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Comelec’s Garcia urges Congress to amend rules on nuisance candidacy

Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairperson George Garcia on Monday called on Congress to amend the rules of procedure against nuisance candidates eyeing for a government post.

Garcia made the remark after the Supreme Court on Saturday ruled that “unpopularity and non-membership” in a political party are not sufficient grounds to declare an elective office aspirant a nuisance candidate.

Garcia said that it may already be time for Congress to give an updated definition of what and who nuisance candidates really are.

“Baka po at marapat din na amyendahan na natin ang probisyon ng ating batas patungkol sa nuisance candidacy [para] mas mai-strengthen natin ito at the same time, atin na pong itugma ito sa mga umiiral na desisyon ng Korte Suprema,” he said in a Super Radyo dzBB interview.

(Maybe we should amend the provision of our law regarding nuisance candidacy so we can strengthen it and match it with the existing decisions of the Supreme Court.)

Based on Comelec Rules of Procedure Part V, Rule 24, any candidate is identified to have no bona fide intention to run for public office if s/he puts 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 who by other acts or circumstances.”

This may then result in his/her declaration as a nuisance candidate and his/her certificate of candidacy to be denied due course or canceled.

Totality rule

Pending a decision on the matter, Garcia said the poll body will implement the “totality rule” in determining which candidates are qualified to run in elections.

With this, he explained that it must be proven first that a candidate has intentions to mess with the elections or to cause confusion among the voters first before he or she could be tagged as a nuisance.

“Ang titignan natin dito, ‘yun bang kabuuan, kapag pinagsama-sama lahat ng factors, lahat ng mga ebidensya laban doon sa isang kumakandidato, ay mapapatunayan ba na siya ay genuine o bona fide intentions to run for public office. Ibig sabihin, hindi sapat lang na porket ikaw ay unpopular ay idi-disqualify mo,” he said.

(What we will look at here is whether a candidate could be proven to have genuine or bona fide intentions to run for public office when all the factors and evidence are combined against him/her. It is not enough that you are unpopular and you will be disqualified.”

“Hinding-hindi po tayo papayag na madi-disqualify ang isang kandidato dahil sa kawalan ng ari-arian o dahil sa kahirapan. Unconstitutional ‘yan. Hindi puwedeng mangyari ‘yan sapagkat wala namang property qualifications ang ating Saligang Batas,” he added.

(We will never allow a candidate to be disqualified because of lack of property or because of poverty. That's unconstitutional. That cannot happen because our Constitution has no property qualifications.)

Garcia also recommended that criminal charges be filed against nuisance candidates if proven that their purpose for running for public office was to put the elections in bad faith.

He said he instructed the Comelec en banc to make decisions pertaining to nuisance candidacy by December, should the 2022 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) push through.

Further, Garcia also welcomed the High Court’s decision on unknown and unaffiliated bets not being tagged as nuisance candidates, stressing that the elections are not a popularity contest. 

“Sadyang tama po ‘yun para ma-equalize naman ang lahat. Alam niyo kasi, ang halalan ay hindi naman ‘yan popularity contest. Hindi ‘yan pa-gwapuhan. Hindi porket nakikita ka sa TV o sa radyo lagi ay pwede nang makatakbo. Dapat pare-parehas at pantay-pantay ang pagtingin ng ating batas diyan,” he said.

(That's a proper action to equalize everyone. The election is not a popularity contest. It's not about who is good looking. It's not because you're always seen on the TV or radio, you can already run. Our law should look at everyone equally.) — RSJ, GMA News