Comelec to 'quickly' resolve PDP-Laban row

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) committed to resolving quickly the row between factions of President Rodrigo Duterte's party, the PDP-Laban, after it held a hearing on “intra-party” controversies Thursday, October 18.

Among those affected by infighting in the ruling party is senatorial hopeful Freddie Aguilar, who has been disowned by PDP-Laban president Aquilino III because the folk singer's certificate of nomination was signed by a supposedly "rogue" faction.

In an interview with reporters after the hearing, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said the factions of Senator Pimentel and Duterte's classmate, lawyer Rogelio Garcia, were given 10 days to submit their written arguments.

“We have to require them to comment in writing so that we can be sure exactly what they are fighting about, to determine who is the rightful authorized person or officer to sign the CONA (certificate of nomination and accpetance) for PDP-laban,” Guanzon said.

The CONA is supposed to prove that an individual is a certain party’s bet. It is submitted alongside the certificate of candidacy (COC) of each candidate.

Aguilar claimed he was running under ruling party PDP-Laban. But the party on Thursday, October 11, disowned Aguilar as one of its senatorial bets, despite him having submitted a CONA. (READ: Duterte to ‘unify’ PDP-Laban factions)

Aguilar submitted to the Comelec a CONA signed by Wilfredo Talag, who claimed to be the secretary general of PDP-Laban. Talag is part of what party president Pimentel describes as a "rogue" PDP-Laban faction. (READ: PDP-Laban struggles for unity, survival ahead of 2019 polls)

Guanzon said: “We have to ask the question: who is the rightful leadership? Is it Garcia or the Pimentel faction…. I personally don’t want to prolong that (case).”

According to Guanzon, a lawyer of the party during the hearing said the original registration of the political party was lost in the fire that hit the Comelec in 2007.

“We had a lot of lost documents, but, in any case, there are other ways to prove who were the original party officers and when it was first registered,” she said.

Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas earlier said the poll body would quickly issue a decision after the October 18 hearing. 

Confused local candidates

Guanzon also said the row between the PDP-Laban’s factions seemed to have affected local candidates, who took their oath to join the party.

“I noticed that local candidates filed their candidacies under their local parties. I think part of the reason is the confusion. Even if they took their oaths before PDP-Laban, [during the] mass oath taking by [former speaker Pantaleon] Alvarez, they filed under local parties to avoid confusion and the risk of exclusion,’ she said. (Show of force: 28,000 witness PDP-Laban oath-taking in Bulacan)

Guanzon said the Comelec wanted to resolve “intra-party” issues quickly to avoid confusing voters. “It has to be clear because the right to choose our representatives must be based on correct and accurate information,” she said.

Asked what would happen to the losing faction once a ruling was issued, Guanzon cited Comelec rules: “If they sign the CONAs for their candidate and then they are not recognized as the genuine leadership of that party, all their candidates are deemed to be independent.” – Rappler.com 

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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