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EFREN ARATEA v. COMELEC
G.R. No. 195229, October 9, 2012
Romeo D. Lonzanida (Lonzanida) and Estela D. Antipolo (Antipolo) were candidates for Mayor of San Antonio, Zambales in the May 2010 National and Local Elections. Dra. Sigrid S. Rodolfo (Rodolfo) filed a petition under Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code to disqualify Lonzanida and to deny due course or to cancel Lonzanida’s certificate of candidacy on the ground that Lonzanida was elected, and had served, as mayor of San Antonio, Zambales for four (4) consecutive terms immediately prior to the term for the May 2010 elections. The COMELEC Second Division rendered a Resolutionon 18 February 2010 cancelling Lonzanida’s certificate of candidacy. Lonzanida’s motion for reconsideration before the COMELEC En Banc remained pending during the May 2010 elections. Lonzanida and Efren Racel Aratea (Aratea) garnered the highest number of votes and were respectively proclaimed Mayor and Vice-Mayor.
However, DILG stated that Lonzanida was disqualified to hold office by reason of his criminal conviction, Lonzanida had been convicted by final judgment of 10 counts of falsification under the Revised Penal Code, and as a consequence, his office was deemed permanently vacant, and thus, Aratea should assume the Office of the Mayor in an acting capacity without prejudice to the COMELEC’s resolution of Lonzanida’s motion for reconsideration. In another letter dated 6 August 2010, Aratea requested the DILG to allow him to take the oath of office as Mayor of San Antonio, Zambales. In his response, then Secretary Jesse M. Robredo allowed Aratea to take an oath of office as "the permanent Municipal Mayor of San Antonio, Zambales without prejudice however to the outcome of the cases pending before the COMELEC.
Who is qualified to hold the office of the mayor, Estela Antipolo, “the alleged second placer” or Efren Aratea, the winning Vice-Mayor.
Antipolo, the alleged "second placer," should be proclaimed Mayor because Lonzanida’s certificate of candidacy was void ab initio. In short, Lonzanida was never a candidate at all. All votes for Lonzanida were stray votes. Thus, Antipolo, the only qualified candidate, garnered the highest number of votes for the position of Mayor. Whether his certificate of candidacy is cancelled before or after the elections is immaterial because the cancellation on such ground means he was never a candidate from the very beginning, his certificate of candidacy being void ab initio. There was only one qualified candidate for Mayor in the May 2010 elections. Thus, Antipolo, the only qualified candidate, garnered the highest number of votes for the position of Mayor. Sec. 74. Contents of certificate of candidacy. ‒ The certificate of candidacy shall state that the person filing it is announcing his candidacy for the office stated therein and that he is eligible for said office. On the other hand, under Article 32 of the Revised Penal Code, perpetual special disqualification means that "the offender shall not be permitted to hold any public office during the period of his disqualification,” which is perpetually. Both temporary absolute disqualification and perpetual special disqualification constitute ineligibilities to hold elective public office. A person suffering from these ineligibilities is ineligible to run for elective public office and commits a false material representation if he states in his certificate of candidacy that he is eligible to so run.