Arroyo appointees deemed resigned if they run—SC

By DateLine Philippines

Appointive officials running in the coming May 10 elections are now deemed “ipso facto” resigned.

The Supreme Court made this declaration in a 44-page en banc decision penned by Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

The decision reversed the December 1, 2009 ruling penned by Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura.

It also gave merit to the motion for reconsideration filed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and intervenors, Senator Manuel Roxas, former Senator Franklin Drilon, and congressional candidate Tom Apacible.

Voting 10-5, the Court affirmed the constitutionality of the 2nd provision in the 3rd paragraph of Sec. 13, RA 9369 (Poll Automation Law); Sec. 66 of the Omnibus Election Code; and Sec. 4 (a) of COMELEC Resolution No. 8678, barring appointive officials from staying in their posts.

The Court insisted that the issue of whether the deemed-resigned provisions violate the equal protection clause under the Constitution had already been resolved in Farinas vs. Executive Secretary.

In the said case, the Court held that there is a significant distinction between appointive and elected officials, thus, the latter cannot be deemed ipso facto resigned from their offices upon their filing of certificates of candidacy.

Court administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez explained that in the case of elective officials, there is an expectation from the people that they will stay in their office until the end of their term as they were elected for a particular period.

On the other hand, in the case of appointive officials, Marquez said the Court gives credence to the fear of the electorate that the position might be used to further their candidacy.

“In the case at bar, the probable harm to society in permitting incumbent appointive officials to remain in office, even as they actively pursue elective posts, far outweighs the less likely evil of having arguably protected candidacies blocked by the possible inhibitory effect of a potentially overly broad statute,” the Court declared.

Concurring with the Chief Justice are Associate Justices Carpio Morales, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama, Jr., Jose Perez and Jose Mendoza.

The new ruling branded as baseless Nachura’s December 1 ponencia which held that the right to run for public office is linked with the fundamental freedoms of expression and association.

The SC added that allowing appointive officials to stay in their posts even upon filing of their CoCs, would give them undue advantage against their opponents in the May elections.

“The case at bar is a crass attempt to resurrect a dead issue. The Fariñas ruling on the equal protection challenge stands on solid ground even if reexamined,” the Court noted.

The majority noted that Nachura’s dissenting opinion that elected officials have greater political clout over the electorate, “is indeed a matter worth exploring” not by the Court but by the legislature which has the constitutional duty to make the deemed-resigned provisions applicable to elected officials.

“This Court cannot and should not arrogate unto itself the power to ascertain and impose on the people the best state of affairs from a public policy standpoint,” the SC said.

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