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Marquez vs Comelec Not Complete

Marquez vs Comelec Not Complete

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Published by Raymond Roque

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Published by: Raymond Roque on Oct 16, 2009
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01/24/2014

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BIENVENIDO MARQUEZ vs. COMELECFacts:
It is averred that at the time respondent Rodriguez filed his certificate of candidacy, a criminal charge against him for ten counts of insurance fraud or grandtheft of personal property was still pending before the Municipal Court of LosAngeles, USA. A warrant issued by said court for his arrest, it is claimed, has yet tobe served on private respondent on account of his alleged “flight” from thatcountry.Before the May 1992 elections, a petition for cancellation of respondent’s certificateof candidacy on the ground of the candidate’s disqualification was filed bypetitioner, but COMELEC dismissed the petition.Private respondent was proclaimed Governor-elect of Quezon. Petitioner institutedquo warranto proceedings against private respondent before the COMELEC but thelatter dismissed the petition.
Issue:
Whether private respondent, who at the time of the filing of his certificate of candidacy is said to be facing a criminal charge before a foreign court and evadinga warrant of arrest comes within the term “fugitive from justice.”
Held:
 The Supreme Court ruled that Article 73 of the Rules and Regulationsimplementing the Local Government Code of 1991 provides:“Article 73. Disqualifications – The following persons shall be disqualified fromrunning for any elective local position:“(a) xxxx“(e) Fugitives from justice in criminal or non-political cases here or abroad.Fugitive from justice refers to a person who has been convicted by final judgment.”It is clear from this provision that fugitives from justice refer only to persons whohas been convicted by final judgment.However, COMELEC did not make any definite finding on whether or not privaterespondent is a fugitive from justice when it outrightly denied the petition for quowarranto. The Court opted to remand the case to COMELEC to resolve and proceedwith the case. The Oversight Committee evidently entertained serious apprehensions on thepossible constitutional infirmity of Section 40(e) of RA 7160 if the disqualificationtherein meant were to be so taken as to embrace those who merely were facingcriminal charges. A similar concern was expressed by Senator R. A. V. Saguisagwho, during the bicameral conference committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives, made this reservation: . . . de
ipa-refine lang natin 'yung languageespecially 'yung, the scope of fugitive. Medyo bothered ako doon, a
. The Oversight Committee finally came out with Article 73 of the Rules andRegulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991. It provided:Art. 73. Disqualifications. The following persons shall be disqualified from runningfor any elective local position:(e) Fugitives from justice in criminal or non-political cases here or abroad.
Fugitivefrom justice refers to a person who has been convicted by final judgment 
.
 
Private respondent reminds us that the construction placed upon law by theofficials in charge of its enforcement deserves great and considerable weight . TheCourt certainly agrees; however, when there clearly is no obscurity and ambiguity inan enabling law, it must merely be made to apply as it is so written. Anadministrative rule or regulation can neither expand nor constrict the law but must
 
remain congruent to it. The Court believes and thus holds,
albeit 
with somepersonal reservations of the
ponente
, that Article 73 of the Rules and RegulationsImplementing the Local Government Code of 1991, to the extent that it confines theterm "fugitive from justice" to refer only to a person (the fugitive) "who has beenconvicted by final judgment." is an inordinate and undue circumscription of the law.Unfortunately, the COMELEC did not make any definite finding on whether ornot, in fact, private respondent is a "fugitive from justice" as such term must beinterpreted and applied in the light of the Court's opinion. The omission isunderstandable since the COMELEC dismissed outrightly the petition for
quowarranto
on the basis instead of Rule 73 of the Rules and Regulations promulgatedby the Oversight Committee. The Court itself, not being a trier of facts, is thusconstrained to remand the case to the COMELEC for a determination of thisunresolved factual matter.Davide, Concurring The term "fugitive from justice" refers not only to those who flee afterconviction to avoid punishment but also to those who, after being charged, flee toavoid prosecution. In his
ponencia
, Mr. Justice Jose C. Vitug finds the definition givento it by the Oversight Committee, i.e., "a person who has been convicted by final judgment," as appearing in Article 73 of the Rules and Regulations Implementingthe Local Government Code of 1991, as inordinate and as undue circumscription of the law. I agree.But this is only one side of the coin. I further submit that it also unreasonablyexpands the scope of the disqualification in the 1991 Local Government Codebecause it disqualifies
all
those who have been convicted by final judgment,regardless of the extent of the penalty imposed and of whether they have served orare serving their sentences or have evaded service of sentence by jumping bail orleaving for another country. The definition thus disregards the true and acceptedmeaning of the word
fugitive
. This new definition is unwarranted for nothing in thelegislative debates has been shown to sustain it and the clear language of the lawleaves no room for a re-examination of the meaning of the term.I do not share the doubt of Mr. Justice Vitug on the constitutionality of thedisqualification based on the presumption of innocence clause of the Bill of Rights. There are certain fundamental considerations which do not support the applicationsof the presumptionFirstly, Section 1, Article V of the Constitution recognizes the authority of Congress to determine who are disqualified from exercising the right of suffrage.Since the minimum requirement of a candidate for a public office is that he must bea qualified voter, it logically follows that Congress has the plenary power todetermine who are disqualified to seek election for a public office. Secondly, apublic office is a public trust.
 
 Thirdly, the disqualification in question does not, inreality, involve the issue of presumption of innocence. Elsewise stated, one is notdisqualified because he is presumed guilty by the filing of an information or criminalcomplaint against him. He is disqualified because he is a "fugitive from justice," i.e.,he was not brought within the jurisdiction of the court because he had successfullyevaded arrest; or if he was brought within the jurisdiction of the court and was triedand convicted, he has successfully evaded service of sentence because he had jumped bail or escaped. The disqualification then is based on
his flight from justice
.In the face of the settled doctrine that flight is an indication of guilt, it may even betruly said that it is not the challenged disqualifying provision which overcomes the

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