Re Atty. Chaguile (A.M. No. 13-04-03-SC; December 10, 2013)


FACTS: Atty. Marlou B. Ubano, IBP Governor for Western Visayas sought to invalidate the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors which approved the nomination of Atty. Lynda Chaguile as the replacement of IBP Governor for Northern Luzon, Denis B. Habawel. He noted that on the IBP By-Laws which considers as ipso facto resigned from his or her post any official of the IBP who files a Certificate of Candidacy for any elective public office. Under the amended By-Laws, the resignation takes effect on the starting date of the official campaign period.Atty. Ubano alleged that the IBP Governor for Northern Luzon, Denis B. Habawel, filed a Certificate of Candidacy to run for the position of Provincial Governor of the Province of Ifugao. Hence, he is considered ipso facto resigned from the IBP.

Atty. Ubano challenged the IBP Board of Governors' approval of Atty. Chaguiles succession as IBP Governor for Northern Luzon on two grounds: First, there was, as yet, no vacancy. Atty. Habawel was himself present at the meeting where his replacement was named. There was, therefore, no need to name a replacement. Second, the right to elect the successor of a resigned IBP Governor is vested, not in the IBP Board of Governors, but in the delegates of the concerned region; thus, the IBP Board of Governors approval of the nominee to succeed Atty. Habawel is ultra vires.

In support of this second ground, Section 44 of the IBP By-Laws provides:

Sec. 44. Removal of members. x x x x x x[x] In case of any vacancy in the office of Governor for whatever cause, the delegates from the region shall by majority vote, elect a successor from among the members of the Chapter to which the resigned governor is a member to serve as governor for the unexpired portion of the term.

In its Comment, the IBP Board of Governors assailed the first ground raised by Atty. Ubano by saying that it was not necessary for a position to be absolutely vacant before a successor may be appointed or elected.As for the second ground, the IBP Board of Governors argued that it has been the "tradition"of the IBP that "where the unexpired term is only for a very short period of time, it is usually the Board of Governors which appoint a replacement or an officer in charge to serve the unexpired term."

Meanwhile, Atty. Ubano filed another motion seeking to prevent Atty. Chaguile from exercising the functions as IBP Governor of Northern Luzon.

A.M. No. 13-05-08-SC: The second Administrative Matter assails the conduct of the election of the IBP Executive Vice President (EVP). In this election, Atty. Vicente M. Joyas was elected IBP Governor for Southern Luzon.

Atty. Ubano sought to nullify the May 22, 2013 election claiming that the IBP election of the EVP was marred by inordinate haste, grave irregularities, patent hostility, manifest bias and prejudice, as well as the presiding officers absolute lack of independence and that the election violated Section 47 of the IBP By-Laws which requires that the EVP be elected by a vote of at least five (5) Governors. Atty. Ubano emphasized that Atty. Chaguiles vote in favor of Atty. Joyas was invalid, as Atty. Chaguiles appointment as governor was itselfultra vires, and therefore, voidab initio.

ISSUES: [1] Was the appointment of Atty. Chaguile as Governor ultra vires, therefore restraining her to exercise functions relative to the position?

[2] Is the election for the IBP EVP void in violation Section 47 of the IBP By-Laws and restrained Atty. Vicente M. Joyas from discharging his duties?

HELD: As pointed out by the IBP Board of Governors in its Compliance, "the term of Atty. Lynda Chaguile as Governor for Northern Luzon expired on June 30, 2013."A new Governor for Northern Luzon, Atty. Oliver Cachapero, was elected.As Atty. Chaguile is no longer serving as IBP Governor for Northern Luzon, the matter of ousting or restraining Atty. Chaguile from exercising the functions of such office is no longer an available relief.

As a rule, this Court may only adjudicate actual, ongoing controversies. The Court is not empowered to decide moot questions or abstract propositions, or to declare principles or rules of law which cannot affect the result as to the thing in issue in the case before it. In other words, when a case is moot, it becomes non-justiciable. (Pormento v. Estrada, G.R. No. 191988; August 31, 2010)

However, we recognize that the validity of Atty. Chaguiles appointment as Governor for Northern Luzon affects the validity of her actions as the occupant of this office, especially her participation in the IBP Board of Governors election of the IBP EVP, which is the subject of the second Administrative Matter.

We hold that Atty. Chaguile took on the role of IBP Governor for Northern Luzon in a de facto capacity.

To be a de facto officer, all of the following elements must be present: 1) There must be a de jure office; 2) There must be color of right or general acquiescence by the public; and 3) There must be actual physical possession of the office in good faith. Tuanda v. Sandiganbayan, 319 Phil. 460

In the present case, there is no dispute that a de jure office, that of IBP Governor for Northern Luzon exists. Likewise, Atty. Chaguile took possession of and performed the functions of the IBP Governor for Northern Luzon through a process, albeit "irregular or informal, so that she is not a mere volunteer,"that is, not through her own actions but through those of the IBP Board of Governors. Thus, she did so under "color of authority,Civil Service Commission v. Joson, Jr., 473 Phil. 844 (2004).

The IBP Board of Governors approval was secured through a process that it characterized as a "tradition," allowing it to appoint a replacement for an officer who vacates his or her office shortly before his or her term expires.

Although being in violation of the IBP By-Laws, this supposed tradition cannot earn our imprimatur. Be that as it may, in all of the occasions cited by the IBP Board of Governors, the authority of replacement governors was derived from a process, which, though irregular,enabled them to act as and be accepted as governors.

Having said these, we agree with a point raised by Atty. Ubano. As with statutes, the IBP By-Laws "violation or non-observance [ought] not be excused by disuse, or custom, or practice to the contrary." CIVIL CODE, Art. 7.We do not validate the IBP Board of Governors erroneous practice. To reiterate our earlier words: "We cannot countenance this. No amount of previous practice or "tradition" can validate such a patently erroneous action."

Having established that Atty. Chaguile was the IBP Governor for Northern Luzon in a de facto capacity, we turn to the validity of her actions as a de facto officer. Accordingly, all official actions of Atty. Chaguile asde facto IBP Governor for Northern Luzon must be deemed valid, binding, and effective, as though she were the officer validly appointed and qualified for the office. It follows that her participation and vote in the election for IBP EVP held on May 22, 2013 are in order. DENIED.

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