“There are loopholes in the Omnibus Election Code that need to be plugged.”
With the May 2022 general elections looming in the horizon, can we really say that this political exercise where we get to elect both national and local officials would be clean, peaceful, and orderly, aside from being free and fair?
We’re definitely keeping our fingers crossed. But we’re also worried that this could turn out to be a mockery of our existing election laws and processes, thus requiring a thorough review of the Omnibus Election Code.
Here’s one good reason for such a comprehensive review of our electoral law, as told to us by informants.
In 2019, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) denied the petition of former Pasig City Mayor Maria Belen Andaya-Eusebio for the transfer of her voter registration record from Barangay Rosario in Pasig City to Barangay Puro Batia in Libmanan, Camarines Sur so she could run for a seat in Congress representing the province’s second district.
The Comelec en banc rejected her move to exercise her right of suffrage in Camarines Sur in lieu of Pasig City where she and her husband Robert had at one time or another served as city mayor. The poll body’s decision was later upheld by the Court of Appeals (CA).
For the May 2022 elections, Andaya-Eusebio again wants to have her voter registration record transferred from Pasig City to Camarines Sur, this time to Barangay Poblacion in Ilaod, Ragay town, located in the province’s first district. The Comelec will have to decide whether to accept her application for transfer of her voter registration record or reject it as what it did in 2019.
In 2019, the Comelec rebuffed Andaya for lacking the residency requirement that would enable her to vote, much less, run for a local seat, in the second district of Camarines Sur. Now, apparently on a whim, she wants to transfer her voter registration record to the first district, where her brother—former congressman and defeated gubernatorial bet Rolando Andaya Jr.—is running to reclaim his former House seat.
And that’s when two registered voters of Ragay— Aldwin Aguirre Año and Domingo Sarajan Cedo—decided to file a petition before the Election Registration Board (ERB) in the municipality opposing Andaya-Eusebio’s transfer move. Both presented overwhelming evidence and jurisprudence suggesting that the Comelec is bound to dump once again her move to exercise her right of suffrage in Camarines Sur.
Andaya-Eusebio’s latest move appears part of a ploy for her to substitute as candidate for her brother, Rolando Jr., who has filed his candidacy as congressional representative in the province’s first district, but will reportedly change his mind on or before the November 15 deadline to vie for the post of governor of Camarines Sur.
As explained by Año and Cedo in their petition before the ERB: “All in all, the confluence of the foregoing matters certainly illustrate that Andaya-Eusebio has no intention of abandoning her old domicile (Pasig City) and no intention whatsoever to establish a new domicile of choice, and her application for a transfer of voter’s registration may just be a convenient way for her to be qualified as a substitute candidate.”
Andaya-Eusebio’s last-minute attempt to have the Comelec recognize her as a registered voter in the province’s first district—after the poll watchdog already threw out in 2019 her petition to be registered as a voter of the second district of Camarines Sur in lieu of Pasig City where she was once mayor—has been described by Año and Cedo as just a ruse to have her qualified to become a substitute candidate, apparently for her brother Rolando Jr.
The obvious scheme here is for her to replace her brother, who would in turn again run for governor, by filing their candidacies on or before the November 15 deadline for substitution of candidates.
Legal experts believe Andaya-Eusebio will fail anew in her second attempt in three years to become a registered voter—and candidate for an elective post—in Camarines Sur because the Comelec and the courts are not likely to accede to what would be tantamount to a mockery of our election laws and processes.
Andaya-Eusebio asked the Comelec to transfer her voter registration record last October 30, which was the extended deadline for the registration of new voters. If the hidden agenda is candidate-switching with her brother, how can this happen when the deadline for filing of candidacies was last October 8?
Only the registration of new voters was extended to October 30; the deadline for the filing of candidacies for both local and national elective positions was not, and thus ended last October 8.
So how can Andaya-Eusebio run for a House seat or any other local post in the first district of Camarines Sur when she is not a registered voter of Ragay where she wants her voter registration record to be transferred to by the Comelec? How can she become a substitute candidate for her brother at the last minute—hence enabling her to aspire for an elective post there—when (1) the deadline for the filing of candidacies already ended last October 8, and (2) she has yet to be registered by the Comelec as a voter in the Ragay barangay of Poblacion, Ilaod?
The petition filed by Año and Cedo opposing Andaya-Eusebio’s transfer of voters registration is another test case of the country’s rules on residency or domicile and on candidate substitution. The Comelec and the courts will have to decide on whether a candidate can be replaced or substituted by somebody else (1) who is not a registered voter of the locality where he or she wants to run in the coming polls, and (2) who has not filed his or her candidacy for an elective post before the Comelec-set deadline.
It would appear from the foregoing that there are loopholes in the Omnibus Election Code that need to be plugged—soon, we hope—if we expect future political contests in this country to be clean and fair.