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MANILA, Philippines -– The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is appealing for early confirmation from Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on whether or not she’ll give up her Senate post to serve as International Criminal Court (ICC) justice so the poll body can prepare accordingly for the country’s 2013 mid-term elections.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes noted that Santiago’s decision is crucial since her departure for ICC will create a vacancy in the Senate, making it necessary to elect 13 instead of 12 senators next year.
”She holds the key to this matter,” Brillantes said during Saturday's Forum at Annabel’s in Quezon City.
He noted the 13th senator to be elected next year will serve the remainder of Santiago’s term which is due to end in 2016.
Brillantes said Comelec can't arbitrarily prepare for the election of 13 senators since Santiago is still an incumbent legislator.
"There's still no Senate vacancy," he stressed.
He noted a Senate resolution is required to officially declare Santiago's post vacant.
Comelec earlier issued Resolution 9385 which prescribes the calendar of activities and periods of certain prohibited acts in connection with the May 13, 2013 national and local elections.
The resolution set Oct. 1 to 5 this year as period for filing 2013 certificates of candidacy (COCs) for all elective positions in the country.
”We hope Senator Santiago can render her decision before the deadline for filing COCs to avoid chaos in preparing for next year’s polls,” Brillantes said.
He said Santiago’s early decision will enable Comelec to undertake appropriate configurations as part of its preparations.
”If only 12 senators are required to be elected but a citizen votes for 13 senatorial candidates, all such votes won’t be counted under our automated system,” he warned, citing the need to establish the number of Senate seats that needs filling up next year.
During the forum, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary-general and Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco said the coalition is evaluating personalities it can field next year as additional senatorial candidates.
"The choice won't be easy," he said.
UNA deputy spokesperson and Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza earlier said personalities for possible inclusion in the coalition's senatorial slate include former Senators Richard "Dick" Gordon and Ernesto Maceda as well as incumbent Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero.
Other prospects include Valenzuela City Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board Chairperson Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares, Las Piñas City Rep. Cynthia Villar and incumbent Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Plaza added.
UNA already announced the names of eight personalities who are included in its 2013 senatorial slate.
They're Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Gregorio Honasan, former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, San Juan City Rep. JV Ejercito, Cagayan Rep. Jackie Enrile, businessman Jose 'Joey' de Venecia III, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay.
Tiangco said UNA will respect Pimentel's decision on whether or not to proceed with running under the coalition.
"We'll accept his decision and will be happy if he stays with us," Tiangco said.
Pimentel earlier protested the inclusion of Zubiri - who he accused of cheating him in the 2007 senatorial race - in UNA's senatorial line-up.
Unlike UNA, Lakas-Christian-Muslim Democrats (CMD) political party won't join next year's senatorial race.
"We won't field senatorial candidates," lawyer and Lakas-CMD spokesperson Raul Lambino said during the forum.
He noted that former movie star Alma Moreno and other personalities already signified interest to run under Lakas-CMD.
The party is focusing on the local polls and on strengthening itself, he said.
"A council of advisers will set new directions for Lakas-CMD," he added.
Lambino clarified that Lakas-CMD is disinterested at present in joining forces with other political groups.
"We're not seeking alliance with any group," he said.
He noted Lakas-CMD is supporting the senatorial bid of its former ally Magsaysay under UNA, believing in this lawmaker's qualifications.
"She showed determination to stand her ground on various issues," he said.
Lakas-CMD already decided to cut its ties with Kampi political party so the former reverted to its old name, Lambino reported.
He said the Comelec is scheduled to hear next week Lakas-CMD's petition for such name change.