Issue of April 14, 2019
     
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Who’s fault?

He may or may not win. He is not necessarily my bet. However, the way I see it, Atty. Edgar Avila is a worthy candidate for the mayor of Baguio City. He is as formidable and as determined as all of his adversaries for the position. Since being appointed as a sectoral representative for the youth during the time of President Fidel V. Ramos, he had been eyeing the mayoral position. He took his chance in the past but, was not given a stamp of approval by the people of Baguio City. He feels that this election is his best chance to redeem himself. Ironically, the Commission on Elections does not think so.

In a resolution released sometime last week, the Comelec disqualified Avila because accordingly, the certificate of candidacy that he filed, being an old form that does not clarify whether the applicant was charged with an offense involving moral turpitude, is defective. As per news reports that I read, it says that the old form is no longer a valid form and therefore, being invalid, it is as if no certificate was filed. Of course, Avila has every right to raise a howl given that the timing of his “disqualification” is not upfront. Who wouldn’t? He is just heating up in his campaign, spending money, tiring himself to the max and selling his sweetest smile to all and sundry when, out of the blue, he is suddenly out of the picture. Probably, only his opponents are rejoicing.

But, all is not lost. manong Ed, as I call him, is a legal luminary himself. I am pretty certain that he will know what to do. As in fact, in a press conference that he had, he asserted that his disqualification is not yet final, and, therefore, he is appealing. For the meantime, he said that he will continue campaigning to gain the confidence of the electorate so that come election time, he will have the last laugh. Still, he should be minded that it will be a difficult path towards redemption. For one, the damage had been wrought. Without an order reconsidering the Comelec resolution, he remains to be disqualified.

Then again, the issue about Avila’s disqualification based on form rather than on substance raises several questions that are begging to be answered. First, will not the Comelec be estopped against the cancellation of the certificate of candidacy that was filed? According to Avila’s camp, the form that was used was downloaded from the website of the Comelec. Now, if this form that was downloaded from the website of the Comelec is no longer a valid form, why was it there in the first place? Would this not mislead other candidates into using the said defective form? As a government agency, should not the Comelec have deleted all files that are no longer applicable? Somehow, these forms that will effectively put a dent on the validity of a candidate’s fitness to run for an elective government position should have been condemned. Could this be some sort of a simple miscommunication?

There is a requirement that a candidate must personally file his certificate of candidacy at the regional office of the Comelec where he is seeking an elective post. Avila presumably complied with this. Hence, the second question is: if this certificate of candidacy was defective from the very beginning, why was it accepted by the Comelec?When he went to the Comelec to file, should not the personnel of the Comelec who were tasked to accept and evaluate the sufficiency of the certificate of candidacy have advised him that he is using the old, outdated and invalid form? Should he not have been told that the old form was superseded by a new form because the new form asks questions that are not asked in the old form? If he was not properly advised about the updated forms and guided into filing the correct one, these must be some sort of a dereliction of duty on the part of the Comelec personnel.

The Comelec is not an agency that exercises a mere ministerial function. Instead, it is one that has discretion. Is it asking too much that at least, in the exercise of this discretion, its personnel be more prospective than reactionary? Was manong Ed afforded due process?

Which brings me to the third question: Why is it that only Avila was the only one who used the old form? There appears to be no problem with respect to the certificate of candidacy of all other candidates. Was he negligent or did he simply rely too much on his judgment? If he did, then the Comelec must have some real basis in its assailed resolution.

Whether or not the Comelec is correct and Avila is wrong or the Comelec is wrong and Avila is right, it will help that this matter be put to rest as soon as possible so that when the date of the election arrives, the proper candidate for mayor of our beloved city will be chosen based on his qualification, and not on his disqualification.

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