Case Digest: Jalosjos v. COMELEC

G.R. No. 193314 : February 26, 2013

SVETLANA P. JALOSJOS, Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, EDWIN ELIM TUMPAG and RODOLFO Y. ESTRELLADA, Respondents.

SERENO, J.:


FACTS:

On 20 November 2009, petitioner filed her Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for mayor of Baliangao, MisamisOccidental for the 10 May 2010 elections. She indicated therein her place of birth and residence as BarangayTugas, Municipality of Baliangao, Misamis Occidental (Brgy. Tugas).

Asserting otherwise, private respondents filed against petitioner a Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel the Certificate of Candidacy, in which they argued t hat she had falsely represented her place of birth and residence, because she was in fact born in San Juan, Metro Manila, and had not totally abandoned her previous domicile, Dapitan City.

On the other hand, petitioner averred that she had established her residence in the said barangay since December 2008 when she purchased two parcels of land there, and that she had been staying in the house of a certain Mrs. Lourdes Yap (Yap) while the former was overseeing the construction of her house. Furthermore, petitioner asserted that the error in her place of birth was committed by her secretary. Nevertheless, in aCoC, an error in the declaration of the place of birth is not a material misrepresentation that would lead to disqualification, because it is not one of the qualifications provided by law.

The Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel the Certificate of Candidacy remained pending as of the day of the elections, in which petitioner garnered the highest number of votes. On 10 May 2010, the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Baliangao, Misamis Occidental, proclaimed her as the duly elected municipal mayor.

On 04 June 2010, the COMELEC Second Division ruled that respondent was DISQUALIFIED for the position of mayor.

The COMELEC En Banc promulgated a Resolution on 19 August 2010 denying the Motion for Reconsideration of petitioner for lack of merit and affirming the Resolution of the Second Division denying due course to or cancelling her CoC.

ISSUE: Whether COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in holding that petitioner had failed to prove compliance with the one-year residency requirement for local elective officials.

HELD: Petitioner failed to comply with theone-year residency requirement forlocal elective officials.
Petitioner uncontroverted domicile of origin is Dapitan City. The question is whether she was able to establish, through clear and positive proof, that she had acquired a domicile of choice in Baliangao, Misamis Occidental, prior to the May 2010 elections.

When it comes to the qualifications for running for public office, residence is synonymous with domicile. Accordingly, Nuval v. Gurayheld as follows:

The term esidenceas so used, is synonymous with omicilewhich imports not only intention to reside in a fixed place, but also personal presence in that place, coupled with conduct indicative of such intention.

There are three requisites for a person to acquire a new domicile by choice. First, residence or bodily presence in the new locality. Second, an intention to remain there. Third, an intention to abandon the old domicile.

These circumstances must be established by clear and positive proof, as held in Romualdez-Marcos v. COMELECand subsequently in Dumpit- Michelena v. Boado:

In the absence of clear and positive proof based on these criteria, the residence of origin should be deemed to continue. Only with evidence showing concurrence of all three requirements can the presumption of continuity or residence be rebutted, for a change of residence requires an actual and deliberate abandonment, and one cannot have two legal residences at the same time.

Moreover, even if these requisites are established by clear and positive proof, the date of acquisition of the domicile of choice, or the critical date, must also be established to be within at least one year prior to the elections using the same standard of evidence.

In the instant case, we find that petitioner failed to establish by clear and positive proof that she had resided in Baliangao, Misamis Occidental, one year prior to the 10 May 2010 elections.

There were inconsistencies in the Affidavits of Acas-Yap, Yap III, Villanueva, Duhaylungsod, Estrellada,Jumawan, Medija, Bagundol, Colaljo, Tenorio, Analasan, Bation, Maghilum and Javier.

First, they stated that they personally knew petitioner to be an actual and physical resident of Brgy. Tugassince 2008. However, they declared in the same Affidavits that she stayed in Brgy. Punta Miray while her house was being constructed in Brgy. Tugas.

Second, construction workers Yap III, Villanueva, Duhaylungsod and Estrellada asserted that in December 2009, construction was still ongoing. By their assertion, they were implying that six months before the 10 May 2010 elections, petitioner had not yet moved into her house at Brgy. Tugas.

Third, the same construction workers admitted that petitioner only visited Baliangao occasionally when they stated that "at times when she (petitioner) was in Baliangao, she used to stay at the house of Lourdes Yap while her residential house was being constructed."

These discrepancies bolster the statement of the Brgy. Tugas officials that petitioner was not and never had been a resident of their barangay. At most, the Affidavits of all the witnesses only show that petitioner was building and developing a beach resort and a house in Brgy. Tugas, and that she only stayed in Brgy. PuntaMiray whenever she wanted to oversee the construction of the resort and the house.

Assuming that the claim of property ownership of petitioner is true, Fernandez v. COMELEChas established that the ownership of a house or some other property does not establish domicile. This principle is especially true in this case as petitioner has failed to establish her bodily presence in the locality and her intent to stay there at least a year before the elections.

Finally, the approval of the application for registration of petitioner as a voter only shows, at most, that she had met the minimum residency requirement as a voter. This minimum requirement is different from that for acquiring a new domicile of choice for the purpose of running for public office.

The Petition is DENIED.

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