Thu, 01 Jun 2023

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from allowing the substitution of former Comelec commissioner Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon as party-list representative.

The order stopped the Comelec and the House of Representatives from allowing Guanzon and the other substituting nominees to assume office as member of the 19th Congress during the pendency of the case.

The SC also required the Comelec, House of Representatives, Komunidad ng Pamilya, Pasyente at Persons with Disabilities (P3PWD) Party-List and its nominees led by Guanzon to comment on the petition within a non-extendible period of 10 days.

A party-list group earlier filed a petition before the SC questioning the circumstances under which the Comelec allowed its former commissioner to be nominated as a party-list group candidate.

In its petition, the Duterte Youth (Duty to Energize the Republic through the Enlightenment of the Youth) through chairman Ronald L. Cardema and Rep. Ducielle Marie S. Cardema asked the tribunal to stop the poll body from proclaiming Guanzon as a substitute nominee for the P3PWD.

In seeking a TRO and/or preliminary injunction against the Comelec, Duterte Youth claimed the substitution is "a deliberate attempt to defraud the electorate and to create the impression that there is no more option but to allow the new substituting first nominee to sit in congress or else their vote will be disenfranchised."

Guanzon, who retired from the Comelec last February 2, on June 14 asked the poll body for the substitution of five new nominees including her as first nominee. The request was approved the next day by the Comelec.

Five original nominees initially accepted their candidacy and nomination in October 2021 stating under oath that they are fit and eligible to represent. The first nominee, Graze Yaneza took her oath on June 2 before the five nominees including Yaneza on June 14 stated they cannot anymore represent.

Cardema's group said the substitution was done way after the deadline set by Comelec in its own resolutions, Res. 9366 and Res. 10690 and other relevant laws.

Under the Party List Systems Act (RA 7941) the names of the party-list representatives must be submitted 45 days before the elections and no change of names or alteration of the order of nominees shall be allowed after the same shall been submitted to the Comelec excepts in cases of the death of the nominee, or withdrawal in writing or otherwise becomes incapacitated.

Substitution due to death or incapacity can only be done until mid-day of election day.

The petitioners, citing the Code of Conduct of Public Officials (RA 6713), said public officials and employees shall not, directly or indirectly have any financial or material interest in any transaction requiring the approval of their office.

The prohibitions apply for a period of one year after resignation, retirement or separation from public office. (PNA)

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