September 30, 2023

Despite clamor from some sectors for candidates to submit certain clearances before they are allowed to seek an elective post, Commission on Elections Chair George Erwin Garcia said other than the requirements stated in the Constitution, no other documents can be asked from would-be candidates.

When asked in a press conference in Baguio last week if the Comelec is open to the suggestion of an official from the Bureau of Internal Revenue-Cordillera that those seeking for an elective post should be required to submit a clearance from the BIR, Garcia said this does not have basis in the Constitution.

In previous elections, the Comelec has required candidates to submit a drug test along with the certificate of candidacy.

Legality of the requirement was challenged in court, resulting in the declaration of the Comelec resolution requiring drug tests as unconstitutional.

Similarly, a clearance from BIR proving that candidates have filed their statement of election contributions and expenditure (SOCE) prior to the filing of COC, cannot be implemented, Garcia said.

Under the law, submission by all candidates of their SOCE is required only after the election, before a winning candidate is allowed to take oath. 

In 2008, the Supreme Court has declared as unconstitutional Comelec Resolution 6486, which required candidates for national and local positions in the May 10, 2004 elections to undergo mandatory drug test.

The Supreme Court said only five qualifications are required from a candidate: citizenship, voter registration, literacy, age, and residency.

“The right of a citizen in the democratic process of election should not be defeated by unwarranted impositions of requirement not otherwise specified in the Constitution,” the SC said.

Meanwhile, Garcia said the Comelec welcomes the proposal of some quarters for those in the vulnerable sector such as senior citizens, the differently-able, and heavily pregnant women to be allowed to vote earlier than the scheduled election.

Garcia said if Congress allots an additional budget for this, it will be implemented in the 2025 midterm elections.

As Comelec is modernizing the voting system, Garcia said the “vote anywhere scheme” can also be adopted in the Philippines, such as what is being done in other countries.

However, he said those who want to vote earlier should inform the Comelec in advance before they will be allowed to vote.

Hindi naman lahat ay boboto sa kung saan at kung anong araw nila gusto. ‘Yung iba, sa araw ng eleksiyon pa rin bo-boto kaya kailangan i-manifest nila,” Garcia said.

The Comelec will also pursue the voting via the Internet of overseas-based Filipinos.

He said the previous elections showed dismal participation among Filipinos based overseas due to the outdated system of voting.

In the previous elections, he said only close to 2,000 Filipinos voted when based on the registry of the Overseas Workers Welfare and Administration, millions of Filipinos are based abroad.

Sa consulate lang pwedeng bumoto. ‘Yung ibang nasa malayo, pinadala yung balota free postage. Libre na nga pero hindi pa bumalik (ang mga balota),” Garcia said lamenting the government spent millions for overseas voting but only a few are participating. 

With Internet vo-ting, Garcia said the Comelec is hopeful more overseas-based Filipinos will vote. – Rimaliza A. Opiña