MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday defended its decision to proceed with the printing of Halalan 2022 ballots and exclude some candidates and a party-list despite them being granted relief by the Supreme Court (SC).
In a press conference, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez explained that the poll body have completed the "serialization" of ballots even before Jan. 19 when the SC issued last-minute temporary restraining orders (TRO) in favor of two "nuisance" candidates and one "disqualified" party-list group.
"We received [the TROs] after the serialization was completed, when ballots are essentially marked with serial numbers. It was the decision of the En Banc to go ahead of the printing," Jimenez said.
The spokesman added that the TROs did not prevent them from printing the ballots.
The ballot printing started Jan. 20 for manual ballots, or those with no preprinted names of candidates. Printing of automated election system (AES) ballots began on Jan. 23 or four days after the SC issued the last batch of TROs.
'PATENT AND ARROGANT DEFIANCE'
After finding out that his name was excluded in the official template of the May 9 ballots, senatorial aspirant Norman Marquez immediately notified SC chief justice Alexander Gesmundo about the Comelec's "patent, blatant and arrogant defiance" to the TRO.
He also sought enlightenment from the Comelec Law Department as to why he was excluded when the TRO was released four days before the printing of AES ballots.
Marquez, an animal welfare advocate, asked the SC to issue a motu propio order "to enjoin Comelec to adhere to the TRO.
According to Jimenez, the Comelec is ready to comply with the SC if ever it issues a halt order on the printing of ballots.
"The Comelec stands ready to abide by the lawful ruling of the SC," Jimenez said.
This is not the first time Marquez challenged a Comelec order declaring him a nuisance candidate.
In 2019, the SC issued a landmark ruling stating that "Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion in declaring Marquez a nuisance candidate on the ground of failure to prove financial capacity to sustain the financial rigors of waging a nationwide campaign."
While the SC decision, released after the elections, did nothing to allow Marquez to run for Senate then, it has become a guiding principle for the poll body in cautiously branding an aspirant a "nuisance."
During the filing of certificate of candidacy in October last year, Marquez said he is an animal welfare advocate. He said he would represent the "biggest sector" in society: the animal lovers and pet owners.