Comelec wants nuisance candidates slapped with ₱100K fine, barred in 2 straight elections

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) agrees with the imposition of a ₱100,000 penalty on anyone found to be a nuisance candidate, as proposed in a House of Representatives bill now being tackled in the Senate.

The poll body wants to take it a step further by barring the nuisance candidate from running for any position not just in the immediate elections but in the next one too.

“We support the imposition of the fine of ₱100,000,” Comelec law department director Maria Norina Tangaro-Casingal said Wednesday during a Senate hearing on various electoral issues.

“And we also would like to propose that those who have been declared as nuisance candidates be disqualified from running for two successive elections,” she added.

Senator Imee Marcos, chairperson of the committee on electoral reforms, said the fine may be hefty but necessary to “put an end to this dreaded practice.”

Marcos, however, raised concerns over the expedited proceedings in the House-proposed amendments to the Omnibus Election Code.

Under the current law, the Comelec can cancel a certificate of candidacy (COC) if it was filed to put the poll process “in mockery or disrepute,” or confuse voters by using names similar to other candidates or by committing other acts “which clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention” to run for the indicated post.

It does not provide a timeline or sanctions other than disqualification from the immediate polls.

Under House Bill No. 9557, the verified petition against a nuisance candidate shall be filed with the Comelec five days after the last day of filing of COC, and the commission, following a set of procedures, shall render its decision within 16 days. The ruling will be final and executory five days after it is received by the parties, unless the Supreme Court intervenes.

“I’m a little bit hesitant,” Marcos said.

“While we want to get rid of the plethora of candidates para hindi rin mahirapan yung Comelec sa printing at pati 'yung botante kasi nakakahilo sa dami talaga yung kandidato (so the Comelec won’t face difficulties in the printing of ballots and the voters would not be confused by the many candidates), at the same time, we’re also aware of the long line of Supreme Court decisions pertaining to nuisance candidates. From Marquez vs. Comelec onwards, the high court has constantly reminded us to be cautious, not to be arbitrary and oppressive in determining nuisance candidates,” she added.

As of the Oct. 8 end of filing of COCs for next year's polls, 97 aspirants for President, 29 for vice president, and 176 for senators have filed their candidacy.

How about substitution?

Senator Francis Tolentino pointed out that challenges against nuisance candidates should be filed after November 15, the last day of substitution.

Marcos and Tolentino urged the Comelec to also revisit the rules on substitution and align them with the policies on nuisance candidates.

“They really are two varieties of the same impulse and they should be stopped,” Marcos said.

Substitution has been a hot topic after Senator and PDP-Laban standard bearer Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa publicly said he would give way if Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte changes her mind and decides to replace him as presidential candidate. The presidential daughter is seeking reelection.

Bills have been filed in the House and the Senate removing the withdrawal of one’s candidacy as a ground for substitution.

In a forum hosted by the Philippine Press Institute on Wednesday, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said passing the pending election reform bills is an uphill climb, with a few session days left in the 18th Congress. During the forum, political analysts said it's all up to the Comelec commissioners for now.

"Dapat ang kanilang treatment nila diyan is very strict," Dennis Coronacion said. "Dapat hindi mo agad agad iga-grant ito, sana i-scrutinize mabuti, alamin nila kung bakit magwi-withdraw yung previous candidate."

[Translation: Their treatment should be very strict. They should not grant the substitution immediately but scrutinize it, look into why the previous candidate withdrew.]

"'Yun 'yung problem, eh, pupunta sa Comelec pero di naman pala siguradong tatakbo... Kaya naging katawa-tawa yung process," Ramon Casiple said.

[Translation: That's the problem, they will go to Comelec without being sure of running. That's why the process has become comical.]