Monday, January 25, 2016

2 legal experts say swearing in of Velasco as solon is in order

The House of Representatives is mandated to enforce the Supreme Court’s (SC) order to swear in Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco and include his name in its Roll of Members representing the lone district of Marinduque, two prominent lawyers said yesterday.

In an interview, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president, Vicente Joyas, and former University of the East (UE) Law dean, Amado Valdez, said House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. should honor and implement the SC ruling granting Velasco’s plea for mandamus.

Congressman Lord Allan Q. Velasco

Voting 8-1 in a decision handed down last January 12, the SC ruled that the administration of the oath and the registration of Velasco as the duly-elected congressman of Marinduque “are no longer a matter of discretion or judgment” on the part of the House Speaker.

The SC said its decision is “immediately executory.” It granted Velasco’s petition for mandamus against Belmonte, House Secretary General Marilyn Barua-Yap, and Reginal Ongsiako Reyes, his rival who had been disqualified as a congressional candidate by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the 2013 election.

Belmonte and Barua-Yap “are legally duty-bound to recognize Velasco as the duly elected Member of the House of Representatives for the  Lone District of Marinduque in view of the ruling rendered by this Court and the Comelec’s compliance with the said ruling, now both final and executory,” the SC said.

The dispositive portion of the SC decision written by Justice Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro stated:

“WHEREFORE, the Petition for Mandamus is GRANTED. Public respondent Hon. Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr., Speaker, House of Representatives, shall administer the oath of office of petitioner Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco as the duly-elected Representative of the Lone District of the Province of Marinduque. And public respondent Hon. Marilyn B. Barua-Yap, Secretary General, House of Representatives, shall register the name of petitioner Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco in the Roll of Members of the House of Representatives after he has taken his oath of office. This Decision shall be IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY.”

Published reports quoted Belmonte as saying that they were “still studying” the SC decision, which he said, they received last January 18.

As of press time, a check with the website of the House of Representatives showed that Reyes is still listed as Lower House’s member for the lone district of Marinduque.

“Since the SC ruling is final, Velasco can just take his oath and assume the position,” said Valdez, who is also chairman emeritus of the Association of Philippine Law Schools (APLS).

“Congress must follow the decision” said Joyas for his part, stressing that “the officers of the House of Representatives are vested by law to implement the order of the Supreme Court.”

Other lawyers who requested anonymity said that even if a motion for reconsideration is filed, the House of Representatives should implement the executory decision of the SC.

“The implementation of the executory decision of the SC is a ministerial duty on part of the officials of the House of Representatives. There should be discretion,” they said.

Joyas warned Belmonte and other officers of the Lower House that contempt proceedings could be pursued against them if they would insist on defying the SC order.

“A contempt proceeding is always a remedy available to an aggrieved party in cases of disobedience to a lawful order of the court,” Joyas stressed.

He pointed out that Belmonte and the others could be sanctioned to pay a fine or be imprisoned, or both, if proven they have refused to implement the SC order.

Ruling favorably on Velasco’s petition, the SC said that “there is no longer any issue as to who is the rightful representative of the lone district of Marinduque” with the finality of its decision which affirmed the ruling of the Comelec that “correctly cancelled Reyes’ certificate of candidacy (COC) for member of the House of Representatives on the ground that she was ineligible for the subject position due to her failure to prove her Filipino citizenship and the requisite one-year residency in the province of Marinduque.”

It pointed out that “by virtue of Comelec en banc resolution dated May 14, 2013 in SPA No. 13-053; certificate of finality dated June 5, 2013 in SPA No. 13-053; Comelec en banc resolution dated June 19, 2013 in SPC N. 13-010; Comelec en banc resolution dated July 10, 2013 in SPA No. 13-053; and Velasco’s certificate of proclamation dated July 16, 2013, Velasco is the rightful representative of the lone district of the province of Marinduque; hence, entitled to a writ of Mandamus,” the SC ruled.

Thus, the SC said “it is well past the time for everyone concerned to accept what has been adjudicated and take judicial notice of the fact that Regina Ongsiako Reyes’ ineligibility to run for and be elected to the subject position had already been long affirmed by this Court.”

“Any ruling deviating from such established ruling will be contrary to the Rule of Law and should not be countenanced,” the SC warned.

It said that at the time of Reyes’ proclamation after the May 13, 2013 election, her COC had already been cancelled by the Comelec in its final resolution dated May 14, 2013.

The Comelec ruling cancelling Reyes’ COC had been upheld by the SC in resolutions dated June 25, 2013 and Oct. 22, 2013 and the resolutions had become final and executory, it said.

“As a consequence… the Comelec in SPC No. 13-010 cancelled respondent Reyes’ proclamation and, in turn, proclaimed Velasco as the duly elected member of the House of Representatives in representation of the lone district of the province of Marinduque. The said proclamation has not been challenged or questioned by Reyes in any proceeding,” it added.

Thus, when Reyes took her oath of office before Speaker Belmonte in open session, she had no valid COC nor a valid proclamation, the SC said.

“In view of the foregoing, Reyes has absolutely no legal basis to serve as member of the House of Representatives for the lone district of the province of Marinduque, and therefore, she has no legal personality to be recognized as a party-respondent at the quo warranto proceeding before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal,” the SC ruled. - Manila Bulletin 

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