Case Digest: Layug v. COMELEC

G.R. NO. 192984 : February 28, 2012




On March 31, 2010, petitioner Rolando D. Layug (Layug), in his capacity as a taxpayer and concerned citizen, filed pro se a Petition to Disqualify Buhay Party-List from participating in the May 10, 2010 elections, and Brother Mike from being its nominee. He argued that Buhay Party-List is a mere extension of the El Shaddai, which is a religious sect and as such, it is disqualified from being a party-list under Section 5, Paragraph 2, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution,as well as Section 6, Paragraph 1 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7941, otherwise known as the Party-List System Act. Neither does Brother Mike, who is allegedly a billionaire real estate businessman and the spiritual leader of El Shaddai, qualify as one who belongs to the marginalized and underrepresented sector, as required of party-list nominees under Section 6 (7) of COMELEC Resolution No. 8807, the Rules on Disqualification Cases Against Nominees of Party-List Groups/Organizations Participating in the May 10, 2010 Automated National and Local Elections.

In their Answer thereto, Buhay Party-List and Brother Mike claimed that Buhay Party-List is not a religious sect but a political party possessing all the qualifications of a party-list and Brother Mike belongs to the marginalized and underrepresented elderly group. They likewise argued that nominees from a political party such as Buhay Party-List need not even come from the marginalized and underrepresented sector.

Record shows that Layug received a copy of the aforesaid Answer only at the hearing conducted on April 20, 2010 after his lawyer, Atty. Rustico B. Gagate, manifested that his client has not received the same. Counsel for private respondents explained that their liaison officer found Layug's given address to be inexistent.

On June 15, 2010, the COMELEC Second Division issued a Resolution denying the petition for lack of substantial evidence. A copy thereof was sent to Layug via registered mail at #70 Dr. Pilapil Street, Barangay San Miguel, Pasig City. However, the mail was returned unserved. Subsequently, the COMELEC Second Division found Layug to be a phantom petitioner by seeing to it that pleadings, orders and judicial notices addressed to him are not received by him because the address he gave and maintains is fictitious. Accordingly, Layug was deemed to have received on June 23, 2010 a copy of the Resolution dated June 15, 2010 and, there being no motion for reconsideration filed within the reglementary period, said Resolution was declared final and executory. Consequently, the COMELEC En Banc proclaimed Buhay Party-List as a winner entitled to two (2) seats in the House of Representatives. Being the fifth nominee, however, Brother Mike was not proclaimed as the representative of Buhay Party-List. Layug moved for reconsideration of the Resolution dated June 15, 2010 before the COMELEC En Banc claiming denial of due process for failure of the COMELEC to serve him, his representatives or counsels a copy of said Resolution. He alleged that it was only on July 26, 2010, after learning about it in the newspapers, that he personally secured a copy of the Resolution from the COMELEC. His motion for reconsideration, however, was denied by the COMELEC Second Division, for being filed out of time.

ISSUE: Whether or not Layug was not afforded due process of law.

HELD: COMELEC's decision is sustained.

POLITICAL LAW: procedural due process

Layug was not denied due process. A judicious perusal of the records shows that Layug filed pro se both the Petition to Disqualify and his Position Paper before the COMELEC Second Division. In the Petition to Disqualify, he stated his address as #70 Dr. Pilapil Street, Barangay San Miguel, Pasig City. While Atty. Rustico B. Gagate appeared as counsel for Layug during the hearing conducted on April 20, 2010, he nonetheless failed to provide either his or his client's complete and correct address despite the manifestation that counsel for private respondents could not personally serve the Answer on Layug due to the inexistence of the given address. Neither did the Position Paper that was subsequently filed pro se on April 23, 2010 indicate any forwarding address.

It should be stressed that a copy of the Resolution dated June 15, 2010 was mailed to Layug at his stated address at #70 Dr. Pilapil Street, Barangay San Miguel, Pasig City, which however was returned to sender (COMELEC) after three attempts due to insufficiency of said address, as evidenced by certified true copies of the registry return receipt, as well as the envelope containing the Resolution. Consequently, the COMELEC deemed Layug to have received a copy of the Resolution on June 23, 2010, the date the postmaster made his first attempt to serve it. There being no motion for reconsideration filed, the COMELEC issued an Order declaring the Resolution final and executory, which thereafter became the basis for the issuance of the assailed COMELEC En Bancs NBC Resolution No. 10-034 dated July 30, 2010.

From the fact alone that the address which Layug furnished the COMELEC was incorrect, his pretensions regarding the validity of the proceedings and promulgation of the Resolution dated June 15, 2010 for being in violation of his constitutional right to due process are doomed to fail. His refusal to rectify the error despite knowledge thereof leads to the conclusion that he deliberately stated an inexistent address with the end in view of delaying the proceedings upon the plea of lack of due process. As the COMELEC aptly pointed out, Layug contemptuously made a mockery of election laws and procedure by appearing before the Commission by himself or by different counsels when he wants to, and giving a fictitious address to ensure that he does not receive mails addressed to him.He cannot thus be allowed to profit from his own wrongdoing. To rule otherwise, considering the circumstances in the instant case, would place the date of receipt of pleadings, judgments and processes within Layug's power to determine at his pleasure.