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Doctrine of Condonation explained

By Atty. Dennis B. Funa - April 21, 2015

column-dennis funaEVERY now and then, we excuse ourselves from discussing insurance matters
to tackle issues relating to national concerns. Besides, both subjects serve the interest of the
public-at-large. Today, we tackle the Doctrine of Condonation in administrative law.

This doctrine has recently been brought to the fore when Makati Mayor Junjun Binay used it as an
argument to secure an injunction order from the Court of Appeals against the preventive
suspension order issued by the Ombudsman.

We shall explain this condonation by reelection as it is established in jurisprudence, with no


political leaning or bias.

Pursuant to the 1992 case of Aguinaldo v Santos, a public official cannot be removed for
misconduct committed during a prior or previous term; his reelection operates as a condonation of
the officer’s previous misconduct, reiterated in Malinao v Reyes, 1996 (see Provincial Board of
Zamboanga del Norte v Guzman, 1967). This Aguinaldo ruling was based on the fact that the term
of office during which the misconduct was committed expired before the petition questioning the
validity of the administrative decision removing the respondent could be decided (see Reyes v
Comelec).

Reyes v Comelec explains the rationale: If a public official is not removed before his term of
office expires, he can no longer be removed if he is thereafter reelected for another term. Removal
cannot extend beyond the term during which the alleged misconduct was committed.

The doctrine of condonation is a limited empowerment of the electorate over the accountabilities
of their elective local officials. It is limited because it does not cover criminal accountabilities. It is
a legal fiction grounded upon a presumed knowledge of all the activities and behavior of the
elective local official. It is presumed that when the electorate exercised their right to choose, they
were all aware of “all” the misconducts of the public official.

Reelection is the manifestation of the people’s will. The rationale for this condonation doctrine
was provided by American authorities, specifically the 1887 case of Conant v Brogan, which has
found unwavering adoption in Philippine jurisprudence.

Aguinaldo explained, citing Pascual v Hon. Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija: “The Court should
never remove a public officer for acts done prior to his present term of office. To do otherwise
would be to deprive the people of their right to elect their officers. When the people have elected a
man to office, it must be assumed that they did this with the knowledge of his life and character,
and that they disregarded or forgave his fault or misconduct, if he had been guilty of any. It is not
for the court, by reason of such fault or misconduct, to practically overrule the will of the people.”
The Doctrine of Condonation does not apply to criminal acts committed by the reelected official
during his prior or previous term (Ingco v Sanchez, 1967; People v Jalosjos, 2000). Accordingly,
the pendency of a criminal case under Republic Act 3019 may be the legal basis for the suspension
from office in a subsequent term in the event of an elective official’s reelection (Libanan v
Sandiganbayan, 1994). The ruling that a public officer cannot be removed for acts done prior to
his present term of office applies only to administrative liabilities committed during the previous
term of an elective official. The rationale for the foregoing distinction is that the administrative
liability of a public officer is separate and distinct from his penal liability.

There is no condonation in criminal cases as guilt is determined by the courts and not the
electorate. The rationale for the noncondonation of the criminal liability was explained in Oliveros
v Villaluz.

The condonation of the administrative liability would still be recognized as having been granted
during the previous term and the public officer will have no administrative liability during his
succeeding term, where the misconduct was committed during the previous term and is continued
to be perpetrated during the succeeding term, such as where the assailed retainer agreement was
executed during the previous term and the payments for the assailed retainer continued to be paid
during the succeeding term (Salalima v Guingona, 1996) or where the assailed contract was signed
during the previous term and the deliveries under the contracts were made during the succeeding
term (Garcia v Mojica, 1999). The presumption under this jurisprudence is that the two incidents
pertain to a single administrative offense. The recourse against the erring official would be
through a criminal prosecution.

The condonation would not apply where the offense was committed while the public official was
still an appointive official and he had been elected for the first time. The condonation of an
administrative offense takes place only when the public official is reelected despite the pendency
of an administrative case against him (Ombudsman v Torres, 2008).

A challenge to a preventive suspension order becomes moot and academic upon expiration of the
term of office of petitioner and petitioner’s reelection to the same post (Dumlao v Diaz, 1969). Of
course, this condonation of misconduct committed during the expired term of the public officer by
virtue of his reelection to office for a new term applies only to his administrative and not to his
criminal guilt. The condonation would still apply even if the anomalies were discovered, and the
administrative complaints were filed only after his reelection. The remedy then would be to file
the appropriate civil and criminal actions.