POC’s recourse is to seek TRO
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 26, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — It appears the only way the POC can stave off holding new elections for chairman and president on Feb. 23, as ordered by the court, is to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals and if that isn’t available, the stage for a fresh mandate is inevitable.

ABAP secretary-general and executive director Ed Picson said yesterday he consulted lawyers on the issue. “I was told this isn’t a criminal or a civil case, it’s an electoral case and because of its nature, the idea is to resolve it quickly in the interest of justice,” he said. “Filing a motion of reconsideration before the Pasig Regional Trial Court, which issued the order, isn’t an option. If the POC wants to contest the ruling, it can go straight to the Court of Appeals and seek a TRO.”

Picson said unless the Court of Appeals grants the TRO, the POC is duty-bound to hold new elections on Feb. 23. “I presume there will be hearings to determine the merits of granting or not granting the TRO,” said Picson. “The Court of Appeals will want to hear both sides.” A TRO has a time limit and when it lapses, the court will make a ruling on the case, one way or the other.

Picson said the decision handed down by Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 155 Judge Maria Gracia Cadiz Casaclang was “clear and damning.” The decision declared the POC elections for chairman and president last year as “null and void” and ordered new polls to include disqualified candidates Ricky Vargas and Rep. Abraham Tolentino.

“This court rules that POC Election Committee acted beyond the scope of its power and authority granted to it by the POC Executive Board and had violated its own POC election rules when it motu proprio disqualified Mr. Vargas and Rep. Tolentino from the list of candidates for the 2016 POC elections for president and chairman,” wrote Casaclang. “Moreover, the Election Committee’s ground for disqualifying plaintiffs Mr. Vargas and Rep. Tolentino is invalid as it cannot take upon itself to restrict or qualify the term ‘active member’ Article VII, Section 11 of the POC By-Laws as to mean physical presence in the meetings of the General Assembly. Accordingly, this court resolves the instant Election Contest in plaintiffs’ favor.”

Picson said without a TRO, the Pasig Regional Trial Court’s decision is immediately executory. “Ordinarily, the appellate court’s decision needs to affirm the original decision but not in this case, as it’s immediately executory unless there is a TRO,” he said.

Picson said running to the IOC for redress isn’t an option. “This isn’t government intervention,” he said. “It isn’t about the management of a sport. It involves disqualifying candidates in the elections, a legal matter. The fact that the POC participated in hearings related to the case means it submits to the jurisdiction of the court. It’s forum-shopping if the POC goes to the IOC and that would be against national interest.”

Picson said among the lawyers he consulted were Jake Corporal and George Aquino of the ACCRA Law Office. “I also consulted other legal experts and they concurred that unless a TRO is issued by the Court of Appeals, the lower court’s decision is immediately executory, meaning the POC is bound to hold new elections for president and chairman on Feb. 23,” he said. Vargas said he will run for POC president in the new polls, adding that Tolentino is “happy and excited” with the court’s decision.

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