By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Leila de Lima today pushed for the passage of a measure that would allow an elected official, who is being petitioned for recall, to voluntarily resign while the removal process is still in progress.
De Lima, chair of the Senate electoral reforms and people’s participation committee, filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1676 amending Section 73 of Republic Act No. 7160, also known as the 1991 Local Government Code (LGC).
The current local code prohibits the voluntary resignation of an elected official while the recall proceedings are rolling.
“Given the fact that the government would have to shoulder the expenses of the recall elections and in light of the fiscal crisis that our country is experiencing, it would be more practical to allow the official… to voluntarily resign in order to avoid incurring additional expenses necessarily connected with the recall process,” she said.
The detained senator pointed out Section 69 of the LGC provides for recall—a mode of removal of local elective officials—“for loss of confidence” that may be exercised by registered voters of a local government unit.
A former election lawyer, De Lima said an elected official subject to recall proceedings must be allowed to voluntarily resign and be automatically succeeded based on the rule of succession provided in Sections 44 and 45 of the LGC.
De Lima said she hopes the measure would be approved immediately to avert wasting the funds of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
She explained that while recall is “a fundamental right of the people in a representative democracy,” the power of recall still largely depends on the availability of funds of the Comelec, as Section 75 of the LGC provides that all expenses incident to recall elections shall be borne by the Comelec.
“If we can have the alternative – which is the voluntary resignation of an elected official, whose recall is sought – then the Comelec will not anymore have to carry the burden of financing a recall process,” she stressed.
“This bill aims to protect an important facet of democracy enshrined in the Constitution and to provide for a cheaper alternative to recall – by allowing the voluntary resignation of an elected local official while the recall process is in progress, which is initially prohibited by Section 73 of the LGC,” she said in the explanatory note of the bill.
De Lima said the bill was originally proposed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago during the 13th, 15th and 16th Congresses.
“Being convinced of its rationale and practical wisdom, I opted to adopt as I now hereby adopt, this proposed measure,” she said.