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Legal fireworks at the Batasan?

It seems to be a “constitutional crisis” of its own making. By voting to uphold a ruling of the Commission on Elections annulling the proclamation of Regina Ongsiako Reyes as representative of Marinduque, the Supreme Court has placed itself and the poll body in a direct confrontation with the legislature, specifically the House of Representatives.

Indeed, reports have it that the House leadership has decided to let Reyes attend tomorrow’s opening of Congress as the sole and “official” representative of Marinduque’s lone congressional district.

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Quezon City Rep. Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, widely presumed to retain the post of Speaker, and presumed deputy speaker Neptali Gonzales II, so news reports say, have called on both the Supreme Court and the Comelec to “back off” from Reyes’ case. Since Reyes had already been proclaimed the winner of the congressional contest, and indeed had taken her oath of office as congresswoman, the position of the House is that it is now up to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) to hear and decide the case.

Reyes’ opponent was former Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, son of a Supreme Court justice.

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Based on the complaint of a certain Joseph Tan, the Comelec en banc ruled that Reyes should be unseated because it had been “proven” that she had renounced her Filipino citizenship and had not established residence in Marinduque. When Reyes raised the issue to the Supreme Court, the tribunal ruled in the Comelec’s favor, although with four justices dissenting.

Reyes appeared before the media earlier this week brandishing proof of her citizenship: a genuine and legitimate passport and documents attesting that she had renounced her dual American citizenship. In fact, says Reyes’ camp, the newly elected congresswoman had not even been given the chance to refute the charges about her citizenship, charges based on a blog, with little proof offered.

As Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes stated in his earlier dissenting opinion (he later changed his mind): “…[T]he issue of the candidate’s qualification—particularly his residence and citizenship—requires exhaustive presentation and examination of evidence, which issues are best heard in a full-blown quo warranto proceeding and not in a summary proceeding as in the instant case.”

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And now, because of the Comelec ruling and the decision of the Supreme Court, three branches of government are facing a head-on confrontation over which body has the ultimate right to decide on electoral contests.

In a statement, Reyes said that she “stood for the truth” (in a previous press conference) because “Congress deserves no less.” “To take a stand against the interference directed at a coequal branch of government is a duty particularly of ALL elected members of Congress. If members of the House cannot defend a literal commitment to their institution, no other branch of government will.”

It’s a political and constitutional crisis, all right, and at this point one wonders which of the three institutions will give way and give up its prerogatives. One wonders, too, if the justices will be able to set aside their collegial feelings (Justice Presbitero Velasco, Lord Allan’s father, recused himself from voting) and remain faithful to the law and its wise interpretation. Reyes has filed a motion for reconsideration, and we should know soon which among the three bodies will “blink” and save the legal infrastructure from imminent collapse.

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So it seems there will be more to look forward to beyond P-Noy’s Sona and the stylish gowns and barong worn by lawmakers walking down the red carpet at the Batasan tomorrow afternoon.

We might yet see fireworks of a legal sort.

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Sometimes, an ambassador doesn’t have to be a sober-looking figure in a business suit or  barong, concerned only with diplomatic affairs and global issues.

Sometimes, an ambassador can cut a most casual, endearing image, with banana-yellow rubber shoes, shorts, a colorful casual shirt and hair dyed with blonde-and-brown streaks, calling to mind the teen anime hero Naruto.

In fact, it was the theme of the Naruto anime that pop singer Joe Inoue performed for the media during a presentation on the celebration of Philippine-Japan Friendship Month. True, the performance was “unplugged,” but there was no mistaking the “happy” vibe of the song and an encore number, his own composition.

Inoue was in town to lead the observance of the Friendship Month, which is marked, among others, by yesterday’s finals of the “J-Pop Anime Singing Contest” and Cosplay Mini-Contest, and an Anime Film showing featuring the works of filmmaker Makoto Shinkai.

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To be sure, the monthlong observance is not all youthful vibe, although anime and cosplay seem to be the most powerful and pervasive forms of Japanese cultural diplomacy in the Philippines these days.

The Japanese Embassy and the Japan Foundation Manila are also leading the celebration with the Eiga Sai Japanese film festival, which they are bringing to Davao and Cebu, and then to the University of the Philippines Film Institute. Jazz lovers, meanwhile, were treated to performances by Unit Asia, an acclaimed fusion band, with guest Noel Cabangon.

At the Museo Pambata, there is an ongoing exhibition (until Aug. 4) “Ukiyo-e: Art and Tradition” that features the familiar and indeed iconic images produced by traditional woodcut printmaking. For contemporary art and design, check out the ongoing exhibit “Passion and Persistence: The World of Yayoi Kusama from the Collection of Lito and Kim Camacho.” Kusama is best known for her installation art, and her quirky use of polka dots most recently used in window displays for Louis Vuitton.

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TAGS: 2013 Elections, At Large, Comelec, congress, House of Representatives, Lord Allan Jay Velasco, Marinduque, opinion, Regina Ongsiako Reyes, Rina Jimenez-David
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