MANILA — A ranking official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday publicly declared support for a bill seeking stiffer penalties against candidates that would be declared as "nuisance."
During Wednesday's hearing of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, Comelec Law Department director Maria Norina Casingal said they are backing House Bill No. 9557, which passed on final reading last August.
Under the bill, Comelec "shall impose a fine of not less than P100,000.00" on a nuisance candidate and any person named in the verified petition and found to have conspired with or induced the candidate to file such a certificate."
But Casingal revealed they are proposing an even stiffer penalty.
"We support the imposition of the fine, P100,000, and we also propose that those declared [nuisance] be disqualified from running in 2 successive elections," Casingal told the Senate panel.
Last month, the admission of some aspirants of being "placeholders" led to debates on what makes a candidate nuisance.
Under Comelec's rules of procedure, a candidate can be considered a nuisance if she/he:
- wants to put the election process in mockery or disrepute
- wants to cause confusion among voters
- clearly demonstrated to have no bona fide intention to run
But according to election watchdog Kontra Daya, Comelec's proposal only "highlights the elitist nature of politics."
The group said "P100,000 is a hefty fine for impoverished candidates who end up being declared a nuisance."
"It only highlights the elitist nature of politics as no amount of fines would prevent the rich and powerful from continuously making a mockery of the law," Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao said in a statement.
Arao noted that "well-meaning, impoverished candidates" would be the only ones to suffer from the proposed penalty.
"It will only punish well-meaning, impoverished candidates who want to make a difference and would only depend on small donations to conduct their campaign," he added.
During the Senate hearing, Sen. Imee Marcos, chair of the panel, also cautioned Comelec to make sure its parameters for declaring a candidate nuisance is not "arbitrary and oppressive."
"As I said nagdadahan-dahan tayo kasi ayaw ng Supreme Court na palibhasa hindi masyadong kilala o walang pera, o walang partido hindi naman basta-basta idi-disqualify. The SC has been consistent in broadening the net cast for candidates," Marcos said.