As part of its preparations for the elections on May 9, 2016, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is now studying all the certificates of candidacy filed on October 12-16, 2015, with a view to trimming the list of candidates.
One reason is the limited space on the ballots. There cannot possibly be 130 names in the space set aside for presidential candidates, not to mention the many others running for senator, governor, mayor, and other local officials. In the old days, before automation, a voter would just write out the name of his candidate. Today the voter fills in a box opposite the printed name of the candidate. Hence the need to keep the list down.
But the limited space is the least of the reasons to prune down the lists of candidates. The more important reason is that elections must be rational, objective, and orderly. A disorderly election would be “a rot that erodes faith in our democratic institutions,” to quote a Supreme Court decision.
The Comelec accepted the certificates of candidacy of 130 presidential aspirants as a matter of ministerial duty, in accordance with the constitutional provision that “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public sevice….” (Section 26, Article II, Declaration of Principles and State Policies). A bare minimum of requirements was laid out for presidential candidates – natural-born citizen, registered voter, ability to read and write, 40 years of age, and 10 years of residence by the time of the election. There are no requirements for civil service eligibility as for appointments to government positions or for academic degrees as in the judiciary.
But because it must keep the elections rational, objective, and orderly, the Comelec must weed out over a hundred presidential aspirants, using its authority under the Omnibus Election Code to cancel the CoCs of those who put the election process in mockery, cause confusion because of similarity of names, and have no bonafide intention to run for office.
In the next few weeks, there will be considerable maneuvering, negotiating, planning, and operating on so many levels. Among the parties and the political leaders. As for the Comelec, it has the huge task of preparing thousands of precincts and hundreds of thousands of personnel. Possibly its most critical task will be finalization of the lists of candidates in all towns, cities, and provinces of the country.
By December 10, 2015, the final list of candidates must be ready. And by May 9, 2016, the nation will once again go to the polls, secure in the thought that all is well and our democratic system of elections is at work.