Provincial Elections Officer Wil Arceño yesterday said he is confident that, despite its issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order, the Supreme Court will uphold the Commission on Elections position that the “Conscience Vote Team Patay/Team Buhay” tarpaulin in front of the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City is an oversized campaign material.
In an en banc resolution Wednesday the SC issued a TRO stopping the COMELEC from removing the tarpaulin pending hearing of the urgent petition for certiorari and prohibition, with application for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, filed by the Diocese of Bacolod represented by Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra.
The SC has set the case for oral arguments at its Session Hall at 2 p.m. on March 19.
Arceño said the tarpaulin is a campaign material, noting that, at the top of its list of senatorial candidates and partylist groups it classified as belonging to Team Patay and Team Buhay are the words “Conscience Vote.”
He reiterated that the COMELEC is not curtailing the Diocese of Bacolod from conveying its message, it is only asking that it comply with the allowed size for campaign materials.
COMELEC Legal Department director Esmeralda Amora-Ladra had earlier said that the tarpaulin in question measures 6 by 10 feet, and the allowable size for campaign materials under COMELEC Resolution 9615 is 2 feet by 3.
COMELEC chairman Sixto Brillantes also said they will comply with the TRO but maintained that the poster of the Diocese of Bacolod violates campaign laws and regulations.
“We also respectfully submit that SC has no jurisdiction over the petition assailing the mere letters of our election officer and our law department,” Brillantes added.
“The TRO only restrains us from removing the Diocese's illegal poster; this will not hinder our other actions,” he added.
The COMELEC had earlier said it will file charges against the Diocese for violation of campaign rules.
Mitchelle Abella, lawyer of the Diocese of Bacolod, said those are the usual statements of the COMELEC “that their stand will be upheld in the end, however, it is clear that the petition of the diocese is impressed with merits, that’s why the SC issued the TRO.”*CPG