Singson asks SC for more time to answer ouster petition
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - March 15, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson has asked the Supreme Court (SC) for more time to answer a petition to unseat him for his drug conviction by a Hong Kong court in 2011.

In a motion filed by his lawyers, Singson cited the voluminous documents his legal team has to review and its “heavy workload in other important cases.”

The SC has given Singson until last Monday to respond to the petition filed by his opponent, lawyer Bertrand Baterina. He is asking that he be given until March 25 to submit his answer.

The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) are Singson’s co-respondents in the case.

Baterina said the HRET and the Comelec have failed to enforce the Election Code, which clearly bars a person convicted of moral turpitude, including conviction in a drug-related case, from seeking public office.

Through the Office of the Solicitor General, the HRET and the Comelec have filed their own motion, asking the SC that they be excused from commenting on the petition to disqualify and remove Singson as a House member.

The Comelec had tossed the disqualification case to the HRET, saying it had already lost jurisdiction over it.

On the other hand, the House tribunal dismissed Baterina’s disqualification complaint, ruling that it was filed “out of time” or beyond the 15-day filing deadline counted from the time the winner was proclaimed.

In their motion, the HRET and the Comelec invoked the Rules of Court, which they said provide that Singson should not only defend himself but the public respondents as well, since he is interested in having their rulings sustained.

In asking the SC to unseat the Ilocos Sur congressman, Baterina said the SC, in several cases, had disqualified candidates and winners who had been convicted by local and foreign courts of offenses involving moral turpitude.

He said one candidate had been barred for conviction of insurance fraud, which he added was a much lesser offense than his opponent’s infraction.

“An offense involving moral turpitude is defined as everything which is done contrary to justice, modesty or good morals… In Office of the Court Administrator vs Vicente Librado, the Supreme Court categorically stated that drug possession is a crime involving moral turpitude,” he said.

He also said Singson’s certificate of candidacy was defective and void from the start, as it was not sworn to before a qualified officer.

Singson returned to the country in early 2012 after serving time for more than a year in a Hong Kong jail for drug trafficking.


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