The Senate Electoral Tribunal has rejected the two petitions to declare Senator Aquilino Pimentel III ineligible to run for another term in 2019.
In a decision dated June 3, 2020, the tribunal said Pimentel “was not prohibited to run and be elected for the 2019-2025 Senate term since he has yet to serve two consecutive terms in full.”
It is required that a senator has fully served two terms for a disqualification argument to stand, the tribunal says.
Meanwhile, the Justice department has deferred for the third time the preliminary investigation on the complaint filed against Pimentel for allegedly breaching quarantine protocols.
National Prosecution Service Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento says the hearing on the case must be rescheduled because the complainant, former University of Makati School of Law Dean Rico Quicho, has yet to comply with some procedural requirements.
The preliminary investigation hearing was originally scheduled on May 20 and was later moved to June 18.
Pimentel is accused of violating quarantine protocols when he went to the Makati Medical Center on March 24 to accompany his wife, who was about to give birth, despite his being suspected of being infected with the coronavirus disease.
While in the hospital, Pimentel reportedly got a call from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine confirming that he was positive for COVID-19.
The SET dismissed the petitions against Pimentel that were separately filed by Reymar Mansilungan and Efren Adan on May 31, 2019.
They questioned Pimentel’s eligibility to hold office as a senator for 2019 to 2025, claiming he had already previously served two successive terms in 2007-2013 and 2013-2019.
They said a senator must serve no more than two consecutive terms, insisting Pimentel served his first term after he won the election protest that he filed against now Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri in 2011.
But the SET says the involuntary severance from office for any length of time short of the full term provided by law amounts to an interruption of the continuity of service.
"Respondent was not prohibited to run and be elected for the 2019-2025 Senatorial term as he has yet to serve two consecutive Senatorial terms in full within the contemplation of prevailing law and jurisprudence," the tribunal said.
Pimentel first won a Senate seat in the 2007 polls, but he was only proclaimed winner in August 2011 after the SET ruled in favor of his election protest against Zubiri.
He was re-elected in 2013, and then the Comelec allowed him to run for senator in 2019 since he did not fully serve his 2007-2013 senatorial term.