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Insider’s Notes on Election Laws: THE UNKNOWN CANDIDATE

Mr. MacJoenat Makunat (MacJoenat) is a registered voter of the municipality of Budol, Batik Province, Philippines.  Everything inside of him wants to be jolly, happy and pleasant every day, except that the blessing of having good looks, has ultimately betrayed him.  The shape of his face, similar to that of a misshapen nut, gives away a dark vibe.  His fine thinning hair, appearing to be a lump of dried weed, partly covered his dark brown wrinkled skin. He seemed to smile crookedly with his dark lips, but actually, he does not.  His almond-shaped eyes always stared glaringly at people, as if wanting to prove something, tend to reveal that his appearance is one which only a mother could love. Consequently, he is always belittled.

However, although, he is somewhat despicable, there is something about him, that sets him apart from others – he loves animals.  He is a co-founder and sole administrator of the Budol Animal Welfare.  He is known in social media and websites.  He is often consulted about animal handling and welfare, apart from the fact that he is occasionally being interviewed concerning his field of expertise.

 

MacJoenat ran for the position of senator in the 2019 National and Local Elections (NLE). According to him, he is a real estate broker and an independent candidate.  The Election Office, the constitutional body charged with the conduct and administration of the elections in the country, cancelled his certificate of candidacy (cOc) as a nuisance candidate.  It reasoned that MacJoenat is virtually unknown to the entire country, except probably in his locality, and there is no proof presented that he is capable of handling the rigors of a nationwide campaign.   It added that being an independent candidate decreases his chance of winning since he will have to utilize limited resources.  MacJoenat claimed that a person like him could be useful in the senate because his field of expertise could be efficiently tapped under the sector of animal lovers, raisers and handlers.  Is the Election Office correct?

 

Answer:  No. The Constitution is clear when it stated that “No literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.” (Article V, Sec. 1, last par.)   The Election Office cannot impose requirements not provided for by law.  Moreover, the facts are similar to the case of Marquez vs. Comelec (September 3, 2019). “Freedom of the voters to exercise the elective franchise at a general election implies the right to freely choose from all qualified candidates for public office.  The imposition of unwarranted restrictions and hindrances precluding qualified candidates from running is, therefore, violative of the constitutional guaranty of freedom in the exercise of elective franchise.  It seriously interferes with the right of the electorate to choose freely from among those eligible to office whomever they may desire.”  The burden of proving, whether or not, a candidate is financially capable of waging a nationwide campaign, is a task that belongs to the Election Office and not with MacJoenat.  “The COMELEC cannot condition a person’s privilege to be voted upon as senator on his or her financial capacity to wage a nationwide campaign.  Quite obviously, the financial capacity requirement is a property requirement.” (Marquez vs. Comelec, September 3, 2019).  Thus, MacJoenat is not a nuisance candidate who has no bona fide intention to run in the elections.

 

Years later, MacJoenat decided to run for vice president of the Philippines.  Again, the Election Office cancelled his cOc on the ground that he is a nuisance candidate.  It stated that MacJoenat had no bona fide intention to run for office, he has no nationwide network of support since he is an independent candidate, he is virtually unknown and not capable of persuading a substantial number of voters from different parts of the country.  The Election Office also cited that the ruling in 2019, where MacJoenat  prevailed over the Election Office, cannot be invoked because that case is different.

 

Is the Election Office correct this time?

 

Answer:  No.  The Election Office, in filing motu propio the DQ (disqualification) case against MacJoenat did not allege that MacJoenat filed his cOc to cause confusion among the voters which is what a nuisance candidate does – to put the election process into a mockery or disrepute, or that there is a similarity of names with the other candidates, or by any other circumstance.  The purpose of which is to prevent the determination of the true will of the electorate (Sec 69 Omnibus Election Code).  This is not proven in this case. The COMELEC cannot conflate the bona fide intention to run with a financial capacity requirement”. xxx “Further, declaring one a nuisance candidate simply because he or she is not known to the entire country reduces the electoral process-a sacred instrument of democracy-to a mere popularity contest.  The matter of the candidate being known (or unknown) should not be taken against that candidate but is best left to the electorate.” (Marquez vs. Comelec, June 28, 2022).

 

***The characters herein are purely fictional.  Comments in this article are made by me in my personal capacity as a lawyer and not as an employee of the Comelec.

 

~Atty. Elenita Julia Tabangin-Capuyan~

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