Rommel Arnado vs Commission on Elections et al
G.R. No. 210164 – Political Law – Election Law – Republic Act No. 9225 – Qualifications of Local Elective Candidates – Citizenship Requirements – Dual Allegiance
Remedial Law – Formal Offer of Evidence – Evidence not Offered
Rommel Arnado was a natural-born Filipino. Later, however, he became an American citizen.
On July 10, 2008, he re-acquired his Filipino citizenship by executing an oath of allegiance to the Philippines.
On April 3, 2009, he executed an affidavit renouncing his American citizenship.
On November 30, 2009, he filed a certificate of candidacy (COC) for mayor of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte for the May 10, 2010 elections.
A rival candidate (Linog Balua) then filed a disqualification case against Arnado on the ground that Arnado used his US passport after renouncing his US citizenship in April 2009. It was argued that such act of using a US passport constitutes dual allegiance and that is a ground for disqualification under the Local Government Code. In short, it was argued that Arnado remained a US citizen.
In his defense, Arnado argued that he is qualified to run for public office because he complied with the requirements of Republic Act No. 9225 which provides that a former Filipino citizen may run for elective public office if (1) they meet the qualifications for the elective office they desire, and (2) make a personal and sworn renunciation of any and all foreign citizenships – which must be done before the filing of the COC.
Arnado explained that his use of his US passport after April 2009 was because of the fact that he did not know yet that he had been issued already a Philippine passport; that when he received said Philippine passport, he used it since then; that at any rate, Arnado, on November 30, 2009, again executed an Affirmation of Renunciation with Oath of Allegiance before a notary public.
Balua however presented proof that Arnado again used his US passport in January 2010 and in March 2010.
Eventually, the Commission on Elections disqualified Arnado, who won the 2010 elections, and declared another rival candidate as the rightful mayor. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court (G.R. No. 195649).
Later, on October 1, 2012, Arnado filed his COC for mayor for the May 2013 elections. Another rival candidate (Casan Maquiling) filed a petition to disqualify Arnado based on the ruling in G.R. No. 195649. While the case was pending, Arnado won the 2013 elections as he even acquired 84% of the votes cast for mayor in Kauswagan.
Later however, the COMELEC disqualified Arnado from running in the May 2013 Elections and his declaration as Mayor of Kauswagan was voided. Arnado sued the COMELEC as he argued that the COMELEC acted with grave abuse of discretion. He averred that he was able to comply with the requirements of RA 9225; and that his disqualification only disenfranchised 84% of the Kauswagan voters.
ISSUE: Whether or not the arguments raised by Arnado are tenable.
1. Firstly, the fact that he obtained a landslide victory does not override the requirements set by law. The fact that he garnered 84% of the total votes cast in Kauswagan cannot override the constitutional and statutory requirements for qualifications and disqualifications. Election victory cannot be used as a magic formula to bypass election eligibility requirements; otherwise, certain provisions of laws pertaining to elections will become toothless.
2. The COMELEC did not act with grave abuse of discretion when it disqualified Arnado. Arnado failed to comply with the requirements of RA 9225. Although he did swear allegiance to the Philippines and renounced his US citizenship prior to filing his COC in November 2009, such acts were deemed recanted or withdrawn when he again used his US passport.
In fact, Arnado did not controvert the allegations that he used his US passport in January 2010 and March 2010. As such, he remained a US citizen and is therefore disqualified to run for public office.
What Arnado could have done, for the purposes of running in the 2013 elections, was to renounce again (for the third time) his US citizenship. But he never did that hence he was rightfully disqualified in the 2013 elections too.
Note also that assuming that Arnado never used his US passport in January 2010 and March 2010, he is still disqualified.
Arnado averred that his use of his US passport prior to November 2009 was cured when he again made a second renunciation of his US citizenship on November 30, 2009. However, the Affidavit of Renunciation he offered in court during trial was a mere photocopy of the original. Under the Best Evidence Rule (Section 3, Rule 130, Revised Rules of Court), the original must be presented unless the same is lost. In this case, the original was never alleged to have been lost. Further, the said Affidavit was being used belatedly by Arnado. In fact, it was never formally offered. Under Section 34, Rule 132 of the Revised Rules of Court, “The court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally offered.”
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