MANILA, Philippines ? (UPDATE) The Supreme Court has nullified a decision by the Commission on Elections allowing the merger between the Nacionalista Party and the Nationalist People?s Coalition.
The high court ruling stemmed from a petition by the Liberal Party that questioned the formation of the coalition and the failure of the NP and NPC to meet the deadline set by the Comelec for their accreditation as merged parties.
?We hereby grant the petition and, accordingly, nullify and set aside the resolution of the Comelec dated April 12, 2010 in the application for registration of the NP-NPC?s coalition as a political coalition. The Comelec is declared barred from granting accreditation to the proposed NP-NPC collation in the May 10, 2010 elections for lack of the requisite registration as a political coalition. This decision is declared immediately executory,? the high court said.
In its 28-page decision, the high court en banc through Associate Justice Arturo Brion said the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it granted the application of the NP-NPC despite the late filing.
The high court agreed with the LP that such a petition should have been heard first by the Comelec division before it reached the en banc. In this case, however, it was the Comelec en banc that made the ruling.
Also, the high court said the NP-NPC filed its petition for accreditation as a coalition on Feb. 12, 2010 which was approved on April 12. However, Comelec?s own resolution provided an Aug. 17, 2009 cut-off date for the registration of parties.
The high court said the Comelec?s ruling in favor of NP-NPC was ?without any valid justification or reason for suspending the rule. For the (Comelec) en banc to so act was not a mere error of law. The grant of registration was an act outside mandatory legal parameters and was therefore done when the Comelec no longer had the authority to act on it.?
The high court said the deadline set by the Comelec in its own rules should be mandatory.
?The [Comelec] en banc acted in excess of its jurisdiction when it granted the registration of NP-NPC as a coalition beyond the deadline the Comelec itself had set; the authority to register political parties under mandatory terms is only up to the deadline.?
?Effectively, the mandatory deadline is a jurisdictional matter that should have been satisfied and was not. Where conditions that authorize the exercise of a general power are wanting, fatal excess of jurisdiction results,? the high court said.
In its petition, the LP said the alliance was a bogus coalition formed solely to deprive the LP from being recognized as the dominant minority party ? a status it held during the 2007 senatorial elections.
Quoting from the dissenting opinion of Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, the LP insisted that the NP-NPC merger was a ?sham, highly dubious and shameless.?
The LP said that even NPC chairman Faustino Dy Jr., who signed the resolution for the NP-NPC alliance for the NPC, admitted under oath that the coalition was neither approved nor ratified by the NPC National Convention, the party?s highest policy-making body, as provided in the party?s Constitution and By-Laws.
It noted that Dy also admitted before the poll body that he did not consult the NPC members whom he knew or believed would not agree to the merger.
The LP also argued that the NP and the NPC have candidates running against each other for national and local positions in various areas.
It also added that, ?the absurdity of the purported coalition is epitomized by the supposed NP-NPC Coalition resolution, which allegedly adopted, as the Coalition?s senatorial candidate, the entire senatorial slate of the NP, to the exclusion of NPC senatorial candidates Tito Sotto and Ompong Plaza.?
LP lawyers lamented that despite glaring evidence that the coalition was unauthorized, ?the Comelec, nonetheless, in grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess in jurisdiction, granted the petition for registration of the NP-NPC Coalition ratiocinating that since no written opposition was filed by any NPC member to the supposed coalition, the NPC membership has purportedly accepted the same.?
On top of this, they alleged that the Comelec, in grave and capricious exercise of discretion, took cognizance of the illegal NP-NPC merger ?even if its Rules of Procedure and the explicit ruling of [the SC] require that the petition should have first been heard by a division of the Commission.?
Sought for a reaction, Florencio ?Butch? Abad, LP campaign manager, said that a day before the high court ruling, the party filed a petition before the Comelec asking that it be recognized as the dominant minority party.
Abad told INQUIRER.net that with the Supreme Court ruling, the LP has been left as the sole applicant for dominant minority status.