Comelec to hold special poll for Teves’ district
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is looking at holding a special election by December, at the earliest, to fill in the vacancy left by the expulsion of Arnolfo Teves Jr. as representative of the third legislative district of Negros Oriental province last week.
Members of the House of Representatives, through a voice vote during Tuesday night’s plenary session, called for a special election as they adopted House Resolution No. 1212 filed by Speaker Martin Romualdez, Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe and Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan.
The resolution certified the existing vacancy in the lower chamber, particularly the third district of Negros Oriental, which Teves represented for almost three terms. It said the vacancy caused by Teves’ expulsion left his constituents “without representation” in the House.
According to Comelec Chair George Garcia, the special election may be conducted around four months from now, but integrating it into the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls on Oct. 30 “is no longer feasible at this point.”
“[The earliest] we can conduct the special elections is [in] December 2023,” he said in a Viber message to reporters.
Earlier, Garcia said the Comelec would “comply with haste” should the lower chamber direct it to hold a special election in the district.
The Comelec chair, however, noted that Teves’ expulsion did not make him perpetually disqualified from seeking public office.
Serving unexpired term
The House resolution cited Section 9, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution which states: “In case of vacancy in the Senate or in the House of Representatives, a special election may be called to fill such vacancy in the manner prescribed by law, but the senator or member of the House of Representatives thus elected shall serve only for the unexpired term.”
Republic Act No. 6645 also provided that the Comelec, “upon receipt of a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives certifying to the existence of such vacancy and calling for a special election, shall hold a special election to fill such vacancy.”
Another law, Republic Act No. 7166 on synchronized elections, states that the special election must be held “not earlier than six days nor longer than 90 days after the occurrence of the vacancy.”
On Wednesday last week, 265 lawmakers voted to expel Teves upon the recommendation of the House ethics and privileges committee. Prior to his expulsion, Teves served two 60-day suspensions.
The panel cited three grounds for expulsion: his abandonment of his office and violation of his oath owing to his long unauthorized absence and bid for political asylum in Timor-Leste; his designation as a “terrorist,” which reflected negatively on the chamber; and his indecent behavior as shown in a Facebook video of himself dancing in boxer shorts.
The three-member Makabayan bloc abstained from voting because of the inclusion of Teves’ designation as a terrorist by the Anti-Terrorism Council.
Teves is facing a complaint for the murder of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo in March. He was recently indicted for three other murders in his province back in 2019.He has repeatedly denied the allegations, but refused to return to the country to face what he called as “unfair” investigation and “political persecution.”
Teves’ removal made him the first House member to be dropped from the roll without a prior conviction for a criminal offense.
In May 2002, then Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos was dropped from the House roll months after the Supreme Court upheld his rape conviction. A similar action was taken against then Dinagat Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. in May 2012, following his conviction for corruption and parricide.