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The Unforgiving Past

Do you think that you are forgiven for offences committed in a past term and you are re-elected by the people to serve a fresh term? Is your so-called re-election a form of condonation of your past sins? Can the vote of the people forgive you in such cases?

The doctrine of condonation refers to a theory where a public official cannot be removed for a misconduct that he or she committed in a previous term since his or her re-election is considered a condonation of said misconduct and thus, preventing his or her removal. This is also known as the Aguinaldo Doctrine.

In several cases and under American jurisprudence, it was mentioned that the condonation doctrine is considered good law, “The Court should never remove a public officer for acts done prior to his 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 knowledge of his life and character, and that they disregarded or forgave his faults or misconduct, if he had been guilty of any. It is not for the court, by reason of such faults or misconduct to practically overrule the will of the people” (Radames Vs. Mago, January 15, 2020).

There is a year 2020 case involving a public official who was recently found guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service where the penalty imposed is dismissal. The public official, in an attempt to absolve himself from liability, invoked the Aguinaldo doctrine. He said that his illegal acts were committed sometime in 2013 and 2014, his subsequent re-election in the 2016 National and Local Elections already exonerated
him from all charges. Can he be allowed to get away with his past sins?

Another case in year 2019 was about a Mayor of a municipality who was charged with Nepotism for the appointment of his sister to the Board of Directors of the local Water District. The Office of the Ombudsman found him guilty of the offense charged and imposed the penalty of dismissal. But then came the Mayor’s re-election, the charge becoming moot by virtue of the condonation doctrine, he was absolved from liability. Unfazed, the Complainant appealed this case to the Supreme Court. Do you think that the Mayor can peacefully rest in his abode free from his tainted past?

Still, in a year 2020 case, the Mayor of a City, who won in the 2013 elections, entered into a contract with his son, engaging the latter as project manager for a security task force. A complaint was filed against the Mayor because the contract contained a provision that the person hired is not related with the appointing authority. In 2015, while the case was pending, a recall election was held involving said Mayor where he eventually won. He was again re-elected in the 2016 elections. In 2018, the Office of the Ombudsman issued its decision and found the Mayor guilty of serious dishonesty and grave misconduct. The Mayor claimed that by virtue of his two preceding re-elections, he can no longer be removed. Can the Mayor successfully untie himself with this fine mess that he has gotten himself into?

Finally, one case in year 2015 involved a City Mayor who was accused of plunder in connection with the procurement and construction of a Parking Building of the City Hall. The Mayor claimed that he could not be held liable because the first and second phase of said controversial project were undertaken before he was elected Mayor in 2010 and the third to fifth phase were made only during his first term. His re-election for Mayor for a second term effectively condoned his liability. Can this doctrine be invoked over and over again even in year 2015? Do you think that this doctrine may still be invoked even today, thus erasing a ‘regrettable’ past? Find out on September 24, 2021 at 9:00 o’clock in the morning at Regional News Group Luzon’s Morning Balitaktakan.

***Comments made 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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