Federico v. COMELEC (G.R. No. 199612; January 22, 2013)

CASE DIGEST: Renato M. Federico v. Commission on Elections, COMELEC Executive Director and Osmundo M. Maligaya. (G.R. No. 199612; January 22, 2013).

Edna Sanchez (Edna) and private respondent Osmundo M. Maligaya (Maligaya) were candidates for the position of municipal mayor of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, in the 2010 Elections.

On April 27, 2010, Armando Sanchez, husband of Edna and the gubernatorial candidate for the province of Batangas, died. Edna withdrew her Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for the position of mayor. She then filed a new COC and a Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA) for the position of governor as substitute candidate for her deceased husband.

On May 5, 2010, petitioner Renato M. Federico (Federico) filed with the Office of the Election Officer his COC and CONA as official candidate of the Nationalista Party and as substitute candidate for mayor, in view of the withdrawal of Edna.

Maligaya filed his Petition to Deny Due Course and to Cancel Certificate of Candidacy of Federico before the Comelec. Maligaya sought to have Federico declared ineligible to run as substitute candidate for Edna since the period to file the COC for substitute candidates had already lapsed after December 14, 2009.

The COMELEC En Banc gave due course to the COC of Edna as substitute gubernatorial candidate in the Batangas province and to that of Federico as substitute mayoralty candidate.

But the official ballots had already been printed. On the day of elections, the name “SANCHEZ, Edna P.” was retained in the list of candidates for Mayor of Sto. Tomas, and garnered the highest number of votes - 28,389 against Maligaya’s 22,577 votes.

The Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBOC) proclaimed Edna as the winning mayoralty candidate. Maligaya filed his Petition to Annul Proclamation of Edna Sanchez. This petition was later withdrawn.

The MBOC credited the same number of votes garnered by Edna to Federico and proclaimed the latter as the winning candidate. Maligaya filed his Petition to Annul Proclamation of Federico as mayor.

Meanwhile, Maligaya’s petition to deny due course and to cancel the COC of Federico was denied by the Comelec Second Division. The Comelec First Division denied Maligaya’s petition to annul the proclamation of Federico for having been filed out of time.

Maligaya elevated the matter to the Comelec En Banc. The Comelec En Banc issued the assailed Resolution granting Maligaya’s partial motion for reconsideration. The Comelec En Banc was of the view that the annulment of Federico’s proclamation was in order because of his invalid substitution of Edna, as his substitute COC was filed beyond the deadline and due to the illegality of the proceedings of the MBOC in generating the second COCVP without authority from the Comelec and without notice to the parties.

Federico filed the present Petition for Certiorari before the Supreme Court.

Pending resolution of the case, Vice-Mayor Armenius Silva (Intervenor Silva) of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, filed his Motion for Leave to Intervene, praying essentially that as Federico failed to qualify, he should be adjudged as his legal successor as mayor, under the Local Government Code.

ISSUES: Could Federico validly substitute Edna who withdrew her candidacy for the mayoralty position?

Granting that Federico was disqualified, should he be succeeded by Intervenor Silva under the LGC or be replaced by Maligaya?HELD: The electoral commission committed no grave abuse of discretion. FIRST ISSUE: Federico’s substitution of Edna Sanchez as mayoralty candidate was not valid. SECOND ISSUE: There being no valid substitution, the candidate with the highest number of votes should be proclaimed as the duly elected mayor.

Regarding the May 10, 2010 automated elections, the Comelec came out with Resolution No. 8678. On substitution, Section 13 thereof provides, “the substitute for a candidate who withdrew may file his certificate of candidacy as herein provided for the office affected not later than December 14, 2009.”

In case of withdrawal, which is the situation at bench, the substitute should have filed a COC by December 14, 2009.

When Batangas Gov. Armando Sanchez died on April 27, 2010, Edna withdrew her candidacy as mayor and substituted her late husband as gubernatorial candidate for the province on April 29, 2010. The party actually had the option to substitute another candidate for Governor aside from Edna. By fielding Edna as their substitute candidate for Governor, the party knew that she had to withdraw her candidacy for Mayor. Considering that the deadline for substitution in case of withdrawal had already lapsed, no person could substitute her as mayoralty candidate. The sudden death of then Governor Sanchez and the substitution by his widow in the gubernatorial race could not justify a belated substitution in the mayoralty race.

As Federico's substitution was not valid, there was only one qualified candidate in the mayoralty race in Sto. Tomas, Batangas - Maligaya. Being the only candidate, he received the highest number of votes. Accordingly, he should be proclaimed as the duly elected mayor in the May 10, 2010 elections.

Considering that Maligaya was the winner, the position of Intervenor Silva that he be considered the legal successor of Federico, whom he claims failed to qualify, has no legal basis. There is simply no vacancy. When there is no vacancy, the rule on succession under Section 44 of the LGC cannot be invoked. DENIED.