G.R. No. 201716: JANUARY 08, 2013

For four (4) successive regular elections, namely, the 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010 national and local elections, Petitioner Abelardo Abundo, Sr. (Abundo) vied for the position of municipal mayor. In both the 2001 and 2007 runs, he emerged and was proclaimed as the winning mayoralty candidate and accordingly served the corresponding terms as mayor. In the 2004 electoral derby, however, the municipal board of canvassers initially proclaimed as winner one Jose Torres (Torres), who, in due time, performed the functions of the office of mayor. Abundo protested Torres election and proclamation. Abundo was eventually declared the winner of the 2004 mayoralty electoral contest, paving the way for his assumption of office starting May 9, 2006 until the end of the 2004-2007 term on June 30, 2007, or for a period of a little over one year and one month. Then came the May 10, 2010 elections where Abundo and Torres again opposed each other. When Abundo filed his certificate of candidacy for the mayoralty seat relative to this electoral contest, Torres sought the formers disqualification to run.

The RTC declared Abundo as ineligible, under the three-term limit rule, to run in the 2010 elections for the position of, and necessarily to sit as, mayor. In its Resolution, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Second Division affirmed the decision of RTC, which affirmed by COMELEC en banc.

ISSUE: Whether or not Abundo has consecutively served for three terms.

HELD: The petition is partly meritorious.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: Involuntary Interruption of Service

The consecutiveness of what otherwise would have been Abundos three successive, continuous mayorship was effectively broken during the 2004- 2007 term when he was initially deprived of title to, and was veritably disallowed to serve and occupy, an office to which he, after due proceedings, was eventually declared to have been the rightful choice of the electorate.

The declaration of being the winner in an election protest grants the local elected official the right to serve the unexpired portion of the term. Verily, while he was declared winner in the protest for the mayoralty seat for the 2004-2007 term, Abundos full term has been substantially reduced by the actual service rendered by his opponent (Torres). Hence, there was actual involuntary interruption in the term of Abundo and he cannot be considered to have served the full 2004-2007 term.

Prior to the finality of the election protest, Abundo did not serve in the mayors office and, in fact, had no legal right to said position. During the pendency of the election protest, Abundo ceased from exercising power or authority. Consequently, the period during which Abundo was not serving as mayor should be considered as a rest period or break in his service because prior to the judgment in the election protest, it was Abundos opponent, Torres, who was exercising such powers by virtue of the still then valid proclamation.