POSTSCRIPT / June 3, 2001 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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After 3 years of cheap electricity, the deluge?

AS we write this, we got word that one of the Abu Sayyaf key commanders was killed and some of the terrorists’ hostages were rescued after the kidnappers clashed with pursuing government forces.

If true, the report would be a big morale-booster for the government and the public also held hostage, by extension, by the terrorists who had made kidnapping a thriving multimillion-dollar business.

Congratulations are in order all around, especially to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who has hit back at the Abu Sayyaf with a mailed fist and to the military and the police who have lost some of their men in the rescue operations.

* * *

WE were earlier asking why the government does not just leave the Abu Sayyaf to rot with their 20 hostages. Ignore them.

With the government firmly opposed to negotiating or paying ransom, kidnapping has ceased to be profitable, we thought. We were thinking that we should just saddle the Abu Sayyaf with the problem of baby-sitting suddenly worthless 20 hostages.

But considering the avowed objective of the government to wipe out the terrorist band in the Basilan-Sulu area, the search and destroy operations launched against them begin to make sense.

* * *

UNDER the controversial power restructuring bill, we could have cheap electricity for three years, or until 2004 while President Arroyo is in office.

What happens when GMA is no longer around to make good her commitment for cheap electricity? She’s not saying “après moi, le deluge,” but a deluge of calibrated increases in power rates might just drown us after her tenure.

There is nothing in the power bill that guarantees cheap electricity after the “promo” period during which the emerging power oligopoly is being made palatable.

* * *

AFTER President Arroyo, rising cost of generation and the usual “market forces” could rear their ugly heads to trigger power rate increases that the power industry restructuring is supposed to forestall.

By that time, it would be too late to say “We told you so!”

It seems we have not learned from our having been the victims of serial rape by the oligopoly put in place by the oil industry deregulation law that also promised cheap oil-based fuel.

Neither have we learned from the privatization of the Nawasa that now raises the specter of expensive water after a brief “promo” period of artificially lowered water rates.

(Have you noticed, water is now more expensive than gasoline! So what happens now to the fantastic idea of engineer Daniel Dingel of using water to power car engines?)

* * *

WHEN she signs into law the power bill being rushed by the lameduck Congress, GMA must face the nation and tells us the hard facts:

  • Although she promised a reduction of electric rates, the reduction is artificial since the generating and other costs that have jacked up rates would just be transferred from one pocket to another.
  • The promised power rate reductions would be short-lived since fiscal hocus-pocus cannot sustain them. Sooner or later, reality would intervene and, boom!, rates would start soaring.
  • The government is under pressure to have the power bill approved because without it, the international loan sharks would not release the $980 million rescue fund they have been dangling before us.

* * *

HEY, maybe we just hit on a hot campaign line for Ate Glo’s running for president in 2004!

Since GMA is personally committed to depress electric rates under the power bill that she is railroading, then we should keep her for another term (2004-2010) to ensure cheap electricity longer.

After all, since she would serve less than four years of the unexpired six-year term of Erap Estrada, GMA is not considered to have served a full term that would disqualify her, under the Constitution, from running in 2004.

There is another point, although it is not a legal argument for running in 2004: She became president by succession, and was not elected to the presidency. So she is not serving her own elective term and is qualified to run in 2004.

* * *

WE’RE talking of the “term” of elective officials, but somewhere above we also used the word “tenure.” We beg lawyers to pretend not to hear when we try telling the uninitiated the main difference between “term” and “tenure.”

Simply put, “term” refers to the number of years that an official may legally hold the office. It also defines the interval after which several officials may succeed one another.

On the other hand, “tenure” is the number of years that the official actually served.

Illustration: While Erap as president had a six-year term, his tenure or the length of time he actually served was just two years and a few months.

* * *

THE reckoning of an official’s term is at the core of an interesting election case involving Leonardo B. Roman, who has just been proclaimed by the Commission on Elections as the duly elected governor of Bataan after running unopposed in the May 14 polls.

Under the Constitution and the Local Government Code, provincial governors, among other local officials, cannot be elected beyond a maximum of three consecutive terms. Each term is three years.

Roman first became governor in 1993 when he ran and won in an election held after the recall of then Bataan Gov. Enrique T. Garcia. He served until 1995.

Roman ran for reelection in 1995, won a second term and served until 1998. He ran for reelection again in 1998, won and served a third term as governor until the end of June 2001.

* * *

ROMAN ran for a fourth term last May, despite the ban against reelection after serving three consecutive terms. There being no other candidate, Roman won.

Several Bataan voters questioned Roman’s running, to no avail. When his installation as elected governor became imminent, an urgent petition was filed with the Comelec to stop his proclamation.

The Comelec threw out all challenges to Roman’s fourth term. Now some Bataan voters are preparing to go to the Supreme Court this week to question the rulings of the Comelec.

* * *

THE Comelec will have to be impleaded not only because it was the body that proclaimed Roman. The basic question is why the poll body allowed Roman to run for a fourth term.

The reasoning of the Comelec is that the 1993-1995 first term of Roman is not a full three-year term for counting the number of successive terms that an official has served since he won in a recall election to serve only the unexpired term of the recalled governor.

With that first term not counted by the Comelec, Roman is deemed to have served only two terms so far.

* * *

BUT his political foes point out that there is no distinction in the law among recall, special or regular elections in determining if an elected official’s term is to be counted as a term at all.

They also said that being elected governor directly by the people and not by mere succession (as when a vice governor succeeds to the position upon the death or resignation of the governor) gives the official a term that is to be counted as one term.

* * *

THE pertinent charter provision (Section 8, Article X) of the Constitution says: “The terms of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials which shall be determined by law shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected.”

The intention of the Constitutional Convention can be gleaned from these remarks of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, when asked by fellow ConCon delegates about Section 7, Article VI, which similarly bars congressmen from serving for more than three consecutive terms:

“If one is elected Representative to serve the unexpired term of another, that term, no matter how short, will be considered one term for purposes of computing the number of successive terms allowed.”

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 3, 2001)

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