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MANILA, Philippines – Broadcaster Erwin Tulfo is the newest member of the 19th Congress, after taking his oath on Tuesday, May 30, before House Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe.
Tulfo entered the House as a substitute nominee of party-list group ACT-CIS, replacing original third nominee Jeffrey Soriano who resigned from the chamber in February.
He becomes the fourth Tulfo in the legislative branch: brother Raffy is senator, sister-in-law Jocelyn (wife of Raffy) is ACT-CIS representative, and nephew Ralph is a lawmaker representing Quezon City’s 2nd District.
Some election watchdogs, in the past, expressed concerns over post-election substitution efforts, reading them as the latest attempts to abuse the party-list system.
Comelec case still not fully resolved
There’s a caveat though: the disqualification case junked by the Comelec is not yet fully resolved.
What the Comelec promulgated was a division-level ruling, and is appealable with the en banc, where other commissioners would get the chance to weigh in on the case.
In fact, the petitioner in the case filed a motion for reconsideration with the poll body on Monday, May 29, seeking a reversal of the original ruling. It was only elevated to the en banc the next day.
But House Secretary-General Reginald Velasco said that based on their understanding, the en banc already dismissed the case against Tulfo.
“We were already assured by the Comelec that the letter [certifying that Tulfo is the new ACT-CIS nominee] is forthcoming, and we were furnished a copy of the notice of dismissal of the case against him,” he said.
Responding to questions on whether the oath taking of Tulfo was valid despite a pending Comelec case against him, Comelec Chairman Garcia insisted that administering an oath to an incoming member is the chamber’s prerogative.
“The answer belongs to the House of Representatives. It is the institution that can best determine who is their member and whether the person can already assume or not,” Garcia told reporters.
Tulfo told reporters on Wednesday, May 31, that he hopes the case would be resolved before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers his State of the Nation Address in July.
“[I was told], ‘Yes, you’re a member of Congress but there would be limitations.’ I was informed by the Secretary General and Majority Leader that ‘you cannot vote at this point, you cannot attend sessions or committee hearings,'” Tulfo said.
“[In the meantime], there are a lot of things to learn in Congress, probably attend some seminars on how to file bills and all that. I have 120 bills that I listed but I have to learn how to do it,” he added.
Issues of citizenship, court conviction
Lawyer Moises Tolentino Jr. sought to block Tulfo’s congressional bid, citing concerns over his citizenship and his libel conviction. The petitioner said the latter constitutes a crime of moral turpitude, which is a ground for disqualification under the election code.
These issues are what cost Tulfo his post as social welfare chief.
Tulfo served as the first Department of Social Welfare and Development chief of the Marcos administration but he had to exit the government agency after the Commission on Appointments (CA) again deferred his confirmation bid over such concerns in November 2022.
Tulfo previously said he had renounced his US citizenship in early 2022. As for the libel conviction, he explained it was about a story he had written about alleged government corruption.
Despite being bypassed by the CA, Tulfo is still seen as an asset by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who said he hoped to keep the broadcaster in his administration. – Rappler.com