Senate facts - Miriam Coronel Ferrer

WAYS OF SPECIES | MIRIAM CORONEL FERRER

Posted at Jun 17 2010 11:44 PM | Updated as of Jun 18 2010 07:50 AM

After the hustle and bustle of the election period, it’s time to pause and do some straightening of three factual errors in my recent posts related to the Senate.
 
On my piece, “The fading stars of men in uniform,” senatorial candidate and outgoing Muntinlupa House Representative Ruffy Biazon wrote to say that Senator Rodolfo Biazon actually won the first time he tried his luck in the Senate in 1992. I had written that he had two unsuccessful bids – in 1992 and 1995 – before making it in 1998. 
 
Correcting this, Rep. Ruffy wrote: “Senator Biazon ran for the Senate in 1992, his first venture into politics after retiring from the military as the Armed Forces Chief of Staff in 1991. He won that first electoral bid in 1992. Although he did not make it to the winning circle in his re-election bid  (in) 1995, the electoral protest of Sen. Nene Pimentel, where 'Dagdag-Bawas" was first revealed, proved that Sen. Biazon actually garnered enough votes to make him win if not for the cheating operations during that election.”
 
As such, Senator Biazon preceded Gringo Honasan in the Senate by three years. He was therefore the first high-ranking military officer to land in the Upper House after EDSA 1. This means I also have to correct my opening paragraph to read, “For the first time since 1992 [not 1995], no former military or police officer made it to the Senate in the election. Are we seeing an end to the allure of the men in uniform in the national psyche?”
 
Associated Press reporter Oliver Teves also texted me to ask what I meant by “for the first time since…”  For those like Oliver who got confused with this sentence structure, I simply meant that from 199[2] up to the election in 2007, there were AFP/PNP officers who won seats in the Senate. However, in 2010, no one did. 
 

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In my piece, “Filling up the Senate, dispelling the NoyBi myth,” I mistakenly stated that senators before martial law were elected to 4-year terms.  They similarly enjoyed 6-year terms.  House members were the ones who had four-year terms before. 
 
Reacting to my proposal to proclaim a 13th senator for the incoming, 15th Congress, reader Louie Clemente rightly noted that Senator Noynoy would need to resign first in order to create a vacancy.  He advised: “Noynoy should act as early as possible, before the congress acting as national board of canvassers, and, so that the same congress can pass a resolution to open a senate seat for the 13th in the race.”
 
Reader Ramon Angelo Robrigado, meanwhile, filled me in on past situations when there was a vacancy in the Senate, although not resulting from a senator being elected president. He wrote that:

“The 11th Congress (1998 – 2001) only had 22 senators – Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was elected Senator in 1995 and was supposed to serve until 2001. However, she was elected to the vice-presidency in 1998. The thirteenth senator wasn’t proclaimed to complete Mrs. Arroyo’s unfinished senatorial term. The other senator, former Senate President Marcelo Fernan, died while in office. Roberto Pagdanganan was the 13th-placer.

The 13th Congress (2004 – 2007) only had 23 senators – Noli De Castro was elected Senator in 2001 and was supposed to serve until 2007. He was elected, again, to the vice-presidency in 2004. Again, the thirteenth senator wasn’t proclaimed to complete Mr. De Castro’s term. Robert Z. Barbers was the 13th placer.

The 14th Congress (2007 – 2010) also only had 23 senators – Alfredo Lim was elected Senator in 2004 and was supposed to serve until 2010. However, he decided in 2007 to run for the mayoralty post of the City of Manila and won. Again, the thirteenth senator wasn’t proclaimed to complete Mr. Lim’s term. Koko Pimentel was the 13th placer.

The 2001 elections was a special case because the vacancy due to the appointment of Sen. Teofisto Guingona Jr. (elected in 1998, senatorial term should have expired on 2004) occurred one month before the campaign started, and the scenario of an incomplete Senate come the 12th Congress (2001 – 2004) was very much sure. 
 

Constitutionally, a special election can be called to elect the one who shall serve out the unfinished term of Mr. Aquino. However, the three scenarios listed above are similar in nature to what we are facing now. If we press COMELEC to proclaim the thirteenth placer, Risa Hontiveros (despite how much I wanted her to be in the Senate instead of certain people who won) to serve out Mr. Aquino’s will-be unfinished senatorial term, then previously, COMELEC should have also proclaimed Pagdanganan, Barbers (†), and Pimentel to complete the unfinished terms of Arroyo, de Castro, and Lim, respectively. “ 

Indeed, the proposal though apparently appealing to many people was not legally feasible, since the elections was intended to elect only 12 senators.

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I’d like to thank these readers for their informative letters.  I’ve had the chance to join Rep. Ruffy Biazon in several events, notably in the House Committee hearings on the proposed landmine bill that he ably chaired. The Landmine Bill would have banned the use of antipersonnel mines in the country by any group, as we had already pledged to do when we signed the Mine Ban Treaty way back in 1997.

Unfortunately, the bill didn’t move beyond the committee hearings.
 
Finally, I need to make just one more correction.  In my piece on Cordillera autonomy last April, I wrote that the book authored by UP professor Lydia Casambre was published by the Cordillera Resource Center at the UP-Northern Luzon campus in Baguio City. The correct name of the publisher is the Cordillera Studies Center.
 
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