2009 (STAR) By Edu Punay - The Supreme Court was asked yesterday to dismiss a petition to declare as unconstitutional a Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolution allowing an elective official to run for another office without resigning his or her present post.

Based on Republic Act 9006, the Fair Elections Act, Section 4 of Resolution No. 8678 states: “Any person holding an elective office or position shall not be considered resigned upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy for the same or any other elective office or position.”

Representing the Comelec, the Office of the Solicitor General said the resolution does not violate the Constitution, which requires one title per subject and three readings in Congress before a bill is passed into law.

“In fact, this Honorable Court has already resolved the issues raised by petitioner and settled the constitutionality of RA 9006 in the case of (former Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo) Fariñas vs. Executive Secretary,” read the Comelec’s comment.

The Comelec rebutted the argument of petitioner Henry Giron, Article 64 Movement head, that the resolution contradicts the essence of the Fair Elections Act for allowing “undue advantage” to incumbent elective officials seeking other posts.

“Section 12 of RA 9006 is germane to the subject and purpose of RA 9006,” read the Comelec’s comment.

“To ensure a fair, honest and orderly election, the votes cast for the substituted candidate must be considered stray vote, but shall not invalidate the whole ballot.

“Thus, it is not a rider and does not violate Section 26 (1), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.”

The Comelec said Congress passed RA 9006 to allow elective officials to fully serve their terms.

“It is their solemn duty to uphold the clear and unmistakable mandate of the people,” read the Comelec’s comment.

“By considering them ipso facto resigned from office upon filing of their certificate of candidacy will impose a limitation on their obligation (and) may be removed only upon stringent conditions, and not by mere filing of a certificate of candidacy on a desire to extend their years of public service.”

The Comelec rejected Giron’s contention that the resolution would allow elective officials to disburse public funds to their advantage after filing of their certificates of candidacy.

“Postulations that these projects would in any way benefit their campaign and would put them on a more advantageous position than the other candidates are baseless and speculative,” read the Comelec’s comment.

Ample laws serve as check and balance in the use of public funds during the election period, the Comelec said.

At Malacañang, officials said they only learned about Giron’s petition in the newspapers.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said “it’s too premature” to make any comment on the petition because it’s a legal question.

“First of all, I’m not at liberty to say that indeed such is the plan of President Arroyo because we have never discussed that,” he said.

“So I would rather that we just wait for further developments but I’m not at liberty to say this way or the other about the plans of President Arroyo for 2010.”

In a telephone interview, Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III, a lawyer, said Giron’s petition has no legal basis.

“There is no law that requires elective officials to resign once they file their certificates of candidacy,” he said

“It’s just meant to try to put the President in a bad light.”

No need to resign

Deputy Speaker Simeon Datumanong, a former justice secretary, said the Fair Elections Act of 2001 clearly does not compel President Arroyo to resign from the presidency when she files her certificate of candidacy to seek a congressional seat next year.

“The law allows incumbent elective officials to run for any other office without resigning his or her office,” he said.

Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr., also a lawyer, said Giron’s petition does not have any legal basis and is “just pure hatred of GMA.”

Giron was a supporter of Fernando Poe Jr., who lost to Mrs. Arroyo in the 2004 presidential elections, he added.

Locsin chairs the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms.

Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay warned that a power vacuum would occur if all elected officials would have to resign if they decide to run for another post.

“What is unfair is all these incumbent senators running for other positions who are using the law as cover, who can still sit if in case they lose.”

Another pro-administration lawmaker, Cotabato Rep. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, said the Fair Elections Act allows incumbent officials, including Mrs. Arroyo, to serve until noon of June 30 following the elections.

“The law applies to all and until the law is repealed again, it is effective,” she said.

However, Mendoza said the fear of a power vacuum would not take place as Mrs. Arroyo can continue to perform her functions as president even if she runs for representative of Pampanga’s second district.

“Besides, that question that the repeal provision in the fair elections act is an invalid insertion had already been decided as not unconstitutional,” she said.

Panlilio asks GMA to resign

In Pampanga, Gov. Ed Panlilio called on Mrs. Arroyo, who is visiting the province, to resign the presidency if she decides to run for Congress.

“Out of wisdom and propriety, she should resign first even without the Supreme Court deciding on whether those in elective posts should do so,” he said.

Panlilio said Mrs. Arroyo’s sorties to her district this year constitute “early and irregular campaigning.” – Edu Punay, Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Ding Cervantes

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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