Comelec clears key obstacle to Duterte presidential bid

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has cleared one of two major obstacles to the presidential bid of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

This is after the poll body on Friday, December 4, junked a petition to declare anti-crime advocate Martin Diño a nuisance candidate.

In a resolution, the Comelec Second Division said this petition is “moot and academic.”

The Comelec Second Division explained that Diño, widely seen as Duterte's placeholder, withdrew his certificate of candidacy (COC) on October 29.

Duterte, who recently topped a presidential survey, filed his COC to substitute for Diño on November 27.

“With the foregoing development, the relief prayed for in the present petition has become moot and academic, that is, whatever judgment is reached can no longer have any practical legal effect or, in the nature of things, can no longer be enforced,” the Comelec Second Division said.

The Comelec Second Division is composed of Commissioners Al Parreño, Arthur Lim, and Sheriff Abas – the same commissioners who recently disqualified Senator Grace Poe from the presidential race.

The poll body's law department earlier wanted to declare Diño a nuisance bet because he has “no bona fide intention to run for public office.

"The respondent, in several media interviews, openly admitted that he was filing his COC for president because Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte did not show up and failed to file his COC for the presidency on the last day of filing thereof," according to the Comelec law department petition, quoted by Duterte’s camp.

Diño’s ‘defective’ COC

The Comelec Second Division’s recent ruling, however, has a catch.

It approved Diño’s withdrawal of COC “without prejudice to any future ruling on the validity of the said COC – formal or substantial – that may be raised before the Commission.”

This is in apparent reference to the second obstacle to Duterte’s presidential bid: Diño’s supposedly invalid COC.

Rappler reported in October that Diño, in his COC, erroneously declared that he is running “for the position of mayor” of Pasay City.

Diño’s erroneous COC is the subject of the first petition to effectively stop Duterte’s presidential bid. 

In a text message to the Inquirer in November, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal referred to the two following issues as the main obstacles to Duterte’s candidacy:

Macalintal said Diño’s problematic candidacy will make Duterte’s substitution invalid.

He said in November that if the Comelec “later determines that Diño is a nuisance candidate for president,” then all the more can Duterte not substitute for Diño. The election lawyer said, When a candidate is declared a nuisance, his COC is denied due course or cancelled – the effect of which is that it is as if no COC was filed.”

With the Comelec Second Division’s ruling, the question that lingers is this: Can Duterte run despite Diño’s “defective” COC?

The Comelec is set to decide on this in the next few days. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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