Who Are Disqualified To Run For Public Office | COC Void
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Introduction

Election of public officers, whether national or local, is always a historic event in the history of every country. During this time, people exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights of suffrage. People elect the candidate(s) that they believe to be fit and qualified to lead and represent them, locally, nationally, and internationally. Now, who are disqualified to run for public office?

The Philippines is a democratic country where the voice of the people is superior. Meaning, as a general rule, anyone, of majority age, regardless of social status, religion (if registered voter), is eligible to cast their vote in the election process.

The candidate who garnered the most number of votes shall be proclaimed as winner. However, there are instances when the winner is disqualified for being noncompliant with the qualifications required for the position.

The issue on the disqualification of a candidate is not new in the Philippine election. In the recently concluded 2022 election, disqualification is has been one of the most talked about issue in the Presidential race. In this article, we will tackle the grounds as well as the effects of disqualification of candidates running for public position and for President and Vice-President.

Grounds for disqualification

The qualifications of President and Vice-President are enshrined in Section 2 and 3, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, to wit:

President

SECTION 2. No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election.[1]Section 2, 1987 Philippine Constitution

Vice-President

SECTION 3. There shall be a Vice-President who shall have the same qualifications and term of office and be elected with and in the same manner as the President.[2]Id.

The same provision is included in the Omnibus Election Code.

Standard Qualifications

Thus, a candidate may be disqualified:

  • for not being a citizen of the Philippines;
  • for being an immigrant of or a permanent resident of a foreign country;
  • for not meeting the age requirement;
  • for being a non-resident;
  • for not being a registered voter;
  • for not being able to read and write;

Further, Section 12 and Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code provides for additional circumstances wherein a candidate may be disqualified, to wit:

Disqualifications

Section 12. Disqualifications. -Any person who has been declared by competent authority insane or incompetent, or has been sentenced by final judgment for subversion, insurrection, rebellion or for any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than eighteen months or for a crime involving moral turpitude, shall be disqualified to be a candidate and to hold any office, unless he has been given plenary pardon or granted amnesty.[3]Section 12, BP 881 or the Omnibus Election Code

Section 68. Disqualifications. – Any candidate who, in an action or protest in which he is a party is declared by final decision of a competent court guilty of, or found by the Commission of having:[4]Section 68, BP 881 or the Omnibus Election Code

      • given money or other material consideration to influence, induce or corrupt the voters or public officials performing electoral functions;[5]Id.
      • committed acts of terrorism to enhance his candidacy;[6]Id.
      • spent in his election campaign an amount in excess of that allowed by this Code;[7]Id.
      • solicited, received or made any contribution prohibited under Sections 89, 95,96, 97 and 104; or[8]Id.
      • violated any of Sections 80, 83, 85, 86 and 261, paragraphs d, e, k, v, and cc, subparagraph 6, shall be disqualified from continuing as a candidate, or if he has been elected, from holding the office.[9]Id.

Any person who is a permanent resident of or an immigrant to a foreign country shall not be qualified to run for any elective office under this Code, unless said person has waived his status as permanent resident or immigrant of a foreign country in accordance with the residence requirement provided for in the election laws.[10]Id.

In the recently concluded 2022 election in the Philippines, the now proclaimed President Marcos, Jr., once faced several disqualification cases premised on the allegation that he is convicted with final judgement of non-filing of income tax return, which according to the several complainants is a crime involving moral turpitude.

In the case of Zari vs. Flores,[11]A.M. No. (2170-MC) P-1356, November 21, 1979 the Supreme Court provided its own list of crimes involving moral turpitude that reads:

“Moral turpitude has been defined as including any act done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty or good morals.[12]Ibid.

“Some of the particular crimes which have been held to involve moral turpitude are: adultery, concubinage, rape, arson, evasion of income tax, barratry, bigamy, blackmail, bribery,  criminal conspiracy to smuggle opium, dueling, embezzlement, extortion, forgery, libel, making fraudulent proof of loss on insurance contract, murder, mutilation of public records, fabrication of evidence, offenses against pension laws, perjury, seduction under promise of marriage, estafa, falsification of public document, estafa thru falsification of public document.”[13]Ibid.

It can be observed that non-filing of income tax return is not among the crimes enumerated in the above case, therefore, it can be inferred that it is not a crime involving moral turpitude. Remember that the above list is not exclusive. Anything that is contrary to moral, honesty and justice is moral turpitude.

The disqualification case against Marcos grounded on non-filing of income tax return. The Comelec en banc dismissed the Petition. The High Court has affirmed the dismissal.

Effects of disqualification

There are several scenarios possible depending on what stage in the election is the disqualification of a candidate becomes final. Below are the possible effects of disqualification and cancellation of Certificate of Candidacy.

Disqualification before the Election Day but after the printing of ballots

When the name of a candidate is already on the ballot but is disqualified before the May election, he shall be substituted by another candidate with the same surname. This is pursuant to Comelec Resolution No. 10717,[14]Comelec Resolution No. 10717 which provides:

“If the death or disqualification should occur between the day before the election and mid-day of Election Day, the substitute may file a COC with any of the Electoral Board, Election Officer, Provincial Election Supervisor or Regional Election Director, as the case maybe, in the political subdivision where the person is a candidate, or in the case of a candidate for President, Vice President and Senator, with the Law Department; Provided that, the substitute and substituted candidate have the same surnames.”[15]Section 40[par.6], Id.

So, if one was disqualified to run for President or for any other public office, technically, he may be replaced by his wife or his sister as long as they have the same surnames.

Disqualification after proclamation

In the event the disqualification of a candidate running for President becomes final after he was proclaimed, the winning Vice-President shall succeed the position and act as the President, not the second placer in the Presidential race because the position of a second placer is not given preference under the principle that the electorate is supreme.

The choice of the electorate effectively rejects the second placer. The elections are valid. The President elect won the race but was just disqualified. Thus, in the case of President Marcos Jr. if he will be disqualified with finality, the Vice-President elect Sarah Duterte shall act as President, not Leni Robredo as the second placer.

In Jalosjos vs. Comelec,[16]G.R. No. 193237, October 9, 2012 the eligibility of Jalosjos to run for the Mayor position was questioned on the ground that he is convicted with finality of a crime which attaches a penalty of perpetual special disqualification.

However, while not touching upon ultimate decision of the Majority, which is binding and the jurisprudence on the matter, it is best to point out the reason for the above proposition, where disqualification and ineligibility have been determine and not a void Certificate of Candidacy (COC), through the Dissenting of opinion of Justice Brion. Thus:

Unfortunately for Cardino, the position of a second placer is not given preference, both in law and in jurisprudence with respect to the consequences of election disputes (except with well-defined exceptional circumstances discussed above), after election has taken place.[17]Dissenting, J. Brion, G.R. No. 193237, October 9, 2012

This approach and its consequential results are premised on the general principle that the electorate is supreme; it registers its choice during the election and, after voting, effectively rejects the candidate who comes in as the second placer. Under the rule that a disqualified candidate can still stand as a candidate unless his disqualification has been ruled upon with finality before the elections, Jalosjos validly stood as a candidate in the elections of May 2010 and won, although he was subsequently disqualified. With his disqualification while already sitting as Mayor, the winning vice-mayor, not Cardino as a mere defeated second placer, should rightfully be seated as mayor under Section 44 of LGC 1991 on the law on succession.[18]Dissenting, J. Brion, G.R. No. 193237, October 9, 2012

Disqualification after election but before proclamation

This is rare especially in the national election. Nonetheless, just in case a candidate is declared disqualified by the Supreme Court after the election but before his proclamation, the candidate who garnered the second highest number of votes may have to be proclaimed as the winning candidate for the public position. The proclamation may be the crucial factor.

Effects of Certificate of Candidacy ab initio

Where the Certificate of Candidacy of a winning candidate is declared void ab initio, the votes cast for him shall be considered stray votes and the second placer shall be declared as the duly elected of public position. The cancellation of Certificate of Candidacy has the effect as if he was never a candidate from the beginning. Thus, if there are two candidates running for the Mayor position and the Certificate of Candidacy of one of them is declared void ab initio, then there shall only be one qualified candidate and the votes casted only to the qualified candidate is valid.

In Ara Tea vs. Comelec,[19]G.R. No. 195229, October 9, 2012 Lonzanida and Ara Tea were candidates for Mayor and Vice-Mayor Position, garnered the most number of votes and were respectively proclaimed as Mayor and Vice Mayor of San Antonio, Zambales.

However, the Certificate of Candidacy of Lonzanida was declared void ab initio, thus, Ara Tea took his oath of office as Acting Mayor. Thereafter, Antipolo claimed her right to be proclaimed as Mayor of San Antonio, being the second placer in the Mayoral race, because Lonzanida ceased to be a candidate since his Certificate of Candidacy is void.

The Supreme Court ruled:

“Lonzanida’s certificate of candidacy was cancelled because he was ineligible or not qualified to run for Mayor. Whether his certificate of candidacy is cancelled before or after the elections is immaterial because the cancellation on such ground means he was never a candidate from the very beginning, his certificate of candidacy being void ab initio. There was only one qualified candidate for Mayor in the May 2010 elections – Antipolo, who therefore received the highest number of votes.”[20]Ibid.

Who may file a petition for disqualification?

Pursuant to Section 2, Rule 25 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure, as amended by Comelec Resolution No. 9523,[21]Comelec Resolution No. 9523 any registered voter or any duly registered political party, organization or coalition of political parties may file a verified Petition to disqualify a candidate.[22]Id.

Final Thoughts

The election of highest officials is always a rigorous process for only the qualified should lead and represent the people. It is a very long and exhaustive process to scrutinize every candidates aiming for the highest position in the country.

Nevertheless, during the election process, a petition for disqualification or cancellation of candidacy is sometimes, if not always, used to bar a candidate from running. We understand the reason behind the petition for disqualification and cancellation but is hope that this should not be used for political black propaganda. The election is not a business. It is the most important and crucial event in the history of the country.

Others may not be happy with the result of the election. They may always invalidate the results of the election and judge the elected officials even if the latter have not yet taken their oath of office. Since we are in a democratic country public officials are always subject to scrutiny.

Our Constitution recognizes the freedom of expression guaranteed both to majority and the minority. However, we do hope that whoever will be selected by the majority of the sovereign people, they should be respected. Their voice of the people is cardinal, prime, supreme and sovereign, thus, must be honored.

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RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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