High court unseats Rep. Pichay
THE SUPREME Court has ordered the removal of Surigao del Sur First District Rep. Philip Pichay, saying his candidacy for congressman in 2013 was null and void due to his conviction for libel in 2011 which disqualified him from holding public office for five years.
The high court declared the runner-up in the congressional race, Liberal Party member and former Tandag City Mayor Mary Elizabeth Ty-Delgado, the rightful representative of the legislative district.
Voting 11-0, the Supreme Court en banc reversed the ruling of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) last year dismissing the case filed by Delgado.
“Considering that the term of the present House will end on June 30, 2016, this decision is immediately executory,” the high court said in its decision dated Jan. 26 and written by Justice Antonio Carpio.
The justices who are HRET members—Presbitero Velasco Jr., Lucas Bersamin and Diosdado Peralta—did not take part in the Supreme Court voting.
Delgado had sought Pichay’s disqualification under Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code on the ground he had been convicted of libel, a crime involving moral turpitude. She argued that when Pichay paid the fine on Feb. 17, 2011, the five-year period barring him from public office had yet to lapse.
Section 12 states: “Any person who has been declared by competent authority insane or incompetent, or has been sentenced by final judgment for subversion, insurrection, rebellion or for any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than 18 months or for a crime involving moral turpitude, shall be disqualified from being a candidate and holding any office, unless he has been given plenary pardon or granted amnesty.”
Not a crime
In his defense, Pichay admitted his convictions on four counts of libel but claimed, among other things, that libel was not a crime involving moral turpitude and that he did not perform the acts that constituted libel and that his liability arose only out of his being publisher of a publishing company.
Pichay was proclaimed the duly elected congressman after garnering 76,870 votes. Delgado filed a quo warranto case against him in the HRET.
In a decision issued in March last year and affirmed in August, the HRET concluded that Pichay had no hand in writing the libelous publication and thus the convictions were not for a crime involving moral turpitude.
The Supreme Court justices, however, disagreed with the HRET.
The justices defined moral turpitude as “everything which is done contrary to justice, modesty or good morals; an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general.”
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