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Cancellation of special elections

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The Commission on Elections has just  cancelled the special elections for the 3rd District of Negros Oriental, leaving it with no elected Congressional Representative.

The reason: Congress just withdrew its previous Resolution calling for the conduct of special elections in the 3rd District.

Can the Comelec simply cancel special elections even when there is a permanent vacancy?

Right now, the prevailing theory is that the House of Representatives must first call for an election via a Resolution, that will then be transmitted to the Comelec.

The source of this practice is one interpretation of a provision in the Constitution, which states: In case of vacancy in the Senate or in the House of Representatives, a special election may be called to fill such vacancy in the manner prescribed by law, but the Senator or Member of the House of Representatives thus elected shall serve only for the unexpired term.

This is a classic case of a badly-written legal provision. It does not clearly tell us which body should call for a special election.

So, Congress has always taken it to mean that the power belongs to them.

This was not always the case. The 1973 Constitution clearly gave the Comelec the power to call for special elections; not Congress.

It states: In case a vacancy arises in the Batasang Pambansa 18 months or more before a regular election, the Commission on Elections shall call a special election to be held within 60 days after the vacancy occurs to elect the Member to serve the unexpired term.

Our current law on special elections is worded similarly as the 1973 Constitutional provision: where the Comelec has the power to call for special elections, not Congress.

It states: In case a permanent vacancy shall occur in the Senate or House of Representatives at least one year before the expiration of the term, the Commission shall call and hold a special election to fill the vacancy not earlier than 60 days nor longer than 90 days after the occurrence of the vacancy. However, in case of such vacancy in the Senate, the special election shall be held simultaneously with the succeeding regular election.

I think this case should be brought to the Supreme Court.

It is bad policy, and thus, a bad law to allow Congress itself to decide whether a District should get another Representative once there is a permanent vacancy — especially when the vacancy occurred  by virtue of its own decision to expel a member.

By its own act, a District is deprived of having its own Representative. It is only proper that another one is elected for the people.

The caretaker arrangement is a temporary solution but it defeats the spirit of having District Representatives: electing people who ideally know the needs of the District that can be addressed through law.

The Supreme Court should return to the Comelec the power to call for and hold special elections when a permanent vacancy exists at the House of Representatives.

_____________________________________

Author’s email: goldabenjamin@gmail.com

 

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