Disqualified Marinduque solon to stay as House member

Posted on December 05, 2013

MARINDUQUE REP. Regina Ongsiako-Reyes will remain in her position despite the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on Tuesday disqualifying her, the Speaker of the House of Representatives said yesterday.

In a press conference, House Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr., said Ms. Reyes will stay for the meantime as a member of the House of Representatives until the legislative chamber has finished studying her case.

"We were unofficially informed about [the SC decision] except through the media. In the meantime, we are looking at the various actions that are open to us. She will be here, until we act [on her case]," Mr. Belmonte said.

Mr. Belmonte added that the House of Representatives cannot act on the matter yet since they have not received a copy of the said SC decision.

The high court on Tuesday has ruled with finality to disqualify Ms. Reyes as the winner in the congressional race in Marinduque’s lone district.

The SC earlier dismissed the petition of Ms. Reyes to overturn the tribunal’s earlier decision after she failed to show grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The poll body earlier ruled to disqualify Ms. Reyes from running in the May 13, 2013 elections.

The Comelec disqualified the Marinduque solon for purportedly lacking the required one-year residency to run for public office and for being an American citizen. Ms. Reyes allegedly failed to renounce her American citizenship as required of candidates with dual citizenship.

Ms. Reyes earlier withdrew her appeal at the SC. However, the high court still ruled on her motion for reconsideration last October, saying she failed to present any legal and factual basis to support her argument.

Ms. Reyes said that while she married an American citizen, she has not yet undergone naturalization that will make her a US citizen.

Mr. Belmonte, in the same press conference, told reporters that lawyers from the House are now studying the case of Ms. Reyes. "Remember she was proclaimed. For us, that is not something unimportant because under the Constitution, the HRET [House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal] -- which is not created by the House but by Constitution -- supposedly has jurisdiction over this matter," Mr. Belmonte said.

"We also want be sure that HRET is not useless here," he said, adding the decision of the HRET on electoral protests is powerful like the SC decision.

Ms. Reyes was still able to participate last election because her disqualification was not yet final.

The case went controversial since one of the sitting justices of the high tribunal, Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., is the father of the political rival of Ms. Reyes, Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco. The younger Velasco ran for reelection as congressman of the lone district of Marinduque in 2013.

Ms. Reyes, who is the daughter of incumbent provincial governor Carmencita O. Reyes, defeated Mr. Velasco by a lead of around 4,000 votes.

The Justice inhibited from the disqualification case.

In a privilege speech delivered at the plenary on Tuesday night, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali (2nd District) assailed the SC decision disqualifying Ms. Reyes. Mr. Umali claimed that the SC resolution was done "in apparent haste by which some despotic magistrates dismissed outright the June 7, 2013 petition for certiorari" of Ms. Reyes.

He criticized the SC for allegedly undermining the powers of the HRET. He cited Article 6, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution which read: "The Senate and the House of Representatives shall each have an Electoral Tribunal which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of their respective members."

"Yes the petition was dismissed motu propio, without even requiring the respondent to comment... expectably in a flip-flopping fashion," he said. -- Imee Charlee C. Delavin