MANILA (UPDATE) - Two Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioners have expressed reservations over the poll body's decision to name the Nacionalista Party as the dominant minority party.
The Comelec earlier named President Rodrigo Duterte's PDP-Laban as the dominant majority party with the Villar-led Nacionalista Party was tagged as the dominant minority in this year's polls, drawing criticism from the opposition Liberal Party.
"The Dominant Minority Party should logically come from the minority, that is, a party that belongs to those that stand opposite the majority," Comelec commissioner Luie Tito Guia said in a memorandum dated May 8.
"With the current polarized political climate, it is not hard to divine which group belongs to the majority and the minority," he said.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, the Dominant Majority and Minority Parties are guaranteed to each receive copies of the election returns and certificates of canvass. All other parties will have to share access to election returns and certificates of canvass.
"The purpose of determining which are the Dominant Majority and Minority Parties is to ensure fairness in treating contending or opposing political groups," Guia said.
"This purpose will not be served if the Dominant Minority Party also comes from the majority," he said.
The NP is led by former Sen. Manny Villar. His wife, reelectionist Sen. Cynthia Villar, is an administration-backed candidate running under the Hugpong ng Pagbabago slate.
The President appointed Villar scion Mark as Public Works Secretary in 2016, while his wife, former Diwa Party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, was named Justice Undersecretary last year.
Nacionalista senators and House members belong to the majority blocs in both legislative chambers.
'NACIONALISTA NOT A MINORITY PARTY'
"For me, Nacionalista Party cannot be a minority party because it should be in the same group as majority parties like PDP-Laban and other groups that are allies of [the] administration," Commissioner Rowena Guanzon told ABS-CBN News.
"They have a coalition on the senatorial level. That's why they have a slate, so they belong to the same group," she said.
Guanzon said she did not issue a separate memorandum to express her dissent for lack of time, but signed Comelec Resolution 10538 with a note that reads: "I concur with Comm LTG (Guia)."
The Comelec should have identified parties allied and against the administration before ranking them based on the number of incumbent officials, members and candidates they fielded in the midterm polls, Guanzon said.
"That is my understanding of the law and that is also how this is interpreted in other countries," she said.
Parties that do not agree with the Comelec's decision could raise the matter before the Supreme Court, the Commissioner said.
But Liberal Party President Francis Pangilinan said there is no more time to file an appeal.
"Lumabas ang desisyon kahapon, May 9, 2019 o 4 na araw na lang bago ang araw ng eleksyon. Wala nang oras mag-apela. Sinadya ba ito?" said Pangilinan, also campaign manager of opposition senatorial slate Otso Diretso.
(The decision came out on May 9, 2019 or 4 days before election day. There is no time to file an appeal. Was this deliberate?)
"Namumulitika na rin ba ang Comelec?" he said.
(Is the Comelec politicking too?)
Pangilinan likened the Comelec's decision to how the House of Representatives chose former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as its Speaker and hailed her decades-long friend and ally Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez as minority leader.
"Commissioners, kontra sa isang demokrasya ang inyong naging pasya. Kontra sa basic tenets of fair play. Kontra sa common sense. Kalokohan," Pangilinan said in a Facebook post.
(Commissioners, your decision is against democracy. Against the basic tenets of fair play. Against common sense. It's nonsense.)
"Pinwera ninyo ang oposisyon at binigay lahat ng pribilehiyo sa administrasyon," he said.
(You disregarded the opposition and gave all the privilege to the administration.)
Veteran election lawyer and Otso Diretso candidate Romulo Macalintal described the decision as "superfluous."
"Applicable lamang 'yan sa manual elections," Macalintal said on the sidelines of Otso Diretso's Mother's Day event in Makati.
(it is only applicable in manual elections.)
"Superfluous na 'yan kasi lahat naman mabibigyan niyan ng election returns," he said.
(That's superfluous already because all parties could get election returns.)
The Comelec will print 30 more copies for other parties and usually these copies are ignored already since the results are already flashed on mirror servers, he said.
"It will have no bearing on their monitoring of the results of the elections," he said.
All candidates are also entitled to have poll watchers in each precinct, Macalintal said.
"'Wag po kayo matakot kung hindi tayo ni-recognize as part of the dominant [minority] party dahil wala lang po 'yan," he said.
(Do not worry if we were not recognized as part of the dominant party [minority] because that means nothing.)
"Balewala po 'yun. Lahat ng mga kandidato ay entitled sa watchers whether you belong to a political party or not," he said.
(It is useless. All candidates are entitled to watchers whether you belong to a political party or not.)
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, however, dismissed claims of “politicking.”
“We have to stick by the resolution. Hindi siya (it's not) political allegiance, regardless of political color, itong party ang pinakamalaki (this party is the largest), the second largest is the dominant minority," he said.
"The dissenting opinions are instructive, they’re educational, but what controls? The majority decision."
Comelec, meanwhile, expressed confidence with service provider Globe that will be responsible for all vote transmissions on election day. Reportedly, there could be signal problems in some parts of Western Visayas.
Jimenez also urged voters to continue to report incidents of vote buying to the Comelec's Task Force Kontra Bigay, assuring that sufficient evidence will lead to the candidate’s prosecution and disqualification from office.
Comelec also reiterated that campaigning on the eve of the elections is strictly prohibited. The liquor ban will start 12:01 a.m. of May 12 until 12 midnight of May 13.
- with reports from Adrian Ayalin and Angel Movido, ABS-CBN News