SC might not act on Bacolod church plea on controversial tarpaulin, says election lawyer



Atty. Romeo Macalintal. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–Because it went straight to the Supreme Court without first exhausting all available remedies, the Diocese of Bacolod’s petition to block the Commission on Elections from ordering the removal of controversial political tarpaulins from the facade of the San Sebastian Cathedral in the city may not be acted upon by the high court.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal expressed the opinion on Sunday, saying the high court might not act on the Bacolod diocese’s petition on the grounds of prematurity or lack of jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court, however, could suspend its rules and take cognizance of the case “in the interest of justice,” and if it does, the Bacolod diocese would have a strong case against the Comelec, Macalintal said.

Explaining the prematurity of taking the case to the high court, the election lawyer said the diocese should have first filed a motion for reconsideration of the Comelec’s order to remove the tarpaulins and asked the agency’s commissioners to respond to their petition.

In the letter-order, Comelec law department head Esmeralda Ladra demanded that the diocese remove the large “Team Buhay” and “Team Patay” tarpaulins church officials had put up outside the cathedral as their sizes violated Comelec Resolution No. 9615, which allows election propaganda materials measuring at most 2 x 3 feet.

The two tarps were originally an even bigger single piece listing the names of the senatorial candidates the diocese was recommending the faithful to either vote for or reject depending on their stand on the controversial reproductive health law, which the Catholic Church in the Philippines is opposed to.

When called to account for the oversized tarp, Church officials simply cut the tarpaulin in two, but the Comelec said these still violated the rules on sizes.

Ladra warned that failure to remove the tarpaulins would prompt her office to file election offense charges against the diocese.

Macalintal reminded the protagonists that the Supreme Court could review only Comelec cases that were limited to decisions or orders issued by the Comelec en banc (all the commissioners in session).

“The court does not even have the power to review decisions of a division of the Comelec, more so an order of a mere department in the poll agency,” he said in a statement.

Still, he noted, the diocese had a “very strong case” against the Comelec if the election body insisted on the removal of the tarpaulins.

For one, the Comelec resolution does not say that a private person may not post election propaganda materials of whatever size on his property.

Macalintal said it was clear that the church property was private, contrary to the Comelec resolution that bars the display of election materials in public places.

In order to enforce the resolution, Macalintal noted that it would require the filing in the Comelec by interested persons or groups of a petition to remove prohibited campaign materials.

“For sure, the petition cannot be filed by the law department of the Comelec as the Comelec cannot be the complainant, prosecutor and judge all rolled into one,” he said.

Macalintal also said that “strictly speaking,” the tarpaulins were “not election propaganda” but “an expression of the Church’s continuing position against the reproductive health law, which the diocese wants to disseminate to its parishioners.”

He said this act of the Church was “covered by the constitutional guarantee on freedom of expression and religion, the exercise of which could only be prevented by the government if there was a clear and present danger to the nation.”

“The display of the controversial tarpaulins on private property does not endanger the life or property of anyone,” he said.

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  • rjimenez1226

    i’ve nocticed that Inquirer is very devious in using a fiiter that does not allow you to comment on some issues that they have stakes or interest of promoting

    • Crazy_horse101010

      been there done that i hate typing then cant get in

  • Anti-nakaw

    Macalintal might be wrong to say that Catholic churches are private properties. They might be as public as public parks. Anybody can enter churches without the need to ask permission from the priest, can’t we? If that is the case, can we consider places where we can go in and out as we please a private property? Catholics like me are not the only ones allowed to enter a catholic church, anybody can for as long as they will observe the catholic way of worshipping, thereby defeating the exclusivity of usage of that place to catholics in general and priests in particular.

  • Jane Tan

    Mmmm… nice one, Macalintal. I guess legal precedence is not observed in the Philippines.

  • doublecross

    mas strict sana eto, yon pari patawan ng tama.

  • Danilo Navarro

    so if its allowed what macalintal said,,that you can put a big tarpolin in your property as long as its your  private property then all the candidates can put a BIG  tarpulin in there property as long as they dont write vote or re elect the person just put there names on its..or if the person who own that property he or she can put the name of there candidates they want,,soo the comelec can do nothing about it all the rich candidate has a big private property they can put a bigger tarpulin than the church made may ten times bigger..he he he macalintal give an idea on rich’s they beat the comelec rules 

  • speedstream2

    With due respect, we could be giving the Church more credit than it deserves. If it could not stem the tide of pro-RH support, can it mobilize the laity into voting against candidates who are pro-RH? As things stand, this could be much ado about nothing. But then again, can the Church be dismissed out of hand? Who really knows the power of its influence?

  • JOHNCeneza

    Next time, the church could solicite advertisement/campaign fees..

    • Jane Tan

      Or anyone, for the matter. I think I shall rent out my window for a campaign poster.

      • JOHNCeneza

        good idea.. the problem is hahabolin tayo ng BIR kc dapat may Resibo tayo sa rental..

  • tower_of_power

    Dapat lang huwag ng pansinin ng SC ang church plea … tambak ang mga kasong mas importante at dapat yun ang pagtuonan ng SC. SOBRANG CLEAR ANG LAW >>>> HINDI BA NAIINTINDIHAN NG MGA BISHOPS yun???????????????

  • Ninio Calle

    Whatever the Church’s excuse, anyone evoking encouraging or discouraging words on any candidate by name during an election period is called campaigning. To say otherwise by citing other rights is downright false.  It makes the Church representative a big fat liar. All of this because they have been rebuke in the RH battle? In their conscience, would Jesus have done the same?

  • rjimenez1226

    The  Roman Catholic Church is the biggest Hypocrite ever. They killed the country’s national hero and are now violating election laws. what’s next?

  • rinom

    the SC and the COMELEC should ignore it because they are government offices. the SC and the COMELEC are government entities so they should restrict themselves not to interfere with the affair of any church. they should not be mindful or take care of the position paper of any church. they should not use government resources to fight or to aid any church.

    • Jane Tan

      lmao… but not vice versa?

  • batchmatters

    They should not worry too much about that bit of tarpaulin propaganda.  Catholics have grown wiser since the gory days of the Inquest when suspected heretics were burned at the stake. Catholics are a bit different among other sects that they go to Church to worship the one GOD they were born and raised  to believe, and not just to listen to some clergy`s often ostentatious display of self-righteous hubris.  I am not generalizing though because many are still so good to their calling and actually living up to Jesus` exemplar of humility like the new papabile Cardinal Tagle.

  • Dawn Dare

    The extremist pharisees, otherwise known as the Opus Dei, is behind this. The archdiocese is financed and supported by this group. It is one thing to brand the RH bill as evil, but it is wrong to brand people as evil. These priests and bishop should be arrested. The cult of Opus Dei must die. Tatad and Macalintal are known members of this group, and they see things only in black or white. These fascists are rich. They should be taxed heavily to kingdom come and sent to exile, so they will understand what persecution really means.


    Let us digest the essence of comelec rule for poster size. First it has nothing to do about whose names are written on it except of course if it was drawn with logo of a middle finger pointing upward. So why should the poster size be limited ? As we all know election posters are hanged in every lamp post of the streets thereby an oversize trapolin can cause vehicle accidents for it will block the drivers eye sight. Posters are also pasted in any walls along the streets all over town such that when the election is over it will be very tidious to clean up giant posters but most of all a giant poster will occupy the entire public wall space denying other candidates a space to post. Lastly, there must be somekind of size standard for the millions upon millions of posters in public places all over the country. Therefore the size rule is intended for the millions posters in public place. The single poster hanged in private property of a church is not the target of this comelec rule of poster size. Why then that the comelec charge the church for violating a rule that is not actually intended for Single post in private property? Was it because “Team Patay” are mostly administration candidates and the administration has the power to arm twist the comelec chairman. The Boy AB is once again practising her style of despicable shameless Cheat.

  • virgoyap

    I thought Macalintal is a member of K of C but by what he has shown to always defend the Roman Catholic Church no matter what,  it’s more probable that he is an Opus Dei.

  • dadwel

    hay naku Comelec.  Ang dami Candidato na over size mga Posters nila, bakit di muna sila
    ang inyong Kasuhan.  Bakit pag INC nag lalabas ng list nila ng mga Pet Candidate nila ni
    isang SALITA wala naririnig sa Comelec at Government?  

    Ilang Millions of peso ang dinodonate ng mga kandidato sa INC para sa boto nila
    pero ni isa wala nag iimbestega?

    Ang sa akin lang kahit ano pang Sekta yan, maging patas ang government.  Mapa
    Catholic, INC, Muslim at Satanic pa yan.

  • pwo76

    I guess this means that since SM Malls and Robinson’s are privately owned, any size posters can be allowed on their premises also…

  • okayayonip

    para walang gulo sa loob na lang ng simbahan ikabit ang inyong pakulo kahit balutin ninyo ang buong kalakhan ng building, eto naman ay mensahe ninyo sa mga katoliko na nagsisimba at hindi eto papansinin ng mga INC, protestante, born again, sabadista etc. etc. at malamang ay pagtawan pa nga kayo ng mga eto. pinagugulo lang ninyo ang pangyayari dahil natalo kayo sa RH Bill, uusok ulit ang bunbunan ninyo sa Divorce Bill.

  • Jarred Pulido

    So Villar can put giant tarpolins on all thier condo project in Metro Manila since these are private properties. Come on mr. macalintal what do you think we are?

  • mxsclxmxn

    If JIL and INC can campaign on their followers, why not the RCC? What is the difference? Afraid of the RCC votes? They shouldnt be as they said that there is no RCC votes!

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