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Lonzanida vs.

COMELEC July 28, 1999 | Gonzaga-Reyes Facts: Petitioner Romeo Lonzanida was dulyelected and served two consecutive termsas municipal mayor of San Antonio,Zambales prior to the May 8, 1995elections. In the May 1995 electionsLonzanida ran for mayor of San Antonio,Zambales and was again proclaimedwinner. He assumed office and dischargedt he d ut ie s t he re o f. His p roc la ma t io n in1995 was however contested by his thenopponent Juan Alvez who filed an electionp r o t e s t . I n 1 9 9 7 , t h e R T C o f Z a m b a l e s d e c l a r e d a f a i l u r e o f e l e c t i o n s . A f t e r a revision and re-appreciation of thecontested ballots, COMELEC declaredAlvez the duly elected mayor of SanAntonio, Zambales and ordered petitionerto vacate the post.In the May 11, 1998 elections Lonzanidaagain ran for mayor. His opponentEufemio Muli filed a petition to disqualifyLonzanida from running for mayor of SanAntonio in the 1998 elections on theground that he had served threeconsecutive terms in the same post.COMELEC: Lonzanida's assumption of office by virtue of his proclamation in May1995, although he was later unseatedbefore the expiration of the term, shouldbe counted as service for one full term incomputing the three term limit under theC o ns t it u t io n a nd t he Lo c a l G o ve rn me nt Code. Issue: WON petitioner Lonzanida's assumption of office as mayor of San Antonio Zambalesf r o m M a y 1 9 9 5 t o M a r c h 1 9 9 8 m a y b e considered as service of one full term fort he p urp o s e o f ap p ly in g t he t hre e -t e rmlimit for elective local government officials NO. Held: The re c o rd s o f t he 1 9 86 C o ns t it ut i o na lCommission show that the three-term limitwhich is now embodied in section 8, Art. Xof the Constitution was initially proposedto be an absolute bar to any elective localgovernment official from running for thesame position after serving threec o n s e c u t i v e t e r m s . T h e s a i d disqualification was primarily intended toforestall the accumulation of massivepolitical power by an elective localgovernment official in a given locality ino rd e r t o p e rpe t ua t e his te nure in o ffic e . The delegates also considered the need tobroaden the choices of the electorate of the candidates who will run for office, andto infuse new blood in the political arenaby disqualifying officials from running forthe same office after a term of nine years.The drafters however, recognized and tooknote of the fact that some localgovernment officials run for office beforet h e y r e a c h f o r t y y e a r s o f a g e ; t h u s t o perpetually bar them from running

for thesame office after serving nine consecutiveyears may deprive the people of qualifiedcandidates to choose from. As finallyvoted upon, it was agreed that an electivelocal government official should be barredfrom running for the same post after threeconsecutive terms. After a hiatus of atleast one term, he may again run for thesame office.In Borja vs. COMELEC, the Court sets twoconditions which must concur in order todisqualify elective local officials fromserving more than three consecutiveterms: 1) that the official concerned hasbeen elected for three consecutive termsin the same local government post and 2)that he has fully served three consecutiveterms.I n t h i s c a s e , t h e t w o r e q u i s i t e s f o r t h e ap p lic a t io n o f t he t hre e te rm ru le a re absent. First, the petitioner cannot beconsidered as having been duly elected tothe post in the May 1995 elections. After are-appreciation and revision of thecontested ballots the COMELEC itself declared by final judgment that petitionerLo nz a n id a lo s t in t he M a y 1 9 9 5 ma yo ra lelections and his previous proclamation asw in ne r w as d ec la re d nu ll a nd vo id . His assumption of office as mayor cannot bedeemed to have been by reason of a validelection but by reason of a voidp r o c l a m a t i o n . A p r o c l a m a t i o n subsequently declared void is no proclamation at all and while a proclaimedcandidate may assume office on thestrength of the proclamation of the Boardo f C a nva s se rs he is o nly a p re s u mp t i ve winner who assumes office subject to thef i n a l o u t c o m e o f t h e e l e c t i o n protest. Petitioner Lonzanida did not servea term as mayor of San Antonio, Zambalesfrom May 1995 to March 1998 because hewas not duly elected to the post; hemerely assumed office as presumptivewinner, which presumption was lateroverturned by the COMELEC when itdecided with finality that Lonzanida lost inthe May 1995 mayoral elections.Second, the petitioner cannot be deemedto have served the May 1995 to 1998 termbecause he was ordered to vacate his postbefore the expiration of the term. He didnot fully serve three consecutive terms.Voluntary renunciation of a term does notcancel the renounced term in thecomputation of the three term limit;conversely, involuntary severance fromoffice for any length of time short of thefu ll t e r m p ro v id e d b y la w a mo u nt s t o a ninterruption of continuity of service. Thepetitioner vacated his post a few monthsbefore the next mayoral elections, not byvoluntary renunciation but in compliancewith the legal process of writ of executioni s s u e d b y t h e C O M E L E C t o t h a t e f f e c t . Such involuntary severance from office isan interruption of continuity of service andthus, the petitioner did

not fully serve the1995-1998 mayoral term.The delay in resolving the election protestbetween petitioner and his then opponentAlvez which took roughly about threeyears cannot serve as basis to barpetitioners right to be elected.The petitioner's contention that theCOMELEC ceased to have jurisdiction overt he p e t it io n fo r d is q ua l i fic a t io n a ft e r he was proclaimed winner is without merit.The instant petition for disqualificationwas filed on April 21, 1998 or before theMay 1998 elections and was resolved onM a y 2 1 , 1 9 9 8 o r a f t e r t h e p e t i t i o n e r ' s proclamation. Proclamation nor theassumption of office of a candidatea g a i n s t w h o m a p e t i t i o n f o r disqualification is pending before theCOMELEC does not divest the COMELEC of jurisdiction to continue hearing the caseand to resolve it on the merits. Theoutright dismissal of the petition fordisqualification filed before the electionbut which remained unresolved after theproclamation of the candidate sought tobe disqualified will unduly reward the saidcandidate and may encourage him toe mp lo y d e la yi n g t a c t ics t o i mp e d e t he resolution of the petition until after he hasbeen proclaimed.