SC stops Comelec from removing 'Team Patay' poster-A A +A
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from removing the "Team Patay, Team Buhay" tarpaulin posted outside the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City.
SC Public Information Office chief Theodore Te said during Tuesday's en banc session, the SC issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the Comelec order issued by Bacolod City Election Officer Mavil V. Majarucon, and the letter dated February 27 of Esmeralda Ladra, head of the Comelec law department.
The SC also directed the Comelec to file its comment not later than March 15 on the petition filed by Bacolod City Bishop Vicente Navarra. An oral argument on the case was set on March 19 at 2 p.m. at the SC Session Hall.
The tarpaulin lists down the names of senatorial candidates in the May 13, 2013 elections that the Bacolod City Diocese said should not get the public's votes because they favored the Reproductive Health Law.
The senatorial candidates tagged as members of "Team Patay" are Sonny Angara, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casiño and Jack Enrile.
Party-list groups Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Akbayan, and Anak Pawis are also on the "Team Patay" list.
Those in the "Team Buhay" list are senatorial candidates JV Ejercito, Antonio Trillanes IV, Gregorio Honasan II, Mitos Magsaysay, Aquilino Pimentel III, and Cynthia Villar for opposing the RH Law.
In its petition, the Bacolod City Diocese said the Comelec order is unconstitutional since the tarpaulin merely represents the Church's exercise of freedom of expression.
Lawyer Ralph Sarmiento, one of the diocese's legal counsel, said they based two grounds in the Constitution in their petition against the Comelec's order – freedom of expression and separation of church and state.
Sarmiento said it is the right of the church being a private sector to freedom of expression and this cannot be suppressed by the state.
The petitioner argued by virtue of the separation of Church and State, the Comelec's order should be stricken down by the SC.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said that he expects more churches to come out with their own versions of controversial poster now that High Court has tied the hands of the commission.
"We will not be surprised now that all churches all throughout country can start putting up this kind of a material and we will not be able to do anything about it," said Brillantes.
The poll chief admitted that he was surprised that the SC issued TRO despite the absence of an order from the Comelec. Brillantes said the commission will question SC's jurisdiction to act on the petition.
However, he assured that the poll body will respect the Court's order by not pushing for the removal of the controversial tarpaulin while the TRO is in effect.
"It's a very good action that there will be now oral arguments and we can settle once and for all this issue," said Brillantes. (PNA/Virgil Lopez/HDT/Sunnex)