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Bill seeks to bar persons convicted of corruption from public service

A measure that would disqualify persons convicted of corruption from holding public office, even while an appeal is pending, has been filed in the House of Representatives.

House Bill 92, filed by Samar Representative Edgar Mary Sarmiento, seeks to amend Sections 12 and 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, and impose penalties including temporary or perpetual disqualification.

In his explanatory note, the lawmaker pointed out that individuals have attempted to run for public office despite their conviction, and this could result in the delay or even the avoidance of punishment.

"Allowing persons sentenced to penalties involving disqualification pending appeal to run for public office paved the way for the (now overturned) Condonation Doctrine. Under...this theory, the re-election of an official makes him no longer accountable for his previous misconducts and faults," said Sarmiento.

"In relation to the present matter, when persons convicted of prior misconduct are allowed to run for pending appeal of their convictions, it allows said persons to be rid of accountabilities for their past transgressions both in and out of public office," he added.

The lawmaker cited the "untimely and inconvenient vacancy in office" should a candidate win the election but lose in his or her appeal for conviction. "This necessarily disrupts government flow and the rendering of services to the affected constituents," he said.

Sarmiento argued that allowing a person convicted to be a candidate despite pending appeal "results in the absurd situation where such person's integrity and qualification to hold something as important as public trust."

"Thus, there is a need to amend the Omnibus Election Code to ensure that the sanctity of candidacy for public office is protected and to avoid the consequences of allowing those already sentenced to be disqualified from still running for office," he said.

Under the proposed measure, even individuals who appeal their conviction "shall be disqualified until such time the appeal reverses the conviction and acquits such person."

The measure adds that "any person convicted or sanctioned for any offense in any court, tribunal or body shall likewise be disqualified from being declared a candidate or, if elected, from holding public office pending appeal of such conviction or sanction, where the penalty imposed includes temporary or perpetual disqualifications."

In his explanatory note, Sarmiento stresses: "A public office is a public trust."

"Thus, the sanctity of candidacy for public office should always be protected as much as one's right of suffrage," he adds. — Margaret Claire Layug/MDM, GMA News