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ENBANC

NARDOM.VELASCO,
Petitioner,

versus

COMMISSIONONELECTIONS
andMOZARTP.PANLAQUI,
Respondents.

G.R.No.180051

Present:

PUNO,C.J.,
QUISUMBING,
YNARESSANTIAGO,
CARPIO,
AUSTRIAMARTINEZ,
CORONA,*
CARPIOMORALES,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICONAZARIO,
VELASCO,JR.,
NACHURA,
REYES,
LEONARDODECASTRO,and
BRION,JJ.

Promulgated:

December24,2008

xx

DECISION

BRION,J.:

This petition for certiorari filed by Nardo M. Velasco (Velasco) under Rule 64, in relation
withRule65,oftheRevisedRulesofCourtseekstosetasideandannul[1]theResolution
datedJuly6,2007oftheSecondDivisionoftheCommissiononElections(COMELEC)and
[2]theResolutiondatedOctober15,2007oftheCOMELECenbanc,inSPACaseNo.07
148 entitled Mozart P. Panlaqui v. Nardo M. Velasco. The assailed resolutions denied due

coursetotheCertificateofCandidacy(COC)VelascohadfiledforthepositionofMayorof
theMunicipalityofSasmuan,Pampanga.

THEANTECEDENTS

VelascowasborninSanAntonio,Sasmuan,PampangaonJune22,1952toArsenioVelasco
and Lucia Mangalindan. He married Evelyn D. Castillo on June 29, 1975 at the Roman
Catholic Church of Sasmuan. In 1983, he moved to and worked in the United States of
Americawherehesubsequentlybecameacitizen.

Sometime in 2006, Velasco applied for dual citizenship under Republic Act No. 9225,
otherwise known as the Citizenship Retention and ReAcquisition Act of 2003. His
applicationwasapprovedonJuly31,2006.Onthesameday,hetookhisoathofallegianceto
theRepublicofthePhilippinesbeforethePhilippineConsulateGeneralinSanFrancisco.He
returnedtothePhilippinesonSeptember14,2006and has not left since, except for a 3day
HongkongtripfromSeptember26,2006toSeptember29,2009.

SoonthereafteroronOctober13,2006,Velascoappliedforregistrationasavoterof
Sasmuan,

Pampanga.

The

Election

Registration

Board

(ERB)

denied

his

application. Thereupon, Velasco filed a petition for the inclusion of his name in the list of
voterswiththeMunicipalTrialCourtofSasmuan(MTC).TheMTC,findingnoevidenceof
Velascoschangeofdomicile,grantedVelascospetitiononFebruary9,2007 it reversed the
ERBsdecisionandorderedVelascosinclusionintheListofVotersofSasmuan.

OnMarch1,2007,Branch52oftheRegionalTrialCourtofGuagua,Pampanga(RTC)
reversedandsetaside,onappeal,theMTCdecision.TheRTCreasonedoutthatVelascolost
hisdomicileoforigin[Sasmuan,Pampanga]whenhebecameaUScitizenunderPhilippine
immigration laws, he could only stay in the Philippines as a visitor or as a resident alien.
Velasco,accordingtotheRTC,onlyregainedorreacquiredhisPhilippineresidencyonJuly
31,2006whenhereacquiredhisFilipinocitizenship.TheRTCbasedthisconclusiononour
[1]
ruling in Caasi v. Court of Appeals that naturalization in a foreign country results in the
abandonment of domicile in the Philippines. Thus, the RTC found that Velasco failed to
complywiththeresidencyrequirementundertheConstitution,makinghimineligibletovote
intheMay14,2007elections.

Velasco appealed the RTC decision to the Court of Appeals (CA) via a petition for
review under Rule 42 of the Rules of Court the appeal was docketed as CAG.R. SP No.

98259.

ItwasagainstthisfactualbackdropthatVelascofiledonMarch28,2007hisCOC
forthepositionofMayorofSasmuan.VelascosCOCcontains,amongothers,therequired
informationthatheisaregisteredvoterofPrecinctNo.103AofSasmuan,Pampanga. He
executedonevendateanAffidavitrenouncing,abandoning,andrelinquishinghisAmerican
citizenship.

Thenextday,privaterespondentMozartPanlaqui(Panlaqui),whoalsofiledhisCOC
for the position of Mayor of Sasmuan, filed a Petition to Deny Due Course To and/or To
Cancel Velascos COC, claiming that: (1) contrary to Velascos claim, he is not a registered
voterofPrecinctNo.103A,ashisnameisnotincludedinthelistofvoters(2)theRTChas
rendered a decision denying Velascos petition for inclusion as voter (3) Velasco does not
possess the constitutional requirement of legal residency (i.e.,one year residency in the
PhilippinesimmediatelyprecedingtheelectionasprovidedunderSection1,ArticleVofthe
Constitution)toregisterasvoterhearrivedinthePhilippinesonlylastSeptember14,2006
and (4) Velasco is not eligible to run for office since he is not a qualified voter. Panlaqui
askedfortheannulment,revocationandcancellationof,ordenialofduecourseto,Velascos
COC that allegedly contained obvious and gross material misrepresentation. The case was
docketedasSPACaseNo.07148.

In his Answer, Velasco denied the allegations of Panlaquis petition and claimed in
defense that: (1) he possesses all the qualifications of a voter of Sasmuan, as he is a
domiciliaryandpermanentresidentofthePhilippinesandSasmuansincebirththat,whenhe
tookhisoathofallegianceonJuly31,2006,heisconsiderednottohavelosthisPhilippine
citizenship and therefore continues to enjoy full civic and political rights under the
Constitution and the statutes (2) the appeal or review of the RTC decision is pending
resolution with the Court of Appeals (3) he did not act with malice, bad faith and gross
misrepresentation when he stated that he is a registered voter of Precinct No. 103A of
Sasmuan in his COC, as the MTC decision has not been reversed with finality (4) he has
renounced his American citizenship on March 29, 2007 or prior to the filing of his COC,
makinghimeligibletoseekelectivepublicofficepursuanttoRepublicActNo.9255and(5)
he possesses all the qualifications of a voter of Sasmuan and of a candidate for Municipal
Mayor,Sasmuanbeinghisdomicileoforiginandpermanentresidence.Heclaimedthatheis
qualifiedtovoteandseekpublicofficeuntilafinaljudgmentisrenderedsayingotherwise
hence,hedidnotcommitanymisrepresentationandPanlaquispetitionshouldbedismissed.

Velascogarnered7,822votes[themostnumber]forthepositionofMayorofSasmuan
intheMay14,2007election.AstheCOMELECfailedtoresolvePanlaquispetitionpriorto
theelection,VelascowasproclaimedMayorofSasmuanonMay16,2007.Hetookhisoath
ofofficeandassumedthepowersandfunctionsoftheofficeonJune30,2007.

OnJuly6,2007,theSecondDivisionoftheCOMELECissuedaResolutionthefirstof
the interrelated resolutions assailed in the present petition canceling Velascos COC and
declaring his proclamation as Mayor of Sasmuan null and void. Citing Section 138 of the
[2]
Omnibus Election Code (OEC) which declared the decision of the RTC in the voters
inclusion/exclusionproceedingsfinalandexecutory,theSecondDivisionoftheCOMELEC
found Velasco guilty of material misrepresentation when he claimed in his COC filed
on March 28, 2007 that he is a registered voter of Sasmuan, Pampanga. This defect,
accordingtotheSecondDivision,effectivelyvoidedVelascosCOC.

VelascomovedtoreconsidertheSecondDivisionsResolution,buttheCOMELEC en
banc in a Resolution datedOctober 15, 2007 (also assailed in this petition) denied the
motion.The COMELEC en banc essentially affirmed the Second Divisions
ruling.Additionally,theCOMELECpointedoutthatintheabsenceofawritororderissued
bytheCA(wheretheappealfromtheRTCdecisionintheinclusion/exclusioncasewasthen
pending)enjoiningtheenforcementoftheRTCdecision,ithadtoapplySection138ofthe
OEC.VelascorespondedtothisdevelopmentbyfilingthepresentpetitionwiththisCourt.

THEPETITION,COMMENTSANDRELATEDDEVELOPMENTS
Thepetitionisbasedonthefollowinggrounds/arguments:
1.RespondentComeleccommittedgraveabuseofdiscretionwhenitdecidedtheissue
onpetitionersrighttovotedespiteitsapparentlackofjurisdictiononthisissueand
thependencyofsuchprejudicialissuebeforetheCA.

2. Respondent Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it ruled that


theMarch1,2008decision of the RTC of Guagua, Pampanga reversing the earlier
decisionoftheMTCofSasmuan,Pampangaisalreadyfinalandexecutory.

3. RespondentCOMELECcommittedgraveabuseofdiscretionwhenitannulledthe
proclamationofthepetitionerwithoutnoticeandhearing.

4. Respondent Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it ruled that


petitioner committed material misrepresentation in his COC by merely relying on
private respondents baseless allegations in the petition to deny due course to
petitioners COC without taking into consideration that petitioner possesses all the
qualificationsandnoneofthedisqualificationofavoter.

In his comment, Panlaqui asserts that: (1) Velasco committed forum shopping, as
anothercaseinvolvingthesameissuesisonappealandpendingresolutionwiththeCAand
(2)inlightofthisappeal,notalltherequisitesforapetitionforcertiorariarepresentinthe
alternativeandassumingcertioraritobeproper,theCOMELECdidnotcommitgraveabuse
ofdiscretion,astheRTCdecisionisfinal,executory,andnonappealable.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a Comment in behalf of the
COMELEC. The OSG argues that the COMELEC did not commit grave abuse of
discretion.TheCOMELEChasjurisdictionunderSection78ofBatasPambansaBlg.881,as
amended, or the OEC over petitions to deny due course and/or cancel a COC (COC
denial/cancellation).TherewaslikewisenodenialofdueprocessVelascofiledanAnswerto
Panlaquis petition and was fully heard before the COMELEC denied due course to his
COC.The OSG also argues that Velascos immigration to the United States and subsequent
acquisition of US citizenship constituted an abandonment of his Philippine domicile and
residence.Finally,theOSGclaimsthatVelascocommittedmisrepresentationindeclaringhis
residenceatSasmuaninhisCOCagroundforthecancellationofCOCunderSection78of
the OEC. The real issue, according to the OSG, is not Velascos right to vote, but the
misrepresentationhecommittedwhenhefiledhisCOC.

OnMarch5,2008,theCOMELECissuedawritofexecutiontoimplementtheassailed
resolutions.TheCA,ontheotherhand,renderedonMarch13,2008itsdecisioninCAGR
SP No. 98259 granting Velascos appeal, thereby reversing and setting aside the RTC
decision. The appellate court ruled that, contrary to the RTCs finding, Velasco effectively
reacquired his residence when he decided to relocate in the Philippines for good in 2003
from20032006,VelascostayedinthePhilippinesforatotalofalmosttwo(2)yearsforthe
last three (3) years immediately preceding the May 14, 2007 election from the totality of
these acts, Velasco revealed his intention to reacquire his rights as a Filipino
[3]
citizen. Citing Macalintal v. Commission on Elections, the CA considered Velasco a
qualifiedvoter.

OnVelascosmotion,weissuedastatusquoanteorderenjoiningtheCOMELECfrom
implementingtheassailedresolutions.

In an interesting twist, the CA issued on August 19, 2008 an Amended Decision in


responsetoamotionforreconsiderationofitsearlierdecisiondismissingVelascosRule42
petitionforlackofjurisdiction.Itreverseditsearlierrulingthatithasjurisdictiontoentertain
theappeal,explicitlystatingthatthejurisprudenceitcitedtosupportitsappellatejurisdiction

invotersinclusion/exclusionproceedingisnolongergoodlawbecauseoftheamendmentsto
theelectionlawonwhichitscitedjurisprudencewasbased.It declared that Section 138 of
the OEC being explicit that the decision on appeal by the RTC in inclusion and exclusion
casesisimmediatelyfinalandexecutoryappearstobeaclearmandateforthisCourt (the
CA)nottoentertaininstantpetitionforlackofjurisdiction.

Based on these submissions, we are called upon to resolve the following issues: (1)
whether Velasco forumshopped and (2) whether the COMELEC gravely abused its
discretionincancelingVelascosCOC.

THECOURTSRULING

Wefindthepetitiondevoidofmerit.

GraveAbuseofDiscretion.

The wellsettled rule is that this Court will not interfere with a COMELEC decision
[4]
unless the COMELEC is shown to have committed grave abuse of discretion. Correctly
understood,graveabuseofdiscretionissuchcapriciousandwhimsicalexerciseofjudgment
asisequivalenttolackofjurisdiction,or[an]exerciseofpowerinanarbitraryanddespotic
mannerbyreasonofpassionorpersonalhostility,oranexerciseofjudgmentsopatentand
grossastoamounttoanevasionofapositivedutyortoavirtualrefusaltoperformtheduty
[5]
enjoined,ortoactinamannernotatallincontemplationoflaw.

VelascoimputesgraveabuseofdiscretionontheCOMELECforcancelinghisCOCon
thesolegroundthathecommittedfalserepresentationwhenheclaimedthatheisaregistered
voter of Precinct No. 103A. This imputation directly poses to us the question: was the
COMELECrulingcapriciously,whimsically,andarbitrarilymade?

In answering this question, we recognize at the outset that together with the
cancellationoftheCOCthatisdirectlybeforeus,wehavetoconsidertheeffectandimpact
oftheinclusion/exclusionproceedingsthatVelascobroughtbeforetheMTCwhich,onappeal
to the RTC, ultimately led to the denial of his listing as a voter in Sasmuan. While this
inclusion/exclusion case is not before us, it was the ruling in this proceeding that the
COMELECcitedasgroundforthecancellationofVelascosCOCafterVelascoclaimedthat
heisaregisteredvoterofPrecinctNo.103AofSasmuan,Pampanga.

TheCOCDenial/CancellationProceedings.

Section 74, in relation with Section 78 of the OEC governs the cancellation of, and
grantordenialofduecourseto,COCs.Thecombinedapplicationofthesesectionsrequires
thatthefactsstatedintheCOCbythewouldbecandidatebetrue,asanyfalserepresentation
ofamaterialfactisagroundfortheCOCscancellationorthewithholdingofduecourse.To
quotetheseprovisions:
SEC.74.Contentsofcertificateofcandidacy.Thecertificateofcandidacyshallstate
thatthepersonfilingitisannouncinghiscandidacyfortheofficestatedthereinandthatheis
eligibleforsaidofficeifforMemberoftheBatasangPambansa,theprovince,includingits
componentcities,highlyurbanizedcityordistrictorsectorwhichheseekstorepresentthe
political party to which he belongs civil status his date of birth residence his post office
addressforallelectionpurposeshisprofessionoroccupationthathewillsupportanddefend
theConstitutionofthePhilippinesandwillmaintaintruefaithandallegiancetheretothathe
willobeythelaws,legalorders,anddecreespromulgatedbythedulyconstitutedauthorities
that he is not a permanent resident or immigrant to a foreign country that the obligation
assumedbyhisoathisassumedvoluntarily,withoutmentalreservationorpurposeofevasion
and that the facts stated in the certificate of candidacy are true to the best of his
knowledge.

xxxx
SEC. 78. Petition to deny due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy. A verified
petitionseekingtodenyduecourseortocancelacertificateofcandidacymaybefiledbyany
person exclusively on the ground that any material representation contained therein as
requiredunderSection74hereofisfalse.Thepetitionmaybefiledatanytimenotlaterthan
twentyfive days from the time of the filing of the certificate of candidacy and shall be
decided,afterduenoticeandhearingnotlaterthanfifteendaysbeforetheelection.

Thefalserepresentationthattheseprovisionsmentionmustnecessarilypertaintoamaterial
fact, not to a mere innocuous mistake. This is emphasized by the consequences of any
materialfalsity:acandidatewhofalsifiesamaterialfactcannotrunifherunsandiselected,
cannot serve in both cases, he or she can be prosecuted for violation of the election laws.
Obviously,thesefactsarethosethatrefertoacandidatesqualificationfor
[6]
elective office, such as his or her citizenship and residence. The candidates status as a
registeredvotersimilarlyfallsunderthisclassificationasitisarequirementthat,bylaw(the
LocalGovernmentCode),mustbereflectedintheCOC.Thereasonforthisisobvious:the
candidate,ifheorshewins,willworkforandrepresentthelocalgovernmentunderwhichhe
isrunning.

Separatelyfromtherequirementofmateriality,afalserepresentationunderSection78must
consistofadeliberateattempttomislead,misinform,orhideafactwhichwouldotherwise
renderacandidateineligible.Inotherwords,itmustbemadewiththeintentiontodeceive
[7]
theelectorateastothewouldbecandidatesqualificationsforpublicoffice.

TheVotersInclusion/ExclusionProceedings.

Theprocessofvotersinclusion/exclusion,aspartofthevotersregistrationprocess,is
providedanddefinedunderSections138,139and143oftheOEC.Thesesectionsprovide:

Sec. 138. Jurisdiction in inclusion and exclusion cases. The Municipal and
Metropolitan Trial Courts shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all cases of
inclusion and exclusion of voters from the list in their respective cities or
municipalities.DecisionsoftheMunicipalorMetropolitanTrialCourtsmaybeappealedby
the aggrieved party to the Regional Trial Courts within five (5) days from receipt of notice
thereof. Otherwise, said decision shall become final and executory. The regional trial court
shalldecidetheappealwithinten(10)daysfromthetimeitisreceivedandthedecisionshall
becomefinalandexecutory.Nomotionforreconsiderationshallbeentertained[Asamended
bySection33ofRepublicActNo.8189(RA8189)].

Sec.139.Petitionforinclusionofvotersinthelist.Anypersonwhoseapplicationfor
registrationhasbeendisapprovedbytheBoardorwhosenamehasbeenstrickenoutfromthe
listmayfilewiththecourtapetitiontoincludehisnameinthepermanentlistofvotersinhis
precinctatanytimeexceptonehundredfive(105)dayspriortoaregularelectionorseventy
five(75)dayspriortoaspecialelection.Itshallbesupportedbyacertificateofdisapprovalof
hisapplicationandproofofserviceofnoticeofhispetitionupontheBoard.Thepetitionshall
bedecidedwithinfifteen(15)daysafteritsfiling.

Ifthedecisionisfortheinclusionofvotersinthepermanentlistofvoters,theBoard
shallplacetheapplicationforregistrationpreviouslydisapprovedinthecorrespondingbook
ofvotersandindicateintheapplicationforregistrationthedateoftheorderofinclusionand
thecourtwhichissuedthesame[AsamendedbySection34ofRA8189].

Section 143. Common rules governing judicial proceedings in the matter of


inclusion,exclusionandcorrectionofnamesofvoters.

(a) Petition for inclusion, exclusion, or correction of names of voters shall be filed
duringofficehours

(b) Notice of the place, date and time of the hearing of the petition shall be served
upon the members of the Board and the challenged voter upon the filing of the
petition.Serviceofsuchnoticemaybemadebysendingacopythereofbypersonaldelivery
orbyleavingitinthepossessionofapersonofsufficientdiscretionintheresidenceofthe
challenged voter,or by registeredmail.Should the foregoing procedures be not practicable,
the notice shall be posted in the bulletin board of the city or municipal hall and in two (2)
otherconspicuousplaceswithinthecityormunicipality

xxx

(c) A petition shall refer only one to one (1) precinct and implead the Board as
respondents.

(d)Nocostsshallbeassessedagainstanypartyintheseproceedings.However,ifthe
court should find that the application has been filed solely to harass the adverse party and
causehimtoincurexpenses,itshallordertheculpablepartytopaythecostsandincidental
expenses.

(e) Any voter, candidate or political party who may be affected by the proceedings
mayinterveneandpresenthisevidence.

(f)Thedecisionshallbebasedontheevidencepresentedandinnocaserenderedupon
astipulationoffacts.xxx

(g)Thepetitionshallbeheardanddecidedwithinten(10)daysfromthedateofits
filing.CasesappealedtotheRegionalTrialCourtshallbedecidedwithinten(10)daysfrom
receiptoftheappeal.Inall,cases,thecourtshalldecidethesepetitionsnotlaterthanfifteen
(15)daysbeforetheelectionandthedecisionshallbeimmediatelyfinalandexecutory.[As
amendedbySection32ofRA8189]

Inclusion/exclusion proceedings essentially involve the simple issue of whether a petitioner


shallbeincludedinorexcludedfromthelistofvotersbasedonthequalificationsrequiredby
lawandthefactspresentedtoshowpossessionofthesequalifications.

TheProceedingsCompared.

In terms of purpose, voters inclusion/exclusion and COC denial/cancellation are


differentproceedingsonereferstotheapplicationtoberegisteredasavotertobeeligibleto
vote, while the other refers to the application to be a candidate. Because of their differing
purposes,theyalsoinvolvedifferentissuesandentaildifferentreliefsalthoughthefactson
which they rest may have commonalities where they may be said to converge or
interface. One such commonality is on the matter of residence.Section 9 of Republic Act
8189,otherwiseknownastheVotersRegistrationAct(VRA),requiresthatvotersshallhave
residedinthePhilippinesforatleastone(1)year,andintheplacewhereintheyproposeto
vote,atleastsix(6)monthsimmediatelyprecedingtheelection.TheOEC,ontheotherhand,
requiresunderitsSection74thatthewouldbecandidatestatematerialfactssuchas,among
others,hisresidence.UnderthecombinedapplicationofSection65oftheOECandSection
39oftheLocalGovernmentCode(LGC),alocalofficialmustamongothershavethesame
residency requirement as required under the VRA. Another point of convergence is on the
candidatesstatusasaregisteredvoteracandidateforalocalgovernmentpositionmustbea
registered voter in the barangay, municipality, province, or city where he or she intends to
runforoffice.

Theremediesavailableinthetwoproceedingslikewisediffer. Velascos remedy from


theadversedecisioninhispetitionforinclusionasvoterisasprovidedunderSection138of

theOECquotedabove. From the MTC, the recourse is to the RTC whose decision is final
andexecutory,correctiblebytheCourtofAppealsonlybyawritofcertioraribasedongrave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. On the other hand, the approval of a
certificateofcandidacyoritsdenialisamatterdirectlycognizablebytheCOMELEC,with
thedecisionofitsDivisionreviewablebytheCOMELECenbancwhosedecisionisinturn
reviewablebythisCourtunderRule64oftheRulesofCourtandSection7,ofArticleIXA
ofthe1987Constitution.

NoGraveAbuseofDiscretion.

Inthepresentcase,theERBdeniedVelascosregistrationasavoter,whichdenialthe
RTCsubsequentlysupported.Asalreadymentioned,thisdenialbytheRTCis,bylaw,final
andexecutory.SinceVelascosknowledgeoftheRTCdecisionatthetimehefiledhisCOCis
notdisputed,theCOMELECconcludedthathecommittedamaterialmisrepresentationwhen
hestatedunderoathinhisCOCthatheisaregisteredvoterofSasmuan.

Underthesefactsandlegalsituation,wecannotholdthattheCOMELECsconclusion
islegallyerroneous,muchlessthatitistaintedbygraveabuseofdiscretion.Itisamatterof
record,appearinginafinalRTCjudgmentnoless,thatVelascowasnotaregisteredvoterof
SasmuanatthetimehefiledhisCOC.Hisclaiminthisregardwasthereforefalseandwasa
material misrepresentation. Other than his active misrepresentation, Velasco likewise was
inexplicably silent about, and thus knowingly omitted any mention of, the denial of his
registration.AstheCOMELECdid,wecanonlyconcludethathedeliberatelyconcealedthe
existenceofthefinalandexecutoryRTCrulingwhenhefiledhisCOC.Hecouldnotdisclose
thisfactastheunavoidableconsequenceofdisclosurewastorenderhimunqualifiedtobea
[8]
candidate.

ThattheCOMELECreliedontheRTCrulingincancelingtheCOCofVelascocannot
likewise be a legal error as Section 138 of the OEC is clear and categorical in its
terms: Decisions of the Municipal or Metropolitan Trial Courts may be appealed by the
aggrieved party to the Regional Trial Courts within five (5) days from receipt of notice
thereof.Otherwise,saiddecisionshallbecomefinalandexecutory.Theregionaltrialcourt
shalldecidetheappealwithintendaysfromthetimetheappealwasreceivedanditsdecision
shall be final and executory. We note that when Velasco sought recourse with the Court of
Appeals,hedidsobywayofappealunderRule42oftheRulesofCourtarecoursethatwas
not available to him because an RTC ruling in an inclusion/exclusion is final and

executory.This led the appellate court to recognize in its Amended Decision of August 19,
2008, albeit on motion for reconsideration, that it had no jurisdiction to entertain Velascos
appeal.

TheRighttoVote

The above discussions, particularly on the distinctions between inclusion/exclusion


proceedingsandCOCdenial/cancellationproceedings,refuteandbelieVelascospositionthat
the COMELEC improperly ruled on his right to vote when it cancelled his COC. The
tribunalsgivenauthoritybylawandwhoactuallyruledonwhetherVelascoshouldhavethe
right to vote in Sasmuan, Pampanga were the ERB, the MTC, and subsequently, the
RTC.TheCOMELECdidnotsoruleitmerelyrecognizedtheRTCsfinalandexecutory
rulingonthematter.

This conclusion is not a hairsplitting sophistry, but one based on clear distinctions
drawn by the law. As above pointed out, inclusion/exclusion and COC denial/cancellation
proceedings, while they may ultimately have common factual bases, are still proceedings
polesapartintermsoftheissues,reliefs,andremediesinvolved.Thatatsomepointtheymay
converge(asinthiscase,wheretheCOCdenial/cancellationproceedingreliedonandused
the results of the voters inclusion/exclusion proceeding) does not erase the distinctions
betweenthem.Inthecontextofthiscase,itdoesnotmeanthattheCOMELECcommonly
withtheERB,theMTCandtheRTCruledonVelascosrighttovotebecausetheCOMELEC
reliedonthelattersruling.

[9]
InDominov.COMELEC wherethisCourtfacedthecontentionthatthedecisionof
the first level court in an exclusion proceeding on the issue of residence is final and
conclusive on the COMELEC hearing a COC denial/cancellation proceeding under Section
78oftheOEDweruledthatthefactualfindingsofthetrialcourtanditsresultantconclusions
intheinclusion/exclusionproceedingsonmattersotherthantherighttovoteintheprecinct
within its territorial jurisdiction are not conclusive on and do not rise to the level of a res
[10]
judicata ruling with respect to the COMELEC.
The reason is that inclusion/exclusion
[11]
proceedings,whilejudicialincharacter,aresummaryproceedings.
Wefurtheraddedthat
adecisioninaninclusion/exclusionproceedingdoesnotoperateasabartoanyfutureaction
in any other election that a party may take concerning his right to be registered as a voter.
[12]

Otherwisestated,arulingontherighttovotebythetrialcourtforaspecificelectionis

bindingontheCOMELEC.Byclearimplication,theCOMELECitselfdoesnotruleonthe
right to vote by recognizing in a Sec. 78 COC denial/cancellation proceeding the final and
executoryrulingbyacourt,asmandatedbylaw,inaninclusion/exclusionproceeding.

VelascosQualifications/DisqualificationsasaVoter

Whether Velasco possesses all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications to
register as a voter of Sasmuan, Pampanga is a matter that is not directly before us as his
inclusionasaSasmuanvoterisnotbeforeus.AstheCOMELECdid,werelyonthefinaland
executoryRTCrulingexcludingVelascofromtheSasmuanvoterslist.Weobserve,however,
that at the time he filed his application for registration with the COMELEC local office
onOctober13,2006,Velascowasadualcitizen.TherecordsshowthatVelascorenouncedhis
[13]
AmericancitizenshiponlyonMarch28,2007,
although he secured his dual citizenship
status as early asJuly 31, 2006 at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco,California.
[14]
Underhisdualcitizenshipstatus,hepossessedtherighttovoteinPhilippineelections
through the absentee voting scheme under Republic Act No. 9189 (the Oversees Absentee
[15]
[16]
VotingLawortheOAVL)
asweruledinNicolasLewisv.COMELEC.
InMacalintal
[17]
v. COMELEC,
we significantly said that absentee voters are exempted from the
constitutional residency requirement for regular Philippine voters. Thus, the residency
requirementswecitedaboveundertheVRAandtheLGCdonotapplytoVelasco,assuming
heregisteredasadualcitizen/absenteevoter.

Bylaw,however,therightofdualcitizenswhovoteasabsenteevoterspertainsonlyto
theelectionofnationalofficials,specifically:thepresident,thevicepresident,thesenators,
[18]
and partylist representatives.
Thus, Velasco was not eligible to voteas an absentee
voter in the local election of 2007. In fact, the records do not show that Velasco ever
[19]
registeredasanabsenteevoterforthe2007election.

Ontheotherhand,Velascocouldnothaveregisteredasaregularvoterbecausehedid
notpossesstheresidencyrequirementofoneyearstayinthePhilippinesandsixmonthsstay
in the municipality where he proposed to vote at the time of the election.The records show
thathearrivedinthePhilippinesonlyonSeptember14,2006andappliedforregistrationon
[20]
October13ofthatyear
fortheelectiontobeheldinMayofthefollowingyear(2007).To

[21]
harkbackandcomparehiscasetoasimilarcase,Coquillav.COMELEC,
Velasco,before
acquiringhisdualcitizenshipstatus,wasanAmericancitizenwhohadlosthisresidencyand
domiciliarystatusinthePhilippineswhosesojourninthePhilippineswasviaavisitorsvisa
andwhoneverestablishedpermanentresidenceinthePhilippines.LikeCoquillabeforehim,
Velascocouldnothavethereforevalidlyregisteredasaregularvotereightmonthsbeforethe
May2007localelections.

TheDueProcessIssue.

Finally, we see no merit in Velascos argument that the COMELEC annulled his
proclamation as Mayor without due process. The nullification of his proclamation as a
winningcandidatewasanoutcomeanecessarylegalconsequenceofthecancellationofhis
COCpursuanttoSection78oftheOEC.ACOCcancellationproceedingessentiallypartakes
[22]
ofthenatureofadisqualificationcase.
In the present case, Velasco filed an Answer to
Panlaquis petition to cancel or deny due course to his (Velascos) COC hence, he was
affordedtheopportunitytobeheardinthecancellationofhisCOC.

[23]
[24]
UnderthecombinedapplicationofSections6
and7
ofRepublicActNo.6646,
[25]

candidateswhoaredisqualifiedbyfinaljudgmentbeforetheelectionshallnotbevoted

for and the votes cast for them shall not be counted. If the disqualification or COC
cancellation/denial case is not resolved before election day, the proceedings shall continue
[26]
even after the election and the proclamation of the winner.
In the meanwhile, the
candidate may be voted for and be proclaimed if he or she wins, but the COMELECs
jurisdictiontodenyduecourseandcancelhisorherCOCcontinues.Thisruleappliesevenif
the candidate facing disqualification is voted for and receives the highest number of votes,
[27]
[28]
and even if the candidate is proclaimed and has taken his oath of office.
The only
exceptiontothisruleisinthecaseofcongressionalorsenatorialcandidateswithunresolved
disqualificationorCOCdenial/cancellationcasesaftertheelections.Pursuant to Section 17
of Article VI of the Constitution, the COMELEC ipso jure loses jurisdiction over these
unfinishedcasesinfavoroftherespectiveSenateortheHouseofRepresentativeselectoral
[29]
tribunalsafterthecandidatestaketheiroathofoffice.

Underthesecircumstances,Velascosclaimofdenialofdueprocessismisplacedsince
hewasgiventheopportunitytobeheardinaproceedingthatwouldresultintheannulment

ofhisproclamationdueprocesswasdulyservedbecauseitsessenceistheopportunitytobe
[30]
heardandthiswasfullygiventoVelasco.

In sum, the COMELEC resolutions canceling Velascos COC are procedurally and
substantivelycorrect,thusnegatingthegraveabuseofdiscretionthatVelascoalleges.

Asourfinalpoint,weareawarethatVelascowontheMay14,2007mayoraltyelection
inSasmuan.Werecognize,too,thatwehaveruledinthepastthatacandidatesvictoryinthe
election may be considered a sufficient basis to rule in favor of the candidate sought to be
disqualifiedifthemainissueinvolvesdefectsinthecandidatescertificateofcandidacy.We
saidthatwhileprovisionsrelatingtocertificatesofcandidacyaremandatoryinterms,itisan
established rule of interpretation as regards election laws, that mandatory provisions
requiringcertainstepsbeforeelectionswillbeconstruedasdirectoryaftertheelections,to
give effect to the will of the people. We so ruled inQuizon v. COMELEC and Sayaang v.
[31]
COMELEC.

The present case perhaps presents the proper time and opportunity to finetune our above
ruling.Wesaythiswiththerealizationthatablanketandunqualifiedreadingandapplication
ofthisrulingcanbefraughtwithdangeroussignificancefortheruleoflawandtheintegrity
ofourelections.Forone,suchblanket/unqualifiedreadingmayprovideawayaroundthelaw
thateffectivelynegateselectionrequirementsaimedatprovidingtheelectoratewiththebasic
informationtomakeaninformedchoiceaboutacandidateseligibilityandfitnessforoffice.

ThefirstrequirementthatmayfallwhenanunqualifiedreadingismadeisSection39
of the LGC which specifies the basic qualifications of local government officials. Equally
susceptiveofbeingrenderedtoothlessisSection74oftheOECthatsetsoutwhatshouldbe
statedinaCOC.Section78maylikewisebeemasculatedasmeredelayintheresolutionof
thepetitiontocancelordenyduecoursetoaCOCcanrenderaSection78petitionuselessif
a candidate with false COC data wins. To state the obvious, candidates may risk falsifying
theirCOCqualificationsiftheyknowthatanelectionvictorywillcureanydefectthattheir
COCsmayhave.Electionvictorythenbecomesamagicformulatobypasselectioneligibility
requirements.

In the process, the rule of law suffers the clear and unequivocal legal command,
framedbyaCongressrepresentingthenationalwill,isrenderedinutilebecausethepeopleof

a given locality has decided to vote a candidate into office despite his or her lack of the
qualificationsCongresshasdeterminedtobenecessary.

In the present case, Velasco is not only going around the law by his claim that he is
registered voter when he is not, as has been determined by a court in a final
judgment.Equallyimportantisthathehasmadeamaterialmisrepresentationunder oath in
hisCOCregardinghisqualification.Fortheseviolations,hemustpaytheultimatepricethe
nullification of his election victory. He may also have to account in a criminal court for
makingafalsestatementunderoath,butthisisamatterfortheproperauthoritiestodecide
upon.

Wedistinguishourrulinginthiscasefromothersthatwehavemadeinthepastbythe
clarification that COC defects beyond matters of form and that involve material
misrepresentationscannotavailofthebenefitofourrulingthatCOCmandatoryrequirements
before elections are considered merely directory after the people shall have spoken. A
mandatoryandmaterialelectionlawrequirementinvolvesmorethanthewillofthepeoplein
any given locality. Where a material COC misrepresentation under oath is made, thereby
violatingbothourelectionandcriminallaws,wearefacedaswellwithanassaultonthewill
ofthepeopleofthePhilippinesasexpressedinourlaws.In a choice between provisions on
materialqualificationsofelectedofficials,ontheonehand,andthewilloftheelectoratein
anygivenlocality,ontheother,webelieveandsoholdthatwecannotchoosetheelectorate
will. The balance must always tilt in favor of upholding and enforcing the law. To rule
otherwiseistoslowlygnawattheruleoflaw.

WHEREFORE,weDISMISSthepetitionforlackofmerit.TheStatusQuoOrderweissued
is hereby ordered IMMEDIATELY LIFTED. We DECLARE that there is no more legal
impediment or obstacle to the implementation of the assailed COMELEC resolutions. No
costs.
SOORDERED.