SC justice accused in court rulingBy Christine O. Avendaño and Tina G. Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A candidate for the lone congressional seat of Marinduque who has been proclaimed winner by the province’s canvassing board on Thursday accused the father of her rival, an associate justice of the Supreme Court, of wielding influence to make his son retain his House seat.
But a Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc ruling promulgated on July 9 annulled the proclamation of Regina Ongsiako Reyes as congresswoman.
In a press conference on Thursday, Reyes accused Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco of using his influence to get a favorable ruling from the high court for his son, Lord Allan Jay, who ran for reelection. The high court recently sided with the Comelec, recognizing the poll body’s jurisdiction over preelection disqualification issues.
At presstime Thursday night, there was no word yet from the office of Velasco in reaction to Reyes’ allegations. The justice did not take part in the high court ruling.
Reyes insisted in the press conference that she is a Filipino citizen, contrary to a ruling by the Comelec that disqualified her from running for being an American citizen. She is the duly-elected representative of Marinduque and proclaimed winner, she said, and had taken her oath of office before Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
She said she won by a 4,000 vote lead over Lord Allan Jay.
In a vote of 4-1-2, the Comelec en banc said the proclamation of Reyes should be annulled since she had long been found to be an American citizen and lacked the one-year residency requirement to be a qualified congressional candidate.
Those who voted in favor of unseating Reyes were Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes and Commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Grace Padaca and Luie Guia.
Dissenting from the majority decision were Commissioners Christian Lim and Al Parreño, the newest members of the poll body. They cited the absence of Comelec jurisdiction over the case since Reyes was already proclaimed by the provincial board of canvassers (PBOC).
In a 19-page resolution, the commission en banc proclaimed Lord Allan Jay as the winning candidate in Marinduque. Reyes’ proclamation, it said, “is without any legal force and effect.”
A special provincial board of canvassers shall be constituted and its members shall be appointed by the poll body to proclaim Lord Allan Jay, of the National Unity Party, as the winning candidate.
The Comelec said the votes obtained by Reyes should be considered as “stray.”
Under the law, poll protests involving proclaimed candidates already fall under the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).
But in its decision, the poll body insisted that it had retained jurisdiction of the case since what was being declared null was the action of the PBOC, which is under the Comelec.
In his concurring opinion, Brillantes pointed out that the Comelec merely continued acting on the petition to annul Reyes’ certificate of candidacy for being disqualified.
In her press conference, Reyes said Lord Allan Jay “procured the Comelec decision declaring my certificate of candidacy as null and void.”
Reyes took her case to the Supreme Court, which upheld the Comelec’s jurisdiction over the electoral contest instead of the HRET. Reyes questioned the high court ruling.
“It is my position that there is no change of circumstance warranting the reversal of jurisprudence,” she said.
“Instead, what we have is one undeniable fact: that is, my opponent is the son of a sitting justice of the Supreme Court,” Reyes said in a statement she read before reporters.
She pointed to the dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Arturo Brion, which was supported by Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Martin Villarama and Marvic Leonen, to support her allegation against Justice Velasco.
“This is an instance where a justice of the highest post wielded his influence to reverse jurisprudence in order to benefit his family. This is a travesty of justice,” Reyes said.
Brion gave a stinging rebuke to his colleagues who voted to dismiss outright Reyes’ petition, saying among others, that the high court “should have at least heard and considered both sides before making a ruling that would favor a son of a member of the court.”
Culling from the dissenting opinion, Reyes said the high court, “in its haste to rule in favor of the Velascos, rewrote the constitutional provision on when elected officials assume their positions.”
“My term as an elected member of Congress commenced at noon of June 30. To say that I can only assume my post on July 22 would be to render all members of Congress liable for the crime of failure to assume their elected post for at least 22 calendar days,” she said.
“I beseech Presbitero Velasco to stop using his unelected post to further the interest of his family. I call on him to refrain from using his unelected post to give rise to yet another constitutional crisis where Congress may be compelled to ignore a ruling of the court reversing jurisprudence to benefit one of its own,” she added.
She said she planned to file next week a motion for reconsideration of the high court ruling, that was penned by Associate Justice Jose Perez.
In her news conference, Reyes furnished reporters copies of her Philippine passport, an Oct. 13, 2003, Bureau of Immigration document declaring she was recognized as a Filipino citizen, and an affidavit of renunciation of foreign citizenship to prove her Philippine citizenship.