Supreme Court is 'kontrabida' in this year's poll, says election reform group

A group advocating electoral reforms foresees “a generally peaceful” conduct of elections on Monday.
The Consortium on Electoral Reform (CER), a coalition of 47 national organizations, notes that all indications point to peaceful, free, and fair conduct of 2013 mid-term elections this coming Monday.
CER chair Ramon Casiple issued the statement based on the findings of the group’s domestic election monitoring mission.
“Election violence, though still a matter of concern, has decreased by more than 50 percent compared to the levels of 2010 elections,” Casiple said in a press briefing.
“(It) has remained localized to specific cities and towns, and has not yet necessitated the placement of any area under Comelec control,” he pointed out.
This supported Philippine National Police (PNP)’s report, which revealed a total of 58 incidents of election-related violence from January 13 to April 30 with 35 victims dead and 34 others wounded.
During the same period in preparation for 2010 presidential elections, PNP has recorded 150 incidents of election-related violence.
After observing the signing of peace covenants in Mindanao, CER also observed a decrease in the number of private armed groups which dropped from 112 in 2010 to only 48 this year.
Casiple explained this led to the unprecedented lowering of the level of electoral violence in the country particularly in the provinces of Masbate, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan.
These findings prompted CER to commend the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for doing “a good job” in creating efforts that instituted reforms in the conduct of campaigns to level the playing field among candidates.
“They did a good job. I will give them (a passing grade of) 70 because the Comelec proved that they political will to reform our electoral system particularly in the conduct of the campaigns,” Casiple said.
“However, much still needs to be done in order to achieve these, particularly in the field of cooperation by the co-equal branches of government,” he added.
SC: Kontrabida of electoral reform
Casiple criticized the Supreme Court (SC) for issuing orders that continuously prevents the poll body from issuing resolutions that are widely perceived as efforts to ensure free and fair elections.
He argued the High Court is becoming a “kontrabida of electoral reforms” for issuing decisions in the form of Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO) and Status Quo Ante Orders on key Comelec resolutions.
CER was referring to Comelec resolutions that hope to address issues concerning party-list groups, campaign finance, liquor ban, and money ban.
“In anticipation that vote-buying will remain as the major form of cheating in the election process throughout the country, Comelec introduced an initiative to curtail this illegal practice by imposing Money Ban,” Casiple said.
“It is, however, a disappointment that such initiative is meting stiff resistance,” he added referring to SC’s status quo ante order against the money ban.
He pointed out that Comelec also spelled out airtime limit of political ads in accordance with the original intent and interpretation of the corresponding provisions in the Fair Elections Act.
But SC ordered a status quo ante order and directed Comelec to revert its 2010 rule in allowing national candidates to have 120 minutes airtime in each TV station and 180 minutes in each radio station.
“In turn, this effectively negates any rule at all since Comelec resolutions are only implementable for a particular election,” Casiple said.
“The Supreme Court decisions effectively scuttled efforts to the level the playing fields among candidates as far as media expenditures are concerned,” he added.
Casiple urged the SC to start deciding on such issues based on merits.
“Status quo ante and temporary restraining orders are not decisions. They decisions to postpone a decision, which is detrimental because time is running out to fully prepare for elections,” he argued.
“In effect, the Supreme Court is encroaching on the constitutional duty of Comelec to be the sole administrator of elections because of these orders,” he concluded.

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