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SC asks Comelec to comment on disqualified party-lists

The Supreme Court has ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to comment on the petitions filed by party-list groups questioning their disqualification for the May elections. This was contrary to the earlier pronouncement by Supreme Court spokesperson Gleoresty Guerra that the court has issued a new set of status quo ante orders (SQAs) for the latest batch of petitioners. "Upon verification, the SC did not issue SQAs but instead required comment within a non-extendable period of five days so that it can dispose of the case as quickly and as expeditiously as possible," Guerra said in a text message. "We apologize for the confusion." This was not the first time in recent months that the Public Information Office of the high court triggered confusion surrounding its media statements. Last October, Guerra sent a text message to reporters about a supposed temporary restraining order issued by the high court against the arraignment of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the alleged anomaly in the use of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds. It turned out the TRO was not against Arroyo's arraignment but against the arrest of one of her co-accused in the case. The SC PIO made the correction through another text message to reporters later same day. Since the Comelec disqualified a number of party-list groups late last year, petitions questioning the Comelec's move have flooded the high court. To date, the high court has issued SQAs in favor of 52 disqualified party-list groups. The orders directed the Comelec to observe the status before the disqualification resolutions were issued. This meant that the disqualified groups that were able to secure SQAs from the high court would still have to be included on the ballots that the Comelec would be printing starting this month. The Comelec said the disqualified groups did not represent marginalized sectors, while the groups argued that the poll body does not have the mandate to define what constitutes a marginalized group. — Mark D. Merueñas/KBK, GMA News