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opinion / Columnists

Will SC oust Leni and other LPs?

opinion / Columnists
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With Due Respect

Will SC oust Leni and other LPs?

Of the three Marcos cases worth watching (discussed in this space 11/6/16), the first was decided by the Supreme Court, voting 9-5-1, by allowing the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Soce requirement. My column “Will Bongbong replace Leni?” (12/18/16) concluded that, in the normal course and without judging its merits, the second case—the election protest filed by Bongbong Marcos against Leni Robredo—will take a few more years before we see any light.

Today, let me take up the third case—the petition of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to reverse the resolution of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that, by a 4-3 vote, extended the period for the filing of the statement of contributions and expenses (Soce) of political parties and candidates from June 8 to June 30, 2016.

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Under Republic Act No. 7166, a candidate who fails to file his or her Soce within the prescribed period of 30 days after Election Day (which was on May 9, 2016) will be fined and/or barred from “enter[ing] upon the duties of his office until he has filed” the required document. The additional penalty of “perpetual disqualification to hold public office” will be imposed on a repeat offender.

On the other hand, a political party which failed to file its Soce within the prescribed period is also liable to pay a similar fine. Further—and here is the kicker—Sec. 14 of RA 7166 prescribes an additional penalty, worded as follows: “The same prohibition shall apply if the political party which nominated the winning candidate fails to file” the Soce “within the period prescribed by this Act.”

Unquestionably, the Liberal Party filed its Soce only during the extension granted by the Comelec, not within the period prescribed by RA 7166. Ergo, the Marcos partisans claim, Robredo (and all LP senators, congressmen and other winners) should be disqualified perpetually (though she and the other LP winners timely filed their Soce as candidates), and that Marcos should replace her pronto as vice president.

Three issues. I think this case will turn on three main issues. The first is whether the Comelec has the prerogative to extend the period for filing the Soce. The law (RA 7166) is silent on this point, but the Comelec claims that its power to extend is implied from its residual constitutional power to “[e]nforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of elections…”

The second issue refers to the penalty: Assuming that the Comelec has no such power and that the LP will thus be deemed NOT to have filed its Soce within the prescribed period, will all the LP winners, including Robredo, be ousted and penalized with “perpetual disqualification to hold public office”?

The third issue is: Assuming that these officials are ousted by the Court, who will replace them? Specifically, will Marcos, the second placer, replace Robredo as vice president?

Who will be VP? To be sure, these are questions of first impression with no settled answers. In general, however, when the cause for the ouster or vacancy arose prior the election, the second placer is deemed elected on the theory that the winner’s votes are invalid for having been cast for a noncandidate.

But when the cause arose after the election, proclamation and assumption to office of the winner, then the vacancy shall be filled in accordance with the law on succession.

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The Constitution states: “Whenever there is a vacancy in the Office of the Vice-President during the term for which he was elected, the President shall nominate a Vice-President from among the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation of a majority vote of all the Members of both Houses of the Congress, voting separately.”

Did the cause arise after Robredo had been elected, proclaimed and assumed office? If so, an incumbent senator or representative, not Marcos, will take over as VP.

But in the first place, should Robredo (and the other LP winners) be adversely affected by a case in which she was not impleaded as a party, and thus had no opportunity to defend herself?

There’s more to say but I have run out of space. Let me continue on another day.

Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com

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TAGS: Comelec, Commission on Elections, Ferdinand Marcos, leni robredo, Liberal Party, Libingan ng mga Bayani, Marcos cases, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Supreme Court
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