Lawyer offers Duterte way out of substitution mess

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The lawyer representing the petition that has become a stumbling block to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's bid for the presidency has offered him a a possible way out of his legal problem.

This, as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division asked the camp of Martin Diño to explain the circumstances behind the error in his certificate of candidacy (COC) for president, which is now the subject of a possible bid to exclude him and his substitute, Duterte, from the 2016 presidential race.

Both petitioners and respondents were given until December 28 to file their respective memoranda on the case by the Division. The memoranda should show whether the division or the Comelec en banc has jurisdiction over the case and then the merits of the case.

The counsel for Diño was likewise instructed to explain the circumstances of how Diño filled up the controversial COC. The COC of Diño had a heading that indicated it was a coc for president but the fineprint stated it is for the position of Pasay City mayor.

Diño's COC is accompanied by a certificate of nomination and acceptance issued by his party, PDP-Laban. Diño would later withdraw his candidacy. Duterte, his partymate, filed his candidacy for president weeks after Diño's withdrawal.

Under Comelec rules, candidates may be substituted until December 10, 2015 in cases of withdrawal, death or disqualification. They may also be substituted until noon of election day if the substitute has the same surname as the candidate.

The petition filed by Ruben Castor assails the validity of Diño's candidacy. His lawyer, Oliver Lozano, told the panel that they merely want to nullify Diño's COC for being against the mandatory provision of the law to the effect that the contents of the COC should be truthful. The petitioner's counsel argued that any act against mandatory provision of law is void, therefore, Diño's COC should be considered void.

Lozano also told the panel that it cannot be dismissed as a mistake because Diño submitted ten copies of his COC. Lozano argued further that the document can be questioned anytime since it is void.

Diño's counsel, Atty. Gregorio Luis Contacto, on the other hand, maintained that Diño committed a typographical error in his COC and pointed out that the certificate of nomination stated he is being nominated for president.

Contacto added that the error was because there were many candidates at the party headquarters when the form was filled up. He further explained that Diño missed the error because he was pressed for time and did not get to browse the COC as he was in a hurry.

Diño earlier admitted that the error in his COC was an ''honorable mistake.''

For Lozano, Duterte can instead file as a substitute candidate under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) Party, adding that this will legalize his substitution.

"Suggestion lang to uphold the rule of law," he said, adding that he has no authority to speak for KBL.

Former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) chief Augusto Syjuco has earlier filed his COC for president under KBL.

Comelec on Thursday announced that it has accepted the certificate of candidacy of Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte and his substitution for a party-mate.

In a press briefing, Comelec chairman Andres Bautista said the Comelec's full bench (en banc), voting 6-1, ''resolved to acknowledge and accept the COC for president of Rodrigo Duterte, being a ministerial function of the commission.''