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Mendoza vs Comelec

Mendoza vs Comelec

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Published by Raymond Roque

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Published by: Raymond Roque on Oct 16, 2009
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Mendoza vs Comelec For resolution is a petition for certiorari filed by petitioners Melanio L. Mendoza and Mario E.

Ibarra, seeking to set aside the resolution of the Commission on Elections, dated August 15, 2001, in EPC No. 2001-5 and to declare respondent Leonardo B. Roman’s election as governor of Bataan on May 14, 2001 as null and void for allegedly being contrary to Art. X, §8 of the Constitution, which provides that: The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. After due deliberation, the Court voted 8 to 7 to DISMISS the petition: VITUG, J., joined by YNARES-SANTIAGO, J., voted to dismiss the petition. He contended that as revealed by the records of the Constitutional Commission, the Constitution envisions a continuous and an uninterrupted service for three full terms before the proscription applies. Therefore, not being a full term, a recall term should not be counted or used as a basis for the disqualification whether served prior (as in this case) or subsequent (as in the Socrates case) to the nine-year, full three-term limit. MENDOZA, J., in whose opinion QUISUMBING, J. joined, voted to dismiss the petition on the ground that, in accordance with the ruling in Borja, Jr. v. COMELEC, 295 SCRA 157 (1998); Arcos v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 133639, Oct. 6, 1998 (res.); Lonzanida v. COMELEC, 311 SCRA 602 (1999); and Adormeo v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 147927, Feb. 4, 2002, a term during which succession to a local elective office takes place or a recall election is held should not be counted in determining whether an elective local official has served more than three consecutive terms. He argued that the Constitution does not prohibit elective local officials from serving for more than three consecutive terms because, in fact, it excludes from the three-term limit interruptions in the continuity of service, so long as such interruptions are not due to the voluntary renunciation of the office by an incumbent. Hence, the period from June 28, 1994 to June 30, 1995, during which respondent Leonardo B. Roman served as governor of Bataan by virtue of a recall election held in 1993, should not be counted. Since on May 14, 2001 respondent had previously served as governor of Bataan for only two consecutive terms (1995-1998 and 1998-2001), his election on that day was actually only his third term for the same position. PANGANIBAN, J., joined by PUNO, J., also voted to dismiss the petition. He argued that a recall term should not be considered as one full term, because a contrary interpretation would in effect cut short the elected official’s service to less than nine years and shortchange his constituents. The desire to prevent monopoly of political power should be balanced against the need to uphold the voters’ obvious preference who, in the present case, is Roman who received 97 percent of the votes cast. He explained that, in Socrates, he also voted to affirm the clear choice of the electorate, because in a democracy the people should, as much as legally possible, be governed by leaders freely chosen by them in credible elections. He concluded that, in election cases, when two conflicting legal positions are of almost equal

weight, the scales of justice should be tilted in favor of the people’s overwhelming choice. AZCUNA, J., joined by BELLOSILLO, J., also voted to dismiss, arguing that it is clear from the constitutional provision that the disqualification applies only if the terms are consecutive and the service is full and continuous. Hence, service for less than a term, except only in case of voluntary renunciation, should not count to disqualify an elective local official from running for the same position. This case is different from Socrates, where the full three consecutive terms had been continuously served so that disqualification had clearly attached. On the other hand, SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J., with whom DAVIDE, JR., C.J., and AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, CORONA, and CALLEJO, SR., JJ. concurred, holds the view that the recall term served by respondent Roman, comprising the period June 28, 1994 to June 30, 1995, should be considered as one term. Since he thereafter served for two consecutive terms from 1995 to 1998 and from 1998 to 2001, his election on May 14, 2001 was actually his fourth term and contravenes Art. X, §8 of the Constitution. For this reason, she voted to grant the petition and to declare respondent’s election on May 14, 2001 as null and void. CARPIO, J., joined by CARPIO MORALES, J., also dissented and voted to grant the petition. He held that a recall term constitutes one term and that to totally ignore a recall term in determining the three-term limit would allow local officials to serve for more than nine consecutive years contrary to the manifest intent of the framers of the Constitution. He contended that respondent Roman’s election in 2001 cannot exempt him from the three-term limit imposed by the Constitution.

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