ISSUE: Whether or not former President Joseph Estrada run for public office despite having been convicted of the crime of plunder which carried an accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
FACTS: On Sep 2007, Sandiganbayan convicted Estrada for the crime of plunder with the penalty of reclusion perpetua and accessory penalties of civil interdiction during the period of sentence and perpetual absolute disqualification. On Oct 2007, President Arroyo extended executive clemency, by way of pardon to Estrada thereby restoring his civil and political right upon which Estrada received and accepted. On Nov 2009, Estrada filed a certificate of candidacy for the position of President and has earned 3 oppositions in the COMELEC. In 2012 Estrada filed a COC vying for the position of Manila City Mayor. Then, Risos-Vidal, petitioner, filed a petition for disqualification against Estrada. Petitioner Risos-Vidal filed a Petition for Disqualification against Estrada before the Comelec stating that Estrada is disqualified to run for public office because of his conviction for plunder sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua with perpetual absolute disqualification. Petitioner relied on Section 40 of the Local Government Code (LGC), in relation to Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC). The Comelec dismissed the petition for disqualification holding that President Estrada’s right to seek public office has been effectively restored by the pardon vested upon him by former President Gloria M. Arroyo. Estrada won the mayoralty race in May 13, 2013 elections. Alfredo Lim, who garnered the second highest votes, intervened and sought to disqualify Estrada for the same ground as the contention of Risos-Vidal and praying that he be proclaimed as Mayor of Manila.
RATIO DECIDENDI: Estrada was granted an absolute pardon that fully restored all his civil and political rights, which naturally includes the right to seek public elective office, the focal point of this controversy. The wording of the pardon extended to former President Estrada is complete, unambiguous, and unqualified. It is likewise unfettered by Articles 36 and 41 of the Revised Penal Code. The only reasonable, objective, and constitutional interpretation of the language of the pardon is that the same in fact conforms to Articles 36 and 41 of the Revised Penal Code. The pardon itself does not explicitly impose a condition or limitation, considering the unqualified use of the term “civil and political rights”as being restored. Jurisprudence educates that a preamble is not an essential part of an act as it is an introductory or preparatory clause that explains the reasons for the enactment, usually introduced by the word “whereas.” Whereas clauses do not form part of a statute because, strictly speaking, they are not part of the operative language of the statute. In this case, the whereas clause at issue is not an integral part of the decree of the pardon, and therefore, does not by itself alone operate to make the pardon conditional or to make its effectivity contingent upon the fulfilment of the aforementioned commitment nor to limit the scope of the pardon.