EXPLAINER: Comelec should let Duterte run. Here's why

Would Diño’s error be consequential so as to invalidate his COC?

Diño can very well argue, as he did, that his intention was to run for president, and this should prevail over the mistake in his COC. His intention to run for president was indeed very clear. He captioned his COC as one for president, publicly declared that he is running as such, and he went to the Comelec main office in Intramuros to file his COC for president, not to the Office of Election Officer of Pasay, which accepts the COC for mayor of that city.

On the other hand, it can be argued that despite those public pronouncements, based on his COC, he actually signed up for and swore as a mayoralty candidate of Pasay, not as a presidential candidate.

Duterte’s case therefore presents a legal equipoise situation – a situation where facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations and resolutions, yet none is compellingly more persuasive than the other. Comelec’s choice is either to give premium to technicalities or to lean backwards to accommodate the participation of a popular candidate like Duterte. 

To me, the wiser path of the two is to resolve the issue leaning toward the second option, which gives the voting public more choices, more diversity in the ballot. To quote Justice Claudio Teehankee’s fearless dissent in Paredes v. Comelec (GR Number L-54718, May 3l, 1983) involving the disallowance of substitution of an opposition candidate decided by the then Marcos-leaning Supreme Court, “[t]he very essence of elections is to give the electorate a choice and to elect the candidate of their choice.”

It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth that after Grace Poe, another top presidential aspirant is knocked down by Comelec on a constricted application of the letter of the law rather than its spirit that gives it life and meaning. As Justice Teehankee further cautioned: “[i]t is not conducive to justice and democracy that…candidates be summarily knocked out and that the nominees of the party in power be thereby left unopposed.” – Rappler.com  

Emil Marañon is an election lawyer who served as chief of staff of recently retired Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. He is currently studying Human Rights, Conflict and Justice at SOAS, University of London, as a Chevening scholar.