House OKs bill expediting resolution of electoral protests

Published August 24, 2021, 6:03 PM

by Noreen Jazul

The House of Representatives (HoR) has approved on final reading a bill that will expedite the resolution of electoral protest filed against winning candidates.

House Bill No. 9315, “An Act Rationalizing the Proceedings in and Resolution of Electoral Protest and For Other Purposes,” received 213 affirmative votes during the House plenary session on Aug. 23.

House deputy speaker and Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez (Rep. Rufus Rodriguez’ Facebook page)

Deputy speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, principal author of the bill, said the early resolution of election protests is an “important” electoral reform that the country needs.

“Interminable delays in the disposition of cases put a cloud of doubt on the victory and legitimacy of the declared winners. These also encourage unscrupulous candidates to cheat, knowing that protests take years to resolve,” the lawmaker said.

Rodriguez also cited previous instances when the real election winners were only given a few months or days to occupy their respective posts because the election protest took long to be resolved.

With HB 9315, deadlines will be set for the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, appellate courts, and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to resolve election protests.

Election cases filed against the president, vice president, or a senator must be deiced “within 24 months following their proclamation and assumption of office.”

Protest filed against a member of the HoR, regional, provincial, city, and municipal officials must be resolved by electoral tribunals within 12 months.

Meanwhile, only six months will be given to resolve electoral protests against barangay officers.

For quo warranto cases or those questioning the qualifications of winning candidates, the deadline is six months for all officials.

“Any appealed decision on an election protest or quo warranto case shall be resolved by the Comelec or the court exercising appellate jurisdiction within three months from the service of a notice of appeal. Such notice shall be served within three days from the filing of an appeal,” the bill states.

Under the bill, members of the PET, SET, HRET, and Comelec, and judges of courts will face sanctions for failing to comply with the mandatory period set to resolve electoral protests.

The sanctions include the withholding of pay or salary for members of the PET, the SET, the HRET, Comelec, and jduges of court.

The bill also mandates that filing fees “shall be reasonable and cover only administrative costs for accepting and docketing the electoral protests.”

Cost of revision and recount shall be shoudlered by the PET, SET, HRET, the Comelec, and the courts, “as the case may be,” while fees for revisors shall be borne “solely by the protestant and protest who retained their services.”

“Fees and other costs paid to the PET, the SET, the HRET, the Comelec, and the court, as the case may be, and the fees and costs paid to the revisors, shall be reimbursed by the protestee to the protestant when the election protest is sustained and the election of the protestee is nullified,” the bill states.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, expressed hoped that the Congress will approve the prosed law in time for the 2022 national election