De Lima seeks rationalization of elected officials’ term limits vs abuses

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought to rationalize the term limits for elected officials to avoid confusion of its interpretation as well as the possible exploitation of its loopholes should they decide to run anew for the same office.

In filing Senate Bill (SB) No. 1710, De Lima, who chairs the Senate Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation Committee, said she wants to ensure that the chance to serve the public is not limited to certain power-hungry officials.

“In order to ensure that the opportunity to serve as elected officials is not limited to certain persons and families, the framers of the 1987 Constitution placed provisions to prevent concentration of power, such as term limits for public officials,” she said.

“The term limits are intended to give other qualified Filipinos the opportunity to serve. They are not meant to forever bar an official from an elective post that he previously held,” she added.

De Lima, however, pointed out that the present Constitution allows prior elected officials to once again for office after a hiatus equivalent to one term immediately subsequent to reaching the constitutional term limits.

“The drafters of our Constitution are in agreement about the possible attendant evils if there would be no limit to re-election,” she noted.

Even the Supreme Court, she continued, has listed down what she called “valid interruptions” of service for purposes of applying the consecutive term-limit rule.

“Over time, we have accumulated jurisprudence from Supreme Court cases involving the interpretation of term limits and how it applies to circumstances where the officials are unable to serve for the full duration of the term to which they were elected,” she added.

Under Sections 4 and 7, Article VI; Section 4, Article VII; and Section 8, Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution, no elective official who has reached the limit of the prescribed number of consecutive terms in his office shall be eligible for re-election to the same elective position in the elections immediately following his service of said consecutive terms.

Despite the existence of the provisions on re-election, De Lima lamented that there are still several instances in the Supreme Court cases where the service of term of elected officials was interrupted, resulting in the discounting of the said term.

Under SB No. 1710, to be known as the Consecutive Term-Limit Rationalization Act, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is mandated to order the cancellation of the certificate of candidacy of an elective official who wishes to perpetuate himself to the same position after completing his allowable terms of office.

To make matters clear, the Senator from Bicol listed in her proposed measure the valid interruptions in service which shall discount the term of an official.

In keeping with case law, she listed as valid interruptions if the official was unable to finish his term either due to dismissal from service which does not bar him from holding public office or separation from service by operation of law.

De Lima also counted it as valid if the official was unable to finish his term either due to legal succession to a higher office or proclamation of another person as the validly winning candidate in an election contest.

Additionally, if the successful winner in an election contest was unable to serve at the commencement of his term due to the assumption of another person to the elective post while the electoral contest was pending, the interruption would also be valid according to De Lima.

Another acceptable interruption, De Lima explained, is the case when the successful challenger in a recall election serves the remainder of the term of the defeated incumbent.

“Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as a valid interruption of the service for the full term of the office to which the official was elected,” she wrote.

The former justice secretary clarified that the term limits are intended to give other qualified Filipinos the opportunity to serve and “are not meant to forever bar an official from an elective post that he previously held.”

SB No. 1710 shall be applicable to the Vice President, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, and elected officials of Local Government Units under the Local Government Code.

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