2022 PH electoral process

#PHVote Guides: Why can politicians run for reelection despite term limits?

Michelle Abad

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#PHVote Guides: Why can politicians run for reelection despite term limits?
The issue lies with how the laws prevent politicians from running only after certain number of ‘consecutive’ terms. They can rest and start counting terms again.

Filipinos may have seen certain names attached to government posts for many years – sometimes, even decades. Why are these politicians still in office? Have they been there all that time? Until when can they run for the same position?

The Dutertes of Davao, the Binays of Makati, and the Ynareses of Rizal are some of these politicians.

At least 9 senators, 64 governors, 192 district lawmakers, and 105 city mayors are allowed to seek reelection in 2022. Meanwhile, at least 3 senators, 15 governors, 45 district representatives, and 39 city mayors are on their final terms and barred from running for their posts again – at least for now.

Sometimes, especially in local politics, Politician A would vacate the position, which will then be occupied by Politician B, a family member or ally. In the next election cycle or when Politician B shall have served the allowed number of terms, Politician A returns to the position.

Why are they able to do that? Here are some things you should know about term limits on local, congressional, and senatorial positions. (READ: #PHVote Guides: Who can run for reelection?)

The issue with consecutive term limits

Section 43 of the Local Government Code states that the term for a local position is three years. Then it adds, “No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position….”

Meanwhile, senators enjoy six-year singular terms, according to Section 4, Article VI, of the 1987 Constitution. The same section says, “No Senator shall serve for more than two consecutive terms.”

Because the laws use the word “consecutive,” this allows elected Philippine officials to “rest” after they max out their three terms (for local posts) or two terms (for senatorial), and then run for the same posts and serve the allowed number of consecutive terms again.

After each break from the position, the return to the same post is counted as a first term again.

An example is Juan Ponce Enrile. He began his first stint as senator in 1987, and his latest ended in 2016. Here is a timeline of how Enrile sustained his presence in the Senate:

  • 1987 to 1992 – first Senate term (six years)
  • 1992 to 1995 – House of Representatives term (three years)
  • 1995 to 2001 – second Senate term but counted as another first (six years)
  • 2001 – lost Senate reelection
  • 2004 to 2016 – third and fourth Senate terms but counted as another first and second (12 years)
  • 2016 – barred from Senate reelection
  • 2019 – lost Senate election 

Theoretically speaking, Enrile can run again in 2022 if he wanted to.

Seat-swapping, political dynasties

Sitting officials have also swapped seats with family members or allies, and return to their original seats later on. Take, for example, the Abaloses and Gonzaleses of Mandaluyong.

The Abaloses’ hold on Mandaluyong began in 1988, when Benjamin Abalos Sr. assumed the mayoral post, and then was reelected for two more terms. Then, in 1998, his son Benjamin Jr. was elected to the mayorship. The Gonzaleses began to assume office along with them in 1995, when Mandaluyong became a lone congressional district.

‘FOREVER.’ A tarp reading ‘Abalos Gonzales Forever’ hangs in the Mandaluyong city hall in 2016.
Menchie Abalos Facebook Page

Benjamin Jr. and Neptali Gonzales II swapped running for congressional and mayoral seats in 2004. In 2007, they resumed their usual posts. In 2016, their wives Carmelita and Alexandria succeeded them. Here are the offices they’ve sat in over time:

Anti-political dynasty measures, which would limit the concentration of political power by persons related to one another, remain pending in Congress. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.