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SC upholds Sereno TRO vs Comelec

The Supreme Court building in Manila. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno’s issuance of a temporary restraining order stopping the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from unseating Imus Mayor Emmanuel Maliksi, a partymate of President Benigno Aquino III in the Liberal Party.

In its regular en banc session, the high court “unanimously confirmed” the TRO Sereno issued last October 11, which put on hold the Comelec order against Maliksi. On September 14, Comelec declared Maliksi’s erstwhile rival in the May 2010 mayoralty race, Homer Saquilayan, as the duly elected mayor of the city.

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In a statement, acting Supreme Court public information office chief Atty. Victoria Gleoresty Guerra said Sereno had issued the TRO “in response to and after careful study of the written request of the same date by the member-in-charge of the said case, a copy of which was furnished by the members of the court,” said Guerra, who did not identify the associate justice in charge of the case.

“Thus, there is no truth at all to allegations that the chief justice acted on her own and was influenced by political pressure in issuing the TRO,” Guerra said.

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Guerra was referring to reports quoting Saquilayan who questioned Sereno’s issuance of the TRO favoring Maliksi.

Saquilayan said on Monday that Sereno was pressured to act on the Comelec order by invoking her authority to issue a TRO. His lawyers quoted ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona as saying that a chief justice can only invoke such authority in emergency situations.

Sereno had been criticized for not invoking the same authority in the petitions against the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which drew flak because it made online libel a cybercrime punishable with imprisonment. The high court had since stopped the implementation of the law in the next four months and had set oral arguments in January next year.

Saquilayan’s camp on Tuesday said it respected the high court’s confirmation of the TRO but disagreed with it.

“The Supreme Court has spoken, and thus while we disagree with the ratification of the temporary restraining order in GR no. 203302 (Maliksi v. Comelec), we respect the same, and I have advised my client Mayor Homer Saquilayan, that we still have recourse to other legal avenues in this case,” said Saquilayan’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.

Topacio said they were saddened that the high court stopped the implementation of the Comelec order, which “as an independent Constitutional body, bears a heavy presumption of regularity in its decisions, on a matter that pertains to the peculiar competence of the Comelec, that is, the right of the people to choose their own leaders.”

Tuesday’s en banc session was attended by nine of the 14 justices, including Sereno. Those absent were Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion, Mariano Del Castillo, Jose Perez and Bienvenido Reyes. Carpio and Perez were on wellness leave while Brion and Del Castillo were on personal leave. Reyes, on the other hand, is in Geneva, Switzerland, on an official travel.

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TAGS: Comelec, Commission on Elections, Emmanuel Maliksi, Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Philippines, Politics, Supreme Court, TRO
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