Jalosjos v. Comelec (G.R. No. 205033; June 18, 2013)


On November 16, 2001, the Court promulgated its Decision convicting petitioner by final judgment.Consequently, he was sentenced to suffer the principal penalties of reclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal for each count, respectively, which carried the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification pursuant to Article 41 of the Revised Penal Code. On April 30, 2007, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued an order commuting his prison term to sixteen (16) years, three (3) months and three (3) days.On April 26, 2012, petitioner applied to register as a voter in Zamboanga City. However, because of his previous conviction, his application was denied by the Acting City Election Officer of the Election Registration Board (ERB), prompting him to file a Petition for Inclusion in the Permanent List of Voters before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities of Zamboanga City. Pending resolution of the same, he filed a CoCon October 5, 2012, seeking to run as mayor for Zamboanga City in the upcoming local elections scheduled on May 13, 2013. In his CoC, petitioner stated,inter alia,that he is eligible for the said office and that he is a registered voter of Barangay Tetuan, Zamboanga City.

On October 18, 2012,the MTCC denied his Petition for Inclusion on account of his perpetual absolute disqualification which in effect, deprived him of the right to vote in any election. Such denial was affirmed by the Regional Trial Court in its Order which, pursuant to Section 138 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 881, as amended, otherwise known as the "Omnibus Election Code" (OEC), was immediately final and executory.

The COMELEC En Banc issued motu proprio Resolution No. 9613 on January 15, 2013, resolving "to CANCEL and DENY due course the Certificate of Candidacy filed by Romeo G. Jalosjos as Mayor of Zamboanga City in the May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections" due to his perpetual absolute disqualification as well as his failure to comply with the voter registration requirement.

ISSUES: [1] Did the COMELEC En Banc act beyond its jurisdiction when it issued motu proprio Resolution No. 9613 and in so doing, violated petitioner's right to due process?

[2] Had petitioner's perpetual absolute disqualification to run for elective office already been removed by Section 40 (a) of the LGC?

HELD: The COMELEC En Banc did not exercise its quasi-judicial functions when it issued Resolution No. 9613 as it did not assume jurisdiction over any pending petition or resolve any election case before it or any of its divisions.Rather, it merely performed its duty to enforce and administer election laws in cancelling petitioner's CoC on the basis of his perpetual absolute disqualification, the fact of which had already been established by his final conviction.In this regard, the COMELEC En Banc was exercising its administrative functions, dispensing with the need for a motion for reconsideration of a division ruling under Section 3, Article IX-C of the Constitution, the same being required only in quasi-judicial proceedings.

The denial of due course to and/or cancellation of one's CoC generally necessitates the exercise of the COMELEC's quasi-judicial functions commenced through a petition based on either Sections 12 or 78of the OEC, or Section 40 of the LGC, when the grounds therefor are rendered conclusive on account of final and executory judgments as when a candidate's disqualification to run for public office is based on a final conviction.

There is also no violation of procedural due process since the COMELEC En Banc would be acting in a purely administrative manner.

The petitioner was sentenced to suffer the principal penalties of reclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal which, pursuant to Article 41 of the RPC, carried with it the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification and in turn, pursuant to Article 30 of the RPC, disqualified him to run for elective office. As discussed, Section 40 (a) of the LGC would not apply to cases wherein a penal provision such as Article 41 in this case directly and specifically prohibits the convict from running for elective office. Hence, despite the lapse of two (2) years from petitioner's service of his commuted prison term, he remains bound to suffer the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification which consequently, disqualifies him to run as mayor for Zamboanga City.

It is well to note that the use of the word "perpetual" in the aforementioned accessory penalty connotes a lifetime restriction and in this respect, does not depend on the length of the prison term, which is imposed as its principal penalty. Instructive on this point is the Court's ruling in Lacuna v. Abes,where the Court explained the meaning of the term "perpetual" as applied to the penalty of disqualification to run for public office.

The accessory penalty of temporary absolute disqualification disqualified the convict for public office and for the right to vote, such disqualification to last only during the term of the sentence (Article 27, paragraph 3, & Article 30, Revised Penal Code) that, in the case of Abes, would have expired on 13 October 1961.

But this does not hold true with respect to the other accessory penalty of perpetual special disqualification for the exercise of the right of suffrage.This accessory penalty deprives the convict of the right to vote or to be elected to or hold public office perpetually, as distinguished from temporary special disqualification, which lasts during the term of the sentence. DISMISSED.