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SC leaves poll pleas hanging

The Supreme Court may not be able to resolve all the appeals for recent election-related decisions as it goes on a month-long recess starting today, April 24, until June 4. Court Spokesman Theodore Te said the high court goes on recess to give them time to concentrate on the writing of decisions on the cases pending before the body. “The Court is now on recess. The next full-court session will be on June 4,” Te said in a text message. This means that the high court will not convene until after the midterm national elections on May 13 and that its rulings and actions on election-related cases would stand until then. But Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno may still opt to call for a special full-court session to resolve pending pleadings on cases like the party-list election and airtime limit set by the Commission on Elections on TV and radio advertisements of candidates. Earlier this month, the SC revised the standards for groups participating in the party-list system and granted relief to 52 groups earlier disqualified by the Comelec. Specifically, the High Court removed the previous requirement of the Comelec for groups joining the party-list election that the commission said should belong to a marginalized or underrepresented sector, based on the SC’s ruling in the Ang Bagong Bayani case in June 2001. It also held that the party-list system should not be exclusive to sectoral groups and must be opened to regional parties and groups and even national political organizations that do not represent marginalized sectors enumerated in the law. The Comelec earlier planned to file an appeal  on the ruling, even if it immediately complied with the order and started with summary hearings to determine the qualification of the 52 groups. A disqualified group, the 1 Ang Bagong Alyansang Tagapagtaguyod ng Adhikaing Sambayanan (1 Ang Batas) also filed last week a petition seeking to reset the party-list elections to October to allow the poll body to “rationalize” the system using the new six-point parameters laid down by the court. The SC has not acted on this plea. Last week, the high tribunal issued a temporary restraining order stopping Comelec’s “aggregate time limit” rule on broadcast advertisements of candidates. It granted the relief sought in the petitions filed by broadcast giant GMA Network Corp., ABC Development Corp. and re-electionist Senator Alan Peter Cayetano last February. Comelec also lamented this development, prompting Chairman Sixto Brillantes to threaten to resign from his post barely two weeks before the polls. Also earlier this month, the high court has flip-flopped on its ruling in the controversial election case between Mayor Emmanuel Maliksi and his rival Homer Saquilayan that had put the Imus City Hall in Cavite to a standstill a month before their rematch. In their deliberations on March 12, the justices voted 8-7 in favor of Saquilayan and ordered that he is  reinstated to his post as mayor. But in a summer session in Baguio City last April 11, they reversed their ruling by the same vote and appeared to have favored Maliksi by remanding the case to the Comelec. Saquilayan has appealed the ruling, but the high court has not acted on the case before going into recess.
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