MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – It's not only the likes of Kris Aquino "ex-husband" Daniel Magtira, Anson Tuana a.k.a. "Aging Saging," or the "King of Maharlika" whom the Commission on Elections (Comelec) could soon declare as nuisance senatorial bets.
The following newsmakers also face petitions filed by the Comelec law department for them to be declared nuisance candidates:
David, Generoso, and Sabio were among 95 personalities whom the Comelec law department wants the poll body to classify as nuisance bets. (A 96th personality, 73-year-old insurance agent Carmelo Carreon, withdrew his candidacy on October 12.)
These 95 personalities make up around 62.5% of the 152 aspirants who filed certificates of candidacy (COCs) for senator from October 11 to 17.
The fate of the 95 lies in the hands of Comelec commissioners, who will subject them to hearings and decide after the Comelec law department made its recommendation.
Defining nuisance candidates
Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code defines nuisance candidates as those who file COCs "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 public office.
Common grounds for declaring a candidate a "nuisance" is his or her failure to show "financial capability" to wage an electoral campaign. (READ: Why Comelec entertains 'habitual' nuisance bets)
The Supreme Court (SC) in previous decisions already upheld the Comelec's right to weed out nuisance bets.
"The rationale behind the prohibition against nuisance candidates and the disqualification of candidates who have not evinced a bona fide intention to run for office is easy to divine. The State has a compelling interest to ensure that its electoral exercises are rational, objective, and orderly," said the SC in a 2004 decision cited by the Comelec law department.
David, 56, who is running for senator as an independent candidate in 2019, is no stranger to the Comelec's rules on nuisance candidates.
Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
David is the pro-life advocate who ran for senator in 2010 and 2013 under the staunchly Catholic "Ang Kapatiran Party."
He ran for president in 2016, but the Comelec declared him a nuisance candidate in a decision upheld by the SC. The Comelec back then said David has no proof “of his financial capability to run a nationwide campaign.”
He was the same personality who sought but failed to have Grace Poe removed as senator due to citizenship issues. He also later filed a complaint seeking to cancel the presidential bid of then-Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte because of his allegedly "illegal substitution" as presidential bet.
Referrring to the new petition to declare him a nuisance bet, David said he has not received word on this from the Comelec.
In a statement on Monday, November 5, David said the Comelec "should review its cut-and-paste practice of declaring honorable men and women as nuisance candidates."
He pointed out that he, in fact, "was No. 6 among the preferred presidential hopefuls" based on a Social Weather Stations survey in December 2015, after the COC filing period that year.
"We are in the age of the internet and social media, and yet the yardstick for determining a nuisance from a serious one remains archaic," David said, adding that "we do not need as much money as before" because they wage their campaigns on social media.
"Did Duterte not win because of social media? Comelec should exercise prudence in declaring who is nuisance and who is not. They cannot go on doing blanket denials against poor but deserving candidates," David said.
Generoso, 58, who is running for senator using the nickname "General Pederalismo," is a longtime advocate of federalism. He vowed to push for the "Puno draft" of the Philippines' draft federal charter, in honor of Con-Com chairperson and former chief justice Reynato Puno.
File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler
"We are taking part in this electoral exercise for one reason and one reason only – that is to campaign for federalism, system change, and the adoption of the Puno draft constitution," Generoso earlier said.
Generoso is running under the Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi, or the Katipunan Party – the only party that fielded a complete 12-person Senate slate during COC filing.
In Generoso's case, the Comelec law department said "it is clear that Respondent has filed the COC to put the election process in mockery or disrepute," and "has no bona fide intention to run" for senator.
"It bears stressing that Respondent, virtually unknown to the entire country except maybe in the locality where he resides, needs to convince this Commission that Respondent is not a nuisance candidate," said the Comelec law department.
On Generoso's stated occupation as a media consultant, the Comelec law department said, "While such is a noble way to earn a living, it is most respectfully submitted that absent clear proof of Respondent's financial capability, Respondent will not be able to sustain the financial rigors of waging a national campaign."
The Comelec law department also pointed out that while Katipunan Party is a registered and accredited political party for the 2019 polls, "it failed to submit to the Law Department its list of authorized signatures" as required by the poll body.
This means all of its 12 senatorial candidates "are considered independent candidates and must convince the Commission of their capacity 'to launch a nationwide campaign.'"
All of Katipunan Party's 12 senatorial bets were also included in the list of possible nuisance candidates.
Reacting to this, Generoso said on Monday that the Comelec law department's petition "appears ridiculous."
"A candidate of a duly-registered political party can hardly be deemed a nuisance. It is in violation of the very principle of party politics," he said, adding that Katipunan is "the only party with a complete slate of 12 candidates representing 12 regions."
"The Comelec views capability to wage a campaign simply on the basis of money. But precisely it is the system of 'money politics' that not only makes a mockery of elections but corrupts the entire process, the government, and the country. It is the system that we want to bring down yet it is the system that the Comelec wants to perpetrate and perpetuate," Generoso said.
He said political dynasties and traditional politicians or trapos "are the irritants, the pests, the plague of our electoral and political system, of our government."
"They are the ones that the Comelec should disqualify for being the national nuisance, the pests of our politics, the 'national plague,'" Generoso said.
Meanwhile Sabio, 51, is gunning for a Senate seat as an independent candidate.
Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
In 2017, Sabio filed an official communication before the ICC, accusing Duterte of crimes against humanity in his bloody anti-drug campaign.
He was also known as the lawyer of self-confessed former Davao Death Squad member Edgar Matobato, who linked Duterte to mass killings in Davao City.
Sabio said he has not received a copy of the Comelec law department's petition against him as of Monday.
In a text message to Rappler, Sabio said: "Well, Duterte got rid of the ICC by unilaterally withdrawing from it, because he feared the case against him. Now he is getting rid of me as a senatorial candidate. Is he afraid that I will become senator and continue to pursue justice against him in the ICC? Is he afraid of his guilt?"
Saying he is "just a simple lawyer for Matobato seeking justice," Sabio said that "they should let the people decide my fate."
"It is ridiculous that the lawyer who filed a case against Duterte in the ICC is a nuisance. Am I a nuisance?"
Sabio said the Comelec instead "should declare as nuisance those who are accused of plunder," like Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr, and Juan Ponce Enrile, as well as longtime Duterte aide Bong Go, "who personifies what a nuisance is." – Rappler.com
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said Rizalito David sought to bar Grace Poe's presidential bid. We have corrected this to say he sought but failed to have Poe removed as senator due to citizenship issues.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.