MANILA,  April 29, 2004
By Aurea Calica  - Itís final. Movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. is the official standard-bearer of the opposition Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), leaving his rival Sen. Panfilo Lacson as an independent candidate.

The Supreme Court threw out with finality yesterday the motion for reconsideration filed by LDP secretary-general and Makati City Rep. Agapito Aquino, insisting that Lacson should be considered the official LDP presidential contender in the May 10 national elections.

The SC said all the issues had been passed upon and no substantial arguments were presented to reverse its earlier decision nullifying a resolution of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which virtually divided LDP into two factions ó one headed by party president Edgardo Angara and another by Aquino.

The Comelec handed down its resolution on Jan. 6, accepting the nomination of Poe and Lacson by Angara and Aquino, respectively.

Angara backed Poe as LDP candidate. The action star with no political background later became standard-bearer of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP), a merger of different parties supportive of the opposition.

Last Feb. 24, the Supreme Court directed the Comelec to recognize the faction headed by Angara because, as party chairman, only he or his duly authorized representative has the authority to sign the certificates of candidacy (COCs) of LDP candidates.

In its decision penned by Justice Dante Tinga, the SC assailed the Comelecís Jan. 6 resolution for effectively dividing the opposition as it created LDP "wings" or factions.

Each LDP "wing" could each nominate candidates and is entitled to representatives in the election committees the Comelec may create.

The election returns for a party will also be divided between the two wings, the Comelec then ruled.

Angara elevated the case to the Supreme Court after failing to convince the poll body that there should only be one set of candidates from the LDP.

Though the Supreme Court granted Angaraís petition by junking the Comelec resolution, it did not agree with Angaraís claim that the Comelec did not have jurisdiction to resolve the matter, only that it did so wrongfully.

In resolving the issue, the Supreme Court said the Comelec need only to turn to the partyís constitution.

The high court said it was clear in the LDP charter that only the party chairman could sign COCs. The secretary-general could only do so when given the authority by the chairman, which the court said had been revoked by Angara when he placed Aquino under preventive suspension.

"By creating the two wings (Angara and Aquino factions), the Comelec effectively diffused the LDPís strength and undeniably emasculated its chance of obtaining the Commissionís nod as the dominant minority party," the Supreme Court said.

"By allowing each wing to nominate different candidates, the Comelec planted the seeds of confusion among the electorate, who are apt to be confounded by two candidates from a single political party," the court added.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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