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‘Record-high’ 130 bets run for Philippine president

Paterno Esmaquel II
‘This is a symbol or a representative of a vibrant democracy, where more people feel empowered…to put themselves forward as candidates,’ Comelec spokesman James Jimenez says after the filing of candidacies for the elections in 2016

PRESIDENT LUCIFER? Filipino volunteer missionary Romeo John Ygonia, who calls himself ‘Archangel Lucifer,’ displays his certificate of candidacy at the Commission on Elections headquarters in Manila, Philippines, on October 13, 2015. Photo by Mark Cristino/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – In what is likely a record breaker, 130 people filed their candicacies for president in a festive, sometimes rowdy week-long event in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) headquarters in Intramuros, Manila.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez announced this final tally of people who filed their certificates of candidacy (COCs) from Monday, October 12, until Friday, October 16:

  • 130 for president
  • 19 for vice president
  • 172 for senator

These candidates include 4 leading contenders – Senator Grace Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay, former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II, and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. (READ: Who is running for president, vice president)

They filed their COCs in an fiesta-like event that included dragon dancers and even men in costumes from the recent popular movie Heneral Luna.

(Watch the video report below)

While he has yet to refer to official data, Jimenez said the number of presidential bets – 130 – is “likely” a record breaker.

Media reports said 99 candidates filed COCs for the 2010 elections. Jimenez said the Comelec allowed only 10 of these candidates, including then senator and now President Benigno Aquino III, to run for the presidency.

‘Symbol of vibrant democracy’

What do these figures say about the Philippines’ election system?

Responding to this question in an interview with reporters, Jimenez explained that COC filing “should not be considered a reflection” of the election process.

“I think, rather, that this is a symbol or a representative of a vibrant democracy, where more people feel empowered to cast their vote and to put themselves forward as candidates,” Jimenez said.

He added that “the good thing” about this system is that it is “robust.”

“It has a strong mechanism for cutting down these 130 filers down to the reasonable few. That’s the important thing,” he said.

He also clarified that all the 130 COC filers cannot run on election day.

Referring to the number of official candidates, Jimenez said, “We reserve the right to really cut it down to those with a reasonable expectation of victory.”

Only a few of these candidates for president, after all, have been considered serious candidates. These personalities include Poe, Binay, Roxas, and Santiago.

Loose requirements for presidency

Election watchers described most of this week’s COC filers, on the other hand, as nuisance bets. 

(Watch the video report below)

One of them calls himself Archangel Lucifer. Another says he wants to legalize the 4 seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall in tropical Philippines.  

The Omnibus Election Code defines a nuisance candidate as someone who files a COC “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 for which the certificate of candidacy has been filed, and thus prevent a faithful determination of the true will of the electorate.”

The Comelec is set to screen the nuisance bets in the next few weeks.

Many Filipinos want to run for president because of the loose requirements for the highest position in the land. 

Article VII, Section 2 of the Philippine Constitution states: “No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least 40 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election.”

Election reform advocates want stricter requirements to run for president, such as having a college degree, but their proposals have not prospered. – Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.