Church did not violate election law— Election lawyer

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MANILA, March 5, 2013—An election lawyer on Tuesday stressed that the Church, particularly the Diocese of Bacolod did not violate any election laws. 

Known election lawyer Atty. Romulo Macalintal said in a media forum that the Church cannot be liable on the Commission on Election’s (Comelec) Resolution 9615 which is only applicable to candidates and those incumbent officials who are running for public office this coming May polls. 

“They are saying the diocese violated resolution 9615 which is the unlawful size of election materials that must be 2 feet by 3 feet. The question is, who are those liable to that law?,” Macalintal asked. 

“It is stated in the resolution that the law applies to all parties which is defined as to either a political party, sectoral party or a coalition of parties, and party-list organization duly registered/accredited with the Commission.  But the Church is neither a political nor a sectoral party, so [it is] not liable for an offense,” Macalintal said. 

The lawyer explained the term candidate refers to any person seeking an elective public office, who has filed his or her certificate of candidacy. 

“Did the Church file a certificate of candidacy or seeking for public office? No, therefore, the Church is not covered by the definition of candidate and is not covered by the said election law,” he added.

He reiterated that Comelec is asking the diocese to remove the said tarpaulin, but so far, they have not filed a case against the diocese. 

Macalintal suggested that the commission must review the law wherein there is not mention that it also applies to private citizens or private area. 

“A person can use or abuse his/her private property unless it will not endanger the lives or property of other people. There is a freedom of expression and religion that can be used by the private entity. What the commission needs to do now is not just to concentrate on illegal posters but focus on educating the voters in their rights to suffrage,” Macalintal furthered. 

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court (SC) today has issued a temporary restraining order against the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) order for the removal of the controversial “Team Patay and Team Buhay” tarpaulin at the San Sebastian Cathedral in the Diocese of Bacolod. 

SC ordered Comelec to file its comment on the petition for certiorari and prohibition with application for injunction and TRO of Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra within 10 days. Oral arguments on the controversial case have been set on March 19.

In their petition to the SC, the diocese pointed out that the Comelec order is unconstitutional since the tarpaulin only represents the Church’s exercise of the freedom of expression. And by virtue of the separation of Church and State, the Comelec’s order should be stricken down by the high court. (Jandel Posion)

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