Tomorrow, 13 May 2019, the sovereign Filipino voters will choose 12 senators to serve for the 2019-2025 term. That’s all of six years so, hopefully, the voters will choose wisely.
If the past several senatorial elections are an indication, however, that statement is going to be a pipe dream. Surely, candidates from political dynasties and movie stars are expected to be installed in office.
For many, voting for 12 names in the senatorial ballot will be difficult to do, owing to the utter lack of ideal candidates and the presence of numerous lackluster, ambitious ones.
Accordingly, there will be many ballots with at most eight or nine names for senators.
The real problem lies with the 13th and 14th placers in the senatorial race.
Former Sen. Sergio Osmeña III and incumbent Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III are among the senatorial candidates. In terms of name recall, they have a good chance of winning. Both, however, may stand to be disqualified and unseated if they do get proclaimed as winners.
Under the law, a candidate who fails to submit his statement of post-election expenditures is disqualified to run in future elections. The submission of that statement is important because it is the means by which a candidate’s campaign expenses are monitored. The law puts a ceiling on the amount of money a candidate may spend during an election.
According to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), that useless government agency that is supposed to enforce all laws relating to the elections, Osmeña failed to submit his statement of post-election expenditures not just once, but on two occasions – when he ran and won in 2010, and when he ran and lost in 2016. Those are two separate grounds to disqualify Osmeña from running in 2016, and in the 2019 polls.
At first, the legal department of the Comelec took the position that Osmeña should be disqualified from running anew in this year’s elections. Somewhere along the way, however, the Comelec eventually allowed Osmeña to run. Good grief! Are idiots running the Comelec?
If uncorrected, the action taken by the Comelec in the Osmeña case will dilute the legal requirement for candidates to submit their respective statements of post-election expenditures. That will open the way for overspending in future elections.
Pimentel has a more serious problem. The Constitution prohibits a senator from running for a third consecutive term. Pimentel was defeated in his senatorial bid for the 2007-2013 term, but in 2011, the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) proclaimed him the winner for that same term, 2007-2013. He may have assumed office only in 2011, but in the eyes of the Constitution, and according to election law jurisprudence, Pimentel was senator for the full 2007-2013 term.
In 2013, Pimentel ran for reelection and won for the 2013-2019 term. That means 2013-2019 is Pimentel’s second consecutive term as senator. Clearly, he is not qualified to run for the Senate this year.
Despite being obviously disqualified to run in May 2019, the Comelec still allowed Pimentel to join the race. Like what happened to Osmeña, how the Comelec arrived at its ruling is a mystery only the simpletons in the Comelec can explain.
If Osmeña and Pimentel manage to win in the senatorial derby on Monday, it is almost certain that the 13th and 14th placers in the senatorial polls will file the corresponding disqualification cases against them before the SET. Should the SET later rule against Osmeña and Pimentel, the 13th and 14th placers will be proclaimed the 11th and 12th placers in the election. That’s because in the eyes of the law, a disqualified candidate never validly ran in the election.
The resulting anomaly from disqualifying Osmeña and Pimentel is that the 13th and 14th placers, who were rejected by the electorate, will end up holding public office in defiance of the will of the electorate.
This means that there will be 14 seats up for grabs in the senatorial race on Monday. It also means that this will be a most unusual Senate derby in recent memory.
One more thing — it likewise means that Osmeña and Pimentel are wasting their time, and everyone else’s for that matter, in this election.