Supreme Court: Appointed officials running in polls must quit

By Aries Rufo,

Posted at Feb 22 2010 04:20 PM | Updated as of Feb 23 2010 09:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Aiming to level the playing field in the May 10 polls, the Supreme Court has ruled that appointed officials seeking elective posts should quit their government posts.

Voting 10-5, the Tribunal reversed its earlier ruling allowing appointed officials to remain in their posts despite filing their certificates of candidacy (COCs). The vote then was 9-6 in favor of appointed officials not being required to quit.

Malacañang lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who represented the original parties who prompted the case, said he will appeal the new decision.

Far from leveling the playing field, Macalintal insists the new ruling is discriminatory against appointed officials since it assumes that elected ones are not using their positions to promote their personal interests.

“But it is very clear that incumbent senators running for president are already out of the field campaigning even before the start of the campaign period practically leaving their jobs as lawmakers. In the case of appointive officials, while they filed their COCs, they remain in their respective offices and cannot campaign without being charged their official leave credits or being deducted of their salaries,” Macalintal said in a statement.
Macalintal expressed surprise over the reversal, adding that the parties which sought to intervene in the case, like former Senator Franklin Drilon and Senator Manuel Roxas II, merely copied the previous dissenting opinions.

“I was looking for new arguments, and they failed to show one,” he said in a separate interview.

20 VIPs affected

Veteran election lawyer Sixto Brillantes said about 20 high-profile personalities and dozens of others will be affected by the decision, although they will not be held liable for election offenses for not resigning from their posts.

“They (appointive officials) were acting on the basis of a previous ruling. They were acting in good faith,” Brillantes noted.

Some of the government officials to be affected by the new ruling are Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, who is seeking a congressional post in the first district of Quezon province, and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who is running for congressman in the first district of Batangas.

Also to be adversely affected are presidential legal counsel Raul Gonzalez, who is running for mayor in Iloilo City; Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, who is seeking a congressional seat in the 3rd district of Bohol; and, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, who is running for Congress as Camarines Sur representative.

Brillantes said the affected personalities need not resign from their posts, in the meantime, since the ruling is expected to be appealed.

Comelec welcomes ruling

He said the decision may not really affect appointed officials after all since the start of the campaign period for local officials would have begun by the time the ruling is handed down with finality.

The campaign period for local officials starts March 26.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said she will follow the Supreme Court decision, but she wants to read the resolution first.  

Devanadera said she has no problem with the ruling as she really would have to resign shortly to campaign. She said she stayed on for personal reasons, to see the completion of big cases like the Ampatuan multiple murder and rebellion cases.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, for his part, said: "We welcome reversal of the Supreme Court on the Quinto case. This now levels the playing field for all candidates because the undue advantage of sitting officials is removed. RA [Republic Act] 9369 is also very clear that appointive officials who file their COCs are deemed resigned ipso factor. -- with reports from Timi Nubla and Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News