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Opinion

Sundalo gi-aresto human mamusil atol sa kagubot

- Edwin Ian Melecio -

Among the many noticeable and apparently prevalent but dismaying practice in our elections since 2001 is that of an incumbent elective official, whether national or local, running for any office other than the one he is holding in a permanent capacity and for a fixed term that has not yet expired. Most prominent during the last election are the two incumbent Senators with three more years of service in Senate who already decided to test the political waters and ran for Mayor of the cities of Makati and Manila. They may really be motivated by a pure and sincere desire to serve their constituencies particularly Senator Fred Lim who already served as Manila Mayor. But no amount of righteous protestations on their part will erase the perception that they dared to do so mainly because win or lose, they will have a job. If they win, they can abandon their Senate posts and assume their new position as mayors of premier cities that are undeniably more powerful. If they lose, they can always go back to their seat in the Senate and still enjoy the perks and pork. Lito Lapid the Senator from Pampanga who chose to run for mayor of Makati in an effort to topple a political dynasty with his vote-getting power as a popular movie star readily announced with pride that, unlike other losers, he will not complain of being cheated. His reaction either means that no cheating really occurred or that he does not mind it all because he is still a Senator anyway. Would he be as magnanimous in defeat if he has no Senate seat to fall back on?

This practice really leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It further devalues public office and converts it into something like a commodity subject to the commerce of man; like some piece of property that can be retained and disposed off whimsically or a clothing that can be donned and discarded capriciously. The public officials concerned on the other hand are perceived as one with an insatiable appetite for power, motivated by purely personal ambition to gain more clout and influence rather than by the compassionate spirit of service.

The only way perhaps that these officials could effectively remove these unpleasant perceptions is to resign from their office upon the filing of their certificate of candidacy for another public position. Actually, under Section 67 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), any local or national elective official running for any office other than the one he is holding in a permanent capacity, except for President and Vice President, shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his office upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy. However on February 12, 2001, Republic Act No. 9006 otherwise known as the Fair Election Act was enacted into law. Section 14 of said Act expressly repealed the abovementioned Section 67 of the OEC.

The passage of R.A. 9006 particularly Section 14 repealing Section 67 of the OEC triggered a controversy that reached the Supreme Court. When some members of the House ran for Senate seats during the May 14, 2001 elections and were not considered by the Speaker and the Secretary General as ipso facto resigned from their positions as Congressmen, a minority group believed that the Speaker and the Secretary General acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction. So they filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) alleging that Section 14 of R.A. 9006 repealing of Section 67 of the OEC was unconstitutional not only because its enactment was attended with irregularities but more so because Section 67 of the OEC is a good law and is based on the Constitutional mandate regarding the “Accountability of Public Officers”; that “Public Office is a Public Trust”, and “Public Officers must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice.” Thus they maintained that it should not have been repealed citing the ruling in Dimaporo vs. Mitra (202 SCRA 779).

Unfortunately, the SC did not agree with the minority members of Congress. According to the SC, citing the deliberations of the Bicameral Conference Committee that tackled the bill, “the legislators considered Section 67 of the OEC as a form of harassment and discrimination that had to be done away with and repealed. The Executive Department found cause with Congress when the President of the Philippines signed the measure into law. For sure, some sectors of society and in government may believe that the repeal of Section 67 is a bad policy as it would encourage political adventurism. But policy matters are not the concern of the Court. Government policy is within the exclusive dominion of the political branches of the government. It is not for this Court to look into the wisdom or propriety of legislative determination. Indeed whether an enactment is wise or unwise, whether it is based on sound economic theory, whether it is the best means to achieve the desired results, whether, in short, the legislative discretion should be exercised in a particular manner within its prescribed limits, are matters for the judgment of the legislature, and the serious conflict of opinion does not suffice to bring them within the range of judicial cognizance. Congress is not precluded from repealing Section 67 by the ruling of this Court in Dimaporo v. Mitra upholding the validity of its provision and by the pronouncement in the said case that the provision has a laudable purpose” (Farinas et. al. vs. Executive Secretary, et. al., G.R. 147387, December 10, 2003; Salapuddin vs. Comelec, G.R. 152161, December 10, 2003)

Hence, the ball is still in the hands of Congress. Based on what happened in the last elections, it is clear that Section 67 of the OEC should not have been repealed. Its repeal only encourages political adventurism. It has made a mockery of the high esteem given by Constitution to public office as a public trust. There is a growing public perception that the repeal was a purely selfish move to enable members of Congress themselves to freely jump from one political position to another without in any way losing its grip on power because they are not considered ipso facto resigned if they run for another position. In this last election the impropriety and unfairness of RA 9006 ironically entitled “Fair Election Act” was again highlighted by the two senators who ran for mayor and by a number of Congressmen who ran for Senators without ipso facto being considered resigned from their present positions. Congress should therefore repeal said law, revive and even improve Section 67 of the OEC to cover all possible loopholes.

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H

FAIR ELECTION ACT

OEC

PLACE

PUBLIC

SECTION

SPEAKER AND THE SECRETARY GENERAL

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