By Severino Samonte
MANILA — If you are voting for the first time in this year’s mid-term polls, then you may be among those wondering why the country is electing only 12 members of the Senate every three years, but there are actually 24 senators in attendance during the opening of Congress on the fourth Monday of July following the elections.
This is particularly true in the coming May 13 elections and those of the years 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.
The answer is in the 1987 Constitution itself, particularly in the Transitory Provisions or Article XVIII whose Section 1 states:
“The first election of members of the Congress under the Constitution shall be held on the second Monday of May 1987. The first local elections shall be held on a date to be determined by the President, which may be simultaneous with the election of the members of the Congress. It shall include the election of all members of the city or municipal councils in the Metropolitan Manila area.”
Section 2 of the same Transitory Provisions also says:
“The senators, members of the House of Representatives, and the local officials first elected under this Constitution shall serve until noon of June 30, 1992.
“Of the senators elected in the election in 1992, the first 12 obtaining the highest number of votes shall serve for six years (full term) and the remaining 12 for three years.”
Under this setup, half of the 24 senators (Nos. 1 to 12) elected in May 1992 were retained until June 30, 1998, while the other half (Nos. 13 to 24) were replaced in the 1995 polls.
In turn, the 12 senators who were elected in May 1995 stayed in the Senate for the next six years until 2001.
This has been the practice since 1995 with the election of a dozen senators every three years for a six-year term to replace the outgoing 12 Senate members.
The Transitory Provisions under Section 5 also paved the way for the synchronization of national and local elections by extending the six-year term of then President Corazon C. Aquino and Vice President Salvador H. Laurel, who were elected in the February 7, 1986 snap polls, by six months to noon of June 30, 1992.
The 12 senators who will be elected on May 13, 2019 will hold office for six years or until June 30, 2025.
They will be joining the 12 lawmakers who were elected in the May 10, 2016 polls, namely: Senators Franklin Drilon, Joel Villanueva, Vicente Sotto III, Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Sherwin Gatchalian, Ralph Recto, and Leila de Lima.
Incidentally, de Lima is in detention since February 2017 due to charges filed against her by the Department of Justice on allegations that she received money from drug dealers when she was Justice secretary during the Aquino administration. (PNA)