Saddened by the intransigence of Catholic Church officials, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said on Saturday the poll agency will file criminal charges against those who put up “over-sized” campaign materials outside a cathedral in Bacolod City.
Brillantes also said he welcomed the petition of church officials before the Supreme Court that questioned the Comelec order directing the Diocese of Bacolod to take down the offending tarpaulins. He said 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,” said Brillantes in his Twitter account.
“We maintain, however, that the Team Buhay/Patay tarpaulin is 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 which identified the senatorial candidates that Catholics should support and reject based on their positions on the reproductive health (RH) law.
Brillantes said the tarpaulins should be taken down because they exceeded 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 longtime partner in securing orderly elections,” he said.
Brillantes said the Comelec will start this week proceedings for the filing of criminal charges against those who put up the tarpaulins.
“We will commence the proceedings for the filing of election cases against whoever is behind this, unless restrained by the Supreme Court,” Brillantes said.
“I maintain that election laws including those governing campaigns apply to all citizens regardless of faith or persuasion, even the Church,” he added.
Those found guilty of an election offense could face imprisonment from one to six years, removal of their right to vote and disqualification from public office.