The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) en banc, Thursday, has issued a resolution disqualifying the Certificates of Candidacy (COC) of Atty. Edgar “Ed” Avila, a mayoral candidate, in Baguio City and 24 others because they used an old COC form.

It can be recalled that early October of last year, the COMELEC reminded aspirants in 2019 midterm elections to make sure that they have filled up the new COC form. Comelec spokesman James Jimenez made the reminder after an aspirant submitted an old form on the first day of the COC filing period.

“So inadvise siya na mag-fill up ng bagong form. ‘Yung lumang form kasi walang question No. 22,” Jimenez told reporters. “Ngayon, if you filed the wrong form, parang hindi nag-file ng COC.”

Edgar Avila, in his Facebook account, said that he is eyeing to challenge the resolution of the COMELEC. Here is the full text of his statement:

“On April 4, 2019, I received a Minute Resolution from the COMELEC EN BANC dated March 6, 2019 finding among others that “for failure to comply with the new Certificate of Candidacy (COC) Form”, as I purportedly used the old form in filing my COC, I was, in effect, considered as if I never filed a COC. 

To be sure, I was not disqualified because I, after all, possess all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications to run as Mayor of Baguio City. The COMELEC Resolution thus did not declare that I am disqualified.  That much should be made clear.

While the resolution came as a surprise and is naturally a cause of concern, a careful study of the same gives me a level of confidence to state to all and sundry that it should not in any way be a cause for worry.  For one, it is not final and executory, and is therefore not yet considered as the law on the matter from which rights may be derived or obligations can be imposed.  

At this very moment, I and my legal team are preparing the appropriate challenge to the said resolution to seek its reversal.  For another – and more importantly – the breach or omission cited in the resolution appears to be more apparent than real.  

When I filed my COC, I filled out the proper form of the COMELEC which was verified and checked by Baguio City Election Officer Atty. John Paul Martin.  No defect or any deficiency was observed and made known to me.  Neither was I called out for having used a non-prescribed form.  Accordingly, my COC was actually admitted for filing and given due course.  In fact, I have been designated as Candidate No. 2 in the COMELEC’s official ballot and other relevant documents for purposes of the May 2019 Elections.  That much, too, has to be said.

That the COMELEC has the power to promulgate rules governing the coming elections is conceded.  And just like laws, these rules have ends to achieve.   

Thus, the principle has always been that the intent or spirit of the rule is the rule itself, and resort should likewise always be to the tenet that the spirit and intent of the rule controls its letter.  The form I filed bears the very information that are sought to be solicited by the new form, namely, the cases that have been filed against me and which were all dismissed.   

Verily, if the purpose for a rule has been achieved, its strict enforcement can no longer be insisted upon precisely because it would no longer achieve any meaningful purpose more than what it set out to achieve in the first place.  In legal parlance, this is called substantial compliance.  

If there is any serious cause for concern or worry, I would be the first to state so, in fairness to all citizens of Baguio, majority of whom have already signified, and continue to signify in endless droves, their tangible support for my candidacy.  There is no such worry in this case.  We are ready and able to get over this speed bump in due time, and defer to the final arbiters of who should take the reigns of government in our beloved City – YOU, THE PEOPLE.

I therefore urge our supporters to stand strong, hold the line, and press forward.  

In the end, truth and justice, and your will, shall prevail!

Tuloy po ang laban para sa Baguio! #2 sa balota!”

Question No. 22 in the COC form is – “Have you ever been found liable for an offense which carries with it the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office which has become final and executor?”

Avila insisted he complied by citing some cases against him that were filed but dismissed.

“However, in answer to that question, part of my COC included some cases that were filed but all dismissed so nag-comply ako (I complied) with question number 22,” he said.

The issuance of a resolution disqualifying him did not follow proper procedure as he was deprived of his right to notice and hearing, according to Avila’s camp.

On the other hand, Election lawyer Elenita Tabangin-Capuyan, said that the notice requirement is not a requirement in Avila’s case.

“’Yun kaniya pong COC was not filed in due form so it will only apply, ‘yang due process, na kailangan pa ng hearing at trial, that applies if the certificate of candidacy has been filed in due form,” she said.