MANILA — A Catholic priest lauded the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) declaring as unconstitutional the order of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in 2013 to remove a tarpaulin of a Catholic Church campaigning against those candidates who are supporting the Reproductive Health (RH) bill and endorsing those who are against the measure.
Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (CBCP-ECFL), said they are happy with the High Court’s ruling, which supports the right of the citizens to express their opinions.
“We are glad and elated that the Supreme Court upheld the right of the citizens who happen to be Catholics to express their political views,” he said in a text message.
Castro was asked on the possibility that the church will use tarps to post names of anti life candidates during 2016 elections, he said, “It’s up to individual dioceses and Bishops. But with this ruling it gives the Church legal basis to do so.”
Meanwhile, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said that they have not received a copy of the decision.
“Hindi pa namin nakikita ang decision, kung dapat ba kaming magfile ng motion for reconsideration (We haven’t seen the decision, if we should file for a motion for reconsideration). The most prudent thing to do now is to wait and study the decision,” he said.
The Comelec official added that since the SC has ruled on the case, it would clarify the issue on whether or not the poll body has the right to take down such streamers or banners.
“Maka-clarify natin ngayon kung pwede ba nating galawin yong nakadikit sa mga private property… ‘Yung pagkiling ng decision sa issue ng ano ba ang karapatan ng Comelec na manghimasok sa mga nakapaskil sa building na private at hindi kandidato or hindi bahagi ng kampanya. At least makaclarify ang rules na yon. Makikita kung ano ba talaga ang extent ng Comelec regulation sa mga bagay na yan (We’ll clarify now if we can remove those posted on private property, about Comelec’s scope of power when it comes to interfering with private buildings or non-candidates and those not included in campaigns. At least we’ll clarify that now. We’ll see the true extent of Comelec regulations),” he explained.
It would be recalled that the controversial tarpaulins with the names of senatorial candidates who were pro-RH were listed as “Team Patay” while those who opposed the law were listed as “Team Buhay” have been ordered by the Comelec to be taken down for violation of campaign materials.
The Comelec said the tarpaulins, which are displayed at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod, are oversized.