• High Court reverses Comelec ruling vs. party-list group

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    THE Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday reversed a poll body ruling that disqualified the Senior Citizens Party-list group from the May 2013 election, saying the action was “unfair” and “arbitrary.”

    During the tribunal’s en banc session yesterday, the 15 justices granted the petition filed by the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines that sought to junk the order of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualifying the group and allow it to secure seats in the House of Representatives.

    Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, ponente of the case, said the ruling of the poll body was reversed for lack of merit.

    In a Resolution dated May 10, 2013, the Comelec disqualified the partylist group on the basis of the term-sharing agreement among its nominees which it said was unlawful.

    But the High Court stressed that the agreement was never implemented but still, the Comelec “penalized” the group “unfairly and arbitrarily.”

    SC Public Information Chief Theodore Te, in a press conference, explained that since the term-sharing was never implemented, there was “no violation of the law.”

    “The cancellation of its [Senior Citizens Party-list] registration and accreditation have no legal leg to stand on,” he stressed. He said the High Court found that the Comelec committed “grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”

    Controversy
    The filing of the case at the High Tribunal became controversial when Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the proclamation of party-list groups.

    Many justices accused Sereno of “tampering” with the original ponencia of Justice De Castro. Instead of acting on the petition of the Senior Citizens’ group, the Chief Magistrate issued a “blanket TRO.”

    The justices said Sereno revised de Castro’s ponencia and released it without first consulting the en banc.

    The Chief Justice was also accused of violating the 24-hour policy in which all the justices must be furnished with the draft ponencia and allowed to study it 24 hours before it shall be released and promulgated.

    The source said at least seven justices of the High Court were not in favor of the resolution issued by Sereno stopping the Comelec from proclaiming the remaining party-list groups.

    In the original draft ponencia of De Castro, the TRO is limited only to the granting of relief to the plea of petitioner Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines.

    With the tribunal’s latest ruling, the senior citizens’ party list, which got 671,916 votes last May, may be qualified for two seats in Congress.

    Aside from the Senior Citizens’ partly-list, the poll body also disqualified the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation, Abang Lingkod, Binhi-Partido ng mga Magsasaka para sa mga Magsasaka, Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy, Agapay ng Indigenous Peoples Rights Alliance Inc. Ang Galing Pinoy, Atong Paglaum Inc., Kaagapay ng Nagkakaisang Agilang Pilipinong Magsasaka, Social Movement for Active Reform and Transparency and The True Marcos Loyalist Association of the Philippines Inc.

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