Rowena Guanzon (File photo)

MANILA – The Duterte Youth party-list filed a petition before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, questioning the validity of the late substitution of former elections commissioner Rowena Guanzon as the new first nominee of the Komunidad ng Pamilya, Pasyente at Persons with Disabilities (P3PWD), a winning party-list group.

In seeking a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction against the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Duterte Youth party-list Rep. Ducielle Cardema claimed the substitution is "a deliberate attempt to defraud the electorate and to create the impression that there is no more option but to allow the new substituting first nominee to sit in Congress or else their vote will be disenfranchised".

National Youth Commission Chair Ronald Cardema joined the filing of the petition for certiorari to stop Comelec from issuing a certificate of proclamation to Guanzon.

The Cardemas noted that Guanzon's substitution violates Comelec rules on the deadline of substitution, as well as the Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials and Employees.

They said P3PWD filed its new substitution documents way beyond the Comelec Substitution Deadline of Nov. 15, 2021 in cases of voluntary withdrawal and beyond the added Comelec Substitution Deadline of May 9 or during election day in rare cases of death or incapacity.

"Comelec cannot violate its own rules, especially for a group (that) pre-planned this mockery of the Comelec Deadline Rules," Ducielle said.

They alleged that the Comelec "committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction" by allowing the substitution.

"In hastily approving the illegal substitution of P3PWD, one day after the petition was filed by their former colleague, the Comelec exercised its power in an arbitrary or despotic manner so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty to enforce and administer election laws," they said in the petition.

They said giving due course to the substitution would also violate the code of conduct for public officials, which prohibits them from having direct or indirect material interest in any transaction requiring approval of their office for a period of one year after resignation, retirement, or separation from public office.

They explained that Guanzon was just a commissioner of the Comelec "four months and two weeks ago" and the Comelec as a collegial body approved the inclusion in the ballot and participation in the 2022 elections of around 170 party-lists, including P3PWD  which she will have material benefit in if given due course to substitute now.

Additionally, the petitioners said the substitution violates Section 3 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which pertains to directly or indirectly becoming interested, for personal gain or having a material interest in any transaction or act requiring the approval of a board, panel, or group of which he or she is a member, and which exercises discretion in such approval, even if he votes against the same or does not participate in the action of the board, committee, panel, or group.

"The above-mentioned legal hallmarks of the government against graft and corruption and abuse of public offices are enough valid reasons why the petitioning new first nominee, Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon, should be stopped by the Supreme Court to substitute, or else such Comelec decision will immediately contribute to the violation of these strict laws on graft and corruption," they said.

Guanzon, retired from the Comelec on February 2.

On June 14, she was among the five new nominees of P3PWD and was approved as the first nominee the next day.

The five original nominees were accepted on October 2021, stating under oath that they were fit and eligible to represent P3PWD. (PNA)