NTF ELCAC has legal standing to sue, Comelec on Gabriela’s bid

NTF ELCAC has legal standing to sue, Comelec on Gabriela’s bid

MANILA – Militant women’s party-list group Gabriela and two affiliate organizations failed to get the Commission on Elections (Comelec) nod to its motion for reconsideration claiming that the government’s anti-communist body has no legal authority to sue them.

In its seven-page order dated January 13, 2021, Comelec Second Division Presiding Commissioner Socorro B. Inting denied Gabriela Women’s Party motion saying it has failed to provide new evidence and legal basis relative to a case filed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) in May 2019 that sought to cancel its registration in the party-list system for violations of the election law and the Constitution.

Inting’s order affirmed its Nov. 24, 2020 decision that NTF ELCAC has legal standing to file the case on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines.

It junked the arguments of Gabriela Women’s Party and two other respondents – Gabriela, Inc. and General Assembly of Women and Reforms – in its motion for reconsideration dated Dec. 2, 2020, as follows: (1) That the earlier order contradicts Section 2, Rule  5   of the  Comelec Rules of Procedure.  The NTF-ELCAC is not a juridical person imbued with the legal capacity to sue; (That being allegedly clothed with a “legal interest” to file the instant petition does not do 2) away with the requirement that an entity must have the capacity to sue;  and (3) That assuming arguendo that the petitioner has capacity to sue, the subject order failed to consider that the petitioner has no capacity to sue on behalf of the Republic.

“In this case, Petitioner is able to allege substantial interest in filing the case, making the Petitioner clothed with legal interest to file this case. As stated in its Petition, NTF-ELCAC was created to provide a whole-of-nation approach in defeating the local communist terrorist groups and such other groups who advocate, use or support the use of violence or unlawful means to advance their goals,” the order read, adding that the petitioner, indeed, has the legal capacity to file the instant case.

“It is clear that any person permitted by the Comelec Rules and Procedure may be parties in any action or proceeding before the Commission. Petitioner, as permitted by Section 8, paragraph 32 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure can be a party to this action,” it added.

Untenable and erroneous

The instant proceeding, the order said, should be considered as having instituted by the Republic itself since it gave its consent when the Office of the Solicitor General voluntarily entered its appearance on behalf of the Republic.

“The argument of Respondent that the State cannot be dragged into a suit, either as a petitioner or respondent, without its consent is untenable and erroneous,” Inting said in the order. “The very essence of the Doctrine of State Immunity is that there can be no legal right as against the authority that makes the law on which the right depends. Thus, the state immunity only applies as a defense from suit.”

NTF ELCAC’s petition vs. Gabriela

Created in 2018 pursuant to Executive Order No. 70 providing for a whole-of-nation approach defeating local communist terrorist groups, and such other groups that advocate the use of violence or other unlawful means to advance their goals, NTF filed a case against the respondents seeking to cancel their registration and accreditation for receiving support from a foreign government.

The case stemmed from the document entitled “Overview of Non-Government Actors in the Philippines-Program 2017-2021,” shared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium to Philippine delegates during a meeting in Brussels in February 2019.

The document, NTF ELCAC said, revealed that the Belgian Government, through its accredited non-government organizations (NGOs) particularly G3W, also known as Viva Salud, funded the respondents.

“Respondent’s act is a blatant and direct violation of the Constitution which prohibits, in no uncertain and equivocal trend and qualifications, political parties, coalitions of political parties or organizations from receiving support from any foreign government,” the NTF-ELCAC said, citing a report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, that from 2012 to 2016, the respondents received more or less PHP22.7 million.

The petition added that respondents are pursuing their goals through violence in violation of Section 8, (d), Rule 32 Comelec Rules of Procedure Section 6 (2) of Republic Act No. 7941, otherwise known as the “Partylist System Act and Section 61, Article VIII of Batas Pambansa Bilang 881 or the Omnibus Election Code (OEC).

It also cited the sworn statement of Edison Coloma Villanueva attesting that Gabriela party-list supports the outlawed advocacies and principle of the NPA (New People’s Army) and “utilizes its funds for the procurement of firearms and ammunition’s for the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA.”

Meanwhile, Comelec’s Second Division has set the pre-marking of all evidence on file with the records of the Commission through a video conference on Jan. 13 and hearing of the case on Jan. 14. (PNA)

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