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INSIDER’S NOTES ON ELECTION LAWS: Seek a Critical Period to Attack

Mr. Bitong Bigote was born and raised in Barangay Bitok, Municipality of Budol, Philippines. As he grew up, he developed not only a big waist and a long bushy mustache, but also a longing to leave the place of his birth to work in the United States of America (USA).  Soon enough, his American dream turned into a reality and he was able to settle and work in the USA.  He eventually became a US citizen.

However, he was constantly bothered especially at night after returning from work.  He would imagine that he would return to the Philippines in the Municipality of Budol as Mayor.  He envisioned that his return would be a triumphant one where he would be seen parading in the streets with his loyal followers doggedly behind him shouting: “Mayor! Mayor!”

Thus, he returns to his hometown and registers as a voter therein.  Of course, he did not forget to follow the procedure laid down in Republic Act 9225 (The Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003) so that he could be eligible to run in the local elections.  Sadly, the Election Registration Board (ERB) of his very own municipality, denied his application for registration, prompting Mr. Bigote to file a petition for inclusion of his name in the list of voters with the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Budol.  The MTC granted said petition and reversed the decision of denial of registration of the ERB and ordered the inclusion of Mr. Bigote’s name in the list of voters.  This decision of the MTC was appealed to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) which reversed the decision of the MTC.  Mr. Bigote appealed the decision of the RTC to the Court of Appeals.

While the above-mentioned case was pending, the election period had already set in. Mr. Bitong Bigote, innocently and almost cluelessly, filed a Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for Mayor in the Municipality of Budol.  Little does he expect that a neighbor of his, Pepong Malutong, a lanky, leggy and ravenous looking fellow, running for the same position, would be filing a disqualification (DQ) case against him.  Mr. Malutong claims that Mr. Bigote is not a registered voter of their place as the latter’s name is not included in the list of voters and the RTC denied Mr. Bigote’s Petition for Inclusion as a Voter.

In spite of all the ruckus about Mr. Bigote’s eligibility as a public official, he won the elections.

Can Mr. Bitong Bigote sit as Mayor of the Municipality of Budol?

Answer:  No.  Because his Petition for Inclusion in the List of Voters was not granted, he could not have validly registered as a regular voter.  The reason for the denial by the RTC of his name being included in the Voters’ List was because he was not able to meet the residency requirement.  But notice, that while the same petition for inclusion was pending, Mr. Bigote was not a registered voter, so when he filed his cOc, he was not a registered voter. It is during this critical period that his qualifications as a candidate could be attacked.  In a similar case, the Supreme Court held in Velasco vs. Comelec (December 24, 2008) that the candidate “is not only going around the law by his claim that he is a registered voter when he is not, as has been determined by a court in a final judgment.  Equally important is that he has made a material misrepresentation under oath in his COC regarding his qualification.  For these violations, he must pay the ultimate price – the nullification of his election victory.”  Moreover, the last resort for the aggrieved party in this case would only be in the RTC, its decision shall be final and executory after the period to appeal, (Section 138, Omnibus Election Code).

ATTY. ELENITA JULIA TABANGIN-CAPUYAN

***Comment/s contained in this article are made by me in my personal capacity as a lawyer and not as an employee of the COMELEC.

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