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SC cuts five-day liquor ban to two days

(Updated 5:28 p.m.) The Supreme Court has stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from implementing its resolution adding three more days to the two-day election-related liquor ban. At a press briefing Wednesday, SC Public Information Office chief Theodore Te said the court granted a petition from the Food and Beverage Inc. and International Wines and Spirits Association to stop the Comelec from enforcing Comelec Minute Resolution No. 13-0322. "The court resolves to issue a TRO effective immediately enjoining respondent Comelec from implementing the liquor ban," he said. The extended liquor ban was supposed to start on Thursday, May 9, and will last until Monday, May 13, Election Day. Due to the TRO, the liquor ban was cut down to just two days—on May 12 and 13. In their petition, Food and Beverage Inc. and International Wines and Spirits Association said the extended liquor ban will cause "irreparable injury" to the beverage industry. They also accused the poll body of acting "in excess of its jurisdiction" when it allegedly modified the provision of Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code, which specifies the prohibited acts during election period. The Supreme Court gave the Comelec until 5 p.m. of May 9 to submit its comment on the petition. Extended liquor ban In a minute resolution, the Comelec en banc said the liquor ban has been extended from two to five days and will be in force and effective from May 9, 2013 (Thursday) to May 13, 2013 (Monday) Election Day. Section 261 (dd) (1) of the Omnibus Election Code states that it is prohibited for “any person who sells, furnishes, offers, buys, serves or takes intoxicating liquor on the days fixed by law for the registration of voters in the polling place, or on the day before the election or on election day.” It further states that “hotels and other establishments duly certified by the Ministry of Tourism as tourist oriented and habitually in the business of catering to foreign tourists may be exempted for justifiable reasons upon prior authority of the Commission: Provided, further, that foreign tourists taking intoxicating liquor in said authorized hotels or establishments are exempted from the provisions of this subparagraph.” Respect the decision The Comelec issued the resolution after Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino suggested to extend the two-day liquor ban to 45 days. The poll body, however, only allowed five days. In a text message to GMA News Online, Tolentino said he was "surprised" by the Supreme Court's TRO. "If it's true, I am surprised by the legal turn of events considering the noble purpose of my proposal to lessen election-related violence, not to mention road accidents," he said. "Rest assured, however, that we will respect the decision of the high tribunal." SC vs. Comelec This was not the first time in recent weeks that the Supreme Court had either reversed or stopped several Comelec rulings. The high court had earlier issued TROs against Comelec rulings that placed a cap on the TV and radio airtime of political advertisements and that ordered the tearing down of several allegedly partisan campaign posters. The SC also favored party-list groups that contested their disqualification by the Comelec, remanding their cases back to the poll body for further hearings. — with Gian Geronimo/KBK, GMA News