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Value of COCs depreciated

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Commentary

Value of COCs depreciated

/ 01:57 AM February 15, 2016

NO FILIPINO can run for public office in the Philippines without filing a certificate of candidacy (COC) with the Commission on Elections.

The information in the COC guides the Comelec in determining whether its filer has the qualifications, and none of the disqualifications, for the position he or she is aspiring for. And it’s reasonable to expect that whoever files such a certificate will make sure the facts and figures he or she puts in it are true and accurate.

But that’s not what Martin Diño, a ranking member of the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, did when he filed his COC for president of the Philippines.

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In the first paragraph of the COC, which bears the title “Certificate of Candidacy for President” in bold and underlined letters, Diño stated he was running “for the position of mayor, City/Municipality of Pasay City … in the May 09, 2016 national and local elections.”

Anyone who has completed elementary, or at least primary, grades would know the difference between president of the Philippines (to which the COC adverts) and mayor of Pasay City.

Diño is the chair of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and was a Quezon City barangay captain for many years. Thus, he is expected to give the correct answer to the first and most significant item of his COC.

If the COC were an application for employment, his error would prompt the business or government office with which it is filed to show him the door and advise him to go back to school.

But the Comelec’s First Division had a surprising take on the matter. It did not think Diño’s booboo was serious or egregious enough to justify the rejection of his COC or his disqualification as candidate for president. It ruled that the title of the COC, not the declarations or misrepresentations it contains, is controlling in determining its validity.

The ruling paved the way for Diño to withdraw his candidacy and for Rodrigo Duterte to substitute as their party’s standard-bearer in the May elections. The four petitions for disqualification earlier filed against Duterte were later dismissed for various reasons.

The First Division’s cavalier attitude toward the error that Diño committed in his COC is lamentable. It treated the mistake as if it were a mere typographical error or slip of the pen that did not deserve closer evaluation.

The election commissioners concerned trivialized the value of the application for election to the highest position of the land. They gave COCs the character of government forms that are a dime a dozen.

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But no: COCs are not routine documents. They play a critical role in the most significant aspect of our democratic system of government—the election of the people who will run the government.

The Comelec was not conceived to be an automatic receiving machine that accepts without question all COCs filed with it. The Constitution vests it with broad and plenary powers in the supervision of the conduct of elections in our country.

Thus, the Comelec is authorized to review COCs to remove “nuisance candidates” from the ballot or reject candidacies that are aimed at confusing the electorate with the similarity of names.

The First Division is not oblivious to the fact that, ahead of the filing of Diño’s COC, his party mates had publicly announced that the document will be used as a vehicle to allow Duterte to run for president in case he decides to do so after the lapse of the deadline for the filing of COCs.

Thus, early on, it was obvious that Diño was anything but serious in filing his COC for president. He treated his COC as an instrument or toy to play with to satisfy his caprice. He was no different from other COC filers who wanted to enjoy three minutes of national fame.

His mockery of the electoral process became more blatant with his careless (perhaps deliberate) declaration in a COC reserved for candidates for president of his desire to run for mayor of Pasay City.

Was Diño joking when he wrote that? Or was he subtly sending a message of contempt to the Comelec by equating the position of president to that of a mayor of a city with a rather seedy reputation in governance?

The First Division played right into his hands. It tolerated his mockery of his COC and viewed it as acceptable conduct by someone who claims to be a crusader against crime and corruption.

It’s bad enough that Diño’s COC has been ruled as valid despite its obvious defect and the circumstances under which it was filed; what’s worse is that it has been allowed to be used in the circumvention of the Comelec’s rules on the timely filing of COCs.

The petitioners in the disqualification cases against Duterte have served notice of their intention to appeal the dismissal of their petitions at the Comelec en banc.

The ball is now in the court of the entire Comelec to ensure that the integrity of COCs is maintained and no one is allowed to mock the electoral process with impunity.

Raul J. Palabrica (rpalabrica@inquirer.com.ph) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.

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TAGS: certificate of candidacy, COC, Comelec, Commentary, Elections, Martin Di, Martin Diño, opinion, substitute, substitution
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