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Case Digest Feliciano vs Aquino GR L-10201 09/23/1957 FACTS 1. 2.

Four days after the proclamation, defeated candidate Nicolas Y. Feliciano instituted quo warranto proceedings in the Court of First Instance of Tarlac (Case No. 2021) challenging the eligibility of respondent Aquino on the ground that the latter did not have twerty three (23) years of age at the time of his election. It is uncontested that respondent Aquino became 23 years of age only on November 27,

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4. ISSUE 1. RULING: 1.

Respondent was proclaimed as elected mayor of Concepcion Tarlac. 4 days after the proclamation, petitioner instituted quo warranto proceedings challenging Petitioners eligibility on the ground that respondent was not yet 23 years old at the time of his election. Respondent claimed that age requirement only refers to the age of the time of assumption of office. He appealed the existence of a semi-colon, converted into a comma in the 1951 Revised Administrative Code does not require him to possess the remaining qualifications at the time of election but rather at the time of assumption of office provided that he had fulfilled the 1st 2 requirements. Lower Court ruled in favor of the petitioner. Hence the petition.

1955, nineteen (19) days after the elections were held, and sixteen (16) days after the canvassers proclaim him Mayor-elect.

The court below, relying on section 2174 of the Administrative Code, declared Aquino's election unlawful and illegal, and enjoined him from assuming office. Contending that the 23-year age requirement applied only to the assumption of office (in this case on January 1, 1956) and not to his eligibility, respondent Aquino appealed to this Court.

Whether or not the proclamation of respondent as elected mayor is correct

The controversy revolves around sec. 2174 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 (Act 2711), reading as follows:

The primary rule of statutory construction that punctuation marks cannot be disregarded unless there is reason to do to the contrary. Punctuation marks are aids of law degree in interpreting the language of a statute and can never control against the intelligible meaning of written words. No reason is shown why, after plainly and unequivocally requiring that candidates for all other elective offices should possess the age qualification "at the time of the election", the law should suddenly change the requirement in the case of municipal officers. No argument is needed to show that where the candidate is mentioned as eligible or ineligible in the said section taking part in the election is meant, not capacity to assume office. Decision of the lower court is affirmed and the election of respondent is declared unlawful and illegal.

"Sec. 2174. Qualifications of Elective Municipal Officer. - An elective municipal officer must, at the time of the election, be a qualified voter in his municipality and must have been resident therein for at least one year; he must be loyal to the United States 1and not less than twenty-three years of age. He must also be able to read and write intelligently either Spanish, English or the local dialect."

Appellant avers that the phraseology of the section and the existence of a semi-colon (;) after the first two requirements (improperly converted into a comma (,) in the 1951 edition of the Revised Administrative Code) proves that while the candidate must be a qualified voter and a resident at the

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila [ G. R. No. L-10201, September 23, 1957 ]

time of the election, he need not possess the remaining qualifications until he assumes the office; that appellant was chosen by an overwhelming majority of his constituents and that the evident will of the electorate was thwarted by the judgment appealed from.

In our opinion, the spirit of the law, as well as the natural and obvious sense of section 2174,is that the NICOLAS Y. FELICIANO, PETITIONER-APPELLEE, VS. BENIGNO S. AQUINO, JR., RESPONDENTAPPELLANT. candidate for a municipal elective office must be not less than 23 years of age at the time the election is held. The section only makes mention of this time: it refers to no other. And this interpretation of the section aforementioned is in harmony with the legal requirements for other elective offices, from DECISION REYES, J.B.L., J.: On November 11, 1955, the respondent-appellant Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., was proclaimed elected to the position of Mayor of Concepcion, Tarlac, as a result of the elections held on November 8 of that year. President of the Republic to provincial officers. "(a) As to President and Vice-President. No person may be elected to the office of President or Vice-President, unless he be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a qualified voter, forty years of age or over, and has been a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately pre- ceding the election. Constitution of the Philippines. Art. VII. Sec. 3.

dialect: Provided. That a personineligible for office by reason of nonpayment of taxes who is elected to (b) As to Senator. No person shall be a Senator unless he be a natural-born citizen' of the Philippines and, at the time of his election, is at least thirty-five years of age, a qualified elector, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately prior to his election. Constitution of the Philippines. Art. VI. Sec. 4. Unless fully pardoned, no person who has been convicted of a crime which is punishable by imprisonment for two years, or more shall hold any public office and no person disqualified from holding (c) As to Member of the House of Representatives. No person shall be a Member of the House of Representatives unless he be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, at the time of his election, is at least twenty-five years of age, a qualified elector, and a resident of the province in which he is chosen for not less than one year immediately prior to his election. Constitution of the Philippines. Art. VI, Sec. 7. The official acts of a person who is elected and assumes office when ineligible thereto shall not be invalid, but such office shall be vacated in the manner following dmmediately upon discovery of such ineligibility." (Emphasis supplied) (d) As to provincial officer. An elective provincial officer must be a citizen of the Philippines and, at the time of his election, a qualified elector in the province, a bona fide resident therein for at least one year prior to the election, is loyal to the Republic, and not less than twenty-five years of age. Secs. 2070. 2071. Revised Adm. Code." The text just quoted is clear in requiring the candidate to owe allegiance to the United States at the time of the election, since this requisite came before the semi-colon. In substituting for it the phrase "he must be loyal to the United States" in sec. 2174 of Act 2711, and placing this condition after the semi-colon, it is scarcely arguable that the law intended to permit the election of disloyal persons, provided they took an oath of loyalty before assuming office. And if this be clearly improbable, why should the semi-colon No reason is shown why, after plainly and inequivocably requiring that candidates for all other elective offices should possess the age qualification "at the time of the election", the law should suddenly change the requirement in the case of municipal officers. And in view of the express reference to the time of the election in the first part of sec. 2174 (in requiring the candidate to possess the voting and residence qualifications), the least that can be said is that if the Legislature intended to refer the rest of the requirements to the time of assuming office, then it would have said so expressly, instead of leaving the matter open to confusion and doubt. For it can not be gainsaid that the elaborate specification of the various conditions that a candidate must possess is motivated by a desire to avoid conflicting interpretations; and with such intent in view, it is inconceivable that the lawmakers should have considered that a semi-colon would be sufficient to refer the loyalty and age requirements to the time of assuming office, without words to that effect, when the voting and residence conditions are expressly required as of the time of the election. The appellant's case is built exclusively upon this semi-colon that separates the voting and residence requirements on the one hand and the loyalty and age requirements on the other. He argues that the semi-colon, in lieu of a comma, indicates that the last two conditions need not be present at the time of the election. We deem this reliance upon punctuation altogether too shallow a foundation upon which to rest a conclusion that would upset the obvious pattern of the Constitution and the laws, of requiring candidates to possess the requisite age at the time of the election, without any cogent reason to justify departure from such requirement in the case of municipal offices. And as already pointed out, had the legislators intended to radically alter the time when the loyalty and statutory age must be possessed, they would have done so more clearly than by the simple recourse to a semi-colon. assume such overwhelming importance in connection with the age requirement, as to nullify the common antecedent, "at the time of the election"? public office by the sentence of a cburt or under the provisions of Act Numbered Eleven hundred and twenty-six shall be eligible to hold.public office during the term of his disqualification. any office may remove such ineligibility by the payment of the taxes before the date fixed by-law for assuming office, but not afterwards.

And such haphazard formulation of the rule becomes the more unlikely when we consider that the drafters of section 2174 of the Administrative Code had before them, as immediate precedent, section 12: of Act 1582 (of the Philippine Legislature) that clearly differentiated eligibility and holding office:

The Supreme Court of the United States is on record as holding that "punctuation is most fallible standard by which to interpret a writing" (Ewing vs. Burent, 11 Pet. 41, 9 L. Ed. 624), and that "Punctuation marks are no part of a statute; and to determine its intent the court in construing it will-

"An elective municipal officer must have been, at the time of the election, a qualified voter and resident in the municipality for at least one year, owing allegiance to the United States; he must be not less, than twenty-three years of age, and be able to read and write intelligently either Spanish, English, or the local

disregard punctuation or will repunctuate if that be necessary, in order to arrive at the natural meaning of the words employed. (U.S. vst Shreveport Grain and Elevator Co., 287 U.S. 77, 77 L. Ed. 175; Hammock vs. Farmers' Loan and Trust Co., 105 U.S. 77, 26 L.Ed. 1111)."

of the election, if only for the reason that he could not be a qualified voter under said Act unless he was Professor Sutherland,in his classic work on Statutory Construction, (Vol. 2, pp. 479-4&0, 3rd Ed.) says: "Courts have indicated that punctuation will not be given too great consideration in interpretation because it results from the whim of printer or proofreader. The author's experience confirms his conclusion. Printters are prone to use their own style manuals and to make all copy conform to it. When a bill is repunctuated and printed to conform to a manual it is usually too late and too risky to resubmit the bill to the legislature for the correction of the changes unless they are particularly flagrant. Thus often the punctuation becomes that of the printer rather than of the legislature.2 (Sutherland, Statutory Construction, 3rd Ed., Vol. 2, pp. 479-430" It is true that the voting age has been reduced from 23 to 21 years. But this reduction is of no importance, since neither sec. 12 of;Act 1582 nor sec. 2174 of Act 2711 made the candidate's age requirement dependent on the voting age. Then, again, the Congressional Record of the discussions on the Election Code, with respect to what was intended to be covered by the candidate's certificate of candidacy, and the requirement that he should certify to his eligibility to the office sought, clearly shows that the term "eligibility" included the attainment of the age required by law; so that this requisite was Other courts have expressed the same opinion: Thus, in Holmes vs. Phoenix Ins. Co., 47 L.R.A., 308, 9S Fed. 240, the court said: "Punctuation is no part of the English language. The Supreme Court says that it is a most fallible guide by which to interpret a writing" Ewing v. Burent (1837) 11 Pet. (U.S.) 41, 54, 9 L.Ed. 624, 630. The Century Dictionary tells us, what,is common knowledge, that tthere is still much uncertainty and arbitrariness in punctuation.' It is always subordinate to the text, and is never allowed to control its meaning." considered a condition precedent to the valid election of the particular candidate and not a prerequisite to his assuming office after being elected. 23 years old. This being the case, it necessarily follows that when sec. 2174 of Act 2711 reproduced the requirements of Act 1582, it must have intended also that the requiredage of 23 should be attained at the time of the election, as demanded by the model legislation.

"Mr. Raola. Is not the gentleman aware of the provision of the Constitution with respect to persons running for a national office, particularly with respect to candidates for the House of Representatives? I refer to Section 7, Article VI, of the Constitution' which provides that no person shall be a Member of the House of Representatives unless he be a natural born citizen at least 25 years of age, and a resident of the province wherein he launches his candidacy for not less than one year. My question is, is it

And in Olivet vs. Whiteworth, 82 Md. 258, 33 Atl. 723, the court stated: "That punctuation alone is not necessarily conclusive must be conceded, as it is well known that draftsmen of legal instruments frequently ignore all the rules on that subject, to which grammarians and rhetoricians attach great importance. The most learned and accomplished lawyers oftentimes pay .but little attention to it in their preparation of legal documents. This may be because the copyist or the writer to whom the paper is dictated has not followed the directions or intonations of the author, or it may be because it is known that the cases are few that are determined by punctuation, or for other reasons. But when, where is an ambiguity which may be wholly or partially solved by it, provided the punctuation itself has not created the ambiguity, it can be considered (Weatherly v. Mister (1874) 39 Md. 629; Black v. Herring (1894) 79 Md. 149, 22 Atl. 1063), but it can never be, permitted to over turn, what seems the plain meaning of the whole instrument."

necessary that the other qualifications should also be stated here in the certificate of candidacy, in view of the fact that the amendment of the Committee makes the allegation of residence so necessary? In other words, shall we not also allege in the certificate of candidacy for national office that the candidate is a natural born citizen, 25 years of age, and a resident of the province wherein he launches his candidacy for at least one year?

Mr. Laurels The provision of the Constitution with respect to,the qualifications of candidates for Senators and Representatives appearing in Sections 4 and 7 of Article VI are naturally to be considered. The gentleman will notice, however, that in the proposed,law, in Section 30 of this bill, there is a provision to the effect that the candidate must state that he is eligible for the office. So that a person cannot be a candidate unless he possesses the qualifications prescribed not only by law but-alsoand more important still by the Constitution. As a matter of fact, my personal opinion is that it would.be enough to simply state in the certificate of candidacy that a person is eligible for the office. I believe that it will not be necessary to insert the qualifications prescribed by the Constitution with respect to certain constitutional officers; it is understood that they are required, and they have been complied with, and the word "eligible" covers everything.

In the case at bar there are additional reasons for dis~ regarding the semi-colon which the appellant views with a respect bordering on fetishism. A comparison of the texts of sec. 2174 of Act 2711, and sec. 12 of Act 1582 (both heretofore reproduced),shows beyond doubt that the former is a practical reproduction of the qualifications demanded by the latter of municipal elective officials; wherefore, we may conclude that the intent of both provisions is one and the same. Now, it is incontestable that, under Act 1582, the candidate to an elective municipal position must be twenty-three years of age at the time

Mr. Raola. But when we speak of the word "eligible" does not the gentleman feel that the inclusion of "residence" is also a surplusage, in view of the fact that the Constitution also provides for that?

Mr. Laurel. The idea is to generalize. lour Committee might possibly include all the qualifications for particular offices, but that would make the section too long, not to say unnecessarily long.

That the term "eligibility" as used in the Election law has reference to the election time, and not to the commencement of the term of office is further confirmed by seetion 31 of said law, about certificates of candidacy. It says:

Mr. Raola." Mr. Speaker, I am perfectly in accord and satisfied with the explanation of the gentleman from Batangas. yield? "SEC. 31. Certificate of Candidagy for oniv one office. - No person shall be eligible unless, within the time fixed by law, he files a duly signed and sworn certificate of candidacy, nor shall any person be eligible for Mr. Primicias. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield. more than one office to be filled in the same election, and, if he files certificates of candidacy for more than one office, eh 'shall not be eligible for any of them." The Speaker. The gentleman may yield, if he so desires. No argument is needed to show that where the candidate is mentioned as "eligible" or "ineligible" in this Mr. Laurel. I yield. section, taking part in the election is meant, and not capacity to assume office. No reason is shown why the word "eligibility" should have different meanings in the law. Whatever the weight of American Mr. Primicias. The gentleman has just stated that this proviso sought to be inserted by the proposed amendment is also in the text of the old law. Is the gentleman sure of that? authority should be, the stark fact is that "eligibility" in our law has its own meaning, and refers to possession of qualifications at the time of the election.

Mr. Laurel. I am sure of it because I checked it up. It appears in Section 27 of the Election Code which is Commonwealth Act 357; in fact, I have a copy of the Election Code here.

And this view is entirely in accord also with the requirement of the Election Code, sec. 173, that "when a person who is not eligible is elected to a provincial or municipal office, his right to the office must be contested by quo warranto proceedings within one week after the proclamation of his election. Nothing

Mr. Primicias. But what is the use of that proposed amendment if at any rate, residence is included in the word "eligible"? Would not that be a redundancy?

in this section indicates that the age requirement is not included. If the contest must be filed within one week after proclamation, it must be because by that time it can be determined whether or not the candidate has complied with the age and other requirements of the law. Were we to follow appellant's

Mr. Laurel. The idea is simply to keep intact the provisions of the,old law unless they are not good. However, personally, I would not mind the elimination of that proviso.

contention that he needs to be twenty three only upon assuming office, obviously his compliance with the age requirement can not be determined beforehand; nor could a successful candidate be ever contested for disloyalty or non-age, because he can always defer his assumption of the office until he

Mr, Primicias. My point is, if we put residence there, why do we not put also the other qualifications, such as being a natural born citizen and the age required by law or by the Constitution?

attains the requisite age or is ready to take a loyalty oath.

On this point, the Supreme Court has remarked in Topaclo vs. Paredes, 23 Phil. 23$, 252: Mr. Laurel. The trouble is that, with respect to the qualification that a candidate must be a natural born citizen, this requirement affects only a few officers, like the President, the Vice-President, Senators and Representatives, "It is possible to finally pass upon the eligibility of a candidate for such elective offices at any time prior to the date upon which he is to assume office? It is plain that if the candidate can not qualify on election day as to length of residence, age, or other requirement which can only be met by time, he would be ineligible to hold office and the court or any other deciding power cduid! very well decide Mr. Primicias. How about the age requirement? immediately after the election that he was ineligible."

Mr. Laurel. We simply want to put provisions which have a general application. With respect to the agreement quirement the ages required for different offices also vary, andthat qualification is also covered by the word "eligible"." (Congressional Record, House of Representatives, May 13, 1947, No. 52, pp. 1145-1146) (Emphasis supplied)

It is true that the Court was discussing Act 1582 in the particular case; but as already pointed out, the qualifications required being identical to those demanded by the present law, the passage quoted is perfectly applicable to the case now before us.

Appellant cites the case of Morrero vs. Bocar as authority in his favor. We think it is not, for the reason that the decision was there rendered under the provisions of Art. VII, sec. 2 of the Constitution as it stood before the 1941 amendments,, At the time Bocar was elected, the constitutional provision required that"No person shall be a member of the National Assembly unless he has been five years a citizen, is at least 30 years of age, and at the time of his election, a qualified elector and a resident of the province",

before or after elecion. The majority of the Court chose to interpret the law liberally, by giving the pardon full rehabilitating power, regardless of the time it was issued, because "an absolute pardon not only blots out the crime committed but removes all disabisalities resulting from the conviction". But since that ratio decidendi of the Pelobello case does not apply to a candidate's age, and there is no authority for granting retroactive operation to the attainment of a certain age (which would be absurd), plainly the Pelobello decision does not support appellant Aquino's case.

Appellant argues, as a last resort, that the construction to be given to see, 2174 of the Administrative so that it could be plausibly argued and held that the phrase "at the time of his election" qualified only the requirements of residence and electoral capacity, since only these two conditions followed the qualifying words; while the age requirement (which preceded the words "and at the time of his election") could not be restricted by that expression, but should be construed as a qualification only for assuming membership in the Assembly. But the Constitution was amended subsequently to the Bocar case, and now reads: "unless he be a natural born citizen of the Philippines and, at the time of his election, is at least twentyfive years of age," etc.In conclusion, we are of the opinion that, as in the case of candidates for elective provincial and national The interversion of the phrases "at the time of his election" and "at least twenty-five years of age" by placing the first requirement ahead of the latter, makes it clear that now the age requirement must be possessed by the candidate at election time, precisely in line with the requirement for other offices. Wherefore, the Bocar decision could not be maintained under the present Constitution. And precisely section 2174 of the Administrative Code, covering appellant's case, is constructed in a manner identical to the present constitutional and legal requirements for national and provincial offices since the words "at the time of the election" precede, and therefore, modify, all qualifications set forth in the law after such words, including the age requirement. Wherefore, the judgment appealed from is affirmed, with costs against appellant. So ordered. offices, a candidate for an elective municipal office must have, in order to be eligible, at least twenty three years of age at the time the election is held. In so holding, the court below committed no error. Code (Act 2711) should be in harmony with the popular will, reflected in his overwhelming victory at the polls. We do not believe that it was ever the legislative intent to make the application of the law dependent upon the vagaries of the election results. Appellant's argument simply amounts to this that because he won, the 23 years of age requirement should be held as required by law only at the time of the candidate's assumption of office. Logically, the sequel of this argument would be that if appellant had lost, the age requirement would be demanded by law as of thu time of the election. And yet the meaning of the statute must have been fixed sinee the time it was enacted in 1917 long before appellant was born.

Pelobello vs. Palatino, 72 Phil. 441, held that a disqualification from being a voter, due to a criminal conviction at the time of the election, was retroactively wiped out by a plenary pardon granted after the election. Such retroactive operation is in line with the general doctrine as to the effect of pardons; and moreover is supported by section 99 of the Election Law: "Sec. 99. Disqualifications. - The following persons shall,not be qualified to vote: (a) Any person who has been sentenced by final judg- ment to suffer one year or more of imprisonment, such disability not having been removed by plenary pardon."

It will be noticed that the law does not limit the time i when the pardon should be issued, whether