidates for President for the 2016 Elections. For now.

Voting 6-1, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc decided to accept Duterte's certificate of candidacy for president in substitution for the candidacy of his PDP-Laban partymate Martin Diño, who has withdrawn from the race.

''After due deliberation the commission resolved to acknowledge and accept the COC for president of Rodrigo Duterte, being a ministerial function of the commission,'' Comelec chairman Andres Bautista said.

''But this is entirely without prejudice to the pending disqualification case in SPA 15-94 DC entitled Ruben Castor vs Martin Diño, Mayor Rodirgo Duterte and PDP-Laban or any other case."

Bautista explained that this simply means that the poll body accepted the substitution but there is still no ruling whether the substitution is valid due to a pending question raised against the candidacy of Diño. There is a pending case against the Diño's candidacy before the Comelec's first division.

''What this means is he is now in our list of candidates. That was an administrative decision that the Comelec en banc made. But again I want to emphasize that this is without prejudice to any disqualification cases that have been filed or will be filed against him,'' Bautista said.

Bautista said the Comelec en banc decided to accept Duterte's COC administratively since substitution is allowed under the rules and the mayor managed to substitute for Diño ahead of the December 10 deadline.

''From an administrative standpoint we will accept the substitution subject to whatever cases that are filed currently and I don't know if there will be cases that will be filed in the future,'' he said.

Bautista explained that the outcome of the pending case can still change Duterte's status.

"There's a potential that also pwedeng ma-disqualify. The en banc in accepting the substitution is essentially performing an administrative performance. When the first division hears the case it's performing a quasi judicial function. Decisions of the division can be appealed to the en banc, ''he said.

READ: 6 things to know about Rodrigo Duterte

CASTOR CASE HEARING

The Comelec's first division is set to have a hearing on the Castor petition on Friday, December 18. The first division initially deemed the petition submitted for resolution but the panel's chair, Christian Robert Lim, said the other members of the division wanted to conduct a hearing.

Lim said it is the panel which will tackle the ''intrinsic'' issues on Duterte's candidacy and substitution for Diño.

''When you go to the intrinsic issues it goes to the division, then it goes to the en banc. The law allows substitution based on withdrawal… You also allow substitution in case of disqualification or death. We allow that till midday of election,'' Lim said.

READ: Duterte substitution faces hurdles: lawyer

'NO SPECIAL TREATMENT'

Bautista, meanwile, guaranteed there was no special treatment in the case of Duterte.

"No special treatment for anyone. We tried to objectively assess each and every case,'' he said.

Lim added there was nothing irregular in calling for a hearing tomorrow when the case was already submitted for resolution.

''There's a request by a majority of the members of the first division to have a hearing because they wanted to ask questions. Bukas niyo na malalaman. Nothing in the rules that prohibit calling for a hearing even after submitted for resolution. In some cases in the Supreme Court may cases na submitted for resolution but the Justices have to call for oral arguments before they cast their votes. They can also do that," Lim said.

Aside from the Duterte candidacy, the poll body is also tackling the appeals of the disqualification of Senator Grace Poe from the presidential election. Poe was disqualified by both the first and second divisions in separate cases but on similar grounds.

Bautista said, "patuloy yung deliberations. As you know naghain na ng motion for reconsideration ang mga abugado ni Senator Poe doon sa decision ng first division kahapon pina-photocopy. Siguro magra-raffle na rin kami sino ang magsusulat ng ponencia.''

Asked if the poll body will consolidate the cases now that it has reached en banc, the poll chief said, "We will tackle that in the en banc. Wala pang motion na ganiyan."

But Bautista admitted they have the discretion to consolidate but, "kaya lang nangyari dito is that sa 2nd division nung hinear nila may nag-motion to consolidate it was turned down kasi hindi naman mandatory especially given there are certain legal issues that are not on fore especially in respect of the remedy being asked for. Iyung isa is petition for disqualification, yung isa is petition to deny due course. May nuances but by and large the issues are similar."

BALLOT PRINTING

The poll body has been going through each and every candidacy filed ahead of the finalization of the list of candidates that will be the basis for ballot printing.

''I know that senior commissioner Lim, as the chair of the steering committee, is concerned about the length of the ballot and how the ballot is going to look like. That's one of the improvements we'd like to showcase in the 2016 elections,'' he said.

Bautista announced that "we had a very productive last two days in terms of disposal of cases involving potential nuisance candidates and party-list. We've been able to dispose of 95 party-list petitions.''