SC declares Koko Pimentel's faction as 'legitimate' PDP-Laban

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has declared the faction of Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III as the rightful representation of PDP-Laban in the recently-concluded May 2019 elections.

The SC upheld the November 2018 resolution of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) recognizing the party officers in Pimentel's faction as the legitimate PDP-Laban representatives.

The SC en banc said in a resolution on June 18 – made public only on Tuesday, July 16 – that the Comelec "must continue to recognize (the Pimentel group) as the legitimate officers authorized to act for and in behalf of PDP-Laban," contrary to the claim of the rival faction led by lawyer Rogelio Garcia, President Rodrigo Duterte's classmate.

The SC en banc said Garcia's petition did not sufficiently prove that Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the November 2018 resolution.

However, the High Court did not close the doors to the Garcia faction filing a direct case against the legitimacy of Pimentel's group.

"This is without prejudice to the filing of a direct challenge by petitioner questioning the legitimacy of Senator Pimentel's group before the Comelec," said the en banc.

Direct challenge

Before the elections, the Pimentel and Garcia factions both submitted their groups' respective Sworn Information Update Statements (SUIS) and List of Authorized Signatories to the Comelec.

Confronted with two sets of SUIS and List for one party, the Comelec had to resolve which group it would recognize for the elections.

After holding hearings, the Comelec decided in November 2018 that the Pimentel group was the legitimate representative of PDP-Laban in the elections.

But Comelec noted that there was no pending case before any division of the poll body "for the sole purpose of questioning the legitimate status of Pimentel Group's officers and vice versa."

That's the "direct challenge" that the High Court was referring to, an option for the Garcia group.

In the meantime, the SC also denied the petition for an injunction against the Pimentel group.

Duterte attempted to unify the factions in August 2018, but it did not keep both factions from clashing with each other before the Comelec in November that year, months before the elections.

PDP-Laban fielded 5 Senate bets in the 2019 elections. Of the 5, only former Maguindanao 2nd District Representative Zajid Mangudadatu lost. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

image