Consultative Committee proposes single electoral tribunal
MANILA, Philippines – The Consultative Committee formed by President Rodrigo Duterte proposes replacing the current 3 electoral tribunals with a single Federal Electoral Tribunal, in the federal charter it is crafting.
"There is a consensus, Con-Com is proposing the creation instead of the Federal Electoral Tribunal which will take over all the powers and functions of the 3 existing electoral tribunals," said Con-Com spokesman Conrado Generoso on Wednesday, May 30.
The FET will replace the current Presidential Electoral Tribunal, Senate Electoral Tribunal, and House Electoral Tribunal which decide on electoral contests of the president, vice president; senators; and members of the House of Representatives, respectively.
In the constitution to be proposed by Con-Com, FET will decide on all electoral cases.
For cases relating to presidential or vice-presidential elections, the FET will decide sitting en banc. But for senators and representatives, the FET will decide in divisions.
Con-Com member and former justice Antonio Nachura said a single electoral tribunal could help prevent cases such as in the HET where cases pile up and are resolved sometimes days before the officials involved end their term. Meanwhile, the SET has very few cases.
With a single tribunal, these cases could be distributed to various divisions so there is not as much backlog.
One major way the FET will differ from the current electoral tribunals is it will no longer include lawmakers as members.
It will be composed of 15 justices, including a presiding justice. Congress, however, will still have a say on its membership. It gets to appoint 5 associate justices.
The judiciary, specifically the Federal Constitutional Court also being proposed by the Con-Com, will select another 5. The President also gets to appoint 5, including the presiding justice.
The present Senate and House Electoral Tribunals include 6 senators or representatives, aside from 3 Supreme Court justices.
Nachura explained that the committee wanted to eliminate bias from the electoral tribunal when lawmakers are members.
He said it's the "tendency" and "human nature" for a lawmaker member of the tribunal to decide in favor of a candidate who belongs to their political party.
"Here I am, in the tribunal because my party chose me. My partymate has a problem. What will I do? Will I side with the rival? In this set up, no such bias or discrimination may exist," said Nachura.
Expertise on election law
Requirements will be imposed on those to be appointed as FET members, proposed the Con-Com.
For one, they must be "recognized election experts" and must have served at least 15 years as a judge of a lower court or practiced law for the same duration. They are to serve until they reach 75 years of age.
The requirement of election expertise, said Nachura, ensures that the FET is "specialized" in handling electoral contests.
To ensure fiscal independence, said Nachura, the FET's budget will be lodged under the judiciary.
To cut costs, Nachura said the FET, when dealing with cases of senators or representatives, may hold hearings in their regions or districts.
This would save on time and money as the ballot boxes will no longer have to be brought all the way to Metro Manila, as in the current set-up. – Rappler.com