By Leslie Ann Aquino
Poll lawyer Romulo Macalintal on Friday opposed the proposal to postpone the May 2019 midterm elections saying this is unconstitutional.
“The postponement of the 2019 midterm election proposed by some lawmakers, which will extend the term of office of incumbent elective officials whether by law or initiative, is unconstitutional,” he said in a statement.
“It is not within the power of Congress to enact a law that will postpone the election and at the same time extend the term of office of any incumbent elective official to serve in a holdover capacity,” added Macalintal.
The poll lawyer said while the Constitution provides that “unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election shall be held on the second Monday of May,” this should not contravene or run counter to the provisions of the Constitution specifically providing for the terms of office of elective officials.
According to Macalintal, such an interpretation of the law has already been affirmed in a previous Supreme Court (SC) ruling, particularly in the 1991 case of OsmenavsComelec.
In the said decision, the SC declared as null and void Republic Act No. 7056, which provided for different dates of election for national and local elective officials.
“The SC ruled that ‘the legislature cannot, by an act postponing the election, to fill an office the term of which is limited by the Constitution, extend the term of the incumbent beyond the period as limited by the Constitution,’” cited Macalintal.
Not even the use of the people’s initiative can be tapped to work around the said limitations of legislative power.
“Even a people’s initiative could not cancel the 2019 polls because, like an ordinary law, it cannot violate what the Constitution provides,” said Macalintal.
This is aside from apparent lack of material time to conduct an initiative, he said.
Macalintal also pointed out that to extend the term of elective officials and allow them to serve in a holdover capacity would in turn make them mere “appointive officials” since it has been held that “a legislative extension of the term of an incumbent is virtually an appointment of the office for the extended time,” thereby violating the constitutional mandate that they should be elected by their respective constituents.
Earlier, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez pushed for the cancellation of the May 2019 polls so as to allow Congress to focus on the proposed Charter Change.