G.R. No. 111511 October 5, 1993 ENRIQUE T. GARCIA, ET AL., petitioners, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and LUCILA PAYUMO, ET AL., respondents. Alfonso M.

Cruz Law Offices for petitioners. Romulo C. Felizmeña, Crisostomo Banzon and Horacio Apostol for private respondents.

PUNO, J.: The EDSA revolution of 1986 restored the reality that the people's might is not a myth. The 1987 Constitution then included people power as an article of faith and Congress was mandated to p ass laws for its effective exercise. The Local Government Code of 1991 was enacted providing for two (2) modes of initiating the recall from office of local elective officials who appear to have lost the confidence of the electorate. One of these modes is recall through the initiative of a preparatory recall assembly. In the case at bench, petitioners assail this mode of initiatory recall as unconstitutional. The challenge cannot succeed. We shall first unfurl the facts. Petitioner Enrique T. Garcia was elected governor of the province of Bataan in the May 11, 1992 elections. In the early evening of July 1993, some mayors, vice-mayors and members of the Sangguniang Bayan of the twelve (12) municipalities of the province met at the National Power Corporation compound in Bagac, Bataan. At about 12:30 A.M of the following day, July 2, 1993, they proceeded to the Bagac town plaza where they constituted themselves into a Preparatory Recall Assembly to initiate the recall election of petitioner Garcia. The mayor of Mariveles, Honorable Oscar, de los Reyes, and the mayor of Dinalupihan, the Honorable Lucila Payumo, were chosen as Presiding Officer and Secretary of the Assembly, respectively. Thereafter, the Vice-Mayor of Limay, the Honorable Ruben Roque, was recognized and he moved that a resolution be passed for the recall of the petitioner on the 1 2 ground of "loss of confidence." The motion was "unanimously seconded." The resolution states: RESOLUTION NO. 1 Whereas, the majority of all the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly in the Province of Bataan have voluntarily constituted themselves for the purpose of the recall of the incumbent provincial governor of the province of Bataan, Honorable Enrique T. Garcia pursuant to the provisions of Section 70, paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991; Whereas, the total number of all the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly in the province of Bataan is One Hundred and Forty- Six (146) composed of all mayors, vice-mayors and members of the Sangguniang Bayan of all the 12 towns of the province of Bataan; Whereas, the majority of all the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly, after a serious and careful deliberation have decided to adopt this resolution for the recall of the incumbent provincial governor Garcia for loss of confidence; Now, therefore, be it resolved, as it is hereby resolved that having lost confidence on the incumbent governor of Bataan, Enrique T. Garcia, recall proceedings be immediately initiated against him; Resolved further, that copy of this resolution be furnished the Honorable Commission on Elections, Manila and the Provincial Election Supervisor, Balanga, Bataan.

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One hundred forty-six (146) names appeared in Resolution No. 1 but only eighty (80) carried the signatures of the 3 members of the PRA. Of the eighty (80) signatures, only seventy-four (74) were found genuine. The PRAC of the 4 province had a membership of one hundred forty-four (144) and its majority was seventy-three (73). On July 7, 1993, petitioners filed with the respondent COMELEC a petition to deny due course to said Resolution No. 1. Petitioners alleged that the PRAC failed to comply with the "substantive and procedural requirement" laid down in Section 70 of R.A. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991. In a per curiamResolution promulgated August 31, 1993, the respondent COMELEC dismissed the petition and scheduled the recall elections for the position of Governor of Bataan on October 11 , 1993. Petitioners then filed with Us a petition for certiorari and prohibition with writ of preliminary injunction to annul the said Resolution of the respondent COMELEC on various grounds. They urged that section 70 of R.A. 7160 allowing recall through the initiative of the PRAC is unconstitutional because: (1) the people have the sole and exclusive right to decide whether or not to initiate proceedings, and (2) it violated the right of elected local public officials belonging to the political minority to equal protection of law. They also argued that the proceedings followed by the PRAC in passing Resolution No. I suffered from numerous defects, the most fatal of which was the deliberate failure to send notices of the meeting to sixty-five (65) members of the assembly. On September 7, 1993, We required the respondents to file their 5 Comments within a non-extendible period of ten (10) days. On September 16, 1993, We set petition for hearing on September 21, 1993 at 11 A.M. After the hearing, We granted the petition on ground that the sending of selective notices to members of the PRAC violated the due process protection of the Constitution and fatally flawed the enactment of Resolution No. 1. We ruled: xxx xxx xxx After deliberation, the Court opts not to resolve the alleged constitutional infirmity of sec. 70 of R.A. No. 7160 for its resolution is not unavoidable to decide the merits of the petition. The petition can be decided on the equally fundamental issues of: (1) whether or not all the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly were notified of its meeting; and (2) assuming lack of notice, whether or not it would vitiate the proceedings of the assembly including its Resolution No. 1. The failure to give notice to all members of the assembly, especially to the members known to be political allies of petitioner Garcia was admitted by both counsels of the respondents. They did not deny that only those inclined to agree with the resolution of recall were notified as a matter of political strategy and security. They justified these selective notices on the ground that the law does not specifically mandate the giving of notice. We reject this submission of the respondents. The due process clause of the Constitution requiring notice as an element of fairness is inviolable and should always be considered as part and parcel of every law in case of its silence. The need for notice to all the members of the assembly is also imperative for these members represent the different sectors of the electorate of Bataan. To the extent that they are not notified of the meeting of the assembly, to that extent is the sovereign voice of the people they represent nullified. The resolution to recall should articulate the majority will of the members of the assembly but the majority will can be genuinely determined only after all the members of the assembly have been given a fair opportunity to express the will of their constituents. Needless to stress, the requirement of notice is indispensable in determining the collective wisdom of the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly. Its non-observance is fatal to the validity of the resolution to recall petitioner Garcia as Governor of the province of Bataan. The petition raises other issues that are not only prima impressionis but also of transcendental importance to the rightful exercise of the sovereign right of the people to recall their elected officials. The Court shall discuss these issues in a more extended decision. In accord with this Resolution, it appears that on September 22, 1993, the Honorable Mayor of Dinalupihan, Oscar de los Reyes again sent Notice of Session to the members of the PRAC to "convene in session on September 26, 6 1993 at the town plaza of Balanga, Bataan at 8:30 o'clock in the morning." From news reports, the PRAC convened in session and eighty-seven (87) of its members once more passed a resolution calling for the recall of 7 petitioner Garcia. On September 27, 1993, petitioners filed with Us a Supplemental Petition and Reiteration of Extremely Urgent Motion for a resolution of their contention that section 70 of R.A. 7160 is unconstitutional.

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We find the original Petition and the Supplemental Petition assailing the constitutionality of section 70 of R.A. 7160 insofar as it allows a preparatory recall assembly initiate the recall of local elective officials as bereft of merit. Every law enjoys the presumption of validity. The presumption rests on the respect due to the wisdom, integrity, and the patriotism of the legislative, by which the law is passed, and the Chief Executive, by whom the law is 8 approved, For upholding the Constitution is not the responsibility of the judiciary alone but also the duty of the 9 legislative and executive. To strike down a law as unconstitutional, there must be a clear and unequivocal showing 10 that what the fundamental law prohibits, the statute permits. The annulment cannot be decreed on a doubtful, and arguable implication. The universal rule of legal hermeneutics is that all reasonable doubts should be resolved in 11 favor of the constitutionality of a law. Recall is a mode of removal of a public officer by the people before the end of his term of office. The people's prerogative to remove a public officer is an incident of their sovereign power and in the absence of constitutional restraint, the power is implied in all governmental operations. Such power has been held to be indispensable for the 12 proper administration of public affairs. Not undeservedly, it is frequently described as a fundamental right of the 13 people in a representative democracy. Recall is a mode of removal of elective local officials made its maiden appearance in our 1973 Constitution. was mandated in section 2 of Article XI entitled Local Government, viz:
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Sec. 2. The Batasang Pambansa shall enact a local government code which may not thereafter be amended except by a majority vote of all its Members, defining a more responsive and accountable local government structure with an effective system of recall, allocating among the different local government units their powers, responsibilities, and resources, and providing for the qualifications, election and removal, term, salaries, powers, functions, and duties of local officials, and all other matters relating to the organization and operation of the local units. However, any change in the existing form of local government shall not take effect until ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite called for the purpose. (Emphasis supplied) The Batasang Pambansa then enacted BP 337 entitled "The Local Government Code of 1983." Section 54 of its Chapter 3 provided only one mode of initiating the recall elections of local elective officials, i.e., by petition of at least twenty-five percent (25%) of the total number of registered voters in the local government unit concerned,viz: Sec. 54. By Whom Exercised; Requisites. — (1) The power of recall shall be exercised by the registered voters of the unit to which the local elective official subject to such recall belongs. (2) Recall shall be validly initiated only upon petition of at least twenty-five percent (25%) of the total number of registered voters in the local government unit concerned based on the election in which the local official sought to be recalled was elected. Our legal history does not reveal any instance when this power of recall as provided by BP 337 was exercised by our people. In February 1986, however, our people more than exercised their right of recall for they resorted to revolution and they booted of office the highest elective officials of the land. The successful use of people power to remove public officials who have forfeited the trust of the electorate led to its firm institutionalization in the 1987 Constitution. Its Article XIII expressly recognized the Role and Rights of People's Organizations, viz: Sec. 15. The State shall respect the role of independent people's organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means. People's organizations are bona fide associations of citizens with demonstrated capacity to promote the public interest and with identifiable leadership, membership, and structure.

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Sec. 16. The right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making shall not be abridged. The State shall, by laws, facilitate the establishment of adequate consultation mechanisms. Section 3 of its Article X also reiterated the mandate for Congress to enact a local government code which "shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms of recall, initiative and referendum. . .," viz : Sec. 3. The Congress shall enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsible and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms of recall, initiative, and referendum, allocate among the different local government units their powers, responsibilities, and resources, and provide for the qualifications, election, appointment and removal, term, salaries, powers and functions and duties of local officials, and all other matters relating to the organization and operation of the local units. In response to this constitutional call, Congress enacted R.A. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991, which took effect on January 1, 1992. In this Code, Congress provided for a second mode of initiating the recall process through a preparatory recall assembly which in the provincial level is composed of all mayors, vice-mayors and sanggunian members of the municipalities and component cities. We quote the pertinent provisions of R.A. 7160, viz: CHAPTER 5 — RECALL Sec. 69. By Whom Exercised. — The power of recall for loss of confidence shall be exercised by the registered voters of a local government unit to which the local elective official subject to such recall belongs. Sec. 70. Initiation of the Recall Process. (a) Recall may be initiated by a preparatory recall assembly or by the registered voters of the local government unit to which the local elective official subject to such recall belongs. (b) There shall be a preparatory recall assembly in every province, city, district, and municipality which shall be composed of the following: (1) Provincial Level. — all mayors, vice-mayors and sanggunian members of the municipalities and component cities; (2) City level. — All punong barangay and sangguniang barangay members in the city; (3) Legislative District level. — In cases where sangguniang panlalawigan members are elected by district, all elective municipal officials in the district; in cases where sangguniang panglungsod members are elected by district , all elective barangay officials in the district; and (4) Municipal level. — All punong barangay and sangguniang barangay members in the municipality. (c) A majority of all the preparatory recall assembly members may convene in session in a public place and initiate a recall proceeding against any elective official in the local government unit concerned. Recall of provincial, city, or municipal officials shall be validly initiated through a resolution adopted by a majority of all the members of the preparatory recall assembly concerned during its session called for the purpose. (d) Recall of any elective provincial, city, municipal, or barangay official may be validly initiated upon petition of at least twenty-five (25) percent of the total number of registered voters in the local government unit concerned during the election which in the local official sought to be recalled was elected.

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Sec. 71. Election Recall — Upon the filing of a valid resolution petition for with the appropriate local office of the Comelec, the Commission or its duly authorized representative shall set the date of the election on recall, which shall not be later than thirty (30) days after the filing of the resolution or petition recall in the case of the barangay, city, or municipal officials, forty-five (45) days in the case of provincial officials. The official or officials sought to be recalled shall automatically be considered as duly registered candidate or candidates to the pertinent positions and, like other candidates, shall be entitled to be voted upon. Sec. 72. Effectivity of Recall. — The recall of an elective local official shall be effective only upon the election and proclamation of a successor in the person of the candidate receiving the highest number of votes cast during the election on recall. Should the official sought to be recalled receive the highest number of votes, confidence in him is thereby affirmed, and he shall continue in office. Sec. 73. Prohibition from Resignation. — The elective local official sought to be recalled shall not be allowed to resign while the recall process is in progress. Sec. 74. Limitations on Recall. — (a) Any elective local official may be the subject of a recall election only once during his term of office for loss of confidence. (b) No recall shall take place within one (1) year from the date of the official's assumption to office or one (1) year immediately preceding regular election. A reading of the legislative history of these recall provisions will reveal that the idea of empowering a preparatory recall assembly to initiate the recall from office of local elective officials originated from the House of Representatives A reading of the legislative history of these recall provisions will reveal that the idea of empowering a preparatory recall assembly to initiate the recall from office of local elective officials, originated from the House of 15 Representatives and not the Senate. The legislative records reveal there were two (2) principal reasons why this alternative mode of initiating the recall process thru an assembly was adopted, viz: (a) to diminish the difficulty of 16 initiating recall thru the direct action of the people; and (b) to cut down on its expenses. Our lawmakers took note of the undesirable fact that the mechanism initiating recall by direct action of the electorate was utilized only once in the City of Angeles, Pampanga, but even this lone attempt to recall the city mayor failed. Former Congressman Wilfredo Cainglet explained that this initiatory process by direct action of the people was too cumbersome, too 17 expensive and almost impossible to implement. Consequently, our legislators added in the a second mode of initiating the recall of local officials thru a preparatory recall assembly. They brushed aside the argument that this second mode may cause instability in the local government units due to its imagined ease. We have belabored the genesis of our recall law for it can light up many of the unillumined interstices of the law. In resolving constitutional disputes, We should not be beguiled by foreign jurisprudence some of which are hardly applicable because they have been dictated by different constitutional settings and needs. Prescinding from this proposition, We shall now resolve the contention of petitioners that the alternative mode of allowing a preparatory recall assembly to initiate the process of recall is unconstitutional. It is first postulated by the petitioners that "the right to recall does not extend merely to the prerogative of the electorate to reconfirm or withdraw their confidence on the official sought to be recalled at a special election. Such prerogative necessarily includes the sole and exclusive right to decide on whether to initiate a recall proceedings or 18 not." We do not agree. Petitioners cannot point to any specific provision of the Constitution that will sustain this submission. To be sure, there is nothing in the Constitution that will remotely suggest that the people have the "sole and exclusive right to decide on whether to initiate a recall proceeding." The Constitution did not provide for 19 any mode, let alone a single mode, of initiating recall elections. Neither did it prohibit the adoption of multiple modes of initiating recall elections. The mandate given by section 3 of Article X of the Constitution is for Congress to "enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms of recall, initiative, and referendum . . ." By this constitutional mandate, Congress was clearly given the power to choose the effective mechanisms of recall as its discernment dictates. The power given was to select which among the means and methods of initiating recall elections are effective to carry out the judgment of the electorate. Congress was not straightjacketed to one particular mechanism of initiating recall elections. What the Constitution simply required is that the mechanisms of

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recall, whether one or many, to be chosen by Congress should be effective. Using its constitutionally granted discretion, Congress deemed it wise to enact an alternative mode of initiating recall elections to supplement the former mode of initiation by direct action of the people. Congress has made its choice as called for by the Constitution and it is not the prerogative of this Court to supplant this judgment. The choice may be erroneous but even then, the remedy against a bad law is to seek its amendment or repeal by the legislative. By the principle of separation of powers, it is the legislative that determines the necessity, adequacy, wisdom and expediency of any 20 law. Petitioners also positive thesis that in passing Resolution 1, the Bataan Preparatory Recall Assembly did not only initiate the process of recall but had de facto recalled petitioner Garcia from office, a power reserved to the people alone. To quote the exact language of the petitioners: "The initiation of a recall through the PRA effectively shortens and ends the term of the incumbent local officials . Precisely, in the case of Gov. Garcia, an election was scheduled by the COMELEC on 11 October 1993 to determine who has the right to assume the unexpired portion of his term of office which should have been until June 1995. Having been relegated to the status of a mere candidate for the 21 same position of governor (by operation of law) he has, therefore, been effectively recalled." In their Extremely 22 Urgent Clarificatory Manifestation, petitioners put the proposition more bluntly stating that a "PRA resolution of recall is the re call itself." Again, the contention cannot command our concurrence. Petitioners have misconstrued the nature of the initiatory process of recall by the PRAC. They have embraced the view that initiation by the PRAC is not initiation by the people. This is a misimpression for initiation by the PRAC is also initiation by the people, albeit done indirectly through their representatives. It is not constitutionally impermissible for the people to act through their elected representatives. Nothing less than the paramount task of drafting our Constitution is delegated by the people to their representatives, elected either to act as a constitutional convention or as a congressional constituent assembly. The initiation of a recall process is a lesser act and there is no rhyme or reason why it cannot be entrusted to and exercised by the elected representatives of the people. More far out is petitioners' stance that a PRA resolution of recall is the recall itself. It cannot be seriously doubted that a PRA resolution of recall merely, starts the process. It is part of the process but is not the whole process. This ought to be self evident for a PRA resolution of recall that is not submitted to the COMELEC for validation will not recall its subject official. Likewise, a PRA resolution of recall that is rejected by the people in the election called for the purpose bears no effect whatsoever. The initiatory resolution merely sets the stage for the official concerned to appear before the tribunal of the people so he can justify why he should be allowed to continue in office. Before the people render their sovereign judgment, the official concerned remains in office but his right to continue in office is subject to question. This is clear in section 72 of the Local Government Code which states that "the recall of an elective local officialshall be effective only upon the election and proclamation of a successor in the person of the candidate receiving the highest number of votes cast during the election on recall." We shall next settle the contention of petitioners that the disputed law infracts the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Petitioners asseverate: 5.01.2. It denied petitioners the equal protection of the laws for the local officials constituting the majority party can constitute itself into a PRA and initiate the recall of a duly elected provincial official belonging to the minority party thus rendering ineffectual his election by popular mandate. Relevantly, the assembly could, to the prejudice of the minority (or even partyless) incumbent official, effectively declare a local elective position vacant (and demand the holding of a special election) for purely partisan political ends regardless of the mandate of the electorate. In the case at bar, 64 of the 74 signatories to the recall resolution have been political opponents of petitioner Garcia, not only did they not vote for him but they even campaigned against him in the 1992 elections. Petitioners' argument does not really assail the law but its possible abuse by the members of the PRAC while exercising their right to initiate recall proceedings. More specifically, the fear is expressed that the members of the PRAC may inject political color in their decision as they may initiate recall proceedings only against their political opponents especially those belonging to the minority. A careful reading of the law, however, will ineluctably show that it does not give an asymmetrical treatment to locally elected officials belonging to the political minority. First to be considered is the politically neutral composition of the preparatory recall assembly. Sec. 70 (b) of the Code provides:

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Sec. 70. Initiation of the Recall Process. (a) Recall may be initiated by a preparatory recall assembly or by the registered voters of the local government unit to which the local elective official subject to such recall belongs. (b) There shall be a preparatory recall assembly in every province, city, district, and municipality which shall be composed of the following: (1) Provincial level. — All mayors, vice-mayors and sanggunian members of the municipalities and component cities; (2) City level. — All punong barangay and sangguniang barangay members in the city; (3) Legislative District Level. — In cases where sangguniang panlalawigan members are elected by district, all elective municipal officials in the district; and in cases where sangguniang panglungsod members are elected by district, all elective barangay officials in the district; and (4) Municipal level. — All punong barangay and sangguniang barangay members in the municipality. Under the law, all mayors, vice-mayors and sangguniang members of the municipalities and component cities are made members of the preparatory recall assembly at the provincial level. Its membership is not apportioned to political parties. No significance is given to the political affiliation of its members. Secondly, the preparatory recall assembly, at the provincial level includes all the elected officials in the province concerned. Considering their number, the greater probability is that no one political party can control its majority. Thirdly, sec. 69 of the Code provides that the only ground to recall a locally elected public official is loss of confidence of the people. The members of the PRAC are in the PRAC not in representation of their political parties but as representatives of the people. By necessary implication, loss of confidence cannot be premised on mere differences in political party affiliation. Indeed, our Constitution encourages multi-party system for the existence of opposition parties is indispensable to the growth and nurture of democratic system. Clearly then, the law as crafted cannot be faulted for discriminating against local officials belonging to the minority. The fear that a preparatory recall assembly may be dominated by a political party and that it may use its power to initiate the recall of officials of opposite political persuasions, especially those belonging to the minority, is not a ground to strike down the law as unconstitutional. To be sure, this argument has long been in disuse for there can be no escape from the reality that all powers are susceptible of abuse. The mere possibility of abuse cannot, however, infirm per se the grant of power to an individual or entity. To deny power simply because it can be abused by the grantee is to render government powerless and no people need an impotent government. There is no democratic government that can operate on the basis of fear and distrust of its officials, especially those elected by the people themselves. On the contrary, all our laws assume that officials, whether appointed or elected, will act in good faith and will perform the duties of their office. Such presumption follows the solemn oath that they took after assumption of office, to faithfully execute all our laws. Moreover, the law instituted safeguards to assure that the initiation of the recall process by a preparatory recall assembly will not be corrupted by extraneous influences. As explained above, the diverse and distinct composition of the membership of a preparatory recall assembly guarantees that all the sectors of the electorate province shall be heard. It is for this reason that in Our Resolution of September 21, 1993, We held that notice to all the members of the recall assembly is a condition sine qua non to the validity of its proceedings. The law also requires a qualified majority of all the preparatory recall assembly members to convene in session and in a public place. It also requires that the recall resolution by the said majority must be adopted during its session called for the purpose. The underscored words carry distinct legal meanings and purvey some of the parameters limiting the power of the members of a preparatory recall assembly to initiate recall proceedings. Needless to state, compliance with these requirements is necessary, otherwise, there will be no valid resolution of recall which can be given due course by the COMELEC. Furthermore, it cannot be asserted with certitude that the members of the Bataan preparatory recall assembly voted strictly along narrow political lines. Neither the respondent COMELEC nor this Court made a judicial inquiry as to the reasons that led the members of the said recall assembly to cast a vote of lack of confidence against petitioner Garcia. That inquiry was not undertaken for to do so would require crossing the forbidden borders of the political

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thicket. Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., a major author of the subject law in his book The Local Government Code of 1991: The Key to National Development, stressed the same reason why the substantive content of a vote of lack of confidence is beyond any inquiry, thus: There is only one ground for the recall of local government officials: loss of confidence. This means that the people may petition or the Preparatory Recall Assembly may resolve to recall any local elective officials without specifying any particular ground except loss of confidence. There is no need for them to bring up any charge of abuse or corruption against the local elective officials who are the subject of any recall petition. In the case of Evardone vs. Commission on Elections, et al., 204 SCRA 464, 472 (1991), the Court ruled that "loss of confidence" as a ground for recall is a political question. In the words of the Court, "whether or not the electorate of the municipality of Sulat has lost confidence in the incumbent mayor is a political question. Any assertion therefore that the members of the Bataan preparatory recall assembly voted due to their political aversion to petitioner Garcia is at best a surmise. Petitioners also contend that the resolution of the members of the preparatory recall assembly subverted the will of the electorate of the province of Bataan who elected petitioner Garcia with a majority of 12,500 votes. Again, the contention proceeds from the erroneous premise that the resolution of recall is the recall itself. It refuses to recognize the reality that the resolution of recall is a mere proposal to the electorate of Bataan to subject petitioner to a new test of faith. The proposal will still be passed upon by the sovereign electorate of Bataan. As this judgment has yet to be expressed, it is premature to conclude that the sovereign will of the electorate of Bataan has been subverted. The electorate of Bataan may or may not recall petitioner Garcia in an appropriate election. If the electorate re-elects petitioner Garcia, then the proposal to recall him made by the preparatory recall assembly is rejected. On the other hand, if the electorate does not re-elect petitioner Garcia, then he has lost the confidence of the people which he once enjoyed. The judgment will write finis to the political controversy. For more than judgments of courts of law, the judgment of the tribunal of the people is final for "sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them." In sum, the petition at bench appears to champion the sovereignty of the people, particularly their direct right to initiate and remove elective local officials thru recall elections. If the petition would succeed, the result will be a return to the previous system of recall elections which Congress found should be improved. The alternative mode of initiating recall proceedings thru a preparatory recall assembly is, however, an innovative attempt by Congress to remove impediments to the effective exercise by the people of their sovereign power to check the performance of their elected officials. The power to determine this mode was specifically given to Congress and is not proscribed by the Constitution. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the original Petition and the Supplemental Petition assailing the constitutionality of section 70 of R.A. 7160 insofar as it allows a preparatory recall assembly to initiate the recall process are dismissed for lack of merit. This decision is immediately executory. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 123169 November 4, 1996 DANILO E. PARAS, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent. RESOLUTION

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FRANCISCO, J.: Petitioner Danilo E. Paras is the incumbent Punong Barangay of Pula, Cabanatuan City who won during the last regular barangay election in 1994. A petition for his recall as Punong Barangay was filed by the registered voters of the barangay. Acting on the petition for recall, public respondent Commission on Elections (COMELEC) resolved to approve the petition, scheduled the petition signing on October 14, 1995, and set the recall election on November 13, 1 1995. At least 29.30% of the registered voters signed the petition, well above the 25% requirement provided by law. The COMELEC, however, deferred the recall election in view of petitioner's opposition. On December 6, 1995, the COMELEC set anew the recall election, this time on December 16, 1995. To prevent the holding of the recall election, petitioner filed before the Regional Trial Court of Cabanatuan City a petition for injunction, docketed as SP Civil Action No. 2254-AF, with the trial court issuing a temporary restraining order. After conducting a summary hearing, the trial court lifted the restraining order, dismissed the petition and required petitioner and his counsel to explain why they should not be cited for contempt for misrepresenting that the barangay recall election was without 2 COMELEC approval. In a resolution dated January 5, 1996, the COMELEC, for the third time, re-scheduled the recall election an January 13, 1996; hence, the instant petition for certiorari with urgent prayer for injunction. On January 12, 1996, the Court issued a temporary restraining order and required the Office of the Solicitor General, in behalf of public respondent, to comment on the petition. In view of the Office of the Solicitor General's manifestation maintaining an opinion adverse to that of the COMELEC, the latter through its law department filed the required comment. Petitioner 3 thereafter filed a reply. Petitioner's argument is simple and to the point. Citing Section 74 (b) of Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code, which states that " no recall shall take place within one (1) year from the date of the official's assumption to office or one (1) year immediately preceding a regular local election ", petitioner insists that the scheduled January 13, 1996 recall election is now barred as the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) election was set by Republic Act No. 7808 on the first Monday of May 1996, and every three years thereafter. In support thereof, petitioner cites Associated Labor Union v. Letrondo-Montejo, 237 SCRA 621, where the Court considered the SK election as a regular local election. Petitioner maintains that as the SK election is a regular local election, hence no recall election can be had for barely four months separate the SK election from the recall election. We do not agree. The subject provision of the Local Government Code provides: Sec. 74. Limitations on Recall. — (a) Any elective local official may be the subject of a recall election only once during his term of office for loss of confidence. (b) No recall shall take place within one (1) year from the date of the official's assumption to office or one (1) year immediately preceding a regular local election. [Emphasis added] It is a rule in statutory construction that every part of the statute must be interpreted with reference to the context,i.e., that every part of the statute must be considered together with the other parts, and kept subservient to 4 the general intent of the whole enactment. The evident intent of Section 74 is to subject an elective local official to recall election once during his term of office. Paragraph (b) construed together with paragraph (a) merely designates the period when such elective local official may be subject of a recall election, that is, during the second year of his term of office. Thus, subscribing to petitioner's interpretation of the phrase regular local election to include the SK election will unduly circumscribe the novel provision of the Local Government Code on recall, a mode of removal of public officers by initiation of the people before the end of his term. And if the SK election which is set by R.A No. 7808 to be held every three years from May 1996 were to be deemed within the purview of the phrase "regular local election", as erroneously insisted by petitioner, then no recall election can be conducted rendering inutile the recall provision of the Local Government Code. In the interpretation of a statute, the Court should start with the assumption that the legislature intended to enact an 5 effective law, and the legislature is not presumed to have done a vain thing in the enactment of a statute. An interpretation should, if possible, be avoided under which a statute or provision being construed is defeated, or as

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otherwise expressed, nullified, destroyed, emasculated, repealed, explained away, or rendered insignificant, 6 meaningless, inoperative or nugatory. It is likewise a basic precept in statutory construction that a statute should be interpreted in harmony with the 7 Constitution. Thus, the interpretation of Section 74 of the Local Government Code, specifically paragraph (b) thereof, should not be in conflict with the Constitutional mandate of Section 3 of Article X of the Constitution to "enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanism of recall, initiative, and referendum . . . ." Moreover, petitioner's too literal interpretation of the law leads to absurdity which we cannot countenance. Thus, in a case, the Court made the following admonition: We admonish against a too-literal reading of the law as this is apt to constrict rather than fulfill its purpose and defeat the intention of its authors. That intention is usually found not in "the letter that 8 killeth but in the spirit that vivifieth". . . The spirit, rather than the letter of a law determines its construction; hence, a statute, as in this case, must be read according to its spirit and intent. Finally, recall election is potentially disruptive of the normal working of the local government unit necessitating additional expenses, hence the prohibition against the conduct of recall election one year immediately preceding the regular local election. The proscription is due to the proximity of the next regular election for the office of the local elective official concerned. The electorate could choose the official's replacement in the said election who certainly has a longer tenure in office than a successor elected through a recall election. It would, therefore, be more in keeping with the intent of the recall provision of the Code to construe regular local election as one referring to an election where the office held by the local elective official sought to be recalled will be contested and be filled by the electorate. Nevertheless, recall at this time is no longer possible because of the limitation stated under Section 74 (b) of the Code considering that the next regular election involving the barangay office concerned is barely seven (7) months 9 away, the same having been scheduled on May 1997. ACCORDINGLY, the petition is hereby dismissed for having become moot and academic. The temporary restraining order issued by the Court on January 12, 1996, enjoining the recall election should be as it is hereby made permanent. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 127066 March 11, 1997 REYNALDO O. MALONZO, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and THE LIGA NG MGA BARANGAY (Caloocan Chapter) and ALEX L. DAVID, CONRADO G. CRUZ, TRINIDAD REPUNO, GLORIA M. CRUZ, MIRALI M. DURR, FERMIN JIMENEZ, AURELIO BILUAN, ROGELIO SARAZA, HELENE VALBUENA, and HIGINO RULLEPA, respondents.

TORRES, JR., J.: The Court is called upon to strike down Resolution 96-026, dated November 18, 1996, of the respondent Commission on Elections (COMELEC) calling for an Election for the Recall of the Petitioner Reynaldo O. Malonzo, the incumbent Mayor of Caloocan City.
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Petitioner was duly elected as Mayor in the elections held on May 8, 1995, winning over former Mayor Macario Asistio, Jr. Barely one year into his term, petitioner's office as Mayor was put to serious question when on July 7, 1996, 1,057 Punong Barangays and Sangguniang Barangay members and Sangguniang Kabataan chairmen, constituting a majority of the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly of the City of Caloocan, met, and upon deliberation and election, voted for the approval of Preparatory Recall Assembly Resolution No. 01-96, expressing loss of confidence in Mayor Malonzo, and calling for the initiation of recall proceedings against him. Together with relevant documents, PRA Resolution No. 01-96 was filed with the COMELEC for appropriate action. In response, Mayor Malonzo filed a Petition with the respondent Commission alleging, principally, that the recall process was deficient in form and substance, and therefore, illegally initiated. The COMELEC found the petition devoid of merit and declared the recall proceedings to be in order. The COMELEC's Resolution on the petition states pertinently: WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Commission En Banc hereby RESOLVES to DISMISS the Petition. We approve and give DUE COURSE to PRA Resolution No. 01-96 entitled RESOLUTION TO INITIATE RECALL OF REYNALDO O. MALONZO AS MAYOR OF KALOOCAN CITY FOR LOSS OF CONFIDENCE. Accordingly and conformably with Section 71 R.A. 7160, the Commission SETS the date of the Election on Recall on December 14, 1996. We shall, by separate resolution, issue a calendar of activities involved in said exercise. SO ORDERED.
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On November 28, 1996, Mayor Malonzo came to us on a "Petition for Certiorari With Prayer For Temporary Restraining Order and Application for Writ of Preliminary Injunction", assailing the COMELEC's resolution as having been issued with grave abuse of discretion. The Petition, in the main, raises the issue of the validity of the institution and proceedings of the recall, putting to fore the propriety of the service of notices to the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly, and the proceedings held, resulting in the issuance of the questioned Resolution. Due to the importance of the matters in issue, and the proximity of the Recall Election date declared by the 3 COMELEC, the Court, on November 29, 1996, issued a Resolution ordering the respondent COMELEC to cease and desist from proceeding with the recall election projected on December 14, 1996, and directing the respondents to file their respective Comments. Private respondents Liga ng mga Barangay (Caloocan Chapter), Alex L. David, Conrado G. Cruz, Trinidad Repuno, Gloria M. Cruz, Mirali M. Durr, Fermin Jimenez, Aurelio Biluan, Rogelio Saraza, Helene Valbuena and Higino 4 Rullepa, filed their Comment on December 6, 1996, alleging that all the requirements for the holding of a recall election were duly complied with and that the petition is therefore without basis. On the other hand, the Office of the 5 Solicitor General filed a Manifestation in lieu of Comment on February 7, 1997, with the surprising submission that the COMELEC was amiss in its duties as enforcer of election laws. According to the Solicitor General, the veracity of notices sent to 42 members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly were not directly passed upon by the COMELEC before it issued the questioned Resolution. It thus submits that the propriety of notices sent to said PRA members must first be determined by the COMELEC, after giving private respondents the chance to prove the same, otherwise, a discussion of the other issues in the present petition would be premature. At this juncture, the Court finds that there is no need to refer the matter of the veracity of the questioned notices sent to certain members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly back to the COMELEC, for the reason that the COMELEC has already conducted an investigation into the same, and has found the proceedings instituting the recall to be in accord with law. The Solicitor General's observation that the issue of veracity of the notices was not directly passed upon by the COMELEC is incorrect. On the contrary, the matter of validity of notices to the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly was sufficiently considered by the respondent Commission, as in response to petitioner's request for a technical examination of the recall documents, the COMELEC directed its Election Records and Statistics Department (ERSD) to resolve the matter of notices sent to the Preparatory Recall Assembly members. The ERSD in turn performed its task and reported its findings to the COMELEC. The following excerpts from Resolution UND 96-026 of the COMELEC reflect the results of the ERSD's investigation, and the resulting action of the COMELEC:

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The ERSD Report gave the following information: Three (3) lists of elected Barangay officials were used as reference, namely: COMELEC list; DILG list and Caloocan City list. According to the COMELEC listing, of the 188 barangays in Kalookan City, there should have been 1,692 members of the PRA. However, one barangay, Barangay 94, did not elect an SK Chairman, thus, there are of record, 1,691 elected barangay officials of Kalookan City, broken down as follows: Punong Barangay Barangay Kagawads SK Chairmen (One Barangay, 94 did not SK Chairman). — — — elect 188 1,316 187 Barangay its

The DILG registry is incomplete, showing only a listing of 1,390 barangay officials. The Kalookan City Talaan ng mga Barangay tallies with the COMELEC List. From the records, the following data is found: Of the 1,691 barangay officials, forty (40) had resigned. In the stead of twenty-eight (28) resignees, replacements were appointed. Twelve (12) positions however, remained vacant, there being no successors named therein. Twenty-two (22) barangay officials are deceased. Twelve (12) vacancies caused by such death were filled up by appointing replacements. Ten (10) vacant positions were however not filled up. There being twenty-two (22) unfilled posts, the total number of Barangay officials of Kalookan City at the time of the constitution of the Preparatory Recall Assembly was initiated is 1,669. ERSD reported that there were a total of 1,927 notices sent, some members being served two or three notices. The Notices were sent in three modes; Personal, registered mail and by courier and they were in the name of the PRA member, and addressed at his residence or office of record. In its initial report, the Department stated that six persons listed in the COMELEC record as barangay officials were not duly notified. These were: Jose de Chavez, listed as Barangay kagawad of Barangay; 6; Enrico Marasigan, listed as Barangay kagawad of Barangay 65; Pablo Musngi, listed as Barangay kagawad of Barangay 119; Rolando Ang, listed as Barangay kagawad of Barangay 109; and Pilar Pilares, Barangay Kagawad of Barangay 162 and Teresita Calayo, listed as kagawad of Barangay 182. Respondents explained the absence of notice to these persons thus: 1. Jose de Chavez has been removed from office as Barangay kagawad of Barangay 6 by virtue of Resolution No. 95-011 passed on July 16, 1995, and has been replaced by Corazon Obusan by virtue of Resolution No. 95-016 passed on August 1995, both promulgated by the Barangay Council of said barangay. In view of the fact that it is Corazon Obusan who is the recognized Barangay kagawad of the aforementioned barangay, as it appears in the official roster of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) the notice of the July 7, 1996 PRA session was duly served on her and not on Mr. de Chavez. 2. Enrico Marasigan has resigned as Barangay kagawad of Barangay 65 as evidenced by his resignation letter dated March 24, 1995. He was replaced by Ronio de la Cruz, by virtue of a Resolution passed by the Barangay Council of Barangay 65 dated August 10, 1995. Accordingly, the notice of the July 7, 1996 PRA session was duly served on Mr. de la Cruz and not on Mr. Marasigan. 3. Pablo Musngi ceased to be a Barangay kagawad of Barangay 119 by reason of his death on April 12, 1996. He has been replaced by Sylvia Saberola on whom notice of the July 7, 1996 PRA session has been duly served.

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4. Notices, both by personal delivery and by registered mail, were served on Mr. Rolando Ang at his official address at Barangay 109 Zone 10 East Grace Park, Caloocan City. The returns of the said service of notice, however, disclosed that he can no longer be located in the said address. He has, however, not informed the DILG of any change in his official address. 5. Pilar Pilares had been served notice by personal delivery but refused to sign acknowledgment receipt. She has likewise been served notice by registered mail as evidenced by the receipt in her behalf by a certain Ricardo Pilares III. (Respondents' Comment, dated October 14, 1996. As to Teresita Calayo, respondent defends lack of notice to her, thus: Teresita Calayo is not a duly elected kagawad of Barangay 182, Zone 16. Per certification issued by the Board of Election Tellers, Ms. Calayo did not win in the May 1994 Barangay Election. Records would show that it should be Kagawad Fermin Quintos who should be recognized as legitimate barangay kagawad of the said barangay having placed no. 7 in the election and not Ms. Calayo who appears to be a loser/9th place. There appears to be an apparent oversight in placing the name of Calayo in the subject PRA Resolution for signature, wherein it shows that both the names of Fermin Quintos and Teresita Calayo are included. (Respondents' Compliance dated November 13, 1996, p. 6). In the ERSD's final and complete report, two (2) additional names were reflected as not having been served notices and these were Line Ramos and Teodulfo Abenoja, listed as kagawads of Barangay 174. Commenting on this report, respondents stated: 1. As regards Tomas Daep and Teodulfo Abenoja (not Agenoja);. Notice by registered mail was served on, and acknowledged by Tomas Daep, who personally signed the return card. There was actually an error committed by the ERSD when it concluded that Tomas Daep has already resigned and was replaced by Ernesto Taupa. Official records would show that Tomas Daep and Ernesto Taupa are still both presently holding the position of Kagawad of Barangay 174 Zone 15. Ernesto Taupa was officially appointed to the position vacated by Teodulfo Abenoja by virtue of the latter's resignation on 15 March 1996. Teodulfo Abenoja, on the other hand, was appointed to the position vacated by a Line Ramos and Teodulfo Abenoja — they, having resigned and, the latter, having been already replaced by Ernesto Taupa. Ernesto Taupa on the other, as correctly determined by the ERSD, was validly served with the notice of the PRA session two (2) days before the scheduled PRA meeting. Respondents' submission, being substantiated by documents. and uncontroverted by Petitioner are hereby accepted as meritorious. In addition to the aforenamed, three persons, Pablo de Castro, Ruben Ballega, and Jesus Tan claiming to be the Barangay captains of Barangay 116, Barangay 148 and Barangay 156, respectively, and therefore members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly, came before the Commission and manifested that they were not duly notified about the PRA session.

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The records in custody of the Commission, however, revealed that there was no truth to their allegations. Pablo de Castro was served notice by registered mail on July 1, 1996, and this he received on July 3, 1996, as shown in the return card duly signed in acknowledgment. The same notice was served on him by courier (LBC) on July 5, 1996. Ruben Ballega was notified by personal service on July 1, 1996, the receipt of which was duly acknowledged and by registered mail on July 2, 1996. Jesus Tan Sr. was served notice personally and by registered mail. The personal service was completed on July 1, 1996, as shown by the receipt signed by his daughter, one Analiza T. Asque. The same notice was sent him by registered mail, received by the same daughter on July 2, 1996. The Commission however regards the sending of notice one thing, and the completion of service thereof another, for indeed, the requirement of notice can only be fully satisfied, if there was not only service, but also completion of service thereof. Thus, we were obliged to inquire more closely into the records and we found: Personal services were acknowledged by receipts signed, if not by the addressee himself, then, as indicated thereon, by his or her spouse, nearest relative or a person of sufficient discretion in the member 's residence or office. Service by registered mail was evinced by the return card duly signed by the addressee or by persons acting for him. There were instances when notices were served but were refused, this fact noted in the acknowledgment receipt by the server and his witnesses. The circumstances being thus, we hold that there was complete service of the notices as contemplated in Section 8, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court which provides; Sec. 8 Completeness of Service — Personal service is complete upon delivery. Service by ordinary mail is complete upon the expiration of five (5) days after mailing, unless the court otherwise provides; Service by registered mail is complete upon actual receipt by the addressee; but if he fails to claim his mail from the post office within five (5) days from the date of first notice of the postmaster, service shall take effect at the expiration of such time. That it was Alex David, President of the LIGA ng mga Barangay who sent the notices is of no moment. We had earlier determined that as member of the PRA, he can legally exercise the prerogatives attached to his membership in the Preparatory Recall Assembly, sending notices to the other members of its scheduled convening. It is evident from the foregoing and, therefore, the Commission so holds that the requirements of 6 notice had been fully complied with. Needless to state, the issue of propriety of the notices sent to the PRA members is factual in nature, and the determination of the same is therefore a function of the COMELEC. In the absence of patent error, or serious inconsistencies in the findings, the Court should not disturb the same. The factual findings of the COMELEC, based on its own assessments and duly supported by gathered evidence, are conclusive upon the court, more so, in the absence of a substantiated attack on the validity of the same. Moreover, to order the COMELEC to repeat the process of determining the notices' propriety would be sanctioning a recycling of administrative functions, entailing added cost and waste of effort. Petitioner likewise attacks the COMELEC's ruling on the validity of the proceedings held by the Preparatory Recall Assembly, in that it allegedly ruled that the LIGA ng mga Barangay is authorized to initiate the recall and convene the Preparatory Recall Assembly. Petitioner likewise averred that the session held, and the adoption of the recall resolution, by the recall assembly were tainted with irregularities, violence, graft and corruption. The pertinent provisions of law, as regards the initiation of the recall process, are Sections 69 and 70 of R.A. 7160:

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Sec. 69. By whom Exercised. — The power of recall for loss of confidence shall be exercised by the registered voters of a local government unit to which the local elective official subject to such recall belongs. Sec. 70. Initiation of the Recall Process. — (a) Recall may be initiated by a preparatory recall assembly or by the registered voters of the local government unit to which the local elective official subject to such recall belongs. (b) There shall be a preparatory recall assembly in every province, city, district, and municipality which shall be composed of the following: xxx xxx xxx (2) City level. — All punong barangay and sangguniang barangay members in the city; xxx xxx xxx (c) A majority of all the preparatory recall assembly members may convene in session in a public place and initiate a recall proceeding against any elective official in the local government unit concerned. Recall of provincial, city, or municipal officials shall be validly initiated through a resolution adopted by a majority of all the members of the preparatory recall assembly concerned during its session called for the purpose. (d) Recall of any elective provincial, city, municipal, or barangay official may also be validly initiated upon petition of at least 25% of the total number of registered voters in the local government unit concerned during the election in which the local official sought to be recalled was elected. (1) A written petition for recall duly signed before the election registrar or his representative, and in the presence of a representative of the petitioner and a representative of the official sought to be recalled, and in a public place in the province, city, municipality, or barangay, as the case may be, shall be filed with the COMELEC through its office in the local government unit concerned. The COMELEC or its duly authorized representative shall cause the publication of the petition in a public and conspicuous place for a period of not less than ten (10) days nor more than twenty (20) days, for the purpose of verifying the authenticity and genuineness of the petition and the required percentage of voters. (2) Upon the lapse of the aforesaid period, the COMELEC or its duly authorized representative shall announce the acceptance of candidates to the position and thereafter prepare the list of candidates which shall include the name of the official sought to be recalled. Petitioner's insistence, that the initiation of the recall proceedings was infirm since it was convened by the Liga ng mga Barangays, is misplaced. Petitioner observes that "respondent Liga is an organization of all barangays. It is not an organization of barangay captains and kagawads. The barangays are represented in the Liga by the barangay captains as provided under Section 492 of the Local Government Code. It also provides that the 7 Kagawad may represent the barangay in the absence of the barangay chairman." The Liga ng mga Barangay is undoubtedly an entity distinct from the Preparatory Recall Assembly. It just so happens that the personalities representing the barangays in the Liga are the very members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly, the majority of whom met on July 7, 1996, and voted in favor of the resolution calling for the recall of Mayor Malonzo, after deliberation reported in the record, in accordance with the existing law. Thus, the Punong Barangays and Sangguniang Barangay members convened and voted as members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly of the City of Caloocan, and not as members of the Liga ng mga Barangay. The recall proceedings, therefore, cannot be denied merit on this ground. Any doubt as to the propriety of the proceedings held during the recall assembly should be laid to rest. As the respondent COMELEC pertinently observes:

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The Minutes of the session of the Preparatory Assembly indicated that there was a session held. Attendees constitute the majority of all the members of the Preparatory Assembly, as we shall later on establish. Rules of procedure, simple they may be were formulated. Deliberations were conducted on the main issue, which was that of petitioner's recall. The members were given the opportunity to articulate on their resolve about the matter. More importantly, their sentiments were expressed through their votes signified by their signatures and thumbmarks affixed to the Resolution. No proof was adduced by Petitioner to substantiate his claim that the signatures appearing thereon represented a cause other than that of adopting the resolution. The law on recall did not prescribe an elaborate proceeding. Neither did it demand a specific procedure. What is fundamental is compliance with the provision that there should be a session called for the purpose of initiating recall proceedings, attended by a majority of all the members of the preparatory recall assembly, in a public place and that the resolution resulting from such assembly be adopted by a 8 majority of all the PRA members. The charges of graft and corruption, violence and irregularities, before and during the session of the preparatory recall assembly are largely uncorroborated, and cannot override the substantiated findings of the respondent COMELEC. In cases filed before administrative and quasi-judicial bodies, a fact may be deemed established if it is supported by substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable 9 mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion. Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a 10 conclusion. It means such evidence which affords a substantial basis from which the fact in issue can be 11 reasonably inferred. To overturn the presumption of validity of performance of official duty, more than a mere scintilla of proof is needed, otherwise, one disgruntled fellow can destroy the foundations laid by the overwhelming majority, and this is not the scenario envisioned by our democratic system of government. In sum, we are persuaded strongly by the principle that the findings of fact of administrative bodies charged with their specific field of expertise, are afforded great weight by the courts, and in the absence of substantial showing that such findings are made from an erroneous estimation of the evidence presented, they are conclusive, and in the interest of stability of the governmental structure, should not be disturbed. ACCORDINGLY, the Court hereby RESOLVED to DISMISS the present petition, for lack of merit. The decision of the respondent Commission on Elections to GIVE DUE COURSE to PRA Resolution No. 01-96 is hereby AFFIRMED. The Commission on Elections is hereby ORDERED to set the date of the Election on Recall in the city of Caloocan, which date shall not be later than thirty days after receipt of notice of this Resolution, which is immediately executory. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 141787

September 18, 2000

MANUEL H. AFIADO, JASMINIO B. QUEMADO, JR. AND GLESIE L. TANGONAN, petitioners, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS (COMELEC), respondent. DECISION DE LEON, JR., J.: Before us is a Petition for Mandamus with Prayer for Preliminary Mandatory Injunction, praying for the early resolution of the petition for the "recall" of former Vice-Mayor Amelita S. Navarro (currently the Mayor) of Santiago City, which was filed with respondent Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

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The facts are as follows: During the May 11, 1998 elections in Santiago City, Joel Miranda became the substitute candidate for his father, Jose "Pempe" Miranda, for the position of Mayor. When the ballots were counted, Joel emerged as the winner over his opponent Antonio Abaya and he was later proclaimed. Amelita S. Navarro also won and was proclaimed as the Vice-Mayor of Santiago City. On May 13, 1998, the defeated candidate, Antonio Abaya, filed before the COMELEC against Joel Miranda a Petition to Declare Null and Void Substitution with Prayer for Issuance of Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order, docketed as SPA No. 98-288, which was later amended. The amended petition sought the declaration of the certificate of candidacy of Jose Miranda, the father of Joel, as null and void. The petition, as amended, was granted by the COMELEC en banc, and consequently the election and proclamation of Joel Miranda as Mayor of Santiago City was annulled. This ruling was affirmed by the Supreme Court in a Decision promulgated on July 28, 1999 in G.R. No. 136531, entitled "Joel Miranda vs. Antonio Abaya and COMELEC." In that decision, we ruled that since the certificate of candidacy of Jose Miranda was not valid, he could not be validly substituted by his son, Joel Miranda, as a mayoralty candidate in Santiago City. Hence, Joel Miranda could not be validly proclaimed as the winner in the mayoralty elections. Vice-Mayor Amelita S. Navarro 1 thus became the new Mayor of Santiago City by virtue of the law on succession. Joel Miranda filed a motion for reconsideration but this was denied with finality by the Supreme Court in a Resolution dated September 28, 1999. Navarro took her oath of office and assumed her position as Mayor of Santiago City on October 11, 1999. Meanwhile, on July 12, 1999, while the said G.R. No. 136531 was still pending in the Supreme Court, petitioners Manuel H. Afiado, Jasminio B. Quemado and Glesie L. Tangonan convened the barangay officials of Santiago City who compose the Preparatory Recall Assembly (PRA) at the Santiago City People's Coliseum after giving them due notice. On the same date, July 12, 1999, the PRA passed and adopted Preparatory Recall Assembly Resolution No. 1 for the recall of Vice-Mayor Amelita S. Navarro. The pertinent portions of the said Resolution No. 1 read as follows: ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION NO. 1 -oOoRESOLUTION OF THE PREPARATORY RECALL ASSEMBLY OF THE BARANGAY OFFICIALS OF SANTIAGO CITY FOR THE RECALL OF THE INCUMBENT VICE-MAYOR OF SANTIAGO CITY xxx xxx xxx

WHEREAS, during the Preparatory Recall Assembly the official acts of City Vice Mayor Navarro that brought forth the loss of confidence in her capacity and fitness to discharge the duties and to perform the functions of her public office were recounted for the contemplation and evaluation of the members present, to wit: 1. Her lack of respect and due regard for superior authority… 2. Her greed for political power which worked against public interest and the general welfare… 3. Her lack of regard for public officials, subordinates and lowly employees, which is conduct unbecoming of a public official and speaks of her unprofessionalism… 4. Her constant insistence to usurp the powers or authority vested upon other public officials… 5. Her application of delaying tactics in the SP actions on the City Government's annual budget… 6. Her disregard of parliamentary rules by imposing her unsolicited and unnecessary opinion unto the city councilors…

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7. Because of her preoccupation towards matters other than those of public concerns, substantial part of the legislative tasks of the Sangguniang Panlungsod brought to it for action have remained unacted unfinished (sic); 8. Her alleged malfeasance of corruption while she was still the City Mayor in acting capacity, specifically her direct hand in the anomalous acquisition of six dump trucks, a request for investigation for (sic) which is pending at the Office of the Ombudsman; 9. Her antagonistic attitude towards development concerns… WHEREAS, on accounts of the documented facts and stated hereinabove the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly present have lost, after due thought their confidence upon the incumbent City Vice Mayor Amelita S. Navarro. NOW WHEREFORE, upon a motion duly seconded, be it RESOLVED, as it is hereby RESOLVED to INVOKE THE RESCISSION OF THE ELECTORAL MANDATE OF THE INCUMBENT CITY VICE-MAYOR AMELITA S. NAVARRO for LOSS OF CONFIDENCE through a recall election to be set by the COMMISSION ON ELECTION as provided for under Section 71 of the Local Government Code of 1991; xxx xxx xxx

APPROVED by the majority of the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly held on July 12, 1999 at the 2 People's Coliseum, Santiago City, Isabela. According to the petitioners, PRA Resolution No. 1 together with all the reglementary requirements, has been forwarded and submitted to the office of respondent COMELEC at Santiago City and later to its Head Office in Manila through the Provincial Elections Office and Regional Elections Office. On September 9, 1999, while the subject Preparatory Recall Resolution No. 1 was under evaluation in the COMELEC's Head Office, then Vice-Mayor Amelita S. Navarro filed a petition, docketed as EM No. 99-006, with the COMELEC which sought the nullification of the said PRA Resolution No. 1. In Navarro's petition, the herein petitioners Afiado, Quemado and Tangonan (as officers of the Preparatory Recall Assembly of Santiago City) were impleaded as the respondents therein. Hearings in EM No. 99-006 were then conducted at the COMELEC's head office. 1âwphi1 After the deadline for the submission of memoranda on December 1, 1999, herein petitioners as the respondents in that case, alleged that they were not informed nor were they aware of further developments. This prompted them to file on December 27, 1999 an Urgent Motion for the Early Resolution of the Petition (EM No. 99-006). According to the herein petitioners, the act of herein respondent COMELEC in not deciding the said petition violates Rule 18, Section 7 of the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure which provides that: Sec. 7. Period to Decide by the Commission En Banc. - Any case or matter submitted to or heard by the Commission en banc shall be decided within thirty (30) days from the date it is deemed submitted for decision or resolution, except a motion for reconsideration of a decision or resolution of a Division in Special Actions and Special cases which shall be decided within fifteen (15) days from the date the case or matter is deemed submitted for decision, unless otherwise provided by law. The herein petitioners allege that the act of respondent COMELEC in not resolving the petition, EM No. 99-006, within the reglementary period constitutes neglect in the performance of its duties and responsibilities; and that the alleged inaction of respondent COMELEC will render the said case and/or PRA Resolution No. 1 moot and academic inasmuch as recall elections cannot be undertaken anymore come June 30, 2000 pursuant to Section 74 of the 1991 Local Government Code, which provides that: Sec. 74. Limitation on Recall. -

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(a) any elective local official may be the subject of a recall election only once during his term of office for loss of confidence. (b) No recall shall take place within one (1) year from the date of the official's assumption to office or one (1) year 3 immediately preceding a regular local election. Finally, on February 18, 2000, sensing the urgency of the situation since PRA Resolution No. 1 was not yet acted upon by the COMELEC, the herein petitioners filed the present petition for mandamus to compel respondent COMELEC to resolve and deny immediately Navaro's petition, docketed therein as EM No. 99-006, and in effect to give due course to and implement the said PRA Resolution. The corollary issue in the case at bench is whether or not an elective official who became City Mayor by legal succession can be the subject of a recall election by virtue of a Preparatory Recall Assembly Resolution which was passed or adopted when the said elective official was still the Vice-Mayor. We deny the petition. On March 31, 2000 respondent COMELEC issued and promulgated in EM No. 99-006 a Resolution which denied due course to the subject PRA Resolution No. 1. This development therefore rendered the present petition formandamus moot and academic. The record shows that herein petitioners' counsel of record was furnished copies of the COMELEC's Resolution dated March 31, 2000 by registered mail on April 1, 2000. Anent the corollary issue as to whether or not Mayor Navarro can be the subject of recall election by virtue of Resolution No. 1 of the Preparatory Recall Assembly which was passed when she was still the elected City ViceMayor, the same has become moot and academic. We quote below the pertinent portion of the COMELEC's Resolution dated March 31, 2000 in EM No. 99-006 and to which we agree, to wit: The assumption by legal succession of the petitioner as the new Mayor of Santiago City is a supervening event which rendered the recall proceeding against her moot and academic. A perusal of the said Resolution reveals that the person subject of the recall process is a specific elective official in relation to her specific office. The said resolution is replete with statements, which leave no doubt that the purpose of the assembly was to recall petitioner as Vice Mayor for her official acts as Vice Mayor. The title itself suggests that the recall is intended for the incumbent Vice Mayor of Santiago City. The third paragraph of the resolution recounted " the official acts of City Vice Mayor Navarro that brought forth the loss of confidence in her capacity and fitness to discharge the duties and to perform the functions of her public office." And because of such acts, the assembly "RESOLVED to invoke the rescission of the electoral mandate of the incumbent City Vice Mayor." Clearly, the intent of the PRA as expressed in the said Resolution is to remove the petitioner as Vice Mayor for they already lost their confidence in her by reason of her official acts as such. To recall, then, the petitioner when she is already the incumbent City Mayor is to deviate from the expressed will of the PRA. Having, thus, succeeded to the position of City Mayor, the petitioner 5 was placed beyond the reach of the effects of the PRA Resolution. The specific purpose of the Preparatory Recall Assembly was to remove Amelita S. Navarro as the elected ViceMayor of Santiago City since PRA Resolution No. 1 dated July 12, 1999 expressly states that "…it is hereby resolved to invoke the rescission of the electoral mandate of the incumbent City Vice-Mayor Amelita S. Navarro for loss of confidence through a recall election to be set by the Commission on Election as provided for under Section 6 71 of the Local Government Code of 1991." However, the said PRA Resolution No. 1 is no longer applicable to her inasmuch as she has already vacated the office of Vice-Mayor on October 11, 1999 when she assumed the position of City Mayor of Santiago City. Even if the Preparatory Recall Assembly were to reconvene to adopt another resolution for the recall of Amelita Navarro, this time as Mayor of Santiago City, the same would still not prosper in view of Section 74 (b) of the Local Government Code of 1991 which provides that "No recall shall take place within one (1) year from the date of the official's assumption of office or one (1) year immediately preceding a regular election." There is no more allowable time in the light of that law within which to hold recall elections for that purpose. The then Vice-Mayor Amelita S. Navarro assumed office as Mayor of Santiago City on October 11, 1999. One year after her assumption of office as Mayor will be October 11, 2000 which is already within the one (1) year prohibited period immediately preceding the next regular election in May 2001.
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WHEREFORE, the petition for mandamus is hereby DISMISSED. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 140560 May 4, 2000

JOVITO O. CLAUDIO, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT, COMMISSION ON AUDIT and RICHARD ADVINCULA, respondents.

G.R. No. 140714 May 4, 2000 PREPARATORY RECALL ASSEMBLY OF PASAY CITY, herein represented by its Chairman, RICHARD ADVINCULA, petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT, COMMISSION ON AUDIT and HON. JOVITO O. CLAUDIO, respondents. MENDOZA, J.: These are petitions arising from the proceedings initiated by the Preparatory Recall Assembly of Pasay City (PRA) in the Commission on Elections in E.M. No. 99-005 entitled IN THE MATTER OF THE PREPARATORY RECALL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION NO. 01, S-1999 ADOPTED ON 29 MAY 1999 FOR THE RECALL OF MAYOR JOVITO CLAUDIO OF PASAY CITY. G.R. No. 140560 is a petition for certiorari and prohibition, seeking the nullification of 1 the resolution, dated October 18, 1999, of the COMELEC giving due course to the petition for the recall of petitioner Jovito O. Claudio as mayor of Pasay City. On the other hand, G.R. No. 140714 is a petition formandamus filed by the PRA, represented by its Chair, Richard Advincula, to compel the COMELEC to set the date for the holding of recall elections in Pasay City pursuant to the aforecited resolution of the COMELEC. The facts are as follows: Jovito O. Claudio, petitioner in G.R. No. 140560, was the duly elected mayor of Pasay City in the May 11, 1998 elections. He assumed office on July 1, 1998. Sometime during the second week of May 1999, the chairs of several barangays in Pasay City gathered to discuss the possibility of filing a petition for recall against Mayor Claudio for loss of confidence. On May 19, 1999, at the residence of barangay chair Benjamin Lim, Jr. in Barangay 11, Zone 4, Pasay City, several barangay chairs formed an ad hoc committee for the purpose of convening the PRA. Richard Advincula, private respondent in G.R. No. 140560 and petitioner in G.R. No. 140714, was designated chair. On May 29, 1999, 1,073 members of the PRA composed of barangay chairs, kagawads, and sangguniang kabataan chairs of Pasay City, adopted Resolution No. 01, S-1999, entitled RESOLUTION TO INITIATE THE RECALL OF JOVITO O. CLAUDIO AS MAYOR OF PASAY CITY FOR LOSS OF CONFIDENCE. In a letter dated June 29, 1999, Advincula, as chair of the PRA, invited the Mayor, Vice-Mayor, Station Commander, and thirteen (13) Councilors of Pasay City to witness the formal submission to the Office of the Election Officer on July 2, 1999 of the petition for recall. As scheduled, the petition for recall was filed on July 2, 1999, accompanied by an affidavit of service of the petition on the Office of the City Mayor. Pursuant to the rules of the COMELEC, copies of the petition were posted on the bulletin boards of the local COMELEC office, the City Hall, the Police Department, the public market at Libertad St. and Taft Avenue, and at the entrance of the Sta. Clara Church on P. Burgos St., all in Pasay City. Subsequently, a

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verification of the authenticity of the signatures on the resolution was conducted by Ligaya Salayon, the election officer for Pasay City designated by the COMELEC. Oppositions to the petition were filed by petitioner Jovito O. Claudio, Rev. Ronald Langub, and Roberto L. Angeles, alleging procedural and substantive defects in the petition, to wit: (1) the signatures affixed to the resolution were actually meant to show attendance at the PRA meeting; (2) most of the signatories were only representatives of the parties concerned who were sent there merely to observe the proceedings; (3) the convening of the PRA took place 2 within the one-year prohibited period; (4) the election case, filed by Wenceslao Trinidad in this Court, seeking the annulment of the proclamation of petitioner Claudio as mayor of Pasay City, should first be decided before recall proceedings against petitioner could be filed; and (5) the recall resolution failed to obtain the majority of all the members of the PRA, considering that 10 were actually double entries, 14 were not duly accredited members of the barangays, 40 sangguniang kabataan officials had withdrawn their support, and 60 barangay chairs executed affidavits of retraction. In its resolution of October 18, 1999, the COMELEC granted the petition for recall and dismissed the oppositions against it. On the issue of whether the PRA was constituted by a majority of its members, the COMELEC held that the 1,073 members who attended the May 29, 1999 meeting were more than necessary to constitute the PRA, considering that its records showed the total membership of the PRA was 1,790, while the statistics of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) showed that the total membership of the PRA was 1,876. In either case, since only a majority is required to constitute the PRA, clearly, a majority had been obtained in support of the recall resolution. Based on the verification made by election officer Ligaya Salayon, the COMELEC found the signatures of 958 members of the PRA sufficient. On whether the pendency of the case questioning the proclamation of petitioner was a prejudicial question which must first be decided before any recall election could be held, the COMELEC ruled that it was not and that petitioner was merely using the pendency of the case to delay the recall proceedings. Finally, on whether the petition for recall violated the bar on recall within one year from the elective official's assumption of office, the COMELEC ruled in the negative, holding that recall is a process which starts with the filing of the petition for recall. Since the petition was filed on July 2, 1999, exactly one year and a day after petitioner Claudio's assumption of office, it was held that the petition was filed on time. Hence, these petitions. Oral arguments were held in these cases in Baguio City on April 4, 2000, after which the 3 Court, by the vote of 8 to 6 of its members, resolved to dismiss the petition in G.R. No. 140560 for lack of showing that the COMELEC committed a grave abuse of discretion. On the other hand, the Court unanimously dismissed the petition in G.R. No. 140714 on the ground that the issue raised therein had become moot and academic. We now proceed to explain the grounds for our resolution. In its Resolution No. 3121, dated March 9, 2000, the COMELEC set the date of the recall elections in Pasay City on April 15, 2000. Consequently, the petition for mandamus in G.R. No. 140714 to compel the COMELEC to fix a date for the recall elections in Pasay City is no longer tenable. We are thus left with only petitioner Claudio's action for certiorari and prohibition. The bone of contention in this case is §74 of the Local Government Code (LCG) which provides: Limitations on Recall. — (a) Any elective local official may be the subject of a recall election only once during his term of office for loss of confidence. (b) No recall shall take place within one (1) year from the date of the official's assumption to office or one (1) year immediately preceding a regular local election. As defined at the hearing of these cases on April 4, 2000, the issues are: WHETHER, under Section 74 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. No. 7160) . . . . A. The word "recall" in paragraph (b) covers a process which includes the convening of the Preparatory Recall Assembly and its approval of the recall resolution.
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B. The term "regular local election" in the last clause of paragraph (b) includes the election period for that regular election or simply the date of such election. (1) On Whether the Word "Recall" in Paragraph (b) of §74 of the Local Government Code Includes the Convening of the Preparatory Recall Assembly and the Filing by it of a Recall Resolution. Petitioner contends that the term "recall" in §74(b) refers to a process, in contrast to the term "recall election" found in §74(a), which obviously refers to an election. He claims that "when several barangay chairmen met and convened on May 19, 1999 and unanimously resolved to initiate the recall, followed by the taking of votes by the PRA on May 29, 1999 for the purpose of adopting a resolution "to initiate the recall of Jovito Claudio as Mayor of Pasay City for loss of confidence," the process of recall began" and, since May 29, 1999 was less than a year after he had assumed office, the PRA was illegally convened and all proceedings held thereafter, including the filing of the recall petition on July 2, 1999, were null and void. The COMELEC, on the other hand, maintains that the process of recall starts with the filing of the petition for recall and ends with the conduct of the recall election, and that, since the petition for recall in this case was filed on July 2, 1999, exactly one year and a day after petitioner's assumption of office, the recall was validly initiated outside the one-year prohibited period. Both petitioner Claudio and the COMELEC thus agree that the term "recall" as used in §74 refers to a process. They disagree only as to when the process starts for purposes of the one-year limitation in paragraph (b) of §74. We can agree that recall is a process which begins with the convening of the preparatory recall assembly or the gathering of the signatures at least 25% of the registered voters of a local government unit, and then proceeds to the filing of a recall resolution or petition with the COMELEC, the verification of such resolution or petition, the fixing 5 of the date of the recall election, and the holding of the election on the scheduled date. However, as used in paragraph (b) of §74, "recall" refers to the election itself by means of which voters decide whether they should retain their local official or elect his replacement. Several reasons can be cited in support of this conclusion. First, §74 deals with restrictions on the power of recall. It is in fact entitled "Limitations on Recall." On the other hand, §69 provides that "the power of recall . . . shall be exercised by the registered voters of a local government unit to which the local elective official belongs." Since the power vested on the electorate is not the power to initiate 6 recall proceedings but the power to elect an official into office, the limitations in §74 cannot be deemed to apply to the entire recall proceedings. In other words, the term "recall" in paragraph (b) refers only to the recall election, excluding the convening of the PRA and the filing of a petition for recall with the COMELEC, or the gathering of the signatures of at least 25 % of the voters for a petition for recall. Thus, there may be several PRAs held (as in the case of Bataan Province in 1993) or petitions for recall filed with the COMELEC — there is no legal limit on the number of times such processes may be resorted to. These are merely preliminary steps for the purpose of initiating a recall. The limitations in §74 apply only to the exercise of the power of recall which is vested in the registered voters. It is this — and not merely the preliminary steps required to be taken to initiate a recall — which paragraph (b) of §74 seeks to limit by providing that no recall shall take place within one year from the date of assumption of office of an elective local official. Indeed, this is the thrust of the ruling in Garcia v. COMELEC where two objections were raised against the legality of PRAs: (1) that even the power to initiate recall proceedings is the sole prerogative of the electorate which cannot be delegated to PRAs, and (2) that by vesting this power in a PRA, the law in effect unconstitutionally authorizes it to shorten the term of office of incumbent elective local officials. Both objections were dismissed on the ground that the holding of a PRA is not the recall itself. With respect to the first objection, it was held that it is the power to recall and not the power to initiate recall that the Constitution gave to the people. With respect to the second objection, it was held that a recall resolution "merely sets the stage for the official concerned before the tribunal of the people so he can justify why he should be allowed to continue in office. [But until] the people render their sovereign judgment, the official concerned remains in office . . . ."
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If these preliminary proceedings do not produce a decision by the electorate on whether the local official concerned continues to enjoy the confidence of the people, then, the prohibition in paragraph (b) against the holding of a recall, except one year after the official's assumption of office, cannot apply to such proceedings. The second reason why the term "recall" in paragraph (b) refers to recall election is to be found in the purpose of the limitation itself. There are two limitations in paragraph (b) on the holding of recalls: (1) that no recall shall take place within one year from the date of assumption of office of the official concerned, and (2) that no recall shall take place within one year immediately preceding a regular local election. The purpose of the first limitation is to provide a reasonable basis for judging the performance of an elective local 8 9 official. In the Bower case cited by this Court in Angobung v. COMELEC, it was held that "The only logical reason which we can ascribe for requiring the electors to wait one year before petitioning for a recall election is to prevent premature action on their part in voting to remove a newly elected official before having had sufficient time to evaluate the soundness of his policies and decisions." The one-year limitation was reckoned as of the filing of a petition for recall because the Municipal Code involved in that case expressly provided that "no removal petition shall be filed against any officer or until he has actually held office for at least twelve months." But however the period of prohibition is determined, the principle announced is that the purpose of the limitation is to provide a reasonable basis for evaluating the performance of an elective local official. Hence, in this case, as long as the election is held outside the one-year period, the preliminary proceedings to initiate a recall can be held even before the end of the first year in office of a local official. It cannot be argued that to allow recall proceedings to be initiated before the official concerned has been in office for one-year would be to allow him to be judged without sufficient basis. As already stated, it is not the holding of PRA nor the adoption of recall resolutions that produces a judgment on the performance of the official concerned; it is the vote of the electorate in the election that does. Therefore, as long as the recall election is not held before the official concerned has completed one year in office, he will not be judged on his performance prematurely. Third, to construe the term "recall" in paragraph (b) as including the convening of the PRA for the purpose of discussing the performance in office of elective local officials would be to unduly restrict the constitutional right of speech and of assembly of its members. The people cannot just be asked on the day of the election to decide on the performance of their officials. The crystallization and formation of an informed public opinion takes time. To hold, therefore, that the first limitation in paragraph (b) includes the holding of assemblies for the exchange of ideas and opinions among citizens is to unduly curtail one of the most cherished rights in a free society. Indeed, it is wrong to assume that such assemblies will always eventuate in a recall election. To the contrary, they may result in the expression of confidence in the incumbent. Our esteemed colleague Justice Puno says in his dissent that the purpose of the one-year period in paragraph (b) is to provide the local official concerned a "period of repose" during which "[his] attention should not be distracted by any impediment, especially by disturbance due to political partisanship." Unfortunately, the law cannot really provide for a period of honeymoon or moratorium in politics. From the day an elective official assumes office, his acts become subject to scrutiny and criticism, and it is not always easy to determine when criticism of his performance is politically motivated and when it is not. The only safeguard against the baneful and enervating effects of partisan politics is the good sense and self restraint of the people and its leaders against such shortcomings of our political system. A respite from partisan politics may have the incidental effect of providing respite from partisanship, but that is not really the purpose of the limitation on recall under the law. The limitation is only intended to provide a sufficient basis for evaluating and judging the performance of an elected local official. In any event, it is argued that the judgments of PRAs are not "as politically unassailable as recalls initiated directly by the people." Justice Puno cites the "embarrassing repudiation by the people of [Kaloocan City's] Preparatory Recall Assembly" when, instead of ousting Mayor Rey Malonzo, they reelected him. Two points may be made against this argument. One is that it is no disparagement of the PRA that in the ensuing election the local official whose recall is sought is actually reelected. Laws converting municipalities into cities and providing for the holding of plebiscites during which the question of cityhood is submitted to the people for their approval are not always approved by the people. Yet, no one can say that Congress is not a good judge of the will of the voters in the locality. In the case of recall elections in Kaloocan City, had it been shown that the PRA was resorted to only because those behind the move to

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oust the incumbent mayor failed to obtain the signatures of 25% of the voters of that city to a petition for his recall, there may be some plausibility for the claim that PRAs are not as good a gauge of the people's will as are the 25 % of the voters. Indeed, recalls initiated directly by 25% of the registered voters of a local government unit cannot be more representative of the sentiments of the people than those initiated by PRAs whose members represent the entire electorate in the local government unit. Voters who directly initiate recalls are just as vulnerable to political maneuverings or manipulations as are those composing PRAs. The other point regarding Justice Puno's claim is that the question here is not whether recalls initiated by 25% of the voters are better. The issue is whether the one-year period of limitation in paragraph (b) includes the convening of the PRA. Given that question, will convening the PRA outside this period make it any more representative of the people, as the petition filed by 25% of the registered voters is claimed to be? To sum up, the term "recall" in paragraph (b) refers to the recall election and not to the preliminary proceedings to initiate recall — 1. Because §74 speaks of limitations on "recall" which, according to §69, is a power which shall be exercised by the registered voters of a local government unit. Since the voters do not exercise such right except in an election, it is clear that the initiation of recall proceedings is not prohibited within the one-year period provided in paragraph (b); 2. Because the purpose of the first limitation in paragraph (b) is to provide voters a sufficient basis for judging an elective local official, and final judging is not done until the day of the election; and 3. Because to construe the limitation in paragraph (b) as including the initiation of recall proceedings would unduly curtail freedom of speech and of assembly guaranteed in the Constitution. As the recall election in Pasay City is set on April 15, 2000, more than one year after petitioner assumed office as mayor of that city, we hold that there is no bar to its holding on that date. (2) On Whether the Phrase "Regular Local Election" in the Same Paragraph (b) of §74 of the Local Government Code includes the Election Period for that Regular Election or Simply the Date of Such Election. Petitioner contends, however, that the date set by the COMELEC for the recall election is within the second period of prohibition in paragraph (b). He argues that the phrase "regular local elections" in paragraph (b) does not only mean "the day of the regular local election" which, for the year 2001 is May 14, but the election period as well, which is normally at least forty five (45) days immediately before the day of the election. Hence, he contends that beginning March 30, 2000, no recall election may be held. This contention is untenable. The law is unambiguous in providing that "[n]o recall shall take place within . . . one (1) year immediately preceding a regular local election." Had Congress intended this limitation to refer to the campaign period, which period is 10 defined in the Omnibus Election Code, it could have expressly said so. Moreover, petitioner's interpretation would severely limit the period during which a recall election may be held. Actually, because no recall election may be held until one year after the assumption of office of an elective local official, presumably on June 30 following his election, the free period is only the period from July 1 of the following year to about the middle of May of the succeeding year. This is a period of only nine months and 15 days, more or less. To construe the second limitation in paragraph (b) as including the campaign period would reduce this period to eight months. Such an interpretation must be rejected, because it would devitalize the right of recall which is designed to make local government units "more responsive and accountable."

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Indeed, there is a distinction between election period and campaign period. Under the Omnibus Election 11 Code, unless otherwise fixed by the COMELEC, the election period commences ninety (90) days before the day of the election and ends thirty (30) days thereafter. Thus, to follow petitioner's interpretation that the second limitation in paragraph (b) includes the "election period" would emasculate even more a vital right of the people. To recapitulate the discussion in parts 1 and 2, §74 imposes limitations on the holding of recall elections. First, paragraph (a) prohibits the holding of such election more than once during the term of office of an elective local official. Second, paragraph (b) prohibits the holding of such election within one year from the date the official assumed office. And third, paragraph (b) prohibits the holding of a recall election within one year immediately 12 preceding a regular local election. As succinctly stated in Paras v. COMELEC, "[p]aragraph (b) construed together with paragraph (a) merely designates the period when such elective local official may be subject to recall election, that is, during the second year of office." (3) On Whether the Recall RESOLUTION was Signed by a Majority of the PRA and Duly Verified. Petitioner alleges other grounds for seeking the annulment of the resolution of the COMELEC ordering the holding of a recall election. He contends that a majority of the signatures of the members of the PRA was not obtained because 74 members did not really sign the recall resolution. According to petitioner, the 74 merely signed their names on pages 94-104 of the resolution to signify their attendance and not their concurrence. Petitioner claims that this is shown by the word "Attendance" written by hand at the top of the page on which the signatures of the 74 begin. This contention has no basis. To be sure, this claim is being raised for the first time in this case. It was not raised before the COMELEC, in which the claim made by petitioner was that some of the names in the petition were double entries, that some members had withdrawn their support for the petition, and that Wenceslao Trinidad's pending election protest was a prejudicial question which must first be resolved before the petition for recall could be given due course. The order of the COMELEC embodying the stipulations of the parties and defining the issues to be resolved does not include the issue now being raised by petitioner. Although the word "Attendance" appears at the top of the page, it is apparent that it was written by mistake because it was crossed out by two parallel lines drawn across it. Apparently, it was mistaken for the attendance sheet which is a separate document. It is absurd to believe that the 74 members of the PRA who signed the recall resolution signified their attendance at the meeting twice. It is more probable to believe that they signed pages 94104 to signify their concurrence in the recall resolution of which the pages in question are part. The other point raised by petitioner is that the recall petition filed in the COMELEC was not duly verified, because Atty. Nelson Ng, who notarized it, is not commissioned as notary public for Pasay City but for Makati City. As in the case of the first claim, this issue was not raised before the COMELEC itself. It cannot, therefore, be raised now. WHEREFORE, G.R. No. 140560 is DISMISSED for lack of merit, while the petition in G.R. No. 140714 is DISMISSED for having been rendered moot and academic. SO ORDERED.

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