2022 Philippine Elections

Comelec-rejected bets still excluded from ballot despite SC interventions

Dwight de Leon
Comelec-rejected bets still excluded from ballot despite SC interventions

Comelec photos

One of them, Norman Marquez, protests the Comelec's 'arrogant defiance' of the Supreme Court order, which bars the poll body from declaring him a nuisance candidate

Two candidates for national positions did not make it to the official 2022 ballots despite the Supreme Court’s last-minute move to stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from declaring them nuisance candidates.

The official ballot face uploaded by the poll body on its website on Tuesday, January 25, did not include the names of vice presidential hopeful Wilson Amad and senatorial aspirant Norman Marquez.

The two secured temporary restraining orders (TRO) from the Supreme Court on January 19 and 20, ahead of the first day of printing of automated ballots on Sunday, January 23.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, January 25, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said the serialization of the ballots had been completed when the High Court intervened.

He walked back from his remarks on a radio program on Saturday, January 22, that the Comelec would have to accommodate the two candidates since the printing of automated ballots had not yet begun.

“The effect of the TRO on the ballot faces was being studied. The decision was made last Sunday to go ahead with the printing. If I had said anything contrary to that, then that pretty much supersedes it,” he clarified on Tuesday.

Comelec Director Lai David announced on January 17 that the final ballot faces for the 2022 polls were already ready, but it took the poll body another seven days to upload them on the website.

Jimenez said “allocation issues” delayed the release of the ballot design to the public.

“[The issue was the] number of ballots for this number of places for this particular place, because our ballots are municipality-specific, so this was an issue that needed to be clarified in order to prevent [wrong deliveries] down the line,” he said.

‘Arrogant defiance’ of the Comelec

Marquez, an animal welfare advocate, again ran to the Supreme Court and accused the Comelec of defying the High Court’s instruction to stop the poll body from declaring him a nuisance candidate.

“[I] would like to protest the patent and arrogant defiance of the Comelec against the order of this Honorable Court,” Marquez wrote in his letter dated January 25 to Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo.

On Wednesday, January 26, Marquez also asked the Supreme Court to “motu proprio order the immediate suspension of the printing of ballots.”

Marquez’s exclusion from the ballot must have felt like déjà vu. He was also declared a nuisance candidate by the Comelec in the 2019 senatorial election, but the Supreme Court said the poll body “committed grave abuse of discretion” when it nullified Marquez’s candidacy on the ground that he could not prove he had the financial capacity to mount a national campaign.

The decision, however, came out in September 2019, four months after the vote.

“[I] could not help but shudder at the prospect of suffering again yet another terrible injustice in the hands of the Comelec, not because of the issue of his qualifications or ‘bona fide intention to run,’ which has been unjustly questioned, but by the wanton act of grave abuse of discretion,” Marquez also wrote in another letter to the High Court on Wednesday.

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Jimenez said he could not recall a time that the Supreme Court ordered to stop the printing of ballots for an election but that the poll body “stands ready to abide by a lawful ruling of the Supreme Court.”

In a webinar on Wednesday, he also floated the possibility of reprinting some of the ballots in the event that the Supreme Court sides with Marquez. “We’re still in our early days. We have not yet reached peak printing capacity,” he said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay interview.

As of writing, the Comelec has been slapped with 15 TROs from the Supreme Court over their decision to nullify the candidacy of an individual or reject the accreditation bid of a party-list group.

From that number, 12 party-list groups have made it to the ballot as the TROs were issued in late December to early January.

Another party-list group, Juan Pinoy, secured a TRO from the Supreme Court on Monday, January 24, a day after automated ballot printing began.

On the same day, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon posted a cryptic tweet, saying: “Have pity on the Comelec. Let us print your ballots.”

Asked on Tuesday whether that was in reference to the TROs issued against the poll body, Jimenez said, “It certainly seems that way, but I cannot speak to Commissioner Guanzon’s intent when she tweeted that.” – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.