DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /04 February) — “It’s all systems go,” Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s legal counsel Vitaliano Aguirre said after the 1st Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday junked the four disqualification cases filed against Duterte, for lack of merit.
Aguirre told MindaNews in a text message that the Comelec ruling “erased all clouds of doubt” that the mayor is qualified to run for President, as a substitute candidate to former PDP-Laban standard bearer Martin Diño.
“It’s all systems go for Mayor Duterte. We have been expecting the dismissal of these disqualification cases as they are just nuisance cases filed by nuisance candidates who are afraid of his candidacy,” Aguirre said.
The Comelec decision came six days before February 9, the start of the official campaign period for Prsident, Vice President, Senators and partty-list. .
He said he believes that any motion for reconsideration or appeal before Comelec en banc will not prosper after the unanimous decision to junk the cases filed by John Paulo delas Nieves, a student council chair of University of the Philippines (UP), broadcast journalist Ruben Castor, Elly Pamatong, and Rizalito David.
“His campaign could now go full blast and the supporters who are hesitant to give full support to his candidacy will come out in the open,” he said.
In a statement, Atty. Paola Alvarez, PDP-Laban spokesperson, said the dismissal of the cases was a welcome development and a “clear triumph over the forces of disorder who are afraid of the radical change Mayor Duterte symbolizes.”
“But more than anything else, this is the victory of all those clamoring for real change. This is the victory of all those who are fed up with the continuing disorder, lack of security and equal opportunities in our country,” she added.
She said that after surpassing these hurdles, Duterte and his running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, will represent the Filipino people as they present solutions and actions to their clamor.
“We believe that the struggle for real change is a collective endeavor where the people are the masters of their own destiny. Thus, Mayor Duterte and Senator Cayetano will need the help and support of all those who are longing for genuine change,” Alvarez said.
Duterte filed his certificate of candidacy for reelection as mayor on October 15 even as supporters expected him to file his COC for President, and in fact waited for him to arrive at the Comelec office in Manila to file his COC for President before 5 p.m. on October 16.
He withdrew his COC for mayor and wsa substituted by his daughter and former mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio on November 27, and had his representative, lawyer Salvador Medialdea, file his COC for President at the Comelec office in Manila.
Duterte had earlier repeatedly said he would not run for President and proved he would not when he filed his COC for mayor. But on the third week of November, dismayed over the 5-4 decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) that Senator Grace Poe was a qualified presidential candidate, he declared he would run for president in the 2016 polls.
“I am running for President because I am disappointed and sad sa ruling na yan,” Duterte told reporters during a party in Dasmarinas, Cavite on November 21.
Duterte, a lawyer who served as a prosecutor in Davao City for 11 years before his appointment as OIC Vice Mayor in 1986, said he cannot accept that someone like Poe who is not a natural-born and is only presumed to be a Filipino citizen will run the country as President.
“Grace can run for governnor and mayor, wag yang Presidente… Bigyan mo ako ng Bagobo, Ata, Igorot, yung totong Pilipino,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)