Sunday, March 15, 2015

CASE IN POINT | May a dual citizen who renounced his other citizenship but used his foreign passport thereafter run for public office?

May a dual citizen who renounced his other citizenship but used his foreign passport thereafter run for public office?

This is a question that becomes very relevant again in view of the forthcoming 2016 elections. Be it remembered that public office is a public trust and by reason of public policy, it is reserved for the Filipino. The reason is simple. It would be anomalous for a foreign to hold public office in the Philippines.

The case in point is a situation where a dual citizen renounced his American citizenship, but used his American passport thereafter. He run for public office and won. But the Supreme Court declared him ineligible. Consequently, since he was disqualified from the beginning, the opponent was the only candidate, hence, the rule on succession is inapplicable. The other candidate who obtained the second highest number of votes was not a second placer. The effects of such ineligibility are discussed in Casan Macode Maquiling v. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 195649, April 16, 2013.

An ineligible candidate who receives the highest number of votes is a wrongful winner. By express legal mandate, he could not even have been a candidate in the first place, but by virtue of the lack of material time or any other intervening circumstances, his ineligibility might not have been passed upon prior to election date. Consequently, he may have had the opportunity to hold himself out to the electorate as a legitimate and duly qualified candidate. However, notwithstanding the outcome of the elections, his ineligibility as a candidate remains unchanged. Ineligibility does not pertain to his qualifications as a candidate but necessarily affects his right to hold public office. The number of ballots cast in his favor cannot cure the defect of failure to qualify with the substantive legal requirements of eligibility to run for public office. (Casan Macode Maquiling v. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 195649, April 16, 2013, En Banc, Sereno, J).

With Arnado’s disqualification, Maquiling then becomes the winner in the election as he obtained the highest number of votes from among the qualified candidates. We have ruled in the recent cases of Aratea v. COMELEC and Jalosjos v. COMELEC, that a void COC cannot produce any legal effect. Thus, the votes cast in favor of the ineligible candidate are not considered at all in determining the winner of an election.

Even when the votes for the ineligible candidate are disregarded, the will of the electorate is still respected, and even more so. The votes cast in favor of an ineligible candidate do not constitute the sole and total expression of the sovereign voice. The votes cast in favor of eligible and legitimate candidates form part of that voice and must also be respected.

As in any contest, elections are governed by rules that determine the qualifications and disqualifications of those who are allowed to participate as players. When there are participants who turn out to be ineligible, their victory is voided and the laurel is awarded to the next in rank who does not possess any of the disqualifications nor lacks any of the qualifications set in the rules to be eligible as candidates.

The electorate’s awareness of the candidate’s disqualifications is not a prerequisite for the disqualification to attach to the candidate. The very existence of a disqualifying circumstance makes the candidate ineligible. Knowledge by the electorate of a candidate’s disqualification is not necessary before a qualified candidate who placed second to a disqualified one can be proclaimed as the winner. The second-placer in the vote count is actually the first-placer among the qualified candidates.

That the disqualified candidate has already been proclaimed and has assumed office is of no moment. The subsequent disqualifications based on a substantive ground that existed prior to the filing of the certificate of candidacy voids not only the COC but the proclamation.

The disqualifying circumstance surrounding Arnado’s candidacy involves his citizenship. It does not involve the commission of election offenses as provide for in the first sentence of Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, the effect of which is to disqualify the individual from continuing as a candidate, or if has already been elected, from holding the office.

The disqualifying circumstance affecting Arnado is his citizenship. x x x Arnado was both a Filipino and an American citizen when he filed his certificate of candidacy. He was a dual citizen disqualified to run for public office based on Section 40(d) of the Local Government Code.

With Arnado being barred from even becoming a candidate, his certificate of candidacy is thus rendered void from the beginning. It could not have produced any other legal effect x x x.

To hold such proclamation is valid is to negates the prohibitory character of the disqualification which Arnado possessed even prior to the filing of the certificate of candidacy. The affirmation of Arnado’s disqualification, although made long after the elections, reaches back to the filing of the certificate of candidacy. Arnado is declared to be not a candidate at all in the May 2010 elections.
Arnado being not a candidate, the votes cast in his favor should not have been counted. This leaves Maquiling as the qualified candidate who obtained the highest number of votes therefore, the rule on succession under the Local Government Code will not apply. (Casan Macode Maquiling v. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 195649, April 16, 2013, En Banc, Sereno, J).

Dean Ed Vincent S. Albano is the Bar Review Director of Albano Bar Review Center. He authored books/reviewers in Civil Law, Political,  Law, Remedial Law and Legal Ethics.

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