MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court will hear today the arguments of both the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Diocese of Bacolod regarding the posting of “Team Patay, Team Buhay” tarpaulins.
In a three-page advisory, the high court has given the following points to be discussed by both parties:
1. Whether or not the February 22, 2013 Notice or the February 27, 2013 Order by the Comelec Law Department can be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
2. Whether or not it is relevant to determine whether the tarpaulins are “political advertisement” or “election propaganda” considering that petitioner (Diocese of Bacolod) is not a political candidate.
3. Whether or not the tarpaulins are a form of expression (protected speech), or election propaganda/political advertisement.
4. Whether or not the Comelec order violated the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
5. Whether or not the action of the petitioners in posting its tarpaulin violates the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
Early this month, the high court stopped the Comelec from implementing its order to remove the Team Buhay and Team Patay tarpaulins placed in front of the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City.
The urgent petition was filed seeking to declare as unconstitutional the Comelec’s order maintaining that it infringes on their right to freedom of expression and violated the principle of separation of Church and State.
The case stemmed after the Comelec issued a notice asking the petitioners to remove the tarpaulins for violating the Comelec regulation on campaign materials in private properties.
After the church refused to comply, Comelec legal department director Esmeralda Amora-Ladra issued a warning that if the tarpaulins will not be removed, they will be charged with an election offense.