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House nixes SC meddling in Marinduque poll issue

DESPITE a Supreme Court ruling disqualifying Marinduque Rep. Regina Ongsiaco-Reyes, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal has issued a ruling asserting its exclusive jurisdiction over election cases involving proclaimed candidates.

Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas, a member of the HRET members which consists of six congressmen and three Supreme Court justices, confirmed that the HRET passed a resolution, dated September 11, 2014, dismissing a petition asking the HRET to recognize the SC’s ruling on the election case.

Treñas said the ruling paves the way for the tribunal to determine the merits of the case against Reyes, whom the Commission on Elections disqualified from becoming a congresswoman although she won in the 2013 congressional elections.

“The [HRET] rejected the Supreme Court’s encroachment into its sole and exclusive prerogative and upheld its jurisdiction over the disqualification cases against Representative Regina O. Reyes of the lone Congressional District of Marinduque Province,” Reyes said in a statement on Wednesday.

Reyes won by almost 4,000 votes the congressional seat of the lone district of Marinduque over her closes rival, Lord Allan Jay Velasco. But Velasco protested her victory and she was later disqualified by the Commission on Elections over a citizenship issue.

Reyes appealed the case before the SC but the high court affirmed in December 2013 the Comelec decision disqualifying Reyes.

But Reyes argued before the HRET that the Comelec issued its resolution on May 14, 2013, or a day after the election, and she was subsequently proclaimed on May 18, 2013.

Citing the case of Gonzales vs. Comelec, the HRET said that such proclamation of “the winning candidate divests the Comelec of its jurisdiction over matters pending before it at the time of the proclamation.”

“The party questioning his qualification should now present his case in a proceeding before the HRET, the constitutionally mandated tribunal to hear and decide a case involving a Member of the House of Representatives with respect to the latter’s election, returns and qualifications,” the HRET said.

The HRET asserted in its Sept. 11 resolution that the “proclamation of the candidate is the operative fact that serves as the demarcation line separating the jurisdiction of the Comelec and the HRET.”

“It is the proclamation that ‘vests exclusive and original jurisdiction to the HRET, to exclusion of judicial and quasi-judicial entities including the Supreme Court’,” Reyes’ camp said in its statement.

But judiciary observers said the third-party petitioner who asked the HRET to recognize the SC ruling or the actually party-in-interest, Lord Allan Jay Velasco, can still bring the matter before the SC to settle the constitutional matter of jurisdiction.

However, Reyes had earlier asserted that all the three SC justices, who are members of the HRET, should be disqualified from hearing the case because  Lord Allan Jay Velasco is the son of  SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco.

Associate Justice Velasco, along with Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Lucas Bersamin, are the SC representatives in the HRET.

The congressmen in the HRET are Reps. Franklin Bautista (Davao del Sur), Joselito Mendoza (Bulacan), Mark Enverga (Quezon City), Ma. Theresa Bonoan (Manila), Jerry Treñas (Iloilo), and Luzviminda Ilagan (Gabriela party-list).

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