Senate Electoral Tribunal junks petitions questioning Pimentel's eligibility to run as senator

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 16 2020 12:22 PM | Updated as of Jun 16 2020 04:19 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Senate Electoral Tribunal has dismissed two petitions seeking to declare Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III as "ineligible for the position of senator" over the lawmaker's alleged violation of the 2 consecutive term limit under the Constitution.

The quo warranto petitions seeking to nullify Pimentel's 2019 senatorial race win were dismissed "for lack of merit," the 9-member SET said in a decision dated June 15, 2020, a copy of which was obtained by Senate reporters. 

"The respondent (Pimentel) was not prohibited to run and be elected for the 2019-2025 senatorial term as he has yet to serve 2 consecutive senatorial terms in full," the 16-page decision read.
 
Petitioners Reymar Mansilungan and Efren Adan had told the Tribunal in separate petitions that Pimentel already "exhausted the two-term limit for senators."

In 2007, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri won the 12th Senate seat and assumed office from June 2007 to August 2011, but a Tribunal decision nullified his win after a recount and awarded the post to Pimentel.

Pimentel served as senator from August 2011 to June 2013, and was reelected for another term from June 2013 to June 2019.

"The foregoing circumstances constitute an involuntary interruption or a break from respondent's service from 2007-2013," the decision read.

"Being an interrupted term, the 2007-2013 senatorial term cannot be counted against respondent," it said.

The Commission on Elections earlier allowed Pimentel to seek for a fresh 6-year mandate during the 2019 midterm elections, saying the senator has "yet to exhaust" the 2-term limit since he did not "fully serve the 2007-2013" term.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe chairs the SET. Its members are as follows:

- Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa
- Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo
- Sen. Nancy Binay
- Sen. Pia Cayetano
- Sen. Franklin Drilon
- Sen. Richard Gordon
- Sen. Lito Lapid
- Sen. Manny Pacquiao

Pimentel, in a text message to ABS-CBN News, thanked the SET for dismissing the case, saying the Tribunal's "objectivity was shown in the well-reasoned decision."

"We hope this decision contributes to the development of case law on the issue just as our arguments have led to the possible amendment and improvement of the SET Rules," he said.