April 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected April 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

COA; powers. The 1987 Constitution has made the COA the guardian of public funds, vesting it with broad powers over all accounts pertaining to government revenue and expenditures and the uses of public funds and property including the exclusive authority to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods for such review, and promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations.  Section 11, Chapter 4, Subtitle B, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 echoes this constitutional mandate given to COA.

In light of these express provisions of law granting respondent COA its power and authority, we have previously ruled that its exercise of its general audit power is among the constitutional mechanisms that give life to the check and balance system inherent in our form of government. Furthermore, we have also declared that COA is endowed with enough latitude to determine, prevent and disallow irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures of government funds.

Based on the foregoing discussion and due to the lack or absence of any law or jurisprudence saying otherwise, we rule that, in resolving cases brought before it on appeal, respondent COA is not required to limit its review only to the grounds relied upon by a government agency’s auditor with respect to disallowing certain disbursements of public funds.  In consonance with its general audit power, respondent COA is not merely legally permitted, but is also duty-bound to make its own assessment of the merits of the disallowed disbursement and not simply restrict itself to reviewing the validity of the ground relied upon by the auditor of the government agency concerned.  To hold otherwise would render COA’s vital constitutional power unduly limited and thereby useless and ineffective.  Ramon R. Yap vs. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 158562, April 23, 2010.

Freedom of expression; LGBT group.  Under our system of laws, every group has the right to promote its agenda and attempt to persuade society of the validity of its position through normal democratic means. It is in the public square that deeply held convictions and differing opinions should be distilled and deliberated upon.

The OSG argues that since there has been neither prior restraint nor subsequent punishment imposed on Ang Ladlad, and its members have not been deprived of their right to voluntarily associate, then there has been no restriction on their freedom of expression or association.

The OSG fails to recall that petitioner has, in fact, established its qualifications to participate in the party-list system, and – as advanced by the OSG itself – the moral objection offered by the COMELEC was not a limitation imposed by law. To the extent, therefore, that the petitioner has been precluded, because of COMELEC’s action, from publicly expressing its views as a political party and participating on an equal basis in the political process with other equally-qualified party-list candidates, we find that there has, indeed, been a transgression of petitioner’s fundamental rights. Ang Ladlad LGBT Party vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190582, April 8, 2010.

Legislative district;  population requirement.  Petitioners Senator Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and Mayor Jesse Robredo seek the nullification as unconstitutional of Republic Act No. 9716, entitled “An Act Reapportioning the Composition of the First (1st) and Second (2nd) Legislative Districts in the Province of Camarines Sur and Thereby Creating a New Legislative District From Such Reapportionment.”

Petitioners contend, citing Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, that the reapportionment introduced by Republic Act No. 9716, runs afoul of the explicit constitutional standard that requires a minimum population of two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) for the creation of a legislative district. The petitioners claim that the reconfiguration by Republic Act No. 9716 of the first and second districts of Camarines Sur is unconstitutional, because the proposed first district will end up with a population of less than 250,000 or only 176,383.

The second sentence of Section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution, succinctly provides: “Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative.”  The provision draws a plain and clear distinction between the entitlement of a city to a district on one hand, and the entitlement of a province to a district on the other. For while a province is entitled to at least a representative, with nothing mentioned about population, a city must first meet a population minimum of 250,000 in order to be similarly entitled. Plainly read, Section 5(3) of the Constitution requires a 250,000 minimum population only for a city to be entitled to a representative, but not so for a province.  Senator Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and Mayor Jesse Robredo vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189793, April 7, 2010.

Party list;  accreditation.  Ang Ladlad has sufficiently demonstrated its compliance with the legal requirements for accreditation. Indeed, aside from COMELEC’s moral objection and the belated allegation of non-existence, nowhere in the records has the respondent ever found/ruled that Ang Ladlad is not qualified to register as a party-list organization under any of the requisites under RA 7941 or the guidelines in Ang Bagong Bayani.  Ang Ladlad LGBT Party vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190582, April 8, 2010.

Party list;  moral disapproval as ground for accreditation.  Moral disapproval, without more, is not a sufficient governmental interest to justify exclusion of homosexuals from participation in the party-list system. The denial of Ang Ladlad’s registration on purely moral grounds amounts more to a statement of dislike and disapproval of homosexuals, rather than a tool to further any substantial public interest. Respondent’s blanket justifications give rise to the inevitable conclusion that the COMELEC targets homosexuals themselves as a class, not because of any particular morally reprehensible act. It is this selective targeting that implicates our equal protection clause.

It bears stressing that our finding that COMELEC’s act of differentiating LGBTs from heterosexuals insofar as the party-list system is concerned does not imply that any other law distinguishing between heterosexuals and homosexuals under different circumstances would similarly fail. We disagree with the OSG’s position that homosexuals are a class in themselves for the purposes of the equal protection clause. We are not prepared to single out homosexuals as a separate class meriting special or differentiated treatment. We have not received sufficient evidence to this effect, and it is simply unnecessary to make such a ruling today. Petitioner itself has merely demanded that it be recognized under the same basis as all other groups similarly situated, and that the COMELEC made “an unwarranted and impermissible classification not justified by the circumstances of the case.”  Ang Ladlad LGBT Party vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190582, April 8, 2010.

Party list;  sectors qualified. The COMELEC denied Ang Ladlad’s application for registration on the ground that the LGBT sector is neither enumerated in the Constitution and RA 7941, nor is it associated with or related to any of the sectors in the enumeration.

Respondent mistakenly opines that our ruling in Ang Bagong Bayani stands for the proposition that only those sectors specifically enumerated in the law or related to said sectors (labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals) may be registered under the party-list system. As we explicitly ruled in Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections, “the enumeration of marginalized and under-represented sectors is not exclusive”. The crucial element is not whether a sector is specifically enumerated, but whether a particular organization complies with the requirements of the Constitution and RA 7941.  Ang Ladlad LGBT Party vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190582, April 8, 2010.

President; executive prerogative.  The Executive Department did not commit grave abuse of discretion in not espousing petitioners’ claims for official apology and other forms of reparations against Japan.  From a domestic law perspective, the Executive Department has the exclusive prerogative to determine whether to espouse petitioners’ claims against Japan. Isabelita C. Vinuya, et al. vs. Hon. Executive Secretary, et al., G.R. No. 162230, April 28, 2010.

President;  power of appointment. The incumbent President can appoint the successor of Chief Justice Puno upon his retirement on May 17, 2010 as the prohibition against presidential appointments under Section 15, Article VII does not extend to appointments in the Judiciary.  Arturo M. De Castro vs. Judicial and Bar Council, et al.,  G.R. No. 191002, April 20, 2010.

President;  power to reorganize.  It is a well-settled principle in jurisprudence that the President has the power to reorganize the offices and agencies in the executive department in line with the President’s constitutionally granted power of control over executive offices and by virtue of previous delegation of the legislative power to reorganize executive offices under existing statutes.

Executive Order No. 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987 gives the President continuing authority to reorganize and redefine the functions of the Office of the President.  Section 31, Chapter 10, Title III, Book III of the said Code, is explicit.

It is undisputed that the NPO, as an agency that is part of the Office of the Press Secretary (which in various times has been an agency directly attached to the Office of the Press Secretary or as an agency under the Philippine Information Agency), is part of the Office of the President.

Pertinent to the case at bar, Section 31 of the Administrative Code of 1987 quoted above authorizes the President (a) to restructure the internal organization of the Office of the President Proper, including the immediate Offices, the President Special Assistants/Advisers System and the Common Staff Support System, by abolishing, consolidating or merging units thereof or transferring functions from one unit to another, and (b) to transfer functions or offices from the Office of the President to any other Department or Agency in the Executive Branch, and vice versa.

There is a view that the reorganization actions that the President may take with respect to agencies in the Office of the President are strictly limited to transfer of functions and offices as seemingly provided in Section 31 of the Administrative Code of 1987.

However, Section 20, Chapter 7, Title I, Book III of the same Code significantly provides:  “Sec. 20.  Residual Powers. – Unless Congress provides otherwise, the President shall exercise such other powers and functions vested in the President which are provided for under the laws and which are not specifically enumerated above, or which are not delegated by the President in accordance with law. ”

Pursuant to Section 20, the power of the President to reorganize the Executive Branch under Section 31 includes such powers and functions that may be provided for under other laws.  To be sure, an inclusive and broad interpretation of the President’s power to reorganize executive offices has been consistently supported by specific provisions in general appropriations laws.  Atty. Sylvia Banda, et al. vs.. Eduardo R. Ermita etc., et al. G.R. No. 166620, April 20, 2010.

Public funds; disbursement. Section 4 of Presidential Decree No. 1445 lays out the basic guidelines that government entities must follow in disbursing public funds.  Any disbursement of public funds, which includes payment of salaries and benefits to government employees and officials, must (a) be authorized by law, and (b) serve a public purpose.

In this regard, it is necessary for this Court to elaborate on the nature and meaning of the term “public purpose,” in relation to disbursement of public funds.  As understood in the traditional sense, public purpose or public use means any purpose or use directly available to the general public as a matter of right.  Thus, it has also been defined as “an activity as will serve as benefit to [the] community as a body and which at the same time is directly related function of government.”  However, the concept of public use is not limited to traditional purposes.  Here as elsewhere, the idea that “public use” is strictly limited to clear cases of “use by the public” has been discarded.  In fact, this Court has already categorically stated that the term “public purpose” is not defined, since it is an elastic concept that can be hammered to fit modern standards.  It should be given a broad interpretation; therefore, it does not only pertain to those purposes that which are traditionally viewed as essentially government functions, such as building roads and delivery of basic services, but also includes those purposes designed to promote social justice.  Thus, public money may now be used for the relocation of illegal settlers, low-cost housing and urban or agrarian reform.  In short, public use is now equated with public interest, and that it is not unconstitutional merely because it incidentally benefits a limited number of persons.

To our mind, in view of the public purpose requirement, the disbursement of public funds, salaries and benefits of government officers and employees should be granted to compensate them for valuable public services rendered, and the salaries or benefits paid to such officers or employees must be commensurate with services rendered.  In the same vein, additional allowances and benefits must be shown to be necessary or relevant to the fulfillment of the official duties and functions of the government officers and employees.  We cannot accept petitioner’s theory that the compensation and benefits of public officers are intended purely for the personal benefit of such officers, or that the mere payment of salaries and benefits to a public officer satisfies the public purpose requirement.  That theory would lead to the anomalous conclusion that government officers and employees may be paid enormous sums without limit or without any justification necessary other than that such sums are being paid to someone employed by the government.  Public funds are the property of the people and must be used prudently at all times with a view to prevent dissipation and waste.  Ramon R. Yap vs. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 158562, April 23, 2010.

Administrative Law

Administrative proceedings;  due process. On the due process issue, we agree with the COMELEC that PGBI’s right to due process was not violated for PGBI was given an opportunity to seek, as it did seek, a reconsideration of Resolution No. 8679.  The essence of due process, we have consistently held, is simply the opportunity to be heard; as applied to administrative proceedings, due process is the opportunity to explain one’s side or the opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of.  A formal or trial-type hearing is not at all times and in all instances essential.  The requirement is satisfied where the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy at hand. What is frowned upon is absolute lack of notice and hearing x  x  x.  We find it obvious under the attendant circumstances that PGBI was not denied due process.  In any case, given the result of this Resolution, PGBI has no longer any cause for complaint on due process grounds.   Philippine Guardians Brotherhood, Inc. (PGBI), etc. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190529. April 29, 2010

Procedural due process; requirements.  The Ang Tibay formulation was overlapping and repetitious. Hence, in Air Manila, Inc. v. Balatbat, the formulation was simplified into four basic rights, as follows:

1.     The right to notice, be it actual or constructive, of the institution of the proceedings that may affect a person’s legal right;

2.     The right to a reasonable opportunity to appear and defend his rights and to introduce witnesses and relevant evidence in his favor;

3.     The right to a tribunal so constituted as to give him reasonable assurance of honesty and impartiality, and one of competent jurisdiction;  and

4.     The right to a finding or decision of that tribunal supported by substantial evidence presented at the hearing or at least ascertained in the records or disclosed to the parties.

Gauged upon the foregoing guidelines, Tolentino’s gripe was unwarranted. He was not denied procedural due process. The Division had required him to provide the names of his revisors whose tasks included the raising of objections, the claiming votes for him, or the contesting of the votes in favor of his opponent.  He has neither alleged being deprived of this opportunity, nor indicated any situation in which his revisors were denied access to the revision proceedings. He could not also insist that the COMELEC did not consider his legal and factual arguments; besides, he could still raise them in his memorandum should he chose to. During the revision stage, he should raise all objections, present his evidence and witnesses, and file his memorandum before the case would be submitted for resolution.   Mayor Abraham N. Tolentino vs. Commission on Elections, et al./Vice-Mayor Celso P. De Castro vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. Nos. 187958, G.R. No. 187961 & 187962/G.R. No. 187966, G.R. No. 187967 & 187968. April 7, 2010.

Reorganization;  good faith.  The  presidential power to reorganize agencies and offices in the executive branch of government is subject to the condition that such reorganization is carried out in good faith.

If the reorganization is done in good faith, the abolition of positions, which results in loss of security of tenure of affected government employees, would be valid.  In Buklod ng Kawaning EIIB v. Zamora, we even observed that there was no such thing as an absolute right to hold office.  Except those who hold constitutional offices, which provide for special immunity as regards salary and tenure, no one can be said to have any vested right to an office or salary.  Atty. Sylvia Banda, et al. vs.. Eduardo R. Ermita etc., et al. G.R. No. 166620, April 20, 2010.

Election Law

Ballots; revision. The COMELEC did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it order the revision of 44 ballots with the Senate Electoral Tribunal without first reolsivng whether 16 of those 44 ballots should be included in the revision.

In regular election contests, the general averment of fraud or irregularities in the counting of votes justifies the examination of the ballots and recounting of votes.  This process of examination is the revision of the ballots pursuant to Section 6, Rule 20 of the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure.

The protests involved herein assailed the authenticity of the election returns and the veracity of the counting of the ballots. In that regard, the ballots themselves are the best evidence. The only means to overcome the presumption of legitimacy of the election returns is to examine and determine first whether the ballot boxes have been substantially preserved in the manner mandated by law. Hence, the necessity to issue the order of revision.

No ruling could be handed down against the integrity of the ballot boxes that would effectively render naught the evidentiary value of the ballots they contained unless a full blown trial on the merits was first conducted. Tolentino should accept the legal impossibility for the Division to rule on the issue of inclusion or exclusion of the set-aside ballot boxes except after the revision process. Mayor Abraham N. Tolentino vs. Commission on Elections, et al./Vice-Mayor Celso P. De Castro vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. Nos. 187958, G.R. No. 187961 & 187962/G.R. No. 187966, G.R. No. 187967 & 187968. April 7, 2010.

Party list; delisting. Our Minero ruling is an erroneous application of Section 6(8) of RA 7941; hence, it cannot sustain PGBI’s delisting from the roster of registered national, regional or sectoral parties, organizations or coalitions under the party-list system.

First, the law is clear – the COMELEC may motu proprio or upon verified complaint of any interested party, remove or cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of any national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition if it: (a) fails to participate in the last two (2) preceding elections; or (b) fails to obtain at least two per centum (2%) of the votes cast under the party-list system in the two (2) preceding elections for the constituency in which it has registered.  The word “or” is a disjunctive term signifying disassociation and independence of one thing from the other things enumerated; it should, as a rule, be construed in the sense in which it ordinarily implies, as a disjunctive word.  Thus, the plain, clear and unmistakable language of the law provides for two (2) separate reasons for delisting.

Second, Minero is diametrically opposed to the legislative intent of Section 6(8) of RA 7941, as PGBI’s cited congressional deliberations clearly show.

Minero therefore simply cannot stand.  Its basic defect lies in its characterization of the non-participation of a party-list organization in an election as similar to a failure to garner the 2% threshold party-list vote.  What Minero effectively holds is that a party list organization that does not participate in an election necessarily gets, by default, less than 2% of the party-list votes.  To be sure, this is a confused interpretation of the law, given the law’s clear and categorical language and the legislative intent to treat the two scenarios differently.  A delisting based on a mixture or fusion of these two different and separate grounds for delisting is therefore a strained application of the law – in jurisdictional terms, it is an interpretation not within the contemplation of the framers of the law and hence is a gravely abusive interpretation of the law.

What we say here should of course take into account our ruling in Barangay Association for Advancement and National Transparency v. COMELEC (Banat) where we partly invalidated the 2% party-list vote requirement provided in RA 7941 as follows:  “We rule that, in computing the allocation of additional seats, the continued operation of the two percent threshold for the distribution of the additional seats as found in the second clause of Section 11(b) of R.A. No. 7941 is unconstitutional.  This Court finds that the two percent threshold makes it mathematically impossible to achieve the maximum number of available party list seats when the number of available party list seats exceeds 50.  The continued operation of the two percent threshold in the distribution of the additional seats frustrates the attainment of the permissive ceiling that 20% of the members of the House of Representatives shall consist of party-list representatives.”

The disqualification for failure to get 2% party-list votes in two (2) preceding elections should therefore be understood in light of the Banat ruling that party-list groups or organizations garnering less than 2% of the party-list votes may yet qualify for a seat in the allocation of additional seats.

We need not extensively discuss Banat’s significance, except to state that a party-list group or organization which qualified in the second round of seat allocation cannot now validly be delisted for the reason alone that it garnered less than 2% in the last two elections.  In other words, the application of this disqualification should henceforth be contingent on the percentage of party-list votes garnered by the last party-list organization that qualified for a seat in the House of Representatives, a percentage that is less than the 2% threshold invalidated in Banat.  The disqualification should now necessarily be read to apply to party-list groups or organizations that did not qualify for a seat in the two preceding elections for the constituency in which it registered.

To reiterate, (a) Section 6(8) of RA 7941 provides for two separate grounds for delisting; these grounds cannot be mixed or combined to support delisting; and (b) the disqualification for failure to garner 2% party-list votes in two preceding elections should now be understood, in light of the Banat ruling, to mean failure to qualify for a party-list seat in two preceding elections for the constituency in which it has registered. This, we declare, is how Section 6(8) of RA 7941 should be understood and applied.  We do so under our authority to state what the law is, and as an exception to the application of the principle of stare decisis.   Philippine Guardians Brotherhood, Inc. (PGBI), etc. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190529. April 29, 2010.

Voter; residency requirement.  The the residency requirement of a voter is at least one (1) year residence in the Philippines and at least six (6) months in the place where the person proposes or intends to vote. “Residence,” as used in the law prescribing the qualifications for suffrage and for elective office, is doctrinally settled to mean “domicile,” importing not only an intention to reside in a fixed place but also personal presence in that place, coupled with conduct indicative of such intention inferable from a person’s acts, activities, and utterances. “Domicile” denotes a fixed permanent residence where, when absent for business or pleasure, or for like reasons, one intends to return. In the consideration of circumstances obtaining in each particular case, three rules must be borne in mind, namely: (1) that a person must have a residence or domicile somewhere; (2) once established, it remains until a new one is acquired; and (3) that a person can have but one residence or domicile at a time.

Domicile is not easily lost. To successfully effect a transfer thereof, one must demonstrate: (1) an actual removal or change of domicile; (2) a bona fide intention of abandoning the former place of residence and establishing a new one; and (3) acts which correspond with that purpose. There must be animus manendi coupled with animus non revertendi. The purpose to remain in or at the domicile of choice must be for an indefinite period of time; the change of residence must be voluntary; and the residence at the place chosen for the new domicile must be actual.

Asistio has always been a resident of Caloocan City since his birth or for more than 72 years. His family is known to be among the prominent political families in Caloocan City. In fact, Asistio served in public office as Caloocan City Second District representative in the House of Representatives, having been elected as such in the 1992, 1995, 1998, and 2004 elections. In 2007, he also sought election as City Mayor. In all of these occasions, Asistio cast his vote in the same city. Taking these circumstances into consideration, gauged in the light of the doctrines above enunciated, it cannot be denied that Asistio has qualified, and continues to qualify, as a voter of Caloocan City. There is no showing that he has established domicile elsewhere, or that he had consciously and voluntarily abandoned his residence in Caloocan City. He should, therefore, remain in the list of permanent registered voters of Precinct No. 1811A, Barangay 15, Caloocan City.

That Asistio allegedly indicated in his Certificate of Candidacy for Mayor, both for the 2007 and 2010 elections, a non-existent or false address, or that he could not be physically found in the address he indicated when he registered as a voter, should not operate to exclude him as a voter of Caloocan City. These purported misrepresentations in Asistio’s COC, if true, might serve as basis for an election offense under the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), or an action to deny due course to the COC. But to our mind, they do not serve as proof that Asistio has abandoned his domicile in Caloocan City, or that he has established residence outside of Caloocan City. Luis A. Asistio vs. Hon. Thelma Canlas Trinidad-Pe Aguirre, etc. et al., G.R. No. 191124. April 27, 2010.

International Law

International law; binding effect. Although this Court stands willing to assume the responsibility of giving effect to the Philippines’ international law obligations, the blanket invocation of international law is not the panacea for all social ills. We refer now to the petitioner’s invocation of the Yogyakarta Principles (the Application of International Human Rights Law In Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity), which petitioner declares to reflect binding principles of international law.

At this time, we are not prepared to declare that these Yogyakarta Principles contain norms that are obligatory on the Philippines. There are declarations and obligations outlined in said Principles which are not reflective of the current state of international law, and do not find basis in any of the sources of international law enumerated under Article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Petitioner has not undertaken any objective and rigorous analysis of these alleged principles of international law to ascertain their true status. Ang Ladlad LGBT Party vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190582, April 8, 2010.

Public Officers

Condonation doctrine;  applicability to appointive officials.   Petitioners urge this Court to expand the settled doctrine of condonation to cover coterminous appointive officials who were administratively charged along with the reelected official/appointing authority with infractions allegedly committed during their preceding term.

The Court rejects petitioners’ thesis.

More than 60 years ago, the Court in Pascual v. Hon. Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija issued the landmark ruling that prohibits the disciplining of an elective official for a wrongful act committed during his immediately preceding term of office.  The Court explained that “[t]he underlying theory is that each term is separate from other terms, and that the reelection to office operates as a condonation of the officer’s previous misconduct to the extent of cutting off the right to remove him therefor.”

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 elect[e]d 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.  (underscoring supplied)

Lizares v. Hechanova, et al. replicated the doctrine.  The Court dismissed the petition in that case for being moot, the therein petitioner “having been duly reelected, is no longer amenable to administrative sanctions.”

Ingco v. Sanchez, et al. clarified that the condonation doctrine does not apply to a criminal case.  Luciano v. The Provincial Governor, et al., Olivarez v. Judge Villaluz, and Aguinaldo v. Santos echoed the qualified rule that reelection of a public official does not bar prosecution for crimes committed by him prior thereto.

Consistently, the Court has reiterated the doctrine in a string of recent jurisprudence including two cases involving a Senator and a Member of the House of Representatives.

Salalima v. Guingona, Jr. and Mayor Garcia v. Hon. Mojica reinforced the doctrine.  The condonation rule was applied even if the administrative complaint was not filed before the reelection of the public official, and even if the alleged misconduct occurred four days before the elections, respectively.  Salalimadid not distinguish as to the date of filing of the administrative complaint, as long as the alleged misconduct was committed during the prior term, the precise timing or period of which Garcia did not further distinguish, as long as the wrongdoing that gave rise to the public official’s culpability was committed prior to the date of reelection.

Petitioners’ theory is not novel.

A parallel question was involved in Civil Service Commission v. Sojor where the Court found no basis to broaden the scope of the doctrine of condonation.

Contrary to petitioners’ asseveration, the non-application of the condonation doctrine to appointive officials does not violate the right to equal protection of the law.

In the recent case of Quinto v. Commission on Elections, the Court applied the four-fold test in an equal protection challenge against the resign-to-run provision, wherein it discussed the material and substantive distinctions between elective and appointive officials that could well apply to the doctrine of condonation.

The electorate’s condonation of the previous administrative infractions of the reelected official cannot be extended to that of the reappointed coterminous employees, the underlying basis of the rule being to uphold the will of the people expressed through the ballot.  In other words, there is neither subversion of the sovereign will nor disenfranchisement of the electorate to speak of, in the case of reappointed coterminous employees.

It is the will of the populace, not the whim of one person who happens to be the appointing authority, that could extinguish an administrative liability.  Since petitioners hold appointive positions, they cannot claim the mandate of the electorate.  The people cannot be charged with the presumption of full knowledge of the life and character of each and every probable appointee of the elective official ahead of the latter’s actual reelection.

Moreover, the unwarranted expansion of the Pascual doctrine would set a dangerous precedent as it would, as respondents posit, provide civil servants, particularly local government employees, with blanket immunity from administrative liability that would spawn and breed abuse in the bureaucracy.  Atty. Vicente E. Salumbides, Jr., et al. vs. Office of the Ombudsman, et al., G.R. No. 180917, April 23, 2010.

Public office; public trust.    Unlike private offices which are held largely on the dictates of market forces, public offices are public trust. Public officers are tasked to serve the public interest, thus the excessive burden for their retention in the form of numerous prohibitions. The liberal evidentiary standard of substantial evidence and the freedom of administrative proceedings from technical niceties effectuate the fiduciary nature of public office: they are procedural mechanisms assuring ease in maintaining an efficient bureaucracy, free of rent-seeking officials who exploit government processes to raise easy money. Respondent’s hold on his item at the Mandaue City revenue office, which, like our customs offices, is a common situs for corrupt activities, is no more lasting than his fidelity to his trust.  Although no criminal verdict deprives respondent of his liberty, adequate evidence justifies his removal from the bureaucracy for forfeiting the public trust.  Hon. Primo C. Miro, etc. vs. Reynaldo M. Dosono, G.R. No. 170697, April 30, 2010.

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