Comelec to appeal SC ruling on Bacolod church tarpaulins
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will appeal the Supreme Court ruling which upheld the legality of the “Team Patay/Team Buhay” tarpaulins of the Diocese of Bacolod.
The tarpaulins identified 2013 senatorial candidates as “antilife” and “prolife” depending on their stand on the reproductive health (RH) law.
“Definitely we’re filing a motion for reconsideration,” Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. told a press briefing on Thursday.
According to Brillantes, there would be a lot of clarification on the issue as it involves the use of propaganda materials.
“[It has to be clarified] whether the Church can put it in a private property… you can place it in a private property but will the size be limited or not? Can you place a big billboard on your roof? What if all the roofs in the country be filled with billboards in the guise of free expression?” Brillantes said, insisting that the Team Buhay/Patay tarpaulin is covered by the size restriction imposed by law.
He said that freedom of expression was not the point of contention in the issue but the measurements of propaganda materials as prescribed by the law.
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Bacolod felt vindicated after the high court upheld the legality of the tarpaulins.
In a post on the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra said that from the very start, he believed the Church was on the winning side.
“My conscience is clear that what we did is only to conscienticize our faithful in Bacolod and the well-intentioned voters regarding their moral civic consciousness regarding the decision to select candidates to uphold the rights of the unborn, against abortion and contraceptives,” he said.
The bishop said the tarpaulins are still hanging outside the cathedral until today.
He explained that with the Supreme Court decision, he will still keep the tarps where they are as long as he remains bishop.
Asked why he’ll keep them there, he said “it’s good for catechesis.”
“There is still a need to catechize the people,” he said, adding that he is extremely grateful to the justices who took part in the deliberations and eventual decision which upheld the rights of the unborn.
In 2013, the diocese posted the tarpaulins in front of San Sebastian Church in Bacolod identifying then senatorial candidates who voted for the approval of the RH law as “Team Patay”: Juan Edgardo Angara, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Teddy Casiño and Jack Enrile.
The “Team Patay” list also included party-list groups Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Akbayan and Anak Pawis.
Those who opposed the RH law were listed under “Team Buhay”: JV Ejercito, Antonio Trillanes IV, Gregorio Honasan, Mitos Magsaysay, Koko Pimentel and Cynthia Villar.
The Comelec issued a ruling ordering the diocese to take down the tarpaulins or they will be charged with an election offense but the high court, in March 2013, issued a restraining order against the Comelec.
“The commission en banc actually had no decision on that,” Brillantes said during the press briefing.