“Understanding Comelec’s Jurisdiction and Limitations in Addressing Mayor’s Citizenship”

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Understanding the Jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in the Philippines

In recent developments in the Philippines, the issue of jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) over allegations regarding the citizenship of embattled Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Leal Guo has sparked significant debate and attention. It is important to delve into the intricacies of the jurisdiction of COMELEC and the legal framework surrounding the filing of candidacy, voter registration, and the authority of the poll body in addressing such matters.

The Move to Amend the Omnibus Election Code (OEC)

Chairman George Erwin Garcia has expressed the COMELEC’s support for an amendment to the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) that would empower the poll body to impose additional requirements for candidates during the filing of the Certificate of Candidacy (COC). This proposed amendment seeks to address the existing laws, which currently mandate only a valid government identification or a barangay certification as the sole requirements for voter registration. Additionally, it stipulates that a voter must be a resident of the place where they intend to vote for at least six months and must have lived in the Philippines for a minimum of one year.

It is crucial to note that the absence of opposition or objection to Guo’s application as a voter in 2021 in Bamban played a significant role in the approval of her application by the election registration board. This revelation has raised eyebrows and underscored the need for a more comprehensive framework for scrutinizing the eligibility of candidates.

COMELEC’s Role and Limitations

Garcia clarified that while the COMELEC’s duty regarding the COC is ministerial, meaning that they accept all filed COCs that are complete in form and notarized, there are limitations to their authority. He emphasized that the COMELEC cannot motu proprio remove candidates based on issues such as age, citizenship, residency, voter registration, and literacy. However, he highlighted that the COMELEC can take action against nuisance candidates who are deemed to be making a mockery of the election, albeit after a hearing.

It is important to understand that the jurisdiction of the COMELEC commences during the filing of candidacy and extends until the proclamation. Any protests or quo warranto petitions can be filed within 10 days after the proclamation. However, once an individual assumes an elective office, the COMELEC’s jurisdiction ceases, and the matter falls under the purview of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the court, or the Office of the Ombudsman.

Garcia further underscored that in the case of Guo, the Office of the Solicitor General should file the quo warranto case, drawing parallels to the nullification of the appointment of a former chief justice of the Supreme Court due to the failure to file her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

These developments shed light on the complexities and nuances of the legal and regulatory landscape surrounding electoral processes in the Philippines. The ongoing discussions and potential amendments to the OEC reflect the continuous evolution and adaptation of the electoral framework to address emerging challenges and ensure the integrity and credibility of the democratic process.

The Comelec’s Ministerial Duty and Nuisance Candidates

According to Chairman Garcia, the COMELEC’s duty in the case of the Certificate of Candidacy (COC) is merely ministerial, meaning that the poll body “accepts all the COCs filed” as long as they are complete in form and notarized. This approach, however, raises concerns about the potential for unqualified or even “nuisance” candidates to enter the electoral process.

The COMELEC, however, does have the authority to remove candidates it deems to be making a mockery of the election process, but this can only be done after a hearing. Garcia stressed that the COMELEC cannot, on its own (motu proprio), address issues related to age, citizenship, residency, voter registration, or literacy of candidates. These matters fall outside the COMELEC’s jurisdiction and must be addressed through other legal channels.

The Jurisdictional Shift After Proclamation

An important distinction highlighted by Garcia is that the COMELEC’s jurisdiction is limited to the period from the filing of candidacy until the proclamation of the winner. Once a candidate is proclaimed and assumes office, the jurisdiction shifts to other government agencies, such as the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the courts, or the Office of the Ombudsman.

In the case of Mayor Guo, Garcia emphasized that since she is an elected official, the COMELEC no longer has jurisdiction over the matter. It is now up to these other government entities to address any issues or allegations regarding her eligibility or citizenship.

The Role of the Solicitor General and Quo Warranto Proceedings

Garcia suggested that the Office of the Solicitor General should file a quo warranto case to address the issues surrounding Mayor Guo’s eligibility. He cited the example of the case involving former Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, whose appointment was ultimately nullified due to her failure to file a complete Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

Quo warranto proceedings are a legal mechanism that allows for the challenge of a public official’s right to hold office. In the context of the Philippines, these proceedings can be initiated by the Solicitor General or a private individual with a direct and personal interest in the matter.

The Importance of Comprehensive Electoral Reforms

The issues surrounding Mayor Guo’s case and the COMELEC’s limited jurisdiction highlight the need for comprehensive electoral reforms in the Philippines. The proposed amendment to the Omnibus Election Code, which would empower the COMELEC to impose additional requirements for candidates during the COC filing process, is a step in the right direction.

However, it is crucial that these reforms go beyond just the candidacy stage and address the broader challenges faced in the electoral system. This could include measures to strengthen the verification of voter eligibility, enhance the COMELEC’s ability to scrutinize candidate qualifications, and streamline the legal mechanisms for addressing electoral disputes and challenges.

Maintaining Public Trust in the Electoral Process

The credibility and integrity of the electoral process are fundamental pillars of a healthy democracy. The issues surrounding Mayor Guo’s case, and the perceived limitations of the COMELEC’s jurisdiction, have the potential to erode public trust in the electoral system.

It is essential that the Philippine government and the COMELEC take proactive steps to address these concerns and ensure that the electoral process is transparent, fair, and inclusive. This may require not only legislative reforms but also a concerted effort to educate the public on the legal framework and the roles and responsibilities of different government agencies in the electoral process.


The ongoing debate surrounding the COMELEC’s jurisdiction and the issues raised in the case of Mayor Guo highlight the complexities and challenges faced in the Philippines’ electoral landscape. While the COMELEC plays a crucial role in the electoral process, its limited jurisdiction and the need for comprehensive reforms underscore the importance of a comprehensive and cohesive approach to strengthening the country’s democratic institutions.

As the Philippines continues to navigate these complex issues, it is crucial that policymakers, legal experts, and the public work together to ensure that the electoral process upholds the principles of transparency, fairness, and the rule of law. Only through such collaborative efforts can the country ensure the integrity of its elections and maintain the public’s trust in the democratic system.

Source: The Manila Times

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