Comelec to hold hearing on PDP-Laban split next week

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FILE PHOTO. President Rodrigo Duterte and members of PDP-Laban at the party's 35th anniversary celebration.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 12) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will look into the split in ruling party PDP-Laban by next week.

"As of yesterday, nadiscuss namin siya sa executive session sa en banc," said Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas in a press briefing on Friday. "Hopefully by Oct. 18, magcoconduct kami ng hearing."

"Ang commitment namin, after the hearing, pabibilisan namin (ang resolusyon) para hindi maconfuse ang mga kandidato," he added.

[Translation: As of yesterday, we discussed it in an executive session en banc. Hopefully by October 18, we can conduct a hearing... Our commitment is to speed up (the resolution) so the candidates will not be confused.]

PDP-Laban is expected to field seven bets this year, but party in-fighting has left many confused over its line-up.

Related: Only 7 senatorial bets to run under Duterte's party

Re-electionist and PDP-Laban President Koko Pimentel was the first to file his certificate for candidacy on Thursday. He was followed by singer Freddie Aguilar, who claimed to be running under the same party — but Pimentel denied they agreed to Aguilar's run.

The ruling party split into two factions after a gathering in July where some members of the party elected a new leadership. Pimentel maintained the event was unauthorized, and his side was the one recognized by the Comelec.

The Comelec has another major decision to make, as the Interior Department and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency wants them to disqualify candidates on the narco-list. Abas said they would decide in about a week how to respond to the request, as candidates must be afforded due process.

Comelec to premature campaigners: Delicadeza please

The Comelec also admitted that the law allows candidates to campaign ahead of the filing of candidacy. Comelec spokesman James Jimenez lamented this loophole.

"Masakit sa loob ng Comelec iyan [This is hurtful to the Comelec], but yes, under the law it's very clear that [of] the acts you can prohibit from a candidate, you can only prohibit at the start of the campaign period," said Jimenez. "So until the campaign period starts, everyone gets to do whatever they want."

He appealed to the candidates to exercise delicadeza.

"We appeal to the candidates themselves right now, it's a question of delicadeza," Jimenez continued. "We appeal to them to see it that way."

Some of the expected candidates accused of premature campaigning are Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Francis Tolentino.

Many people have noticed billboards featuring Go's face, and relief goods bearing his name were distributed in June. He maintained these came from supporters in the private sector. Critics of President Rodrigo Duterte also observed that Go and Tolentino spoke at the government's information roadshows on federalism, effectively putting them in the public eye.

The election campaign period runs from February 12 to May 11, 2019.

There are two more days for the filing of candidacy, set on October 15 to 16.

Apart from Go and Tolentino, other PDP-Laban members who are expected to file their certificates of candidacy in the coming days are former Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Makati 1st District Rep. Monsour del Rosario, and Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Dong Mangudadatu. Former Police Chief Bato Dela Rosa filed his CoC on Friday morning.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.