SC Rules On Three-Term Limit

By Rey G. Panaligan
January 25, 2013, 8:01pm
MANILA, Philippines --- Less than four months into the May 13 national elections, the Supreme
Court (SC) handed down a decision that clarified the three-term limit imposed by the
Constitution on all local elective officials.
In a unanimous full court decision written by Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., the SC reiterated
its previous ruling that for the disqualification to apply, “ it is not enough that an individual has
served three consecutive terms in an elective local office, he must also have been elected to the
same position for the same number of times.”
The SC also said that an election protest is considered an involuntary interruption in the threeterm limit even if the subject of the protest would finally assume the post after the case is
resolved.
The three-term limit for local elective officials is found in Section 8, Article X of the 1987 as
reiterated in Section 43(b) of Republic Act No. 7160, known as the Local Government Code
(LGC).
The Constitution provides that “the term of office of elective local officials, except barangay
officials... shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive
terms” and that “voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be
considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was
elected.”
The SC revisited its previous rulings on the three-term limit for local elective officials in the
petition filed by Mayor Abelardo Abundo Sr. of Viga, Catanduanes.
Abundo ran for mayor in four successive elections – 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2010. In 2001 and
2007, he emerged winner and assumed the post of mayor.
In the 2004 election, however, Abundo’s rival, Jose Torres, was initially proclaimed winner.
Abundo protested Torres’ proclamation and succeeded in the case until he assumed the
mayoralty position on May 9, 2006 or for a period of a little over one year until June 30, 2007.
In the 2010 election, the rivalry between Abundo and Torres again ensued. Torres filed a
disqualification case against Abundo on the basis of the three-term limit.
On June 16, 2010, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ruled in favor of Abundo who
defeated Torres by 219 votes. He was proclaimed mayor-elect of Viga town.

work to interrupt the incumbent official’s continuity of service. the SC ordered the immediate reinstatement of Abundo to his post as mayor and the reversion of Tarin and Cervantes to their original posts as vice mayor and first councilor of Viga town.e. . but later won in a recall election.” the SC ruled.. then his service for the unexpired portion of the term of the replaced official cannot be treated as one full term as contemplated under the subject constitutional and statutory provision that service cannot be counted n the application of any term limit. and 2007 elections. on July 3. These are: 1. An elective official. 2012 and its en banc on May 10. Vega’s action has almost the same grounds as the disqualification case filed by Torres. by itself. respectively. be considered as one term for purposes of counting the three-term threshold. 2012. In its decision. Both the rulings of Comelec’s second division on February 8. who has served for three consecutive terms and who did not seek the elective position for what could be his fourth term. i. a certain Ernesto Vega filed a quo warranto action against Abundo before the regional trial court (RTC) based in Virac. If the official runs again for the same position he held prior to his assumption of the higher office. in the context of the disqualification rule. Ruling in favor of Abundo’s petition and reversing the decision of the Comelec. For. from the end of the 3rd term up to the recall election. The RTC said that Abundo was ineligible to serve as mayor with a ruling that he had served three terms in the 2001. 2. then his succession to said position is by operation of law and is considered an involuntary severance or interruption. a private citizen. he had become in the interim. the SC said that “the almost two-year period which Abundo’s opponent actually served as mayor is and ought to be considered an involuntary interruption of Abundo’s continuity of service. 2004. the SC also listed down the prevailing jurisprudence on issues affecting the consecutiveness of terms and or involuntary interruption. The abolition of an elective local office due to the conversion of a municipality to a city does not. 2012 affirmed the decision of the RTC prompting Abundo to elevate the issue before the SC. 3.” “An involuntary interrupted term. the same day the SC issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that stopped the implementation of the Comelec’s decision against Abundo.On May 21. With the ruling. 2010. When a permanent vacancy occurs in an elective position and the official merely assumed the position pursuant to the rules on succession under the Local Government Code. had an interruption in the continuity of the official’s service. Vice Mayor Emeterio Tarin and first councilor Cesar Cervantes assumed the post of mayor and vice mayor. cannot.

In 2001 and 2007. in the context of the disqualification rule. Abundo ran for mayor in four successive elections – 2001. The break or interruption need not be for a full term of three years or for the major part of the 3-year term. 2006 or for period of a little over one year until June 30. his term is interrupted when he loses in an election protest and is ousted from office. Juan won and was proclaimed as winner. Ruling in favor of Abundo’s petition and reversing the decision of the Comelec. thus disenabling him from serving what would otherwise be the unexpired portion of his term of office had the protest been dismissed. the SC said that “the almost two-year period which Abundo’s opponent actually served as mayor is and ought to be considered an involuntary interruption of Abundo’s continuity of service. Abundo protested Torres’ proclamation and succeeded in the case until he assumed the mayoralty position on May 9. be considered as one term for purposes of counting the three-term threshold. . Abundo’s rival.“4. Can he run again for mayor in May 2013 election? Yes. 2007. although he is barred from exercising the functions of his office during this period. 2006 or for a period of a little over one year until June 30.” “An involuntary interrupted term. provided the cause is involuntary. Jose ran and won as mayor. Preventive suspension is not a term-interrupting event as the elective officer’s continued stay and entitlement to the office remain unaffected during the period of suspension. In 2007 and 2010 elections. Jose filed an election protest and succeeded in the case until he assumed the mayoralty post on May 9. and 2010. In the 2004 election. the SC said that “the almost two-year period which Abundo’s opponent actually served as mayor is and ought to be considered an involuntary interruption of Abundo’s continuity of service. 5. 2007. Jose and Juan both ran for mayor during 2004 local election. When a candidate is proclaimed as winner for an elective position and assumes office. an interruption for any length of time. 2004. cannot. is sufficient to break the continuity of service.” Ruling in favor of Abundo’s petition and reversing the decision of the Comelec. Jose Torres.” the SC ruled. however. There was involuntary interruption of Jose’s continuity of service when Juan served the two year period as mayor. he emerged winner and assumed the post of mayor. was initially proclaimed winner. 2007.

despite the defeat. When an official is defeated in an election protest and said decision becomes final after said official had served the full term for said office. should be counted in the application of term limits because the nullification of his proclamation came after the expiration of the term. then his loss in the election contest does not constitute an interruption since he has managed to serve the term from start to finish. .6. His full service.

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