High court asked to recognize Señeres substitution

Posted on February 25, 2016

THE PARTIDO ng Manggagawa at Magsasaka-Workers and Peasants Party (PMM-WPP) has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to recognize Apolonia A. Comia-Soguilon’s substitution of deceased presidential candidate Rep. Roy V. Señeres.

In a 16-page petition filed on Tuesday afternoon, the party sought to nullify the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) Feb. 16 resolution that denied Ms. Soguilon’s substitution because she did not share Mr. Señeres’s surname.

The party also asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order to insert Ms. Soguilon’s name in the ballot in place of the candidate who died Feb. 8.

The petition argued Comelec Resolution No. 9984’s substitution requirement should be deemed null and void for being “contrary to law.”

It said: Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code did not actually require that the substitute of a deceased candidate be a relative belonging to the same political party.

The provision stated that “only a person belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified.”

Noting that nothing in the law limited the substitution to family members, the petition said that: “respondent Comelec had not only committed grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction, but it likewise arrogated unto itself the power of legislation which only belongs to the Congress.”

The petition added the Comelec violated the doctrine laid down in the 2010 ruling on Lokin v. Comelec, where the SC said administrative regulations like the Comelec’s resolutions are confined to the provisions of law and cannot extend it.

PMM-WPP also argued that under the law, the political party should be the one with the prerogative to nominate a substitute for its deceased candidate, not the family members nor the Comelec.

“[T]he respondent Comelec cannot validly deprive petitioner PMM-WPP of its right to substitute its presidential candidate... without violating Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code,” the petition read.

The petition also argued that even if Ms. Soguilon (initially running as an independent) was earlier declared a nuisance candidate, the party can still nominate her to replace Mr. Señeres.

“In the case at bar, the late Roy V. Seneres [sic] is not a disqualified candidate; hence, he can be substituted by petitioner Atty. Apolonia A. Comia-Soguilon who has all the qualifications required by the Comelec,” the petition read.

The party also accused the Comelec of grave abuse of discretion for retaining Mr. Señeres’s name in the ballot despite his death on Feb. 8 and the party’s nomination of Ms. Soguilon on Feb. 9.

The printing of the ballots began Feb. 15, with the Comelec saying that they can still allow a relative to take the place of Mr. Señeres until election day, but not Ms. Soguilon.

Besides Mr. Señeres, the Comelec also cleared PMM-WPP’s senatorial candidates -- Alexander Alimmud “Aldin” J. Ali and Journalist Melchor G. Chavez -- to run for the 2016 elections.

Mr. Señeres was serving as the party-list representative of OFW Family Club when he died Feb. 8 of cardio-pulmonary arrest after a long bout with diabetes.

Three days before dying, his camp actually already submitted his statement of withdrawal for health reasons. But, because he was not physically present, the Comelec Law Department did not accept it immediately pending the submission of a medical certificate.

The lawmaker was a renowned labor advocate who hoped the remaining five presidential candidates would continue to fight the practice of contractualization.

Ms. Soguilon, for her part, wants to run on an anti-corruption platform, vowing to pass the long-scuttled Freedom of Information bill, simplify taxes and reduce tax penalties, provide free schooling and health care, and limit public office to degree holders.

For the meantime, the 63-year old lawyer from Socorro, Oriental Mindoro, said she has now disseminated her platform in Visayas and Mindanao. She thinks she can still make it to the ballot even as the Comelec began the printing on Feb. 15.

“They have just started the printing of the ballot,” Ms. Soguilon said. In fact, there is... massive glitches that happened because the unseen spirits and God is helping us also.” -- Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nonato