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EN BANC

G.R. No. 135150 July 28, 1999


ROMEO LONZANIDA, petitioner,
vs.
THE HONORABLE COMMISSION ON ELECTION and EUFEMIO MULI, respondents.

GONZAGA-REYES, J.:
This petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court seeks to set aside the resolutions
issued by the COMELEC First Division dated May 21, 1998 and by the COMELEC En Banc dated
August 11, 1998 in SPA 98-190 entitled, In the matter of the Petition to Disqualify Mayoralty
Candidate Romeo Lonzanida of San Antonio, Zambales, Eufemio Muli, petitioner, vs. Romeo
Lonzanida, respondent. The assailed resolutions declared herein petitioner Romeo Lonzanida
disqualified to run for Mayor in the municipality of San Antonio, Zambales in the May 1998
elections and that all votes cast in his favor shall not be counted and if he has been proclaimed
winner the said proclamation is declared null and void.1wphi1.nt
Petitioner Romeo Lonzanida was duly elected and served two consecutive terms as municipal
mayor of San Antonio, Zambales prior to the May 8, 1995 elections. In the May 1995 elections
Lonzanida ran for mayor of San Antonio, Zambales and was again proclaimed winner. He
assumed office and discharged the duties thereof. His proclamation in 1995 was however
contested by his then opponent Juan Alvez who filed an election protest before the Regional Trial
Court of Zambales, which in a decision dated January 9, 1997 declared a failure of elections. The
court ruled:
PREMISES CONSIDERED, this court hereby renders judgment declaring the results of
the election for the office of the mayor in San Antonio, Zambales last May 8, 1995
as null and void on the ground that there was a failure of election.
Accordingly, the office of the mayor of the Municipality of San Antonio, Zambales is
hereby declared vacant.
Both parties appealed to the COMELEC. On November 13, 1997 the COMELEC resolved the
election protest filed by Alvez and after a revision and re-appreciation of the contested ballots
declared Alvez the duly elected mayor of San Antonio, Zambales by plurality of votes cast in his
favor totaling P1,720 votes as against 1,488 votes for Lonzanida. On February 27, 1998 the
COMELEC issued a writ of execution ordering Lonzanida to vacate the post, which he obeyed, and
Alvez assumed office for the remainder of the term.
In the May 11, 1998 elections Lonzanida again filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor of San
Antonio. On April 21, 1998 his opponent Eufemio Muli timely filed a petition to disqualify
Lonzanida from running for mayor of San Antonio in the 1998 elections on the ground that he
had served three consecutive terms in the same post. On May 13, 1998, petitioner Lonzanida

was proclaimed winner. On May 21, 1998 the First Division of the COMELEC issued the
questioned resolution granting the petition for disqualification upon a finding that Lonzanida had
served three consecutive terms as mayor of San Antonio, Zambales and he is therefore
disqualified to run for the same post for the fourth time. The COMELEC found that Lonzanida's
assumption of office by virtue of his proclamation in May 1995, although he was later unseated
before the expiration of the term, should be counted as service for one full term in computing the
three term limit under the Constitution and the Local Government Code. The finding of the
COMELEC First Division was affirmed by the COMELEC En Banc in a resolution dated August 11,
1998.
Petitioner Lonzanida challenges the validity of the COMELEC resolutions finding him disqualified
to run for mayor of San Antonio Zambales in the 1998 elections. He maintains that he was duly
elected mayor for only two consecutive terms and that his assumption of office in 1995 cannot
be counted as service of a term for the purpose of applying the three term limit for local
government officials, because he was not the duly elected mayor of San Antonio in the May 1995
elections as evidenced by the COMELEC decision dated November 13, 1997 in EAC No. 6-97
entitled Juan Alvez, Protestant-Appellee vs. Romeo Lonzanida, Protestee-Appellant; wherein the
COMELEC declared Juan Alvez as the duly elected mayor of San Antonio, Zambales. Petitioner
also argues that the COMELEC ceased to have jurisdiction over the petition for disqualification
after he was proclaimed winner in the 1998 mayoral elections; as the proper remedy is a petition
for quo warranto with the appropriate regional trial court under Rule 36 of the COMELEC Rules of
Procedure.
Private respondent Eufemio Muli filed comment to the petition asking this court to sustain the
questioned resolutions of the COMELEC and to uphold its jurisdiction over the petition for
disqualification. The private respondent states that the petition for disqualification was filed on
April 21, 1998 or before the May 1998 mayoral elections. Under section 6, RA 6646 and Rule 25
of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure petitions for disqualification filed with the COMELEC before
the elections and/or proclamation of the party sought to be disqualified may still be heard and
decided by the COMELEC after the election and proclamation of the said party without distinction
as to the alleged ground for disqualification, whether for acts constituting an election offense or
for ineligibility. Accordingly, it is argued that the resolutions of the COMELEC on the merits of the
petition for disqualification were issued within the commission's jurisdiction. As regards the
merits of the case, the private respondent maintains that the petitioner's assumption of office in
1995 should be considered as service of one full term because he discharged the duties of mayor
for almost three years until March 1, 1998 or barely a few months before the next mayoral
elections.
The Solicitor-General filed comment to the petition for the respondent COMELEC praying for the
dismissal of the petition. The Solicitor-General stressed that section 8, Art. X of the Constitution
and section 43 (b), Chapter 1 of the Local Government Code which bar a local government
official from serving more than three consecutive terms in the same position speaks of "service
of a term" and so the rule should be examined in this light. The public respondent contends that
petitioner Lonzanida discharged the rights and duties of mayor from 1995 to 1998 which should
be counted as service of one full term, albeit he was later unseated, because he served as mayor
for the greater part of the term. The issue of whether or not Lonzanida served as a de jure or de
factomayor for the 1995-1998 term is inconsequential in the application of the three term limit
because the prohibition speaks or "service of a term" which was intended by the framers of the
Constitution to foil any attempt to monopolize political power. It is likewise argued by the

respondent that a petition for quo warranto with the regional trial court is proper when the
petition for disqualification is filed after the elections and so the instant petition for
disqualification which was filed before the elections may be resolved by the COMELEC thereafter
regardless of the imputed basis of disqualification.
The petitioner filed Reply to the comment. It is maintained that the petitioner could not have
served a valid term from 1995 to 1998 although he assumed office as mayor for that period
because he was not lawfully elected to the said office. Moreover, the petitioner was unseated
before the expiration of the term and so his service for the period cannot be considered as one
full term. As regards the issue of jurisdiction, the petitioner reiterated in his Reply that the
COMELEC ceased to have jurisdiction to hear the election protest after the petitioner's
proclamation.
The petition has merit.
Sec. 8, Art. X of the Constitution provides:
Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which
shall be determined by law shall be three years and no such officials shall serve for
more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any
length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his
service for the full term for which he was elected.
Sec. 43 of the Local Government Code (R.A. No. 7160) restates the same rule:
Sec. 43. Term of Office.
(b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms in the
same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not
be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for
which the elective official concerned was elected.
The issue before us is whether petitioner Lonzanida's assumption of office as mayor of San
Antonio Zambales from May 1995 to March 1998 may be considered as service of one full term
for the purpose of applying the three-term limit for elective local government officials.
The records of the 1986 Constitutional Commission show that the three-term limit which is now
embodied in section 8, Art. X of the Constitution was initially proposed to be an absolute bar to
any elective local government official from running for the same position after serving three
consecutive terms. The said disqualification was primarily intended to forestall the accumulation
of massive political power by an elective local government official in a given locality in order to
perpetuate his tenure in office. The delegates also considered the need to broaden the choices of
the electorate of the candidates who will run for office, and to infuse new blood in the political
arena by disqualifying officials from running for the same office after a term of nine years. The
mayor was compared by some delegates to the President of the Republic as he is a powerful
chief executive of his political territory and is most likely to form a political dynasty. 1 The drafters
however, recognized and took note of the fact that some local government officials run for office
before they reach forty years of age; thus to perpetually bar them from running for the same
office after serving nine consecutive years may deprive the people of qualified candidates to

choose from. As finally voted upon, it was agreed that an elective local government official
should be barred from running for the same post after three consecutive terms. After a hiatus of
at least one term, he may again run for the same office. 2
The scope of the constitutional provision barring elective local officials with the exception of
barangay officials from serving more than three consecutive terms was discussed at length in the
case of Benjamin Borja, Jr.; vs.COMELEC and Jose Capco, Jr. 3 where the issue raised was whether
a vice-mayor who succeeds to the office of the mayor by operation of law upon the death of the
incumbent mayor and served the remainder of the term should be considered to have served a
term in that office for the purpose of computing the three term limit. This court pointed out that
from the discussions of the Constitutional Convention it is evident that the delegates proceeded
from the premise that the official's assumption of office is by reason of election. This Court
stated: 4
Two ideas emerge from a consideration of the proceedings of the Constitutional
Commission. The first is the notion of service of term, derived from the concern
about the accumulation of power as a result of a prolonged stay in office. The
second is the idea of election, derived from the concern that the right of the people
to choose those whom they wish to govern them be preserved.
It is likewise noteworthy that, in discussing term limits, the drafters of the
Constitution did so on the assumption that the officials concerned were serving by
reason of election. This is clear from the following exchange in the Constitutional
Commission concerning term limits, now embodied in Art. VI sections 4 and 7 of the
Constitution, for members of Congress:
MR. GASCON. I would like to ask a question with regard to the issue
after the second term. We will allow the Senator to rest for a period of
time before he can run again?
MR. DAVIDE. That is correct.
MR. GASCON. And the question that we left behind before if the
Gentlemen will remember-was: How long will that period of rest be?
Will it be one election which is three years or one term which is six
years?
MR. DAVIDE. If the Gentlemen will remember, Commissioner Rodrigo
expressed the view that during the election following the expiration of
the first 12 years, whether such election will be on the third year or on
the sixth year thereafter, this particular member of the Senate can run.
So it is not really a period of hibernation for six years. That was the
Committees' stand.
xxx xxx xxx
Second, not only historical examination but textual analysis as well supports the
ruling of the COMELEC that Art X, section 8 contemplates service by local officials
for three consecutive terms as a result of election. The first sentence speaks of "the-

term of office of elective local officials" and bars "such officials" from serving for
more than three consecutive terms. The second sentence, in explaining when an
elective official may be deemed to have served his full term of office, states that
"voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered
as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was
elected." The term served must therefore be one "for which the official concerned
was elected." The purpose of the provision is to prevent a circumvention of the
limitation on the number of terms an elective official may serve."
This Court held that the two conditions for the application of the disqualification must concur: 1)
that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local
government post and 2) that he has fully served three consecutive terms. It stated:
To recapitulate, the term limit for elective local officials must be taken to refer to the
right to be elected as well as the right to serve in the same elective position.
Consequently, it is not enough that an individual has served three consecutive
terms in an elective local office, he must also have beenelected to the same
position for the same number of times before the disqualification can apply.
It is not disputed that the petitioner was previously elected and served two consecutive terms as
mayor of San Antonio Zambales prior to the May 1995 mayoral elections. In the May 1995
elections he again ran for mayor of San Antonio, Zambales and was proclaimed winner. He
assumed office and discharged the rights and duties of mayor until March 1998 when he was
ordered to vacate the post by reason of the COMELEC decision dated November 13, 1997 on the
election protest against the petitioner which declared his opponent Juan Alvez, the duly elected
mayor of San Antonio. Alvez served the remaining portion of the 1995-1998 mayoral term.
The two requisites for the application of the three term rule are absent. First, the petitioner
cannot be considered as having been duly elected to the post in the May 1995 elections, and
second, the petitioner did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term by reason of involuntary
relinquishment of office. After a re-appreciation and revision of the contested ballots the
COMELEC itself declared by final judgment that petitioner Lonzanida lost in the May 1995
mayoral elections and his previous proclamation as winner was declared null and void. His
assumption of office as mayor cannot be deemed to have been by reason of a valid election but
by reason of a void proclamation. It has been repeatedly held by this court that a proclamation
subsequently declared void is no proclamation at all 5 and while a proclaimed candidate may
assume office on the strength of the proclamation of the Board of Canvassers he is only a
presumptive winner who assumes office subject to the final outcome of the election
protest. 6Petitioner Lonzanida did not serve a term as mayor of San Antonio, Zambales from May
1995 to March 1998 because he was not duly elected to the post; he merely assumed office as
presumptive winner, which presumption was later overturned by the COMELEC when it decided
with finality that Lonzanida lost in the May 1995 mayoral elections.
Second, the petitioner cannot be deemed to have served the May 1995 to 1998 term because he
was ordered to vacate his post before the expiration of the term. The respondents' contention
that the petitioner should be deemed to have served one full term from May 1995-1998 because
he served the greater portion of that term has no legal basis to support it; it disregards the
second requisite for the application of the disqualification, i.e., that he has fully served three
consecutive terms. The second sentence of the constitutional provision under scrutiny states,

"Voluntary renunciation of office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption
in the continuity of service for the full term for which he was elected. "The clear intent of the
framers of the constitution to bar any attempt to circumvent the three-term limit by a voluntary
renunciation of office and at the same time respect the people's choice and grant their elected
official full service of a term is evident in this provision. Voluntary renunciation of a term does not
cancel the renounced term in the computation of the three term limit; conversely, involuntary
severance from office for any length of time short of the full term provided by law amounts to an
interruption of continuity of service. The petitioner vacated his post a few months before the next
mayoral elections, not by voluntary renunciation but in compliance with the legal process of writ
of execution issued by the COMELEC to that effect. Such involuntary severance from office is an
interruption of continuity of service and thus, the petitioner did not fully serve the 1995-1998
mayoral term.
In sum, the petitioner was not the duly elected mayor and that he did not hold office for the full
term; hence, his assumption of office from 1995 to March 1998 cannot be counted as a term for
purposes of computing the three term limit. The Resolution of the COMELEC finding him
disqualified on this ground to run in the May 1998 mayoral elections should therefore be set
aside.
The respondents harp on the delay in resolving the election protest between petitioner and his
then opponent Alvez which took roughly about three years and resultantly extended the
petitioners incumbency in an office to which he was not lawfully elected. We note that such delay
cannot be imputed to the petitioner. There is no specific allegation nor proof that the delay was
due to any political maneuvering on his part to prolong his stay in office. Moreover, protestant
Alvez, was not without legal recourse to move for the early resolution of the election protest
while it was pending before the regional trial court or to file a motion for the execution of the
regional trial court's decision declaring the position of mayor vacant and ordering the vice-mayor
to assume office while the appeal was pending with the COMELEC. Such delay which is not here
shown to have intentionally sought by the petitioner to prolong his stay in office cannot serve as
basis to bar his right to be elected and to serve his chosen local government post in the
succeeding mayoral election.
The petitioner's contention that the COMELEC ceased to have jurisdiction over the petition for
disqualification after he was proclaimed winner is without merit. The instant petition for
disqualification was filed on April 21, 1998 or before the May 1998 elections and was resolved on
May 21, 1998 or after the petitioner's proclamation. It was held in the case of Sunga
vs. COMELEC and Trinidad 7 that the proclamation nor the assumption of office of a candidate
against whom a petition for disqualification is pending before the COMELEC does not divest the
COMELEC of jurisdiction to continue hearing the case and to resolve it on the merits.
Sec. 6 of RA 6646 specifically mandates that:
Sec. 6. Effects 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 his


guilt is strong.
This court held that the clear legislative intent is that the COMELEC should continue the trial and
hearing of the disqualification case to its conclusion i.e., until judgment is rendered. The outright
dismissal of the petition for disqualification filed before the election but which remained
unresolved after the proclamation of the candidate sought to be disqualified will unduly reward
the said candidate and may encourage him to employ delaying tactics to impede the resolution
of the petition until after he has been proclaimed.
The court stated:
Clearly, the legislative intent is that the COMELEC should continue the trial and
hearing of the disqualification case to its conclusion i.e., until judgment is rendered
thereon. The word "shall" signified that this requirement of the law is mandatory,
operating to impose a positive duty which must be enforced. The implication is that
the COMELEC is left with no discretion but to proceed with the disqualification case
even after the election. Thus, in providing for the outright dismissal of the
disqualification case which remains unresolved after the election, Silvestre
vs. Duavit in effect disallows what R.A. No. 6646 imperatively requires. This
amounts to a quasi-judicial legislation by the COMELEC which cannot be
countenanced and is invalid for having been issued beyond the scope of its
authority. Interpretative rulings of quasi-judicial bodies or administrative agencies
must always be in perfect harmony with statutes and should be for the sole purpose
of carrying their general provisions into effect. By such interpretative or
administrative rulings, of course, the scope of the law itself cannot be limited.
Indeed, a quasi-judicial body or an administrative agency for that matter cannot
amend an act of Congress. Hence, in case of a discrepancy between the basic law
and an interpretative or administrative ruling, the basic law prevails.
Besides, the deleterious effect of the Silvestre ruling is not difficult to foresee. A
candidate guilty of election offenses would be undeservedly rewarded, instead of
punished, by the dismissal of the disqualification case against him simply because
the investigating body was unable, for any reason caused upon it, to determine
before the election if the offenses were indeed committed by the candidate sought
to be disqualified. All that the erring aspirant would need to do is to employ
delaying tactics so that the disqualification case based on the commission of
election offenses would not be decided before the election. This scenario is
productive of more fraud which certainly is not the main intent and purpose of the
law.
The fact that Trinidad was already proclaimed and had assumed the position of
mayor did not divest the COMELEC of authority and jurisdiction to continue the
hearing and eventually decide the disqualification case. In Aguam v. COMELEC this
Court held
Time and again this Court has given its imprimatur on the principle
that COMELEC is with authority to annul any canvass and proclamation
which was illegally made. The fact that a candidate proclaimed has

assumed office, we have said, is no bar to the exercise of such power.


It of course may not be availed of where there has been a valid
proclamation. Since private respondent's petition before the COMELEC
is precisely directed at the annulment of the canvass and
proclamation, we perceive that inquiry into this issue is within the area
allocated by the Constitution and law to COMELEC . . . Really, were a
victim of a proclamation to be precluded from challenging the validity
thereof after that proclamation and the assumption of office
thereunder, baneful effects may easily supervene.
It must be emphasized that the purpose of a disqualification proceeding is to
prevent the candidate from running or, if elected. From serving, or to prosecute him
for violation of the election laws. Obviously, the fact that a candidate has been
proclaimed elected does not signify that his disqualification is deemed condoned
and may no longer be the subject of a separate investigation .
Accordingly, the petition is granted. The assailed resolutions of the COMELEC declaring petitioner
Lonzanida disqualified to run for mayor in the 1998 mayoral elections are hereby set
aside.1wphi1.nt
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 147927. February 4, 2002]

RAYMUNDO M. ADORMEO, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and RAMON Y. TALAGA,


JR., respondents.
DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:
Before us is a petition for certiorari, with a prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary
restraining order, to nullify and set aside the resolution dated May 9, 2001 of public respondent Commission on
Elections in Comelec SPA No. 01-055, which granted the motion for reconsideration and declared private
respondent Ramon Y. Talaga, Jr., qualified to run for Mayor in Lucena City for the May 14, 2001
election. Petitioner prays that votes cast in private respondents favor should not be counted; and should it
happen that private respondent had been already proclaimed the winner, his proclamation should be declared
null and void.
The uncontroverted facts are as follows:

Petitioner and private respondent were the only candidates who filed their certificates of candidacy for
mayor of Lucena City in the May 14, 2001 elections. Private respondent was then the incumbent mayor.
Private respondent Talaga, Jr. was elected mayor in May 1992. He served the full term. Again, he was reelected in 1995-1998. In the election of 1998, he lost to Bernard G. Tagarao. In the recall election of May 12,
2000, he again won and served the unexpired term of Tagarao until June 30, 2001.
On March 2, 2001, petitioner filed with the Office of the Provincial Election Supervisor, Lucena City a
Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Candidacy and/or Disqualification of Ramon Y. Talaga,
Jr., on the ground that the latter was elected and had served as city mayor for three (3) consecutive terms as
follows: (1) in the election of May 1992, where he served the full term; (2) in the election of May 1995, where
he again served the full term; and, (3) in the recall election of May 12, 2000, where he served only the
unexpired term of Tagarao after having lost to Tagarao in the 1998 election. Petitioner contended that Talagas
candidacy as Mayor constituted a violation of Section 8, Article X of the 1987 Constitution which provides:
Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be
three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.Voluntary renunciation of the office for
any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he
was elected.
On March 9, 2001, private respondent responded that he was not elected City Mayor for three (3)
consecutive terms but only for two (2) consecutive terms. He pointed to his defeat in the 1998 election by
Tagarao. Because of his defeat the consecutiveness of his years as mayor was interrupted, and thus his
mayorship was not for three consecutive terms of three years each. Respondent added that his service
from May 12, 2001 until June 30, 2001 for 13 months and eighteen (18) days was not a full term, in the
contemplation of the law and the Constitution. He cites Lonzanida vs. COMELEC, G.R. No. 135150, 311 SCRA
602, 611 (1999), as authority to the effect that to apply disqualification under Section 8, Article X of the
Constitution, two (2) conditions must concur, to wit: (a) that the official concerned has been elected for three
consecutive terms in the same local government post, and (b) that he has fully served three (3) consecutive
terms.
On April 20, 2001, the COMELEC, through the First Division, found private respondent Ramon Y. Talaga,
Jr. disqualified for the position of city mayor on the ground that he had already served three (3) consecutive
terms, and his Certificate of Candidacy was ordered withdrawn and/or cancelled.
On April 27, 2001, private respondent filed a motion for reconsideration reiterating that three (3)
consecutive terms means continuous service for nine (9) years and that the two (2) years service from 1998 to
2000 by Tagarao who defeated him in the election of 1998 prevented him from having three consecutive years
of service. He added that Tagaraos tenure from 1998 to 2000 could not be considered as a continuation of his
mayorship. He further alleged that the recall election was not a regular election, but a separate special election
specifically to remove incompetent local officials.
On May 3, 2001, petitioner filed his Opposition to private respondents Motion for Reconsideration stating
therein that serving the unexpired term of office is considered as one (1) term. [1] Petitioner further contended
that Article 8 of the Constitution speaks of term and does not mention tenure. The fact that private respondent
was not elected in the May 1998 election to start a term that began on June 30, 1998 was of no moment,
according to petitioner, and what matters is that respondent was elected to an unexpired term in the recall
election which should be considered one full term from June 30, 1998 to June 30, 2001.
On May 9, 2001, the COMELEC en banc ruled in favor of private respondent Ramon Y. Talaga, Jr.. It
reversed the First Divisions ruling and held that 1) respondent was not elected for three (3) consecutive terms
because he did not win in the May 11, 1998 elections; 2) that he was installed only as mayor by reason of his
victory in the recall elections; 3) that his victory in the recall elections was not considered a term of office and is
not included in the 3-term disqualification rule, and 4) that he did not fully serve the three (3) consecutive
terms, and his loss in the May 11, 1998 elections is considered an interruption in the continuity of his service as
Mayor of Lucena City.
On May 19, 2001, after canvassing, private respondent was proclaimed as the duly elected Mayor of
Lucena City.

Petitioner is now before this Court, raising the sole issue:


WHETHER OR NOT PUBLIC RESPONDENT COMELEC ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION
AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT ISSUED ITS RESOLUTION DATED MAY 9,
2001, DECLARING PRIVATE RESPONDENT RAMON Y. TALAGA, JR., QUALIFIED TO RUN FOR MAYOR IN
LUCENA CITY FOR THE MAY 14, 2001 ELECTIONS.[2]
Stated differently, was private respondent disqualified to run for mayor of Lucena City in the May 14,
2001 elections?[3] This issue hinges on whether, as provided by the Constitution, he had already served three
consecutive terms in that office.
Petitioner contends that private respondent was disqualified to run for city mayor by reason of the threeterm rule because the unexpired portion of the term of office he served after winning a recall election, covering
the period May 12, 2000 to June 30, 2001 is considered a full term. He posits that to interpret otherwise,
private respondent would be serving four (4) consecutive terms of 10 years, in violation of Section 8, Article X
of 1987 Constitution[4] and Section 43 (b) of R.A. 7160, known as the Local Government Code.
Section 43. Term of Office.
xxx
(b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary
renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for
the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected.
Private respondent, in turn, maintains that his service as city mayor of Lucena is not consecutive. He lost
his bid for a second re-election in 1998 and between June 30, 1998 to May 12, 2000, during Tagaraos
incumbency, he was a private citizen, thus he had not been mayor for 3 consecutive terms.
In its comment, the COMELEC restated its position that private respondent was not elected for three (3)
consecutive terms having lost his third bid in the May 11, 1998 elections, said defeat is an interruption in the
continuity of service as city mayor of Lucena.
The issue before us was already addressed in Borja, Jr. vs. COMELEC, 295 SCRA 157, 169 (1998),
where we held,
To recapitulate, the term limit for elective local officials must be taken to refer to the right to be elected as well as the
right to serve in the same elective position. Consequently, it is not enough that an individual has served three consecutive
terms in an elective local office, he must also have been elected to the same position for the same number of times before
the disqualification can apply. This point can be made clearer by considering the following case or situation:
xxx
Case No. 2. Suppose B is elected mayor and, during his first term, he is twice suspended for misconduct for a total of 1
year. If he is twice reelected after that, can he run for one more term in the next election?
Yes, because he has served only two full terms successively.
xxx
To consider C as eligible for reelection would be in accord with the understanding of the Constitutional Commission that
while the people should be protected from the evils that a monopoly of political power may bring about, care should be
taken that their freedom of choice is not unduly curtailed.
Likewise, in the case of Lonzanida vs. COMELEC, 311 SCRA 602, 611 (1999), we said,

This Court held that the two conditions for the application of the disqualification must concur: a) that the official
concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local government post and 2) that he has fully served
three consecutive terms.
Accordingly, COMELECs ruling that private respondent was not elected for three (3) consecutive terms
should be upheld. For nearly two years he was a private citizen. The continuity of his mayorship was disrupted
by his defeat in the 1998 elections.
Patently untenable is petitioners contention that COMELEC in allowing respondent Talaga, Jr. to run in the
May 1998 election violates Article X, Section 8 of 1987 Constitution. [5] To bolster his case, respondent adverts
to the comment of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a Constitutional Commission member, stating that in interpreting said
provision that if one is elected representative to serve the unexpired term of another, that unexpired, no matter
how short, will be considered one term for the purpose of computing the number of successive terms allowed.[6]
As pointed out by the COMELEC en banc, Fr. Bernas comment is pertinent only to members of the House
of Representatives. Unlike local government officials, there is no recall election provided for members of
Congress.[7]
Neither can respondents victory in the recall election be deemed a violation of Section 8, Article X of the
Constitution as voluntary renunciation for clearly it is not. In Lonzanida vs. COMELEC, we said:
The second sentence of the constitutional provision under scrutiny states, Voluntary renunciation of office for any length
of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which he was
elected. The clear intent of the framers of the constitution to bar any attempt to circumvent the three-term limit by a
voluntary renunciation of office and at the same time respect the peoples choice and grant their elected official full service
of a term is evident in this provision. Voluntary renunciation of a term does not cancel the renounced term in the
computation of the three term limit; conversely, involuntary severance from office for any length of time short of the full
term provided by law amounts to an interruption of continuity of service. The petitioner vacated his post a few months
before the next mayoral elections, not by voluntary renunciation but in compliance with the legal process of writ of
execution issued by the COMELEC to that effect. Such involuntary severance from office is an interruption of continuity
of service and thus, the petitioner did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term. [8]
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED. The resolution of public respondent
Commission on Elections dated May 9, 2001, in Comelec SPA No. 01-055 is AFFIRMED. Costs against
petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Pardo, Buena, YnaresSantiago, De Leon, Jr., Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Carpio, JJ., concur.
EN BANC

[G.R. No. 154512. November 12, 2002]

VICTORINO DENNIS M. SOCRATES, Mayor of Puerto Princesa City, petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS, THE PREPARATORY RECALL ASSEMBLY (PRA) of Puerto Princesa City, PRA Interim
Chairman Punong Bgy. MARK DAVID HAGEDORN, PRA Interim Secretary Punong Bgy. BENJAMIN
JARILLA, PRA Chairman and Presiding Officer Punong Bgy. EARL S. BUENVIAJE and PRA Secretary
Punong Bgy. CARLOS ABALLA, JR. respondents.

[G.R. No. 154683. November 12, 2002]

VICENTE S. SANDOVAL, JR., petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent.

[G.R. Nos. 155083-84. November 12, 2002]

MA. FLORES P. ADOVO, MERCY E. GILO and BIENVENIDO OLLAVE, SR., petitioners, vs. THE
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, and EDWARD S. HAGEDORN, respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:

The Case
Before us are consolidated petitions for certiorari [1] seeking the reversal of the resolutions issued by the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC for brevity) in relation to the recall election for mayor of Puerto Princesa
City, Palawan.

The Antecedents
On July 2, 2002, 312 out of 528 members of the then incumbent barangay officials of the Puerto Princesa
convened themselves into a Preparatory Recall Assembly (PRA for brevity) at the Gymnasium of Barangay
San Jose from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. The PRA was convened to initiate the recall [2] of Victorino Dennis M.
Socrates (Socrates for brevity) who assumed office as Puerto Princesas mayor on June 30, 2001. The
members of the PRA designated Mark David M. Hagedorn, president of the Association of Barangay Captains,
as interim chair of the PRA.
On the same date, the PRA passed Resolution No. 01-02 (Recall Resolution for brevity) which declared its
loss of confidence in Socrates and called for his recall. The PRA requested the COMELEC to schedule the
recall election for mayor within 30 days from receipt of the Recall Resolution.
On July 16, 2002, Socrates filed with the COMELEC a petition, docketed as E.M. No. 02-010 (RC), to
nullify and deny due course to the Recall Resolution.
On August 14, 2002, the COMELEC en banc[3] promulgated a resolution dismissing for lack of merit
Socrates petition. The COMELEC gave due course to the Recall Resolution and scheduled the recall election
on September 7, 2002.
On August 21, 2002, the COMELEC en banc promulgated Resolution No. 5673 prescribing the calendar of
activities and periods of certain prohibited acts in connection with the recall election. The COMELEC fixed the
campaign period from August 27, 2002 to September 5, 2002 or a period of 10 days.
On August 23, 2002, Edward M. Hagedorn (Hagedorn for brevity) filed his certificate of candidacy for
mayor in the recall election.
On August 17, 2002, Ma. Flores F. Adovo (Adovo for brevity) and Merly E. Gilo (Gilo for brevity) filed a
petition before the COMELEC, docketed as SPA No. 02-492, to disqualify Hagedorn from running in the recall
election and to cancel his certificate of candidacy. On August 30, 2002, a certain Bienvenido Ollave, Sr. (Ollave
for brevity) filed a petition-in-intervention in SPA No. 02-492 also seeking to disqualify Hagedorn. On the same
date, a certain Genaro V. Manaay filed another petition, docketed as SPA No. 02-539, against Hagedorn
alleging substantially the same facts and involving the same issues. The petitions were all anchored on the
ground that Hagedorn is disqualified from running for a fourth consecutive term, having been elected and

having served as mayor of the city for three (3) consecutive full terms immediately prior to the instant recall
election for the same post. Subsequently, SPA Nos. 02-492 and 02-539 were consolidated.
In a resolution promulgated on September 20, 2002, the COMELECs First Division[4] dismissed for lack of
merit SPA Nos. 02-492 and 02-539. The COMELEC declared Hagedorn qualified to run in the recall
election. The COMELEC also reset the recall election from September 7, 2002 to September 24, 2002.
On September 23, 2002, the COMELEC en banc promulgated a resolution denying the motion for
reconsideration of Adovo and Gilo. The COMELEC affirmed the resolution declaring Hagedorn qualified to run
in the recall election.
Hence, the instant consolidated petitions.
G.R. No. 154512
Petitioner Socrates seeks to nullify the COMELEC en banc resolution dated August 14, 2002 in E.M. No.
02-010 (RC) which gave due course to the Recall Resolution and scheduled the recall election on September
7, 2002.
Socrates alleges that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in upholding the Recall
Resolution. Socrates cites the following circumstances as legal infirmities attending the convening of the PRA
and its issuance of the Recall Resolution: (1) not all members of the PRA were notified of the meeting to adopt
the resolution; (2) the proof of service of notice was palpably and legally deficient; (3) the members of the PRA
were themselves seeking a new electoral mandate from their respective constituents; (4) the adoption of the
resolution was exercised with grave abuse of authority; and (5) the PRA proceedings were conducted in a
manner that violated his and the publics constitutional right to information.
G.R. No. 154683
Petitioner Vicente S. Sandoval, Jr. seeks to annul COMELEC Resolution No. 5673 dated August 21, 2002
insofar as it fixed the recall election on September 7, 2002, giving the candidates only a ten-day campaign
period. He prayed that the COMELEC be enjoined from holding the recall election on September 7, 2002 and
that a new date be fixed giving the candidates at least an additional 15 days to campaign.
In a resolution dated September 3, 2002, the Court en banc enjoined the COMELEC from implementing
Resolution No. 5673 insofar as it fixed the date of the recall election on September 7, 2002. The Court directed
the COMELEC to give the candidates an additional fifteen 15 days from September 7, 2002 within which to
campaign.
Accordingly, on September 9, 2002, the COMELEC en banc issued Resolution No. 5708 giving the
candidates an additional 15 days from September 7, 2002 within which to campaign.Thus, the COMELEC
reset the recall election to September 24, 2002.
G.R. Nos. 155083-84
Petitioners Adovo, Gilo and Ollave assail the COMELECs resolutions dated September 20, 2002 and
September 23, 2002 in SPA Nos. 02-492 and 02-539 declaring Hagedorn qualified to run for mayor in the recall
election. They likewise prayed for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to enjoin the proclamation of
the winning candidate in the recall election.
Petitioners argue that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in upholding Hagedorns qualification to
run for mayor in the recall election despite the constitutional and statutory prohibitions against a fourth
consecutive term for elective local officials.
In a resolution dated September 24, 2002, the Court ordered the COMELEC to desist from proclaiming
any winning candidate in the recall election until further orders from the Court.Petitioners were required to post
a P20,000 bond.
On September 27, 2002, Socrates filed a motion for leave to file an attached petition for intervention
seeking the same reliefs as those sought by Adovo, Gilo and Ollave.
In the meantime, Hagedorn garnered the highest number of votes in the recall election with 20,238
votes. Rival candidates Socrates and Sandoval obtained 17,220 votes and 13,241 votes, respectively.

Hagedorn filed motions to lift the order restraining the COMELEC from proclaiming the winning candidate
and to allow him to assume office to give effect to the will of the electorate.
On October 1, 2002, the Court granted Socrates motion for leave to file a petition for intervention.

The Issues
The issues for resolution of the Court are:
1. In G.R. No. 154512, whether the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in giving due
course to the Recall Resolution and scheduling the recall election for mayor of Puerto Princesa.
2. In G.R. Nos.155083-84, whether Hagedorn is qualified to run for mayor in the recall election of
Puerto Princesa on September 24, 2002.
In G.R. No. 154683, the issue of whether the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in fixing a
campaign period of only 10 days has become moot. Our Resolution of September 3, 2002 and COMELEC
Resolution No. 5708 granted an additional 15 days for the campaign period as prayed for by petitioner.

First Issue: Validity of the Recall Resolution.


Petitioner Socrates argues that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in upholding the
Recall Resolution despite the absence of notice to 130 PRA members and the defective service of notice to
other PRA members. The COMELEC, however, found that
On various dates, in the month of June 2002, the proponents for the Recall of incumbent City Mayor Victorino
Dennis M. Socrates sent notices of the convening of the PRA to the members thereof pursuant to Section 70 of the
Local Government Code. Copies of the said notice are in Volumes I and II entitled Notices to PRA. Likewise, Proof
of Service for each of the said notices were attached to the Petition and marked as Annex G of Volumes II and III of
the Petition.
Notices were likewise posted in conspicuous places particularly at the Barangay Hall. Photos establishing the same
were attached to the Petition and marked as Annex H. The proponents likewise utilized the broadcast mass media in
the dissemination of the convening of the PRA.
Notices of the convening of the Puerto Princesa PRA were also sent to the following: [a list of 25 names of
provincial elective officials, print and broadcast media practitioners, PNP officials, COMELEC city, regional and
national officials, and DILG officials].
xxx
The City Election Officer of Puerto Princesa City in her Certification dated 10 July 2002 certified that upon a
thorough and careful verification of the signatures appearing in PRA Resolution 01-02, x x x the majority of all
members of the PRA concerned approved said resolution. She likewise certified that not a single member/signatory
of the PRA complained or objected as to the veracity and authenticity of their signatures.
The Provincial Election Supervisor of Palawan, Atty. Urbano Arlando, in his Indorsement dated 10 July 2002,
stated, upon proper review, all documents submitted are found in order.
The Acting Director IV, Region IV, in his study dated 30 July 2002 submitted the following recommendations:

This Office, after evaluating the documents filed, finds the instant Petition sufficient in form and substance. That the PRA
was validly constituted and that the majority of all members thereof approved Resolution No. 01-02 calling for the recall
of Mayor Victorino Dennis M. Socrates.
xxx.
This Court is bound by the findings of fact of the COMELEC on matters within the competence and
expertise of the COMELEC, unless the findings are patently erroneous. In Malonzo v. COMELEC,[5] which also
dealt with alleged defective service of notice to PRA members, we ruled that
Needless to state, the issue of propriety of the notices sent to the PRA members is factual in nature, and the
determination of the same is therefore a function of the COMELEC. In the absence of patent error, or serious
inconsistencies in the findings, the Court should not disturb the same. The factual findings of the COMELEC, based
on its own assessments and duly supported by gathered evidence, are conclusive upon the court, more so, in the
absence of a substantiated attack on the validity of the same.
In the instant case, we do not find any valid reason to hold that the COMELECs findings of fact are patently
erroneous.
Socrates also claims that the PRA members had no authority to adopt the Recall Resolution on July 2,
2002 because a majority of PRA members were seeking a new electoral mandate in the barangay elections
scheduled on July 15, 2002. This argument deserves scant consideration considering that when the PRA
members adopted the Recall Resolution their terms of office had not yet expired. They were all de
jure sangguniang barangay members with no legal disqualification to participate in the recall assembly under
Section 70 of the Local Government Code.
Socrates bewails that the manner private respondents conducted the PRA proceedings violated his
constitutional right to information on matters of public concern. Socrates, however, admits receiving notice of
the PRA meeting and of even sending his representative and counsel who were present during the entire PRA
proceedings. Proponents of the recall election submitted to the COMELEC the Recall Resolution, minutes of
the PRA proceedings, the journal of the PRA assembly, attendance sheets, notices sent to PRA members, and
authenticated master list of barangay officials in Puerto Princesa. Socrates had the right to examine and copy
all these public records in the official custody of the COMELEC. Socrates, however, does not claim that the
COMELEC denied him this right. There is no legal basis in Socrates claim that respondents violated his
constitutional right to information on matters of public concern.
Thus, we rule that the COMELEC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in upholding the validity of the
Recall Resolution and in scheduling the recall election on September 24, 2002.

Second Issue: Hagedorns qualification to run for mayor


in the recall election of September 24, 2002.
The three-term limit rule for elective local officials is found in Section 8, Article X of the Constitution, which
states:
Section 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law,
shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of
the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full
term for which he was elected.
This three-term limit rule is reiterated in Section 43 (b) of RA No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local
Government Code, which provides:
Section 43. Term of Office. (a) x x x

(b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary
renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of
service for the full term for which the elective official was elected.
These constitutional and statutory provisions have two parts. The first part provides that an elective local
official cannot serve for more than three consecutive terms. The clear intent is that only consecutive
terms count in determining the three-term limit rule. The second part states that voluntary renunciation of office
for any length of time does not interrupt the continuity of service. The clear intent is that involuntary
severance from office for any length of time interrupts continuity of service and prevents the service before and
after the interruption from being joined together to form a continuous service or consecutive terms.
After three consecutive terms, an elective local official cannot seek immediate reelection for a fourth
term. The prohibited election refers to the next regular election for the same office following the end of the third
consecutive term. Any subsequent election, like a recall election, is no longer covered by the prohibition for two
reasons. First, a subsequent election like a recall election is no longer an immediate reelection after three
consecutive terms. Second, the intervening period constitutes an involuntary interruption in the continuity of
service.
When the framers of the Constitution debated on the term limit of elective local officials, the question
asked was whether there would be no further election after three terms, or whether there would be no
immediate reelection after three terms. This is clear from the following deliberations of the Constitutional
Commission:
THE PRESIDENT: The Acting Floor Leader is recognized.
MR. ROMULO:[6] We are now ready to discuss the two issues, as indicated on the blackboard, and these are
Alternative No. I where there is no further election after a total of three terms and Alternative No. 2 where there is
no immediate reelection after three successive terms.[7]
The Journal of the Constitutional Commission reports the following manifestation on the term of elective
local officials:
MANIFESTATION OF MR. ROMULO
Upon resumption of session, Mr. Romulo manifested that the Body would proceed to the consideration of two
issues on the term of Representatives and local officials, namely: 1) Alternative No. 1 (no further reelection after a
total of three terms), and 2) Alternative No. 2 (no immediate reelection after three successive terms).[8]
The framers of the Constitution used the same no immediate reelection question in voting for the term limits of
Senators[9] and Representatives of the House.[10]
Clearly, what the Constitution prohibits is an immediate reelection for a fourth term following three
consecutive terms. The Constitution, however, does not prohibit a subsequent reelection for a fourth term as
long as the reelection is not immediately after the end of the third consecutive term. A recall election mid-way
in the term following the third consecutive term is a subsequent election but not an immediate reelection after
the third term.
Neither does the Constitution prohibit one barred from seeking immediate reelection to run in any other
subsequent election involving the same term of office. What the Constitution prohibits is a consecutive fourth
term. The debates in the Constitutional Commission evidently show that the prohibited election referred to by
the framers of the Constitution is theimmediate reelection after the third term, not any other subsequent
election.
If the prohibition on elective local officials is applied to any election within the three-year full term following
the three-term limit, then Senators should also be prohibited from running in any election within the six-year full
term following their two-term limit. The constitutional provision on the term limit of Senators is worded exactly
like the term limit of elective local officials, thus:

No Senator shall serve for more than two consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of
time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was
elected.[11]
In the debates on the term limit of Senators, the following exchange in the Constitutional Convention is
instructive:
GASCON:[12] I would like to ask a question with regard to the issue after the second term. We will allow the Senator
to rest for a period of time before he can run again?
DAVIDE:[13] That is correct.
GASCON: And the question that we left behind before - if the Gentleman will remember - was: How long will that
period of rest be? Will it be one election which is three years or one term which is six years?
DAVIDE: If the Gentleman will remember, Commissioner Rodrigo expressed the view that during the election
following the expiration of the first 12 years, whether such election will be on the third or on the sixth year
thereafter, this particular member of the Senate can run. So, it is not really a period of hibernation for six
years. That was the Committees stand.
GASCON: So, effectively, the period of rest would be three years at the least.[14] (Emphasis supplied)
The framers of the Constitution thus clarified that a Senator can run after only three years[15] following his
completion of two terms. The framers expressly acknowledged that the prohibited election refers only to
the immediate reelection, and not to any subsequent election, during the six-year period following the two term
limit. The framers of the Constitution did not intend the period of rest of an elective official who has reached his
term limit to be the full extent of the succeeding term.
In the case of Hagedorn, his candidacy in the recall election on September 24, 2002 is not an immediate
reelection after his third consecutive term which ended on June 30, 2001. The immediate reelection that the
Constitution barred Hagedorn from seeking referred to the regular elections in 2001. Hagedorn did not seek
reelection in the 2001 elections.
Hagedorn was elected for three consecutive terms in the 1992, 1995 and 1998 elections and served in full
his three consecutive terms as mayor of Puerto Princesa. Under the Constitution and the Local Government
Code, Hagedorn could no longer run for mayor in the 2001 elections. The Constitution and the Local
Government Code disqualified Hagedorn, who had reached the maximum three-term limit, from running for a
fourth consecutive term as mayor. Thus, Hagedorn did not run for mayor in the 2001 elections. [16] Socrates ran
and won as mayor of Puerto Princesa in the 2001 elections. After Hagedorn ceased to be mayor on June 30,
2001, he became a private citizen until the recall election of September 24, 2002 when he won by 3,018 votes
over his closest opponent, Socrates.
From June 30, 2001 until the recall election on September 24, 2002, the mayor of Puerto Princesa was
Socrates. During the same period, Hagedorn was simply a private citizen. This period is clearly an interruption
in the continuity of Hagedorns service as mayor, not because of his voluntary renunciation, but because of a
legal prohibition. Hagedorns three consecutive terms ended on June 30, 2001. Hagedorns new recall term
from September 24, 2002 to June 30, 2004 is not a seamless continuation of his previous three consecutive
terms as mayor.One cannot stitch together Hagedorns previous three-terms with his new recall term to make
the recall term a fourth consecutive term because factually it is not. An involuntary interruption occurred from
June 30, 2001 to September 24, 2002 which broke the continuity or consecutive character of Hagedorns
service as mayor.
In Lonzanida v. Comelec,[17] the Court had occasion to explain interruption of continuity of service in this
manner:
x x x The second sentence of the constitutional provision under scrutiny states, Voluntary renunciation of office for
any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which

he was elected. The clear intent of the framers of the constitution to bar any attempt to circumvent the three-term
limit by a voluntary renunciation of office and at the same time respect the peoples choice and grant their elected
official full service of a term is evident in this provision. Voluntary renunciation of a term does not cancel the
renounced term in the computation of the three-term limit; conversely, involuntary severance from office for any
length of time short of the full term provided by law amounts to an interruption of continuity of service. x x
x. (Emphasis supplied)
In Hagedorns case, the nearly 15-month period he was out of office, although short of a full term of three
years, constituted an interruption in the continuity of his service as mayor. The Constitution does not require
the interruption or hiatus to be a full term of three years. The clear intent is that interruption for any length of
time, as long as the cause is involuntary, is sufficient to break an elective local officials continuity of service.
In the recent case of Adormeo v. Comelec and Talaga,[18] a unanimous Court reiterated the rule that an
interruption consisting of a portion of a term of office breaks the continuity of service of an elective local
official. In Adormeo, Ramon Y. Talaga, Jr. had served two consecutive full terms as mayor of Lucena City. In
his third bid for election as mayor in 1998, Talaga lost to Bernard G. Tagarao. However, in the recall election of
May 12, 2000, Talaga won and served the unexpired term of Tagarao from May 12, 2000 to June 30,
2001. When Talaga ran again for mayor in the 2001 elections, Raymundo Adormeo, the other candidate for
mayor, petitioned for Talagas disqualification on the ground that Talaga had already served three consecutive
terms as mayor.
Thus, the issue in Adormeo was whether Talagas recall term was a continuation of his previous two terms
so that he was deemed to have already served three consecutive terms as mayor. The Court ruled that Talaga
was qualified to run in the 2001 elections, stating that the period from June 30, 1998 to May 12, 2000 when
Talaga was out of office interrupted the continuity of his service as mayor. Talagas recall term as mayor was
not consecutive to his previous two terms because of this interruption, there having been a break of almost two
years during which time Tagarao was the mayor.
We held in Adormeo that the period an elective local official is out of office interrupts the continuity of his
service and prevents his recall term from being stitched together as a seamless continuation of his previous
two consecutive terms. In the instant case, we likewise hold that the nearly 15 months Hagedorn was out of
office interrupted his continuity of service and prevents his recall term from being stitched together as a
seamless continuation of his previous three consecutive terms. The only difference between Adormeo and the
instant case is the time of the interruption. In Adormeo, the interruption occurred after the first two consecutive
terms. In the instant case, the interruption happened after the first three consecutive terms.In both cases, the
respondents were seeking election for a fourth term.
In Adormeo, the recall term of Talaga began only from the date he assumed office after winning the recall
election. Talagas recall term did not retroact to include the tenure in office of his predecessor. If Talagas recall
term was made to so retroact, then he would have been disqualified to run in the 2001 elections because he
would already have served three consecutive terms prior to the 2001 elections. One who wins and serves a
recall term does not serve the full term of his predecessor but only the unexpired term. The period of time prior
to the recall term, when another elective official holds office, constitutes an interruption in continuity of
service. Clearly, Adormeo established the rule that the winner in the recall election cannot be charged or
credited with the full term of three years for purposes of counting the consecutiveness of an elective officials
terms in office.
In the same manner, Hagedorns recall term does not retroact to include the tenure in office of
Socrates. Hagedorn can only be disqualified to run in the September 24, 2002 recall election if the recall term
is made to retroact to June 30, 2001, for only then can the recall term constitute a fourth consecutive term. But
to consider Hagedorns recall term as a full term of three years, retroacting to June 30, 2001, despite the fact
that he won his recall term only last September 24, 2002, is to ignore reality. This Court cannot declare as
consecutive or successive terms of office which historically and factually are not.
Worse, to make Hagedorns recall term retroact to June 30, 2001 creates a legal fiction that unduly curtails
the freedom of the people to choose their leaders through popular elections.The concept of term limits is in
derogation of the sovereign will of the people to elect the leaders of their own choosing. Term limits must be
construed strictly to give the fullest possible effect to the sovereign will of the people. As this Court aptly stated
in Borja, Jr. v. Comelec:

Thus, a consideration of the historical background of Art. X, 8 of the Constitution reveals that the members of the
Constitutional Commission were as much concerned with preserving the freedom of choice of the people as they
were with preventing the monopolization of political power. Indeed, they rejected a proposal put forth by
Commissioner Edmundo F. Garcia that after serving three consecutive terms or nine years there should be no further
reelection for local and legislative officials. Instead, they adopted the alternative proposal of Commissioner
Christian Monsod that such officials be simply barred from running for the same position in the succeeding election
following the expiration of the third consecutive term. Monsod warned against prescreening candidates [from]
whom the people will choose as a result of the proposed absolute disqualification, considering that the draft
constitution contained provisions recognizing people's power.[19] (Emphasis supplied)
A necessary consequence of the interruption of continuity of service is the start of a new term following the
interruption. An official elected in recall election serves the unexpired term of the recalled official. This
unexpired term is in itself one term for purposes of counting the three-term limit. This is clear from the following
discussion in the Constitutional Commission:
SUAREZ:[20] For example, a special election is called for a Senator, and the Senator newly elected would have to
serve the unexpired portion of the term. Would that mean that serving the unexpired portion of the term is already
considered one term? So, half a term, which is actually the correct statement, plus one term would disqualify the
Senator concerned from running? Is that the meaning of this provision on disqualification, Madam President?
DAVIDE: Yes, because we speak of term, and if there is a special election, he will serve only for the unexpired
portion of that particular term plus one more term for the Senator and two more terms for the Members of the Lower
House.[21]
Although the discussion referred to special elections for Senators and Representatives of the House, the
same principle applies to a recall election of local officials. Otherwise, an elective local official who serves a
recall term can serve for more than nine consecutive years comprising of the recall term plus the regular three
full terms. A local official who serves a recall term should know that the recall term is in itself one term although
less than three years. This is the inherent limitation he takes by running and winning in the recall election.
In summary, we hold that Hagedorn is qualified to run in the September 24, 2002 recall election for mayor
of Puerto Princesa because:
1. Hagedorn is not running for immediate reelection following his three consecutive terms as mayor
which ended on June 30, 2001;
2. Hagedorns continuity of service as mayor was involuntarily interrupted from June 30, 2001 to
September 24, 2002 during which time he was a private citizen;
3. Hagedorns recall term from September 24, 2002 to June 30, 2004 cannot be made to retroact to
June 30, 2001 to make a fourth consecutive term because factually the recall term is not a fourth
consecutive term; and
4. Term limits should be construed strictly to give the fullest possible effect to the right of the electorate
to choose their leaders.
WHEREFORE, the petitions in G.R. Nos. 154512, 154683 and 155083-84 are DISMISSED. The
temporary restraining order issued by this Court on September 24, 2002 enjoining the proclamation of the
winning candidate for mayor of Puerto Princesa in the recall election of September 24, 2002 is lifted. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
FRANCIS G. ONG, G.R. No. 163295 Petitioner,
Present:
PANGANIBAN, C.J.
PUNO,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
- versus - CARPIO
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,
CALLEJO, SR.,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO, and
GARCIA, JJ.
JOSEPH STANLEY ALEGRE and Promulgated:
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,

Respondents. January 23, 2006


x---------------------x
ROMMEL G. ONG,
Petitioner,
-

versus - G.R. No. 163354

JOSEPH STANLEY ALEGRE and


COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
Respondents.
x----------------------------------------x
DECISION
GARCIA, J.:
Before the Court are these two separate petitions under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to nullify
and set aside certain issuances of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) en banc.
The first, docketed as G.R. No. 163295, is a petition for certiorari with petitioner Francis G. Ong
impugning the COMELEC en banc resolution[1] dated May 7, 2004 in SPA Case No. 04-048,
granting private respondent Joseph Stanley Alegre's motion for reconsideration of the resolution
dated March 31, 2004[2] of the COMELECs First Division.
The second, G.R. No. 163354, is for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, with application for
injunctive relief, filed by petitioner Rommel Ong, brother of Francis, seeking, among other things,
to stop the COMELEC from enforcing and implementing its aforesaid May 7, 2004 en
banc resolution in SPA Case No. 04-048 pending the outcome of the petition in G.R. No. 163295.
Per its en banc Resolution of June 1, 2004, the Court ordered the consolidation of these petitions.
The recourse stemmed from the following essential and undisputed factual backdrop:
Private respondent Joseph Stanley Alegre (Alegre) and petitioner Francis Ong (Francis) were
candidates who filed certificates of candidacy for mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte in
the May 10, 2004 elections. Francis was then the incumbent mayor.
On January 9, 2004, Alegre filed with the COMELEC Provincial Office a Petition to Disqualify, Deny
Due Course and Cancel Certificate of Candidacy [3] of Francis. Docketed as SPA Case No. 04-048,
the petition to disqualify was predicated on the three-consecutive term rule, Francis having,
according to Alegre, ran in the May 1995, May 1998, and May 2001 mayoralty elections and have
assumed office as mayor and discharged the duties thereof for three (3) consecutive full terms
corresponding to those elections.
To digress a bit, the May 1998 elections saw both Alegre and Francis opposing each other
for the office of mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte, with the latter being subsequently
proclaimed by COMELEC winner in that contest. Alegre subsequently filed an election protest,
docketed as Election Case No. 6850before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) at Daet, Camarines
Norte. In it, the RTC declared Alegre as the duly elected mayor in that 1998 mayoralty contest,
[4]
albeit the decision came out only on July 4, 2001, when Francis had fully served the 1998-2001
mayoralty term and was in fact already starting to serve the 2001-2004 term as mayor-elect of
the municipality of San Vicente.

Acting on Alegres petition to disqualify and to cancel Francis certificate of candidacy for the May
10, 2004 elections, the First Division of the COMELEC rendered on March 31, 2004 a
resolution[5] dismissing the said petition of Alegre, rationalizing as follows:
We see the circumstances in the case now before us analogous to those obtaining in the sample situations
addressed by the Highest Court in the Borja case. Herein, one of the requisites for the application of the
three term rule is not present. Francis Ong might have indeed fully served the mayoral terms of 1995 to
1998; 1998 to 2001 and 2001 to 2004. The mayoral term however, from 1998 to 2001 cannot be
considered his because he was not duly elected thereto. The [RTC] of Daet, Camarines Norte, Branch 41
has voided his election for the 1998 term when it held, in its decision that Stanley Alegre was the legally
elected mayor in the 1998 mayoralty election in San Vicente, Camarines Norte. This disposition had
become final after the [COMELEC] dismissed the appeal filed by Ong, the case having become moot and
academic.
xxx xxx xxx
On the basis of the words of the Highest Court pronounced in the Lonzanida case and applicable in the
case at bench, Ong could not be considered as having served as mayor from 1998 to 2001 because he was
not duly elected to the post; he merely assumed office as a presumptive winner; which presumption was
later overturned when [the RTC] decided with finality that [he] lost in the May 1998 elections. (Words in
bracket and emphasis in the original).
Undaunted, Alegre filed a timely motion for reconsideration, contending, in the main, that there
was a misapplication of the three-term rule, as applied in the cited cases of Borja vs.
Comelec and Lonzanida vs. Comelec, infra.
On May 7, 2004, the COMELEC en banc issued, in SPA No. 04-048, a resolution [6] reversing the
March 31, 2004 resolution of the COMELECs First Division and thereby (a) declaring Francis as
disqualified to run for mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte in the May 10, 2004; (b) ordering
the deletion of Francis name from the official list of candidates; and (c) directing the concerned
board of election inspectors not to count the votes cast in his favor.
The following day, May 8, Francis received a fax machine copy of the aforecited May 7,
2004 resolution, sending him posthaste to seek the assistance of his political party, the
Nationalist Peoples Coalition, which immediately nominated his older brother, Rommel
Ong (Rommel), as substitute candidate. At about 5:05 p.m. of the very same day - which is past
the deadline for filing a certificate of candidacy, Rommel filed his own certificate of candidacy for
the position of mayor, as substitute candidate for his brother Francis.
The following undisputed events then transpired:
1. On May 9, 2004, or a day before the May 10 elections, Alegre filed a Petition to Deny
Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Rommel Ong.
2. Atty. Evillo C. Pormento, counsel for the Ong brothers, addressed a letter [7] to Provincial
Election Supervisor (PES) of Camarines Norte Liza Z. Cario and Acting Election Officer Emily G.
Basilonia in which he appealed that, owing to the COMELECs inaction on Alegre's petition to
cancel Rommels certificate of candidacy, the name Rommel Ong be included in the official
certified list of candidates for mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte. The desired listing was
granted by the PES Carino.
3. On May 10, 2004, Alegre wrote[8] to then COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano,
Commissioner-in-Charge for Regions IV and V, seeking clarification on the legality of the action
thus taken by the PES Cario. Responding, Commissioner Garcillano issued a Memorandum under
date May 10, 2004[9] addressed to PES Liza D. Zabala-Cario, ordering her to implement the

resolution of the COMELEC en banc in SPA No. 04-048 promulgated on May 7, 2004. [10] Said
Memorandum partly stated:
The undersigned ADOPTS the recommendation of Atty. Alioden D. Dalaig [Director IV, Law
Department], which he quote your stand, "that substitution is not proper if the certificate of the
substituted candidacy is denied due course. In the Resolution of the Commission En banc, the Certificate
of candidacy of Francis Ong was denied due course," and elaborated further that:
"x x x there is an existing policy of the Commission not to include the name of a
substitute candidate in the certified list of candidates unless the substitution is approved
by the Commission.
In view, thereof, it is recommended that 1) the substitute certificate of candidacy
of Rommel Ong Gan Ong, should be denied due course; and 2) the election officer be
directed to delete his name from the list of candidates."
The above position of the Commission was in line with the pronouncement of Supreme Court in
Miranda vs. Abaya (311 SCRA 617) which states:
"There can no valid substitution where a candidate is excluded not only by
disqualification but also by denial and cancellation of his certificate of candidacy."
In view thereof, you are hereby directed to faithfully implement the said Resolution of the
Commission En Banc in SPA No. 04-048 promulgated on May 7, 2004. (Emphasis in the original; words
in bracket added].
4. Owing to the aforementioned Garcillano Memorandum, it would seem that the Chairman
of the Municipal Board of Canvasser of San Vicente issued an order enjoining all concerned not to
canvass the votes cast for Rommel, prompting the latter to file a protest with that Board. [11]
5. On May 11, 2004, the Municipal Board of Canvassers proclaimed Alegre as the winning
candidate for the mayoralty post in San Vicente, Camarines Norte. [12]
On May 12, 2004, Francis filed before the Court a petition for certiorari, presently docketed
as G.R. No. 163295. His brother Rommels petition in G.R. No. 163354 followed barely a week
after.
In our en banc resolution dated June 1, 2004, G.R. No. 163295 and G.R. No. 163354 were
consolidated.[13]
Meanwhile, on June 4, 2004, the COMELEC issued an order dismissing private respondent
Alegres Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Candidacy of Rommel Ong, for
being moot and academic.[14]
The issues for resolution of the Court are:
In G.R. No. 163295, whether the COMELEC acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to
lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing its en banc resolution dated May 7, 2004 declaring
petitioner Francis as disqualified to run for Mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte in the May 10,
2004 elections and consequently ordering the deletion of his name from the official list of
candidates so that any vote cast in his favor shall be considered stray.

In G.R. No. 163354, whether the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied
due course to Rommels certificate of candidacy in the same mayoralty election as substitute for
his brother Francis.
A resolution of the issues thus formulated hinges on the question of whether or not petitioner
Franciss assumption of office as Mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte for the mayoralty term
1998 to 2001 should be considered as full service for the purpose of the three-term limit rule.
Respondent COMELEC resolved the question in the affirmative. Petitioner Francis, on the
other hand, disagrees. He argues that, while he indeed assumed office and discharged the duties
as Mayor of San Vicente for three consecutive terms, his proclamation as mayor-elect in the May
1998 election was contested and eventually nullified per the decision of the RTC of Daet,
Camarines Norte dated July 4, 2001. Pressing the point, petitioner argues, citing Lonzanida vs.
Comelec[15], that a proclamation subsequently declared void is no proclamation at all and one
assuming office on the strength of a protested proclamation does so as a presumptive winner
and subject to the final outcome of the election protest.
The three-term limit rule for elective local officials is found in Section 8, Article X of the 1987
Constitution, which provides:
Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined
by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.
Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the
continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected.
Section 43 (b) of the Local Government Code restates the same rule as follows:
Sec. 43. Term of Office.
xxx xxx xxx
(b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three consecutive years in the same position.
Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered an interruption in the
continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected.
For the three-term limit for elective local government officials to apply, two conditions or
requisites must concur, to wit: (1) that the official concerned has been elected for three (3)
consecutive terms in the same local government post, and (2) that he has fully served three (3)
consecutive terms.[16]
With the view we take of the case, the disqualifying requisites are present herein, thus effectively
barring petitioner Francis from running for mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte in the May 10,
2004 elections. There can be no dispute about petitioner Francis Ong having been duly elected
mayor of that municipality in the May 1995 and again in the May 2001 elections and serving the
July 1, 1995- June 30, 1998 and the July 1, 2001-June 30, 2004 terms in full. The herein
controversy revolves around the 1998-2001 mayoral term, albeit there can also be no quibbling
that Francis ran for mayor of the same municipality in the May 1998 elections and actually
served the 1998-2001 mayoral term by virtue of a proclamation initially declaring him mayorelect of the municipality of San Vicente. The question that begs to be addressed, therefore, is
whether or not Franciss assumption of office as Mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte from July
1, 1998 to June 30, 2001, may be considered as one full term service in the context of the
consecutive three-term limit rule.

We hold that such assumption of office constitutes, for Francis, service for the full term, and
should be counted as a full term served in contemplation of the three-term limit prescribed by
the constitutional and statutory provisions, supra, barring local elective officials from being
elected and serving for more than three consecutive term for the same position.
It is true that the RTC-Daet, Camarines Norte ruled in Election Protest Case No. 6850, [17] that it
was Francis opponent (Alegre) who won in the 1998 mayoralty race and, therefore, was the
legally elected mayor of San Vicente. However, that disposition, it must be stressed, was without
practical and legal use and value, having been promulgated after the term of the contested
office has expired. Petitioner Francis contention that he was only a presumptive winner in the
1998 mayoralty derby as his proclamation was under protest did not make him less than a duly
elected mayor. His proclamation by the Municipal Board of Canvassers of San Vicente as the duly
elected mayor in the 1998 mayoralty election coupled by his assumption of office and his
continuous exercise of the functions thereof from start to finish of the term, should legally be
taken as service for a full term in contemplation of the three-term rule.
The absurdity and the deleterious effect of a contrary view is not hard to discern. Such contrary
view would mean that Alegre would under the three-term rule - be considered as having served a
term by virtue of a veritably meaningless electoral protest ruling, when another actually served
such term pursuant to a proclamation made in due course after an election.
Petitioner cites, but, to our mind, cannot seek refuge from the Courts ruling in, Lonzanida
vs. Comelec,[18] citing Borja vs. Comelec[19]. In Lonzanida, petitioner Lonzanida was elected and
served for two consecutive terms as mayor of San Antonio, Zambales prior to the May 8, 1995
elections. He then ran again for the same position in the May 1995 elections, won and
discharged his duties as Mayor. However, his opponent contested his proclamation and filed an
election protest before the RTC of Zambales, which, in a decision dated January 9, 1997, ruled
that there was a failure of elections and declared the position vacant. The COMELEC affirmed this
ruling and petitioner Lonzanida acceded to the order to vacate the post. Lonzanida assumed the
office and performed his duties up to March 1998 only. Now, during the May 1998 elections,
Lonzanida again ran for mayor of the same town. A petition to disqualify, under the three-term
rule, was filed and was eventually granted. There, the Court held that Lonzanida cannot be
considered as having been duly elected to the post in the May 1995 election, and that he did not
fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoralty term by reason of involuntary relinquishment of office. As
the Court pointedly observed, Lonzanida cannot be deemed to have served the May 1995 to
1998 term because he was ordered to vacate [and in fact vacated] his post before the expiration
of the term.
The difference between the case at bench and Lonzanida is at once apparent. For one,
in Lonzanida, the result of the mayoralty election was declared a nullity for the stated reason
of failure of election, and, as a consequence thereof, the proclamation of Lonzanida as mayorelect was nullified, followed by an order for him to vacate the office of mayor. For another,
Lonzanida did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term, there being an involuntary severance
from office as a result of legal processes. In fine, there was an effective interruption of the
continuity of service.
On the other hand, the failure-of-election factor does not obtain in the present case. But
more importantly, here, there was actually no interruption or break in the continuity of Francis
service respecting the 1998-2001 term. Unlike Lonzanida, Francis was never unseated during the
term in question; he never ceased discharging his duties and responsibilities as mayor of San
Vicente, Camarines Norte for the entire period covering the 1998-2001 term.
The ascription, therefore, of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC en
banc when it disqualified Francis from running in the May 10, 2004 elections for the mayoralty
post of San Vicente and denying due course to his certificate of candidacy by force of the
constitutional and statutory provisions regarding the three-term limit rule for any local elective

official cannot be sustained. What the COMELEC en banc said in its May 7, 2004 assailed
Resolution commends itself for concurrence:
As correctly pointed out by Petitioner-Movant [Alegre]in applying the ruling in
the Borja and Lonzanida cases in the instant petition will be erroneous because the factual milieu in those
cases is different from the one obtaining here. Explicitly, the three-term limit was not made applicable in
the cases of Borja and Lonzanida because there was an interruption in the continuity of service of the
three consecutive terms. Here, Respondent Ong would have served continuously for three consecutive
terms, from 1995 to 2004. His full term from 1998 to 2001 could not be simply discounted on the basis
that he was not duly elected thereto on account of void proclamation because it would have iniquitous
effects producing outright injustice and inequality as it rewards a legally disqualified and repudiated loser
with a crown of victory. (Word in bracket added; emphasis in the original)
Given the foregoing consideration, the question of whether or not then Commissioner Virgilio
Garcillano overstepped his discretion when he issued the May 10, 2004 Memorandum, ordering
the implementation of aforesaid May 7, 2004 COMELEC en banc resolution even before its
finality[20] is now of little moment and need not detain us any longer.
Just as unmeritorious as Francis petition in G.R. No. 163295 is Rommels petition in G.R. No.
163354 in which he (Rommel) challenges the COMELEC's act of not including his name as a
substitute candidate in the official list of candidates for the May 10, 2004 elections. As it were,
existing COMELEC policy[21] provides for the non-inclusion of the name of substitute candidates in
the certified list of candidates pending approval of the substitution.
Not to be overlooked is the Courts holding in Miranda vs. Abaya,[22] that a candidate whose
certificate of candidacy has been cancelled or not given due course cannot be substituted by
another belonging to the same political party as that of the former, thus:
While there is no dispute as to whether or not a nominee of a registered or accredited political
party may substitute for a candidate of the same party who had been disqualified for any cause, this does
not include those cases where the certificate of candidacy of the person to be substituted had been denied
due course and cancelled under Section 78 of the Code.
Expressio unius est exclusio alterius. While the law enumerated the occasions where a candidate
may be validly substituted, there is no mention of the case where a candidate is excluded not only by
disqualification but also by denial and cancellation of his certificate of candidacy. Under the foregoing
rule, there can be no valid substitution for the latter case, much in the same way that a nuisance candidate
whose certificate of candidacy is denied due course and/or cancelled may not be substituted. If the intent
of the lawmakers were otherwise, they could have so easily and conveniently included those persons
whose certificates of candidacy have been denied due course and/or cancelled under the provisions of
Section 78 of the Code.
xxx xxx xxx
A person without a valid certificate of candidacy cannot be considered a candidate in much the
same way as any person who has not filed any certificate of candidacy at all can not, by any stretch of the
imagination, be a candidate at all.
xxx xxx xxx
After having considered the importance of a certificate of candidacy, it can be readily understood
why in Bautista [Bautista vs. Comelec, G.R. No. 133840, November 13, 1998] we ruled that a person
with a cancelled certificate is no candidate at all. Applying this principle to the case at bar and considering
that Section 77 of the Code is clear and unequivocal that only an official candidate of a registered or

accredited party may be substituted, there demonstrably cannot be any possible substitution of a person
whose certificate of candidacy has been cancelled and denied due course.
In any event, with the hard reality that the May 10, 2004 elections were already pass, Rommel
Ongs petition in G.R. No. 163354 is already moot and academic.
WHEREFORE, the instant petitions are DISMISSED and the assailed en banc Resolution dated May
7, 2004 of the COMELEC, in SPA No. 04-048 AFFIRMED.
Costs against petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 167591

May 9, 2007

ATTY. VENANCIO Q. RIVERA III and ATTY. NORMANDICK DE GUZMAN, Petitioners,


vs.
COMELEC and MARINO "BOKING" MORALES, Respondents.
x---------------------------------------------x
G.R. No. 170577

May 9, 2007

ANTHONY D. DEE, Petitioner,


vs.
COMELEC and MARINO "BOKING" MORALES, Respondents.
DECISION
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:
For our resolution are two consolidated petitions for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure, as amended, assailing the Resolutions dated March 14, 2005 and November 8, 2005 of the
COMELEC En Banc.
G.R. No. 167591
ATTY. VENANCIO Q. RIVERA III and ATTY. NORMANDICK DE GUZMAN v. COMELEC and MARINO
"BOKING" MORALES
In the May 2004 Synchronized National and Local Elections, respondent Marino "Boking" Morales ran as
candidate for mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga for the term commencing July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007. Prior
thereto or on January 5, 2004, he filed his Certificate of Candidacy.
On January 10, 2004, Attys. Venancio Q. Rivera and Normandick De Guzman, petitioners, filed with the
Second Division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) a petition to cancel respondent Morales

Certificate of Candidacy on the ground that he was elected and had served three previous consecutive terms
as mayor of Mabalacat. They alleged that his candidacy violated Section 8, Article X of the Constitution and
Section 43 (b) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7160, also known as the Local Government Code.
In his answer to the petition, respondent Morales admitted that he was elected mayor of Mabalacat for the term
commencing July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1998 (first term) and July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2004 (third term), but he
served the second term from July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001 only as a "caretaker of the office" or as a "de facto
officer" because of the following reasons:
a. He was not validly elected for the second term 1998 to 2001 since his proclamation as mayor was
declared void by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 57, Angeles City in its Decision dated April 2,
2001 in Election Protest Case (EPC) No. 98-131. The Decision became final and executory on August
6, 2001; and
b. He was preventively suspended by the Ombudsman in an anti-graft case from January 16, 1999 to
July 15, 1999.
On May 6, 2004, the COMELEC Second Division rendered its Resolution finding respondent Morales
disqualified to run for the position of municipal mayor on the ground that he had already served three (3)
consecutive terms. Accordingly, his Certificate of Candidacy was cancelled. On May 7, 2004, he filed with the
COMELEC En Banc a motion for reconsideration.
On March 14, 2005, the COMELEC En Banc issued a Resolution granting respondent Morales motion for
reconsideration and setting aside that of the Second Division. The COMELEC En Banc held that since the
Decision in EPC No. 98-131 of the RTC, Branch 57, Angeles City declared respondent Morales proclamation
void, his discharge of the duties in the Office of the Mayor in Mabalacat is that of a de facto officer or a de facto
mayor. Therefore, his continuous service for three consecutive terms has been severed.
Hence, this petition for certiorari.
G.R. No. 170577
ANTHONY DEE v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and MARIO "BOKING" MORALES
On May 24, 2004, after respondent Morales was proclaimed the duly elected mayor of Mabalacat for the term
commencing July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007, petitioner Anthony Dee, also a candidate for mayor, filed with the
RTC, Branch 61, Angeles City a petition for quo warranto against the said respondent. Petitioner alleged that
respondent Morales, having served as mayor for three consecutive terms, is ineligible to run for another term
or fourth term. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 11503.
In his answer, respondent Morales raised the following defenses:
a. He was not validly elected for the term 1998 to 2001 since the RTC, Branch 57, Angeles City
declared in its Decision that his proclamation as mayor of Mabalacat was void. Petitioner Dee was then
proclaimed the duly elected mayor; and
b. He was preventively suspended for six months by the Ombudsman, during the same term in an antigraft case, an interruption in the continuity of his service as municipal mayor of Mabalacat.1
In its Decision dated November 22, 2004, the RTC dismissed petitioner Dees petition for quo warranto on the
ground that respondent Morales did not serve the three-term limit since he was not the duly elected mayor of
Mabalacat, but petitioner Dee in the May 1998 elections for the term 1998 to 2001, thus:
Respondent, Marino Morales, was not the duly elected mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga in the May 1998
elections for the term 1998 to 2001 because although he was proclaimed as the elected mayor of Mabalacat,

Pampanga by the Municipal Board of Canvassers, had assumed office and discharged the duties of mayor, his
close rival, the herein petitioner, Anthony D. Dee, was declared the duly elected Mayor of Mabalacat,
Pampanga in the Decision promulgated on April 2, 2001 in Election Protest EPC No. 98-131 filed by Anthony
Dee against herein respondent, Marino Morales, and decided by RTC, Br. 57, Angeles City. x x x.
Petitioner Dee interposed an appeal to the COMELEC First Division, alleging that respondent Morales violated
the three-term limit rule when he ran for re-election (fourth time) as mayor in the 2004 elections. Consequently,
his proclamation as such should be set aside. In a Resolution dated July 29, 2005 the COMELEC First Division
issued a Resolution dismissing the appeal. It held that respondent Morales cannot be deemed to have served
as mayor of Mabalacat during the term 1998 to 2001 because his proclamation was declared void by the RTC,
Branch 57 of Angeles City. He only served as a caretaker, thus, his service during that term should not be
counted.
On August 12, 2005, petitioner Dee filed with the COMELEC En Banc a motion for reconsideration. In a
Resolution dated November 8, 2005, the COMELEC En Banc affirmed the questioned Resolution of the
Second Division.
Hence, petitioner Dees instant petition for certiorari.
Both cases may be decided based on the same facts and issues.
It is undisputed that respondent Morales was elected to the position of mayor of Mabalacat for the following
consecutive terms:
a) July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1998
b) July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001
c) July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2004
d) July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007
THE PRINCIPAL ISSUE.
Respondent Morales argued and the Comelec held that the July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2007 term is not his fourth
because his second term, July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001 to which he was elected and which he served, may
not be counted since his proclamation was declared void by the RTC, Branch 57 of Angeles City.
Respondent Morales is wrong. This Court, through Mr. Justice Cancio C. Garcia, resolved the same issue in
Ong v. Alegre2 with identical facts, thus:
To digress a bit, the May 1998 elections saw both Alegre and Francis opposing each other for the office of
mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte, with the latter being subsequently proclaimed by the COMELEC
winner in the contest. Alegre subsequently filed an election protest, docketed as Election Case No. 6850
before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) at Daet, Camarines Norte. In it, the RTC declared Alegre as the duly
elected mayor in that 1998 mayoralty contest, albeit the decision came out only on July 4, 2001, when Francis
had fully served the 1998-2001 mayoralty term and was in fact already starting to serve the 2001-2004 term as
mayor-elected for the municipality of San Vicente.
xxx
A resolution of the issues thus formulated hinges on the question of whether or not petitioner Francis
assumption of office as mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte for the mayoralty term 1998 to 2001 should be
considered as full service for the purpose of the three-term limit rule.

Respondent COMELEC resolved the question in the affirmative. Petitioner Francis, on the other hand,
disagrees. He argues that, while he indeed assumed office and discharged the duties as Mayor of San Vicente
for three consecutive terms, his proclamation as mayor-elected in the May 1998 election was contested and
eventually nullified per the Decision of the RTC of Daet, Camarines Norte dated July 4, 2001. Pressing the
point, petitioner argues, citing Lonzanida v. Comelec, that a proclamation subsequently declared void is no
proclamation at all and one assuming office on the strength of a protested proclamation does so as a
presumptive winner and subject to the final outcome of the election protest.
xxx
For the three-term limit for elective local government officials to apply, two conditions or requisites must concur,
to wit: (1) that the official concerned has been elected for three (3) consecutive terms in the same local
government post, and (2) that he has fully served three (3) consecutive terms.
With the view we take of the case, the disqualifying requisites are present herein, thus effectively barring
petitioner Francis from running for mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte in the May 10, 2004 elections.
There can be no dispute about petitioner Francis Ong having been duly elected mayor of that municipality in
the May 1995 and again in the May 2001 elections and serving the July 1, 1995-June 30, 1998 and the July 1,
2001-June 30, 2004 terms in full. The herein controversy revolves around the 1998-2001 mayoral term, albeit
there can also be no quibbling that Francis ran for mayor of the same municipality in the May 1998 elections
and actually served the 1998-2001 mayoral term by virtue of a proclamation initially declaring him mayor-elect
of the municipality of San Vicente. The question that begs to be addressed, therefore, is whether or not
Francis assumption of office as Mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte from July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001,
may be considered as one full term service in the context of the consecutive three-term limit rule.
We hold that such assumption of office constitutes, for Francis, "service for the full term," and should be
counted as a full term served in contemplation of the three-term limit prescribed by the constitutional and
statutory provisions, supra, barring local elective officials from being elected and serving for more than three
consecutive terms for the same position.
It is true that the RTC-Daet, Camarines Norte ruled in Election Protest Case No. 6850, that it was Francis
opponent (Alegre) who "won" in the 1998 mayoralty race and, therefore, was the legally elected mayor of San
Vicente. However, that disposition, it must be stressed, was without practical and legal use and value, having
been promulgated after the term of the contested office has expired. Petitioner Francis contention that he was
only a presumptive winner in the 1998 mayoralty derby as his proclamation was under protest did not make
him less than a duly elected mayor. His proclamation by the Municipal Board of Canvassers of San Vicente as
the duly elected mayor in the 1998 mayoralty election coupled by his assumption of office and his continuous
exercise of the functions thereof from start to finish of the term, should legally be taken as service for a full term
in contemplation of the three-term rule.
The absurdity and the deleterious effect of a contrary view is not hard to discern. Such contrary view would
mean that Alegre would-under the three-term rule-be considered as having served a term by virtue of a
veritably meaningless electoral protest ruling, when another actually served such term pursuant to a
proclamation made in due course after an election.
Petitioner cites, but, to our mind, cannot seek refuge from the Courts ruling in Lonzanida v. Comelec, citing
Borja v. Comelec. In Lonzanida, petitioner Lonzanida was elected and served for two consecutive terms as
mayor of San Antonio, Zambales prior to the May 8, 1995 elections. He then ran again for the same position in
the May 1995 elections, won and discharged his duties as Mayor. However, his opponent contested his
proclamation and filed an election protest before the RTC of Zambales, which, in a decision dated January 8,
1997, ruled that there was a failure of elections and declared the position vacant. The COMELEC affirmed this
ruling and petitioner Lonzanida acceded to the order to vacate the post. Lonzanida assumed the office and
performed his duties up to March 1998 only. Now, during the May 1998 elections, Lonzanida again ran for
mayor of the same town. A petition to disqualify, under the three-term rule, was filed and was eventually
granted. There, the Court held that Lonzanida cannot be considered as having been duly elected to the post in
the May 1995 election, and that he did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoralty term by reason of involuntary

relinquishment of office. As the Court pointedly observed, Lonzanida "cannot be deemed to have served the
May 1995 to 1998 term because he was ordered to vacate [and in fact vacated] his post before the expiration
of the term."
The difference between the case at bench and Lonzanida is at once apparent. For one, in Lonzanida, the
result of the mayoralty elections was declared a nullity for the stated reason of "failure of election," and, as a
consequence thereof, the proclamation of Lonzanida as mayor-elect was nullified, followed by an order for him
to vacate the office of the mayor. For another, Lonzanida did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term, there
being an involuntary severance from office as a result of legal processes. In fine, there was an effective
interruption of the continuity of service.
On the other hand, the failure-of-election factor does not obtain in the present case. But more importantly,
here, there was actually no interruption or break in the continuity of Francis service respecting the 1998-2001
term. Unlike Lonzanida, Francis was never unseated during the term in question; he never ceased discharging
his duties and responsibilities as mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte for the entire period covering the
1998-2001 term.
It bears stressing that in Ong v. Alegre cited above, Francis Ong was elected and assumed the duties of the
mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte for three consecutive terms. But his proclamation as mayor in the May
1998 election was declared void by the RTC of Daet, Camarines Norte in its Decision dated July 4, 2001. As
ruled by this Court, his service for the term 1998 to 2001 is for the full term. Clearly, the three-term limit rule
applies to him. Indeed, there is no reason why this ruling should not also apply to respondent Morales who is
similarly situated.
Here, respondent Morales invoked not only Lonzanida v. COMELEC,3 but also Borja, Jr. v. Commission on
Elections4 which is likewise inapplicable. The facts in Borja are:
Private respondent Jose T. Capco was elected vice-mayor of Pateros on January 18, 1998 for a term ending
June 30, 1992. On September 2, 1989, he became mayor, by operation of law, upon the death of the
incumbent, Cesar Borja. On May 11, 1992, he ran and was elected mayor for a term of three years which
ended on June 30, 1995. On May 8, 1995, he was reelected mayor for another term of three years ending
June 30, 1998.
On March 27, 1998, private respondent Capco filed a certificate of candidacy for mayor of Pateros relative to
the May 11, 1998 elections, Petitioner Benjamin U. Borja, Jr., who was also a candidate for mayor, sought
Capcos disqualification on the theory that the latter would have already served as mayor for three consecutive
terms by June 30, 1998 and would therefore be ineligible to serve for another term after that.
On April 30, 1998, the Second Division of the Commission on Elections ruled in favor of petitioner and declared
private respondent Capco disqualified from running for reelection as mayor of Pateros. However, on motion of
private respondent, the COMELEC en banc, voting 5-2, reversed the decision and declared Capco eligible to
run for mayor in the May 11, 1998 elections. x x x
This Court held that Capcos assumption of the office of mayor upon the death of the incumbent may not be
regarded as a "term" under Section 8, Article X of the Constitution and Section 43 (b) of R.A. No. 7160 (the
Local Government Code). He held the position from September 2, 1989 to June 30, 1992, a period of less than
three years. Moreover, he was not elected to that position.
Similarly, in Adormeo v. COMELEC,5 this Court ruled that assumption of the office of mayor in a recall election
for the remaining term is not the "term" contemplated under Section 8, Article X of the Constitution and Section
43 (b) of R.A. No. 7160 (the Local Government Code). As the Court observed, there was a "break" in the
service of private respondent Ramon T. Talanga as mayor. He was a "private citizen" for a time before running
for mayor in the recall elections.

Here, respondent Morales was elected for the term July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001. He assumed the
position. He served as mayor until June 30, 2001. He was mayor for the entire period notwithstanding the
Decision of the RTC in the electoral protest case filed by petitioner Dee ousting him (respondent) as mayor. To
reiterate, as held in Ong v. Alegre,6 such circumstance does not constitute an interruption in serving the full
term.
Section 8, Article X of the Constitution can not be more clear and explicit
The term of the office of elected local officials x x x, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for
more than three consecutive terms. x x x
Upon the other hand, Section 43 (b) of R.A. No. 7160 (the Local Government Code) clearly provides:
No local official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms in the same position. x x x
Respondent Morales is now serving his fourth term. He has been mayor of Mabalacat continuously without any
break since July 1, 1995. In just over a month, by June 30, 2007, he will have been mayor of Mabalacat for
twelve (12) continuous years.
In Latasa v. Comelec,7 the Court explained the reason for the maximum term limit, thus:
The framers of the Constitution, by including this exception, wanted to establish some safeguards against the
excessive accumulation of power as a result of consecutive terms. As Commissioner Blas Ople stated during
the deliberations:
x x x I think we want to prevent future situations where, as a result of continuous service and frequent reelections, officials from the President down to the municipal mayor tend to develop a proprietary interest in
their positions and to accumulate these powers and prerequisites that permit them to stay on indefinitely or to
transfer these posts to members of their families in a subsequent election. x x x
xxx
It is evident that in the abovementioned cases, there exists a rest period or a break in the service of local
elective official. In Lonzanida, petitioner therein was a private citizen a few months before the next mayoral
elections. Similarly, in Adormeo and Socrates, the private respondents therein lived as private citizens for two
years and fifteen months respectively. Indeed, the law contemplates a rest period during which the local
elective official steps down from office and ceases to exercise power or authority over the inhabitants of the
territorial jurisdiction of a particular local government unit.
This Court reiterates that the framers of the Constitution specifically included an exception to the peoples
freedom to choose those who will govern them in order to avoid the evil of a single person accumulating
excessive power over a particular territorial jurisdiction as a result of a prolonged stay in the same office. To
allow petitioner Latasa to vie for the position of city mayor after having served for three consecutive terms as
municipal mayor would obviously defeat the very intent of the framers when they wrote this exception. Should
he be allowed another three consecutive term as mayor of the City of Digos, petitioner would then be possibly
holding office as chief executive over the same territorial jurisdiction and inhabitants for a total of eighteen
consecutive years. This is the very scenario sought to be avoided by the Constitution, if not abhorred by it.
This is the very situation in the instant case. Respondent Morales maintains that he served his second term
(1998 to 2001) only as a "caretaker of the office" or as a "de facto officer." Section 8, Article X of the
Constitution is violated and its purpose defeated when an official serves in the same position for three
consecutive terms. Whether as "caretaker" or "de facto" officer, he exercises the powers and enjoys the
prerequisites of the office which enables him "to stay on indefinitely".
Respondent Morales should be promptly ousted from the position of mayor of Mabalacat.

G.R. No. 167591


Having found respondent Morales ineligible, his Certificate of Candidacy dated December 30, 2003 should be
cancelled. The effect of the cancellation of a Certificate of Candidacy is provided under Sections 6 and 7 of
R.A. No. 6646, thus:
SECTION 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.
SECTION 7. Petition to Deny Due Course To or Cancel a Certificate of Candidacy. The procedure
hereinabove provided shall apply to petitions to deny due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy as
provided in Section 78 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881.
in relation to Section 211 of the Omnibus Election Code, which provides:
SEC. 211. Rules for the appreciation of ballots. In the reading and appreciation of ballots, every ballot shall
be presumed to be valid unless there is clear and good reason to justify its rejection. The board of election
inspectors shall observe the following rules, bearing in mind that the object of the election is to obtain the
expression of the voters will:
xxx
19. Any vote in favor of a person who has not filed a certificate of candidacy or in favor of a candidate for an
office for which he did not present himself shall be considered as a stray vote but it shall not invalidate the
whole ballot.
xxx
In the light of the foregoing, respondent Morales can not be considered a candidate in the May 2004 elections.
Not being a candidate, the votes cast for him SHOULD NOT BE COUNTED and must be considered stray
votes.
G.R. No. 170577
Since respondent Morales is DISQUALIFIED from continuing to serve as mayor of Mabalacat, the instant
petition for quo warranto has become moot.
Going back to G.R. No. 167591, the question now is whether it is the vice-mayor or petitioner Dee who shall
serve for the remaining portion of the 2004 to 2007 term.
In Labo v. Comelec,8 this Court has ruled that a second place candidate cannot be proclaimed as a substitute
winner, thus:
The rule, therefore, is: the ineligibility of a candidate receiving majority votes does not entitle the eligible
candidate receiving the next highest number of votes to be declared elected. A minority or defeated candidate
cannot be deemed elected to the office.
xxx
It is therefore incorrect to argue that since a candidate has been disqualified, the votes intended for the
disqualified candidate should, in effect, be considered null and void. This would amount to disenfranchising the

electorate in whom sovereignty resides. At the risk of being repetitious, the people of Baguio City opted to elect
petitioner Labo bona fide, without any intention to misapply their franchise, and in the honest belief that Labo
was then qualified to be the person to whom they would entrust the exercise of the powers of the government.
Unfortunately, petitioner Labo turned out to be disqualified and cannot assume the office.
Whether or not the candidate whom the majority voted for can or cannot be installed, under no circumstances
can minority or defeated candidate be deemed elected to the office. Surely, the 12,602 votes cast for petitioner
Ortega is not a larger number than the 27,471 votes cast for petitioner Labo (as certified by the Election
Registrar of Baguio City; rollo, p. 109; GR No. 105111).
xxx
As a consequence of petitioners ineligibility, a permanent vacancy in the contested office has occurred. This
should now be filled by the vice-mayor in accordance with Section 44 of the Local Government Code, to wit:
Sec. 44. Permanent vacancies in the Offices of the Governor, Vice-Governor, Mayor and Vice-Mayor. (a) If a
permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the governor or mayor, the vice-governor or the vice-mayor
concerned shall become the governor or mayor. x x x
WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 167591 is GRANTED. Respondent Morales Certificate of Candidacy
dated December 30, 2003 is cancelled. In view of the vacancy in the Office of the Mayor in Mabalacat,
Pampanga, the vice-mayor elect of the said municipality in the May 10, 2004 Synchronized National and Local
Elections is hereby declared mayor and shall serve as such for the remaining duration of the term July 1, 2004
to June 30, 2007. The petition in G.R. No. 170577 is DISMISSED for being moot.
This Decision is immediately executory.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 154829. December 10, 2003]

ARSENIO A. LATASA, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, and ROMEO SUNGA, respondents.
DECISION
AZCUNA, J.:
This is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court which seeks to challenge the resolution
issued by the First Division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) dated April 27, 2001 in SPA Case No.
01-059 entitled, Romeo M. Sunga, petitioner, versus Arsenio A. Latasa, respondent, and the Resolution of the
COMELEC en banc denying herein petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. The assailed Resolution denied
due course to the certificate of candidacy of petitioner Arsenio A. Latasa, declaring him disqualified to run for
mayor of Digos City, Davao del Sur Province in the May 14, 2001 elections, ordering that all votes cast in his
favor shall not be counted, and if he has been proclaimed winner, declaring said proclamation null and void.
The facts are fairly simple.
Petitioner Arsenio A. Latasa, was elected mayor of the Municipality of Digos, Davao del Sur in the
elections of 1992, 1995, and 1998. During petitioners third term, the Municipality ofDigos was declared a
component city, to be known as the City of Digos. A plebiscite conducted on September 8, 2000 ratified
Republic Act No. 8798 entitled, An Act Converting the Municipality of Digos, Davao del Sur Province into a
Component City to be known as the City of Digos or the Charter of the City of Digos. This event also marked
the end of petitioners tenure as mayor of the Municipality of Digos. However, under Section 53, Article IX of the
Charter, petitioner was mandated to serve in a hold-over capacity as mayor of the new City of Digos. Hence,
he took his oath as the city mayor.
On February 28, 2001, petitioner filed his certificate of candidacy for city mayor for the May 14,
2001 elections. He stated therein that he is eligible therefor, and likewise disclosed that he had already served
for three consecutive terms as mayor of the Municipality of Digos and is now running for the first time for the
position of city mayor.

On March 1, 2001, private respondent Romeo M. Sunga, also a candidate for city mayor in the said
elections, filed before the COMELEC a Petition to Deny Due Course, Cancel Certificate of Candidacy and/ or
For Disqualification[1] against petitioner Latasa. Respondent Sunga alleged therein that petitioner falsely
represented in his certificate of candidacy that he is eligible to run as mayor of Digos City since petitioner had
already been elected and served for three consecutive terms as mayor from 1992 to 2001.
On March 5, 2001, petitioner Latasa filed his Answer,[2] arguing that he did not make any false
representation in his certificate of candidacy since he fully disclosed therein that he had served as mayor of
the Municipality of Digos for three consecutive terms. Moreover, he argued that this fact does not bar him from
filing a certificate of candidacy for the May 14, 2001elections since this will be the first time that he will be
running for the post of city mayor.
Both parties submitted their position papers on March 19, 2001.[3]
On April 27, 2001, respondent COMELECs First Division issued a Resolution, the dispositive portion of
which reads, as follows:
Wherefore, premises considered, the respondents certificate of candidacy should be cancelled for being a violation of the
three (3)-term rule proscribed by the 1987 Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1991. [4]
Petitioner filed his Motion for Reconsideration dated May 4, 2001,[5] which remained unacted upon until the
day of the elections, May 14, 2001. On May 16, 2001, private respondent Sunga filed an Ex Parte Motion for
Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order Enjoining the City Board of Canvassers From Canvassing or
Tabulating Respondents Votes, and From Proclaiming Him as the Duly Elected Mayor if He Wins the Elections.
[6]
Despite this, however, petitioner Latasa was still proclaimed winner on May 17, 2001, having garnered the
most number of votes. Consequently, private respondent Sunga filed, on May 27, 2001, a Supplemental
Motion[7] which essentially sought the annulment of petitioners proclamation and the suspension of its effects.
On July 1, 2001, petitioner was sworn into and assumed his office as the newly elected mayor
of Digos City. It was only on August 27, 2002 that the COMELEC en banc issued a Resolution denying
petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.
Hence, this petition.
It cannot be denied that the Court has previously held in Mamba-Perez v. COMELEC[8] that after an
elective official has been proclaimed as winner of the elections, the COMELEC has no jurisdiction to pass upon
his qualifications. An opposing partys remedies after proclamation would be to file a petition for quo
warranto within ten days after the proclamation.
On the other hand, certain peculiarities in the present case reveal the fact that its very heart is something
which this Court considers of paramount interest. This Court notes from the very beginning that petitioner
himself was already entertaining some doubt as to whether or not he is indeed eligible to run for city mayor in
the May 14, 2001 elections. In his certificate of candidacy, after the phrase I am eligible, petitioner inserted a
footnote and indicated:
*

Having served three (3) term[s] as municipal mayor and now running for the first time as city mayor. [9]

Time and again, this Court has held that rules of procedure are only tools designed to facilitate the
attainment of justice, such that when rigid application of the rules tend to frustrate rather than promote
substantial justice, this Court is empowered to suspend their operation. We will not hesitate to set aside
technicalities in favor of what is fair and just.[10]
The spirit embodied in a Constitutional provision must not be attenuated by a rigid application of
procedural rules.
The present case raises a novel issue with respect to an explicit Constitutional mandate: whether or not
petitioner Latasa is eligible to run as candidate for the position of mayor of the newly-created City
of Digos immediately after he served for three consecutive terms as mayor of the Municipality of Digos.

As a rule, in a representative democracy, the people should be allowed freely to choose those who will
govern them. Article X, Section 8 of the Constitution is an exception to this rule, in that it limits the range of
choice of the people.
Section 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall
be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.Voluntary renunciation of the office
for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which
he was elected.
An examination of the historical background of the subject Constitutional provision reveals that the
members of the Constitutional Commission were as much concerned with preserving the freedom of choice of
the people as they were with preventing the monopolization of political power. In fact, they rejected a proposal
set forth by Commissioner Edmundo Garcia that after serving three consecutive terms or nine years, there
should be no further re-election for local and legislative officials. [11] The members, instead, adopted the
alternative proposal of Commissioner Christian Monsod that such officials be simply barred from running for
the same position in the succeeding election following the expiration of the third consecutive term:
MR. MONSOD: Madam President, I was reflecting on this issue earlier and I asked to speak because in this draft
Constitution, we are recognizing peoples power. We have said that now there is a new awareness, a new kind of voter, a
new kind of Filipino. And yet at the same time, we are prescreening candidates among whom they will choose. We are
saying that this 48-member Constitutional Commission has decreed that those who have served for a period of nine years
are barred from running for the same position.
The argument is that there may be other positions. But there are some people who are very skilled and good at legislation,
and yet are not of a national stature to be Senators. They may be perfectly honest, perfectly competent and with
integrity. They get voted into office at the age of 25, which is the age we provide for Congressmen. And at 34 years old
we put them into pasture.
Second, we say that we want to broaden the choices of the people. We are talking here only of congressional or senatorial
seats. We want to broaden the peoples choice but we are making prejudgment today because we exclude a certain number
of people. We are, in effect, putting an additional qualification for office that the officials must have not have served a
total of more than a number of years in their lifetime.
Third, we are saying that by putting people to pasture, we are creating a reserve of statesmen, but the future participation
of these statesmen is limited. Their skills may be only in some areas, but we are saying that they are going to be barred
from running for the same position.
Madam President, the ability and capacity of a statesman depend as well on the day-to-day honing of his skills and
competence, in intellectual combat, in concern and contact with the people, and here we are saying that he is going to be
barred from the same kind of public service.
I do not think it is in our place today to make such a very important and momentous decision with respect to many of our
countrymen in the future who may have a lot more years ahead of them in the service of their country.
If we agree that we will make sure that these people do not set up structures that will perpetuate them, then let us give
them this rest period of three years or whatever it is. Maybe during that time, we would even agree that their fathers or
mothers or relatives of the second degree should not run. But let us not bar them for life after serving the public for
number of years.[12]
The framers of the Constitution, by including this exception, wanted to establish some safeguards against
the excessive accumulation of power as a result of consecutive terms. As Commissioner Blas Ople stated
during the deliberations:
x x x I think we want to prevent future situations where, as a result of continuous service and frequent re-elections,
officials from the President down to the municipal mayor tend to develop a proprietary interest in their positions and to

accumulate these powers and perquisites that permit them to stay on indefinitely or to transfer these posts to members of
their families in a subsequent election. x x x [13]
An elective local official, therefore, is not barred from running again in for same local government post,
unless two conditions concur: 1.) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms to
the same local government post, and 2.) that he has fully served three consecutive terms.[14]
In the present case, petitioner states that a city and a municipality have separate and distinct
personalities. Thus they cannot be treated as a single entity and must be accorded different treatment
consistent with specific provisions of the Local Government Code. He does not deny the fact that he has
already served for three consecutive terms as municipal mayor.However, he asserts that when Digos was
converted from a municipality to a city, it attained a different juridical personality. Therefore, when he filed his
certificate of candidacy for city mayor, he cannot be construed as vying for the same local government post.
For a municipality to be converted into a city, the Local Government Code provides:
SECTION 450. Requisites for Creation. - (a) A municipality or a cluster of barangays may be converted into a component
city it has an average annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of at least Twenty million pesos
(20,000,000.00) for the last two (2) consecutive years based on 1991 constant prices, and if it has either of the following
requisites:
(i) a contiguous territory of at least one hundred (100) square kilometers, as certified by the Land
Management Bureau; or,
(ii) a population of not less than one hundred fifty thousand (150,000) inhabitants, as certified by the
National Statistics Office.
Provided, That, the creation thereof shall not reduce the land area, population, and income of the original unit or units at
the time of said creation to less than the minimum requirements prescribed herein.
(b) The territorial jurisdiction of a newly-created city shall be properly identified by metes and bounds. The requirement
on land are shall not apply where the city proposed to be created is composed of one (1) or more island. The territory need
not be contiguous if it comprises two (2) or more islands.
(c) The average annual income shall include the income accruing to the general fund, exclusive of special funds,
transfers, and non-recurring income.[15]
Substantial differences do exist between a municipality and a city. For one, there is a material change in
the political and economic rights of the local government unit when it is converted from a municipality to a city
and undoubtedly, these changes affect the people as well.[16] It is precisely for this reason why Section 10,
Article X of the Constitution mandates that no province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided,
merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered, without the approval by a majority of the votes cast in
a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.
As may be gleaned from the Local Government Code, the creation or conversion of a local government
unit is done mainly to help assure its economic viability. Such creation or conversion is based on verified
indicators:
Section 7. Creation and Conversion. --- As a general rule, the creation of a local government unit or its conversion from
one level to another shall be based on verifiable indicators or viability and projected capacity to provide services, to wit:
(a) Income. --- It must be sufficient, based on acceptable standards, to provide for all essential government facilities and
services and special functions commensurate with the size of its population, as expected of the local government unit
concerned;
(b) Population. --- It shall be determined as the total number of inhabitants within the territorial jurisdiction of the local
government unit concerned; and

(c) Land Area. --- It must be contiguous, unless it comprises two (2) or more islands or is separated by a local government
unit independent of the others; properly identified by metes and bounds with technical descriptions; and sufficient to
provide for such basic services and facilities to meet the requirements of its populace.
Compliance with the foregoing indicators shall be attested to by the Department of Finance (DOF), the National Statistics
Office (NSO), and the Lands Management Bureau (LMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR).[17]
On the other hand, Section 2 of the Charter of the City of Digos provides:
Section 2. The City of Digos --- The Municipality of Digos shall be converted into a component city to be known as the
City of Digos, hereinafter referred to as the City, which shall comprise the present territory of the Municipality of Digos,
Davao del Sur Province. The territorial jurisdiction of the City shall be within the present metes and bounds of
the Municipality of Digos. x x x
Moreover, Section 53 of the said Charter further states:
Section 53. Officials of the City of Digos. --- The present elective officials of the Municipality of Digos shall continue to
exercise their powers and functions until such a time that a new election is held and the duly-elected officials shall have
already qualified and assumed their offices. x x x.
As seen in the aforementioned provisions, this Court notes that the delineation of the metes and bounds of
the City of Digos did not change even by an inch the land area previously covered by
the Municipality of Digos. This Court also notes that the elective officials of the Municipality of Digos continued
to exercise their powers and functions until elections were held for the new city officials.
True, the new city acquired a new corporate existence separate and distinct from that of the
municipality. This does not mean, however, that for the purpose of applying the subject Constitutional
provision, the office of the municipal mayor would now be construed as a different local government post as
that of the office of the city mayor. As stated earlier, the territorial jurisdiction of the City of Digos is the same as
that of the municipality. Consequently, the inhabitants of the municipality are the same as those in the
city. These inhabitants are the same group of voters who elected petitioner Latasa to be their municipal mayor
for three consecutive terms. These are also the same inhabitants over whom he held power and authority as
their chief executive for nine years.
This Court must distinguish the present case from previous cases ruled upon this Court involving the same
Constitutional provision.
In Borja, Jr. v. COMELEC,[18] the issue therein was whether a vice-mayor who became the mayor by
operation of law and who served the remainder of the mayors term should be considered to have served a
term in that office for the purpose of the three-term limit under the Constitution. Private respondent in that case
was first elected as vice-mayor, but upon the death of the incumbent mayor, he occupied the latters post for the
unexpired term. He was, thereafter, elected for two more terms. This Court therein held that when private
respondent occupied the post of the mayor upon the incumbents death and served for the remainder of the
term, he cannot be construed as having served a full term as contemplated under the subject constitutional
provision. The term served must be one for which [the official concerned] was elected.
It must also be noted that in Borja, the private respondent therein, before he assumed the position of
mayor, first served as the vice-mayor of his local government unit. The nature of the responsibilities and duties
of the vice-mayor is wholly different from that of the mayor. The vice-mayor does not hold office as chief
executive over his local government unit. In the present case, petitioner, upon ratification of the law converting
the municipality to a city, continued to hold office as chief executive of the same territorial jurisdiction. There
were changes in the political and economic rights of Digos as local government unit, but no substantial change
occurred as to petitioners authority as chief executive over the inhabitants of Digos.
In Lonzanida v. COMELEC,[19] petitioner was elected and served two consecutive terms as mayor from
1988 to 1995. He then ran again for the same position in the May 1995 elections, won and discharged his
duties as mayor. However, his opponent contested his proclamation and filed an election protest before the

Regional Trial Court, which ruled that there was a failure of elections and declared the position of mayor
vacant. The COMELEC affirmed this ruling and petitioner acceded to the order to vacate the post. During the
May 1998 elections, petitioner therein again filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor. A petition to disqualify
him was filed on the ground that he had already served three consecutive terms. This Court ruled, however,
that petitioner therein cannot be considered as having been duly elected to the post in the May 1995 elections,
and that said petitioner did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term by reason of involuntary relinquishment
of office.
In the present case, petitioner Latasa was, without a doubt, duly elected as mayor in the May 1998
elections. Can he then be construed as having involuntarily relinquished his office by reason of the conversion
of Digos from municipality to city? This Court believes that he did involuntarily relinquish his office as municipal
mayor since the said office has been deemed abolished due to the conversion. However, the very instant he
vacated his office as municipal mayor, he also assumed office as city mayor. Unlike in Lonzanida, where
petitioner therein, for even just a short period of time, stepped down from office, petitioner Latasa never ceased
from acting as chief executive of the local government unit. He never ceased from discharging his duties and
responsibilities as chief executive of Digos.
In Adormeo v. COMELEC,[20] this Court was confronted with the issue of whether or not an assumption to
office through a recall election should be considered as one term in applying the three-term limit rule. Private
respondent, in that case, was elected and served for two consecutive terms as mayor. He then ran for his third
term in the May 1998 elections, but lost to his opponent. In June 1998, his opponent faced recall proceedings
and in the recall elections of May 2000, private respondent won and served for the unexpired term. For the
May 2001 elections, private respondent filed his certificate of candidacy for the office of mayor. This was
questioned on the ground that he had already served as mayor for three consecutive terms.This Court held
therein that private respondent cannot be construed as having been elected and served for three consecutive
terms. His loss in the May 1998 elections was considered by this Court as an interruption in the continuity of
his service as mayor. For nearly two years, private respondent therein lived as a private citizen. The same,
however, cannot be said of petitioner Latasa in the present case.
Finally, in Socrates v. COMELEC,[21] the principal issue was whether or not private respondent Edward M.
Hagedorn was qualified to run during the recall elections. Therein respondent Hagedorn had already served for
three consecutive terms as mayor from 1992 until 2001 and did not run in the immediately following regular
elections. On July 2, 2002, the barangay officials of Puerto Princesa convened themselves into a Preparatory
Recall Assembly to initiate the recall of the incumbent mayor, Victorino Dennis M. Socrates. On August 23,
2002, respondent Hagedorn filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor in the recall election. A petition for his
disqualification was filed on the ground that he cannot run for the said post during the recall elections for he
was disqualified from running for a fourth consecutive term. This Court, however, ruled in favor of respondent
Hagedorn, holding that the principle behind the three-term limit rule is to prevent consecutiveness of the
service of terms, and that there was in his case a break in such consecutiveness after the end of his third term
and before the recall election.
It is evident that in the abovementioned cases, there exists a rest period or a break in the service of the
local elective official. In Lonzanida, petitioner therein was a private citizen a few months before the next
mayoral elections. Similarly, in Adormeo and Socrates, the private respondents therein lived as private citizens
for two years and fifteen months respectively. Indeed, the law contemplates a rest period during which the local
elective official steps down from office and ceases to exercise power or authority over the inhabitants of the
territorial jurisdiction of a particular local government unit.
This Court reiterates that the framers of the Constitution specifically included an exception to the peoples
freedom to choose those who will govern them in order to avoid the evil of a single person accumulating
excessive power over a particular territorial jurisdiction as a result of a prolonged stay in the same office. To
allow petitioner Latasa to vie for the position of city mayor after having served for three consecutive terms as a
municipal mayor would obviously defeat the very intent of the framers when they wrote this exception. Should
he be allowed another three consecutive terms as mayor of the City of Digos, petitioner would then be possibly
holding office as chief executive over the same territorial jurisdiction and inhabitants for a total of
eighteen consecutive years. This is the very scenario sought to be avoided by the Constitution, if not abhorred
by it.

Finally, respondent Sunga claims that applying the principle in Labo v. COMELEC,[22] he should be
deemed the mayoralty candidate with the highest number of votes. On the contrary, this Court held in Labo that
the disqualification of a winning candidate does not necessarily entitle the candidate with the highest number of
votes to proclamation as the winner of the elections. As an obiter, the Court merely mentioned that the rule
would have been different if the electorate, fully aware in fact and in law of a candidates disqualification so as
to bring such awareness within the realm of notoriety, would nonetheless cast their votes in favor of the
ineligible candidate. In such case, the electorate may be said to have waived the validity and efficacy of their
votes by notoriously misapplying their franchise or throwing away their votes, in which case, the eligible
candidate obtaining the next higher number of votes may be deemed elected. The same, however, cannot be
said of the present case.
This Court has consistently ruled that the fact that a plurality or a majority of the votes are cast for an
ineligible candidate at a popular election, or that a candidate is later declared to be disqualified to hold office,
does not entitle the candidate who garnered the second highest number of votes to be declared elected. The
same merely results in making the winning candidates election a nullity. [23] In the present case, moreover,
13,650 votes were cast for private respondent Sunga as against the 25,335 votes cast for petitioner Latasa.
[24]
The second placer is obviously not the choice of the people in that particular election. In any event, a
permanent vacancy in the contested office is thereby created which should be filled by succession.[25]
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio,
Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.

EN BANC
G.R. No. 201716

January 8, 2013

MAYOR ABELARDO ABUNDO, SR., Petitioner,


vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and ERNESTO R. VEGA, Respondents.
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:
The Case
In this Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65, petitioner Abelardo Abundo, Sr. (Abundo) assails and seeks to
nullify (1) the February 8, 2012 Resolution1 of the Second Division, Commission on Elections (COMELEC), in
EAC (AE) No. A-25-2010 and (2) the May 10, 2012 Resolution2 of the COMELEC en banc affirming that
divisions disposition. The assailed issuances, in turn, affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Virac, Catanduanes, Branch 43, dated August 9, 2010, in Election Case No. 55 declaring Abundo as
ineligible, under the three-term limit rule, to run in the 2010 elections for the position of, and necessarily to sit
as, Mayor of Viga, Catanduanes.
The antecedent facts are undisputed.
For four (4) successive regular elections, namely, the 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010 national and local elections,
Abundo vied for the position of municipal mayor of Viga, Catanduanes. In both the 2001 and 2007 runs, he
emerged and was proclaimed as the winning mayoralty candidate and accordingly served the corresponding
terms as mayor. In the 2004 electoral derby, however, the Viga municipal board of canvassers initially
proclaimed as winner one Jose Torres (Torres), who, in due time, performed the functions of the office of
mayor. Abundo protested Torres election and proclamation. Abundo was eventually declared the winner of the
2004 mayoralty electoral contest, paving the way for his assumption of office starting May 9, 2006 until the end
of the 2004-2007 term on June 30, 2007, or for a period of a little over one year and one month.
Then came the May 10, 2010 elections where Abundo and Torres again opposed each other. When Abundo
filed his certificate of candidacy3 for the mayoralty seat relative to this electoral contest, Torres lost no time in
seeking the formers disqualification to run, the corresponding petition,4 docketed as SPA Case No. 10-128

(DC), predicated on the three-consecutive term limit rule. On June 16, 2010, the COMELEC First Division
issued a Resolution5 finding for Abundo, who in the meantime bested Torres by 219 votes6 and was
accordingly proclaimed 2010 mayor-elect of Viga, Catanduanes.
Meanwhile, on May 21, 2010, or before the COMELEC could resolve the adverted disqualification case Torres
initiated against Abundo, herein private respondent Ernesto R. Vega (Vega) commenced a quo
warranto7 action before the RTC-Br. 43 in Virac, Catanduanes, docketed as Election Case No. 55, to unseat
Abundo on essentially the same grounds Torres raised in his petition to disqualify.
The Ruling of the Regional Trial Court
By Decision8 of August 9, 2010 in Election Case No. 55, the RTC declared Abundo ineligible to serve as
municipal mayor, disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, Decision is, hereby, rendered GRANTING the petition and declaring Abelardo Abundo, Sr.
ineligible to serve as municipal mayor of Viga, Catanduanes.
SO ORDERED.9
In so ruling, the trial court, citing Aldovino, Jr. v. COMELEC,10 found Abundo to have already served three
consecutive mayoralty terms, to wit, 2001-2004, 2004-2007 and 2007-2010, and, hence, disqualified for
another, i.e., fourth, consecutive term. Abundo, the RTC noted, had been declared winner in the aforesaid
2004 elections consequent to his protest and occupied the position of and actually served as Viga mayor for
over a year of the remaining term, i.e., from May 9, 2006 to June 30, 2007, to be exact. To the RTC, the year
and a month service constitutes a complete and full service of Abundos second term as mayor.
Therefrom, Abundo appealed to the COMELEC, his recourse docketed as EAC (AE) No. A-25-2010.
The Ruling of the COMELEC
On February 8, 2012, in EAC (AE) No. A-25-2010, the COMELECs Second Division rendered the first assailed
Resolution, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court Branch 73, Virac,
Catanduanes is AFFIRMED and the appeal is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.11
Just like the RTC, the COMELECs Second Division ruled against Abundo on the strength of Aldovino, Jr. and
held that service of the unexpired portion of a term by a protestant who is declared winner in an election
protest is considered as service for one full term within the contemplation of the three-term limit rule.
In time, Abundo sought but was denied reconsideration by the COMELEC en banc per its equally assailed
Resolution of May 10, 2012. The fallo of the COMELEC en bancs Resolution reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the motion for reconsideration is DENIED for lack of merit. The
Resolution of the Commission (Second Division) is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.12
In affirming the Resolution of its Second Division, the COMELEC en banc held in essence the following: first,
there was no involuntary interruption of Abundos 2004-2007 term service which would be an exception to the
three-term limit rule as he is considered never to have lost title to the disputed office after he won in his
election protest; and second, what the Constitution prohibits is for an elective official to be in office for the
same position for more than three consecutive terms and not to the service of the term.

Hence, the instant petition with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or
preliminary injunction.
Intervening Events
In the meantime, following the issuance by the COMELEC of its May 10, 2012 Resolution denying Abundos
motion for reconsideration, the following events transpired:
1. On June 20, 2012, the COMELEC issued an Order13 declaring its May 10, 2012 Resolution final and
executory. The following day, June 21, 2012, the COMELEC issued an Entry of Judgment.14
2. On June 25, 2012, Vega filed a Motion for Execution15 with the RTC-Br. 43 in Virac, Catanduanes.
3. On June 27, 2012, the COMELEC, acting on Vegas counsels motion16 filed a day earlier, issued an
Order17 directing the bailiff of ECAD (COMELEC) to personally deliver the entire records to said RTC.
On June 29, 2012, the COMELEC ECAD Bailiff personally delivered the entire records of the instant
case to, and were duly received by, the clerk of court of RTC-Br. 43.
4. On June 29, 2012, or on the same day of its receipt of the case records, the RTC-Br. 43 in Virac,
Catanduanes granted Vegas Motion for Execution through an Order18 of even date. And a Writ of
Execution19 was issued on the same day.
5. On July 2, 2012, Sheriff Q. Tador, Jr. received the Writ of Execution and served the same at the office
of Mayor Abundo on the same day via substituted service.
6. On July 3, 2012, the Court issued a TRO20 enjoining the enforcement of the assailed COMELEC
Resolutions.
7. On July 4, 2012, Vega received the Courts July 3, 2012 Resolution21 and a copy of the TRO. On the
same day, Vice-Mayor Emeterio M. Tarin and First Councilor Cesar O. Cervantes of Viga, Catanduanes
took their oaths of office22 as mayor and vice-mayor of Viga, Catanduanes, respectively.
8. On July 5, 2012, Vega received a copy of Abundos Seventh (7th) Most Extremely Urgent
Manifestation and Motion23 dated June 28, 2012 praying for the issuance of a TRO and/or status quo
ante Order. On the same day, Vice-Mayor Emeterio M. Tarin and First Councilor Cesar O. Cervantes
who had taken their oaths of office the day beforeassumed the posts of mayor and vice-mayor of
Viga, Catanduanes.24
9. On July 6, 2012, Vega interposed a Motion (To Admit Attached Manifestation)25 and Manifestation
with Leave to Admit26 dated July 5, 2012 stating that the TRO thus issued by the Court has become
functus officio owing to the execution of the RTCs Decision in Election Case No. 55.
10. On July 10, 2012, Vega filed his Comment/Opposition with Leave to the Petitioners Prayer for the
Issuance of a Status Quo Ante Order27 reiterating the argument that since Vice-Mayor Emeterio M.
Tarin and First Councilor Cesar O. Cervantes already assumed the posts of Mayor and Vice-Mayor of
Viga, Catanduanes, then a Status Quo Ante Order would serve no purpose.
11. On July 12, 2012, Abundo filed his Most Urgent Manifestation and Motion to Convert the July 3,
2012 TRO into a Status Quo Ante Order (In View of the Unreasonable and Inappropriate Progression of
Events).28
It is upon the foregoing backdrop of events that Abundo was dislodged from his post as incumbent mayor of
Viga, Catanduanes. To be sure, the speed which characterized Abundos ouster despite the supervening
issuance by the Court of a TRO on July 3, 2012 is not lost on the Court. While it is not clear whether Vice-

Mayor Tarin and First Councilor Cervantes knew of or put on notice about the TRO either before they took their
oaths of office on July 4, 2012 or before assuming the posts of mayor and vice-mayor on July 5, 2012, the
confluence of events following the issuance of the assailed COMELEC en banc irresistibly tends to show that
the TROissued as it were to maintain the status quo, thus averting the premature ouster of Abundo pending
this Courts resolution of his appealappears to have been trivialized.
On September 11, 2012, Vega filed his Comment on Abundos petition, followed not long after by public
respondent COMELECs Consolidated Comment.29
The Issues
Abundo raises the following grounds for the allowance of the petition:
6.1 The Commission En Banc committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction when it declared the arguments in Abundos motion for reconsideration as mere rehash and
reiterations of the claims he raised prior to the promulgation of the Resolution.
6.2 The Commission En Banc committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction when it declared that Abundo has consecutively served for three terms despite the fact that
he only served the remaining one year and one month of the second term as a result of an election
protest.30
First Issue:
Arguments in Motion for Reconsideration Not Mere Reiteration
The COMELEC en banc denied Abundos motion for reconsideration on the basis that his arguments in said
motion are mere reiterations of what he already brought up in his appeal Brief before the COMELEC Second
Division. In this petition, petitioner claims otherwise.
Petitioners assertion is devoid of merit.
A comparison of Abundos arguments in the latters Brief vis--vis those in his Motion for Reconsideration (MR)
reveals that the arguments in the MR are elucidations and amplications of the same issues raised in the brief.
First, in his Brief, Abundo raised the sole issue of lack of jurisdiction of the RTC to consider the quo warranto
case since the alleged violation of the three-term limit has already been rejected by the COMELEC First
Division in SPA Case No. 10-128 (DC), while in his MR, Abundo raised the similar ground of the
conclusiveness of the COMELECs finding on the issue of his qualification to run for the current term. Second,
in his Brief, Abundo assailed RTCs reliance on Aldovino, Jr., while in his MR, he argued that the Courts
pronouncement in Aldovino, Jr., which dealt with preventive suspension, is not applicable to the instant case as
it involves only a partial service of the term. Abundo argued in his Brief that his situation cannot be equated
with the case of preventive suspension as held in Aldovino, Jr., while in his MR, he argued before that the
almost two years which he did not sit as mayor during the 2004-2007 term is an interruption in the continuity of
his service for the full term.
Thus, COMELEC did not err in ruling that the issues in the MR are a rehash of those in the Brief.
Core Issue:
Whether or not Abundo is deemed to have served three consecutive terms
The pivotal determinative issue then is whether the service of a term less than the full three years by an
elected official arising from his being declared as the duly elected official upon an election protest is considered
as full service of the term for purposes of the application of the three consecutive term limit for elective local
officials.

On this core issue, We find the petition meritorious. The consecutiveness of what otherwise would have been
Abundos three successive, continuous mayorship was effectively broken during the 2004-2007 term when he
was initially deprived of title to, and was veritably disallowed to serve and occupy, an office to which he, after
due proceedings, was eventually declared to have been the rightful choice of the electorate.
The three-term limit rule for elective local officials, a disqualification rule, is found in Section 8, Article X of the
1987 Constitution, which provides:
Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law,
shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary
renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his
service for the full term for which he was elected. (Emphasis supplied.)
and is reiterated in Sec. 43(b) of Republic Act No. (RA) 7160, or the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991,
thusly:
Sec. 43. Term of Office.
xxxx
(b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position.
Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the
continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected. (Emphasis Ours.)
To constitute a disqualification to run for an elective local office pursuant to the aforequoted constitutional and
statutory provisions, the following requisites must concur:
(1) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local
government post; and
(2) that he has fully served three consecutive terms.31
Judging from extant jurisprudence, the three-term limit rule, as applied to the different factual milieus, has its
complicated side. We shall revisit and analyze the various holdings and relevant pronouncements of the Court
on the matter.
As is clearly provided in Sec. 8, Art. X of the Constitution as well as in Sec. 43(b) of the LGC, voluntary
renunciation of the office by the incumbent elective local official for any length of time shall NOT, in determining
service for three consecutive terms, be considered an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term
for which the elective official concerned was elected. In Aldovino, Jr., however, the Court stated the observation
that the law "does not textually state that voluntary renunciation is the only actual interruption of service that
does not affect continuity of service for a full term for purposes of the three-term limit rule."32
As stressed in Socrates v. Commission on Elections,33 the principle behind the three-term limit rule covers only
consecutive terms and that what the Constitution prohibits is a consecutive fourth term. Put a bit differently, an
elective local official cannot, following his third consecutive term, seek immediate reelection for a fourth
term,34albeit he is allowed to seek a fresh term for the same position after the election where he could have
sought his fourth term but prevented to do so by reason of the prohibition.
There has, in fine, to be a break or interruption in the successive terms of the official after his or her third term.
An interruption usually occurs when the official does not seek a fourth term, immediately following the third. Of
course, the basic law is unequivocal that a "voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall NOT
be considered an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official
concerned was elected." This qualification was made as a deterrent against an elective local official intending
to skirt the three-term limit rule by merely resigning before his or her third term ends. This is a voluntary

interruption as distinguished from involuntary interruption which may be brought about by certain events or
causes.
While appearing to be seemingly simple, the three-term limit rule has engendered a host of disputes resulting
from the varying interpretations applied on local officials who were elected and served for three terms or more,
but whose terms or service was punctuated by what they view as involuntary interruptions, thus entitling them
to a, but what their opponents perceive as a proscribed, fourth term. Involuntary interruption is claimed to result
from any of these events or causes: succession or assumption of office by operation of law, preventive
suspension, declaration of the defeated candidate as the winner in an election contest, declaration of the
proclaimed candidate as the losing party in an election contest, proclamation of a non-candidate as the winner
in a recall election, removal of the official by operation of law, and other analogous causes.
This brings us to an examination of situations and jurisprudence wherein such consecutive terms were
considered or not considered as having been "involuntarily interrupted or broken."
(1) Assumption of Office by Operation of Law
In Borja, Jr. v. Commission on Elections and Jose T. Capco, Jr.35 (1998) and Montebon v. Commission on
Elections36 (2008), the Court delved on the effects of "assumption to office by operation of law" on the threeterm limit rule. This contemplates a situation wherein an elective local official fills by succession a higher local
government post permanently left vacant due to any of the following contingencies, i.e., when the supposed
incumbent refuses to assume office, fails to qualify, dies, is removed from office, voluntarily resigns or is
otherwise permanently incapacitated to discharge the functions of his office.37
In Borja, Jr., Jose T. Capco, Jr. (Capco) was elected vice-mayor of Pateros on January 18, 1988 for a term
ending June 30, 1992. On September 2, 1989, Capco became mayor, by operation of law, upon the death of
the incumbent mayor, Cesar Borja. Capco was then elected and served as mayor for terms 1992-1995 and
1995-1998. When Capco expressed his intention to run again for the mayoralty position during the 1998
elections, Benjamin U. Borja, Jr., who was then also a candidate for mayor, sought Capcos disqualification for
violation of the three-term limit rule.
Finding for Capco, the Court held that for the disqualification rule to apply, "it is not enough that an individual
has served three consecutive terms in an elective local office, he must also have been elected to the same
position for the same number of times before the disqualification can apply."38 There was, the Court ruled, no
violation of the three-term limit, for Capco "was not elected to the office of the mayor in the first term but simply
found himself thrust into it by operation of law"39 when a permanent vacancy occurred in that office.
The Court arrived at a parallel conclusion in the case of Montebon. There, Montebon had been elected for
three consecutive terms as municipal councilor of Tuburan, Cebu in 1998-2001, 2001-2004, and 2004-2007.
However, in January 2004, or during his second term, Montebon succeeded and assumed the position of vicemayor of Tuburan when the incumbent vice-mayor retired. When Montebon filed his certificate of candidacy
again as municipal councilor, a petition for disqualification was filed against him based on the three-term limit
rule. The Court ruled that Montebons assumption of office as vice-mayor in January 2004 was an interruption
of his continuity of service as councilor. The Court emphasized that succession in local government office is by
operation of law and as such, it is an involuntary severance from office. Since the law no less allowed
Montebon to vacate his post as councilor in order to assume office as vice-mayor, his occupation of the higher
office cannot, without more, be deemed as a voluntary renunciation of his position as councilor.
(2) Recall Election
With reference to the effects of recall election on the continuity of service, Adormeo v. Commission on
Elections40(2002) and the aforementioned case of Socrates (2002) provide guidance.
In Adormeo, Ramon Talaga, Jr. (Talaga) was elected and served as mayor of Lucena City during terms 19921995 and 1995-1998. During the 1998 elections, Talaga lost to Bernard G. Tagarao. However, before Tagaraos

1998-2001 term ended, a recall election was conducted in May 2000 wherein Talaga won and served the
unexpired term of Tagarao until June 2001. When Talaga ran for mayor in 2001, his candidacy was challenged
on the ground he had already served as mayor for three consecutive terms for violation of the three term-limit
rule. The Court held therein that the remainder of Tagaraos term after the recall election during which Talaga
served as mayor should not be considered for purposes of applying the three-term limit rule. The Court
emphasized that the continuity of Talagas mayorship was disrupted by his defeat during the 1998 elections.
A similar conclusion was reached by the Court in Socrates. The petitioners in that case assailed the
COMELEC Resolution which declared Edward Hagedorn qualified to run for mayor in a recall election. It
appeared that Hagedorn had been elected and served as mayor of Puerto Princesa City for three consecutive
terms: in 1992-1995, 1995-1998 and 1998-2001. Obviously aware of the three-term limit principle, Hagedorn
opted not to vie for the same mayoralty position in the 2001 elections, in which Socrates ran and eventually
won. However, midway into his term, Socrates faced recall proceedings and in the recall election held,
Hagedorn run for the formers unexpired term as mayor. Socrates sought Hagedorns disqualification under the
three-term limit rule.
In upholding Hagedorns candidacy to run in the recall election, the Court ruled:
x x x After Hagedorn ceased to be mayor on June 30, 2001, he became a private citizen until the recall election
of September 24, 2002 when he won by 3,018 votes over his closest opponent, Socrates.
From June 30, 2001 until the recall election on September 24, 2002, the mayor of Puerto Princesa was
Socrates. During the same period, Hagedorn was simply a private citizen. This period is clearly an interruption
in the continuity of Hagedorns service as mayor, not because of his voluntary renunciation, but because of a
legal prohibition.41
The Court likewise emphasized in Socrates that "an elective local official cannot seek immediate reelection for
a fourth term. The prohibited election refers to the next regular election for the same office following the end of
the third consecutive term and, hence, any subsequent election, like recall election, is no longer covered x x
x."42
(3) Conversion of a Municipality into a City
On the other hand, the conversion of a municipality into a city does not constitute an interruption of the
incumbent officials continuity of service. The Court said so in Latasa v. Commission on Elections43 (2003).
Latasa is cast against the ensuing backdrop: Arsenio A. Latasa was elected and served as mayor of the
Municipality of Digos, Davao del Sur for terms 1992-1995, 1995-1998, and 1998-2001. During his third term,
Digos was converted into a component city, with the corresponding cityhood law providing the holdover of
elective officials. When Latasa filed his certificate of candidacy as mayor for the 2001 elections, the Court
declared Latasa as disqualified to run as mayor of Digos City for violation of the three-term limit rule on the
basis of the following ratiocination:
This Court believes that (Latasa) did involuntarily relinquish his office as municipal mayor since the said office
has been deemed abolished due to the conversion. However, the very instant he vacated his office as
municipal mayor, he also assumed office as city mayor. Unlike in Lonzanida, where petitioner therein, for even
just a short period of time, stepped down from office, petitioner Latasa never ceased from acting as chief
executive of the local government unit. He never ceased from discharging his duties and responsibilities as
chief executive of Digos.
(Emphasis supplied.)
(4) Period of Preventive Suspension

In 2009, in the case Aldovino Jr., the Court espoused the doctrine that the period during which a local elected
official is under preventive suspension cannot be considered as an interruption of the continuity of his service.
The Court explained why so:
Strict adherence to the intent of the three-term limit rule demands that preventive suspension should not be
considered an interruption that allows an elective officials stay in office beyond three terms. A preventive
suspension cannot simply be a term interruption because the suspended official continues to stay in office
although he is barred from exercising the functions and prerogatives of the office within the suspension period.
The best indicator of the suspended officials continuity in office is the absence of a permanent replacement
and the lack of the authority to appoint one since no vacancy exists.44 (Emphasis supplied.)
(5) Election Protest
With regard to the effects of an election protest vis--vis the three-term limit rule, jurisprudence presents a
more differing picture. The Courts pronouncements in Lonzanida v. Commission on Elections45 (1999), Ong v.
Alegre46 (2006), Rivera III v. Commission on Elections47 (2007) and Dizon v. Commission on Elections48 (2009),
all protest cases, are illuminating.
In Lonzanida, Romeo Lonzanida was elected and had served as municipal mayor of San Antonio, Zambales in
terms 1989-1992, 1992-1995 and 1995-1998. However, his proclamation relative to the 1995 election was
protested and was eventually declared by the RTC and then by COMELEC null and void on the ground of
failure of elections. On February 27, 1998, or about three months before the May 1998 elections, Lonzanida
vacated the mayoralty post in light of a COMELEC order and writ of execution it issued. Lonzanidas opponent
assumed office for the remainder of the term. In the May 1998 elections, Lonzanida again filed his certificate of
candidacy. His opponent, Efren Muli, filed a petition for disqualification on the ground that Lonzanida had
already served three consecutive terms in the same post. The Court, citing Borja Jr., reiterated the two (2)
conditions which must concur for the three-term limit to apply: "1) that the official concerned has been elected
for three consecutive terms in the same local government post and 2) that he has fully served three
consecutive terms."49
In view of Borja, Jr., the Court ruled that the foregoing requisites were absent in the case of Lonzanida. The
Court held that Lonzanida cannot be considered as having been duly elected to the post in the May 1995
elections since his assumption of office as mayor "cannot be deemed to have been by reason of a valid
election but by reason of a void proclamation." And as a corollary point, the Court stated that Lonzanida did not
fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term having been ordered to vacate his post before the expiration of the
term, a situation which amounts to an involuntary relinquishment of office.This Court deviated from the ruling in
Lonzanida in Ong v. Alegre50 owing to a variance in the factual situations attendant.
In that case, Francis Ong (Ong) was elected and served as mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte for terms
1995-1998, 1998-2001, and 2001-2004. During the 1998 mayoralty elections, or during his supposed second
term, the COMELEC nullified Ongs proclamation on the postulate that Ong lost during the 1998 elections.
However, the COMELECs decision became final and executory on July 4, 2001, when Ong had fully served
the 1998-2001 mayoralty term and was in fact already starting to serve the 2001-2004 term as mayor-elect of
the municipality of San Vicente. In 2004, Ong filed his certificate of candidacy for the same position as mayor,
which his opponent opposed for violation of the three-term limit rule.
Ong invoked the ruling in Lonzanida and argued that he could not be considered as having served as mayor
from 1998-2001 because he was not duly elected to the post and merely assumed office as a "presumptive
winner." Dismissing Ongs argument, the Court held that his assumption of office as mayor for the term 19982001 constitutes "service for the full term" and hence, should be counted for purposes of the three-term limit
rule. The Court modified the conditions stated in Lonzanida in the sense that Ongs service was deemed and
counted as service for a full term because Ongs proclamation was voided only after the expiry of the term. The
Court noted that the COMELEC decision which declared Ong as not having won the 1998 elections was
"without practical and legal use and value" promulgated as it was after the contested term has expired. The
Court further reasoned:

Petitioner Francis Ongs contention that he was only a presumptive winner in the 1998 mayoralty derby as his
proclamation was under protest did not make him less than a duly elected mayor. His proclamation as the duly
elected mayor in the 1998 mayoralty election coupled by his assumption of office and his continuous exercise
of the functions thereof from start to finish of the term, should legally be taken as service for a full term in
contemplation of the three-term rule.
The absurdity and the deleterious effect of a contrary view is not hard to discern. Such contrary view would
mean that Alegre would under the three-term rule - be considered as having served a term by virtue of a
veritably meaningless electoral protest ruling, when another actually served such term pursuant to a
proclamation made in due course after an election.51 (Emphasis supplied.)
The Court did not apply the ruling in Lonzanida and ruled that the case of Ong was different, to wit:
The difference between the case at bench and Lonzanida is at once apparent. For one, in Lonzanida, the
result of the mayoralty election was declared a nullity for the stated reason of "failure of election", and, as a
consequence thereof, the proclamation of Lonzanida as mayor-elect was nullified, followed by an order for him
to vacate the office of mayor. For another, Lonzanida did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term, there
being an involuntary severance from office as a result of legal processes. In fine, there was an effective
interruption of the continuity of service.52 (Emphasis supplied.)
Ongs slight departure from Lonzanida would later find reinforcement in the consolidated cases of Rivera III v.
Commission on Elections53 and Dee v. Morales.54 Therein, Morales was elected mayor of Mabalacat,
Pampanga for the following consecutive terms: 1995-1998, 1998-2001 and 2001-2004. In relation to the 2004
elections, Morales again ran as mayor of the same town, emerged as garnering the majority votes and was
proclaimed elective mayor for term commencing July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007. A petition for quo warranto was
later filed against Morales predicated on the ground that he is ineligible to run for a "fourth" term, having served
as mayor for three consecutive terms. In his answer, Morales averred that his supposed 1998-2001 term
cannot be considered against him, for, although he was proclaimed by the Mabalacat board of canvassers as
elected mayor vis--vis the 1998 elections and discharged the duties of mayor until June 30, 2001, his
proclamation was later nullified by the RTC of Angeles City and his closest rival, Anthony Dee, proclaimed the
duly elected mayor. Pursuing his point, Morales parlayed the idea that he only served as a mere caretaker.
The Court found Morales posture untenable and held that the case of Morales presents a factual milieu similar
with Ong, not with Lonzanida. For ease of reference, the proclamation of Francis Ong, in Ong, was nullified,
but after he, like Morales, had served the three-year term from the start to the end of the term. Hence, the
Court concluded that Morales exceeded the three-term limit rule, to wit:
Here, respondent Morales was elected for the term July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001. He assumed the position.
He served as mayor until June 30, 2001. He was mayor for the entire period notwithstanding the Decision of
the RTC in the electoral protest case filed by petitioner Dee ousting him (respondent) as mayor. To reiterate, as
held in Ong v. Alegre, such circumstance does not constitute an interruption in serving the full term.
xxxx
Respondent Morales is now serving his fourth term. He has been mayor of Mabalacat continuously without any
break since July 1, 1995. In just over a month, by June 30, 2007, he will have been mayor of Mabalacat for
twelve (12) continuous years.55 (Emphasis supplied.)
The Court ruled in Rivera that the fact of being belatedly ousted, i.e., after the expiry of the term, cannot
constitute an interruption in Morales service of the full term; neither can Morales, as he argued, be considered
merely a "caretaker of the office" or a mere "de facto officer" for purposes of applying the three-term limit rule.
In a related 2009 case of Dizon v. Commission on Elections,56 the Court would again find the same Mayor
Morales as respondent in a disqualification proceeding when he ran again as a mayoralty candidate during the
2007 elections for a term ending June 30, 2010. Having been unseated from his post by virtue of this Courts

ruling in Rivera, Morales would argue this time around that the three-term limit rule was no longer applicable as
to his 2007 mayoralty bid. This time, the Court ruled in his favor, holding that for purposes of the 2007
elections, the three-term limit rule was no longer a disqualifying factor as against Morales. The Court wrote:
Our ruling in the Rivera case served as Morales involuntary severance from office with respect to the 20042007 term. Involuntary severance from office for any length of time short of the full term provided by law
amounts to an interruption of continuity of service. Our decision in the Rivera case was promulgated on 9 May
2007 and was effective immediately. The next day, Morales notified the vice mayors office of our decision. The
vice mayor assumed the office of the mayor from 17 May 2007 up to 30 June 2007. The assumption by the
vice mayor of the office of the mayor, no matter how short it may seem to Dizon, interrupted Morales continuity
of service. Thus, Morales did not hold office for the full term of 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2007.57 (Emphasis
supplied)
To summarize, hereunder are the prevailing jurisprudence on issues affecting consecutiveness of terms and/or
involuntary interruption, viz:
1. When a permanent vacancy occurs in an elective position and the official merely assumed the
position pursuant to the rules on succession under the LGC, then his service for the unexpired portion
of the term of the replaced official cannot be treated as one full term as contemplated under the subject
constitutional and statutory provision that service cannot be counted in the application of any term limit
(Borja, Jr.). If the official runs again for the same position he held prior to his assumption of the higher
office, then his succession to said position is by operation of law and is considered an involuntary
severance or interruption (Montebon).
2. An elective official, who has served for three consecutive terms and who did not seek the elective
position for what could be his fourth term, but later won in a recall election, had an interruption in the
continuity of the officials service. For, he had become in the interim, i.e., from the end of the 3rd term
up to the recall election, a private citizen (Adormeo and Socrates).
3. The abolition of an elective local office due to the conversion of a municipality to a city does not, by
itself, work to interrupt the incumbent officials continuity of service (Latasa).
4. Preventive suspension is not a term-interrupting event as the elective officers continued stay and
entitlement to the office remain unaffected during the period of suspension, although he is barred from
exercising the functions of his office during this period (Aldovino, Jr.).
5. When a candidate is proclaimed as winner for an elective position and assumes office, his term is
interrupted when he loses in an election protest and is ousted from office, thus disenabling him from
serving what would otherwise be the unexpired portion of his term of office had the protest been
dismissed (Lonzanida and Dizon). The break or interruption need not be for a full term of three years or
for the major part of the 3-year term; an interruption for any length of time, provided the cause is
involuntary, is sufficient to break the continuity of service (Socrates, citing Lonzanida).
6. When an official is defeated in an election protest and said decision becomes final after said official
had served the full term for said office, then his loss in the election contest does not constitute an
interruption since he has managed to serve the term from start to finish. His full service, despite the
defeat, should be counted in the application of term limits because the nullification of his proclamation
came after the expiration of the term (Ong and Rivera).
The Case of Abundo
Abundo argues that the RTC and the COMELEC erred in uniformly ruling that he had already served three
consecutive terms and is, thus, barred by the constitutional three-term limit rule to run for the current 20102013 term. In gist, Abundo arguments run thusly:

1. Aldovino, Jr. is not on all fours with the present case as the former dealt with preventive suspension
which does not interrupt the continuity of service of a term;
2. Aldovino, Jr. recognizes that the term of an elected official can be interrupted so as to remove him
from the reach of the constitutional three-term limitation;
3. The COMELEC misinterpreted the meaning of "term" in Aldovino, Jr. by its reliance on a mere portion
of the Decision and not on the unified logic in the disquisition;
4. Of appropriate governance in this case is the holding in Lonzanida58 and Rivera III v. Commission on
Elections.59
5. The COMELEC missed the point when it ruled that there was no interruption in the service of Abundo
since what he considered as an "interruption" of his 2004-2007 term occurred before his term started;
and
6. To rule that the term of the protestee (Torres) whose proclamation was adjudged invalid was
interrupted while that of the protestant (Abundo) who was eventually proclaimed winner was not so
interrupted is at once absurd as it is illogical.
Both respondents Vega and the COMELEC counter that the ratio decidendi of Aldovino, Jr. finds application in
the instant case. The COMELEC ruled that Abundo did not lose title to the office as his victory in the protest
case confirmed his entitlement to said office and he was only unable to temporarily discharge the functions of
the office during the pendency of the election protest.
We note that this present case of Abundo deals with the effects of an election protest, for which the rulings in
Lonzanida, Ong, Rivera and Dizon appear to be more attuned than the case of Aldovino Jr., the interrupting
effects of the imposition of a preventive suspension being the very lis mota in the Aldovino, Jr. case. But just
the same, We find that Abundos case presents a different factual backdrop.
Unlike in the abovementioned election protest cases wherein the individuals subject of disqualification were
candidates who lost in the election protest and each declared loser during the elections, Abundo was the
winner during the election protest and was declared the rightful holder of the mayoralty post. Unlike Mayor
Lonzanida and Mayor Morales, who were both unseated toward the end of their respective terms, Abundo was
the protestant who ousted his opponent and had assumed the remainder of the term.
Notwithstanding, We still find this Courts pronouncements in the past as instructive, and consider several
doctrines established from the 1998 case of Borja, Jr. up to the most recent case of Aldovino Jr. in 2009, as
potent aids in arriving at this Courts conclusion.
The intention behind the three-term limit rule was not only to abrogate the "monopolization of political power"
and prevent elected officials from breeding "proprietary interest in their position"60 but also to "enhance the
peoples freedom of choice."61 In the words of Justice Vicente V. Mendoza, "while people should be protected
from the evils that a monopoly of power may bring about, care should be taken that their freedom of choice is
not unduly curtailed."62
In the present case, the Court finds Abundos case meritorious and declares that the two-year period during
which his opponent, Torres, was serving as mayor should be considered as an interruption, which effectively
removed Abundos case from the ambit of the three-term limit rule.
It bears to stress at this juncture that Abundo, for the 2004 election for the term starting July 1, 2004 to June
30, 2007, was the duly elected mayor. Otherwise how explain his victory in his election protest against Torres
and his consequent proclamation as duly elected mayor. Accordingly, the first requisite for the application of the
disqualification rule based on the three-term limit that the official has been elected is satisfied.

This thus brings us to the second requisite of whether or not Abundo had served for "three consecutive terms,"
as the phrase is juridically understood, as mayor of Viga, Catanduanes immediately before the 2010 national
and local elections. Subsumed to this issue is of course the question of whether or not there was an effective
involuntary interruption during the three three-year periods, resulting in the disruption of the continuity of
Abundos mayoralty.
The facts of the case clearly point to an involuntary interruption during the July 2004-June 2007 term.
There can be no quibbling that, during the term 2004-2007, and with the enforcement of the decision of the
election protest in his favor, Abundo assumed the mayoralty post only on May 9, 2006 and served the term
until June 30, 2007 or for a period of a little over one year and one month. Consequently, unlike Mayor Ong in
Ong and Mayor Morales in Rivera, it cannot be said that Mayor Abundo was able to serve fully the entire 20042007 term to which he was otherwise entitled.
A "term," as defined in Appari v. Court of Appeals,63 means, in a legal sense, "a fixed and definite period of time
which the law describes that an officer may hold an office."64 It also means the "time during which the officer
may claim to hold office as a matter of right, and fixes the interval after which the several incumbents shall
succeed one another."65 It is the period of time during which a duly elected official has title to and can serve the
functions of an elective office. From paragraph (a) of Sec. 43, RA 7160,66 the term for local elected officials is
three (3) years starting from noon of June 30 of the first year of said term.
In the present case, during the period of one year and ten months, or from June 30, 2004 until May 8, 2006,
Abundo cannot plausibly claim, even if he wanted to, that he could hold office of the mayor as a matter of right.
Neither can he assert title to the same nor serve the functions of the said elective office. The reason is simple:
during that period, title to hold such office and the corresponding right to assume the functions thereof still
belonged to his opponent, as proclaimed election winner. Accordingly, Abundo actually held the office and
exercised the functions as mayor only upon his declaration, following the resolution of the protest, as duly
elected candidate in the May 2004 elections or for only a little over one year and one month. Consequently,
since the legally contemplated full term for local elected officials is three (3) years, it cannot be said that
Abundo fully served the term 2004-2007. The reality on the ground is that Abundo actually served less.
Needless to stress, the almost two-year period during which Abundos opponent actually served as Mayor is
and ought to be considered an involuntary interruption of Abundos continuity of service. An involuntary
interrupted term, cannot, in the context of the disqualification rule, be considered as one term for purposes of
counting the three-term threshold.67
The notion of full service of three consecutive terms is related to the concepts of interruption of service and
voluntary renunciation of service. The word interruption means temporary cessation, intermission or
suspension.68 To interrupt is to obstruct, thwart or prevent.69 When the Constitution and the LGC of 1991 speak
of interruption, the reference is to the obstruction to the continuance of the service by the concerned elected
official by effectively cutting short the service of a term or giving a hiatus in the occupation of the elective office.
On the other hand, the word "renunciation" connotes the idea of waiver or abandonment of a known right. To
renounce is to give up, abandon, decline or resign.70 Voluntary renunciation of the office by an elective local
official would thus mean to give up or abandon the title to the office and to cut short the service of the term the
concerned elected official is entitled to.
In its assailed Resolution, the COMELEC en banc, applying Aldovino, Jr.,71 held:
It must be stressed that involuntary interruption of service which jurisprudence deems an exception to the
three-term limit rule, implies that the service of the term has begun before it was interrupted. Here, 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. On the contrary, he actively
sought entitlement to the office when he lodged the election protest case. And respondent-appellants victory in
the said case is a final confirmation that he was validly elected for the mayoralty post of Viga, Catanduanes in

2004-2007. At most, respondent-appellant was only unable to temporarily discharge the functions of the office
to which he was validly elected during the pendency of the election protest, but he never lost title to the said
office.72(Emphasis added.)
The COMELECs Second Division, on the other hand, pronounced that the actual length of service by the
public official in a given term is immaterial by reckoning said service for the term in the application of the threeterm limit rule, thus:
As emphasized in the case of Aldovino, "this formulationno more than three consecutive termsis a clear
command suggesting the existence of an inflexible rule." Therefore we cannot subscribe to the argument that
since respondent Abundo served only a portion of the term, his 2004-2007 "term" should not be considered for
purposes of the application of the three term limit rule. When the framers of the Constitution drafted and
incorporated the three term limit rule, it is clear that reference is to the term, not the actual length of the service
the public official may render. Therefore, ones actual service of term no matter how long or how short is
immaterial.73
In fine, the COMELEC ruled against Abundo on the theory that the length of the actual service of the term is
immaterial in his case as he was only temporarily unable to discharge his functions as mayor.
The COMELECs case disposition and its heavy reliance on Aldovino, Jr. do not commend themselves for
concurrence. The Court cannot simply find its way clear to understand the poll bodys determination that
Abundo was only temporarily unable to discharge his functions as mayor during the pendency of the election
protest.
As previously stated, the declaration of being the winner in an election protest grants the local elected official
the right to serve the unexpired portion of the term. Verily, while he was declared winner in the protest for the
mayoralty seat for the 2004-2007 term, Abundos full term has been substantially reduced by the actual service
rendered by his opponent (Torres). Hence, there was actual involuntary interruption in the term of Abundo and
he cannot be considered to have served the full 2004-2007 term.
This is what happened in the instant case. It cannot be overemphasized that pending the favorable resolution
of his election protest, Abundo was relegated to being an ordinary constituent since his opponent, as
presumptive victor in the 2004 elections, was occupying the mayoralty seat. In other words, for almost two
years or from July 1, 2004the start of the termuntil May 9, 2006 or during which his opponent actually
assumed the mayoralty office, Abundo was a private citizen warming his heels while awaiting the outcome of
his protest. Hence, even if declared later as having the right to serve the elective position from July 1, 2004,
such declaration would not erase the fact that prior to the finality of the election protest, Abundo did not serve
in the mayors office and, in fact, had no legal right to said position.
Aldovino Jr. cannot possibly lend support to respondents cause of action, or to COMELECs resolution against
Abundo. In Aldovino Jr., the Court succinctly defines what temporary inability or disqualification to exercise the
functions of an elective office means, thus:
On the other hand, temporary inability or disqualification to exercise the functions of an elective post, even if
involuntary, should not be considered an effective interruption of a term because it does not involve the loss of
title to office or at least an effective break from holding office; the office holder, while retaining title, is simply
barred from exercising the functions of his office for a reason provided by law.74
We rule that the above pronouncement on preventive suspension does not apply to the instant case. Verily, it is
erroneous to say that Abundo merely was temporarily unable or disqualified to exercise the functions of an
elective post. For one, during the intervening period of almost two years, reckoned from the start of the 20042007 term, Abundo cannot be said to have retained title to the mayoralty office as he was at that time not the
duly proclaimed winner who would have the legal right to assume and serve such elective office. For another,
not having been declared winner yet, Abundo cannot be said to have lost title to the office since one cannot
plausibly lose a title which, in the first place, he did not have. Thus, for all intents and purposes, even if the

belated declaration in the election protest accords him title to the elective office from the start of the term,
Abundo was not entitled to the elective office until the election protest was finally resolved in his favor.1wphi1
Consequently, there was a hiatus of almost two years, consisting of a break and effective interruption of his
service, until he assumed the office and served barely over a year of the remaining term. At this juncture, We
observe the apparent similarities of Mayor Abundos case with the cases of Mayor Talaga in Adormeo and
Mayor Hagedorn in Socrates as Mayors Talaga and Hagedorn were not proclaimed winners since they were
non-candidates in the regularelections. They were proclaimed winners during the recall elections and clearly
were not able to fully serve the terms of the deposed incumbent officials. Similar to their cases where the Court
deemed their terms as involuntarily interrupted, Abundo also became or was a private citizen during the period
over which his opponent was serving as mayor. If in Lonzanida, the Court ruled that there was interruption in
Lonzanidas service because of his subsequent defeat in the election protest, then with more reason, Abundos
term for 2004-2007 should be declared interrupted since he was not proclaimed winner after the 2004 elections
and was able to assume the office and serve only for a little more than a year after winning the protest.
As aptly stated in Latasa, to be considered as interruption of service, the "law contemplates a rest period
during which the local elective official steps down from office and ceases to exercise power or authority over
the inhabitants of the territorial jurisdiction of a particular local government unit."75 Applying the said principle in
the present case, there is no question that during the pendency of the election protest, Abundo ceased from
exercising power or authority over the good people of Viga, Catanduanes.
Consequently, the period during which Abundo was not serving as mayor should be considered as a rest
period or break in his service because, as earlier stated, prior to the judgment in the election protest, it was
Abundos opponent, Torres, who was exercising such powers by virtue of the still then valid proclamation.
As a final note, We reiterate that Abundos case differs from other cases involving the effects of an election
protest because while Abundo was, in the final reckoning, the winning candidate, he was the one deprived of
his right and opportunity to serve his constituents. To a certain extent, Abundo was a victim of an imperfect
election system. While admittedly the Court does not possess the mandate to remedy such imperfections, the
Constitution has clothed it with enough authority to establish a fortress against the injustices it may bring.
In this regard, We find that a contrary ruling would work damage and cause grave injustice to Abundoan
elected official who was belatedly declared as the winner and assumed office for only a short period of the
term. If in the cases of Lonzanida and Dizon, this Court ruled in favor of a losing candidateor the person who
was adjudged not legally entitled to hold the contested public office but held it anywayWe find more reason
to rule in favor of a winning candidate-protestant who, by popular vote, deserves title to the public office but
whose opportunity to hold the same was halted by an invalid proclamation.
Also, more than the injustice that may be committed against Abundo is the injustice that may likewise be
committed against the people of Viga, Catanduanes by depriving them of their right to choose their leaders.
Like the framers of the Constitution, We bear in mind that We "cannot arrogate unto ourselves the right to
decide what the people want"76 and hence, should, as much as possible, "allow the people to exercise their
own sense of proportion and rely on their own strength to curtail the power when it overreaches itself."77 For
democracy draws strength from the choice the people make which is the same choice We are likewise bound
to protect.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is PARTLY GRANTED. Accordingly, the assailed February 8, 2012
Resolution of the Commission on Elections Second Division and May 10, 2012 Resolution of the Commission
on Elections en banc in EAC (AE) No. A-25-2010 and the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Virac,
Catanduanes, Branch 43, dated August 9, 2010, in Election Case No. 55, are hereby REVERSED and SET
ASIDE.
Petitioner Abelardo Abundo, Sr. is DECLARED ELIGIBLE for the position of Mayor of Viga, Catanduanes to
which he was duly elected in the May 2010 elections and is accordingly ordered IMMEDIATELY REINSTATED
to said position. Withal, Emeterio M. Tarin and Cesar O. Cervantes are ordered to immediately vacate the

positions of Mayor and Vice-Mayor of Viga, Catanduanes, respectively, and shall revert to their original
positions of Vice-Mayor and First Councilor, respectively, upon receipt of this Decision.
The TRO issued by the Court on July 3, 2012 is hereby LIFTED.
This Decision is immediately executory.
SO ORDERED.