MANILA - The definition of a nuisance candidate should be updated, and those found to have malicious intent should be held criminally liable, the chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Monday.
Comelec chairman George Garcia made the proposals following a Supreme Court ruling that candidates who are unknown or unpopular should not be automatically declared as nuisance.
"Malaking tulong iyan (SC ruling), but at the same time, kailangan na nating palitan ang batas o yung depinisyon ng nuisance candidacy," Garcia said in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(This will help, but we must also redefine what a nuisance candidate is.)
Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code defines a nuisance candidate as someone who has filed candidacy "to put the election process in mockery or disrepute or to cause confusion among the voters by the similarity of the names of the registered candidates or by other circumstances or acts which clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office."
"'Yung Omnibus Election [Code], 1985 [pa]. May 1987 Constitution na po. Parang hindi na po attuned," Garcia said.
(The Omnibus Election Code was created in 1985. We already have the 1987 Constitution. It is no longer attuned.)
He said the Comelec will use the "totality rule" in determining whether or not an individual who filed for candidacy can be declared a nuisance.
"'Yun bang pagkandidato niya ay nakakagulo sa ating electoral process? Ito ba ay nakakalinlang sa ating mga mamamayan? 'Pag pinagsama-sama, meron ba itong taong ito na genuine at bona fide intention to run for public office?" Garcia explained.
(Will their candidacy confuse the electorate? We have to look at all the factors and determine if they have genuine and bona fide intention to run for public office.)
Those determined by the Comelec to have filed their candidacy in bad faith or with malicious intent should be held criminally liable, he suggested.
“‘Yung talagang ang intensyon ay manggulo at istorbohin ang mga valid na kandidato, pwede po natin i-criminalize ang pagfa-file ng nuisance candidacy, especially kung may determination ng Comelec ng bad faith or malicious intention to deceive the electorate,” said Garcia.
Further, finalizing the declaration of nuisance candidates must be done as early as the month of December immediately preceding any May election, he proposed.
"Lahat ng kaso ng nuisance, kapag ang filing ng candidacy po ay October, lahat desisyunan na ng December, may desisyon ng Comelec at en banc, para hindi na ma-print ang pangalan ng nuisance candidates sa ating mga balota," Garcia said.
(All cases of alleged nuisance candidates must be finalized by the Comelec by December so their names are no longer printed in the ballots.)
As it acknowledges the SC ruling on nuisance candidates, the Comelec is mindful identifying those qualified to run for public office remains part of its mandate.
"Sa bandang huli, ang Comelec pa rin ang (may) control, kami ang magsasabi kung sino ang tatakbo at hindi, base sa panuntunan ng korte suprema," Garcia said.
(In the end, it is still the Comelec that will decide who may run or not, based on the Supreme Court ruling.)
"Talagang dapat lang na hindi isang popularity contest ang halalan. Ang opportunity for public services should be given to all, hindi naka-limit lang sa ilang sektor, grupo, o lipi ng ating mamamayan," he added.
(The elections should not be a popularity contest. Public service should be open for all citizens and not limited to a select group of people.)
Garcia also said that Congress should review the party-list law to define which sectors truly need representation, and who are qualified to represent them.
"Napakatagal na ng party-list law natin na hindi na ito attuned sa kasulukuyang panahon. Hindi na nga ma-distinguish [kung alin] ang sinasabi na marginalized at underrepresented. Eh, ito ang purpose ng ating party-list system," he lamented.
(Our party list law is no longer attuned to the present times. We can no longer distinguish who are truly marginalized and underrepresented, when this is the very purpose of our partylist system.)