THE Commission on Election (Comelec) First Division unanimously denied on Wednesday all four disqualification cases filed against presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for lack of merit.
"The Commission First Division finds no material misrepresentations in respondent Duterte's COC (certificate of candidacy) for president, and hence, it is valid and it gives rise to a valid candidacy," said the resolution dated February 3.
It noted that anti-crime advocate Martin Dino had filed a valid COC for president, which means that Duterte had also filed a valid COC for president as the former's substitute with them being both members of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Among the petitions junked were those filed by Ruben Castor, John Paulo Delas Nieves, Elly Pamatong, and Rizalito David.
The resolution said Pamatong had failed to present any evidence that will prove his claim that Duterte should be declared as a nuisance candidate.
Commissioner Christian Robert Lim heads the Comelec First Division with Commissioners Luie Guia and Rowena Guanzon as members.
"We'd like to announce that the First Division has ruled that the punisher will live to die another day. The First Division has ruled to deny all petitions filed against Mayor Duterte. It's a thick decision," Lim said in a press briefing on Wednesday.
The head of the First Division added that among the basis in denying all the petitions are the late filing of the appeals.
Lim said the petitions were filed beyond the 25 days of filing and two petitioners failed to attend the preliminary conference.
"One of the issues…as to the defects of the COC of Mr. Martin Dino the petitions were filed out of time they were beyond the 25 days from the time that Mr. Dino filed the COC... there was also two pets wherein both petitioners and or counsel failed to attend the preliminary conference," he said.
"The other ground is looking at the issue of the Pasay City mayor the First Division ruled that it was innocuous mistake considering that the intent, considering the Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (Cona), it was clear that Mr. Dino was running for President of the Philippines," Lim added.
Lim noted that the petitioners can file a motion for reconsideration (MR) within five days and they will elevate it to the en banc.
On the other hand, Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista was asked if Duterte will be included in the final list of candidates for the May national and local polls, he answered, "He is still a candidate as we speak. We are now in the process of finalizing the list of candidates."
Duterte's camp welcomed the good news saying they were "overjoyed" with the decision of the Comelec First Division.
"We are overjoyed with the decision of Comelec to dismiss all disqualification cases filed versus Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Even more so because it was a unanimous decision," said Davao City Representative Karlo Alexei Nograles.
He said that with no more legal impediments in the candidacy of Duterte, they are expecting more support from the grassroots and local leaders.
Nograles said that they are expecting an "increase in groundswell for Duterte's brand of leadership."
"Change is coming… the timing is perfect. With this chapter coming to a close, and the official national campaign about to begin, we shall now consolidate the forces between those who have been with us and those who are going to join us," said Nograles.
He added that the Comelec decision is a resounding signal to all who have stayed the course especially to their loyal supporters
"It is also a clarion call to all those who have been tentative; this is the moment you have been waiting for," said Nograles.
Davao City Isidro Ungab, a supporter of Duterte, said the dismissal of the disqualification cases will boost the morale and spirit of their supporters.
"From the very start, we were hopeful and confident that Mayor Rody will hurdle all the obstacles and that these cases will be dismissed," said Ungab. (FP/John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)