SC affirms prerogative of Comelec

Posted on April 01, 2011

BAGUIO CITY -- The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the mandate of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) over cases involving the cancellation of a registered party-list group that has garnered a seat in the House of Representatives, a situation that should be handled by the House Electoral Tribunal.

In a decision promulgated last March 22 and released yesterday, the full court junked the petition of Alliance for Barangay Concerns (ABC) which sought to dismiss a petition with the Comelec for the cancellation of its accreditation and registration.

"The Constitution grants the Comelec the authority to register political parties, organizations or coalitions, and the authority to cancel the registration of the same on legal grounds," the decision read.

It cited the constitutional provision giving Comelec the power to register and cancel the registration of party-list groups that do not comply with the requirements of Republic Act (RA) 7941 or the Party-List System Act.

The case stemmed from a petition filed by lawyer Melanio Mauricio, Jr. with Comelec in May 2010 against ABC, claiming that the group is a front for the religious group Children of God International, popularly known as Ang Dating Daan of TV preacher Eliseo Soriano.

RA 7941 states that the registration of party-list groups can be nullified if they are representing a religious denomination.

ABC denied the allegation. In the meantime, ABC went on to participate in the 2010 general elections and eventually won a seat, which was filled by Arnulfo Molero, a top official of Ang Dating Daan.

The Comelec second division had dismissed the petition in June 2010. On appeal, however, the full commission granted the motion for reconsideration filed in August 2010 that revived the case.

ABC, through its chairman James Marty Lim, haled the case to the high court after the Comelec reversed itself, saying the poll body has lost authority to hear the case after ABC won a congressional seat. It had claimed that the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal has jurisdiction over case.

However, the high court said Comelec maintains jurisdiction as the case does not refer to qualifications of members of Congress.

"The Comelec en banc had jurisdiction over the petition for cancellation of the registration and accreditation of... ABC Party-List for alleged violation of... RA 7941," the decision read. -- Nathaniel R. Melican