Comelec upholds dismissal of DQ case vs Erwin Tulfo

Dwight de Leon

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Comelec upholds dismissal of DQ case vs Erwin Tulfo

POLITICIAN. Erwin Tulfo speaks at a media forum in Manila as social welfare chief on November 23, 2022.


The Comelec says the petitioner's motion for reconsideration in the ruling that favored Erwin Tulfo was filed after the deadline, so the poll body throws it out

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) junked a motion seeking to reverse the poll body’s dismissal of a disqualification petition against broadcaster and freshman lawmaker Erwin Tulfo.

Tulfo has already taken his oath as member of the 19th Congress in May, but the unresolved status of the case against him in the Comelec before Wednesday, July 12, cast a long shadow on what congressional powers he has access to when the House resumes session on July 24.

In its ruling, the poll body denied lawyer Moises Tolentino’s motion for reconsideration since it was filed a day after the May 29 deadline.

“Considering that no motion for reconsideration was filed within the prescription period in Comelec Resolution No. 9366, the resolution of the 2nd Division became final by operation of law, and hence, it becomes immutable and unalterable,” the ruling read.

The 2nd Division ruling, which came out on May 25, said Tolentino’s petition could no longer be entertained by the poll body, since it was filed nine months after Tulfo’s party-list group ACT-CIS was proclaimed winner in the 2022 elections.

Tulfo was originally the fourth nominee of ACT-CIS, but because its original third nominee Jeffrey Soriano resigned in February, the broadcaster found his way to Congress as the latter’s substitute.

ACT-CIS was the topnotcher of the 2022 party-list race, securing in the process three seats, the maximum allowed for a party-list group.

Wednesday’s en banc decision doubled down on the division ruling argument that Tolentino’s disqualification petition was filed out of time.

It added that Tulfo’s entry to Congress was made possible by the party-list law (Republic Act 7941), which states that the next name in the list of nominees must fill any vacancy in the seats reserved for party-list groups.

“All questions on his qualification shall now be addressed before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET),” the Comelec en banc said.

All seven Comelec en banc members signed the ruling, but Chairman George Garcia “took no part” because he was once a legal counsel for ACT-CIS.

Separate opinion

Commissioner Ernesto Maceda wrote a separate opinion concurring with the main ruling in dismissing the motion for reconsideration, but he made numerous points, some of which differed from the arguments in the ponencia:

  • He said the motion for reconsideration was filed on time because even though the hard copy bore a date stamp of May 30, it was electronically filed on May 29, or minutes before the 5 pm deadline. Citing a Comelec resolution, he said the date of email should be considered the date of filing.
  • Because Tulfo only took his oath of office before Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe and not before House Speaker Martin Romualdez in an open House session in May, he is not yet a member of Congress. For Maceda, this means that the Comelec still has jurisdiction over Tulfo’s case, not the HRET.
  • Maceda maintained that the disqualification petition filed by Tolentino questioning Tulfo’s citizenship was filed out of time, and could not be entertained.
  • Rejecting the petitioner’s argument, Maceda wrote that Tulfo cannot be disqualified on the basis of a conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, since the broadcaster already paid the fine imposed by the Supreme Court in 2011 after he was found guilty of libel. Since the election code provides that the disqualification penalty is removed after five years from the service of sentence, the punishment was deemed lifted in February 2016.

Commissioner Socorro Inting and Commissioner Aimee Ferolino concurred with Maceda’s separate opinion.

Fourth Tulfo

Tulfo, who was selected by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to lead the Department of Social Welfare Development in May 2022, was twice bypassed by the Commission on Appointments over his US citizenship and the libel conviction, issues raised by Tolentino in his petition.

The former broadcaster previously said he renounced his US citizenship prior to taking the government post.

Erwin is the fourth Tulfo in Congress: brother Raffy is senator, sister-in-law Jocelyn is ACT-CIS representative, and nephew Ralph is a lawmaker representing Quezon City’s 2nd District.

Comelec upholds dismissal of DQ case vs Erwin Tulfo

Asked by Rappler in May whether the Tulfo family is shaping up to become another political dynasty, he said: “Maybe a dynasty, if you’re not doing anything, if you’re just sitting there and doing nothing, staring at the ceiling. But if you do something and perform, people notice that. Let them decide.” –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.