By Rey Panaligan
A legal luminary and former head of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Sunday, only the poll body, and not the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), has to power to decide whether a candidate is qualified or not to run in the 2019 mid-term elections.
Citing the provisions of the Constitution, former Comelec chairman and lawyer Sixto Brillantes Jr. said only the Comelec has the power to “enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum, and recall.”
“The Comelec also ‘exercises exclusive original jurisdiction over contests relating to the elections, returns and qualifications of elective regional, provincial and city officials…,’” he said.
In a chance interview with journalists covering the judiciary, Brillantes said that in the determination of qualifications of candidates, only the Comelec is empowered to do so.”
Thus, he said, “misleading and inaccurate reports” such as that on former Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay jr. should be corrected.
“It is the Comelec, not the DILG, that will decide whether Mayor Junjun can run or not. The DILG has no jurisdiction here. Even the Comelec spokesperson has already clarified that Mayor Junjun is not barred from running,” he said.
Brillantes was referring to a statement made by Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez, who last month was asked in an interview if Binay Jr. would be allowed to run for Makati mayor.
In that interview, Jimenez said that while a final conviction could bar an individual from running for public office “if there’s any appeal, or if it’s not a final decision, then it won’t fit the criteria for disqualification.”
Brillantes said that since Binay Jr.’s case is currently being appealed, this could not be used to prevent the former Makati City mayor from running for public office.
“The decision of the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the construction of the Makati Science High School building is on appeal and therefore, not final and executory,” he stressed.
“And as the Supreme Court has previously held, only a final and executory judgment that carries with it an accessory penalty of disqualification from holding public office can disqualify a person from running for public office under Section 40 (b) of the Local Government Code,” he pointed out.
“The jurisprudence on the matter is clear––the Comelec can only bar those who have been perpetually disqualified from holding public office from running in an election only by virtue of a final and executory judgment,” he added.
Binay Jr. filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor of Makati City on October 16.