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Comelec wants SC to reverse ruling on gov’t execs

Posted on: December 11, 2009

Comelec wants SC to reverse ruling on gov’t execs

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:39:00 12/11/2009

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Inquirer Politics, Judiciary (system of justice)

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will file a motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court, seeking to reverse its ruling that allows appointed government executives to resume office even after filing their bids for the 2010 elections, its chairman said.

The December 1 ruling, which states that appointed officials running in the 2010 polls are not required to resign from their post once they have filed their certificate of candidacy, is “inconsistent with existing provisions under the Philippine Constitution, the Omnibus Election Code and the 1987 Administrative Code” and thus should be revisited, Comelec chairman Jose Melo told INQUIRER.net.

Melo pointed out that civil servants under the law “have the right to vote but are prohibited from participating in partisan political activity” either by being part of political activities and campaigning.

Meanwhile, elective officials who filed bids were allowed to continue finishing their term as a result of the repealing clause to Section 67 of the Omnibus Election Code found on Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Elections Act.

“Based on my personal view, maling mali ang [The Supreme Court was very wrong about this] ruling,” added Melo.

“As civil servants they can vote but they also have the duty to prohibit themselves from partisan political activity. If they do, then under the law [1987 Administrative Code] government employees who engage in partisan political activities such as campaigning are liable and may be dismissed from the service,” Melo told INQUIRER.net.

“The Comelec would seek that the High Court reconsider their decision such that the appointive officials who will start campaigning must resign from their office or at the start of the campaign period they should resign [to prevent conflict in the implementation of laws],” said Melo.

The situation was complicated by a ruling of the Supreme Court that allowed candidates to campaign by airing infomercials or posting billboards even before the official schedule of the campaign period, which starts February 9 for national candidates and March 26 for local candidates, Melo added.

With this, the Comelec en banc instructed its legal department to prepare a motion for reconsideration to be filed before the Supreme Court this month, seeking a reversal of the ruling, said Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.

“There is a conflict of interest there in the ruling and the possible implications to the campaign and elections. Some election officers of the Comelec have filed their bids and because of the ruling they are not automatically resigned from their posts. But the question here is the conflict of interest: on how they could provide service and how they intend to campaign for their bids,” said Larrazabal.

Comelec will cite the merits found in the dissenting opinions and arguments of Chief Justice Reynato Puno and two other justices.

Larrazabal said if the decision was not reversed, problems and issues may arise resulting from Comelec personnel running for local positions in the area where they were posted.

He cited that at least six Comelec personnel in five regions have filed their bids for the 2010 elections, including Francis Likigan, election officer (EO) of Baguias in Benguet; Orlino Agatep, EO of Tuguegarao City; Mac Laylay, EO of Kabugao in Apayao; Myrna Bragado, assistant EO of San Emilio in Ilocos Sur; Alfonso Combong III, EO of Hamtic in Antique; and Raymond Ginda, EO of Bonga, in Samar.

All except Likigan, who resigned on December 1, were temporarily re-assigned to the Comelec main office before being and deployed in other areas under the discretion of the en banc. This is to “prevent undue advantage” if they remain a poll official and at the same time, campaign in the area where they are running, said Larrazabal.

Citing the 1987 Administrative Code, the Comelec officials would be found “guilty for violation of the law” should they engage in partisan political activity such as campaigning or endorsement of candidacies.

Another issue is that the ruling may cause “unethical issues” given that appointive officials may use government resources to finance their campaigns, which gives them undue advantage over candidates, said Henrietta De Villa, chairman of the Parish Pastoral Council of Responsible Voting.

“We would support Comelec in its appeal for the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling on allowing appointive officials to hold office even after formalizing their bids. As officials, they are in touch with resources and who would stop them from using that to favor their campaign?” De Villa told INQUIRER.net.

In an 8-6 vote, the Supreme Court, through Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura Jr., ruled that appointed officials who have filed 2010 candidacies may opt to remain in office, thus making “unconstitutional” the provisions under Section 13, Republic Act 9369 or the Poll Automation Law, Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code, and Section 4(a) of Comelec Resolution 8678.

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