By Ellson Quismorio
The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) has dismissed for lack of merit petitions to declare Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III ineligible for his current term in the Senate.
Junked by the Tribunal in a 17-page decision dated June 3, 2020 were the consolidated petitions of Reymar Mansilingan (for SET Case No.001-19) and Efren Adan (SET Case No.002-19).
“The instant consolidated petitions for quo warranto are hereby dismissed for lack of merit,” read the decision signed by SET chairperson, Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
The main contention of the petitioners was that Pimentel, who ran for senator during the 2019 national and local elections (NLE), should have been disqualified from doing so because he has already served as senator for two terms prior–the first in 2007 to 2013, and second in 2013 to 2019.
As such, the petitioners claimed that respondent Pimentel has already exhausted the two consecutive term limit for Senators under Section 4, Article VI of the Constitution.
But the Tribunal argued that Pimentel’s tenure in the Upper Chamber during 2007 to 2013 was “interrupted” and thus can’t be counted as one term.
“It must be noted…that respondent was not initially proclaimed as a winning Senatorial candidate in the 2007 NLE, and consequently, was unable to assume the elective office at the start of the 2007-2013 Senatorial term,” the decision noted.
“It was only after four (4) years and two (2) months – or on August 11, 2011 when SET Case No. 001-07 was ruled in his favor – that he was able to assume office for the remainder of the term, or from August 11, 2011 until June 30, 2013, a period totaling one (1) year and ten (10) months,” it further read.
“Thus, taking guidance from Abundo, Sr., the foregoing circumstances constitute an involuntary interruption or a break in respondent’s service of the 2007-2013 Senatorial term. Being an interrupted term, the 2007-2013 Senatorial term cannot be counted against respondent for purposes of counting the term limitation provided by the Constitution,” it explained.
The SET decision further stated: “In conclusion, respondent was not prohibited to run and be elected for the 2019-2025 Senatorial term as he has yet to serve two (2) consecutive Senatorial terms in full within the contemplation of prevailing law and jurisprudence.”
Pimentel won one of 12 seats in last year’s Senate race after landing on 10th spot in the winners’ circle. He garnered 14,668,665 votes.
Pimentel sits as president of ruling party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan. President Duterte chairs the party.