SC upholds Comelec in bet’s disqualification

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MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) retains jurisdiction over disqualification cases involving representatives-elect until their actual terms of office begin, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Voting 7-4, the Supreme Court affirmed the Comelec’s disqualification of Regina Ongsiako Reyes, who ran for Marinduque’s lone congressional seat last May 13 and was duly proclaimed winner five days later.

On May 14, however, Comelec en banc affirmed its ruling that Reyes lacked residency and was a US citizen. Reyes took her oath of office before House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on June 5, the same day that poll body declared its May 14 decision final and executory.

Reyes filed a case in the Supreme Court on June 7 and questioned the commission’s jurisdiction, saying that since she had already been proclaimed winner and had taken her oath, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) already had the proper jurisdiction over the dispute.

However, the Court majority, in a decision written by Justice Jose Perez, said the Comelec retained jurisdiction until the noon of June 30, the beginning of the term of Reyes and those of other winning candidates.

The HRET’s jurisdiction begins only when three requirements are met: the winning representative was validly proclaimed, he has taken the proper oath and that he had already assumed office as member of the House.

“It is then clear that to be considered a member of the House of Representatives, there must be a concurrence of the following requisites—a valid proclamation, a proper oath, and assumption of office,” the Court said.

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