Supreme Court unseats congresswoman-actress

Posted on March 20, 2013

AN ACTRESS-TURNED-CONGRESSWOMAN was yesterday unseated by the Supreme Court (SC) with only three months into her term, declaring that she could not replace her husband-actor who was disqualified to run in the last congressional elections, a court spokesman said yesterday.

"SC en banc voted today in Silverio Tagolino v. HRET (House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal) and Lucy Torres-Gomez… that Ms. Torres-Gomez did not validly substitute as candidate for the ousted Richard Gomez in connection with the May 2010 elections… Ms. Torres-Gomez ousted," SC Spokesman Theodore O. Te said in a text message to reporters.

Voting 7-4-4, the SC declared that Ms. Torres-Gomez, who represents the 4th district of Leyte, could not be a valid substitute for her husband under the election law.

Mr. Gomez was supposed to seek the congressional seat but was disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for failing to fulfill the residency requirement.

The law provides that the candidate should be a registered voter in the congressional district and should be a resident therein for not less than one year before the day of the election.

"In this case, it is undisputed that Mr. Gomez was disqualified to run in the May 10, 2010 elections due to his failure to comply with the one-year residency requirement," the SC decision read.

"Thus, absent valid substitution, Ms. Torres-Gomez could not have been considered a candidate [as well]," Mr. Te said.

Following the disqualification of her husband, Ms. Torres-Gomez filed her certificate of candidacy under the Liberal Party as a substitute bet and eventually won as the votes garnered by her husband, whose name remained in the ballot, were credited to her.

This was challenged by Mr. Tagolino, the losing candidate, who filed a petition with the HRET to oust Ms. Torres-Gomez for lack of a valid substitution. The tribunal favored the congresswoman in a ruling on March 2012. Mr. Tagolino then haled the case to the SC.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe. Those who concurred were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno and Associate Justices Antonio T. Carpio, Mario Victor F. Leonen, Martin S. Villarama, Jr., Jose P. Perez and Bienvenido L. Reyes.

Those who dissented were Associate Justices Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro, Roberto A. Abad, Jose C. Mendoza and Mariano C. Del Castillo.

Associate Justices Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., Lucas P. Bersamin, Arturo D. Brion and Diosdado M. Peralta were not present during the deliberations.

In his dissenting opinion, Mr. Abad said that: "[T]he HRET has no authority to review final and executor resolutions or decisions of the Comelec that it rendered pursuant to its powers under the Constitution, no matter if such resolutions or decisions are erroneous."

Mr. Abad said the real issue is whether the HRET can review a final and executory decision of the poll body involving a member of the House of Representatives.

The Gomezes could not be immediately reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the SC granted yesterday a reelectionist senator’s petition to intervene in the case filed by a television network to lift airtime limits for political advertisements imposed by the Comelec.

"SC en banc granted Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano’s petition for intervention in airtime cases," Mr. Te said in a separate text message to reporters.

Last Friday, Mr. Cayetano, who is seeking another term under the administration coalition, filed a petition-in-intervention on the petition of GMA Network, Inc.

The network has asked the high court to nullify a provision of Comelec Resolution 9615, as affirmed by Resolution 9631, that aggregates the airtime limits of candidates for national positions for television to (120 minutes) and radio (180 minutes) and no longer on a per-station basis. The resolutions were anchored on Republic Act No. 8006 or the Fair Election Act.

Similarly, political advertisements of candidates for local positions will also be limited to 60 minutes for television and 90 minutes for radio.

In his petition, Mr. Cayetano asked the court to "immediately issue a temporary restraining order and/or a writ of preliminary injunction… and declaring as unconstitutional and null void, Section 9 of Comelec Resolution No. 9615."

Mr. Te said the SC did not act on the request for the issuance of a stay order.

The 90-day campaign period for national candidates, or those running for the Senate and party-list in the House of Representatives, started on Feb. 12 and will end on May 11, or two days before the elections.

The campaign period for congressmen and local candidates will start on March 29 and end on the same day. -- DEDS