Sulu leaders want special elections to fill late Rep. Loong’s House seat
PATIKUL, Sulu — The lack of proper congressional representation for the 1st District of Sulu has led the people here to become restless as socio-economic development for the eight towns continued to be elusive, local leaders said at the conferment of former Sulu vice governor Abdusakur Mahail
Tan as “Datu Shahbandar” of the Sultanate of Sulu.
To date, the national government has not scheduled an election to replace Sulu Rep. Habib Tupay Loong who died on June 30, 2016. Thus, the 1st District of Sulu, which has a total population close to 500,000 in the towns of Hadji Panglima Tahil, Indanan, Jolo, Maimbung, Pangutaran, Parang, Patikul, and Talipao, has had no representation in the House of Representatives in the last five months.
Hadji Ismael Butu, a respected leader of Patikul, said that the people in their town are now feeling helpless as development continued to be elusive to them, just like peace for their town.
Special elections must be conducted as soon as possible, not only in Sulu but also in Basilan’s lone congressional district, where the congresswoman also passed away recently due to illness, the local leaders attending the Datu Shahbandar conferment rites said.
They said the people of the Sulu district are deeply concerned that they have had no duly-elected representative in the House since the beginning of the 17th Congress.
The late Congressman Loong was reelected to a third term but died last June 30. He was not able to assume office.
Hadji Sigfredo Jamalul from Parang town said that the caretaker named by Congress to represent the district cannot voice the true sentiment, interest and aspirations of the people in the district.
“While a caretaker has been assigned to look into the congressional interests of the people of the first district of Sulu, he cannot truly represent Sulu as he hails from a distant district of Davao and he surely lacks and does not share the culture, sentiment, interests, and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people,” Jamalul told the Manila Bulletin.
In Manila, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said a special election should be held to fill up the post vacated by the late Rep. Loong.
“There should be a special elections,” said Atty. Macalintal, who urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to call the attention of the HOR regarding the vacancy of the congressional seat in Sulu.
“They (Congress) should declare a vacancy first, so that the Comelec can hold special elections,” said Macalintal.
Section 4, paragraph 2 of Republic Act 7166 (Synchronized Election Law) enacted on November 26, 1991 mandates that in case of vacancy in the House of Representatives, the Comelec shall “call and hold a special election to fill the vacancy not earlier than sixty (60) days nor longer than ninety (90) days after the occurrence of the vacancy.”
Section 1 of RA 6645 (1987 Law on Filling Vacancy in Congress) provides that the special election shall be conducted provided the remaining term of office is “at least one (1) year before the next regular election for Members of Congress.”
Aside from Sulu, Macalintal said there is also a need to fill the post vacated by former Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar, who was appointed as head of the Department of Public Works and Highways. (With a report from Leslie Ann G. Aquino)