Senator Aquilino Pimentel III is facing a disqualification case that could derail his bid for reelection in the 2019 midterm elections.
This came about after a lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, claimed Pimentel may not run for senator again as he had already served two terms―the maximum allowed.
But Pimentel III said his lawyers will in due time answer Topacio’s petition to stop him from running in the May 2019 elections.
“However, Comelec may surprise us by dismissing the petition outright for being a nuisance petition,” Pimentel said.
In any case, he said, they were ready and “we know the correct answer to this issue.”
During the 2007 elections, Pimentel was narrowly edged out by Juan Miguel Zubiri for the 12th and last Senate spot.
Pimentel contested Zubiri’s victory, alleging that the latter benefited from wholesale cheating carried out by his party, the United Nationalist Alliance.
The Senate Electoral Tribunal in 2011 ruled in favor of Pimentel’s election protest, allowing him to assume the remaining two years of Zubiri’s term.
But Topacio said Zubiri’s entire term legally belonged to Pimentel because the SET declared that he was the rightful 12th placer.
“When the electoral tribunal annulled the proclamation of Zubiri, that was retroactive and it meant that Senator Pimentel was the one elected, not Senator Zubiri,” Topacio said.
“It did not matter whether or not he was able to serve all of the six years,” he told ANC’s Dateline Philippines in a separate interview.
Topacio, a known ally of Pimentel, said he filed the disqualification case of his own accord. He said doing so gave him “scant joy” when he had been friends with the senator.
Topacio had supported all of Pimentel’s election campaigns since 1995. The senator, meanwhile, is a godfather of Topacio’s eldest child.
“He is my friend. I just need to enforce the law because I swore as a lawyer to uphold and defend the laws of the republic,” Topacio said.
He said he was simply being consistent because when Pimentel asked him to do research on this, he told the lawmaker that he “cannot run anymore.”
Pimentel, who was reelected in 2013, had said he could still run in next year’s elections because he did not complete his first term as senator.