“How can a non-candidate be proclaimed winner in a political contest?”
This is the question circulating in Mountain Province after news broke out that Kathy Jyll Mayaen Luis was proclaimed winner of the Mountain Province gubernatorial race by the Provincial Board of Canvassers late Tuesday night.
It would be recalled that the late governor Leonard Mayaen filed his certificate of candidacy for governor of the province without any party affiliation. Being unopposed, he was just waiting for his proclamation to serve the province for the next three years. It was unfortunate though that he died last March 31.
Mayaen’s untimely death opened discussions among politically inclined individuals on how the vacancy would be filled up. Will it be through substitution, succession, or special elections? Debates persisted until COMELEC chairman Andres Bautista, in his visit to Baguio City, pronounced that substitution is not possible because the deceased candidate is an independent candidate. Bautista’s pronouncement went against Provincial Election Supervisor Elenita Tabangin Capuyan’s earlier opinion that substitution is possible.
Last May 5, Mayaen’s daughter, Kathy Jill, filed her certificate of candidacy for governor, along with a petition for substitution, at the Provincial Comelec Office. Scanned copies of her COC and the petition for substitution were received by the COMELEC law department on the same day. Just like her late father, Kathy Jill indicated in her COC that she is an independent candidate. By filing the petition for substitution, Kathy Jill prayed that the Comelec allow her to substitute for her late father, by inference admitting that her COC needed the approval of the Comelec, and that only with that approval shall she be considered a candidate. It also implied that she will abide by whatever decision the Comelec will have on her petition.
The following day, May 6, COMELEC acting law department director Maria Norina Casingal came out with a memorandum with the recommendation for the COMELEC that the petition for substitution should be denied.
In her memorandum, she cited Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code which in part says “…. Only a person belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file e certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died …”
Casingal also cited Section 19 of COMELEC Resolution No. 9984 which provides, “No substitution shall be allowed for any independent candidate.”
“Plainly, for the substitution of a deceased candidate to be given due course, the substituted candidate must have been a bonafide member of and nominated by a registered political party or coalition of political parties in the first place. Thus, an independent candidate, as in this case, can in no way be validly substituted,” her memorandum emphasized.
In a special en banc meeting of the COMELEC held on May 7, the Commission resolved to approve the recommendation of Director Casingal that the substitution of Kathy Jill be denied.
A COMELEC en banc resolution, lifted from the minutes of the meeting, was received by Comelec-CAR on May 8, 2016 and by the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) on May 10, 2016. With the Comelec minute resolution, the petition for substitution of Kathy Jill was denied. Since she could not substitute for her late father, her COC would also not be accepted.
On May 10, nonetheless, Kathy Jill made a petition by way of motion through counsel, that the PBOC proclaim her the winner of the gubernatorial election. The PBOC went into recess after the motion, with the implied promise that the issue shall be settled when canvassing resumes at 9:00 PM the same day.
When canvassing resumed on the night of May 10, the PBOC proclaimed Kathy Jill as the Governor-elect, in defiance of the Comelec resolution.
These developments have elevated the discussions about the elections in Mountain Province. Legal minds and ordinary people have their ideas on the matter. On the one hand, the minute resolution of the Comelec en banc could not be misunderstood: Kathy Jill’s petition for substitution was denied and thereby her COC was not accepted. On the other hand, the PBOC still proclaimed her as the Governor-elect.
Will the PBOC decision supersede the Comelec en banc resolution, or will the Comelec en banc enforce the resolution?
Meanwhile, the people of Mountain Province are held victim to legal machinations over the issue.
By Monico Changlasen