SC upholds right of incumbent officials to stay in their posts

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05:49 AM February 3rd, 2013

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February 3rd, 2013 05:49 AM

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has dismissed a 3-year-old petition questioning a provision of the Fair Election Act that allows incumbent elective public officials to remain in their posts even after they have filed candidacies for other elective positions.

In an eight-page decision dated Jan. 22 and released on Friday, the High Court said they found no reason to disturb a 2003 decision that upheld Section 14 of the Act (Republic Act No. 9006), which repealed an earlier election code that considered an incumbent official resigned upon the filing of his or her candidacy for another position.

The suit against RA 9006 was filed in October 2009 by Henry Giron, leader of the nongovernmental Article 64 Movement, shortly after Malacañang announced that then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was planning to run for the congressional seat of Pampanga in the 2010 polls.

Arroyo formalized her candidacy the following month and won the congressional race in Pampanga’s 2nd district.

Aside from Section 14, Giron also questioned Section 12 of the Act which refers to the treatment of ballots cast.

Giron asked the Court to stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from enforcing the two provisions, saying these would enable elective officials to gain campaign advantage and allow them to disburse public funds from the time they file their certificates of candidacy until after the polls.

Giron, who was later joined by three other petitioners-intervenors, also contended that the two sections were unrelated to the main subject of RA 9006—the lifting of the political ad ban. He pointed out that Section 26 (1), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution specifically requires: “Every bill passed by Congress shall embrace only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof.”

The justices, however, voted to dismiss the petitions.

No compelling reason

“After a thorough review of the arguments raised, we find that petitioners and petitioners-in-intervention were unable to present a compelling reason that would surpass the strong presumption of validity and constitutionality in favor of the Fair Election Act,” the Court said in a decision penned by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

All the other members of the Court, except Justice Arturo Brion who was on leave, agreed with Sereno.

The Court said Giron and the others were unable to put forward “any gripping justification” to reverse the Court’s ruling in the 2003 case (Farinas v. Executive Secretary). That ruling found the title and objectives of RA 9006 “comprehensive enough” to include other subjects other that the lifting of the ban on the use of media for election propaganda.

The justices said that after “a careful analysis,” they found that the Sections 12 and 14 were “germane” to the subject expressed in the title of RA 9006: An Act of Enhance the Holding of Free, Orderly, Honest, Peaceful and Credible Elections through Fair Election Practices.

“The title was worded broadly enough to include the measures embodied in the assailed sections. Consequently, we dismiss the petitions for failure to establish a clear breach of the Constitution,” they said.

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