The Law Department of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has begun filing petitions before the commission en banc for the disqualification of certain senatorial aspirants deemed to be “nuisance candidates.”
One of the early casualties is Angelo de Alban, a young lawyer and college professor, who is joining the political fray for the first time.
The Comelec Law Department is particularly questioning the aspirant’s financial capacity to mount a nationwide senatorial campaign. After commending de Alban’s profession as a lawyer and a teacher, describing that as “a noble way to earn a living,” the head of the department, Maria Norina Tangaro-Casingal, commented, “[I]t 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 nationwide campaign.”
While Casingal acknowledged that “the right to vote and be voted for shall not be dependent upon the wealth of the individual concerned,” supposedly “poor” candidates like de Alban must acknowledge that “reality is a bitter pill.” Her references apparently extended beyond de Alban’s senatorial aspirations.
First of all, it is doubtful whether the Comelec Law Department had conducted a judicious examination of the aspirant’s financial capacity at this stage of the election process.
Did Casingal really examine the finances of de Alban, and for that matter, all the 100 or so personalities who filed certificates of candidacy early this month?
How were Comelec lawyers able to conclude that an aspirant is unable to mount a nationwide campaign? If it is unable to show proof of such financial incapacity, lawyers of the poll body will be adjudged guilty of profiling and discrimination.
It says a lot about the country’s political system that its constitutional body in charge of ensuring free and fair elections, as well as voter education, is the first to penalize candidates who do not have the resources of career politicians and members of political dynasties.
Is the Comelec Law Department saying only aspirants with name recall, incumbent officials and scions of political families are allowed to run for senator?
Is Casingal of the opinion that only rich candidates, or those who are able to solicit campaign funds from wealthy donors, can be elected to public office?
This is a dangerous position and implies that the Comelec has a policy that allows monied and vested interests to influence the outcome of elections by financing only candidates who are willing to do their bidding.
Is the Comelec Law Department aware that campaigns can also be mounted on social media, where millions of Filipinos are active users, at a fraction of the cost of a traditional campaign?
The poll body should be fair in adjudicating these disqualification petitions filed by its own Law Department, considering it had allowed totally unqualified candidates to run for high positions, such as a senator, in previous elections.
The principle behind Comelec’s power to disqualify nuisance bets is the determination of which candidates will “put the election process in mockery or disrepute” or those who have “no bona fide intention to run for the office.”
Yet, a number of personalities have been elected to the Senate despite their inability to articulate public positions and debate legislation in the plenary without reading from a script. Being senator is not child’s play. One does not need to be a lawyer, but a senator should be at least capable of studying policy issues and engaging in debate and discourse.
Unqualified senators and senator-wannabes, banking only on popularity or connections to powerful politicians, place not only the election process, but the entire political system in “mockery or disrepute.”
These are the real nuisance candidates, who must be disqualified and deprived of the honor of being among the choices of the Filipino electorate in the ballot.