Limits of legality in RP

What is legal is not moral. Republic Act No. 9006 challenges reflection on the morality side of the ledger.

We can advance the tentative view that in fact, RA 9006, “An Act To Enhance The Holding Of Free, Orderly, Honest, Peaceful and Credible Elections Through Fair Election Practices” is one such law that violated morality as universally understood.

This law, also known as the ‘Fair Election Act’ was approved on February 12, 2001 by GMA with Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. as then Senate President and Rep. Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. as House Speaker and consists of 16 sections all in all, the most controversial of which is its Section 14. In general, the provisions of RA 9006 revolve around election propaganda and Section 14 on something else, in particular.

Let us shoot straight and quote –

“Section 14. Repealing Clause. – Sections 67 and 85 of the Omnibus Election Code (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881) and Sections 10 and 11 of Republic Act No. 6646 are hereby repealed. As a consequence, the first provision of the third paragraph of Section 11 of Republic Act No. 8436 is rendered ineffective. All laws, presidential decrees, executive orders, rules and regulations, or any part thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed or modified or amended accordingly.”

Every student of law understands Article VI Sec. 26 (1) of Constitution which states that “every bill passed by Congress shall embrace only one subject and shall be expressed in the title thereof”. Clearly, the pertinent provisions of existing laws or in this case, Batasan Pambansa Blg. 881 and Republic Act 6646 are being repealed.

Legal scholars know that Section 14 is ‘alien’ to the import of the Fair Election Act and thus must be the subject of a ‘separate’ measure. This necessarily ‘takes advantage of public office for private benefit’. Why? RA 9006, in effect, removed the prohibition. Under the law, officials running for other elective positions need not resign. For instance, if a senator runs for another elective position and loses, he can return to Senate to finish his term.

Two examples that could be given here are the cases of Sen. Lacson and Sen. Lapid who lost to the presidency and mayoralty, respectively but were allowed to go back to Senate.

Further, legal scholars cannot fail to look at RA 9006 as the ‘clandestine vehicle’ used to make the controversial Section 14 of said law a ‘rider’. For instance, Section 67 of the Omnibus Election Code has nothing to do with election propaganda or in this case, ‘political advertising’ and yet it was repealed on the strength of RA 9006.

When Section 14 aims to repeal two major sections (Sections 67 and 85) of the Omnibus Election Code as well as two major sections (Sections 10 and 11) of Republic Act 6646 and yet it only comes in a proposed law or in the enacted law as a mere “rider”, then scholars can argue against its morality on the one hand and its unconstitutionality on the other. At the very least, four sections of existing laws are rendered ‘ineffective’ by the sweeping effect of Section 14 of RA 9006. Ideally, there is no ‘short-circuiting’ the entire legislative process.

In short, repeal as that found in the substantive provisions of RA 9006 failed with the requirement that ‘the repealed and the repealing law must somehow be related’ since in the first place, nothing is made clear that Section 14 must have dealt with the same subject matter of RA 9006 which focuses on ‘fair election practices’. This one is clearly a case of ‘unfair election practice’, if we go by the short and the long of it.

Sadly, repealing Sections 10 and 11 of RA 6646 is by itself pregnant with morality issues. Truth is, to render these sections repealed, modified, or amended mean that they are rendered inoperative when in fact, these are the very additional reforms introduced in the electoral system as they concern ‘common poster areas’ and ‘prohibitive forms of election propaganda’.

In the more contemporary setting, we have to revisit RA 9006 for its brazen ‘immorality’ and damning ‘unconstitutionality’. Maybe, no less than Sen. Pimentel or then Rep. Belmonte should be held to explain why such a law has been erected.

Is there stronger muscle in either Senate or House that could insure that RA 9006 be now ‘embargoed’ and rendered ‘inoperative’ since it sets the dangerous legal precedent that in this country, the lawmakers themselves are writing self-serving laws?

If this is not a classic case of ‘class legislation, from where I stand, I sure don’t know what is. I submit that what is immoral is immoral and no amount of legality can circumvent the strict legal, moral, and constitutional requirements of lawmaking.

This is where Congress has failed and failed anomalously and scandalously with a degree of brazenness unimaginable in the more civilized societies.