MANILA — The Commission on Election (Comelec) First Division unanimously denied the four disqualification cases filed against presidential candidates Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for lack of merit.

“Wherefore, all the foregoing considered, the Commission (First Division) resolves to: 1) Dismiss the petition filed by Ruben H. Castor, and the Petition to Deny Due Course and/or Cancel the Certificate of Candidacy of Rodrigo R. Duterte filed by John Paulo G. Delas Nieves for their failure to appear during the preliminary conference of their respective cases, pursuant to Section 4 (7), Rule 23 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, as amended by Resolution No. 9523 for lack of merit. 2) Dismiss the Verified Petition to Declare Rodrigo R. Duterte (a) nuisance CoC Applicant filed by Elly V. Pamatong and the Petition filed by Rizalito Y. David, for lack of merit,” part of the 50-page resolution said.

The decision noted that Dino had filed a valid Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for President, which means that Duterte had also filed a valid CoC for President as the former’s substitute with them being both members of the PDP-Laban.

“The Commission First Division finds no material misrepresentations in respondent Duterte’s CoC for President, and hence, it is valid and it gives rise to a valid candidacy,” said the resolution dated February 3.

The ruling also pointed that Pamatong had failed to present any evidence that will prove his claim that Duterte should be declared as a nuisance candidate.

Commissioner Christian Robert Lim heads the Division with Commissioners Luie Guia and Rowena Guanzon as members.

“We’d like to announce that the First Division has ruled that the punisher will live to die another day. The First Division has ruled to deny all petitions filed against Mayor Duterte. It’s a thick decision,” Lim said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

The head of the First Division added that among the basis in denying all the petitions as the appeals were filed beyond the 25 days of filing and two petitioners failed to attend the preliminary conference.

“One of the issues…as to the defects of the CoC of Mr. Martin Dino the petitions were filed out of time they were beyond the 25 days from the time that Mr. Dino filed the CoC…there was also two pets wherein both petitioners and or counsel failed to attend the preliminary conference,” he said.

The poll body official added, “The other ground is looking at the issue of the Pasay City mayor the First Division ruled that it was innocuous mistake considering that the intent, considering the Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA), it was clear that Mr. Dino was running for President of the Philippines.”

Lim noted that the petitioners can file a motion for reconsideration (MR) within five days and we will elevate it to the en banc.

On the other hand, Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista was asked if Duterte will be included in the final list of candidates for the May national and local polls, he answered, “He is still a candidate as we speak. We are now in the process of finalizing the list of candidates.” Ferdinand G. Patinio/PNA/