Supreme Court of the Philippines

SC reprimands Comelec over non-compliance with TRO on ‘nuisance’ bet

Dwight de Leon
SC reprimands Comelec over non-compliance with TRO on ‘nuisance’ bet

Photo from Comelec; Graphics by Alyssa Arizabal/Rappler

The Supreme Court says the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it declared 2022 vice presidential aspirant Wilson Amad a nuisance candidate

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court held in contempt members of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) who were directly responsible for the exclusion of a vice presidential aspirant from the official ballots of the 2022 polls.

The poll body in December 2021 upheld a division ruling that declared Wilson Amad a nuisance candidate, but the aspirant ran to the Supreme Court, and on January 20, 2022, successfully secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) that should have prevented the Comelec from removing his name on the ballot.

The last-minute intervention by the Supreme Court, however, was futile, as the official ballot face released by the Comelec on January 25 still did not include Amad’s name.

The High Court, in its decision dated July 5, but was only made public on Tuesday, November 22, ruled against the Comelec for the non-compliance with the order.

“The Court finds it proper to cite the members of the Comelec in contempt for violation of the TRO, and to impose the penalty of severe reprimand,” the ruling read, but did not specify who among poll officials at the time of the violation it was referring to.

The Comelec, in past manifestations before the Supreme Court, had explained that even before ballots began to be printed on January 23, or days after the High Court issued a TRO in favor of Amad, several pre-election activities have already commenced, making Amad’s case moot and academic.

But the Supreme Court asserted the Comelec was not fully transparent about its timeline of pre-election activities, putting elective aspirants with pending cases at a disadvantage.

“The Court enjoins the Comelec to publish its schedule of events, including its pre-election activities, to inform the public, particularly interested parties who seek to challenge the Comelec’s rulings,” the ruling read.

‘Grave abuse of discretion’

In declaring Amad a nuisance candidate, the Comelec had argued that the broadcaster’s support base was limited only to Northern Mindanao, and that he failed to prove that he has strong political machinery, among other things.

But the magistrates said there lacks evidence to establish that Amad had no genuine intention to run for office, or that he intended to put the election process in mockery or cause confusion among voters.

“The Constitution only prescribes age, citizenship, voting, and residence qualifications to be able to run for vice president. Clearly, being known throughout the Philippines and having an established network nationwide are not qualifications for vice president. In fact, the lack thereof are not even grounds to be declared as a nuisance candidate in accordance with the Omnibus Election Code,” the ruling read.

“It is manifestly clear that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when, without any factual or legal basis, it denied Amad’s motion for reconsideration, and declared him a nuisance candidate,” it added.

This is the second time this year that the Comelec lost a case in the Supreme Court against someone who it barred from participating in the 2022 elections.

In September, the Supreme Court said the Comelec erred when it excluded animal rights advocate Norman Marquez from the official ballot.

SC reprimands Comelec over non-compliance with TRO on ‘nuisance’ bet

In that ruling, the High Court made clear that unpopularity and the lack of affiliation from a political party are not sufficient grounds to tag someone as a nuisance candidate. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

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