NO less than election lawyer Romulo Macalintal has said that former Senate President Koko Pimentel is eligible to seek reelection in next year’s polls.
He cited a Supreme Court (SC) ruling in the 2017 case of Albania vs. Comelec. In the said case, it was noted that the period that an elective official served on winning an election protest ‘did not constitute a complete and full service of his term (as) he did not hold the office for the full term of three years to which he was supposedly entitled to.’
The statement of Macalintal came after another lawyer sought to disqualify Pimentel, arguing that the latter already served as Senator for two consecutive terms and that this is prohibited under the Constitution.
In the petition for disqualification, it was stated that Pimentel had his first term in 2007. When the National Board of Canvassers first proclaimed Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri as the 12th winning senator, Pimentel filed an electoral protest and in 2011, the Senate Tribunal ruled in favor of Pimentel which allowed him to serve Zubiri’s term of two years.
Pimentel got re-elected in 2013 and became the Senate President from 2016 to 2018 and this, according to the petition, is his second term.
According to Macalintal, however, since Pimentel became senator only in August 2011 after having won his election protest against Zubiri, he was not able to serve the entire 2007-2013 term. ‘Thus, in Pimentel’s case, when he assumed the position of Senator only in August 2011 after winning his election protest against Zubiri, it cannot be said that Pimentel was able to serve the entire 2007 to 2013 term to which he was otherwise entitled,’ said Macalintal.
Furthermore, Macalintal said that the nearly four-year period of Zubiri’s term as Senator is considered ‘an involuntary interruption’ of Pimentel’s service which cannot be considered as one term and that ‘as ruled by the Supreme Court, an involuntary interrupted term, cannot, in the context of the disqualification rule, be considered as one term’ for purposes of counting the term-limit rule.
The conclusion of Macalintal is that Pimentel only served for one complete and interrupted term from 2013 to 2019 which may thus allow him to run for a second term from 2019-2025.
Pimentel, himself a high-calibre lawyer, said the two cases being cited in the petition for his disqualification are not even applicable to his situation.
In the first case, Aratea v. Comelec, GR No. 195229, Oct. 2012, he said the candidate really served three consecutive terms and was even disqualified by a final judgment in a criminal case. In the second, Latasa v. Comelec, GR No. 167591, May 2007, the three-term municipal mayor ran again for a fourth term when the municipality became a city.
‘The Constitution and the Law, Jurisprudence (Abundo v. Comelec, GR No. 201716, January 8, 2013) and the basic concept of fairness all support our position that I can run again for Senator in the May 2019 elections,’ Pimentel said with full confidence. In addition, Pimentel stressed that based on the 1987 Constitution, it is clear that he has not served two full terms as senator. Article VI, Section 4 of the Constitution, states that the term of senators is six years and shall commence, unless otherwise provided by law, at noon of the 30th day of June next following theirelection.
He also pointed out that there are two paragraphs in the said Constitutional provision. ‘The first defines the word ‘term.’ The term starts on June 30 following the election. The term is six years. So you apply that to my situation. I became senator in August 2011. Is that the June 30 after the election of 2007?’ Pimentel said. Indeed, the Comelec need not waste precious time and people’s money on an issue which it had already previously ruled upon and which ruling had been sustained by the Supreme Court.
With its hands still full in the wake of cases that still await resolution, Comelec must indeed, just dismiss the petition against Pimentel motu propio. Macalintal said this can even be done without requiring Pimentel to answer or comment on the petition.
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