By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is confident that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would favor his bid for reelection in the 2019 senatorial race.
Pimentel downplayed as “nuisance” the disqualification case filed against him by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who claimed that the lawmaker is no longer eligible to run in the May, 2019 polls since supposedly having completed two consecutive terms.
Topacio on Monday sought the Comelec to deny Pimentel’s certificate of candidacy, citing that the latter was elected as senator in 2007 and would have served for 18 years should he win in next year’s polls.
“Lawyers will answer the petition in due time if still required by Comelec. However, Comelec may surprise us by dismissing the petition outright for being a nuisance petition,” Pimentel said in a text message to reporters.
But Pimentel, a lawyer himself, said he is prepared for any scenario as he said he already “know(s) the correct answer to this issue.”
For instance, he said the Supreme Court (SC) jurisprudence cited by Topacio in his petition are not relevant to his situation.
“The Aratea and Latasa cases cited by Topacio are not relevant. Facts are not similar. In Aratea, the candidate really served three terms already and moreover was disqualified by final judgment in a criminal case. In Latasa, the candidate served three terms as municipal mayor but ran again as ‘city mayor’ when the municipality was upgraded to a city. In short, Topacio’s arguments are not even applicable to the situation of Sen. Koko Pimentel,” he explained.
“The Constitution, the law, jurisprudence, and basic concepts are all on our side. Hence we are very, very confident that we will prevail,” he said.
Pimentel has been arguing that he could seek reelection since he did not serve a full first term as a senator. He assumed his post as 12th winning senator of the 2007 midterm elections only in 2011, after the Senate Electoral Tribunal favored his electoral protest against Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri amid allegations of fraud.
Pimentel said the SC already held that officials who won in their electoral protests do not serve a full term.
“The doctrine in election law is that if there are term limits, the law assumes that the term was served in full. If the term was interrupted or has not been served in full, it is not actually a term. Therefore, you cannot count that for purposes of term limits,” Pimentel said in an interview over ANC last June.
Earlier, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal also believed that there is no legal impediment to Pimentel’s reelection bid since he has not fully served his first term.