Mocha Uson and the Comelec hollowminds

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The chairman and the commissioners of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should resign for their gross ignorance of the law. It’s either that or they should be impeached for culpable violation of the Constitution.

Section 6, Article IX-B of the Constitution states, “No candidate who has lost in any election shall, within one year after such election, be appointed to any office in the government or any government-owned or controlled corporation or in any of its subsidiaries.”

That provision of the fundamental law allows no exception. Simply put, any and all candidates who lost in an election cannot be appointed to any government post for a period of one year from the election day concerned. In other words, a defeated candidate for national or local office in the 13 May 2019 polls is disqualified from holding appointive public office until after 13 May 2020.

If it was the intention of the Constitution to make an exception, it would have so provided, as seen in many parts of the charter’s text.

Section 6, Article IX-B is clear, enough that one need not be a lawyer to understand it. As jurisprudence points out, when a provision of the charter is clear, there is no room for interpretation — only implementation.

The constitutional controversy began when President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson, a known ally of the President, to the post of deputy administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
Critics of the President opposed her appointment on the ground that Uson, who ran and lost in the 13 May 2019 congressional elections, is covered by the one-year ban mandated by the Constitution. She ran under the partylist system as first nominee of the AA Kasosyo sectoral party.

Defending Uson’s appointment, the President’s spokesman Salvador Panelo cited a resolution of the Comelec declaring that the one-year appointment ban under the Constitution does not apply to candidates who ran under the partylist system.

The only possible way for the Comelec to justify that whimsical resolution is for it to say that individuals running under the partylist system are “nominees” and not “candidates,” and so the one-year prohibition against “candidates who lost” does not apply to partylist “nominees” like Uson.

Observers called the Comelec resolution the latest example of the its suspicious inability to understand the Constitution.

Candidates running under the partylist system are called “nominees” not because they are not “candidates,” but because they can be replaced by other “nominees” of the sectoral party that fielded them, during the three-year term of all elected members of the House. That process of succession is unique to the partylist system and does not apply to congressmen elected by districts.

Therefore, partylist congressmen are nominees of their sectoral party, but they are still candidates for elective public office. They are no different from their fellow candidates for the House in the congressional district system who must get their mandate from the same sovereign Filipino voters that elect partylist representatives.

In every election, a candidate either wins or loses. If the candidate does not win, he or she is a “candidate who lost” within the contemplation of the Constitution.

How the Comelec can actually misunderstand the clear, simple and concise language of Section 6, Article IX-B of the Constitution is a big mystery.

The Uson controversy is not the first time the Comelec misconstrued the clear meaning of the provisions of the Constitution.

Several elections ago, the Comelec allowed the wife of a film actor to run for a fourth consecutive term in the House, despite the clear constitutional ban against more than three consecutive terms for any House member. Today, a prominent congressman is on his fourth consecutive term, thanks to that unconstitutional precedent the commission created.

Earlier this year, the Comelec allowed Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III to run for a third consecutive term in clear violation of the Constitution. Pimentel is currently facing disqualification charges before the Senate Electoral Commission.

Sadly, Congress is hesitant to file impeachment raps against the Comelec chairman and commissioners because many of these “honorable representatives” are in office because of the Comelec’s suspicious inability to understand the Constitution.

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