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SC accused of blocking electoral reforms


The Supreme Court has become the stumbling block in improving the country's electoral system, the head of a network of electoral reform advocates said Friday. At a forum in Manila, political analyst Ramon Casiple, chair of Consortium on Electoral Reforms (CER), chided the SC for allegedly manifesting a "kontrabida" attitude regarding efforts of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to implement electoral reforms. "They (SC justices) are not the ones who decide the elections, it's the people,” Casiple said. “Dapat ang role [ng SC is] to facilitate 'yung role ng people in exercising their sovereignty rather than placing obstacles along the way." Asked to comment on Casiple's statement, SC Public Information Office chief Theodore Te said in a text message that the high tribunal "does not comment on those things." The forum was held on the same day the high court issued a status quo ante order against the Comelec resolution temporarily banning large cash withdrawals apparently to prevent vote-buying during the May 13 elections. It was just the latest Comelec initiative blocked by the SC. Prior to that, the court had issued at least four other orders that didn't favor the Comelec, prompting poll chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. to consider resignation. In an assessment report on this year's election preparations, the CER said it takes offense against the SC decisions against the Comelec, noting that these were in the form of temporary restraining or status quo ante orders. "As such, these do not rule on the constitutionality or illegality of the Comelec actions and can be interpreted as encroaching on the constitutionality authority of Comelec to administer elections," the group said in its report. CER lauds Comelec The CER, composed of 47 groups advocating democracy through electoral reforms, commended the Comelec for its campaign to conduct reform efforts, such as party-list and campaign finance regulation, as well as  efforts to implement stronger liquor and money bans. "The Comelec is to be commended for its efforts to institute reforms in the conduct of campaigns in order to ensure fairness and create a level playing field," it said in the report. "However, much still needs to be done in order to achieve this, particularly in the field of cooperation by the co-equal branches of goverment," it added. Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca, who was present at the forum, expressed her dismay over the SC ruling on the money ban. "Sayang, sayang naman, because the Comelec is just trying to stop or just minimize vote-buying," she said. Peaceful, free, fair polls Despite the SC orders against Comelec resolutions, the CER predicted that the midterm elections on May 13 — the second nationwide automated elections in the country — will be “peaceful, free, and fair.” The announcement was made by the CER after studying factors involving the polls on Monday, namely automated election preparations, national and local election campaign conduct, and election violence. "All indicators so far point to peaceful, free, and fair national and local elections," said Casiple, citing the group's Bantay Eleksyon 2013 project. Bantay Eleksyon 2013 monitors various aspects of the electoral process. The upcoming polls are the third elections that the CER has monitored. — with Mark Merueñas/KBK, GMA News