The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday, June 29, stopped the House of Representatives from allowing former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Maria Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon to assume the post as representative of the Komunidad ng Pamilya, Pasyente at Persons with Disabilities (P3PWD) party-list which won a congressional seat in the last May 9 elections.
In a resolution containing a temporary restraining order (TRO), the SC also stopped the Comelec “from implementing its assailed resolution approving the substitution of the original nominees of P3PWD Party-List with five (5) new nominees led by former Comelec Commissioner Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon, and issuing a Certificate of Proclamation to the substituting nominees.”
Guanzon, the Comelec, and the House of Representatives were given 10 days from receipt of the SC resolution to comment on the petition filed by Duterte Youth Party-List Rep. Ducielle Marie S. Cardema and her husband, National Youth Commission Chairperson Ronald Gian Carlo L. Cardema.
The Cardema spouses pleaded for a TRO which was granted by the SC. The petition was assigned through raffle to Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario as justice-in-charge.
Last June 15, the Comelec announced it granted the withdrawal of the nominations of P3PWD’s original nominees — Grace S. Yeneza, Ira Paulo A. Pozon, Marianne Heidi Cruz Fullon, Peter Jonas R. David, and Lily Grace A. Tiangco.
It said it also gave due course to the new list of nominees which include Guanzon (as No. 1 nominee), Rosalie J. Garcia, Cherrie B. Belmonte-Lim, Donnabel C. Tenorio and Rodolfo B. Villar Jr.
Last June 23, Guanzon took her oath of office as P3PWD’s representative in the coming `19th Congress.
In their SC petition, the Cardema couple said the action of the Comelec was a violation of the poll body’s rules on the deadline of substitution, and violations for both the Comelec commissioners and Guanzon of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials & Employees.
They alleged that P3PWD filed its substitution of nominees way beyond the Nov. 15, 2021 deadline in cases of voluntary withdrawal and after the extended deadline of May 9, 2022 in cases of death or incapacity.
They pointed out that the original nominees of P3PWD filed their resignation and withdrawal last June 14 and “in just around 24 hours last June 15” their pleas were approved by Comelec. It was last June 17 when they filed their opposition, they said.
At the same time, the Cardema couple told the SC that Guanzon was just a Comelec commissioner less than five months ago and the poll body, including Guanzon, approved the inclusion in the ballot and participation in the 2022 elections of around 170 party-lists, including the P3PWD Party-List.
“In hastily approving the illegal substitution of P3PWD, one day after the petition was filed by their former colleague, the Comelec exercised its power in arbitrary or despotic manner so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty to enforce and administer election laws,” the Cardema couple said.
They also said that Republic Act No. 7941, the law on Party-List System, mandates that the list of nominees should be submitted to the Comelec before the elections to give the electorate the opportunity to assess which party-list organization to elect.
However, in case of P3PWD, all its five original nominees were replaced after the elections, thus, the public never had the chance to scrutinize the new set of nominees, they added.
“In fact, it is obvious that the five original nominees of P3PWD were mere placeholders for Guanzon under whose term as Commissioner of Comelec the registration of P3PWD was approved,” they stressed.
“Clearly, what was done by P3PWD was a grand deception designed to accommodate Guanzon even if it means betrayal of electorate’s trust and shameless mockery of the law and circumvention of the Party-List System,” they said.
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