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1 | Abundo

G.R. No. 201716: JANUARY 08, 2013


MAYOR ABELARDO ABUNDO,
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS
VEGA,Respondents.

SR., Petitioner,
and ERNESTO

v.
R.

FACTS:
For four (4) successive regular elections, namely, the 2001, 2004,
2007 and 2010 national and local elections, Petitioner Abelardo
Abundo, Sr. (Abundo) vied for the position of municipal mayor. In
both the 2001 and 2007 runs, he emerged and was proclaimed as
the winning mayoralty candidate and accordingly served the
corresponding terms as mayor. In the 2004 electoral derby,
however, the municipal board of canvassers initially proclaimed as
winner one Jose Torres (Torres), who, in due time, performed the
functions of the office of mayor. Abundo protested Torres election
and proclamation. Abundo was eventually declared the winner of
the 2004 mayoralty electoral contest, paving the way for his
assumption of office starting May 9, 2006 until the end of the
2004-2007 term on June 30, 2007, or for a period of a little over
one year and one month. Then came the May 10, 2010 elections
where Abundo and Torres again opposed each other. When Abundo
filed his certificate of candidacy for the mayoralty seat relative to
this electoral contest, Torres sought the formers disqualification to
run.
The RTC declared Abundo as ineligible, under the three-term limit
rule, to run in the 2010 elections for the position of, and
necessarily to sit as, mayor. In its Resolution, the Commission on
Elections (COMELEC) Second Division affirmed the decision of
RTC, which affirmed by COMELEC en banc.
ISSUE:
Whether or not Abundo has consecutively served for three terms.
HELD:
The petition is partly meritorious.
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: Involuntary Interruption of Service
The consecutiveness of what otherwise would have been Abundos
three successive, continuous mayorship was effectively broken
during the 2004- 2007 term when he was initially deprived of title
to, and was veritably disallowed to serve and occupy, an office to
which he, after due proceedings, was eventually declared to have
been the rightful choice of the electorate.
The declaration of being the winner in an election protest grants
the local elected official the right to serve the unexpired portion of
the term. Verily, while he was declared winner in the protest for the
mayoralty seat for the 2004-2007 term, Abundos full term has been
substantially reduced by the actual service rendered by his
opponent (Torres). Hence, there was actual involuntary
interruption in the term of Abundo and he cannot be considered to
have served the full 2004-2007 term.
Prior to the finality of the election protest, Abundo did not serve in
the mayors office and, in fact, had no legal right to said position.
During the pendency of the election protest, Abundo ceased from
exercising power or authority. Consequently, the period during
which Abundo was not serving as mayor should be considered as a
rest period or break in his service because prior to the judgment in
the election protest, it was Abundos opponent, Torres, who was
exercising such powers by virtue of the still then valid
proclamation.
Petition is PARTLY GRANTED.
SC Clarifies "Three-Term Limit" Rule, Proclaims Abundo
Winner of 2010 Mayoral Elections in Viga, Catanduanes
Posted: February 7, 2013; By Bianca M. Padilla
The Supreme Court En Banc has partly granted the petition for
certiorari under rule 65 of Abelardo Abundo, Sr., Mayor of Viga,
Catanduanes, setting aside the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) Second Division Resolution dated February 8, 2012,
COMELECs En Banc resolution in EAC (EA) No. A-25-2010
dated May 10, 2012, and the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Virac,
Catanduanes Branch 43s Decision in Election Case No. 55 dated
August 9, 2010, which declared Abundo ineligible to run in the
2010 Mayoral elections of Viga, Catanduanes under the three-term
limit rule.
Abundo ran for the position of Municipal Mayor of Viga,
Catanduanes in the years 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2010. He was
proclaimed winner of the 2001 and 2007 elections. In the 2004
election, however, Jose Torres was proclaimed the winner of the
electoral race and Mayor of Viga, performing the functions of the
office. Abundo protested Torres election and was eventually
declared the winner of the 2004 mayoralty electoral contest. He
assumed office from May 9, 2006 until the end of the 2004-2007
term on June 30, 2007.

As a result of such reversal, the Court declared Abundo eligible for


another term as Mayor to which he was duly elected in the May
2010 elections and immediately reinstated him to such position.
Emeterio M. Tarin and Cesar O. Cervantes were also ordered to
immediately vacate the positions of Mayor and Vice-Mayor of
Viga, Catanduanes, respectively and to revert to their original
positions of Vice-Mayor and first Councilor, respectively, upon
receipt of this Decision, which is immediately executory. The
Court likewise lifted the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) it
issued on July 3, 2012 to restrain the COMELEC from enforcing
the abovementioned resolutions.
As provided for in Section 8, Article X of the 1987
Constitution and Sec. 43(b) of the Local Government Code, the
three-term limit rule constitutes a disqualification to run for an
elective local office when an official has been elected for three
consecutive terms in the same local government post and has fully
served those three consecutive terms.
In the Courts 35-page decision, written by Justice Presbitero J.
Velasco, Jr., it unanimously held that Abundo did not serve three
consecutive terms as Mayor of Viga, Catanduanes due to an actual
involuntary interruption during the 2004-2007 term. This was
because he assumed the mayoralty post only on May 9, 2006 and
served a little over one year and one month only. Thus, the twoyear period which his opponent, Torres, was serving as mayor
should be considered as an interruption, which effectively removed
Abundos case from the ambit of the three-term limit rule, ruled
the Court.
The Court further ruled that the COMELEC erred in
applying Aldovino, Jr. v. Commission on Elections, which held that
service of the unexpired portion of a term by a protestant who is
declared winner in an election protest is considered as service for
one full term within the contemplation of the three-term limit rule
as the doctrine refers to a situation where the elected official is
under preventive suspension and is only temporarily unable to
discharge his functions yet is still entitled to the office as compared
to the situation of Abundo where he did not have title to the office.
The Court emphasized that pending the favorable resolution of
Abundos election protest, he was relegated to being an ordinary
constituent and private citizen since his opponent, as presumptive
victor in the 2004 elections, was occupying the mayoralty seat.
While awaiting the pendency of the election protest, Abundo
ceased from exercising power or authority over the constituents of
Viga and cannot be said to have retained title to the mayoralty
office as he was at that time not the duly proclaimed winner. It
stressed that Abundos case differs from other cases involving the
effects of an election protest because while Abundo was the
winning candidate, he was the one deprived of his right and
opportunity to serve his constitutents.
In his separate opinion, Justice Arturo D. Brion wrote to briefly
expound on the Courts ruling in Aldovino, Jr. v. Commission on
Elections which the COMELEC erroneously relied upon in
affirming the grant of the quo warranto petition against Abundo,
and to express my own views on how our present Decision should
be read in light of other three-term limit cases that have been
decided under a protest case scenario. He stressed that the Court
cannot avoid considering the attendant factual and legal realities,
based on the requirements that Borja established, and has no
choice but to adjust its appreciation of these realities, as may be
necessary.
Justice Brion agreed that the Aldovino ruling relied upon by
COMELEC cannot be used as a basis for the conclusion that there
had been no interruption in the case of Abundo - the eventual
winner who is so recognized only after winning his protest case.
Notably in Aldovino, while preventive suspension is an involuntary
imposition, what it affects is merely the authority to discharge the
functions of an office that the suspended local official continues to
hold the local elective official continues to possess title to his
office while under preventive suspension, so that no interruption of
his term ensues.
After discussing the prevailing jurisprudence cited by the majority
(Ong v. Alegre, Lonzanida v. Commission on Elections, and Borja,
Jr. v. Commission on Elections), Justice Brion pointed out that the
differing factual situations of the cited cases and Abundo that
necessarily gave rise to different perspectives in appreciating the
same legal question, immediately suggest that the Courts ruling in
the cited cases cannot simply be combined nor wholly be bodily
lifted and applied to Abundo. At the simplest, both Lonzanida and
Ong were protestees who faced the same legal reality of losing the
election, although Ong fully served the elected term; for Abundo,
the legal reality is his recognized and declared election victory, In
terms of factual reality, Lonzanida and Abundo may be the same
since they only partially served their term, but this similarity is
fully negated by their differing legal realities with respect to the
element of election. Ong and Abundo, on the other hand, have
differing legal and factual realities; aside from their differing
election results, Ong served the full term, while Abundo only
enjoyed abbreviated term.

2 | Abundo
Based on this analysis, Justice Brion concluded his separate
opinion by stressing that Abundo should not be considered to
have been elected for the full term for purposes of the three-term
limit rule, despite the legal reality that he won the election; as
in Ong, the factual reality should prevail, and that reality is that he
served for less than this full term. Thus, where less than a full term
is served by a winning protestant, no continous and uninterrupted
term should be recognized. This is the view that best serves the
purpose of the three-term limit rule.
Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro joined Justice Brions
separate opinion.
The Court also summarized the prevailing jurisprudence on issues
affecting consecutiveness of terms and involuntary interruption.
Borja, Jr. v. Commission on Elections provides that when a
permanent vacancy occurs in an elective position and the official
merely assumed the position through succession, his service for the
unexpired portion of the term cannot be treated as one full term.
Montebon v. Commission on Elections supplemented this by saying
that if the official runs again for the same position he held rior to
his assumption of the higher office, his succession to said position
is by operation of law and is considered an involuntary severance
or interruption.
On the issue of recall elections, Adormeo v. Commission on
Elections and Socrates v. Commission on Elections held that an
elective official, who has served for three consecutive terms and
who did not seek the elective position for what could be his fourth
trm, but later won in a recall election, had an interruption in the
continuity of the officials servicefor he had become in the interim
a private citizen.

Latasa v. Commission on Elections ruled that the abolition of an


elective office due to the conversion of a municipality to a city
does not, by itself, work to interrupt the incumbent officials
continuity of service.
As mentioned above, Aldovino, Jr. v. Commission on
Elections states that preventive suspension is not a term
interrupting event as the elective officers continued stay and
entitlement to the office remain unaffected during the period of
suspension, although he is barred from exercising the functions of
the office during this period.
Lonzanida v. Commission on Elections and Dizon v. Commission
on Elections continued on to rule that when a candidate is
proclaimed as winner for an elective position and assumes office,
his term is interrupted when he losess in an election protest and is
ousted from office. An interruption for any length of time,
provided the cause is involuntary is sufficient to break the
continuity of service.
Lastly, Ong v. Alegre and Rivera III v. Commission on
Elections declared when an official is defeated in an election
protest and decision becomes final only after the official had
served the full term for the office, then his loss in the election
contest does not constitute an interruption since he has managed to
serve the term from start to finish. His full service should be
counted in the application of term limits because the nullification
of his proclamation came after the expiration of the term. (GR No.
201716, Abundo v. Commission on Elections, January 8, 2013)