MANILA – The lawyer who called the attention of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to President Duterte’s war on drugs has urged the Supreme Court to reverse the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) decision to disqualify him from the senatorial race.
Jude Sabio on Monday filed a petition with the high court questioning his disqualification, claiming “harassment and discrimination.”
“Sa tingin ko ang Comelec ay matapobre, abusado,” he told reporters following the filing of his petition.
He also accused Malacañang of being behind his disqualification.
“Ang opinyon ni Fr. Robert Reyes, Malacañang ang may kagagawan niyan. Ganun din ang nasa isip ko. Wala nang iba,” he said.
Sabio, on April 24, 2017, filed a 77-page communication with the office of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda accusing President Duterte and several high-ranking government officials of committing crimes against humanity through mass murder or extra-judicial executions under the President’s war on drugs.
He also served as lawyer to Davao Death Squad whistleblowers Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascañas.
Sabio said his being a “bitter critic and legal arch-enemy of the President” has cost him a chance at a Senate seat.
The Comelec, in December last year, disqualified Sabio for being a nuisance candidate, based on a petition filed by the Comelec Law Department.
He appealed the ruling but the Comelec stood by its decision.
In his 46-page petition before the high court, Sabio said he should be presumed to be a bona fide senatorial candidate because both the Comelec Law Department’s petition, and the Comelec First Division’s ruling failed to present facts which would show his “intent to mock or ridicule the electoral process or to confuse the electorate or frustrate the popular will, or that would indicate his lack of a bonafide intention to run as a Senator,” which are grounds for a candidate’s disqualification.
As a presumed bona fide senatorial candidate, he argued, he does not need to prove he has the “financial capacity” to run for a Senate seat.
Sabio said no legal or constitutional provision requires a candidate to show proof of financial capacity. He questioned Comelec’s reliance on 2 Supreme Court cases where the discussion on financial capacity was only “obiter dictum” or incidental to the main discussion which centered on candidates running to confuse voters with confusingly similar names.
For Sabio, there are only 2 kinds of nuisance candidates: those who may be considered “one-note joke” based on “insane, ridiculous appearance, behavior and ‘other circumstances’” and those who file their certificates of candidacy to confuse the electorate. He said he is neither.
He questioned what he considered a “long-standing” Comelec practice of targeting suspected nuisance candidates and requiring them to show financial capacity.
“If certain candidates do not belong to those two groups of concededly palpable, obvious nuisance candidates, what is the factual basis for respondent COMELEC to suspect and target certain candidates as nuisance outside of those two groups of palpably, obvious nuisance candidates? What is the legal standard for determining that a candidate is a nuisance outside of those two classes?,” he asked.
“These are relevant questions that need to be answered, because it cannot be subject to dispute that to target a certain group of candidates, without a factual basis based on a clear and objective legal standard, is definitely to act in an arbitrary, whimsical and capricious manner,” he added, explaining the need for the SC to definitively rule on what constitutes a nuisance candidate.
Sabio admitted he ran and was declared a nuisance candidate in the 2016 polls but he said his circumstances have changed now as he is now more known nationally and internationally.
He enumerated the numerous media invitations and interviews he granted in connection with the ICC communication he filed.
“This massive media publicity, with focus on the issue of EJKs and the ICC case against no less than President Duterte himself, has created an indelible, distinct signature public persona for petitioner, making him known to the Filipino people, of whatever political color or belief, in terms of his voice, appearance, name, personality and the national advocacy that he stands for,” he said.
Sabio even compared himself to lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon and folk singer Freddie Aguilar.
“[I]f respondent COMELEC respects and considers Atty. Larry Gadon as a bonafide candidate because he is already nationally known for having filed an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Sereno, then respondent COMELEC should also respect and consider petitioner as bonafide, because he filed a complaint against President Duterte in the ICC and he is equally known to, if not more nationally known than Atty. Gadon,” he said.
Sabio also accused the Comelec of not following the ruling of the high court in the case of former presidential candidate Ely Pamatong which required the poll body to conduct a hearing before declaring a person a nuisance candidate.
Sabio admitted he can no longer have his name included in the ballot and might have no chances of winning. But he said he is filing the petition out of principle.
“Ayoko na pahiyain ako ng Comelec na sinasabi na nuisance ako kahit sa ginawa ko para sa bayan na nagkaso kay Duterte. ‘Yan ang di ko matanggap,” he said.