CRACKDOWN ON ‘POLL CHEATS’: Six candidates risk disqualification before election day

Photo Courtesy of MENRO-BATAD/file photo

By Jennifer P. Rendon

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Western Visayas is not discounting the possibility that some candidates might be disqualified before the October 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

Atty. Dennis Ausan, Comelec-6 regional director, said that they recommended the filing of cases against six candidates in Western Visayas for premature campaigning or vote buying.

Most of these premature campaigns are through social media.

On vote buying, “‘yung iba, nagbibigay daw ng bigas o isda. It doesn’t necessary mean cash,” he said.

Ausan said that there are over a hundred candidates in Western Visayas who were issued with show cause orders for premature campaigning.

“So, it’s very, very possible [that there would be candidates who would be disqualified before October 30] because so far I’ve learned that so many of those who were issued with official show cause order, formal charges have been initiated by the Commission against them,” he said

These complaints are now subject to a formal hearing.

“The Commission has already made a commitment to act on these complaints before the election day. Expect that there would be disqualification that would be handed down by the commission before the Election Day,” he said.

But Ausan noted that the due process would still be afforded to the respondents.

“They shall be made to answer the allegations against them. We can’t make shortcuts,” he said.

If the Comelec would decide on the disqualification, the candidate could still seek other remedies like filing for a motion for reconsideration or even going to the Supreme Court.

Ausan said there were complaints filed directly to the Task Force Anti-Epal or the task force on premature campaigning

“The process is diretso na. From the task force diretso na sa province, which will serve show cause order to the candidate. The candidate will be made to answer directly to the task force,” he said.

It didn’t pass through the regional office but they have the number of those who were served with show cause orders.

If the complaint is filed at the regional office, if it’s an unverified complaint, then Ausan will personally issue the show cause order.

The candidate will then be made to answer the allegation on the specific premature campaigning they allegedly committed.

“If it’s a post via social media or in a tarpaulin, we would direct them to remove that. We’re also directing them to explain their side on the accusations hurled against them,” he said.

But if it’s verified, the Comelec no longer issues a show cause order.

“We immediately issue summons. We already treat that as a formal complaint. The moment they receive that, we will give them 72 hours to answer then I will come up with a recommendation whether the case is for filing a case against them, either for disqualification for violation of premature campaigning or violation of vote buying. Or I would come up with the recommendation for the dismissal of the complaint,” he said.

For candidates whose complaints will be acted upon after the election, they could still be removed from their posts if proven guilty.

Meanwhile, Ausan said the Regional Joint Security Coordinating Center (RJSCC) 6 is already prepared for the onset of the campaign period, which will run from October 19 – 28.

All candidates were already made to attend a briefing.

“I wish everything will run smoothly and will go according to rules and regulations we have set,” he said.

Ausan said there are proposals for their office to conduct a simultaneous Oplan Baklas.

“Ang problema wala kaming babaklasin. Everybody appears to be cooperative with the Commission. Everybody appears to comply with that law,” he said.

As it is, Ausan noted that tarpaulins might be a thing of the past since most campaigning is now done through social media.