LIMKAICHONG vs COMELEC

November 16, 2014
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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. Nos. 178831-32           April 1, 2009

JOCELYN SY LIMKAICHONG, Petitioner,

vs.

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, NAPOLEON N. CAMERO and RENALD F. VILLANDO, Respondents.

 

G.R. No. 179120           April 1, 2009

LOUIS C. BIRAOGO, Petitioner,

vs.

HON. PROSPERO NOGRALES, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Congress of the Philippines, and JOCELYN SY LIMKAICHONG, Respondents.

 

G.R. Nos. 179132-33           April 1, 2009

OLIVIA P. PARAS, Petitioner,

vs.

HON. PROSPERO NOGRALES, in his capacity as Speaker of the House of Representatives; HON. ROBERTO NAZARENO, in his capacity as Secretary General of the House of Representatives; HON. RHODORA SEVILLA, in her capacity as Deputy Secretary General for Finance of the House of Representatives; THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and JOCELYN SY LIMKAICHONG, Respondents.

 

G.R. Nos. 179240-41           April 1, 2009

RENALD F. VILLANDO, Petitioner,

vs.

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and JOCELYN SY LIMKAICHONG, Respondents.

 

D E C I S I O N

PERALTA, J.:

Once a winning candidate has been proclaimed, taken his oath, and assumed office as a Member of the House of Representatives, the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal begins over election contests relating to his election, returns, and qualifications, and mere allegation as to the invalidity of her proclamation does not divest the Electoral Tribunal of its jurisdiction.

At the core of these contentious consolidated petitions are: (1) the Joint Resolution1 of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Second Division dated May 17, 2007, disqualifying Jocelyn D. Sy Limkaichong (Limkaichong) from running as a congressional candidate for the First District of Negros Oriental; (2) the COMELEC En Banc Resolution2 dated June 29, 2007, affirming her disqualification; and (3) the COMELEC En Banc Resolution3 dated August 16, 2007, resolving that all pending incidents relating to her qualifications should now be determined by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).

The facts are uncontroverted. On March 26, 2007, Limkaichong filed with the COMELEC her Certificate of Candidacy4 (COC) for the position of Representative of the First District of Negros Oriental.

In the following weeks, two (2) petitions for her disqualification were instituted before the COMELEC by concerned citizens coming from her locality. On April 4, 2007, Napoleon Camero, a registered voter of La Libertad, Negros Oriental, filed the petition for her disqualification on the ground that she lacked the citizenship requirement of a Member of the House of Representatives. The petition, which was docketed as SPA No. (PES) A07-006,5 alleged that she is not a natural-born Filipino because her parents were Chinese citizens at the time of her birth. On April 11, 2007, Renald F. Villando, also a registered voter of the same locality, filed the second petition on the same ground of citizenship, docketed as SPA (PES) No. A07-007.6 He claimed that when Limkaichong was born, her parents were still Chinese citizens as the proceedings for the naturalization of Julio Ong Sy, her father, never attained finality due to procedural and substantial defects. Both petitions prayed for the cancellation of Limkaichong’s COC and for the COMELEC to strike out her name from the list of qualified candidates for the Representative of the First District of Negros Oriental.

In her separate Answers7 to the petitions, Limkaichong claimed that she is a natural-born Filipino since she was born to a naturalized Filipino father and a natural-born Filipino mother, who had reacquired her status as such due to her husband’s naturalization. Thus, at the time of her birth on November 9, 1959, nineteen (19) days had already passed after her father took his Oath of Allegiance on October 21, 1959 and after he was issued a Certificate of Naturalization on the same day. She contended that the COMELEC should dismiss the petitions outright for lack of cause of action. Citing Salcedo II v. Commission on Elections,8 she averred that a petition filed before an election, questioning the qualification of a candidate, should be based on Section 78,9 in relation to Section 7410 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC),11 and not under Sections 6812 and 74 thereof in relation to Section 1,13 Rule 25 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure14 and Section 5,15 paragraph C (3.a) of COMELEC Resolution No. 7800.16 She also contended that the petitions were dismissible on the ground that they were in the nature of a collateral attack on her and her father’s citizenships, in contravention of the well-established rule that attack on one’s citizenship may only be made through a direct action for its nullity.

The COMELEC consolidated the two (2) petitions and re-docketed them as SPA Nos. 07-24717 and 07-248,18 entitled IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION TO DISQUALIFY JOCELYN SY LIMKAICHONG FROM HER CANDIDACY AS FIRST DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE OF NEGROS ORIENTAL (herein referred to as the disqualification cases), which remained pending on May 14, 2007, when the National and Local Elections were conducted.

After the casting, counting and canvassing of votes in the said elections, Limkaichong emerged as the winner with 65,708 votes19 or by a margin of 7,746 votes over another congressional candidate, Olivia Paras20 (Paras), who obtained 57,962.

On May 15, 2007, Paras filed with the COMELEC a Very Urgent Motion for Leave to Intervene and to Suspend the Proclamation of Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong as Winning Candidate of the First District of Negros Oriental.21

In a Joint Resolution22 dated May 17, 2007, the COMELEC Second Division granted the petitions in the disqualification cases, disqualified Limkaichong as a candidate for Representative of the First District of Negros Oriental, directed the Provincial Supervisor of the COMELEC to strike out her name from the list of eligible candidates, and for the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) to suspend her proclamation. In disposing the cases, the COMELEC Second Division made the following ratiocination:

On the substantial issue of whether respondent Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichong is disqualified to run for the congressional seat of the First District of Negros Oriental on the ground that she is not a natural-born Filipino, we hold that she is so disqualified.

Petitioners have successfully discharged their burden of proof and has convincingly shown with pieces of documentary evidence that Julio Ong Sy, father of herein respondent Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichong, failed to acquire Filipino citizenship in the naturalization proceedings which he underwent for the said purpose.

An examination of the records of Special Case No. 1043 would reveal that the Office of the Solicitor General was deprived of its participation in all the stages of the proceedings therein, as required under Commonwealth Act No. 473 or the Revised Naturalization Law and Republic Act No. 530, An Act Making Additional Provisions for Naturalization.

x x x

The documents presented by petitioners showed that the OSG was not furnished copies of two material orders of the trial court in the said proceedings. One was the July 9, 1957 Order granting his petition for naturalization and the other was the September 21, 1959 Order declaring Julio Ong Sy as a Filipino citizen.

Moreover, from a perusal of the same page 171 of the OSG logbook, we have determined that the OSG did not receive a notice for the hearing conducted by the trial court on July 9, 1959, prior to its issuance of the September 12, 1959 Order declaring Julio Ong Sy as a Filipino citizen.

As correctly pointed out by petitioners, this was fatal to the naturalization proceedings of Julio Ong Sy, and prevented the same from gaining finality. The leading case in the matter is Republic v. Hon. Gabriel V. Valero, 136 SCRA 617 (May 31, 1985), wherein the Supreme Court declared:

And as though that was not enough, the hearing prior to the oathtaking of respondent Tan was conducted without the required notice to the Solicitor General. It is true, as it appeared later, that Fiscal Veluz, Jr. was authorized by the Solicitor General to represent the Government in the hearing of the application for naturalization. That authority, however, does not extend to Fiscal [Veluz’s] right to appear for the State in the hearing preparatory to the oathtaking. Private respondent Tan was therefore under legal obligation to serve copy of his motion to be allowed to take his oath of allegiance as a Filipino citizen upon the Solicitor General which was not done.

Respondent argues that upon his taking of the Oath of Allegiance, Julio Ong Sy became a Filipino citizen for all intents and purposes, with all the rights appurtenant thereto.

This argument does not hold water, as was held by the Supreme Court in the same case of Republic v. Valero, supra:

That private respondent Tan had already taken his oath of allegiance does not in any way legalize the proceedings relative thereto which is pregnant with legal infirmities. Compounding these irregularities is the fact that Tan was allowed to take his oath even before the expiration of the thirty (30)-day period within which an appeal may be made thus making the said oath not only highly improper but also illegal.

In the same case, the Supreme Court added:

To sustain the same would be to sanction a monstrosity known as citizenship by estoppel. The grant of naturalization under such circumstances is illegal and cancellation thereof may be had at any time. Neither estoppel nor res judicata may be set up as a bar from instituting the necessary proceedings to nullify the certificate of naturalization so issued.

Another glaring defect in the said proceedings was the fact that Julio Ong Sy took his Oath of Allegiance on October 21, 1959, which was exactly thirty (30) days after his declaration as a naturalized Filipino.

Even granting that the OSG was notified of the September 21, 1959 Order, this was still one day short of the reglementary period required under Sections 11 and 12 of C.A. No. 473, above-cited.

The thirty-day reglementary period is so required under the law so that the OSG could make known his objections and to appeal from the order of the trial court declaring the petitioner a naturalized Filipino citizen. This is also the reason why a copy of the petitioner’s motion to take his oath of allegiance has to be furnished to the OSG.

The respondent insists that naturalization proceedings are in rem and are binding on the whole world.

She would have been correct had all the necessary parties to the case been informed of the same. The OSG, being the counsel for the government, has to participate in all the proceedings so that it could be bound by what has transpired therein. Lacking the participation of this indispensable party to the same, the proceedings are null and void and, hence, no rights could arise therefrom.

From all the foregoing, therefore, it could be seen that Julio Ong Sy did not acquire Filipino citizenship through the naturalization proceedings in Special Case No. 1043. Thus, he was only able to transmit to his offspring, Chinese citizenship.

Respondent Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichong being the daughter of Julio Ong Sy, and having been born on November 9, 1959, under the 1935 Philippine Constitution, is a Chinese national, and is disqualified to run as First District Representative of Negros Oriental.

WHEREFORE, the Petitions are GRANTED and Jocelyn D. Sy-Limkaichong is declared as DISQUALIFIED from her candidacy for Representative of the First District of Negros Oriental.

The Provincial Supervisor of the Commission on Elections of Negros Oriental is hereby directed to strike out the name JOCELYN SY-LIMKAICHONG from the list of eligible candidates for the said position, and the concerned Board of Canvassers is hereby directed to hold and/or suspend the proclamation of JOCELYN SY-LIMKAICHONG as winning candidate, if any, until this decision has become final.

SO ORDERED.23

The PBOC received the Joint Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division on the evening of May 17, 2007, and accordingly suspended the proclamation of Limkaichong.24

The following day, or on May 18, 2007, the COMELEC En Banc issued Resolution No. 806225 adopting the policy-guidelines of not suspending the proclamation of winning candidates with pending disqualification cases which shall be without prejudice to the continuation of the hearing and resolution of the involved cases.

On May 20, 2007, Limkaichong filed with the COMELEC a Motion for Reconsideration of the Joint Resolution of May 17, 2007 and Urgent Motion to Lift the Order Suspending Proclamation.26

On May 22, 2007, Limkaichong filed another motion for the lifting of the directive suspending her proclamation, insisting that she should be proclaimed as the winner in the congressional race pursuant to COMELEC Resolution No. 8062.27 On same date, Villando, one of the petitioners in the disqualification cases, filed an Urgent Manifestation Clarifying COMELEC Resolution No. 8062 with Motion,28 praying that the COMELEC should not lift the suspension of Limkaichong’s proclamation.

On May 25, 2007, the PBOC, in compliance with COMELEC Resolution No. 8062, reconvened and proclaimed Limkaichong as the duly elected Member of the House of Representatives for the First District of Negros Oriental.29

Thereafter, or on May 30, 2007, Paras filed with the COMELEC a Petition to Nullify and/or Annul the Proclamation of Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichong as First District Representative of Negros Oriental in relation to the May 17, 2007 Joint Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division,30 stating, among others, that Limkaichong’s proclamation violated the earlier order of the COMELEC Second Division suspending her proclamation. The petition, docketed as SPC No. 07-211, was dismissed by the COMELEC First Division,31ratiocinating that the disqualification cases were not yet final when Limkaichong was proclaimed. Accordingly, her proclamation which was valid or legal, effectively divested the COMELEC of its jurisdiction over the cases. The COMELEC First Division explained its ruling in this wise:

The Commission has made its intention in issuing Resolution No. 8062 very clear in that there shall be no suspension of proclamation of winning candidates with pending disqualification cases involving, among others, issues of citizenship. As the disqualification cases involving Limkaichong were still pending reconsideration by the en banc, the underlying policy which gave rise to the issuance of the Resolution: to respect the will of the Filipino electorate, applies to the suspension of proclamation of the winning congressional candidate for the First District of Negros Oriental.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is dismissed.

SO ORDERED. (Emphasis ours)

Dissatisfied, Paras moved for the reconsideration of the above Resolution.32

Meanwhile, in a Resolution33 dated June 29, 2007, the COMELEC En Banc, in an equally divided vote of 3:3, denied Limkaichong’s motion for reconsideration of the Joint Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division in the disqualification cases. The pertinent portions of the Resolution denying her motion reads:

Anent the issue of jurisdiction, We rule that the Commission has jurisdiction to rule on Respondent Limkaichong’s Motion for Reconsideration notwithstanding her proclamation as it is only this Commission, and not the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), which has jurisdiction to review resolutions or decisions of the COMELEC, whether issued by a division or en banc. As stated by the Supreme Court in the leading case of Codilla v. De Venecia, G.R. No. 150605, December 10, 2002, respondent herself seasonably challenged the validity of the resolution of the Second Division in her motion for reconsideration. Hence, the issue of respondent’s disqualification was still within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Comelec En Banc to resolve, and HRET cannot assume jurisdiction on the matter, to wit:

To stress again, at the time of the proclamation of respondent Locsin, the validity of the Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division was seasonably challenged by the petitioner in his Motion for Reconsideration. The issue was still within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Comelec En Banc to resolve. Hence, the HRET cannot assume jurisdiction over the matter.

In Puzon v. Cua, even the HRET ruled that the “doctrinal ruling that once a proclamation has been made and a candidate-elect has assumed office, it is this Tribunal that has jurisdiction over an election contest involving members of the House of Representatives, could not have been immediately applicable due to the issue regarding the validity of the very COMELEC pronouncements themselves.” This is because the HRET has no jurisdiction to review resolutions or decisions of the COMELEC, whether issued by a division or en banc.

Finally, in disposing the Opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration with Partial Motion for Reconsideration filed by intervenor Olivia P. Paras praying that she be proclaimed as the winning candidate for First District Representative, suffice it to say that in the same case of Codilla v. De Veneciasupra, the Supreme Court held, thus:

More brazen is the proclamation of respondent Locsin which violates the settled doctrine that the candidate who obtains the second highest number of votes may not be proclaimed winner in case the winning candidate is disqualified. In every election, the people’s choice is the paramount consideration and their expressed will must, at all times, be given effect. When the majority speaks and elects into office a candidate by giving him the highest number of votes cast in the election for the office, no one can be declared elected in his place. In Domino v. COMELEC, this Court ruled, viz.:

It would be extremely repugnant to the basic concept of the constitutionally guaranteed right to suffrage if a candidate who has not acquired the majority or plurality of votes is proclaimed winner and imposed as representative of a constituency, the majority of which have positively declared through their ballots that they do not choose him. To simplistically assume that the second placer would have received that (sic) other votes would be to substitute our judgment for the mind of the voters. He could not be considered the first among the qualified candidates because in a field which excludes the qualified candidate, the conditions would have substantially changed.

x x x

The effect of a decision declaring a person ineligible to hold an office is only that the election fails entirely, that the wreath of victory cannot be transferred from the disqualified winner to the repudiated loser because the law then as now only authorizes a declaration in favor of the person who has obtained a plurality of votes, and does not entitle the candidate receiving the next highest number of votes to be declared elected. In such case, the electors have failed to make a choice and the election is a nullity. To allow the defeated and repudiated candidate to take over the elective position despite his rejection by the electorate is to disenfranchise the electorate without any fault on their part and to undermine the importance and meaning of democracy and the people’s right to elect officials of their choice.

All told, We find no cogent reason to disturb the findings of this Commission (Second Division) in its Joint Resolution promulgated on May 17, 2007.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Motion for Reconsideration of Respondent Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichong is hereby DENIED.

The Opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration with Partial Motion for Reconsideration filed by Intervenor Olivia P. Paras praying that she be proclaimed as the winning candidate for the First District Representative of Negros Oriental is hereby denied for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.34

On July 3, 2007, Limkaichong filed in the disqualification cases against her a Manifestation and Motion for Clarification and/or To Declare the Petitions as Dismissed in Accordance with Section 6, Rule 18 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure.35 She contended that, with her proclamation, her having taken her oath of office and her assumption of the position, the COMELEC was divested of jurisdiction to hear the disqualification cases. She further contended that, following Section 6,36 Rule 18 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, the disqualification cases would have to be reheard, and if on rehearing, no decision would be reached, the action or proceedings should be dismissed, because the COMELEC En Banc was equally divided in opinion when it resolved her motion for reconsideration.

On an even date, Paras wrote the House of Representatives informing it of the COMELEC En Banc Resolution dated June 29, 2007 upholding the Joint Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division dated May 17, 2007, which disqualified Limkaichong as a congressional candidate.37

In the interim, then Speaker of the House of Representatives Jose de Venecia, Jr. (De Venecia) allowed Limkaichong to officially assume the office as a Member of the House of Representatives on July 23, 2007, as shown in the Journal of the House of Representatives.38

Despite Limkaichong’s repeated pleas for the resolution of her manifestation and motion for clarification,39 the COMELEC did not resolve the same. Hence, on August 1, 2007, she filed with this Court a Petition for Certiorari40 under Rule 65, in relation to Rule 64 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure docketed as G.R. Nos. 178831-32 praying for the annulment of the May 17, 2007 Joint Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division and the June 29, 2007 Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc in the disqualification cases for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. She averred that since she was already proclaimed on May 25, 2007 as Representative of the First District of Negros Oriental, had assumed office on June 30, 2007, and had started to perform her duties and functions as such, the COMELEC had lost its jurisdiction and it is now the HRET which has jurisdiction over any issue involving her qualifications for the said office.

On August 16, 2007, the COMELEC En Banc ruled on Limkaichong’s manifestation and motion for clarification,41with the following disquisition:

In view of the proclamation of Limkaichong and her subsequent assumption of office on June 30, 2007, this Commission rules that all pending incidents relating to the qualifications of Limkaichong should now be determined by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal in accordance with the above-quoted provision of the Constitution.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Commission resolved, as it hereby resolves, that all pending incidents relating to the qualifications of Jocelyn S. Limkaichong as Member of the House of Representatives should now be determined by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

SO ORDERED. (Emphasis ours)

On August 24, 2007, Louis Biraogo (Biraogo), as a citizen and a taxpayer, filed with the Court a Petition for Prohibition and Injunction with Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order42 under Section 2, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, docketed as G.R. No. 179120, seeking to enjoin and permanently prohibit: (a) De Venecia from allowing Limkaichong to sit in the House of Representatives and participate in all its official activities; and (b) Limkaichong from holding office as its Member.43

Meanwhile, on August 28, 2007, Paras has instituted before the Court a Petition for Quo Warranto, Prohibition and Mandamus with Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction44 under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, docketed as G.R. Nos. 179132-33, seeking, among others, the ouster of Limkaichong from the House of Representatives on account of her disqualification and for the holding of special elections to fill the vacancy created by such.45

On even date, the COMELEC Second Division promulgated a Resolution46 denying Villando’s motion to suspend the proclamation of Limkaichong, which denial was affirmed by the COMELEC En Banc in a Resolution47 dated February 1, 2008.

On September 5, 2008, Villando also filed with this Court a Petition for Certiorari and Injunction with Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order48 under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, docketed as G.R. Nos. 179240-41, contending, among others, that the COMELEC En Banc gravely abused its discretion in issuing the August 16, 2007 Resolution49 because it still acted on Limchaikong’s manifestation and motion for clarification, notwithstanding that the same was not set for hearing and considering that its June 29, 2007 Resolution had already become final and executory.

As the four (4) petitions are interrelated, the Court resolved to consolidate them in its Resolutions dated September 4 and 11, 2007.

The Court heard the parties in oral argument on August 26, 2008, during which the following issues were tackled:

1. Whether the proclamation of Limkaichong by the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Negros Oriental is valid;

2. Whether said proclamation divested the Commission on Elections of jurisdiction to resolve the issue of Limkaichong’s citizenship;

3. Whether the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal shall assume jurisdiction, in lieu of the COMELEC, over the issue of Limkaichong’s citizenship;

4. Whether the COMELEC Second Division and the COMELEC En Banc correctly ruled that Limkaichong is disqualified from running as a Member of the House of Representatives on the ground that she is not a natural-born citizen;

5. Whether the COMELEC disqualification of Limkaichong is final and executory; and,

6. Whether the Speaker of the House of Representatives may be compelled to prohibit Limkaichong from assuming her duties as a Member of the House of Representatives.

On same day, the Court required the parties to simultaneously file within twenty (20) days their respective memoranda, after which the petitions shall be deemed submitted for resolution, with or without the memoranda.

Section 6, Article VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides for the qualification of a Member of the House of Representatives, thus:

Section 6. No person shall be a Member of the House of Representatives unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, on the day of the election, is at least twenty-five years of age, able to read and write, and, except the party-list representatives, a registered voter in the district in which he shall be elected, and a resident thereof for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the day of the election.

When Limkaichong filed her COC, she stated therein that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen. It was not true, according to the petitioners in the disqualification cases, because her father remained a Chinese citizen at the time of her birth. The COMELEC Second Division has sided with Camero and Villando, and disqualified Limkaichong to run as a congressional candidate in the First District of Negros Oriental for having failed to comply with the citizenship requirement. Accordingly, her proclamation was ordered suspended notwithstanding that she obtained the highest number of votes during the elections. Nonetheless, she was proclaimed by the PBOC pursuant to the policy guidelines of COMELEC En Banc Resolution No. 8062, and she has since assumed her position and performed her functions as a Member of the House of Representatives.

I

Whether Limkaichong’s proclamation was valid.

The proclamation of Limkaichong was valid. The COMELEC Second Division rendered its Joint Resolution dated May 17, 2007. On May 20, 2007, Limkaichong timely filed with the COMELEC En Banc her motion for reconsideration as well as for the lifting of the incorporated directive suspending her proclamation. The filing of the motion for reconsideration effectively suspended the execution of the May 17, 2007 Joint Resolution.50 Since the execution of the May 17, 2007 Joint Resolution was suspended, there was no impediment to the valid proclamation of Limkaichong as the winner. Section 2, Rule 19 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure provides:

Sec. 2. Period for Filing Motions for Reconsideration. – A motion to reconsider a decision, resolution, order or ruling of a Division shall be filed within five (5) days from the promulgation thereof. Such motion, if not pro forma, suspends the execution for implementation of the decision, resolution, order and ruling.

In G.R. Nos. 179132-33, Paras, however, maintained that Limkaichong was a Chinese citizen who was disqualified to run as a congressional candidate by way of a final judgment of the COMELEC. With that, her proclamation was questionable and the same was done in open defiance of the Joint Resolution dated May 17, 2007 of the COMELEC Second Division. She also stressed that Limkaichong’s proclamation was procedurally defective, it appearing that one of the PBOC members was not present on May 25, 2007, and that it took place in a restaurant and not at the provincial capitol. Finally, she argued that Limkaichong’s proclamation was void in accordance with the Court’s pronouncement in the case of Codilla v. De Venecia.51

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed its Comment on the petition of Paras, expressing its support for the position taken by the latter.

A perusal of the arguments advanced by Paras and the OSG does not sway the Court to rule against the validity of Limkaichong’s proclamation. No less than the COMELEC First Division has sustained the validity of her proclamation when it dismissed, by way of a Resolution dated June 29, 2007, the petition filed by Paras to nullify the proclamation. Not only that. The COMELEC First Division has also adopted Limkaichong’s argument that following her valid proclamation, the COMELEC’s jurisdiction over the disqualification cases has ceased and that the same should be threshed out in the proper proceedings filed before the HRET. Notably, the dismissal of Paras’ petition was affirmed by the COMELEC in its Omnibus Order dated January 28, 2008.

In addition, the validity of Limkaichong’s proclamation is in accordance with COMELEC En Banc Resolution No. 8062. The disqualification cases filed against her remained pending as a result of her timely motion for reconsideration. Villando (in G.R. Nos. 179240-41), however, maintained that Resolution No. 8062 is invalid; hence, it could not be used as basis to validate Limkaichong’s proclamation. He argued that it must be published since it is a “policy-guideline” in the exercise of the COMELEC’s rule-making power. As such, it cannot supersede the Joint Resolution of the Second Division which was rendered pursuant to the COMELEC’s quasi-judicial power.

His argument is specious. Resolution No. 8062 is not only a policy- guideline. It is also an administrative interpretation of the two (2) provisions of the 1987 Constitution, namely: (i) Section 17,52 Article VI (ii); Section 2(2),53 Article IX-C; Section 654 of R.A. 6646; and Sections 24155 and 243,56 Article XX of the OEC. As such, it does not have to comply with the due process requirement. The term “administrative” connotes or pertains to “administration, especially management, as by managing or conducting, directing or superintending, the execution, application, or conduct of persons or things.” It does not entail an opportunity to be heard, the production and weighing of evidence, and a decision or resolution thereon.57 This is to be distinguished from “quasi-judicial function,” a term which applies, among others, to the action or discretion of public administrative officers or bodies, who are required to investigate facts, or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, and draw conclusions from them, as a basis for their official action and to exercise discretion of a judicial nature.58

Resolution No. 8062 is a valid exercise of the COMELEC’s constitutionally mandated power to promulgate its own rules of procedure relative to the conduct of the elections.59 In adopting such policy-guidelines for the May 14, 2007 National and Local Elections, the COMELEC had in mind the objective of upholding the sovereign will of the people and in the interest of justice and fair play. Accordingly, those candidates whose disqualification cases are still pending at the time of the elections, should they obtain the highest number of votes from the electorate, shall be proclaimed but that their proclamation shall be without prejudice to the continuation of the hearing and resolution of the involved cases. Whereas, in this case, the COMELEC Second Division having failed to act on the disqualification cases against Limkaichong until after the conduct of the elections, with her obtaining the highest number of votes from the electorate, her proclamation was properly effected by the PBOC pursuant to Resolution No. 8062.

The Court has held in the case of Planas v. COMELEC,60 that at the time of the proclamation of Defensor, the respondent therein who garnered the highest number of votes, the Division Resolution invalidating his certificate of candidacy was not yet final. As such, his proclamation was valid or legal, as he had at that point in time remained qualified. Limkaichong’s situation is no different from that of Defensor, the former having been disqualified by a Division Resolution on the basis of her not being a natural-born Filipino citizen. When she was proclaimed by the PBOC, she was the winner during the elections for obtaining the highest number of votes, and at that time, the Division Resolution disqualifying her has not yet became final as a result of the motion for reconsideration.

II

Whether, upon Limkaichong’s proclamation, the HRET, instead of the COMELEC, should assume jurisdiction over the disqualification cases.

In her petition (G.R. Nos. 178831-32), Limkaichong argued that her proclamation on May 25, 2007 by the PBOC divested the COMELEC of its jurisdiction over all issues relating to her qualifications, and that jurisdiction now lies with the HRET.

Biraogo, on the other hand, believed otherwise. He argued (in G.R. No. 179120) that the issue concerning Limkaichong’s disqualification is still within the exclusive jurisdiction of the COMELEC En Banc to resolve because when Limkaichong was proclaimed on May 25, 2007, the matter was still pending resolution before the COMELEC En Banc.

We do not agree. The Court has invariably held that once a winning candidate has been proclaimedtaken his oath, and assumed office as a Member of the House of Representatives, the COMELEC’s jurisdiction over election contests relating to his election, returns, and qualifications ends, and the HRET’s own jurisdiction begins.61

It follows then that the proclamation of a winning candidate divests the COMELEC of its jurisdiction over matters pending before it at the time of the proclamation. The party questioning his qualification should now present his case in a proper proceeding before the HRET, the constitutionally mandated tribunal to hear and decide a case involving a Member of the House of Representatives with respect to the latter’s election, returns and qualifications. The use of the word “sole” in Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution and in Section 25062 of the OEC underscores the exclusivity of the Electoral Tribunals’ jurisdiction over election contests relating to its members.63

Section 17Article VI of the 1987 Constitution provides:

Sec. 17. The Senate and the House of Representatives shall each have an Electoral Tribunal which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of their respective Members. Each Electoral Tribunal shall be composed of nine Members, three of whom shall be Justices of the Supreme Court to be designated by the Chief Justice, and the remaining six shall be Members of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, who shall be chosen on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and the parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented therein. The senior Justice in the Electoral Tribunal shall be its Chairman.

Corollary thereto is Rule 14 of the 1998 Rules of the HRET, as amended, which states:

RULE 14. Jurisdiction. – The Tribunal is the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the Members of the House of Representatives.

The COMELEC En Banc, in its Resolution dated August 16, 2007, had given paramount consideration to the two (2) aforementioned provisions when it stated that:

In view of the proclamation of Limkaichong and her subsequent assumption of office on June 30, 2007, this Commission rules that all pending incidents relating to the qualifications of Limkaichong should now be determined by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal in accordance with the above-quoted provision of the Constitution.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Commission resolved, as it hereby resolves, that all pending incidents relating to the qualifications of Jocelyn S. Limkaichong as Member of the House of Representatives should now be determined by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

SO ORDERED. (Emphasis supplied)

Worth citing also is the ratiocination of the COMELEC First Division when it dismissed the petition of Paras seeking the nullity of Limkaichong’s proclamation, thus:

The present situation is similar not to the factual circumstances of Codilla, which Paras invokes, but rather to that in Planas which adheres to the general rule giving jurisdiction to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal. As at the time of Limkaichong’s proclamation, her disqualification was not yet final, her proclamation was valid or legal. This Commission no longer has jurisdiction over the case. This, notwithstanding the Second Division’s directive suspending Limkaichong’s proclamation.

The Commission has made its intention in issuing Resolution No. 8062 very clear in that there shall be no suspension of proclamation of winning candidates with pending disqualification cases, involving, among others, issues of citizenship. As the disqualification cases involving Limkaichong were still pending reconsideration by the En Banc, the underlying policy which gave rise to the issuance of the resolution: to respect the will of the Filipino electorate, applies to the suspension of proclamation of the winning Congressional candidate for the First District of Negros Oriental.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Petitioners (in G.R. Nos. 179120, 179132-33, and 179240-41) steadfastly maintained that Limkaichong’s proclamation was tainted with irregularity, which will effectively prevent the HRET from acquiring jurisdiction.

The fact that the proclamation of the winning candidate, as in this case, was alleged to have been tainted with irregularity does not divest the HRET of its jurisdiction.64 The Court has shed light on this in the case of Vinzons-Chato,65 to the effect that:

In the present case, it is not disputed that respondent Unico has already been proclaimed and taken his oath of office as a Member of the House of Representatives (Thirteenth Congress); hence, the COMELEC correctly ruled that it had already lost jurisdiction over petitioner Chato’s petition. The issues raised by petitioner Chato essentially relate to the canvassing of returns and alleged invalidity of respondent Unico’s proclamation. These are matters that are best addressed to the sound judgment and discretion of the HRET. Significantly, the allegation that respondent Unico’s proclamation is null and void does not divest the HRET of its jurisdiction:

x x x [I]n an electoral contest where the validity of the proclamation of a winning candidate who has taken his oath of office and assumed his post as congressman is raised, that issue is best addressed to the HRET. The reason for this ruling is self-evident, for it avoids duplicity of proceedings and a clash of jurisdiction between constitutional bodies, with due regard to the people’s mandate.

Further, for the Court to take cognizance of petitioner Chato’s election protest against respondent Unico would be to usurp the constitutionally mandated functions of the HRET.

In fine, any allegations as to the invalidity of the proclamation will not prevent the HRET from assuming jurisdiction over all matters essential to a member’s qualification to sit in the House of Representatives.

The 1998 HRET Rules, as amended, provide for the manner of filing either an election protest or a petition for quo warranto against a Member of the House of Representatives, to wit:

Rule 16. Election protest— A verified petition contesting the election of any Member of the House of Representatives shall be filed by any candidate who has duly filed a certificate of candidacy and has been voted for the same office, within ten (10) days after the proclamation of the winner. The party filing the protest shall be designated as the protestant while the adverse party shall be known as the protestee.

x x x

Rule 17. Quo Warranto. — A verified petition for quo warranto contesting the election of a Member of the House of Representatives on the ground of ineligibility or of disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines shall be filed by any voter within ten (10) days after the proclamation of the winner. The party filing the petition shall be designated as the petitioner while the adverse party shall be known as the respondent.

x x x

Rule 19. Periods Non-Extendible. — The ten-day period mentioned in Rules 16 and 17 is jurisdictional and cannot be extended.

Accordingly, after the proclamation of the winning candidate in the congressional elections, the remedy of those who may assail one’s eligibility/ineligibility/qualification/disqualification is to file before the HRET a petition for an election protest, or a petition for quo warranto, within the period provided by the HRET Rules. In Pangilinan v. Commission on Elections,66 we ruled that where the candidate has already been proclaimed winner in the congressional elections, the remedy of petitioner is to file an electoral protest with the Electoral Tribunal of the House of Representatives.

The PBOC proclaimed Limkaichong as the winner on May 25, 2007. Thus, petitioners (in G.R. Nos. 179120, 179132-33, and 179240-41) should have filed either an election protest or petition for quo warranto within ten days from May 25, 2007. But they did not. In fact, to date, no petition of protest or petition for quo warranto has been filed with the HRET. Verily, the ten-day prescriptive period for initiating a contest against Limkaichong has long expired.

However, the said ten-day prescriptive period under the 1998 HRET Rules does not apply to disqualification cases based on citizenship. Under the 1987 Constitution, Members of the House of Representatives must be natural-born citizens not only at the time of their election but during their entire tenure. Being a continuing requirement, one who assails a member’s citizenship or lack of it may still question the same at any time, the ten-day prescriptive period notwithstanding.

In Frivaldo v. Commission on Elections,67 the Court held that:

The argument that the petition filed with the Commission on Elections should be dismissed for tardiness is not well-taken. The herein private respondents are seeking to prevent Frivaldo from continuing to discharge his office as governor because he is disqualified from doing so as a foreigner. Qualifications for public office are continuing requirements and must be possessed not only at the time of appointment or election or assumption of office but during the officer’s entire tenure. Once any of the required qualifications is lost, his title may be seasonably challenged. If, say, a female legislator were to marry a foreigner during her term and by her act or omission acquires his nationality, would she have the right to remain in office simply because the challenge to her title may not longer be made within ten days from her proclamation? x x x

This Court will not permit the anomaly of a person sitting as provincial governor in this country while owing exclusive allegiance to another country. The fact that he was elected by the people of Sorsogon does not excuse this patent violation of the salutary rule limiting public office and employment only to the citizens of this country. The qualifications prescribed for elective office cannot be erased by the electorate alone. The will of the people as expressed through the ballot cannot cure the vice of ineligibility, especially if they mistakenly believed, as in this case, that the candidate was qualified. Obviously, this rule requires strict application when the deficiency is lack of citizenship. If a person seeks to serve in the Republic of the Philippines, he must owe his total loyalty to this country alone, abjuring and renouncing all fealty to any other state.

However, in assailing the citizenship of the father, the proper proceeding should be in accordance with Section 18 of Commonwealth Act No. 473 which provides that:

Sec. 18. Cancellation of Naturalization Certificate Issued: – Upon motion made in the proper proceedings by the Solicitor General or his representative, or by the proper provincial fiscal, the competent judge may cancel the naturalization certificate issued and its registration in the Civil Register:

1. If it is shown that said naturalization certificate was obtained fraudulently or illegally;

2. If the person naturalized shall, within five years next following the issuance of said naturalization certificate, return to his native country or to some foreign country and establish his permanent residence there: Provided, That the fact of the person naturalized remaining more than one year in his native country or the country of his former nationality, or two years in any other foreign country, shall be considered as prima facieevidence of his intention of taking up his permanent residence in the same:

3. If the petition was made on an invalid declaration of intention;

4. If it is shown that the minor children of the person naturalized failed to graduate from a public or private high schools recognized by the Office of Private Education [now Bureau of Private Schools] of the Philippines, where Philippine history, government or civics are taught as part of the school curriculum, through the fault of their parents either by neglecting to support them or by transferring them to another school or schools. A certified copy of the decree canceling the naturalization certificate shall be forwarded by the Clerk of Court of the Department of Interior [now Office of the President] and the Bureau of Justice [now Office of the Solicitor General];

5. If it is shown that the naturalized citizen has allowed himself to be used as a dummy in violation of the constitutional or legal provisions requiring Philippine citizenship as a requisite for the exercise, use or enjoyment of a right, franchise or privilege. (Emphasis supplied)

As early as the case of Queto v. Catolico,68 where the Court of First Instance judge motu proprio and not in the proper denaturalization proceedings called to court various grantees of certificates of naturalization (who had already taken their oaths of allegiance) and cancelled their certificates of naturalization due to procedural infirmities, the Court held that:

x x x It may be true that, as alleged by said respondents, that the proceedings for naturalization were tainted with certain infirmities, fatal or otherwise, but that is beside the point in this case. The jurisdiction of the court to inquire into and rule upon such infirmities must be properly invoked in accordance with the procedure laid down by law. Such procedure is the cancellation of the naturalization certificate. [Section 1(5), Commonwealth Act No. 63], in the manner fixed in Section 18 of Commonwealth Act No. 473, hereinbefore quoted, namely, “upon motion made in the proper proceedings by the Solicitor General or his representatives, or by the proper provincial fiscal.” In other words, the initiative must come from these officers, presumably after previous investigation in each particular case. (Emphasis supplied)

Clearly, under law and jurisprudence, it is the State, through its representatives designated by statute, that may question the illegally or invalidly procured certificate of naturalization in the appropriate denaturalization proceedings. It is plainly not a matter that may be raised by private persons in an election case involving the naturalized citizen’s descendant.

III

Whether the COMELEC Second Division and the COMELEC En Banc correctly disqualified Limkaichong on the ground that she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen.

In resolving the disqualification cases, the COMELEC Second Division relied on the entries in the docket book of the OSG,69 the only remaining record of the naturalization proceedings,70 and ruled on the basis thereof that the naturalization proceedings of Julio Ong Sy, Limkaichong’s father, in Special Case No. 1043, were null and void. The COMELEC Second Division adopted Villando and Camero’s arguments that the OSG was deprived of its participation in the said case for it was not furnished copies of the following: (a) the July 9, 1957 Order of the Court of First Instance (CFI) granting the petition for naturalization; and (b) the September 21, 1959 Order of the CFI declaring Julio Ong Sy a Filipino citizen. Thus, when the latter took his oath of allegiance on October 21, 1959, it was exactly 30 days after his declaration as a naturalized Filipino, or one day short of the reglementary period required under Sections 11 and 12 of Commonwealth Act No. 473. Such defects were fatal to the naturalization proceedings of Julio Ong Sy and prevented the same from gaining finality. The COMELEC Second Division concluded that since Julio Ong Sy did not acquire Philippine citizenship through the said naturalization proceedings, it follows that Limkaichong remains a Chinese national and is disqualified to run as candidate and be elected as a Member of the House of Representatives.

We cannot resolve the matter of Limkaichong’s citizenship as the same should have been challenged in appropriate proceedings as earlier stated.

IV

Whether the COMELEC’s disqualification of Limkaichong is final and executory.

In resolving this issue, pertinent is the provision of Section 13(b), Rule 18 of the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure:

Sec. 13. Finality of Decisions or Resolutions. – x x x

(b) In Special Actions and Special Cases, a decision or resolution of the Commission en banc shall become final and executory after five (5) days from its promulgation unless restrained by the Supreme Court.

In his Memorandum dated June 27, 2008, Biraogo stated that the Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc in the disqualification cases became final and executory after five (5) days from its promulgation and that the same was not restrained by this Court pursuant to Section 13(b), Rule 18 of the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure. He averred that since Limkaichong received a copy of the COMELEC En Banc Resolution dated June 29, 2007 on July 3, 2007, she had until July 8, 2007 within which to obtain a restraining order from the Court to prevent the same from becoming final and executory. However, she did not do anything to that effect. Biraogo also averred that Limkaichong is guilty of forum shopping; hence, her petition must be dismissed by the Court.

Instead of asking the Court for what Biraogo opined as a restraining order, Limkaichong filed with this Court, on August 1, 2007, her petition for certiorari assailing the said COMELEC En Banc Resolution pursuant to Section 2,71 Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, postulating that she had thirty (30) days from July 4, 2007 within which to file the petition, or until August 3, 2007. She cited Section 7, Article IX of the 1987 Constitution, which prescribes the power of this Court to review decisions of the COMELEC,72 thus:

SEC. 7. Each Commission shall decide by a majority vote of all its Members any case or matter brought before it within sixty days from the date of its submission for decision or resolution. A case or matter is deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the rules of the Commission or by the Commission itself. Unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law, any decision, order, or ruling of each Commission may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by the aggrieved party within thirty days from receipt of a copy thereof.

In his Comment on the petition, Villando prayed for the outright dismissal of Limkaichong’s petition as (a) it was filed beyond the reglementary period; (b) Limkaichong engaged in prohibited forum shopping; and (c) Limkaichong admitted that the issues raised have become moot and academic. He also sought to declare Limkaichong in contempt of court for forum shopping.

The COMELEC, through the OSG, also filed its Comment, praying for the denial of Limkaichong’s petition and its dismissal for being moot, contending that: (a) the COMELEC En Banc Resolution dated August 16, 2007 has rendered the instant petition moot and academic; and (b) Limkaichong knowingly and intentionally engaged in forum shopping. The OSG argued that, without waiting for the resolution of her Motion for Clarification and two (2) successive motions to resolve said motions which are pending before the COMELEC En Banc, Limkaichong filed the present petition to question the Joint Resolution dated May 17, 2007 of the COMELEC Second Division, which issues were pending before the COMELEC En Banc. Her act of seeking relief from this Court while there were several other incidents pending before the COMELEC, the final resolution in either one of which will amount to res judicata in the other, clearly showed forum shopping on her part.

In her Reply to the above Comments, Limkaichong countered that she did not engage in forum shopping, for had she waited for the COMELEC to rule on her manifestation and other motions, it would have resulted in the expiration of the reglementary period for filing a petition for certiorari before the Court.

The May 17, 2007 Joint Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division disqualifying Limkaichong and suspending her proclamation cannot yet be implemented considering that she timely filed a motion for reconsideration. Thus, pursuant to Section 13(c), Rule 18 and Section 2 Rule 19 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, the Joint Resolution has not yet attained finality for it to be implemented.

Notably, the seeming impropriety of the Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc dated June 29, 2007 has since been remedied by the promulgation of its Resolution dated August 16, 2007, recognizing that it no longer has jurisdiction over the disqualification cases following the valid proclamation of Limkaichong and her assumption of office as a Member of the House of Representatives.

V

Whether the Speaker of the House of Representatives may be compelled to prohibit Limkaichong from assuming her duties as a Member of the House of Representatives.

Biraogo’s contention was that De Venecia73 should be stopped from entering Limkaichong’s name in the Roll of Members of the House of Representatives because he has no power to allow an alien to sit and continue to sit therein as it would amount to an unlawful exercise of his legal authority. Moreover, Biraogo opposes Limkaichong’s assumption of office in the House of Representatives since she is not qualified to sit therein, being a Chinese citizen and, thus, disqualified by virtue of a final and executory judgment of the COMELEC En Banc. He relied on the COMELEC En Banc Resolution dated June 29, 2007, which affirmed the COMELEC Second Division Joint Resolution dated May 17, 2007 disqualifying Limkaichong from holding public office. He contended that the said Resolution dated June 29, 2007 is already final and executory; hence, it should be respected pursuant to the principle of res judicata.

De Venecia, on the other hand, argued that he should not be faulted for honoring the proclamation of Limkaichong, because it had the hallmarks of regularity, and he had no power to exclude any Member of the House of Representatives motu proprio. In their Comment on the petition, respondents De Venecia, et al., contended that the enrollment of a Member in the Roll of Members of the House of Representatives and his/her recognition as such becomes the ministerial duty of the Secretary General and the House of Representatives upon presentation by such Member of a valid Certificate of Proclamation and Oath of Office.

Respondent Nograles, as De Venecia’s, substitute, filed a Memorandum dated July 16, 2008 stating that under the circumstances, the House of Representatives, and its officials, are without recourse except to honor the validity of the proclamation of Limkaichong until the same is canceled, revoked or nullified, and to continue to recognize her as the duly elected Representative of the First District of Negros Oriental until it is ordered by this Court, as it was in Codilla, to recognize somebody else. He went on to state that after assumption by the Member-elect, or having acquired a presumptively valid title to the office, the House of Representatives cannot, motu proprio, cancel, revoke, withdraw any recognition given to a sitting Member or to “remove” his name from its roll, as such would amount to a removal of such Member from his office without due process of law. Verily, it is only after a determination by the appropriate tribunal (as in this case, the HRET), pursuant to a final and executory order, that the Member does not have a right to the office (i.e., not being a duly elected Member), that the House of Representatives is directed to exclude the said Member.

Their contentions are meritorious. The unseating of a Member of the House of Representatives should be exercised with great caution and after the proper proceedings for the ouster has been validly completed. For to arbitrarily unseat someone, who obtained the highest number of votes in the elections, and during the pendency of the proceedings determining one’s qualification or disqualification, would amount to disenfranchising the electorate in whom sovereignty resides.74

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition in G.R. Nos. 178831-32 is GRANTED and the Joint Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division dated May 17, 2007 in SPA Nos. 07-247 and 07-248 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. All the other petitions (G.R. Nos. 179120179132-33179240-41) are hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, CJ., Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio Morales, Tinga, Chico-Nazario, Nachura, Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, JJ., concur.

READ CASE DIGEST HERE.

Footnotes

1 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 178831-32), pp. 24-36.

2 Id. at 53-66.

3 Id. at 181-183.

4 Id. at 74.

5 Id. at 75-77.

6 Id. at 82-87.

7 Id. at 100-144.

8 G.R. No. 135886, August 16, 1999, 312 SCRA 447. The Court held that in order to justify the cancellation of the certificate of candidacy under Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code, it is essential that: (1) the false representation mentioned therein pertains to a material matter on the contents of the certificate of candidacy as provided in Section 74 (or the qualification for elective office as provided in the Constitution); and (2) the false representation must consist of a deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render a candidate ineligible.

9 Section 78 of the OEC reads:

Sec. 78. Petition to deny due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy.—A verified petition seeking to deny due course or to cancel a certificate of candidacy may be filed by any person exclusively on the ground that any material representation contained therein as required under Section 74 hereof is false. The petition may be filed at any time not later than twenty-five days from the time of the filing of the certificate of candidacy and shall be decided, after notice and hearing, not later than fifteen days before the election.

10 Section 74 of the OEC pertains to the contents of a certificate of candidacy:

Sec. 74. Contents of certificate of candidacy. – The certificate of candidacy shall state that the person filing it is announcing his candidacy for the office stated therein and that he is eligible for said office; if for Member of the Batasang Pambansa, the province, including its component cities, highly urbanized city or district or sector which he seeks to represent; the political party to which he belongs; civil status; his date of birth; residence; his post office address for all election purposes; his profession or occupation; that he will support and defend the Constitution of the Philippines and will maintain true faith and allegiance thereto; that he will obey the laws, legal orders, and decrees promulgated by the duly constituted authorities; that he is not a permanent resident or immigrant to a foreign country; that the obligation imposed by his oath is assumed voluntarily, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that the facts stated in the certificate of candidacy are true to the best of his knowledge.

Unless a candidate has officially changed his name through a court approved proceeding, a candidate shall use in a certificate of candidacy the name by which he has been baptized, or if has not been baptized in any church or religion, the name registered in the office of the local civil registrar or any other name allowed under the provisions of existing law or, in the case of a Muslim, his Hadji name after performing the prescribed religious pilgrimage: Provided, That when there are two or more candidates for an office with the same name and surname, each candidate, upon being made aware of such fact, shall state his paternal and maternal surname, except the incumbent who may continue to use the name and surname stated in his certificate of candidacy when he was elected. He may also include one nickname or stage name by which he is generally or popularly known in the locality. The person filing a certificate of candidacy shall also affix his latest photograph, passport size; a statement in duplicate containing his bio-data and program of government not exceeding one hundred words, if he so desires.

11 Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, approved on December 3, 1985.

12 Section 68 of OEC provides:

SEC. 68. Disqualifications.—Any candidate who, in an action or protest in which he is a party is declared by final decision of a competent court guilty of, or found by the Commission of having (a) given money or other material consideration to influence, induce or corrupt the voters or public officials performing electoral functions; (b) committed acts of terrorism to enhance his candidacy; (c) spent in his election campaign an amount in excess of that allowed by this Code; (d) solicited, received or made any contribution prohibited under Sections 89, 95, 96, 97 and 104; or (e) violated any of Sections 80, 83, 85, 86 and 261, paragraphs d, e, k, v, and cc, subparagraph 6, shall be disqualified from continuing as a candidate, or if he has been elected, from holding the office. Any person who is a permanent resident of or an immigrant to a foreign country shall not be qualified to run for any elective office under this Code, unless said person has waived his status as a permanent resident or immigrant of a foreign country in accordance with the residence requirement provided for in the election laws.

13 Section 1, Rule 25, 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure reads:

SEC. 1. Grounds for Disqualification. – Any candidate who does not possess all the qualifications of a candidate as provided for by the Constitution or by existing law or who commits any act declared by law to be grounds for disqualification may be disqualified from continuing as a candidate.

14 Approved on February 15, 1993.

15 Section 5, paragraph C (3.a), COMELEC Resolution No. 7800 states:

3.a. Disqualification under existing election laws.

(a) For not being a citizen of the Philippines;

(b) For being a permanent resident of or an immigrant to a foreign country;

(c) For lack of the required age;

(d) For lack of residence;

(e) For not being a registered voter;

(f) For not being able to read and write;

(g) In case of a party-list nominee, for not being a bona fide member of the party or organization which he seeks to represent for at least ninety (90) days immediately preceding the day of the election.

16 Entitled “Rules Delegating to the COMELEC Officials the Authority to Hear and Receive Evidence in Disqualification Cases filed in connection with the May 14, 2007 National and Local Elections” dated January 5, 2007.

17 Entitled Napoleon Camero, Petitioner, versus Jocelyn S. Limkaichong, Respondent.

18 Entitled Renald F. Villando, Petitioner, versus Jocelyn S. Limkaichong, Respondent.

19 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 178831-32), p. 152.

20 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 179132-33), p. 103.

21 Id. at 135-141.

22 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 178831-32), pp. 24-35. The per curiam Joint Resolution was unanimously signed by Commissioners Florentino A. Tuason, Jr. (ret.), Rene V. Sarmiento and Nicodemo T. Ferrer.

23 Id. at 30-35. (Emphasis ours).

24 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 179132-33), pp. 168-169, 201.

25 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 178831-32), pp. 145-146. The resolution is entitled “In the Matter of Adopting the Following Policy-Guidelines on: 1) the Proclamation of Winning Candidates with Pending Disqualification Cases; 2) Suspension of Canvassing and/or Proclamation; and 3) Transfer of Canvassing Venue,” the pertinent portion of which is quoted as follows:

The Commission, in upholding the sovereign will of the people and in the interest of justice and fair play, RESOLVED as it hereby RESOLVES, to adopt the following policy-guidelines in connection with the May 14, 2007 National and Local Elections:

No suspension of proclamation of winning candidates with pending disqualification cases

There shall be no suspension of proclamation of winning candidates with pending disqualification cases before or after elections, involving issues of citizenship, non-residency, not being a registered voter, nuisance candidate, and/or violation of the election laws under Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, Fair Elections Act and other related election laws.

This policy however shall be without prejudice to the continuation of the hearing and resolution of the involved cases.

26 Rollo (G.R. No. 179132-33), pp. 37-52

27 Id. at 147-149.

28 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 179132-33), pp. 158-162.

29 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 178831-32)p. 152.

30 Rollo (G.R. No. 179132-33), pp. 165-192.

31 Id at 328-334. The Resolution was penned by the late Commissioner Romeo A. Brawner and concurred in by Commissioner Resurreccion Z. Borra (ret.).

32 Id. at 215-236. The COMELEC First Division denied Paras’ motion on January 28, 2008 through an Omnibus Order. (Rollo [G.R. Nos. 178831-32], pp. 463-467.)

33 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 178831-32), pp. 53-66. In the per curiam Resolution, then COMELEC Chairman Benjamin A. Abalos, Sr., Commissioners Rene V. Sarmiento and Nicodemo T. Ferrer voted for the denial of Limkaichong’s motion. The late Commissioner Romeo A. Brawner (also a former Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals) wrote a dissenting opinion, which was concurred with by retired Commissioners Resurreccion Z. Borra and Florentino A. Tuason, Jr., to the effect that Limkaichong’s motion should be dismissed by the COMELEC for lack of jurisdiction.

34 Id. at 61-63. (Emphasis ours).

35 Id. at 159-163.

36 Section 6, Rule 18, COMELEC Rules of Procedure provides:

SEC. 6. Procedure if Opinion is Equally Divided. – When the Commission en banc is equally divided in opinion, or the necessary majority cannot be had, the case shall be reheard, and if on rehearing no decision is reached, the action or proceeding shall be dismissed if originally commenced in the Commission; in appealed cases, the judgment or order appealed from shall stand affirmed; and in all incidental matters, the petition or motion shall be denied.

37 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 179132-33), pp. 213-214.

38 Id. at 238-256.

39 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 178831-32), pp. 166-171. On July 5, 2007, Limkaichong filed an Urgent Motion to Resolve the Manifestation and Motion for Clarification. On July 11, 2007, she filed a Second Motion to Resolve said manifestation and motion.

40 Id. at 3-20.

41 Id. at 181-183.

42 Rollo (G.R. No. 179120), pp. 3-21.

43 Id. at 19-20.

44 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 179132-33), pp. 3-70.

45 Id. at 69-70.

46 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 178831-32), pp. 468-470.

47 Id. at 471-481.

48 Rollo (G.R. Nos. 179240-41), pp. 3-28.

49 Supra note 41.

50 COMELEC Rules of Procedure, Rule 19, Sec. 2.

51 442 Phil. 139 (2002).

52 Section 17, Article VI, 1987 Constitution provides:

Sec. 17. The Senate and the House of Representatives shall each have an Electoral Tribunal which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of their respective members. Each Electoral Tribunal shall be composed of nine members, three of whom shall be Justices of the Supreme Court to be designated by the Chief Justice, and the remaining six shall be Members of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, who shall be chosen on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and the parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented therein. The senior justice in the Electoral Tribunal shall be its Chairman.

53 Section 2(2), Article IX-C, 1987 Constitution provides:

Sec. 2. The Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and functions:

x x x x

(2) Exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over all contests relating to the elections, returns, and qualifications of all elective, regional, provincial, and city officials, and appellate jurisdiction over all contests involving elective municipal officials decided by trial courts of general jurisdiction, or involving elective barangay officials decided by trial courts of limited jurisdiction. Decisions, final orders, or rulings of the Commission on election contests involving elective municipal and barangay offices shall be final, executory, and not appealable.

54 Section 6, RA 6646, otherwise known as “An Act Introducing Additional Reforms in the Electoral System and for other Purposes,” states:

SEC. 6. Effect of Disqualification Case. – Any candidate who has been declared by final judgment to be disqualified shall not be voted for, and the votes cast for him shall not be counted. If for any reason a candidate is not declared by final judgment before an election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the winning number of votes in such election, the Court or Commission shall continue with the trial and hearing of the action, inquiry or protest and, upon motion of the complainant or any intervenor, may during the pendency thereof order the suspension of the proclamation of such candidate whenever the evidence of guilt is strong.

55 Section 241 of the OEC provides:

SEC. 241. Definition. – A pre-proclamation controversy refers to any question pertaining to or affecting the proceedings of the board of canvassers which may be raised by any candidate or by any registered political party or coalition of political parties before the board or directly with the Commission, or any matter raised under Sections 233, 234, 235 and 236 in relation to the preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of election returns.

56 Section 243 of the OEC provides:

SEC. 243. Issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversy. – The following shall be proper issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversy:

(a) Illegal composition or proceedings of the board of canvassers.

(b) The canvassed election returns are incomplete, contain material defects, appear to be tampered with or falsified, or contain discrepancies in the same returns or in other authentic copies thereof as mentioned in Sections 233, 234, 235 and 236 of this Code.

(c) The election returns were prepared under duress, threats, coercion, or intimidation, or they are obviously manufactured or not authentic; and

(d) When the substitute or fraudulent returns in controverted polling places were canvassed, the results of which materially affected the standing of the aggrieved candidate or candidates.

57 Villarosa v. Commission on Elections and Atty. Dan Restor, 377 Phil. 497, 506 (1999), citing the Concurring Opinion of Justice Antonio in University of Nueva Caceres v. Martinez, 56 SCRA 148 (1974).

58 Id. at 507, citing Midland Insurance Corporation, 143 SCRA 458 (1986).

59 Section 3, Article IX-C, 1987 Constitution provides:

Sec. 3. The Commission on Elections may sit en banc or in two divisions, and shall promulgate its rules of procedure in order to expedite disposition of election cases, including pre-proclamation controversies. All such election cases shall be heard and decided in division, provided that motions for reconsideration of decisions shall be decided by the Commission en banc.

60 G.R. No. 167594, March 10, 2006, 484 SCRA 529, 537.

61 Vinzons-Chato v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 172131, April 2, 2007, 520 SCRA 166, 179, citing Aggabao v. Commission on Elections, 449 SCRA 400, 404-405 (2005); Guerrero v. Commission on Elections, 391 Phil. 344, 352 (2000).

62 SEC. 250. Election contests for Batasang Pambansa, regional, provincial and city offices. – A sworn petition contesting the election of any Member of the Batasang Pambansa or any regional, provincial or city official shall be filed with the Commission by any candidate who has duly filed a certificate of candidacy and has been voted for the same office, within ten days after the proclamation of the results of the election.

63 Vinzons-Chato v. Commission on Elections, supra note 61, at 178, citing Rasul v. Commission on Elections, 371 Phil. 760, 766 (1999).

64 Lazatin v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. L-80007, January 25, 1988, 157 SCRA 337, 338.

65 Supra note 61, at 180.

66 G.R. No. 105278, November 18, 1993, 228 SCRA 36, 44.

67 G.R. No. 87193, June 23, 1989, 174 SCRA 245. (Emphasis supplied)

68 G.R. Nos. L-25204 & L-25219, January 23, 1970, 31 SCRA 52, 58.

69 Rollo p. 97.

70 Id. at 172 and 175.

71 Section 2. Mode of review. – A judgment or final order or resolution of the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit may be brought by the aggrieved party to the Supreme Court on certiorari under Rule 65, except as hereinafter provided.

72 Soriano, Jr. v. Commission on Elections, G.R. Nos. 164496-505, April 2, 2007, 520 SCRA 80, 107, citing Reyes v. RTC of Oriental Mindoro, 313 Phil. 727, 734 (1995).

73 When Speaker Jose De Venecia, Jr. was replaced by Speaker Prospero Nograles, petitioner Biraogo filed with the Court a Respectful Manifestation with Motion to Replace Respondent Jose De Venecia, Jr. with Prospero C. Nograles, praying that the latter will replace the former as party-respondent in G.R. No. 179120, which the Court granted in its Resolution dated April 1, 2008.

74 See Codilla v. De Venecia, 442 Phil. 139 (2002).

READ CASE DIGEST HERE.

Justice Velasco, Jr., Dissenting Opinion

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