• Comelec to conduct Las Piñas special polls

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    A special election will be held in Las Piñas City to fill up the congressional post that will be vacated soon by Rep. Mark Villar, the incoming secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) of the Duterte administration.

    “Yes, there will be a special election [in Las Piñas City],” Commissioner Rowena Guanzon told reporters at the sidelines of the just concluded Comelec canvassing for the senatorial and party-list votes at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

    Guanzon explained that Villar need not resign anymore because he has not yet assumed his third term as congressman.

    Villar’s term as second term congressman will end on noon of June 30.

    Comelec spokesman James Jimenez explained that the incoming leadership of the House of Representatives must first come out with a resolution declaring Villar’s post vacant and direct the Comelec for the holding of a special election.

    Election lawyer Manuelito Luna on Friday also said that Villar need not file his resignation as congressman anymore since he is yet to assume his new term which will come only after June 30.

    “By accepting the DPWH portfolio, he is deemed to have chosen not to assume the post for congressman for the lone district of Las Piñas,” Luna added. “The Comelec will call for a special election within 60 days from the time of the vacancy.”

    Republic Act (RA) No.7166 provides that when a vacancy in the House of Representatives occurs one year before the expiration of the term, a special election will be held not earlier than 60 days but not later than 90 days from the time of the vacancy.

    Under RA 8295, if there is only one candidate running for the position, the Comelec may immediately proclaim that candidate as the winner, and the special election will no longer be held.

    But veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal expressed belief that Villar has violated the law when he immediately accepted the DPWH portfolio without first taking his oath of office as a lawmaker.

    Macalintal cited Section 234 of the Revised Penal Code, which, he pointed out, states that any elected official who refuses to take his oath of office or refuses to discharge the duties of that office will be held liable for his refusal to take his oath of office, and carries with it a penalty of one month to six months imprisonment.

    “Before Mark Villar accepted the said post, he should have taken his oath first as congressman and report to Congress and thereafter submit his resignation and accept the position as DPWH secretary. That’s the legal procedure,” Macalintal explained.

    Macalintal also pointed out that aside from the legal issue, there is also the “moral” issue or delicadeza because in effect, Villar turned his back on his constituents that elected him to the position and also wasted the millions of pesos spent by the government for his election.

    Macalintal added that as a resident of Las Piñas, he would file a pleading, not a case, to express his opinion on the matter.

    “His appointment may be legal but is it moral? Is it just? Is it in violation of the prescribed good morals for government official? Maybe it’s time to amend the law that no elected official will be appointed either in the judiciary or in the executive unless one has finished his term of office,” he pointed out.

    WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL

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