CASE BrieF NO. 2009-0272


“An incumbent Punong Barangay is deemed to have voluntarily renounced his position when he ran for and won as Sangguniang Bayan member and assumed said office.”


CASE: Nicasio Bolos, Jr. vs. COMELEC and Rey Angeles Cinconigue [G.R. No. 184082  March 17, 2009]

PONENTE: Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta

SUBJECT:

  1. ELECTION LAWS:
    i. Three-Term Limit
    –  Two conditions for application
    – Interruption in the service of a term of office, “by operation of law”

FACTS:        For three consecutive terms, Nicasio Bolos, Jr. was elected to the position of Punong Barangay of Barangay Biking, Dauis, Bohol in the Barangay Elections held in 1994, 1997 and 2002.

In May 2004, while sitting as the incumbent Punong Barangay of Barangay Biking, he ran for Municipal Councilor of Dauis, Bohol and won. He assumed office as Municipal Councilor on July 1, 2004, leaving his post as Punong Barangay. He served the full term of the Sangguniang Bayan position, which was until June 30, 2007.

Thereafter, Bolos filed his COC for Punong Barangay of Barangay Biking, Dauis, Bohol in the October 29, 2007 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections.

Rey Angeles Cinconiegue, the incumbent Punong Barangay and candidate for the same office, filed before the COMELEC a petition for the disqualification of Bolos as candidate on the ground that he had already served the three-term limit.

Cinconiegue contended that Bolos’ relinquishment of the position of Punong Barangay in July 2004 was voluntary on his part, as it could be presumed that it was his personal decision to run as municipal councilor in the May 14, 2004 National and Local Elections.

In his Answer, Bolos countered that by reason of his assumption of office as Sangguniang Bayan member, his remaining term of office as Punong Barangay, which would have ended in 2007, was left unserved. He argued that his election and assumption of office as Sangguniang Bayan member was by operation of law; hence, it must be considered as an involuntary interruption in the continuity of his last term of service.

ISSUES:

A.       What are the two conditions for the application of the rule on three-term limit?
B.       Whether Bolos is deemed to have voluntarily renounced his position as Punong Barangay during his third term when he ran for and won as Sangguniang Bayan member and assumed said office.
C.       Is Bolos correct when he argued that when he assumed the position of Sangguniang Bayan member, he left his post as Punong Barangay by “operation of law”; hence, he did not fully serve his third term as Punong Barangay.

RULING:

A.       The three-term limit for elective local officials is contained in Section 8, Article X of the Constitution, which provides:

Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years, and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected.

Also, Section 43(b) of the Local Government Code provides that barangay officials are covered by the three-term limit, while Section 43(c) thereof states that the term of office of barangay officials shall be five (5) years. The cited provisions read, thus:

Sec. 43. Term of Office. – x x x

(b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected.

(c) The term of barangay officials and members of the sangguniang kabataan shall be for five (5) years, which shall begin after the regular election of barangay officials on the second Monday of May 1997: Provided, That the sangguniang kabataan members who were elected in the May 1996 elections shall serve until the next regular election of barangay officials.

Socrates v. Commission on Elections (2002) held that the rule on the three-term limit, embodied in the Constitution and the Local Government Code, has two parts:

x x x The first part provides that an elective local official cannot serve for more than three consecutive terms. The clear intent is that only consecutive terms count in determining the three-term limit rule. The second part states that voluntary renunciation of office for any length of time does not interrupt the continuity of service. The clear intent is that involuntary severance from office for any length of time interrupts continuity of service and prevents the service before and after the interruption from being joined together to form a continuous service or consecutive terms.

After three consecutive terms, an elective local official cannot seek immediate reelection for a fourth term. The prohibited election refers to the next regular election for the same office following the end of the third consecutive term. 

In Lonzanida v. Commission on Elections (G.R. No. 135150, July 28, 1999), the Court stated that the second part of the rule on the three-term limit shows the clear intent of the framers of the Constitution to bar any attempt to circumvent the three-term limit by a voluntary renunciation of office and at the same time respect the people’s choice and grant their elected official full service of a term. The Court held that two conditions for the application of the disqualification must concur: (1) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same government post; and (2) that he has fully served three consecutive terms.

In this case, it is undisputed that Bolos was elected as Punong Barangay for three consecutive terms, satisfying the first condition for disqualification.

What is to be determined is whether Bolos is deemed to have voluntarily renounced his position as Punong Barangay during his third term when he ran for and won as Sangguniang Bayan member and assumed said office.

B.       There was voluntary renunciation by Bolos of his position as Punong Barangay.

When Bolos filed his COC for the Office of Sangguniang Bayan of Dauis in the May 10, 2004 elections, he was not deemed resigned. Nonetheless, all the acts attending his pursuit of his election as municipal councilor point out to an intent and readiness to give up his post as Punong Barangay once elected to the higher elective office, for it was very unlikely that he had filed his Certificate of Candidacy for the Sangguniang Bayan post, campaigned and exhorted the municipal electorate to vote for him as such and then after being elected and proclaimed, return to his former position. He knew that his election as municipal councilor would entail abandonment of the position he held, and he intended to forego of it. Abandonment, like resignation, is voluntary.

Indeed, Bolos was serving his third term as Punong Barangay when he ran for Sangguniang Bayan member and, upon winning, assumed the position of Sangguniang Bayan member, thus, voluntarily relinquishing his office as Punong Barangay which the Court deems as a voluntary renunciation of said office.

C. Bolos is not correct when he argued that when he assumed the position of Sangguniang Bayan member, he left his post as Punong Barangay by “operation of law”; hence, he did not fully serve his third term as Punong Barangay.

The term “operation of law” is defined by the Philippine Legal Encyclopedia as “a term describing the fact that rights may be acquired or lost by the effect of a legal rule without any act of the person affected.” Black’s Law Dictionary also defines it as a term that “expresses the manner in which rights, and sometimes liabilities, devolve upon a person by the mere application to the particular transaction of the established rules of law, without the act or cooperation of the party himself.”

An interruption in the service of a term of office, by operation of law, is exemplified in Montebon v. Commission on Elections (2008).  In this case, Sesinando F. Potencioso, Jr., was elected and served three consecutive terms as Municipal Councilor of Tuburan, Cebu in 1998-2001, 2001-2004, and 2004-2007. However, during his second term, he succeeded as Vice-Mayor of Tuburan due to the retirement of the Vice-Mayor pursuant to Section 44 of R.A. No. 7160.  Potencioso’s assumption of office as Vice-Mayor was considered an involuntary severance from his office as Municipal Councilor, resulting in an interruption in his second term of service. The Court held that it could not be deemed to have been by reason of voluntary renunciation because it was by operation of law. Hence, Potencioso was qualified to run as candidate for municipal councilor of the Municipality of Tuburan, Cebu in the May 14, 2007 Synchronized National and Local Elections.

In this case, Bolos did not fill in or succeed to a vacancy by operation of law. He instead relinquished his office as Punong Barangay during his third term when he won and assumed office as Sangguniang Bayan member of Dauis, Bohol, which is deemed a voluntary renunciation of the Office of Punong Barangay.

Related Case BrieFs:
a) Socrates v. Commission on Elections (2002)
b) Montebon v. Commission on Elections (2008)

———————————————-

THINGS DECIDED:

A. After three consecutive terms, an elective local official cannot seek immediate reelection for a fourth term. The prohibited election refers to the next regular election for the same office following the end of the third consecutive term

B. For the application of the three-term limit, two conditions must concur: (1) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same government post; and (2) that he has fully served three consecutive terms.

C. An incumbent Punong Barangay is deemed to have voluntarily renounced his position when he ran for and won as Sangguniang Bayan member and assumed said office.


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