Thursday, November 15, 2012

SC allows 4 party-list groups to join 2013 polls

MANILA – Four party-list groups, which have been initially disqualified from participating in the 2013 midterm elections, found relief from the Supreme Court after the justices stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from enforcing its ruling. Sources said that the High Court, at the resumption of their regular session following a two-week Halloween break, has granted the separate petitions from the party-list groups seeking the issuance of either a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a status quo ante order (SQA) assailing the Comelec’s October 10, 2012 resolution. An SQA has the same effect of stopping an assailed ruling but is usually issued to preserve the last actual peaceable and uncontested status before the litigation or filing of a petition. Court insiders likewise directed the poll body to file its comment within 10 days on the consolidated petitions filed by party-list groups Ako Bicol (AKB), Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (Apec), 1st Consumers' Alliance for Rural Energy Inc. (1-Care), and the Alliance for Rural Concerns (ARC). These party-list groups had been disqualified by the Comelec for allegedly not representing the marginalized or the underrepresented sectors of society. Of the four petitioners, only ARC has no incumbent member in the House of Representatives. "We will follow the Supreme Court. There is no problem with that," said Comelec Chairperson Sixto Brillantes Jr. However, he admitted that the following does not mean that he totally agrees with the Court's decision. "Kung may TRO, di ba dapat dahil urgent? Wala namang urgent dito dahil hindi pa naman kami nagko-configure at next year pa ang printing of ballots. Meaning, kung may made-desisyunan nila yan before the end of the year, masasama pa din naman yung mga grupo kung mananalo sila," said Brillantes in a briefing. Brillantes added that the poll body is expected to release on Wednesday at least 15 more party-list groups that will be excluded from next year's elections. Among the petitioners, AKB through retired SC Justice Vicente Mendoza filed on Monday an urgent motion for the High Court to issue the relief sought since the preparation and printing of official ballots and other election paraphernalia will necessitate a preservation of the status quo in order to protect their rights. "The onset of several public holidays in the coming months, including the looming Christmas break inserts added urgency since said holidays lessen the time to resolve these issues, effectively depriving petitioner AKB of a fair chance to prepare for a nationwide campaign," it said. AKB pointed out that the Comelec had already set the printing of ballots starting January 20, 2013 after finalizing the list of candidates for the elections before the Christmas vacation. SC Public Information Office acting chief Gleoresty Guerra, however, said in a text message that they have no information yet on the en banc ruling. "We'll let you know as soon as we have information," she said. Normally, the SC's en banc secretariat would be informed by the Office of the Chief Justice of what transpired during the en banc session, so that appropriate orders of justices during their deliberations would be immediately put to paper. The secretariat would also be in charge of informing the PIO on relevant developments, especially on special cases. Since Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno took over the position of ousted Renato Corona as head of the 15-member court, in which she deemed to bring the court to "dignified silence," the Court has ceased to hold press conferences and briefings. (JCV/Virgil Lopez/HDT/Sunnex)