MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Electoral Tribunal has junked two quo warranto petitions against Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, which alleged that he sought a prohibited third term as a senator.
In a 17-page decision dated June 3, the SET dismissed the petitions filed separately by Reymar Mansilungan and Efren Adan for lack of merit.
The petitioners argued that Pimentel is ineligible to hold office as a senator from 2019 to 2025, as Pimentel had already served terms for 2007 to 2013, and 2013 to 2019.
Pimentel, however, was unable to serve a full first term. In 2007, he filed an electoral protest against now Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who landed 12th place in the 2007 senatorial elections.
Pimentel assumed office only in 2011, after Zubiri resigned from his post over the alleged electoral fraud in Maguindanao, and a week before the SET declared him as the real winner of the 12th Senate slot in the 2007 elections.
Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, SET chairperson, said that Pimentel was only able to serve one year and 10 months of what was supposed to be a 6-year term.
“In conclusion, respondent was not prohibited to run and be elected for 2019 to 2025 senatorial term, as he has yet to serve two consecutive senatorial terms in full with the contemplation of prevailing law and jurisprudence,” said Bernabe.
In her decision, Bernabe also said that the 2013 SET rules on quo warranto petitions and other similar provisions should be amended, as it is “palpably incompatible with the prevailing doctrines.”
Rule 18 of the SET rules on quo warranto states that any petition must be filed within 10 days after proclamation. Bernabe said that the petition would still be “premature” at that time, as SET has jurisdiction only after a senator has taken oath and assumed office.
Pimentel on Tuesday, June 16, hailed the decision and thanked SET and his lawyer George Garcia.
“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,” Pimentel told Rappler.
In 2019, the Commission on Elections junked a similar petition seeking to bar Pimentel’s reelection bid. – Rappler.com