SC stops Comelec-proclaimed Magsasaka Party-list winner from assuming post in Congress
MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has effectively stopped a Magsasaka Party-list candidate from taking his seat in Congress, pending petitions from individuals claiming they are the rightful representatives of the group.
In a notice dated October 18, the Supreme Court en banc issued a status quo ante order requiring both petitioners and respondents in the petition filed by former Magsasaka Party-list Rep. Argel Joseph Cabatbat to maintain the existing circumstances before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared agricultural entrepreneur Robert Gerard Nazal Jr. as the winning representative of the organization in Congress.
Cabatbat was contesting the Comelec decision to declare Nazal as the Magsasaka Party-list representative, claiming that Nazal is not even part of their group. But Nazal maintains that the Comelec already considered the side of Magsasaka national chair Soliman Villamin Jr. as the legitimate party-list group.
“The Court resolves to […] issue a status quo ante order effective immediately, and continuing until further orders from this Court, and order the petitioners, respondents, their agents, representatives, or persons acting in their place and stead, to maintain the status quo prevailing prior to the promulgation of the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) Resolution No. 22-0953 dated September 14, 2022, confirming the proclamation of Roberto Gerard L. Nazal Jr. as representative of Magsasaka party-list,” the SC said.
The SC gave reporters a copy of its order which was later released by Cabatbat’s camp on Thursday.
The feud within Magsasaka Party-list was publicized after Nazal’s camp insisted that the candidate declared by Comelec as the winner is the party-list’s legitimate representative.
Cabatbat, however, contested his claims, saying Nazal is a part of a different party-list group that lost in the 2022 elections.
Cabatabat’s camp likewise saidthat Nazal was not a true representative of farmers, being a wealthy businessman.
Nazal explained that he was the third nominee of Villamin’s Magsasaka Party-list faction, and that the first and second nominees resigned. As the group gained one seat at the House of Representatives in the May 2022 elections, Nazal’s camp noted, Comelec proclaimed him as the winner.
According to Nazal’s group, the infighting within Magsasaka Party-list started when Villamin was allegedly voted out of the party illegally. Villamin had purportedly insisted before Comelec that his removal from the group was illegal, and that he was still its chairperson.
Nazal’s camp said Villamin heads DV Boer Farm International Corp. where Cabatbat served as legal counsel until a falling out.