By Mikha Flores, VERA Files
The Commission on Elections is moving the ballot configuration originally set on Friday to its “deadliest deadline,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said Wednesday.
During the configuration, Comelec will finalize the ballot face in both the national and local elections. The front face will include all elective positions in the national level: senators and party-list representatives. The back face will include all local elective positions.
Each city and municipality will have a back face of its own. Based on statistics released by the Election and Barangay Affairs Department, there are 143 cities and 1,491 municipalities. Thus, Comelec will be configuring 1,634 variations of the ballot.
Brillantes said he asked Comelec’s Information Technology Department to move the ballot configuration to Jan. 22 in deference to a Supreme Court resolution that it would act on pending petitions of party-list groups whose accreditation and registration have been cancelled by the poll body.
“Gusto ko sana i-extend beyond 22 (I prefer to extend [the configuration] to after Jan. 22) so that we can settle the party-list,” Brilliantes said in an interview.
But he said he was told by the IT Department that it can only hold off the configuration until Jan. 15.
“Kung yun ang maximum, wala tayong magagawa (If that’s the maximum, there’s nothing we can do about it),” Brillantes said. “That will not help us any, not too much.”
News reports say more than a hundred petitions from party-list groups whose accreditations were denied or cancelled are pending in the Supreme Court.
The Comelec included 52 party-list groups that obtained a status quo ante order (SQAO) but later excluded 13 groups after “inadvertently” including them in the lottery.
In Comelec Resolution 9591, applicants that were denied but were given an SQAO must also secure a mandatory injunction from the Supreme Court in order to participate in the raffle.
The Supreme Court was supposed to announce the new party-list groups that were given SQAOs but later recanted its statement.
”Upon verification, the Court did not issue any SQA but instead required comment within a non-extendible period of five days so that it can dispose of the cases as quickly and as expeditiously as possible. We apologize for the confusion,” said Acting Supreme Court Spokesperson Maria Victoria Gleoresty Sp. Guerra.
Brillantes said party-list groups will only have until the final date of the ballot configuration in order to be included in the ballot. SQAOs that will be released beyond the configuration will no longer have any effect on the Comelec.
Based on Comelec’s Timeline of Election Activities, the configuration will last until Jan. 25. The ballots will be printed from Jan. 20 to April 25.
On Monday, the Comelec ordered the exclusion of the following applicant party-list groups from the ballot:
- Alliance of Organizations, Networks and Associations of the Philippines Inc. (Alona)
- Ako an Bisaya Party (AAB)
- Alagad ng Sining (ASIN)
- Alab ng Mamamahayag (ALAM)
- Association of Guard, Utility Helper, Aider, Rider, Driver/Domestic Helper, Janitor, Agent, Nanny of the Phils. Inc. (GUARDJAN)
- Abyan Ilonggo
- Partido ng Bayan ang Bida (PBB)
- Pilipinas Para sa Pinoy (PPP)
- 1 Alliance Advocating Autonomy Party (1AAP)
- Akbay Kalusugan (AKIN)
- Manila Teachers Savings and Loan Association Inc.
- Association of Local Athletics Entrepreneurs and Hobbyists Inc. (ALA-EH)
Alona is linked to Minority Floor Leader Danilo Suarez. Its first three nominees are Danilo Suarez Jr., Joanna Suarez, and Alexis M. Abastillas-Suarez.
Kalikasan, meanwhile, is linked to Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino. Palatino, who is on his second term as congressman, was chosen as Kalikasan’s first nominee.
In Resolution 9604, the number assigned to the 13 party-lists will be reserved for groups that will be able to obtain an SQAO or mandatory injunction from the Supreme Court.
On Jan. 4, Comelec held a raffle of 136 party-list groups to determine their listing in the ballot: 84 of which were accredited or retained while 52 were cancelled or denied but secured a status quo ante order from the Supreme Court. Of the 52, 39 are registered while 13 are applicants.
Brilliantes said the raffle was meant to prevent groups that start with 1 or A.
"The purpose is to avoid the very abnormal names of the party-lists na punung-puno ng A, punung-puno ng 1. Ngayon, hindi na importante kung 1 or A (It’s no longer important if your name starts with 1 or A)," Brilliantes said.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for “true.”)