MANILA, Philippines – Marinduque politics heats up a week before the 16th Congress opens on July 22.
Fighting to keep her seat in the House of Representatives, elected Marinduque Rep Regina “Gina” Reyes threatened to file an impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr for allegedly “wielding his influence” to allow his son to take her post.
“It was you who sparked this constitutional crisis because instead of upholding the supremacy of the Constitution, the decision in Reyes versus Comelec undermined and made a mockery of the Constitution. This is clearly the impeachable offense of culpable violation of the Constitution,” Reyes said in a press briefing on Monday, July 15.
Reyes is fighting an SC ruling that upholds a Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision that disqualified her on the ground of citizenship and residency issues. The disqualification came after Reyes defeated the justice’s son, re-electionist Lord Allan Jay Velasco, and had been proclaimed by the local board of canvassers.
Voting 7-4-3, the SC upheld the Comelec ruling that benefitted the justice’s son.
Velasco’s son, for his part, accused Reyes of committing “unethical and improper conduct in breach of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) and her oath of office” when she made those allegations.
It’s a make-or-break week for Reyes and Velasco, who are in the middle of debate on when the Commission on Elections (Comelec) loses jurisdiction to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) over poll protests involving House members.
Comelec vs HRET
Reyes maintained that the Comelec had lost jurisdiction to the HRET over the poll protest against her.
The SC said one only becomes a member of the House of Representatives on the first day of session — in this case on July 22 or the day of the State of the Nation Address. It is only on this day that HRET takes jurisdiction from Comelec, the SC argued.
House leaders maintain, however, that the HRET takes jurisdiction as soon as one is proclaimed winner in a congressional race.
“Of course the Supreme Court and the Comelec should allow the HRET to exercise its exclusive mandate to hear election protests against members of this (16th) Congress,” Belmonte said.
“The Supreme Court cannot encroach on the powers of the HRET. That is very clear in the Constitution which created the HRET,” added former House majority leader Boyet Gonzales added.
SC Justice Arturo Brion, in a dissenting opinion, shared the House’s position.
Velasco: Reyes ‘unethical’
Velasco said Reyes’s media offensive has the goal of “influencing and even intimidating the Court so she can obtain a reversal” of the ruling.
“A lawyer shall not make public statements in the media regarding a pending case tending to arouse public opinion for or against a party,” former Rep Velasco said in a statement.
Velasco also defended the SC ruling that Reyes said was “hastily” issued. Reyes lamented that the Comelec and the SC did not allow her to present evidence to She said the Comelec only based its decision on a blog.
Velasco said her petition “may be dismissed without further proceedings if it is insufficient in form and substance.”
Reyes was echoing the dissenting opinion of Justice Brion, who argued that “the Court should at least hear and consider both sides before making a ruling that would favor the son of a Member of the Court. – Rappler.com