Lawyers of Comelec, Bacolod diocese tangle over ‘tarpaulin issue’


Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza. INQUIRER PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections and the Diocese of Bacolod on Tuesday tangled over the validity of the poll body’s order to remove the ‘‘Team Patay’’ and ‘‘Team Buhay’’ tarpaulins hanging in front of the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City.

During oral arguments held before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, representing the poll body, said the Diocese of Bacolod violated the hierarchy of courts when it went straight to the Supreme Court instead of exercising all possible remedies.

He also maintained that the tarpaulins displayed in front of the cathedral is clearly an election propaganda.

“The net effect of the text and visual is telling the public to support the candidates who voted against the RH Law,” Jardeleza said.

Atty. Ralph Sarmiento, representing the diocese, insisted that Comelec Resolution 9615 should only cover candidates but is invalid when applied to petitioner (Diocese of Bacolod).

Sarmiento also said that they did not see anything wrong with the listing of the names on the tarpaulins.

He said the purpose of the tarpaulin is to “awaken the conscience of the people” and to inform the public of the church’s stand.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said “In a world where regulation is required to have order, even Jesus would want His disciples to follow regulation.’’

She then asked Sarmiento why the tarpaulins can’t be made in the prescribed size required by Comelec which is 2 x 3 feet.

The diocese originally hanged a single tarpaulin listing candidates into what it called ‘‘Team Patay’’ and others into what it called ‘‘Team Buhay’’.

Members of ‘‘Team Patay’’ are Juan Edgardo Angara, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casiño and Jack Enrile.

Party-list groups Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Akbayan and Anak Pawis are also on the list.

On the other hand, senatorial bets Joseph Victor Ejercito-Estrada, Antonio Trillanes, Gregorio Honasan, Mitos Magsaysay, Koko Pimentel and Cynthia Villar are on the ‘Team Buhay’ list for opposing the RH law.

When Comelec ordered the diocese to remove the tarpaulin for being oversized, the church instead cut it in half but continued to hang them.

The diocese then went to the high court and asked it to declare the Comelec order unconstitutional and an infringement on its right to free expression and on the principle of separation of church and state.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, for his part, asked Sarmiento if the diocese, in  claiming that it is a private citizen, believed it can put up tarpaulins of all sizes.

Another high court justice, Jose Perez, followed Carpio’s line, asking Sarmiento if what he was saying was that there could be no limitation, that it was beyond the authority of the Comelec.

When Sarmiento said ‘‘yes’’, Perez said such interpretation causes absurdity. ‘‘By giving a new interpretation of the law, there is an attempt to get out of the prohibition’’, Perez said.

Carpio also said the law did not limit penalty to candidates and political parties who violated limits with regards to posting of tarpaulins and other campaign paraphernalia.

“The law does not say violation of this act by candidates and political parties, this law is not limited to candidates. It applies to the public,” Carpio said.

After the oral argument, the high court ordered both parties to submit a memoranda on or before April 1.

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  • NoWorryBHappy

    The Church has wallowed itself into secular matters.
    Dirty politics at that.
    The Church must start paying taxes like ordinary citizens.

    • Manuel_II

      I agree, its about time we tax the church if they dont want to keep out of politics and if they still refuse, we can send them all back to the Vatican.

  • cogito728sum

    By answering yes to the question of “size limitations” Atty. Sarmiento wants the church to be out of the jurisdiction of the secular law on the matter of political advertizing creating not only a preferential treatment for the church but a very dangerous precedent as well.
    If this kind of argument is upheld by the court, can the church continue to preach that we follow order and regulations?

    Incidentally, considering that Jesus, thru the mouth of Sereno, has intruded in the Court, its not surprising if the ruling on this case favours the church. Merci!

    • Jane Tan

      If they can’t follow the rules of the common man, how can they be expected to follow the rules set forth by the Lord?

      In fact, Castro has already violated Canon Law by revealing confessional material.

      Its like they just do anything that suits them, without regard for any laws.

  • al gero

    Tagle should first clean up his rank, stay away from Politicians, most of them doesnt have the moral ground to do so,they only want politicinas who are willing to give in to hteir whimps and weezez,, alaga ni Gloria, retirement house, pajero, wag kakalimutan mga kababayan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Hey_Dudes

    This church wants a monopoly of all ‘patay’ business both in tarpaulins and real “patays” being brought to church for obispo’s ‘basbas’.

  • LadyBalmaceda

    how can they still defend that there is nothing wrong with it? it CLEARLY looks/does what campaigning is supposed to look/does! please dont tell me you guys are just to dense or worse stupid to realize this?

    • DennisTan

      they dont respect the law. they feel like they’re above it yata…

      • risamyloves

        thats too much na.. we cant let them disregard laws set in by our government when they choose.. edi sana ng pari nalang ako para magawa ko kung ano gusto ko

      • FRPSR

        In America these actors are given the prominence of Outlaw Celebrities . The ill considered dead enders are celebrated by the isolated communities that bristle with any restriction on their dream worlds , or utopian fantasy , where nothing ever goes wrong . When they are forced to re-inhabit our world , the real world where people scream in pain when they are shot , they seek to undermine authority with their own style of authoritarian imposition , without a care for the body counts .
        They may heroically invade peaceful , sovereign , territories bringing the violence of their personal psychosis , with the fury and reasoning power of a two year old with automatic weapons . Of course all the thought for what to do should they win is just hot air to these heroic minds . The sort of jibber jabber that provides the frame work of the real world seems to confuse their single minded psychosis .
        It is a suffering shame to witness the medieval approach of divine sanction employed by the authoritarian bullies who dislike representative republics whose officials bow to the wishes of the people . The predictable disrespect for life from these sorts always ends up hurting the innocent who merely wish to carry on peaceably in their own lives , in this world we live in , not the world of Spain’s King Phillip or worse .

  • JuliusContis

    inform the people of your stand? BS then why did it just come out only now? why didnt they make it public a long time ago? bakit nayon lang? dapat yan yung tanong nila sa church

    • MonGaspar

      bakit nayon lang? obvious para sakin.. bayad yan… sakto sa elections pa talaga eh

  • virgoyap

    It’s sad that even the church people are becoming law evaders just to have their stupid ideas achieve.

  • Jarred Pulido

    Team Tatay is going to lose this one.

  • csee

    I do not necessarily agree with the approach the diocese took to express their message, as my personal preference would have been a less conflicting and a “kinder” approach to reminding catholics to dig deep into their conscience. Their approach was too blatant and much too aggressive.

    However, i listened to the audio podcast curious to know what each side had to say.

    From what i understood it is not “preferential treatment” that is being demanded by the diocess of bacolod. What they are trying to argue is that ANY private person, any sect, any group for that matter, because of their constitutional right to free speech and religious expression, can post a tarp on his own backyard for as long as they do not cause harm (clear, actual and present harm) to anyone. I do not think the argument was that the church is above the law, rather i think what they are saying is that everyone (private individuals or groups) is guaranteed the right to speak even if we do not like his message nor agree to the message. They are arguing that this is the essence of a democracy – the right to speak…..and i guess we can also say that the constitution guarantees our right to ignore and not listen.

    I am looking forward to finding out how the SC will rule on this as this is quite an interesting case.

    • litlim

      Amen.. well said

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