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Answer DQ plea, SC tells BBM

High Court also gives Congress and Comelec 15 days to comment on petitions seeking to nullify the Certificate of Candidacy of President-in-waiting Marcos Jr.

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The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday gave President-in-waiting Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the Commission on Elections (Comelec), 15 days to answer petitions seeking to disqualify the former senator as a candidate in the last elections.

The petitions have sought to nullify the Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) of Marcos Jr., and to stop both houses of Congress from canvassing the votes cast for President.

In reaction to the petitions, Senate President Vicente Sotto III has warned that the country would face a constitutional crisis if the SC would stop Congress, a co-equal branch of government like the Executive, from its constitutional mandate to canvass the vote.

In his column today in Daily Tribune, University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina expressed the position that the SC would not go so far as to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the canvassing of votes and the proclamation of Marcos Jr.

“Without in any way pre-empting the Supreme Court and only by way of a mere expression of an academic opinion, I am inclined to say ‘No.’” wrote Divina. “First, the power of Congress to canvass the votes in a presidential election and proclaim the winning President is mandated by Section 4, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution expressly empowers Congress.”

Divina then cited the case Arroyo v. De Venecia (277 SCRA 268, 14 August 1997), in which the SC ruled that it has “no power to review the internal proceedings of Congress, unless there is a clear violation of the Constitution.”

He also noted that in Santiago v. Guingona, (298 SCRA 756, 18 November 1998), the SC ruled that under the doctrine of separation of powers — it has “no authority to interfere” in the “exclusive realm” of a co-equal branch, absent a showing of grave abuse of discretion.

“The SC ruled in that case that it has no authority to restrict or limit the exercise of congressional prerogatives granted by the Constitution,” Divina pointed out.

Most importantly, the law dean said the “voice of the people is the supreme law when it comes to electoral exercise.”

“The Supreme Court has, time and again, liberally and equitably construed the electoral laws of our country to give the fullest effect to the manifest will of our people, for in case of doubt, political laws must be interpreted to give life and spirit to the popular mandate freely expressed through the ballot,” he said.

“Otherwise stated, legal niceties and technicalities cannot stand in the way of the sovereign will,” he added, citing Risos-Vidal v. Commission on Elections, G.R. 206666, [21 January 2015].

The camp of Marcos Jr., through its spokesperson lawyer Vic Rodriguez, earlier noted that the Comelec has already junked the disqualification cases in both the division and en banc level, expressing the the SC will rule in their favor.

The SC Public Information Office headed by lawyer Brian Keith Hosaka said the High Court’s en banc resolution was released Thursday, even if the SC would remain in recess until 10 June.

“Now, therefore, respondents Comelec, Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., Senate of the Philippines, and House of Representatives are hereby required to comment on the petitions and prayer for temporary restraining order within a period of fifteen days from notice hereof,” the resolution read.

The order covered the petition filed by Fr. Christian Buenafe, Fides Lim, Ma. Edeliza Hernandez, Celia Lagman Sevilla, Roland Vibal and Josephine Lascano, representatives of various human rights groups.

The second petition filed by the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law was not mentioned by the SC.

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