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Poll lawyer urges Comelec: Rectify errors with Duterte Youth

MANILA, Philippines – Election lawyer Emil Marañon appealed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to "rectify" errors made when accepting Duterte Youth's registration and subsequently approving the party's series of withdrawals and substitution of its nominees.

In a Rappler Talk interview, Marañon said it was the duty of the Comelec to uphold the country's election laws and rules as the commission tasked with running and protecting the Philippine electoral process.

"We are giving them the opportunity to rectify yung mali na nangyari (the errors that were made) with Duterte Youth.... That's their way out of it. That's their opportunity to rectify the wrong that has been done and the thing is, I hope na hindi na mag compound yung (they don't compound) more errors along the way," Marañon said.

Marañon and former poll chair Sixto Brillantes Jr have been the face of opposition versus Cardema and Duterte Youth. Along with youth group MillennialsPH, the poll lawyers earlier filed petitions seeking to cancel Cardema's nomination, block Duterte Youth's new nominees, and cancel the party's registration.

Righting wrongs: Marañon, who was a former chief of staff Brillantes, said "fundamental" mistakes were made from the very beginning when approving Duterte Youth's party-list registration.

He explained the party, whose registration was earlier denied by the Comelec 2nd division, was eventually approved by the en banc despite its failure to comply with mandatory publication and hearings required of party-list groups. Duterte Youth also submitted an unverified petition to register as party-list group while most of the documentary requirements needed by the Comelec were missing. (READ: Stretching the rules: Duterte Youth's bid for Congress)

"Any lawyer who applied for registration as a party list group would know how wrong this was; gaano ka-exceptional yung nangyari sa Duterte Youth (how exceptional Duterte Youth's case was)," Marañon said.

Marañon also decried the poll body's latest decision to approve the second wave of withdrawal and substitute nominees of Duterte Youth, despite its filing past the deadline before the closing of polls on election day.

The poll lawyer criticized the decision, saying it was as if the Comelec was rewriting its own rules. He warned the Comelec could be creating a dangerous precedent as the poll body's decision showed disregard for its own rules and election laws. (READ: Guanzon: Travesty to allow new Duterte Youth substitutes)

"We keep on making a lot of exceptions to accommodate certain people and because of this, what will happen to our rules? Who will respect it?," Marañon said.

"The more you make exceptions to the rules, the more the law gets diluted. It will come to a point when it won't mean anything. Why even have a law? It's like anyone can be exempted. It's unfair to those whose party-list registrations were dismissed before," he added. "Very unfair."

Protect the Comelec: As it stands, the Comelec has yet to decide on Duterte Youth chair Ronald Cardema's motion to withdraw his nomination, his motion for reconsideration asking the commission en banc to reverse his cancelled nomination, and his latest motion to withdraw this motion for reconsideration.

Fearing the weakening of election laws, Marañon reminded the poll body: "It is the obligation of the Comelec to implement the law and faithfully execute it. They don't have the constitutional authority to amend the law. Their duty is to implement the law as they find it." – 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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