Concom eyes single poll tribunal

MANILA The Consultative Committee (Concom) tasked by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to review the 1987 Constitution is proposing the creation of a Federal Electoral Tribunal (FET) to be the sole judge of all election contests involving the President, Vice President, members of the Congress, Regional Governors, and Regional Deputy Governors.

Concom member and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, chair of the subcommittee on the structure of the federal government, said that this was among the new provisions involving changes in the Judiciary which will be submitted to the en banc for final voting next week.

Nachura said that the creation of the FET would abolish the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), and House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) and transfer jurisdiction of Presidential and Vice Presidential contests of the Supreme Court's Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to the FET.

Under the current Constitution, the SET and HRET are both composed of nine members, three of whom shall be Justices of the Supreme Court to be designated by the Chief Justice.

Meanwhile, the remaining six shall be members of the Senate or the House of Representatives chosen on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and the parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented therein.

Concom Senior Technical Assistant and spokesperson Ding Generoso said that the Concom's proposed FET will be composed of one presiding justice and 14 associate justices.

Out of the 14, five, including Presiding Justice, will be appointed by the President; five will be appointed by the Federal Constitutional Court en banc; and five will be appointed by the Commission on Appointments (CA) of the Congress.

The FET may sit en banc or in division of three justices or five divisions.

New qualifications

Members of the FET must be natural-born Filipino citizens, recognized experts, have been a judge of a lower court or engaged in the practice of law for 15 years or more, and at least 50 years old at the time of appointment.

We feel that if you really want an honest, down-to-earth discussion on an election case and himayin ang (dissect the) election laws, let us have judges, justices do them for us, Nachura said in a press briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) on Wednesday.

Kung may specialization, talagang tutok ang gagawin ng ating mga justices sa mga contest, sa mga kasong ito (If there is a specialization, the full attention of the justices will be on these contests, theses cases), he added.

Nachura said that a subliminal reason why the Concom chose to create a FET is so that there would be an equal distribution of cases.

Sa House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal mahigit 60 ang kaso nila doon, sa Senate wala. Kung minsan may isa, paisa-isa. Kaya maigi nang doon nalang sa isang Electoral Tribunal para mapaghati-hati na nila yung responsibilities over these cases (In the HRET there are more than 60 cases, in the Senate there are none. Sometimes there's one. So it's best to form one Electoral Tribunal so they can distribute responsibilities over these cases), Nachura said.

Nachura, meanwhile, said that election contests involving public officers lower than Regional Vice Governor will be under the regular courts.

Another reason Nachura said for the creation of FET is for more objectivity and fairness, citing cases when members of the SET and HRET who belong to a political party have shown a tendency to decide in favor of a party-mate if a case involves a member of their political party.

This is not a judgement of members of the House of Representatives or Senate pero human nature 'yan (but it's human nature), Nachura said.

This time we are saying no such bias or discrimination may exist, he added.

Nachura said that the creation of the FET will also cut costs of having three different electoral tribunals where ballot boxes for recount have to be brought to the HRET and SET.

The [Federal] Electoral Tribunal may hold hearings doon sa region mismo para una (in their own regions), it will save time, it will save cost of the parties as well as of the Tribunal, Nachura said.

The FET shall enjoy fiscal independence and budget shall be included in the budget of the judiciary. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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