March 5, 2024

By some indications, the request of Benguet provincial officials for the Lower House to declare a vacancy to pave the way for a special election in the province in the wake of the death of Rep. Nestor B. Fongwan, Sr. appears uncertain.
This, as Cordillerans are witness to recent political scenarios where requests for special elections due to untimely demise of political leaders have not taken place in close to a decade.
Republic Act 6645, approved in December 1987, states that once a vacancy occurs in the Senate at least 18 months, or in the House of Representatives at least one year before the next scheduled election, the Commission on Elections, upon receipt of a resolution from the chamber where the vacancy occurred, shall schedule a special election. 
The special election will then be held not earlier than 45 days and not later than 90 days from the date of the resolution.
In holding special elections, the provincial government will fund the plebiscite and will be reimbursed by Comelec as stated in Sec.10 of the Omnibus Election Code, which provides that “except in barangay elections, such expenses as may be necessary and reasonable in connection with the elections, referenda, plebiscites and other similar exercises shall be paid by the Commission.” 
Records, however, show that no special election was held following the death of either a provincial official or lawmaker the past eight years.
The last special election held in the country was on June 2, 2012 when Alejandro Mirasol was proclaimed winner following the death of Negros Occidental 5th District Rep. Iggy Arroyo on Jan. 26, 2012.
Back home, a special election could have taken place in Mountain Province following the death of then Rep. Victor Dominguez on Feb. 8, 2008, or less than a year after the May 2017 elections. Instead of declaring the position vacant, then House Speaker Prospero Nograles appointed the late Kalinga Rep. Manuel Agyao as legislative caretaker of the province.
In 2016, then Comelec Commissioner Andres Bautista announced to reporters in Baguio that the poll body will hold a special election in Mountain Province within the year following the death of then Gov. Leonard Mayaen, who was then the lone candidate for governor. In spite of Bautista’s announcement, no special election was held and Comelec instead installed then Vice Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan as the acting governor.
No special election took place in Mountain Province when Rep. Maximo Dalog, Sr. died on June 3, 2017 or barely a year after serving his third term. Former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez instead appointed Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Mangaoang as legislative caretaker of Mountain Province.
Meanwhile, information reaching the Courier revealed that some quarters in Benguet are consolidating petitions to push for a special election following the appointment of ACT-CIS Partylist Rep. Eric Go Yap as caretaker of the lone district of Benguet. – Harley F. Palangchao