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SK polls face tests-Comelec

By Benilda Recebido

SORSOGON CITY --- In a recent interview at Ugnayan sa PIA Sorsogon in connection with the upcoming Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) election, Sorsogon Provincial Election Supervisor Calixto Aquino Jr. disclosed the challenges encountered by the office of the Commission on Elections in Sorsogon in implementing the SK over the past years.

For one, Aquino cited the material misrepresentation of a SK candidate where the aspirant insisted on the acceptance of certificate of candidacy (CoC) even if the data were incorrect. Example of material misrepresentation is filling-up the CoC with fabricated age, residency and/or nationality.

Aquino said false declaration of information of candidates themselves in their CoCs constitutes the election offense of material misrepresentation which is penalized with one to six years of imprisonment and can be a ground for disqualification from running for public office and participate in the electoral process.

The CoC is an under oath undertaking of a candidate that should be supplied with factual data and information of a candidate.

Aquino said cases like this happen upon filing of CoC because election officers only perform ministerial duties and have no discretion to deny any candidate’s CoC even if there are false entries in the certificate.

According to Aquino, candidates find confusion with the qualifications to run for elections.

He added that a number of SK aspirants would find confusion with the age requirement. There have been many cases that SK candidates would fill out and file their certificates of candidacy even when they are underage or already past the age requirement of not more than 24 years old upon filing of CoC.

“In some cases, some would alter their pertinent documents just to show that they have qualified for the age requirement,” said Aquino.

He said that in Sorsogon, they have identified cases of material misrepresentation which they have

preliminary investigation conducted by our office, in relation to election offense cases specifically on material representation,” Aquino said.

Moreover, Aquino said that due to many cases of election offenses the process of prosecution takes long. This reality adds up to the long process of prosecuting election offenses.

To address the issue and prevent future electoral offenses, Aquino said the Comelec proposes guidelines on filing the Certificate of Candidacy to be submitted to Comelec en banc. The guidelines include giving authority and discretion to election officers to check and refuse to accept the CoC of a candidate, if requirements will not be met.

“I am optimistic that election en banc would see the significance of giving the election officers the discretion to screen out CoCs right away upon application so that we can already deny accepting misrepresented CoCs.

Furthermore, Aquino shared another challenge, saying that they have identified areas with few to no candidates who are interested to run for Sanguniang Kabataan Council. While in other cases, some elected SK officials would later on abandon their public post.

Aquino said the last challenges have no solution yet as there is no law that requires the Comelec to call for a special election for SK elections in just one particular area or in related cases. (PIA 5/Sorsogon)


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