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Residence

Residence is a common term in election laws. It has always been mentioned because it relates to one of the qualifications of a candidate. Residence is the place where one lives and where he or she has his dwelling for rest and comfort. Domicile is different in the sense that it is a more permanent place of abode.

Domicile was defined as a place which denotes the fact of residing or physical presence in a fixed place where there is an intention to return there permanently (Romualdez-Marcos vs. Comelec, September 18, 1995). It is the place where one is absent, he intends to return. Residence on the other hand, is the place where when the purpose for which the resident stays there has been fulfilled, he or she leaves.

Under the Local Government Code, a candidate who files his or her certificate of candidacy, must be a resident of the place where he or she proposes to be elected for at least one year. Because of this provision, some candidates have been opposing the candidacy of other candidates on this ground alone.

In one familiar case, an actor filed his certificate of candidacy for member, House of Representatives in Leyte. But an opposing candidate filed for disqualification on the ground that the actor is actually a resident of East Greenhills, San Juan City, Metro Manila. He was disqualified and was eventually substituted by his wife (Tagolino vs. HRET, March 19, 2013). In another case, the Petitioner filed for the position of Mayor in a municipality, a petition to disqualify was filed against her alleging that she is a resident of Metro Manila and that she never abandoned her previous domicile. The petitioner was disqualified for failure to prove her bodily presence in the area. An extrajudicial partition with simultaneous sale was not sufficient proof that she purchased parcels of land, much more, she even has no deed of sale evidencing said purchase (Jalosjos vs. Comelec, February 26, 2013). Besides, if ownership of land in the area where the candidate wishes to be elected is considered proof of ownership, then the law would be imposing a property requirement to hold public office which would be unconstitutional.

The law requires a candidate to be a resident of the place where he or she seeks to be elected and not to be a domiciliary of said place. In a case where a candidate filed a certificate of candidacy (COC) for member House of Representatives and placed in her COC that she is a resident of the place for seven months only, a petition to disqualify her as a candidate was immediately filed by the opposing candidate. Her defense: She wrote the “seven months” as an honest misinterpretation, what she meant was, that she is a resident of Tacloban City since birth but a registered voter in a municipality in Leyte for more than six months. The case was ruled in her favor stating that one can have different residences but only one domicile of choice unless for various reasons, he or she abandons it. The mere absence of an individual from his permanent residence without the intention to abandon it does not result in a loss or change of domicile (Romualdez-Marcos vs. Comelec, September 18, 1995).

Thus, for a disqualification case against a candidate on the ground of lack of residency requirement to prosper, the petitioner must prove that the respondent has actually changed his or her domicile of choice, that there is a bona fide intention of abandoning said domicile in favor of another, and there are acts which proves or corresponds with the purpose of abandonment. Failure in proving all these, the Petitioner’s disqualification case will necessarily fail.

For a more detailed discussion about this matter, please tune in to our voters’ education program Thursdays at Regional News Group Luzon’s Morning Balitaktakan, Channel 44, Highland TV.

***Comment/s or remarks mentioned 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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