Church submits written memo to SC on ‘Team Patay, Team Buhay’ tarp

THE Diocese of Bacolod through lawyer Ralph Sarmiento submitted Monday its written memorandum before the Supreme Court (SC) on the controversial "Team Patay, Team Buhay" tarpaulin posted in front of the San Sebastián Cathedral.

The written memorandum was submitted by the church after it made the oral presentation of its stand on the matter after the church lawyers brought up the matter to the High Court.

Sarmiento, in a post in his Facebook account, clarified that the controversial tarpaulin is not a campaign material for the coming May 13 elections.

Sarmiento in his written memorandum stated, "The subject tarpaulin is not intended to campaign for the candidacy or the defeat of particular candidates. Its purpose is simply to convey the message and position of the church on the RH Law and to inform the public who among the candidates and partylist groups had voted for or against its passage into law."

That is not campaigning for the candidacy or defeat of particular candidates but a mere statement of either commendation or criticism of candidates based on their positions on the RH Law, an issue of utmost importance to the Church.

It is therefore just a mere expression of personal opinions, views and beliefs by a private party which is protected by the Bill of Rights, he added.

To the candidates and party-list groups who were listed under the sub heading “Anti-RH Team Buhay,” the subject tarpaulin speaks subsequently as a statement of approval and appreciation of their action as public officials in voting against the RH Law, hence the "v" mark.

To the candidates and party-list groups who were placed under the sub-heading “Pro-RH Team Patay,” the subject tarpaulin speaks boldly as a statement of disapproval and criticism in their action in voting in favor of the RH Law, hence the "X" mark, said Sarmiento.

Petitioner Diocese of Bacolod is a Roman Catholic diocese and is represented in the petition by its Bishop, the Most Rev. Vicente M. Navarra.

Named as respondents are the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Election Officer of Bacolod City, lawyer Mavil Majarucon.

Last February 21, 2013, the petitioners have caused to be placed on the front wall of the Bacolod Cathedral two sets of tarpaulin, each sized 6x10 feet, with the message Conscience Vote (Team Buhay/Team Patay).

The Team Patay Tarpaulin contained the names of both Anti- and Pro-Reproductive Health Law senatorial candidates.

In their special civil action for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, petitioners sought the nullification of the order issued by respondent Atty. Majarucon on February 23 2013, asking them to remove the supposed oversized Team Patay Tarpaulin of the Diocese of Bacolod.

They also sought to nullify the February 27, 2013 order issued by the Comelec, through its Law Department, which orders the immediate removal of the Team Patay Tarpaulin and threatening the petitioner Bishop of Bacolod with the filing of an election offense if he fails to cause its immediate removal.

On March 5, 2013, the Supreme Court En Banc issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the respondents Comelec and Majarucon from removing the Team Patay Tarpaulin.

The church's stand on the issue is that the Comelec's directives to remove or cause the removal of the subject Team Patay tarpaulin are unconstitutional and void for infringing on petitioners' right to freedom of expression on their own private property and for violating the principle of separation of Church and State enshrined in Section 6 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution.
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