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ELSIE S. CAUSINGv.

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS AND HERNAN
D. BIRON, SR. G.R. No. 199139, 09 September 2014, EN BANC,
(BERSAMIN, J.)

The only personnel movements prohibited by COMELEC Resolution No. 8737 are
transfer and detail. Transfer is defined in the Resolution as “any personnel movement from one
government agency to another or from one department, division, geographical unit or subdivision
of a
government agency to another with or without the issuance of an appointment”; while detail as
defined in the Administrative Code of 1987 is the movement of an employee from one agency to
another without the issuance of an appointment.

Elsie Causing assumed office as the Municipal Civil Registrar of Barotac
Nuevo, Iloilo. Mayor Biron issued Memorandum No. 12, Series of 2010 (Office
Order No. 12), commanding for the detailing of Causing at the Office of the
Municipal Mayor.

Causing filed the complaint claiming that issuance made by Mayor Biron
ordering her detail to the Office of the Municipal Mayor, being made within the
election period and without prior authority from the COMELEC, was illegal and it
violated of Section 1, Paragraph A, No. 1, in connection with Section 6 (B) of
COMELEC Resolution No. 8737. Mayor Biron countered that the purpose of
transferring the office of Causing was to closely supervise the performance of her
functions after complaints regarding her negative behavior in dealing with her coemployees
and
with
the
public
transacting
business
in
her
office.

The Provincial Election Supervisor recommended the dismissal of the
complaint-affidavit for lack of probable cause. COMELEC En Banc affirmed the
findings and recommendation.

ISSUE:

Is the relocation of Causing by Mayor Biron during the election period from
her office as the Municipal Civil Registrar to the Office of the Mayor constitute
a prohibited act under the Omnibus Election Code and the relevant Resolution of
the COMELEC?

RULING:

No. Reassignment was not prohibited by the Omnibus Election Code there
was no probable cause to criminally charge Mayor Biron with the violation of

moreover. and the denial of the substitution of Kimberly by Olivia. As such. Olivia countered that although Kimberly may not be qualified to run for election because of her age. the COC that Kimberly filed was invalid because it contained a material misrepresentation relating to her eligibility for the office she seeks to be elected to. thus. that by itself. Every reasonable doubt must then be resolved in favor of the accused. While she may encounter difficulty in performing her duties as a supervisor as she is not physically near her staff. 1.R. No. does not mean that she has lost supervision over them. Vol. J. albeit doing her work physically outside of her usual work station. or that she will be twenty (20) years of age on the day of the elections. Her COC stated that she was born on 29 October 1992. Instead of attending the hearing. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS G. LIX. COMELEC argued that Olivia cannot substitute Kimberly as the latter was never an official candidate because she was not eligible for the post by reason of her age. It is a basic rule of statutory construction that penal statutes are to be liberally construed in favor of the accused. Kimberly was summoned to a clarificatory hearing due to the age qualification. City of Taguig for the 2013 Elections. it cannot be denied that she still filed a valid COC and was. On October 2012. No. in contravention of the requirement that one must be at least twenty-three (23) years of age on the day of the elections. an official candidate who may be substituted. Olivia also claimed that there was no ground to cancel or deny Kimberly’s COC on the ground of lack of qualification and material misrepresentation because she did not . Causing is not stripped of her functions as Municipal Civil Registrar. The question of eligibility or ineligibility of a candidate is thus beyond the usual and proper cognizance of the COMELEC. Simultaneously. The COMELEC rendered a decision ordering the cancellation of Kimberly’s COC. Mayor Biron was sought to be charged with an election offense punishable under Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code. She is also not deprived of her supervisory function over the staff as she continues to review their work and signs documents they prepared. she is still the MCR. Moreover. Causing’s tooliteral understanding of transfer should not hold sway because the provisions involved here were criminal in nature.the Omnibus Election Code. Kimberly opted to file a sworn Statement of Withdrawal of COC. 02 December 2014. OLIVIA DA SILVA CERAFICA v. (Perez. and that. She was merely required to physically report to the Mayor’s Office and perform her functions as Municipal Civil Registrar therein. 205136.) COMELEC has the ministerial duty to receive and acknowledge receipt of COCs. May 2015 The movement involving Causing did not equate to either a transfer or a detail within the contemplation of the law if Mayor Biron only physically transferred her office area from its old location to the Office of the Mayor. UST Law Review. however. Kimberly filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) for Councilor. EN BANC. Olivia filed her own COC as a substitute of Kimberly. Definitely.

No. or that she will be twenty (20) years of age on the day of the elections. Instead of attending the hearing. could not be considered to have filed a valid COC and.misrepresent her birth date to qualify for the position of councilor. (Perez. No. Olivia belongs to and is certified to by the same political party to which Kimberly belongs.) Blg. an official candidate who may be substituted. J. Kimberly was summoned to a clarificatory hearing due to the age qualification. On October 2012. As such. thus. 881. which is precisely why she withdrew her COC upon learning that she was not qualified. The question of eligibility or ineligibility of a candidate is thus beyond the usual and proper cognizance of the COMELEC. Olivia also . First. Her COC stated that she was born on 29 October 1992.P. the COC that Kimberly filed was invalid because it contained a material misrepresentation relating to her eligibility for the office she seeks to be elected to. there was a valid withdrawal of Kimberly’s COC after the last day for the filing of COCs. Vol. 78. and third. UST Law Review.R. and as there was no deliberate attempt to mislead the electorate. The COMELEC rendered a decision ordering the cancellation of Kimberly’s COC. Simultaneously.) COMELEC has the ministerial duty to receive and acknowledge receipt of COCs. LIX. we find that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion. in declaring that Kimberly. second. thus. OLIVIA DA SILVA CERAFICA v. Kimberly opted to file a sworn Statement of Withdrawal of COC. being under age. City of Taguig for the 2013 Elections. 02 December 2014. Batas Pambansa (B. Olivia filed her own COC as a substitute of Kimberly. ISSUE: Was there a valid substitution? RULING: Yes. 1. Kimberly filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) for Councilor. Olivia filed her COC not later than mid-day of election day. COMELEC argued that Olivia cannot substitute Kimberly as the latter was never an official candidate because she was not eligible for the post by reason of her age. Olivia countered that although Kimberly may not be qualified to run for election because of her age. 205136. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS G. The question of eligibility or ineligibility of a candidate is thus beyond the usual and proper cognizance of the COMELEC. it cannot be denied that she still filed a valid COC and was. subject to its authority over nuisance candidates and its power to deny due course to or cancel COCs under Sec. could not be validly substituted by Olivia. moreover. in contravention of the requirement that one must be at least twenty-three (23) years of age on the day of the elections. Firstly. EN BANC. the COMELEC has the ministerial duty to receive and acknowledge receipt of COCs. May 2015 The next question then is whether Olivia complied with all of the requirements for a valid substitution. we answer in the affirmative. and that. and the denial of the substitution of Kimberly by Olivia.

The question of eligibility or ineligibility of a candidate is thus beyond the usual and proper cognizance of the COMELEC. The Supreme Court again dismissed the oppositions for being moot and academic as Estrada lost the presidential bid. subject to its authority over nuisance candidates and its power to deny due course to or cancel COCs under Sec. . COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS AND JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA G. the Sandiganbayan convicted former President Estrada for the crime of plunder. Petitioner Risos-Vidal filed a Petition for Disqualification against former President Estrada. the Court reiterates its earlier statement that the pardon granted to former President Estrada admits no other interpretation other than to mean that. upon acceptance of the pardon granted to him. being under age. In 2007. First. thus. and (ii) the pardon granted to former President Estrada by former President Arroyo restored the former’s right to vote and be voted for a public office. J. he regained his FULL civil and political rights – including the right to seek elective office. in declaring that Kimberly. ALICIA RISOS-VIDAL v.) Thus. there was a valid withdrawal of Kimberly’s COC after the last day for the filing of COCs. could not be validly substituted by Olivia. in relation to Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC).claimed that there was no ground to cancel or deny Kimberly’s COC on the ground of lack of qualification and material misrepresentation because she did not misrepresent her birth date to qualify for the position of councilor. Olivia filed her COC not later than mid-day of election day. could not be considered to have filed a valid COC and. and third. 78. 20666. Batas Pambansa (B.P. former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo extended executive clemency by way of pardon to former President Estrada. The COMELEC took cognizance of the previous resolutions as regards former President Estrada’s right to seek public office and dismissed the petition. former President Estrada filed a Certificate of Candidacy for the position of Mayor of the City of Manila. we answer in the affirmative. and as there was no deliberate attempt to mislead the electorate. Hence. second.R. Subsequently. Former President Estrada filed a Certificate of Candidacy for the position of President in the 2010 Elections. relying on Section 40 of the Local Government Code (LGC). The next question then is whether Olivia complied with all of the requirements for a valid substitution. which earned three oppositions in the COMELEC. the COMELEC has the ministerial duty to receive and acknowledge receipt of COCs. all three petitions were effectively dismissed on the uniform grounds that (i) the Constitutional proscription on reelection applies only to a sitting president. ATTY. Thereafter. we find that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion. However. EN BANC (Leonardo-De Castro. which the latter received and accepted. Firstly. ISSUE: Was there a valid substitution? RULING: Yes. 881.) Blg. 21 January 2015. Olivia belongs to and is certified to by the same political party to which Kimberly belongs. which is precisely why she withdrew her COC upon learning that she was not qualified. the right to seek public elective office is unequivocally considered as a political right. from both law and jurisprudence. No.

the elections were conducted and former President Estrada was proclaimed as the duly elected Mayor of the City of Manila. The proper interpretation of Articles36 and 41 of the Revised Penal Code. the President may grant reprieves. He shall also have the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress. rules. along with other acts of executiveclemency. being the second placer. commutations. Lim. after conviction by final judgment. or the right of suffrage. No pardon. he (Lim) should be declared the rightful winning candidate for the position of Mayor of the City of Manila. (2) cases that have not yet resulted in a final conviction. or as otherwise provided in this Constitution. specifically Section 19 of Article VII and Section 5 of Article IX-C. it can be argued that any act of Congress by way of statute cannot operate to delimit the pardoning power of the President. and regulations shall be granted by the President without the favorable recommendation of the Commission. Further. 1. to wit: Section 19. Vol. 36. and pardons. amnesty. LIX. Articles 36 and 41 of the Revised Penal Code provides: ART. and remit fines and forfeitures. given that former President Estrada is disqualified to run for and hold public office. parole. The pardoning power of the President cannot be limited by legislative action. Therefore. ISSUE: Is former President Estrada qualified to vote and be voted for in public office as a result of the pardon granted to him by former President Arroyo? UST Law Review. No. its effects. provides that the President of the Philippines possesses the power to grant pardons. and. and (3) cases involving violations of election laws. Pardon. Meanwhile. unless such rights be expressly restored by the terms of the pardon. xxxx Section 5. Subsequently. all the votes obtained by the latter should be declared stray. rules and regulations in which there was no favorable recommendation coming from the COMELEC. moved for leave to intervene in the case. or suspension of sentence for violation of election laws. one of former President Estrada’s opponents for the position of Mayor. May 2015 RULING: Yes. The 1987 Constitution.Risos-Vidal then filed the present petition before the Supreme Court. He claimed that former President Estrada is disqualified to run for and hold public office as the pardon granted to the latter failed to expressly remit his perpetual disqualification. – A pardon shall not work therestoration of the right to hold public office. A pardon shall in no case exempt the culprit from the payment of the civil . Except in cases of impeachment. It is apparent from the foregoing constitutional provisions that the only instances in which the President may not extend pardon remain to be in: (1) impeachment cases.

May 2015 though pardoned as to the principal penalty. – The penalties of reclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal shall carry with them that of civil interdiction for life or during the period of the sentence as the case may be. this fundamental principle must be observed if noncompliance with the form imposed by one branch on a co-equal and coordinate branch will result into the diminution of an exclusive Constitutional prerogative. or Congress for that matter. The sentence that followed. should exercise their respective Constitutional powers or prerogatives cannot be interfered with unless it is so provided in the Constitution. Articles 36 and 41 only clarify the effect of the pardon so decided upon by the President on the penalties imposed in accordance with law. even if we apply Articles 36 and 41 of the Revised Penal Code. instead of indulging in an overly strict interpretation that may serve to impair or diminish the import of the pardon which emanated from the Office of the President and duly signed by the Chief Executive himself/herself. A close scrutiny of the text of the pardon extended to former President Estrada shows that both the principal penalty of reclusion perpetua and its accessory penalties are included in the pardon. LIX. May 2015 Section 40 of the LGC identifies who are disqualified from running for any elective local position. 1. No.indemnity imposed upon him by the sentence. 1. It still recognizes the Presidential prerogative to grant executive clemency and. Hence. Risos-Vidal argues that former President Estrada is . unless the same shall have been expressly remitted in the pardon. to decide to pardon the principal penalty while excluding its accessory penalties or to pardon both. which states that “(h)e is hereby restored to his civil and political rights. The form or manner by which the President. and that of perpetual absolute disqualification which the offender shall suffer even UST Law Review.” expressly remitted the accessory penalties that attached to the principal penalty of reclusion perpetua. Vol.” More so. Vol. it is indubitable from the text of the pardon that the accessory penalties of civil interdiction and perpetual absolute disqualification were expressly remitted together with the principal penalty of reclusion perpetua. xxxx ART. No. Thus. The disqualification of former President Estrada under Section 40 of the LGC in relation to Section 12 of the OEC was removed by his acceptance of the absolute pardon granted to him. The said codal provisions must be construed to harmonize the power of Congress to define crimes and prescribe the penalties for such crimes and the power of the President to grant executive clemency. 41. The first sentence refers to the executive clemency extended to former President Estrada who was convicted by the Sandiganbayan of plunder and imposed a penalty of reclusion perpetua. LIX. specifically. This is the essence of the principle of separation of powers deeply ingrained in our system of government which “ordains that each of the three great branches of government has exclusive cognizance of and is supreme in matters falling within its own constitutionally allocated sphere. The latter is the principal penalty pardoned which relieved him of imprisonment. Articles 36 and 41 of the Revised Penal Code should be construed in a way that will give full effect to the executive clemency granted by the President. For this reason. Reclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal – Their accessory penalties. UST Law Review. All that the said provisions impart is that the pardon of the principal penalty does not carry with it the remission of the accessory penalties unless the President expressly includes said accessory penalties in the pardon.

This Court will be hard put to discern the resultant effect of an eventual infringement. In other words.disqualified under item (a). – x x x unless he has been given plenary pardon or granted amnesty. It is a portion of the electorate telling candidates the conditions for their election. Disqualifications. Section 12 of the OEC provides for similar prohibitions. within two (2) years after serving sentence[. Just like it will be hard put to determine which civil or political rights were restored if the Court were to take the road suggested by Risos-Vidal that the statement “[h]e is hereby restored to his civil and political rights” excludes the restoration of former President Estrada’s rights to suffrage and to hold public office. No. The diocese of Bacolod posted 2 tarpaulins within a private compound housing the San Sebastian Cathedral of Bacolod. what it is simply is a statement of fact or the prevailing situation at the time the executive clemency was granted. the pardon itself does not provide for the attendant consequence of the breach thereof. To the Court. the Court must turn to the only evidence available to it. to run for and hold any public office. This is not speech by candidates or political parties to entice votes. 205728. J. to wit: (a) Those sentenced by final judgment for an offense involving moral turpitude or for an offense punishable by one (1) year or more of imprisonment. They were posted on the front walls of the cathedral within public view. to wit: Section 12. such that the breach of the mentioned commitment not to seek public office will result in a revocation or cancellation of said pardon. Even if the Court were to subscribe to the view that the third Whereas Clause was one of the reasons to grant the pardon. Where the scope and import of the executive clemency extended by the President is in issue. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS G. The aforequoted text of the executive clemency granted does not provide the Court with any guide as to how and where to draw the line between the included and excluded political rights. proviso. THE DIOCESE OF BACOLOD v. nothing therein gives an iota of intimation that the third Whereas Clause is actually a limitation. stipulation or condition on the grant of the pardon. 21 January 2015. and that is the pardon itself. 10354. Section 12 of the OEC provides a legal escape from the prohibition – a plenary pardon or amnesty.] Likewise. This tarpaulin . The second tarpaulin is the subject of the present case. Each tarpaulin was approximately six feet (6') by ten feet (10') in size. From a detailed review of the four corners of said document. The first tarpaulin contains the message “IBASURA RH Law” referring to the Reproductive Health Law of 2012 or Republic Act No. but it provides for an exception. It is the substantive content of the right to suffrage.R. EN BANC (Leonen. inter alia. While it may be apparent that the proscription in Section 40(a) of the LGC is worded in absolute terms. The third preambular clause of the pardon did not operate to make the pardon conditional. whether local or national position. It was not used as a condition to the efficacy or to delimit the scope of the pardon. the latter provision allows any person who has been granted plenary pardon or amnesty after conviction by final judgment of an offense involving moral turpitude.) What is involved in this case is the most sacred of speech forms: expression by the electorate that tends to rouse the public to debate contemporary issues.

political party. Was the regulation applied by the COMELEC a content-neutral regulation? RULING: 1. The tarpaulin was not paid for or posted “in return for consideration” by any candidate. Can the COMELEC regulate the expression made by the Diocese of Bacolod. There was no allegation that the Diocese coordinated with any of the persons named in the tarpaulin regarding its posting. On the other hand. the COMELEC issued an order prompting for the removal of the tarpaulin for being oversized. The Election Officer of Bacolod ordered the removal of the 2nd tarpaulin. and petitioners are neither of the two. May 2015 COMELEC considered the tarpaulin as a campaign material in their issuances. and COMELEC Resolution No. The provisions under the Constitution. 10354. only secondarily — even almost incidentally — will cause the election . this does not necessarily mean it is an election propaganda. 2. Those who voted for the passing of the law were classified by the diocese as comprising “Team Patay. the Fair Election Act. is an advocacy of a social issue that it deeply believes. it communicates the desire of the Diocese that the positions of those who run for a political position on this social issue be determinative of how the public will vote. The tarpaulin was not paid for by any candidate or political party. the latter being private citizens? 2. taken as a whole. The Diocese likewise assails that the tarpaulins are beyond the regulatory powers of the COMELEC regarding election materials since they are neither candidates nor belonging to any political party. Vol. YES. The Diocese assailed the said order of the COMELEC for being violative of their constitutional right to freedom of expression and that it is a violation of the separation of the state and the church. or “(Pro-RH) Team Patay” with an “X” mark. COMELEC had no legal basis to regulate expressions made by private citizens. NO. Did the COMELEC order violate the constitutional right of the Diocese of Bacolod to freedom of speech and expression? 3.contains the heading “Conscience Vote” and lists candidates as either “(Anti-RH) Team Buhay” with a check mark. 1. LIX. UST Law Review. The electoral candidates were classified according to their vote on the adoption of Republic Act No. otherwise known as the RH Law. The message of the Diocese in this case will certainly not be what candidates and political parties will carry in their election posters or media ads. Claiming it to be an election propaganda. While the tarpaulin may influence the success or failure of the named candidates and political parties. petitioners posted the tarpaulin as part of their advocacy against the RH Law. It primarily advocates a stand on a social issue. 9615 regulating the posting of campaign materials only apply to candidates and political parties. The regulation is a violation of the constitutional guarantee of free speech. Through rhetorical devices. or party-list group. The message of the Diocese. No.” while those who voted against it form “Team Buhay”. ISSUES: 1.

On the second requirement.” and it is subject only to the intermediate approach.or non-election of a candidate. not only must the governmental interest be important or substantial. persuade. . It seeks to effectively communicate a greater purpose. 3. it is not within the constitutional powers of the COMELEC to regulate the tarpaulin. place. Nothing is more thoroughly democratic than to have the high-and-mighty lampooned and spoofed. however. [3] if the governmental interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression. As discussed earlier. Size limitations during elections hit at a core part of expression. The tarpaulin caricatures political parties and parodies the intention of those in the list. private and government alike.” Northrop Frye. A content-neutral government regulation is sufficiently justified: [1] if it is within the constitutional power of the Government. It is a specie of expression protected by our fundamental law. May 2015 Embedded in the tarpaulin. are opinions expressed by Diocese. it must also be compelling as to justify the restrictions made. The third requisite is likewise lacking. analogy. 1. The court looks not only at the legislative intent or motive in imposing the . LIX. often used for “political and social criticism because it tears down facades. well known in this literary field. the list of “Team Patay” is juxtaposed with the list of “Team Buhay” that further emphasizes the theme of its author: Reproductive health is an important marker for the church of petitioners to endorse. cause debate. but their parishioner’s actions will have very real secular consequence. Satire is a “literary form that employs such devices as sarcasm. It is an expression designed to invite attention. The twin tarpaulins consist of satire of political parties. . Furthermore. content-neutral regulation includes controls merely on the incidents of the speech such as time. the other is an object of attack. [2] if it furthers an important or substantial governmental interest. deflates stuffed shirts. claimed that satire had two defining features: “one is wit or humor founded on fantasy or a sense of the grotesque and absurd. irony and ridicule to deride prevailing vices or follies. Vol. . The tarpaulins exaggerate. and [4] if the incident restriction on alleged [freedom of speech & expression] is no greater than is essential to the furtherance of that interest. “Team Patay” does not refer to a list of dead individuals nor could the Archbishop of the Diocese of Bacolod have intended it to mean that the entire plan of the candidates in his list was to cause death intentionally. and unmasks hypocrisy. and other rhetorical devices. It is a CONTENT BASED REGULATION Content-based restraint or censorship refers to restrictions “based on the subject matter of the utterance or speech.” and this may target any individual or group in society. On the first requisite. It may be motivated by the interpretation of Diocese of their ecclesiastical duty. The content of the tarpaulin is not easily divorced from the size of its medium. UST Law Review.” Thus.” In contrast. “When the speech restraints take the form of a content-neutral regulation. Surely. or manner of the speech. If we apply the test for content-neutral regulation. No. the questioned acts of COMELEC will not pass the three requirements for evaluating such restraints on freedom of speech. and hopefully. satire frequently uses exaggeration. this is a protected speech by the petitioners who are non-candidates. This intermediate approach is based on the test that we have prescribed in several cases. only a substantial governmental interest is required for its validity.

Given the stature of the Diocese and their message. the size regulation is not unrelated to the suppression of speech. Limiting the maximum size of the tarpaulin would render ineffective the Diocese’s message and violate their right to exercise freedom of expression. . It must be demonstrable. The restriction in the present case does not pass even the lower test of intermediate scrutiny for content-neutral regulations. there are indicators that this will cause a “chilling effect” on robust discussion during elections. In this case. but more so at the effects of such restriction. if implemented. It must allow alternative avenues for the actor to make speech.restriction. The restriction must not be narrowly tailored to achieve the purpose. The action of the COMELEC in this case is a strong deterrent to further speech by the electorate.