CASE DIGEST: Villafuerte vs. COMELEC

G.R. No. 206698, February 25, 2014



Petitioner and respondent were both candidates for the Gubernatorial position of the province of CamarinesSur in the May 2013 local elections. Petitioner file a with the COMELEC a verified Petition to deny due course or cancel the certificate of candidacy of respondent alleging that the latter intentionally misrepresented a false and deceptive name/ nickname that would mislead the voters when he declared under oath in his COC that LRAY JR.MIGZ was his nickname or stage name and that the name he intended to appear on the official ballot was VILLAFUERTE, LRAY JR.MIGZ NP; that respondent deliberately omitted his first name MIGUEL and inserted, instead LRAY JR., which is the nickname of his father, the incumbent Governor of Camarines Sur,LRay Villafuerte, Jr.

COMELEC's First Division and COMELEC en banc ruled that there is no reason to cancel the COC of respondent as matters of material misrepresentation in the COC pertains only to qualifications of a candidate and nothing is mentioned about a candidates name.

ISSUE: Whether or not respondents COC should be cancelled

HELD: No. Decision of COMELEC en banc affirmed.

POLITICAL LAW: Material misrepresentation contemplated by Sec. 78 of the Omnibus Election Code refer to qualifications for elective office

In order to justify the cancellation of the certificate of candidacy under Section 78, it is essential that the false representation mentioned therein pertains to a material matter for the sanction imposed by this provision would affect the substantive rights ofa candidate the right to run for the elective post for which he filed the certificate of candidacy.

Aside from the requirement of materiality, a false representation under Section 78 must consist of a deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render a candidate ineligible. In other words, it must be made with an intention to deceive the electorate as to ones qualifications for public office. The use of surname, when not intended to mislead, or deceive the public as to ones identity is not within the scope of the provision. Respondents nickname is not considered a material fact, and there is no substantial evidence showing that in writing the nickname LRAY JR. MIGZ in his COC, respondent had the intention to deceive the voters as to his identity which has an effect on his eligibility or qualification for the office he seeks to assume.

Notably, respondent is known to the voters of the Province of Camarines Sur as the son of the then incumbent Governor of the province, popularly known as LRay. Their relationship is shown by the posters, streamers and billboards displayed in the province with the faces of both the father and son on them. Thus, the voters of the Province of Camarines Sur know who respondent is. Moreover, it was established by the affidavits of respondents witnesses that as the father and son have striking similarities, such as their looks and mannerisms, which remained unrebutted, the appellation of LRAY JR. has been used to refer torespondent. Hence, the appellation LRAY JR., accompanied by the name MIGZ16 written as respondents nickname in his COC, is not at all misleading to the voters, as in fact, such name distinguishes respondent from his father, the then incumbent Governor LRAY, who was running for a Congressional seat in the 2nd District of Camarines Sur.