Manila Standard Today - Bacolod bishop takes tarpaulin issue to SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday was asked to stop the Commission on Elections from ordering Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra to remove a tarpaulin poster in front of the San Sebastian Cathedral, saying the order was unconstitutional.

The poster contains a list of the candidates that the Diocese of Bacolod is supporting and those it is repudiating in the May 13 midterm elections, and on Friday Navarra’s lawyer, Ralph Sarmiento, filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition against the Comelec.

“On behalf of the bishop and the Diocese of Bacolod, I have just filed with the Supreme Court a petition for certiorari and prohibition with application for injunction and TRO versus the Comelec,” Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento filed his petition even as the Comelec threatened to file a case against the officials of the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City for failing to remove the “Team Patay and Team Buhay” poster hanging in front of the church.

Still, election law specialist Romulo Macalintal said the Church’s action was not covered by the Comelec because it was merely expressing its religious freedom.

“Strictly speaking, the Church is not campaigning but merely reiterating and giving emphasis on the Church’s stand against the Reproductive Health Law,” he said.

“The church cannot be prevented by Comelec from putting up their huge tarpaulin of ‘buhay’ and ‘patay’ candidates even if oversized since the church is private property.”

But Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the failure of the owners to remove the poster might result in the filing of a case against them.

He said they had received a letter from the Diocese of Bacolod informing the commission it would not remove the poster until the poll body had established that it was campaign material.

The poster identifies which senatorial candidates and party-list organizations that the Church would support or reject based on their stance on the RH Law.

The “Team Patay” senatorial bets who supported the RH bill were Liberal Party bets Senators Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano and Loren Legarda, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara and former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros. The two others were independent candidate Rep. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna and Jack Enrile of Cagayan who is with the United Nationalist Alliance.

“Team Buhay,” according to the Church, is composed of Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Aquilino Pimentel III, and former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar who are also from Team PNoy.

The others from UNA are Senator Gregorio Honasan and Reps. Joseph Victor Ejercito-Estrada of San Juan and Mitos Magsaysay of Zambales.

The petitioners against the Comelec— the Diocese of Bacolod through Navarra and the bishop himself in his personal capacity—appealed to the high court to reject the Comelec’s order directing Navarra to remove the Team Patay/Team Buhay tarpaulin posted on the wall of Bacolod San Sebastian Cathedral.

With Joel E. Zurbano