Comelec suspends special elections in South Cotabato, Southern Leyte

MANILA, Philippines – Days before it was set to take place, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced that special elections in the newly created districts of Southern Leyte and South Cotabato would be suspended.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said this followed a Supreme Court (SC) decision which directed the poll body to proclaim Shirlyn Bañas Nograles as the duly-elected representative of the 1st district of South Cotabato, including General Santos City.

"Pursuant to Resolution No. 10612, the Comelec has resolved to suspend elections for Member, House of Representatives, for the first and third (lone) districts of South Cotabato," Jimenez said on Thursday, October 24.

In its 9-page decision last September 10, the SC sided with Nograles, who argued that the existence of the new General Santos City district should begin in the next national and local elections in May 2022.

The special elections were supposed to take place on Saturday, October 26, for voters to elect congressional representatives for the new districts created. This came after President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law separate measures creating new congressional districts in the respective areas.

Despite no similar ruling on Southern Leyte released by the SC, the poll body likewise decided to suspend special elections in the new district as a "similarly situated" case remains pending in the High Court.

"However, in case no decision from the SC is forthcoming, the Southern Leyte shall push through on November 30, 2019, to avoid any prolonged vacuum in the Office of Representatives for first and second district," Comelec said.

Comelec had earlier suspended elections in Southern Leyte and South Cotabato to a later date after the May 13 elections "considering the new districts were created only months before the 2019 midterm elections."

All activities related to the special elections, including procurement and bidding, as well as the implementation of related Comelec resolutions, were also suspended, Jimenez said. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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