By ATTY. GREGORIO LARRAZABAL
With the release of the “narco-list” by the government last week, we will discuss the legal implications and effect, if any, it will have on individuals who are running in the May 13, 2019, automated national elections.
What is a narco-list? The government released a list last week of elected officials and individuals running in the May 13, 2019, automated elections who are allegedly involved in the drugs trade. The individuals included in the list had, according to the government, pending cases against them at the time the list was released.
Can a political party remove a member from its organization if the individual is included in the list?
It depends on the constitution and bylaws of the political party concerned. There’s generally a clause in the party’s charter which provides for grounds for the removal of a party member. There is also a clause which provides for the process where a member can be removed or expelled. There not only has to be basis, but the process for the removal of a member has to be followed.
What this means is that the decision of the political party to remove the individual from their organization is an internal matter, and has no legal effect or impact on the candidacy of the person included in the list.
Can a political party withdraw the Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA) issued to the candidate included in the list?
No. It cannot. The period for political parties to unilaterally withdraw the CONA has long lapsed. Even if the withdrawal of the CONA is with the conformity of the candidate, the withdrawal of the CONA is void, as the period for a withdrawal of a CONA with the candidate’s conformity has likewise lapsed.
Can Comelec declare the person in the narco-list an independent candidate?
No, as stated above, the period for a unilateral, or consensual withdrawal of the CONA has long lapsed. Comelec cannot, on the basis of such list, motu proprio, categorize the candidate as an independent candidate and strip him/her of his/her party affiliation.
Is the candidate included in the list still a bona fide candidate who voters can cast their vote for in the May 13, 2019, automated elections?
Yes, unless there is a pending Petition for Cancellation of Certificate of Candidacy or Petition for Disqualification suit against the candidate, and Comelec rules before the elections that he/she is no longer a candidate, then votes cast are valid. Provided the decision is final.
Can a candidate in the narco-list be declared as winner for the elective position he is running for?
Yes. Provided he/she garners the biggest number of votes for that elective position.
Can a person who is included in the narco-list be removed from the ballots for the May 13, 2019, automation elections?
No. The ballot faces have already been finalized, and printing of ballots had reached almost one-half of the required ballots for the May 13, 2019 automated elections.
Are mandatory drug tests for candidates allowed?
No. As the Supreme Court declared on Nov. 3, 2008, mandatory drug tests are unconstitutional. Comelec cannot require candidates to undergo drug tests.
Having answered the questions above, it’s clear that being on the narco-list will have no legal impact on the candidacy of the individual included in the list.
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