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Comelec urged to reverse junking of Erwin Tulfo disqualification case

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has been urged to overturn the decision of the Second Division junking the disqualification petition filed against Erwin Tulfo, who has been eyeing a congressional seat as nominee of ACT-CIS party-list.

This, after lawyer Moises Tolentino filed a motion for reconsideration, asking  that the Comelec en banc affirm its jurisdiction over the petition, declare it meritorious, and bar Tulfo from sitting as a party-list representative.

Last week, the Comelec Second Division dismissed Tolentino’s petition for lack of jurisdiction after it gave weight to Tulfo’s argument that the disqualification was filed out of time.

The Comelec Second Division cited Section 4(b), Rule 5 of Comelec Resolution 9366 which explicitly requires that a petition for disqualification shall be filed at any day not later than the date of proclamation, which in this case was May 26, 2022.

In his motion, Tolentino said the ruling that the commission has no jurisdiction over the case is “patently contrary to law and jurisprudence.”

The petitioner questioned the Comelec Second Division’s interpretation of the “date of proclamation.”

He said that the body’s adoption of Tulfo’s argument that the date of the proclamation of the party-list was May 26,2022 was “very wrong and utterly deceptive.”

“If we go by this argument, there will be no need for individual nominees to be proclaimed as Party List Representative. Likewise, the issuance of an individual Certificate of Proclamation would be unnecessary. Yet, this is the procedure the COMELEC has been doing,” Tolentino said.

“The fact is, as of today Respondent Erwin Tulfo is yet to be issued his certificate of proclamation,” he went on.

He supported his argument by stating that the Comelec Second Division resolution contravene Section 13 of the Party-List Law which provides that party-list representatives shall be proclaimed by the Comelec based on the list of names submitted by the respective parties, organizations or coalitions to the Comelec according to their rank in said list.

Tolentino also argued that the House of Representative’s secretary general would be hindered to make a formal request for the Comelec to issue a resolution proclaiming Tulfo as nominee next-in-line if the case was really out of the poll body’s jurisdiction.

Further, he cited the Supreme Court ruling on Lico et. al vs. Comelec which held that the following requirements should be considered to determine if the jurisdiction over a disqualification case had already passed to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET):

-The Party List Representative whose qualification is assailed had been proclaimed

-The said Party List Representative had personally taken his oath

-The Party List Representative had already assumed office as congressman

The same jurisprudence provided that “In the case of party-list representatives, the HRET acquires jurisdiction over a disqualification (only) upon proclamation of the winning party-list group, oath of the nominee, and assumption of office as member of the House of Representatives.”

“Thus, prior to the happening of all the three mentioned events, the poll body still has jurisdiction on the petition for disqualification of a Party List Representative,” Tolentino said.

Tolentino likewise noticed the separate opinion of Comelec Second Division presiding commissioner Marlon Casquejo that the Commission “is not without authority to resolve the present case on merits.”

“Here is the stark fact: far as Respondent Tulfo is concerned, there is no showing that he had been proclaimed as Party List Representative, or had taken oath as such Party List Representative, or had assumed the office as member of the House of Representatives representing the ACT-CIS Party List. Ergo, Comelec’s jurisdiction lies, and in this Commissioner Casquejo is perfectly right,” he said.

While the Comelec Second Division deemed it futile to discuss the issues raised by Tolentino, specifically Tulfo’s citizenship and conviction of libel cases, the petitioner maintained that there is ample evidence to prove that ACT-CIS party-list nominee had lost his Philippine citizenship and had not regained it.

On Tulfo’s libel conviction, Tolentino assailed that Comelec should focus on the fact that the crime which the ACT-CIS party-list nominee was convicted is one involving moral turpitude and that should be the cause for his disqualification.—LDF, GMA Integrated News