'Kababuyan ng proseso': Legal battle brewing as Duterte Youth gets Comelec nod

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2020 05:33 PM

MANILA — A group of election lawyers said Friday it would exhaust all legal remedies, even go up to the Supreme Court, in an "uphill" bid to reverse what they called the "most unconstitutional act ever done by Comelec in its 80-year history."

Election lawyers led by Emil Marañon said they were in disbelief upon confirmation by no less than Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sheriff Abas that the poll body has cleared the way for controversial party-list group Duterte Youth to occupy a seat at the House of Representatives. 

"We have not seen anything as brazen as this, ever," Marañon said in an interview with ABS-CBN News on Friday. 

He said the group would do what they can to undo Comelec's "grave abuse of discretion."

"Kami na ang maghahabol sa kanila habang nakaupo na sila at nagpapakasasa sa pera ng taumbayan. We plan to go up to the Supreme Court by filing a Petition for Certiorari on the ground of grave abuse of discretion... At the same time, we will file a quo warranto case before the HRET (House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal) to unseat Cardema who will occupy a party-list seat despite not representing any registered party-list organization," Marañon said.

"I trust that the people are on our side. Kitang-kita ng taumbayan ang kamalian at kababuyan ng prosesong ito. Lahat sila galit sa nangyari. Hindi kami napakinggan sa Comelec pero sana sa Korte Suprema at sa HRET batas at katotohanan naman ang umiral," he added. 

Abas told lawmakers on Thursday that Comelec is set to issue a certificate of proclamation to the party-list's first nominee, Ducielle Cardema, wife of former National Youth Commission chair Ronald Cardema.

Ducielle had to step in last minute to save the party-list's House bid after her husband was disqualified for attempting to represent a youth group despite being overage.

NOT REGISTERED

Marañon claimed Duterte Youth was not even a registered party-list organization and, thus, has no legal foundation to be a lawmaker. 

Under the law, relevant jurisprudence, and the Constitution itself, only duly-registered party-list organizations can sit in Congress.

"Duterte Youth has not published their petition to register so they can never be granted registration. Publication is a jurisdictional requirement under Section 5 of Republic Act No. 7941 and Rule 1, Section 9 of Comelec Resolution No. 9366," said Marañon, who served as chief of staff of the late Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes.

In other words, according to the lawyer, Duterte Youth was not able to complete their requirements before the May 2019 elections.

"Publication is an express requirement in Article IX-C, Section 2 (5) of the 1987 Constitution. Without complying with this mandatory and jurisdictional requirement of publication, Duterte Youth can never be granted with registration. Comelec has no authority to relax this requirement or exempt Duterte Youth, that would be unconstitutional," he insisted.

SPECIAL TREATMENT?

It was puzzling, according to Marañon, how the pro-Duterte youth group was able to convince Comelec to "bend" its rules.

"[This is] an affront to the rule of law. Bakit pa tayo nagkaroon ng batas o konstitusyon, kung hindi naman pala susundin? Ano ang special sa Duterte Youth, bakit exempt sila sa lahat? Bakit nababali ang batas 'pag sila ang involved?" he said.

Comelec's decision will set a dangerous precedent and will further "erode" the party-list system that has been hijacked by political elites, contrary to the intention of the law.

"Our party-list system has already been much abused in the past decade and the bad precedent that this case will set will further erode that little good that is left in the party-list system."

The Comelec has yet to provide a date when it would issue the certificate of proclamation for Duterte Youth.