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SC cases complicate party-list victories

Paterno Esmaquel II
Posted on 05/27/2013 8:20 PM  | Updated 05/28/2013 6:58 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will proclaim more party-list winners Tuesday, May 28, but the landscape could change if the Supreme Court (SC) grants disqualified groups a reprieve.

Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr said on Monday, May 27, that the SC can issue status quo ante (SQA) orders on the party-list proclamations. This could shake up the roster of winning groups, which the Comelec began to proclaim last week.

One of the most affected groups is Senior Citizens, which had appealed its case before the SC along with 4 others. Senior Citizens garnered enough votes to win, but the Comelec disqualified it based on new criteria from the SC.

The Comelec last Friday, May 24, said the disqualification of Senior Citizens – along with Cocofed, Abang Lingkod, Binhi, and Anad – has become “final and executory.” This effectively excluded the petitioners from the allocation of party-list seats.

Read: How to fill the 58 party-list seats

Explaining this resolution, the poll body said the 5 groups failed to get a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the SC almost 6 days after they received the resolutions on their disqualification.

Based on Comelec Resolution No. 8804 issued in 2010, a Comelec decision “shall become final and executory 5 days after its promulgation and receipt of notice by the parties.” In a phone interview with Rappler, veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal pointed out that the SC upheld this Comelec rule in October 2012.

'Complicated situation'

Representing Senior Citizens, lawyer Salvador Britanico on Monday, however, protested the "final and executory" disqualifications. He said this is “not permissible” because “the Constitution lodges on the Supreme Court the final authority to decide on questions of law.”

“Does that mean to say that if Senior Citizens again wins this case in the Supreme Court, then the seats given to the other party lists will be taken back? So that means it will present a complicated situation,” Britanico told Comelec, which sits as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC).

The lawyer thus asked the Comelec to reserve two seats for Senior Citizens, which, he said, should remain vacant until the SC issues a reprieve or rules on their case.

Senior Citizens got the 10th most number of party-list votes in the midterm elections, according to the latest canvass report provided to the media on Monday.

If the Comelec factored in the party's votes, 2.37% of party-list votes would have gone to Senior Citizens, entitling it to a seat. Among the 5 that recently trooped to the SC, only Senior Citizens garnered the minimum 2% of votes required for party-list winners.

Crossing the 'bridge'

The Comelec, however, denied the request of Senior Citizens. Brillantes said while the SC “can issue any order against us at any time,” the Comelec maintains the group's “final and executory" disqualification.

Brillantes told Britanico: “If you get any order from the Supreme Court, we will cross the bridge when we get that order. Otherwise, we still maintain that the decision is already executory as far as the Commission on Elections is concerned.”

Speaking to reporters, Brillantes refused to detail the implications of an SQA. Will it, for example, force the Comelec to recompute the party-list votes and possibly cancel the proclamations of some party-list groups?

Baka 'pag sinagot ko 'yan, parang ako na ang nag-abogado para sa kanila,” Brillantes said. (If I answered that, I might as well lawyer for them.)

The SC is on recess until the first week of June.

'Highly ridiculous if...'

Macalintal said he doubts if the SC will issue an SQA against the Comelec.

He noted the SC, after all, said the Comelec didn't commit "grave abuse of discretion" the first time it disqualified party-list groups – only that the SC revamped the Comelec's criteria altogether. The high court then remanded the petitions of disqualified groups to the Comelec, which then screened them using the new criteria.

Read: SC shakes up party list in new verdict

“It would be highly ridiculous if the Supreme Court would still go against the findings of the Comelec, when the Supreme Court itself gave it authority to determine if they will pass these guidelines,” Macalintal told Rappler.

Macalintal said the Comelec's factual findings “deserve respect,” and the Supreme Court “should deal with legal issues” instead. Going against the Comelec, he explained, “will make the Supreme Court a laughingstock.”

The SC, however, has issued TROs and SQAs on at least 6 Comelec directives. These include matters as small-scale as the “Team Buhay, Team Patay” tarpaulins.

In April, when he threatened to resign, Brillantes blasted the SC over this. (Watch more in the video below.)

He said: “With this series of decisions coming from the Supreme Court – TRO, status quo ante – sabi ko, para namang lumalabas na, parang sila na ang nagpapatakbo ng eleksyon. Akala ko ba kami?" (With this series of decisions coming from the Supreme Court – TRO, status quo ante (SQA) – I said, it looks like they're the ones running the elections. I thought it was us?) – Rappler.com


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