Poll issue vs Singson reaches SC
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - January 2, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The issue on the election of Ilocos Sur first district Rep. Ronald Singson has reached the Supreme Court (SC).

Singson’s rival in the congressional race last year, lawyer Bertrand Baterina, asked the SC to nullify his proclamation and reverse the resolution issued by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) last August which dismissed his petition against the lawmaker for being filed out of time.

“It should be pointed out that the HRET did not deal on the substantial grounds raised upon by the petitioner which would warrant the patent disqualification of respondent Singson as a member of the House of Representatives of the first district of Ilocos Sur,” Baterina argued in his 47-page petition filed recently.

Aside from the HRET, Baterina also named the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as respondent in the case.

In his petition before the SC, Baterina alleged that the HRET and Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when they did not take judicial notice of Singson’s conviction for drug trafficking in Hong Kong which he said would warrant his disqualification or ineligibility as congressman.

Baterina argued that from the start the Comelec should not have allowed Singson to run for congressman since it is a public knowledge that he was arrested and convicted for drug trafficking in Hong Kong in 2011.

He added that it is the Comelec’s duty to take judicial notice of Singson’s disqualification.

Singson, according to Baterina, should not have been allowed to run because the five-year period of disqualification after his service of sentence, under Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), has yet to expire.

Baterina quoted Section 12 of the OEC as stating that “any person who has been declared by competent authority insane or incompetent, or has been sentenced by final judgment for subversion, insurrection, rebellion or for any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than 18 months or for a crime involving moral turpitude, shall be disqualified to be a candidate and to hold any office, unless he has been given plenary pardon or granted amnesty.”

Baterina argued that drug trafficking, for which Singson was convicted, is a crime involving moral turpitude.

“The disqualification of respondent Singson under Section 12 of the OEC does need any further construction. It is clear that the disqualification provided therein (Section 12 of the OEC) applies not only those who have convicted by final judgment for violating the Philippine domestic laws, but includes as well, those who have been convicted by final judgment abroad for violating the foreign laws,” he said.

“Clearly, Singson was sentenced by final judgment for an act contrary to justice, modesty, or good morals, with much weight considering that at the time of his arrest and subsequent conviction, he was incumbent representative of the first district of Ilocos Sur,” he added.

Singson, 43, ran under the alliance of the Nacionalista Party and local party Bileg, while Baterina, also 43, ran under the ruling Liberal Party.

The Comelec held a special election in May 2011 for the House post that Singson vacated. His younger brother, Ryan, replaced him to represent Ilocos Sur’s first district.

In seeking relief from the SC, Baterina cited its decision on Eduardo Rodriguez vs Comelec that recognized a decision rendered by a foreign tribunal as a ground to disqualify a candidate in an elective position.

Records show that Singson, son of former governor Chavit Singson, was sentenced by the District Court of Hong Kong on Feb. 24, 2011 to one year and six months of imprisonment after he was caught in possession of 6.67 grams of cocaine and two tablets of narcotics containing eight milligrams of Nitrazepam at the Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong.

Singson served his sentence at the Tung Tao Correctional Institute. After almost a year in prison, Singson was released in January 2012.

Baterina first filed a petition before the Comelec insisting that Singson was not qualified to run for the congressional post under Section 12 of the OEC because he has been sentenced by final judgment for a crime involving moral turpitude.

On Aug. 13, 2013, the Comelec dismissed the petition, saying jurisdiction over the electoral case was with the HRET.

Two days later, the HRET dismissed Baterina’s petition on technicality and did not decide on its merits.

The HRET, which has jurisdiction over poll protests against House members, affirmed its ruling on Oct. 24, 2013, prompting Baterina to elevate the case to the SC.

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