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Comelec to press charges against Bacolod clergy

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A Catholic church in Bacolod has cut in half a tarpaulin that tells the faithful whom to vote for and whom to junk in the May senatorial elections (“Team Buhay, Team Patay”). The Commission on Elections says the 6-foot-by-10-foot tarpaulin violates the rule on campaign material sizes, prompting the church to cut it. Despite the cut, the two tarpaulins still do not meet the 2-foot-by-3-foot rule of the Omnibus Election Code. CARLA GOMEZ/INQUIRER VISAYAS FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Lamenting the intransigence of Catholic Church officials, Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Saturday the election body would file criminal charges against those who put up “over-sized” campaign materials at the chathedral in Bacolod.

Brillantes said he welcomed the petition of the Bacolod Diocese and Bishop Vicente Navarra to the Supreme Court, questioning the legality of a Comelec order directing the diocese to take down the tarpaulins. He insisted the Comelec was just following the law.

“The Comelec welcomes the suit filed by the Diocese of Bacolod in the Supreme Court questioning our order/notice to remove its illegal tarp,” Brillantes said through his Twitter account.

“We maintain, however, that the Team Buhay/Patay tarpaulin is an ‘election propaganda’ and thus covered by the size restriction imposed by law,” he added.

Church officials had put up tarpaulins at the San Sebastian Cathedral identifying senatorial candidates Catholics should support and those they should shun on the basis of their position with respect to the recently passed Reproductive Health Law.

Brillantes said the tarpaulins should be taken down because they exceed the allowable size for campaign materials.

“We are not being unreasonable. We quietly met and pleaded with the diocese for its removal, sent them two notices which were both disregarded,” he said.

“I’m saddened by the defiance of the local diocese as the Catholic Church is a trusted and long-time partner in securing orderly elections,” he added.

Brillantes said the Comelec would start this week the proceedings for the eventual filing of criminal charges against those who put up the tarpaulins.

“We will commence the proceedings next week for the filing of election offense cases against whoever is behind this, unless restrained by the Supreme Court,” Brillantes said.

“I maintain that election laws, including those governing campaign, apply to all citizens regardless of faith or persuasion, even the Church,” he added.

Those found guilty of an election offense could face imprisonment of from one to six years, removal of their right to vote and disqualification from public office.

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Tags: 2013 elections , Bacolod clergy , Comelec , Elections , Politics

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