Jun Pe’s case-A A +A
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
WHY don’t they just leave it to the people to decide, Rep. Tommy Osmeña asked, commenting on the Team Rama petition to disqualify Augustus Pe Jr. from running for a city council seat in the south district. Pe, in case you haven’t heard, decided to run in the south because he has used up his three terms as councilor in the north.
Osmeña echoes a line from a precedent-setting decision of the Supreme Court. “While the people should be protected from the evils that a monopoly of political power may bring about,” the Court said in Borja vs. Comelec, “care should be taken that their freedom of choice is not unduly curtailed.”
Borja is one of the first cases in which the Supreme Court tackled Art. X, Sec. 8 of the Constitution which provides that “(t)he term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.”
The Court said that a study of the he historical background of this constitutional provision shows “that the members of the Constitutional Commission were as much concerned with preserving the freedom of choice of the people as they were with preventing the monopolization of political power.”
It noted that the Commission rejected a proposal that would have forever banned all officials who have served three consecutive terms or nine years from seeking any further re-election and instead adopted the alternative proposal of barring them from running for the same position in the election following the expiration of their third consecutive term.
The decision cited comments from individual members of the Commission, including:
--The late Blas Ople, who warned that “we are taking away too much from the people, whereas we should be giving as much to the people as we can in terms of their own freedom of choice.”
--Yusup R. Abubakar, who asked, “why should we arrogate unto ourselves the right to decide what the people want?”
--Felicitas S. Aquino, who called on her colleagues “to allow the people to exercise their own sense of proportion and rely on their own strength to curtail power when it overreaches itself.”
--Teodoro Bacani, who wondered “why should we not leave (perpetual disqualification after serving a number of terms) to the premise accepted by practically everybody here that our people are politically mature? Should we use this assumption only when it is convenient for us, and not when it may also lead to a freedom of choice for the people and for politicians who may aspire to serve them longer?”
“Two ideas thus emerge from a consideration of the proceedings of the Constitutional Commission,” the Court noted in Borja. “The first is the notion of service of term, derived from the concern about the accumulation of power as a result of a prolonged stay in office. The second is the idea of election, derived from the concern that the right of the people to choose those whom they wish to govern them be preserved.”
Unfortunately for Pe, while the decision does validate his and Osmeña’s theory on the people’s freedom of choice of officials, the factual circumstances in the Borja case differ vastly from his. In the former, the issue involved a vice mayor who claimed he was qualified to run for a fourth term because he was not elected to, but only assumed, the office of the mayor by operation of law in his first term.
Pe’s case, stripped of all non-essentials, boils down to that of a city councilor, who was elected for three consecutive terms, craving for a fourth, and who knows how many more successive terms.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 16, 2012.