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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No.

201716 January 8, 2013

MAYOR ABE AR!O ABUN!O, SR., Petitioner, vs. COMM"SS"ON ON E ECT"ONS an# ERNESTO R. $EGA, Respondents. DECISI N

$E ASCO, JR., J.: !he Case In this Petition for Certiorari under Rule "#, petitioner Abelardo Abundo, Sr. $Abundo% assails and see&s to nullif' $(% the )ebruar' *, +,(+ Resolution ( of the Second Division, Co--ission on Elections $C ME.EC%, in EAC $AE% No. A/+#/+,(, and $+% the Ma' (,, +,(+ Resolution + of the C ME.EC en banc affir-in0 that division1s disposition. !he assailed issuances, in turn, affir-ed the Decision of the Re0ional !rial Court $R!C% of 2irac, Catanduanes, Branch 34, dated Au0ust 5, +,(,, in Election Case No. ## declarin0 Abundo as ineli0ible, under the three/ter- li-it rule, to run in the +,(, elections for the position of, and necessaril' to sit as, Ma'or of 2i0a, Catanduanes. !he antecedent facts are undisputed. )or four $3% successive re0ular elections, na-el', the +,,(, +,,3, +,,6 and +,(, national and local elections, Abundo vied for the position of -unicipal -a'or of 2i0a, Catanduanes. In both the +,,( and +,,6 runs, he e-er0ed and 7as proclai-ed as the 7innin0 -a'oralt' candidate and accordin0l' served the correspondin0 ter-s as -a'or. In the +,,3 electoral derb', ho7ever, the 2i0a -unicipal board of canvassers initiall' proclai-ed as 7inner one 8ose !orres $!orres%, 7ho, in due ti-e, perfor-ed the functions of the office of -a'or. Abundo protested !orres1 election and procla-ation. Abundo 7as eventuall' declared the 7inner of the +,,3 -a'oralt' electoral contest, pavin0 the 7a' for his assu-ption of office startin0 Ma' 5, +,," until the end of the +,,3/+,,6 ter- on 8une 4,, +,,6, or for a period of a little over one 'ear and one -onth. !hen ca-e the Ma' (,, +,(, elections 7here Abundo and !orres a0ain opposed each other. 9hen Abundo filed his certificate of candidac' 4 for the -a'oralt' seat relative to this electoral contest, !orres lost no ti-e in see&in0 the for-er1s dis:ualification to run, the correspondin0 petition,3 doc&eted as SPA Case No. (,/(+* $DC%, predicated on the three/consecutive ter- li-it rule. n 8une (", +,(,, the C ME.EC )irst Division issued a Resolution # findin0 for Abundo, 7ho in the -eanti-e bested !orres b' +(5 votes " and 7as accordin0l' proclai-ed +,(, -a'or/ elect of 2i0a, Catanduanes. Mean7hile, on Ma' +(, +,(,, or before the C ME.EC could resolve the adverted dis:ualification case !orres initiated a0ainst Abundo, herein private respondent Ernesto R. 2e0a $2e0a% co--enced a :uo 7arranto 6 action before the R!C/Br. 34 in 2irac, Catanduanes,

doc&eted as Election Case No. ##, to unseat Abundo on essentiall' the sa-e 0rounds !orres raised in his petition to dis:ualif'. !he Rulin0 of the Re0ional !rial Court B' Decision* of Au0ust 5, +,(, in Election Case No. ##, the R!C declared Abundo ineli0ible to serve as -unicipal -a'or, disposin0 as follo7s; 9<ERE) RE, Decision is, hereb', rendered =RAN!IN= the petition and declarin0 Abelardo Abundo, Sr. ineli0ible to serve as -unicipal -a'or of 2i0a, Catanduanes. S RDERED.5

In so rulin0, the trial court, citin0 Aldovino, 8r. v. C ME.EC, (, found Abundo to have alread' served three consecutive -a'oralt' ter-s, to 7it, +,,(/+,,3, +,,3/+,,6 and +,,6/+,(,, and, hence, dis:ualified for another, i.e., fourth, consecutive ter-. Abundo, the R!C noted, had been declared 7inner in the aforesaid +,,3 elections conse:uent to his protest and occupied the position of and actuall' served as 2i0a -a'or for over a 'ear of the re-ainin0 ter-, i.e., froMa' 5, +,," to 8une 4,, +,,6, to be e>act. !o the R!C, the 'ear and a -onth service constitutes a co-plete and full service of Abundo1s second ter- as -a'or. !herefro-, Abundo appealed to the C ME.EC, his recourse doc&eted as EAC $AE% No. A/+#/ +,(,. !he Rulin0 of the C ME.EC n )ebruar' *, +,(+, in EAC $AE% No. A/+#/+,(,, the C ME.EC1s Second Division rendered the first assailed Resolution, the dispositive portion of 7hich reads as follo7s; 9<ERE) RE, in vie7 of the fore0oin0, the decision of the Re0ional !rial Court Branch 64, 2irac, Catanduanes is A))IRMED and the appeal is DISMISSED for lac& of -erit. S RDERED.((

8ust li&e the R!C, the C ME.EC1s Second Division ruled a0ainst Abundo on the stren0th of Aldovino, 8r. and held that service of the une>pired portion of a ter- b' a protestant 7ho is declared 7inner in an election protest is considered as service for one full ter- 7ithin the conte-plation of the three/ter- li-it rule. In ti-e, Abundo sou0ht but 7as denied reconsideration b' the C ME.EC en banc per its e:uall' assailed Resolution of Ma' (,, +,(+. !he fallo of the C ME.EC en banc1s Resolution reads as follo7s; 9<ERE) RE, pre-ises considered, the -otion for reconsideration is DENIED for lac& of -erit. !he Resolution of the Co--ission $Second Division% is hereb' A))IRMED. S RDERED.(+

In affir-in0 the Resolution of its Second Division, the C ME.EC en banc held in essence the follo7in0; first, there 7as no involuntar' interruption of Abundo1s +,,3/+,,6 ter- service 7hich

7ould be an e>ception to the three/ter- li-it rule as he is considered never to have lost title to the disputed office after he 7on in his election protest? and second, 7hat the Constitution prohibits is for an elective official to be in office for the sa-e position for -ore than three consecutive ter-s and not to the service of the ter-. <ence, the instant petition 7ith pra'er for the issuance of a te-porar' restrainin0 order $!R % and@or preli-inar' inAunction. Intervenin0 Events In the -eanti-e, follo7in0 the issuance b' the C ME.EC of its Ma' (,, +,(+ Resolution den'in0 Abundo1s -otion for reconsideration, the follo7in0 events transpired; (. n 8une +,, +,(+, the C ME.EC issued an rder (4 declarin0 its Ma' (,, +,(+ Resolution final and e>ecutor'. !he follo7in0 da', 8une +(, +,(+, the C ME.EC issued an Entr' of 8ud0-ent.(3 +. n 8une +#, +,(+, 2e0a filed a Motion for E>ecution (# 7ith the R!C/Br. 34 in 2irac, Catanduanes. 4. n 8une +6, +,(+, the C ME.EC, actin0 on 2e0a1s counsel1s -otion (" filed a da' earlier, issued an rder (6 directin0 the bailiff of ECAD $C ME.EC% to personall' deliver the entire records to said R!C. n 8une +5, +,(+, the C ME.EC ECAD Bailiff personall' delivered the entire records of the instant case to, and 7ere dul' received b', the cler& of court of R!C/Br. 34. 3. n 8une +5, +,(+, or on the sa-e da' of its receipt of the case records, the R!C/Br. 34 in 2irac, Catanduanes 0ranted 2e0a1s Motion for E>ecution throu0h an rder (* of even date. And a 9rit of E>ecution(5 7as issued on the sa-e da'. #. n 8ul' +, +,(+, Sheriff B. !ador, 8r. received the 9rit of E>ecution and served the sa-e at the office of Ma'or Abundo on the sa-e da' via substituted service. ". n 8ul' 4, +,(+, the Court issued a !R C ME.EC Resolutions.
+,

enAoinin0 the enforce-ent of the assailed

6. n 8ul' 3, +,(+, 2e0a received the Court1s 8ul' 4, +,(+ Resolution +( and a cop' of the !R . n the sa-e da', 2ice/Ma'or E-eterio M. !arin and )irst Councilor Cesar . Cervantes of 2i0a, Catanduanes too& their oaths of office ++ as -a'or and vice/-a'or of 2i0a, Catanduanes, respectivel'. *. n 8ul' #, +,(+, 2e0a received a cop' of Abundo1s Seventh $6th% Most E>tre-el' Cr0ent Manifestation and Motion+4 dated 8une +*, +,(+ pra'in0 for the issuance of a !R and@or status :uo ante rder. n the sa-e da', 2ice/Ma'or E-eterio M. !arin and )irst Councilor Cesar . CervantesDD7ho had ta&en their oaths of office the da' before Eassu-ed the posts of -a'or and vice/-a'or of 2i0a, Catanduanes. +3 5. n 8ul' ", +,(+, 2e0a interposed a Motion $!o Ad-it Attached Manifestation% +# and Manifestation 7ith .eave to Ad-it +" dated 8ul' #, +,(+ statin0 that the !R thus issued

b' the Court has beco-e functus officio o7in0 to the e>ecution of the R!C1s Decision in Election Case No. ##. (,. n 8ul' (,, +,(+, 2e0a filed his Co--ent@ pposition 7ith .eave to the Petitioner1s Pra'er for the Issuance of a Status Buo Ante rder +6 reiteratin0 the ar0u-ent that since 2ice/Ma'or E-eterio M. !arin and )irst Councilor Cesar . Cervantes alread' assu-ed the posts of Ma'or and 2ice/Ma'or of 2i0a, Catanduanes, then a Status Buo Ante rder 7ould serve no purpose. ((. n 8ul' (+, +,(+, Abundo filed his Most Cr0ent Manifestation and Motion to Convert the 8ul' 4, +,(+ !R into a Status Buo Ante rder $In 2ie7 of the Cnreasonable and Inappropriate Pro0ression of Events%.+* It is upon the fore0oin0 bac&drop of events that Abundo 7as dislod0ed fro- his post as incu-bent -a'or of 2i0a, Catanduanes. !o be sure, the speed 7hich characteriFed Abundo1s ouster despite the supervenin0 issuance b' the Court of a !R on 8ul' 4, +,(+ is not lost on the Court. 9hile it is not clear 7hether 2ice/Ma'or !arin and )irst Councilor Cervantes &ne7 of or put on notice about the !R either before the' too& their oaths of office on 8ul' 3, +,(+ or before assu-in0 the posts of -a'or and vice/-a'or on 8ul' #, +,(+, the confluence of events follo7in0 the issuance of the assailed C ME.EC en banc irresistibl' tends to sho7 that the !R DDissued as it 7ere to -aintain the status :uo, thus avertin0 the pre-ature ouster of Abundo pendin0 this Court1s resolution of his appealDDappears to have been trivialiFed. n Septe-ber ((, +,(+, 2e0a filed his Co--ent on Abundo1s petition, follo7ed not lon0 after b' public respondent C ME.EC1s Consolidated Co--ent. +5 !he Issues Abundo raises the follo7in0 0rounds for the allo7ance of the petition; ".( !he Co--ission En Banc co--itted 0rave abuse of discretion a-ountin0 to lac& or e>cess of Aurisdiction 7hen it declared the ar0u-ents in Abundo1s -otion for reconsideration as -ere rehash and reiterations of the clai-s he raised prior to the pro-ul0ation of the Resolution. ".+ !he Co--ission En Banc co--itted 0rave abuse of discretion a-ountin0 to lac& or e>cess of Aurisdiction 7hen it declared that Abundo has consecutivel' served for three ter-s despite the fact that he onl' served the re-ainin0 one 'ear and one -onth of the second ter- as a result of an election protest.4, )irst Issue; Ar0u-ents in Motion for Reconsideration Not Mere Reiteration !he C ME.EC en banc denied Abundo1s -otion for reconsideration on the basis that his ar0u-ents in said -otion are -ere reiterations of 7hat he alread' brou0ht up in his appeal Brief before the C ME.EC Second Division. In this petition, petitioner clai-s other7ise. Petitioner1s assertion is devoid of -erit.

A co-parison of Abundo1s ar0u-ents in the latter1s Brief vis/G/vis those in his Motion for Reconsideration $MR% reveals that the ar0u-ents in the MR are elucidations and a-plications of the sa-e issues raised in the brief. )irst, in his Brief, Abundo raised the sole issue of lac& of Aurisdiction of the R!C to consider the :uo 7arranto case since the alle0ed violation of the three/ ter- li-it has alread' been reAected b' the C ME.EC )irst Division in SPA Case No. (,/(+* $DC%, 7hile in his MR, Abundo raised the si-ilar 0round of the conclusiveness of the C ME.EC1s findin0 on the issue of his :ualification to run for the current ter-. Second, in his Brief, Abundo assailed R!C1s reliance on Aldovino, 8r., 7hile in his MR, he ar0ued that the Court1s pronounce-ent in Aldovino, 8r., 7hich dealt 7ith preventive suspension, is not applicable to the instant case as it involves onl' a partial service of the ter-. Abundo ar0ued in his Brief that his situation cannot be e:uated 7ith the case of preventive suspension as held in Aldovino, 8r., 7hile in his MR, he ar0ued before that the al-ost t7o 'ears 7hich he did not sit as -a'or durin0 the +,,3/+,,6 ter- is an interruption in the continuit' of his service for the full ter-. !hus, C ME.EC did not err in rulin0 that the issues in the MR are a rehash of those in the Brief. Core Issue; 9hether or not Abundo is dee-ed to have served three consecutive ter-s !he pivotal deter-inative issue then is 7hether the service of a ter- less than the full three 'ears b' an elected official arisin0 fro- his bein0 declared as the dul' elected official upon an election protest is considered as full service of the ter- for purposes of the application of the three consecutive ter- li-it for elective local officials. n this core issue, 9e find the petition -eritorious. !he consecutiveness of 7hat other7ise 7ould have been Abundo1s three successive, continuous -a'orship 7as effectivel' bro&en durin0 the +,,3/+,,6 ter- 7hen he 7as initiall' deprived of title to, and 7as veritabl' disallo7ed to serve and occup', an office to 7hich he, after due proceedin0s, 7as eventuall' declared to have been the ri0htful choice of the electorate. !he three/ter- li-it rule for elective local officials, a dis:ualification rule, is found in Section *, Article H of the (5*6 Constitution, 7hich provides; Sec. *. !he ter- of office of elective local officials, e>cept baran0a' officials, 7hich shall be deter-ined b' la7, shall be three 'ears and no such official shall serve for -ore than three consecutive ter-s. 2oluntar' renunciation of the office for an' len0th of ti-e shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuit' of his service for the full ter- for 7hich he 7as elected. $E-phasis supplied.% and is reiterated in Sec. 34$b% of Republic Act No. $RA% 6(",, or the .ocal =overn-ent Code $.=C% of (55(, thusl'; Sec. 34. !er- of >>>> $b% No local elective official shall serve for -ore than three $4% consecutive ter-s in the sa-e position. 2oluntar' renunciation of the office for an' len0th of ti-e shall not be considered as an ffice. E

interruption in the continuit' of service for the full ter- for 7hich the elective official concerned 7as elected. $E-phasis urs.% !o constitute a dis:ualification to run for an elective local office pursuant to the afore:uoted constitutional and statutor' provisions, the follo7in0 re:uisites -ust concur; $(% that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive ter-s in the sa-e local 0overn-ent post? and $+% that he has full' served three consecutive ter-s.4( 8ud0in0 fro- e>tant Aurisprudence, the three/ter- li-it rule, as applied to the different factual -ilieus, has its co-plicated side. 9e shall revisit and anal'Fe the various holdin0s and relevant pronounce-ents of the Court on the -atter. As is clearl' provided in Sec. *, Art. H of the Constitution as 7ell as in Sec. 34$b% of the .=C, voluntar' renunciation of the office b' the incu-bent elective local official for an' len0th of ti-e shall N !, in deter-inin0 service for three consecutive ter-s, be considered an interruption in the continuit' of service for the full ter- for 7hich the elective official concerned 7as elected. In Aldovino, 8r., ho7ever, the Court stated the observation that the la7 Idoes not te>tuall' state that voluntar' renunciation is the onl' actual interruption of service that does not affect Jcontinuit' of service for a full ter-1 for purposes of the three/ter- li-it rule.I 4+ As stressed in Socrates v. Co--ission on Elections, 44 the principle behind the three/ter- li-it rule covers onl' consecutive ter-s and that 7hat the Constitution prohibits is a consecutive fourth ter-. Put a bit differentl', an elective local official cannot, follo7in0 his third consecutive ter-, see& i--ediate reelection for a fourth ter-, 43albeit he is allo7ed to see& a fresh ter- for the sa-e position after the election 7here he could have sou0ht his fourth ter- but prevented to do so b' reason of the prohibition. !here has, in fine, to be a brea& or interruption in the successive ter-s of the official after his or her third ter-. An interruption usuall' occurs 7hen the official does not see& a fourth ter-, i--ediatel' follo7in0 the third. f course, the basic la7 is une:uivocal that a Ivoluntar' renunciation of the office for an' len0th of ti-e shall N ! be considered an interruption in the continuit' of service for the full ter- for 7hich the elective official concerned 7as elected.I !his :ualification 7as -ade as a deterrent a0ainst an elective local official intendin0 to s&irt the three/ ter- li-it rule b' -erel' resi0nin0 before his or her third ter- ends. !his is a voluntar' interruption as distin0uished fro- involuntar' interruption 7hich -a' be brou0ht about b' certain events or causes. 9hile appearin0 to be see-in0l' si-ple, the three/ter- li-it rule has en0endered a host of disputes resultin0 fro- the var'in0 interpretations applied on local officials 7ho 7ere elected and served for three ter-s or -ore, but 7hose ter-s or service 7as punctuated b' 7hat the' vie7 as involuntar' interruptions, thus entitlin0 the- to a, but 7hat their opponents perceive as a proscribed, fourth ter-. Involuntar' interruption is clai-ed to result fro- an' of these events or causes; succession or assu-ption of office b' operation of la7, preventive suspension, declaration of the defeated candidate as the 7inner in an election contest, declaration of the proclai-ed candidate as the losin0 part' in an election contest, procla-ation of a non/candidate as the 7inner in a recall election, re-oval of the official b' operation of la7, and other analo0ous causes.

!his brin0s us to an e>a-ination of situations and Aurisprudence 7herein such consecutive ter-s 7ere considered or not considered as havin0 been Iinvoluntaril' interrupted or bro&en.I $(% Assu-ption of ffice b' peration of .a7

In BorAa, 8r. v. Co--ission on Elections and 8ose !. Capco, 8r. 4# $(55*% and Montebon v. Co--ission on Elections4" $+,,*%, the Court delved on the effects of Iassu-ption to office b' operation of la7I on the three/ter- li-it rule. !his conte-plates a situation 7herein an elective local official fills b' succession a hi0her local 0overn-ent post per-anentl' left vacant due to an' of the follo7in0 contin0encies, i.e., 7hen the supposed incu-bent refuses to assu-e office, fails to :ualif', dies, is re-oved fro- office, voluntaril' resi0ns or is other7ise per-anentl' incapacitated to dischar0e the functions of his office. 46 In BorAa, 8r., 8ose !. Capco, 8r. $Capco% 7as elected vice/-a'or of Pateros on 8anuar' (*, (5** for a ter- endin0 8une 4,, (55+. n Septe-ber +, (5*5, Capco beca-e -a'or, b' operation of la7, upon the death of the incu-bent -a'or, Cesar BorAa. Capco 7as then elected and served as -a'or for ter-s (55+/(55# and (55#/(55*. 9hen Capco e>pressed his intention to run a0ain for the -a'oralt' position durin0 the (55* elections, BenAa-in C. BorAa, 8r., 7ho 7as then also a candidate for -a'or, sou0ht Capco1s dis:ualification for violation of the three/ter- li-it rule. )indin0 for Capco, the Court held that for the dis:ualification rule to appl', Iit is not enou0h that an individual has served three consecutive ter-s in an elective local office, he -ust also have been elected to the sa-e position for the sa-e nu-ber of ti-es before the dis:ualification can appl'.I4* !here 7as, the Court ruled, no violation of the three/ter- li-it, for Capco I7as not elected to the office of the -a'or in the first ter- but si-pl' found hi-self thrust into it b' operation of la7I45 7hen a per-anent vacanc' occurred in that office. !he Court arrived at a parallel conclusion in the case of Montebon. !here, Montebon had been elected for three consecutive ter-s as -unicipal councilor of !uburan, Cebu in (55*/+,,(, +,,(/+,,3, and +,,3/+,,6. <o7ever, in 8anuar' +,,3, or durin0 his second ter-, Montebon succeeded and assu-ed the position of vice/-a'or of !uburan 7hen the incu-bent vice/-a'or retired. 9hen Montebon filed his certificate of candidac' a0ain as -unicipal councilor, a petition for dis:ualification 7as filed a0ainst hi- based on the three/ter- li-it rule. !he Court ruled that Montebon1s assu-ption of office as vice/-a'or in 8anuar' +,,3 7as an interruption of his continuit' of service as councilor. !he Court e-phasiFed that succession in local 0overn-ent office is b' operation of la7 and as such, it is an involuntar' severance fro- office. Since the la7 no less allo7ed Montebon to vacate his post as councilor in order to assu-e office as vice/ -a'or, his occupation of the hi0her office cannot, 7ithout -ore, be dee-ed as a voluntar' renunciation of his position as councilor. $+% Recall Election 9ith reference to the effects of recall election on the continuit' of service, Ador-eo v. Co--ission on Elections3,$+,,+% and the afore-entioned case of Socrates $+,,+% provide 0uidance. In Ador-eo, Ra-on !ala0a, 8r. $!ala0a% 7as elected and served as -a'or of .ucena Cit' durin0 ter-s (55+/(55# and (55#/(55*. Durin0 the (55* elections, !ala0a lost to Bernard =. !a0arao. <o7ever, before !a0arao1s (55*/+,,( ter- ended, a recall election 7as conducted in Ma' +,,, 7herein !ala0a 7on and served the une>pired ter- of !a0arao until 8une +,,(. 9hen !ala0a

ran for -a'or in +,,(, his candidac' 7as challen0ed on the 0round he had alread' served as -a'or for three consecutive ter-s for violation of the three ter-/li-it rule. !he Court held therein that the re-ainder of !a0arao1s ter- after the recall election durin0 7hich !ala0a served as -a'or should not be considered for purposes of appl'in0 the three/ter- li-it rule. !he Court e-phasiFed that the continuit' of !ala0a1s -a'orship 7as disrupted b' his defeat durin0 the (55* elections. A si-ilar conclusion 7as reached b' the Court in Socrates. !he petitioners in that case assailed the C ME.EC Resolution 7hich declared Ed7ard <a0edorn :ualified to run for -a'or in a recall election. It appeared that <a0edorn had been elected and served as -a'or of Puerto Princesa Cit' for three consecutive ter-s; in (55+/(55#, (55#/(55* and (55*/+,,(. bviousl' a7are of the three/ter- li-it principle, <a0edorn opted not to vie for the sa-e -a'oralt' position in the +,,( elections, in 7hich Socrates ran and eventuall' 7on. <o7ever, -id7a' into his ter-, Socrates faced recall proceedin0s and in the recall election held, <a0edorn run for the for-er1s une>pired ter- as -a'or. Socrates sou0ht <a0edorn1s dis:ualification under the three/ter- li-it rule. In upholdin0 <a0edorn1s candidac' to run in the recall election, the Court ruled; > > > After <a0edorn ceased to be -a'or on 8une 4,, +,,(, he beca-e a private citiFen until the recall election of Septe-ber +3, +,,+ 7hen he 7on b' 4,,(* votes over his closest opponent, Socrates. )ro- 8une 4,, +,,( until the recall election on Septe-ber +3, +,,+, the -a'or of Puerto Princesa 7as Socrates. Durin0 the sa-e period, <a0edorn 7as si-pl' a private citiFen. !his period is clearl' an interruption in the continuit' of <a0edorn1s service as -a'or, not because of his voluntar' renunciation, but because of a le0al prohibition. 3( !he Court li&e7ise e-phasiFed in Socrates that Ian elective local official cannot see& i--ediate reelection for a fourth ter-. !he prohibited election refers to the ne>t re0ular election for the sa-e office follo7in0 the end of the third consecutive ter- and, hence, an' subse:uent election, li&e recall election, is no lon0er covered > > >.I3+ $4% Conversion of a Municipalit' into a Cit' n the other hand, the conversion of a -unicipalit' into a cit' does not constitute an interruption of the incu-bent official1s continuit' of service. !he Court said so in .atasa v. Co--ission on Elections34 $+,,4%. .atasa is cast a0ainst the ensuin0 bac&drop; Arsenio A. .atasa 7as elected and served as -a'or of the Municipalit' of Di0os, Davao del Sur for ter-s (55+/(55#, (55#/(55*, and (55*/ +,,(. Durin0 his third ter-, Di0os 7as converted into a co-ponent cit', 7ith the correspondin0 cit'hood la7 providin0 the holdover of elective officials. 9hen .atasa filed his certificate of candidac' as -a'or for the +,,( elections, the Court declared .atasa as dis:ualified to run as -a'or of Di0os Cit' for violation of the three/ter- li-it rule on the basis of the follo7in0 ratiocination; !his Court believes that $.atasa% did involuntaril' relin:uish his office as -unicipal -a'or since the said office has been dee-ed abolished due to the conversion. <o7ever, the ver' instant he vacated his office as -unicipal -a'or, he also assu-ed office as cit' -a'or. Cnli&e in

.onFanida, 7here petitioner therein, for even Aust a short period of ti-e, stepped do7n frooffice, petitioner .atasa never ceased fro- actin0 as chief e>ecutive of the local 0overn-ent unit. <e never ceased fro- dischar0in0 his duties and responsibilities as chief e>ecutive of Di0os. $E-phasis supplied.% $3% Period of Preventive Suspension In +,,5, in the case Aldovino 8r., the Court espoused the doctrine that the period durin0 7hich a local elected official is under preventive suspension cannot be considered as an interruption of the continuit' of his service. !he Court e>plained 7h' so; Strict adherence to the intent of the three/ter- li-it rule de-ands that preventive suspension should not be considered an interruption that allo7s an elective official1s sta' in office be'ond three ter-s. A preventive suspension cannot si-pl' be a ter- interruption because the suspended official continues to sta' in office althou0h he is barred fro- e>ercisin0 the functions and prero0atives of the office 7ithin the suspension period. !he best indicator of the suspended official1s continuit' in office is the absence of a per-anent replace-ent and the lac& of the authorit' to appoint one since no vacanc' e>ists. 33 $E-phasis supplied.% $#% Election Protest 9ith re0ard to the effects of an election protest vis/G/vis the three/ter- li-it rule, Aurisprudence presents a -ore differin0 picture. !he Court1s pronounce-ents in .onFanida v. Co--ission on Elections3# $(555%, n0 v. Ale0re 3"$+,,"%, Rivera III v. Co--ission on Elections 36 $+,,6% and DiFon v. Co--ission on Elections3* $+,,5%, all protest cases, are illu-inatin0. In .onFanida, Ro-eo .onFanida 7as elected and had served as -unicipal -a'or of San Antonio, Ka-bales in ter-s (5*5/(55+, (55+/(55# and (55#/(55*. <o7ever, his procla-ation relative to the (55# election 7as protested and 7as eventuall' declared b' the R!C and then b' C ME.EC null and void on the 0round of failure of elections. n )ebruar' +6, (55*, or about three -onths before the Ma' (55* elections, .onFanida vacated the -a'oralt' post in li0ht of a C ME.EC order and 7rit of e>ecution it issued. .onFanida1s opponent assu-ed office for the re-ainder of the ter-. In the Ma' (55* elections, .onFanida a0ain filed his certificate of candidac'. <is opponent, Efren Muli, filed a petition for dis:ualification on the 0round that .onFanida had alread' served three consecutive ter-s in the sa-e post. !he Court, citin0 BorAa 8r., reiterated the t7o $+% conditions 7hich -ust concur for the three/ter- li-it to appl'; I(% that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive ter-s in the sa-e local 0overn-ent post and +% that he has full' served three consecutive ter-s.I 35 In vie7 of BorAa, 8r., the Court ruled that the fore0oin0 re:uisites 7ere absent in the case of .onFanida. !he Court held that .onFanida cannot be considered as havin0 been dul' elected to the post in the Ma' (55# elections since his assu-ption of office as -a'or Icannot be dee-ed to have been b' reason of a valid election but b' reason of a void procla-ation.I And as a corollar' point, the Court stated that .onFanida did not full' serve the (55#/(55* -a'oral ter- havin0 been ordered to vacate his post before the e>piration of the ter-, a situation 7hich a-ounts to an involuntar' relin:uish-ent of office.!his Court deviated fro- the rulin0 in .onFanida in n0 v. Ale0re#,o7in0 to a variance in the factual situations attendant.

In that case, )rancis n0 $ n0% 7as elected and served as -a'or of San 2icente, Ca-arines Norte for ter-s (55#/(55*, (55*/+,,(, and +,,(/+,,3. Durin0 the (55* -a'oralt' elections, or durin0 his supposed second ter-, the C ME.EC nullified n01s procla-ation on the postulate that n0 lost durin0 the (55* elections. <o7ever, the C ME.EC1s decision beca-e final and e>ecutor' on 8ul' 3, +,,(, 7hen n0 had full' served the (55*/+,,( -a'oralt' ter- and 7as in fact alread' startin0 to serve the +,,(/+,,3 ter- as -a'or/elect of the -unicipalit' of San 2icente. In +,,3, n0 filed his certificate of candidac' for the sa-e position as -a'or, 7hich his opponent opposed for violation of the three/ter- li-it rule. n0 invo&ed the rulin0 in .onFanida and ar0ued that he could not be considered as havin0 served as -a'or fro- (55*/+,,( because he 7as not dul' elected to the post and -erel' assu-ed office as a Ipresu-ptive 7inner.I Dis-issin0 n01s ar0u-ent, the Court held that his assu-ption of office as -a'or for the ter- (55*/+,,( constitutes Iservice for the full ter-I and hence, should be counted for purposes of the three/ter- li-it rule. !he Court -odified the conditions stated in .onFanida in the sense that n01s service 7as dee-ed and counted as service for a full ter- because n01s procla-ation 7as voided onl' after the e>pir' of the ter-. !he Court noted that the C ME.EC decision 7hich declared n0 as not havin0 7on the (55* elections 7as I7ithout practical and le0al use and valueI pro-ul0ated as it 7as after the contested ter- has e>pired. !he Court further reasoned; Petitioner )rancis n01s contention that he 7as onl' a presu-ptive 7inner in the (55* -a'oralt' derb' as his procla-ation 7as under protest did not -a&e hi- less than a dul' elected -a'or. <is procla-ation as the dul' elected -a'or in the (55* -a'oralt' election coupled b' his assu-ption of office and his continuous e>ercise of the functions thereof fro- start to finish of the ter-, should le0all' be ta&en as service for a full ter- in conte-plation of the three/ter- rule. !he absurdit' and the deleterious effect of a contrar' vie7 is not hard to discern. Such contrar' vie7 7ould -ean that Ale0re 7ould D under the three/ter- rule / be considered as havin0 served a ter- b' virtue of a veritabl' -eanin0less electoral protest rulin0, 7hen another actuall' served such ter- pursuant to a procla-ation -ade in due course after an election. #( $E-phasis supplied.% !he Court did not appl' the rulin0 in .onFanida and ruled that the case of 7it; n0 7as different, to

!he difference bet7een the case at bench and .onFanida is at once apparent. )or one, in .onFanida, the result of the -a'oralt' election 7as declared a nullit' for the stated reason of Ifailure of electionI, and, as a conse:uence thereof, the procla-ation of .onFanida as -a'or/ elect 7as nullified, follo7ed b' an order for hi- to vacate the office of -a'or. )or another, .onFanida did not full' serve the (55#/(55* -a'oral ter-, there bein0 an involuntar' severance fro- office as a result of le0al processes. In fine, there 7as an effective interruption of the continuit' of service.#+ $E-phasis supplied.% n01s sli0ht departure fro- .onFanida 7ould later find reinforce-ent in the consolidated cases of Rivera III v. Co--ission on Elections #4 and Dee v. Morales.#3 !herein, Morales 7as elected -a'or of Mabalacat, Pa-pan0a for the follo7in0 consecutive ter-s; (55#/(55*, (55*/+,,( and +,,(/+,,3. In relation to the +,,3 elections, Morales a0ain ran as -a'or of the sa-e to7n, e-er0ed as 0arnerin0 the -aAorit' votes and 7as proclai-ed elective -a'or for terco--encin0 8ul' (, +,,3 to 8une 4,, +,,6. A petition for :uo 7arranto 7as later filed a0ainst Morales predicated on the 0round that he is ineli0ible to run for a IfourthI ter-, havin0 served as

-a'or for three consecutive ter-s. In his ans7er, Morales averred that his supposed (55*/+,,( ter- cannot be considered a0ainst hi-, for, althou0h he 7as proclai-ed b' the Mabalacat board of canvassers as elected -a'or vis/G/vis the (55* elections and dischar0ed the duties of -a'or until 8une 4,, +,,(, his procla-ation 7as later nullified b' the R!C of An0eles Cit' and his closest rival, Anthon' Dee, proclai-ed the dul' elected -a'or. Pursuin0 his point, Morales parla'ed the idea that he onl' served as a -ere careta&er. !he Court found Morales1 posture untenable and held that the case of Morales presents a factual -ilieu si-ilar 7ith n0, not 7ith .onFanida. )or ease of reference, the procla-ation of )rancis n0, in n0, 7as nullified, but after he, li&e Morales, had served the three/'ear ter- fro- the start to the end of the ter-. <ence, the Court concluded that Morales e>ceeded the three/terli-it rule, to 7it; <ere, respondent Morales 7as elected for the ter- 8ul' (, (55* to 8une 4,, +,,(. <e assu-ed the position. <e served as -a'or until 8une 4,, +,,(. <e 7as -a'or for the entire period not7ithstandin0 the Decision of the R!C in the electoral protest case filed b' petitioner Dee oustin0 hi- $respondent% as -a'or. !o reiterate, as held in n0 v. Ale0re, such circu-stance does not constitute an interruption in servin0 the full ter-. >>>> Respondent Morales is no7 servin0 his fourth ter-. <e has been -a'or of Mabalacat continuousl' 7ithout an' brea& since 8ul' (, (55#. In Aust over a -onth, b' 8une 4,, +,,6, he 7ill have been -a'or of Mabalacat for t7elve $(+% continuous 'ears. ## $E-phasis supplied.% !he Court ruled in Rivera that the fact of bein0 belatedl' ousted, i.e., after the e>pir' of the ter-, cannot constitute an interruption in Morales1 service of the full ter-? neither can Morales, as he ar0ued, be considered -erel' a Icareta&er of the officeI or a -ere Ide facto officerI for purposes of appl'in0 the three/ter- li-it rule. In a related +,,5 case of DiFon v. Co--ission on Elections, #" the Court 7ould a0ain find the sa-e Ma'or Morales as respondent in a dis:ualification proceedin0 7hen he ran a0ain as a -a'oralt' candidate durin0 the +,,6 elections for a ter- endin0 8une 4,, +,(,. <avin0 been unseated fro- his post b' virtue of this Court1s rulin0 in Rivera, Morales 7ould ar0ue this ti-e around that the three/ter- li-it rule 7as no lon0er applicable as to his +,,6 -a'oralt' bid. !his ti-e, the Court ruled in his favor, holdin0 that for purposes of the +,,6 elections, the three/terli-it rule 7as no lon0er a dis:ualif'in0 factor as a0ainst Morales. !he Court 7rote; ur rulin0 in the Rivera case served as Morales1 involuntar' severance fro- office 7ith respect to the +,,3/+,,6 ter-. Involuntar' severance fro- office for an' len0th of ti-e short of the full ter- provided b' la7 a-ounts to an interruption of continuit' of service. ur decision in the Rivera case 7as pro-ul0ated on 5 Ma' +,,6 and 7as effective i--ediatel'. !he ne>t da', Morales notified the vice -a'or1s office of our decision. !he vice -a'or assu-ed the office of the -a'or fro- (6 Ma' +,,6 up to 4, 8une +,,6. !he assu-ption b' the vice -a'or of the office of the -a'or, no -atter ho7 short it -a' see- to DiFon, interrupted Morales1 continuit' of service. !hus, Morales did not hold office for the full ter- of ( 8ul' +,,3 to 4, 8une +,,6. #6 $E-phasis supplied% !o su--ariFe, hereunder are the prevailin0 Aurisprudence on issues affectin0 consecutiveness of ter-s and@or involuntar' interruption, viF;

(. 9hen a per-anent vacanc' occurs in an elective position and the official -erel' assu-ed the position pursuant to the rules on succession under the .=C, then his service for the une>pired portion of the ter- of the replaced official cannot be treated as one full ter- as conte-plated under the subAect constitutional and statutor' provision that service cannot be counted in the application of an' ter- li-it $BorAa, 8r.%. If the official runs a0ain for the sa-e position he held prior to his assu-ption of the hi0her office, then his succession to said position is b' operation of la7 and is considered an involuntar' severance or interruption $Montebon%. +. An elective official, 7ho has served for three consecutive ter-s and 7ho did not see& the elective position for 7hat could be his fourth ter-, but later 7on in a recall election, had an interruption in the continuit' of the official1s service. )or, he had beco-e in the interi-, i.e., fro- the end of the 4rd ter- up to the recall election, a private citiFen $Ador-eo and Socrates%. 4. !he abolition of an elective local office due to the conversion of a -unicipalit' to a cit' does not, b' itself, 7or& to interrupt the incu-bent official1s continuit' of service $.atasa%. 3. Preventive suspension is not a ter-/interruptin0 event as the elective officer1s continued sta' and entitle-ent to the office re-ain unaffected durin0 the period of suspension, althou0h he is barred fro- e>ercisin0 the functions of his office durin0 this period $Aldovino, 8r.%. #. 9hen a candidate is proclai-ed as 7inner for an elective position and assu-es office, his ter- is interrupted 7hen he loses in an election protest and is ousted fro- office, thus disenablin0 hi- fro- servin0 7hat 7ould other7ise be the une>pired portion of his terof office had the protest been dis-issed $.onFanida and DiFon%. !he brea& or interruption need not be for a full ter- of three 'ears or for the -aAor part of the 4/'ear ter-? an interruption for an' len0th of ti-e, provided the cause is involuntar', is sufficient to brea& the continuit' of service $Socrates, citin0 .onFanida%. ". 9hen an official is defeated in an election protest and said decision beco-es final after said official had served the full ter- for said office, then his loss in the election contest does not constitute an interruption since he has -ana0ed to serve the ter- frostart to finish. <is full service, despite the defeat, should be counted in the application of ter- li-its because the nullification of his procla-ation ca-e after the e>piration of the ter- $ n0 and Rivera%. !he Case of Abundo Abundo ar0ues that the R!C and the C ME.EC erred in unifor-l' rulin0 that he had alread' served three consecutive ter-s and is, thus, barred b' the constitutional three/ter- li-it rule to run for the current +,(,/+,(4 ter-. In 0ist, Abundo ar0u-ents run thusl'; (. Aldovino, 8r. is not on all fours 7ith the present case as the for-er dealt 7ith preventive suspension 7hich does not interrupt the continuit' of service of a ter-? +. Aldovino, 8r. reco0niFes that the ter- of an elected official can be interrupted so as to re-ove hi- fro- the reach of the constitutional three/ter- li-itation?

4. !he C ME.EC -isinterpreted the -eanin0 of Iter-I in Aldovino, 8r. b' its reliance on a -ere portion of the Decision and not on the unified lo0ic in the dis:uisition? 3. f appropriate 0overnance in this case is the holdin0 in .onFanida #* and Rivera III v. Co--ission on Elections.#5 #. !he C ME.EC -issed the point 7hen it ruled that there 7as no interruption in the service of Abundo since 7hat he considered as an IinterruptionI of his +,,3/+,,6 teroccurred before his ter- started? and ". !o rule that the ter- of the protestee $!orres% 7hose procla-ation 7as adAud0ed invalid 7as interrupted 7hile that of the protestant $Abundo% 7ho 7as eventuall' proclai-ed 7inner 7as not so interrupted is at once absurd as it is illo0ical. Both respondents 2e0a and the C ME.EC counter that the ratio decidendi of Aldovino, 8r. finds application in the instant case. !he C ME.EC ruled that Abundo did not lose title to the office as his victor' in the protest case confir-ed his entitle-ent to said office and he 7as onl' unable to te-poraril' dischar0e the functions of the office durin0 the pendenc' of the election protest. 9e note that this present case of Abundo deals 7ith the effects of an election protest, for 7hich the rulin0s in .onFanida, n0, Rivera and DiFon appear to be -ore attuned than the case of Aldovino 8r., the interruptin0 effects of the i-position of a preventive suspension bein0 the ver' lis -ota in the Aldovino, 8r. case. But Aust the sa-e, 9e find that Abundo1s case presents a different factual bac&drop. Cnli&e in the above-entioned election protest cases 7herein the individuals subAect of dis:ualification 7ere candidates 7ho lost in the election protest and each declared loser durin0 the elections, Abundo 7as the 7inner durin0 the election protest and 7as declared the ri0htful holder of the -a'oralt' post. Cnli&e Ma'or .onFanida and Ma'or Morales, 7ho 7ere both unseated to7ard the end of their respective ter-s, Abundo 7as the protestant 7ho ousted his opponent and had assu-ed the re-ainder of the ter-. Not7ithstandin0, 9e still find this Court1s pronounce-ents in the past as instructive, and consider several doctrines established fro- the (55* case of BorAa, 8r. up to the -ost recent case of Aldovino 8r. in +,,5, as potent aids in arrivin0 at this Court1s conclusion. !he intention behind the three/ter- li-it rule 7as not onl' to abro0ate the I-onopoliFation of political po7erI and prevent elected officials fro- breedin0 Iproprietar' interest in their positionI", but also to Ienhance the people1s freedo- of choice.I "( In the 7ords of 8ustice 2icente 2. MendoFa, I7hile people should be protected fro- the evils that a -onopol' of po7er -a' brin0 about, care should be ta&en that their freedo- of choice is not undul' curtailed.I "+ In the present case, the Court finds Abundo1s case -eritorious and declares that the t7o/'ear period durin0 7hich his opponent, !orres, 7as servin0 as -a'or should be considered as an interruption, 7hich effectivel' re-oved Abundo1s case fro- the a-bit of the three/ter- li-it rule. It bears to stress at this Auncture that Abundo, for the +,,3 election for the ter- startin0 8ul' (, +,,3 to 8une 4,, +,,6, 7as the dul' elected -a'or. ther7ise ho7 e>plain his victor' in his election protest a0ainst !orres and his conse:uent procla-ation as dul' elected -a'or.

Accordin0l', the first re:uisite for the application of the dis:ualification rule based on the three/ ter- li-it that the official has been elected is satisfied. !his thus brin0s us to the second re:uisite of 7hether or not Abundo had served for Ithree consecutive ter-s,I as the phrase is Auridicall' understood, as -a'or of 2i0a, Catanduanes i--ediatel' before the +,(, national and local elections. Subsu-ed to this issue is of course the :uestion of 7hether or not there 7as an effective involuntar' interruption durin0 the three three/ 'ear periods, resultin0 in the disruption of the continuit' of Abundo1s -a'oralt'. !he facts of the case clearl' point to an involuntar' interruption durin0 the 8ul' +,,3/8une +,,6 ter-. !here can be no :uibblin0 that, durin0 the ter- +,,3/+,,6, and 7ith the enforce-ent of the decision of the election protest in his favor, Abundo assu-ed the -a'oralt' post onl' on Ma' 5, +,," and served the ter- until 8une 4,, +,,6 or for a period of a little over one 'ear and one -onth. Conse:uentl', unli&e Ma'or n0 in n0 and Ma'or Morales in Rivera, it cannot be said that Ma'or Abundo 7as able to serve full' the entire +,,3/+,,6 ter- to 7hich he 7as other7ise entitled. A Iter-,I as defined in Appari v. Court of Appeals, "4 -eans, in a le0al sense, Ia fi>ed and definite period of ti-e 7hich the la7 describes that an officer -a' hold an office.I "3 It also -eans the Iti-e durin0 7hich the officer -a' clai- to hold office as a -atter of ri0ht, and fi>es the interval after 7hich the several incu-bents shall succeed one another.I "# It is the period of ti-e durin0 7hich a dul' elected official has title to and can serve the functions of an elective office. )ropara0raph $a% of Sec. 34, RA 6(",, "" the ter- for local elected officials is three $4% 'ears startin0 fro- noon of 8une 4, of the first 'ear of said ter-. In the present case, durin0 the period of one 'ear and ten -onths, or fro- 8une 4,, +,,3 until Ma' *, +,,", Abundo cannot plausibl' clai-, even if he 7anted to, that he could hold office of the -a'or as a -atter of ri0ht. Neither can he assert title to the sa-e nor serve the functions of the said elective office. !he reason is si-ple; durin0 that period, title to hold such office and the correspondin0 ri0ht to assu-e the functions thereof still belon0ed to his opponent, as proclai-ed election 7inner. Accordin0l', Abundo actuall' held the office and e>ercised the functions as -a'or onl' upon his declaration, follo7in0 the resolution of the protest, as dul' elected candidate in the Ma' +,,3 elections or for onl' a little over one 'ear and one -onth. Conse:uentl', since the le0all' conte-plated full ter- for local elected officials is three $4% 'ears, it cannot be said that Abundo full' served the ter- +,,3/+,,6. !he realit' on the 0round is that Abundo actuall' served less. Needless to stress, the al-ost t7o/'ear period durin0 7hich Abundo1s opponent actuall' served as Ma'or is and ou0ht to be considered an involuntar' interruption of Abundo1s continuit' of service. An involuntar' interrupted ter-, cannot, in the conte>t of the dis:ualification rule, be considered as one ter- for purposes of countin0 the three/ter- threshold. "6 !he notion of full service of three consecutive ter-s is related to the concepts of interruption of service and voluntar' renunciation of service. !he 7ord interruption -eans te-porar' cessation, inter-ission or suspension."*!o interrupt is to obstruct, th7art or prevent. "5 9hen the Constitution and the .=C of (55( spea& of interruption, the reference is to the obstruction to the continuance of the service b' the concerned elected official b' effectivel' cuttin0 short the service of a ter- or 0ivin0 a hiatus in the occupation of the elective office. n the other hand, the 7ord IrenunciationI

connotes the idea of 7aiver or abandon-ent of a &no7n ri0ht. !o renounce is to 0ive up, abandon, decline or resi0n. 6, 2oluntar' renunciation of the office b' an elective local official 7ould thus -ean to 0ive up or abandon the title to the office and to cut short the service of the ter- the concerned elected official is entitled to. In its assailed Resolution, the C ME.EC en banc, appl'in0 Aldovino, 8r., 6( held; It -ust be stressed that involuntar' interruption of service 7hich Aurisprudence dee-s an e>ception to the three/ter- li-it rule, i-plies that the service of the ter- has be0un before it 7as interrupted. <ere, the respondent did not lose title to the office. As the assailed Resolution states; In the case at bar, respondent cannot be said to have lost his title to the office. n the contrar', he activel' sou0ht entitle-ent to the office 7hen he lod0ed the election protest case. And respondent/appellant1s victor' in the said case is a final confir-ation that he 7as validl' elected for the -a'oralt' post of 2i0a, Catanduanes in +,,3/+,,6. At -ost, respondent/appellant 7as onl' unable to te-poraril' dischar0e the functions of the office to 7hich he 7as validl' elected durin0 the pendenc' of the election protest, but he never lost title to the said office. 6+ $E-phasis added.% !he C ME.EC1s Second Division, on the other hand, pronounced that the actual len0th of service b' the public official in a 0iven ter- is i--aterial b' rec&onin0 said service for the ter- in the application of the three/ter- li-it rule, thus; As e-phasiFed in the case of Aldovino, Ithis for-ulationEno -ore than three consecutive ter-s Eis a clear co--and su00estin0 the e>istence of an infle>ible rule.I !herefore 7e cannot subscribe to the ar0u-ent that since respondent Abundo served onl' a portion of the ter-, his +,,3/+,,6 Iter-I should not be considered for purposes of the application of the three ter- li-it rule. 9hen the fra-ers of the Constitution drafted and incorporated the three ter- li-it rule, it is clear that reference is to the ter-, not the actual len0th of the service the public official -a' render. !herefore, one1s actual service of ter- no -atter ho7 lon0 or ho7 short is i--aterial. 64 In fine, the C ME.EC ruled a0ainst Abundo on the theor' that the len0th of the actual service of the ter- is i--aterial in his case as he 7as onl' te-poraril' unable to dischar0e his functions as -a'or. !he C ME.EC1s case disposition and its heav' reliance on Aldovino, 8r. do not co--end the-selves for concurrence. !he Court cannot si-pl' find its 7a' clear to understand the poll bod'1s deter-ination that Abundo 7as onl' te-poraril' unable to dischar0e his functions as -a'or durin0 the pendenc' of the election protest. As previousl' stated, the declaration of bein0 the 7inner in an election protest 0rants the local elected official the ri0ht to serve the une>pired portion of the ter-. 2eril', 7hile he 7as declared 7inner in the protest for the -a'oralt' seat for the +,,3/+,,6 ter-, Abundo1s full ter- has been substantiall' reduced b' the actual service rendered b' his opponent $!orres%. <ence, there 7as actual involuntar' interruption in the ter- of Abundo and he cannot be considered to have served the full +,,3/+,,6 ter-. !his is 7hat happened in the instant case. It cannot be overe-phasiFed that pendin0 the favorable resolution of his election protest, Abundo 7as rele0ated to bein0 an ordinar' constituent since his opponent, as presu-ptive victor in the +,,3 elections, 7as occup'in0 the

-a'oralt' seat. In other 7ords, for al-ost t7o 'ears or fro- 8ul' (, +,,3Ethe start of the ter-E until Ma' 5, +,," or durin0 7hich his opponent actuall' assu-ed the -a'oralt' office, Abundo 7as a private citiFen 7ar-in0 his heels 7hile a7aitin0 the outco-e of his protest. <ence, even if declared later as havin0 the ri0ht to serve the elective position fro- 8ul' (, +,,3, such declaration 7ould not erase the fact that prior to the finalit' of the election protest, Abundo did not serve in the -a'or1s office and, in fact, had no le0al ri0ht to said position. Aldovino 8r. cannot possibl' lend support to respondent1s cause of action, or to C ME.EC1s resolution a0ainst Abundo. In Aldovino 8r., the Court succinctl' defines 7hat te-porar' inabilit' or dis:ualification to e>ercise the functions of an elective office -eans, thus; n the other hand, te-porar' inabilit' or dis:ualification to e>ercise the functions of an elective post, even if involuntar', should not be considered an effective interruption of a ter- because it does not involve the loss of title to office or at least an effective brea& fro- holdin0 office? the office holder, 7hile retainin0 title, is si-pl' barred fro- e>ercisin0 the functions of his office for a reason provided b' la7.63 9e rule that the above pronounce-ent on preventive suspension does not appl' to the instant case. 2eril', it is erroneous to sa' that Abundo -erel' 7as te-poraril' unable or dis:ualified to e>ercise the functions of an elective post. )or one, durin0 the intervenin0 period of al-ost t7o 'ears, rec&oned fro- the start of the +,,3/+,,6 ter-, Abundo cannot be said to have retained title to the -a'oralt' office as he 7as at that ti-e not the dul' proclai-ed 7inner 7ho 7ould have the le0al ri0ht to assu-e and serve such elective office. )or another, not havin0 been declared 7inner 'et, Abundo cannot be said to have lost title to the office since one cannot plausibl' lose a title 7hich, in the first place, he did not have. !hus, for all intents and purposes, even if the belated declaration in the election protest accords hi- title to the elective office fro- the start of the ter-, Abundo 7as not entitled to the elective office until the election protest 7as finall' resolved in his favor.
1wphi1

Conse:uentl', there 7as a hiatus of al-ost t7o 'ears, consistin0 of a brea& and effective interruption of his service, until he assu-ed the office and served barel' over a 'ear of the re-ainin0 ter-. At this Auncture, 9e observe the apparent si-ilarities of Ma'or Abundo1s case 7ith the cases of Ma'or !ala0a in Ador-eo and Ma'or <a0edorn in Socrates as Ma'ors !ala0a and <a0edorn 7ere not proclai-ed 7inners since the' 7ere non/candidates in the re0ularelections. !he' 7ere proclai-ed 7inners durin0 the recall elections and clearl' 7ere not able to full' serve the ter-s of the deposed incu-bent officials. Si-ilar to their cases 7here the Court dee-ed their ter-s as involuntaril' interrupted, Abundo also beca-e or 7as a private citiFen durin0 the period over 7hich his opponent 7as servin0 as -a'or. If in .onFanida, the Court ruled that there 7as interruption in .onFanida1s service because of his subse:uent defeat in the election protest, then 7ith -ore reason, Abundo1s ter- for +,,3/+,,6 should be declared interrupted since he 7as not proclai-ed 7inner after the +,,3 elections and 7as able to assu-e the office and serve onl' for a little -ore than a 'ear after 7innin0 the protest. As aptl' stated in .atasa, to be considered as interruption of service, the Ila7 conte-plates a rest period durin0 7hich the local elective official steps do7n fro- office and ceases to e>ercise po7er or authorit' over the inhabitants of the territorial Aurisdiction of a particular local 0overn-ent unit.I6# Appl'in0 the said principle in the present case, there is no :uestion that durin0 the pendenc' of the election protest, Abundo ceased fro- e>ercisin0 po7er or authorit' over the 0ood people of 2i0a, Catanduanes.

Conse:uentl', the period durin0 7hich Abundo 7as not servin0 as -a'or should be considered as a rest period or brea& in his service because, as earlier stated, prior to the Aud0-ent in the election protest, it 7as Abundo1s opponent, !orres, 7ho 7as e>ercisin0 such po7ers b' virtue of the still then valid procla-ation. As a final note, 9e reiterate that Abundo1s case differs fro- other cases involvin0 the effects of an election protest because 7hile Abundo 7as, in the final rec&onin0, the 7innin0 candidate, he 7as the one deprived of his ri0ht and opportunit' to serve his constituents. !o a certain e>tent, Abundo 7as a victi- of an i-perfect election s'ste-. 9hile ad-ittedl' the Court does not possess the -andate to re-ed' such i-perfections, the Constitution has clothed it 7ith enou0h authorit' to establish a fortress a0ainst the inAustices it -a' brin0. In this re0ard, 9e find that a contrar' rulin0 7ould 7or& da-a0e and cause 0rave inAustice to AbundoDDan elected official 7ho 7as belatedl' declared as the 7inner and assu-ed office for onl' a short period of the ter-. If in the cases of .onFanida and DiFon, this Court ruled in favor of a losin0 candidateDDor the person 7ho 7as adAud0ed not le0all' entitled to hold the contested public office but held it an'7a'DD9e find -ore reason to rule in favor of a 7innin0 candidate/ protestant 7ho, b' popular vote, deserves title to the public office but 7hose opportunit' to hold the sa-e 7as halted b' an invalid procla-ation. Also, -ore than the inAustice that -a' be co--itted a0ainst Abundo is the inAustice that -a' li&e7ise be co--itted a0ainst the people of 2i0a, Catanduanes b' deprivin0 the- of their ri0ht to choose their leaders. .i&e the fra-ers of the Constitution, 9e bear in -ind that 9e Icannot arro0ate unto ourselves the ri0ht to decide 7hat the people 7antI 6" and hence, should, as -uch as possible, Iallo7 the people to e>ercise their o7n sense of proportion and rel' on their o7n stren0th to curtail the po7er 7hen it overreaches itself.I 66 )or de-ocrac' dra7s stren0th fro- the choice the people -a&e 7hich is the sa-e choice 9e are li&e7ise bound to protect. 9<ERE) RE, the instant petition is PAR!.L =RAN!ED. Accordin0l', the assailed )ebruar' *, +,(+ Resolution of the Co--ission on Elections Second Division and Ma' (,, +,(+ Resolution of the Co--ission on Elections en banc in EAC $AE% No. A/+#/+,(, and the Decision of the Re0ional !rial Court $R!C% of 2irac, Catanduanes, Branch 34, dated Au0ust 5, +,(,, in Election Case No. ##, are hereb' RE2ERSED and SE! ASIDE. Petitioner Abelardo Abundo, Sr. is DEC.ARED E.I=IB.E for the position of Ma'or of 2i0a, Catanduanes to 7hich he 7as dul' elected in the Ma' +,(, elections and is accordin0l' ordered IMMEDIA!E.L REINS!A!ED to said position. 9ithal, E-eterio M. !arin and Cesar . Cervantes are ordered to i--ediatel' vacate the positions of Ma'or and 2ice/Ma'or of 2i0a, Catanduanes, respectivel', and shall revert to their ori0inal positions of 2ice/Ma'or and )irst Councilor, respectivel', upon receipt of this Decision. !he !R issued b' the Court on 8ul' 4, +,(+ is hereb' .I)!ED.

!his Decision is i--ediatel' e>ecutor'. S RDERED.