MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) requested the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, January 5, to hear the disqualification case against presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe at an earlier date.
Speaking to reporters, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said this will avoid “problems down the road.” Election day, after all, is an “immovable date.”
In a 4-page “very urgent motion” filed on Tuesday, the Comelec said it “respectfully prays for the resetting of the scheduled oral argument on January 19, 2016, to January 14, 2016, at two o’ clock in the afternoon.”
Poe's case before the SC involves an earlier Comelec ruling to stop the senator from running for president. The Comelec cancelled Poe's candidacy because she supposedly is not a natural-born Filipino and has failed to meet the minimum 10-year residency requirement. (READ: How Comelec commissioners voted on Grace Poe's case)
Justifying its motion on Tuesday, Comelec cited the need to create 1,953 ballot faces and finalize them by January 20.
These ballot faces aim to allow candidates “to check and verify if their names are correctly indicated on the ballots and if their names are placed in the correct voting jurisdictions.”
The poll body said it will publish these ballot faces on its website.
Eventually, the poll body will load and finalize these ballot faces in its Election Management System.
“If the ballot faces will not be finalized within the time limit, it may compromise the schedule for the printing of the official ballots,” the Comelec said.
'Wala kaming binu-bully'
On Tuesday, Bautista was also asked how the poll body will address perceptions that the Comelec is putting the SC in a bind by asking the High Court to speed up its proceedings.
“Wala kaming ginigipit, wala kaming binu-bully,” Bautista said. (We’re not putting anyone in a bind, we’re not bullying anybody.)
He continued in Filipino: “You all know our timeline, and we all know that May 9, 2016, is an immovable feast, an immovable date – immovable feast, as Hemingway said – so we we want to ensure that all preparations are in accordance with our schedule.”
“If we continue to push and push the deadline, there will be higher chances that we will meet problems down the road,” the Comelec chairman said.
On examples of such problems, Bautista ruled out the possible postponement of elections. He warned, however, of a possible “domino effect” on the Comelec's schedule.
This motion comes after the Philippine government’s top lawyer, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, refused to defend the Comelec in the case filed by Poe before the Comelec.
Bautista said the Comelec is now left to defend itself.
“Sanay na kami sa sariling sikap so kami na lang ang gagawa ng sarili naming answer,” he said. (We’re used to doing things on our own so we ourselves will craft our answer.) – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.