ELEAZAR P. QUINTO and
GERINO A. TOLENTINO, JR.,
- versus -
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
G.R. No. 189698
VILLARAMA, JR., JJ.
December 1, 2009
“In our predisposition to discover the ‘original intent’ of a statute, courts become the unfeeling pillars of the status quo. Little do we realize that statutes or even constitutions are bundles of compromises thrown our way by their framers. Unless we exercise vigilance, the statute may already be out of tune and irrelevant to our day.” It is in this light that we should address the instant case.
Before the Court is a petition for prohibition and certiorari, with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction, assailing Section 4(a) of Resolution No. 8678 of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). In view of pressing contemporary events, the petition begs for immediate resolution.
This controversy actually stems from the law authorizing the COMELEC to use an automated election system (AES).
On December 22, 1997, Congress enacted Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8436, entitled “AN ACT AUTHORIZING THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS TO USE AN AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM IN THE MAY 11, 1998 NATIONAL OR LOCAL ELECTIONS AND IN SUBSEQUENT NATIONAL AND LOCAL ELECTORAL EXERCISES, PROVIDING FUNDS THEREFOR AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.” Section 11 thereof reads:
SEC. 11. Official Ballot.—The Commission shall prescribe the size and form of the official ballot which shall contain the titles of the positions to be filled and/or the propositions to be voted upon in an initiative, referendum or plebiscite. Under each position, the names of candidates shall be arranged alphabetically by surname and uniformly printed using the same type size. A fixed space where the chairman of the Board of Election inspectors shall affix his/her signature to authenticate the official ballot shall be provided.
Both sides of the ballots may be used when necessary.
For this purpose, the deadline for the filing of certificate of candidacy/petition for registration/manifestation to participate in the election shall not be later than one hundred twenty (120) days before the elections: Provided, That, any elective official, whether national or local, running for any office other than the one which he/she is holding in a permanent capacity, except for president and vice president, shall be deemed resigned only upon the start of the campaign period corresponding to the position for which he/she is running: Provided, further, That, unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall take effect upon the start of the aforesaid campaign period: Provided, finally, That, for purposes of the May 11, 1998 elections, the deadline for filing of the certificate of candidacy for the positions of President, Vice President, Senators and candidates under the Party-List System as well as petitions for registration and/or manifestation to participate in the Party-List System shall be on February 9, 1998 while the deadline for the filing of certificate of candidacy for other positions shall be on March 27, 1998.
The official ballots shall be printed by the National Printing Office and/or the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas at the price comparable with that of private printers under proper security measures which the Commission shall adopt. The Commission may contract the services of private printers upon certification by the National Printing Office/Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that it cannot meet the printing requirements. Accredited political parties and deputized citizens' arms of the Commission may assign watchers in the printing, storage and distribution of official ballots.
To prevent the use of fake ballots, the Commission through the Committee shall ensure that the serial number on the ballot stub shall be printed in magnetic ink that shall be easily detectable by inexpensive hardware and shall be impossible to reproduce on a photocopying machine and that identification marks, magnetic strips, bar codes and other technical and security markings, are provided on the ballot.
The official ballots shall be printed and distributed to each city/municipality at the rate of one (1) ballot for every registered voter with a provision of additional four (4) ballots per precinct.
Almost a decade thereafter, Congress amended the law on January 23, 2007 by enacting R.A. No. 9369, entitled “AN ACT AMENDING REPUBLIC ACT NO. 8436, ENTITLED ‘AN ACT AUTHORIZING THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS TO USE AN AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM IN THE MAY 11, 1998 NATIONAL OR LOCAL ELECTIONS AND IN SUBSEQUENT NATIONAL AND LOCAL ELECTORAL EXERCISES, TO ENCOURAGE TRANSPARENCY, CREDIBILITY, FAIRNESS AND ACCURACY OF ELECTIONS, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE BATAS PAMPANSA BLG. 881, AS AMEMDED, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7166 AND OTHER RELATED ELECTION LAWS, PROVIDING FUNDS THEREFOR AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.’” Section 13 of the amendatory law modified Section 11 of R.A. No. 8436, thus:
SEC. 13. Section 11 of Republic Act No. 8436 is hereby amended to read as follows:
“Section 15. Official Ballot.—The Commission shall prescribe the format of the electronic display and/or the size and form of the official ballot, which shall contain the titles of the position to be filled and/or the propositions to be voted upon in an initiative, referendum or plebiscite. Where practicable, electronic displays must be constructed to present the names of all candidates for the same position in the same page or screen, otherwise, the electronic displays must be constructed to present the entire ballot to the voter, in a series of sequential pages, and to ensure that the voter sees all of the ballot options on all pages before completing his or her vote and to allow the voter to review and change all ballot choices prior to completing and casting his or her ballot. Under each position to be filled, the names of candidates shall be arranged alphabetically by surname and uniformly indicated using the same type size. The maiden or married name shall be listed in the official ballot, as preferred by the female candidate. Under each proposition to be vote upon, the choices should be uniformly indicated using the same font and size.
“A fixed space where the chairman of the board of election inspectors shall affix his/her signature to authenticate the official ballot shall be provided.
“For this purpose, the Commission shall set the deadline for the filing of certificate of candidacy/petition of registration/manifestation to participate in the election. Any person who files his certificate of candidacy within this period shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy: Provided, That, unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the aforesaid campaign period: Provided, finally, That any person holding a public appointive office or position, including active members of the armed forces, and officers and employees in government-owned or -controlled corporations, shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his/her office and must vacate the same at the start of the day of the filing of his/her certificate of candidacy.
“Political parties may hold political conventions to nominate their official candidates within thirty (30) days before the start of the period for filing a certificate of candidacy.
“With respect to a paper-based election system, the official ballots shall be printed by the National Printing Office and/or the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas at the price comparable with that of private printers under proper security measures which the Commission shall adopt. The Commission may contract the services of private printers upon certification by the National Printing Office/Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that it cannot meet the printing requirements. Accredited political parties and deputized citizens’ arms of the Commission shall assign watchers in the printing, storage and distribution of official ballots.
“To prevent the use of fake ballots, the Commission through the Committee shall ensure that the necessary safeguards, such as, but not limited to, bar codes, holograms, color shifting ink, microprinting, are provided on the ballot.
“The official ballots shall be printed and distributed to each city/municipality at the rate of one ballot for every registered voter with a provision of additional three ballots per precinct.”
Pursuant to its constitutional mandate to enforce and administer election laws, COMELEC issued Resolution No. 8678, the Guidelines on the Filing of Certificates of Candidacy (CoC) and Nomination of Official Candidates of Registered Political Parties in Connection with the May 10, 2010 National and Local Elections. Sections 4 and 5 of Resolution No. 8678 provide:
SEC. 4. Effects of Filing Certificates of Candidacy.—a) Any person holding a public appointive office or position including active members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and other officers and employees in government-owned or controlled corporations, shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his office upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy.
b) Any person holding an elective office or position shall not be considered resigned upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy for the same or any other elective office or position.
SEC. 5. Period for filing Certificate of Candidacy.—The certificate of candidacy shall be filed on regular days, from November 20 to 30, 2009, during office hours, except on the last day, which shall be until midnight.
Alarmed that they will be deemed ipso facto resigned from their offices the moment they file their CoCs, petitioners Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr., who hold appointive positions in the government and who intend to run in the coming elections, filed the instant petition for prohibition and certiorari, seeking the declaration of the afore-quoted Section 4(a) of Resolution No. 8678 as null and void.
The Petitioners’ Contention
Petitioners contend that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion when it issued the assailed Resolution. They aver that the advance filing of CoCs for the 2010 elections is intended merely for the purpose of early printing of the official ballots in order to cope with time limitations. Such advance filing does not automatically make the person who filed the CoC a candidate at the moment of filing. In fact, the law considers him a candidate only at the start of the campaign period. Petitioners then assert that this being so, they should not be deemed ipso facto resigned from their government offices when they file their CoCs, because at such time they are not yet treated by law as candidates. They should be considered resigned from their respective offices only at the start of the campaign period when they are, by law, already considered as candidates.
Petitioners also contend that Section 13 of R.A. No. 9369, the basis of the assailed COMELEC resolution, contains two conflicting provisions. These must be harmonized or reconciled to give effect to both and to arrive at a declaration that they are not ipso facto resigned from their positions upon the filing of their CoCs.
Petitioners further posit that the provision considering them as ipso facto resigned from office upon the filing of their CoCs is discriminatory and violates the equal protection clause in the Constitution.
The Respondent’s Arguments
On the procedural aspect of the petition, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing respondent COMELEC, argues that petitioners have no legal standing to institute the suit. Petitioners have not yet filed their CoCs, hence, they are not yet affected by the assailed provision in the COMELEC resolution. The OSG further claims that the petition is premature or unripe for judicial determination. Petitioners have admitted that they are merely planning to file their CoCs for the coming 2010 elections. Their interest in the present controversy is thus merely speculative and contingent upon the filing of the same. The OSG likewise contends that petitioners availed of the wrong remedy. They are questioning an issuance of the COMELEC made in the exercise of the latter’s rule-making power. Certiorari under Rule 65 is then an improper remedy.
On the substantive aspect, the OSG maintains that the COMELEC did not gravely abuse its discretion in phrasing Section 4(a) of Resolution No. 8678 for it merely copied what is in the law. The OSG, however, agrees with petitioners that there is a conflict in Section 13 of R.A. No. 9369 that should be resolved. According to the OSG, there seems to be no basis to consider appointive officials as ipso facto resigned and to require them to vacate their positions on the same day that they file their CoCs, because they are not yet considered as candidates at that time. Further, this “deemed resigned” provision existed in Batas Pambansa Bilang (B.P. Blg.) 881, and no longer finds a place in our present election laws with the innovations brought about by the automated system.
At first glance, the petition suffers from an incipient procedural defect. What petitioners assail in their petition is a resolution issued by the COMELEC in the exercise of its quasi-legislative power. Certiorari under Rule 65, in relation to Rule 64, cannot be availed of, because it is a remedy to question decisions, resolutions and issuances made in the exercise of a judicial or quasi-judicial function. Prohibition is also an inappropriate remedy, because what petitioners actually seek from the Court is a determination of the proper construction of a statute and a declaration of their rights thereunder. Obviously, their petition is one for declaratory relief, over which this Court does not exercise original jurisdiction.
However, petitioners raise a challenge on the constitutionality of the questioned provisions of both the COMELEC resolution and the law. Given this scenario, the Court may step in and resolve the instant petition.
The transcendental nature and paramount importance of the issues raised and the compelling state interest involved in their early resolution—the period for the filing of CoCs for the 2010 elections has already started and hundreds of civil servants intending to run for elective offices are to lose their employment, thereby causing imminent and irreparable damage to their means of livelihood and, at the same time, crippling the government’s manpower—further dictate that the Court must, for propriety, if only from a sense of obligation, entertain the petition so as to expedite the adjudication of all, especially the constitutional, issues.
In any event, the Court has ample authority to set aside errors of practice or technicalities of procedure and resolve the merits of a case. Repeatedly stressed in our prior decisions is the principle that the Rules were promulgated to provide guidelines for the orderly administration of justice, not to shackle the hand that dispenses it. Otherwise, the courts would be consigned to being mere slaves to technical rules, deprived of their judicial discretion.
To put things in their proper perspective, it is imperative that we trace the brief history of the assailed provision. Section 4(a) of COMELEC Resolution No. 8678 is a reproduction of the second proviso in the third paragraph of Section 13 of R.A. No. 9369, which for ready reference is quoted as follows:
For this purpose, the Commission shall set the deadline for the filing of certificate of candidacy/petition for registration/manifestation to participate in the election. Any person who files his certificate of candidacy within this period shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period for which he filed his certificate of candidacy: Provided, That, unlawful acts or omissions applicable to a candidate shall take effect only upon the start of the aforesaid campaign period: Provided, finally, That any person holding a public appointive office or position, including active members of the armed forces, and officers and employees in government-owned or -controlled corporations, shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his/her office and must vacate the same at the start of the day of the filing of his/her certificate of candidacy.
Notably, this proviso is not present
in Section 11 of R.A. No. 8436, the law amended by R.A. No. 9369. The proviso was
lifted from Section 66 of B.P. Blg.
881 or the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) of the
66. Candidates holding appointive office
or position.—Any person holding a public appointive office or position, including
active members of the Armed Forces of the
It may be recalled—in inverse chronology—that earlier, Presidential Decree No. 1296, or the 1978 Election Code, contained a similar provision, thus—
29. Candidates holding appointive office
or position. — Every person holding a public appointive office or position,
including active members of the Armed Forces of the
Much earlier, R.A. No. 6388, or the Election Code of 1971, likewise stated in its Section 23 the following:
SECTION 23. Candidates Holding Appointive Office or Position. — Every person holding a public appointive office or position, including active members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and every officer or employee in government-owned or controlled corporations, shall ipso facto cease in his office or position on the date he files his certificate of candidacy: Provided, That the filing of a certificate of candidacy shall not affect whatever civil, criminal or administrative liabilities which he may have incurred.
Going further back in history, R.A. No. 180, or the Revised Election Code approved on June 21, 1947, also provided that—
SECTION 26. Automatic cessation of appointive officers and employees who are candidates. — Every person holding a public appointive office or position shall ipso facto cease in his office or position on the date he files his certificate of candidacy.
During the Commonwealth era, Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 725, entitled “AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE NEXT ELECTION FOR PRESIDENT AND VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES, SENATORS AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, AND APPROPRIATING THE NECESSARY FUNDS THEREFOR,” approved on January 5, 1946, contained, in the last paragraph of its Section 2, the following:
A person occupying any civil office by appointment in the government or any of its political subdivisions or agencies or government-owned or controlled corporations, whether such office by appointive or elective, shall be considered to have resigned from such office from the moment of the filing of such certificate of candidacy.
Significantly, however, C.A. No. 666, entitled “AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE FIRST ELECTION FOR PRESIDENT AND VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES, SENATORS, AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, UNDER THE CONSTITUTION AND THE AMENDMENTS THEREOF,” enacted without executive approval on June 22, 1941, the precursor of C.A. No. 725, only provided for automatic resignation of elective, but not appointive, officials.
Nevertheless, C.A. No. 357, or the Election Code approved on August 22, 1938, had, in its Section 22, the same verbatim provision as Section 26 of R.A. No. 180.
The earliest recorded Philippine law on the subject is Act No. 1582, or the Election Law enacted by the Philippine Commission in 1907, the last paragraph of Section 29 of which reads:
Sec. 29. Penalties upon officers.— x x x.
No public officer shall offer himself as a candidate for election, nor shall he be eligible during the time that he holds said public office to election, at any municipal, provincial or Assembly election, except for reelection to the position which he may be holding, and no judge of the Court of First Instance, justice of the peace, provincial fiscal, or officer or employee of the Bureau of Constabulary or of the Bureau of Education shall aid any candidate or influence in any manner or take any part in any municipal, provincial, or Assembly election under penalty of being deprived of his office and being disqualified to hold any public office whatever for a term of five years: Provided, however, That the foregoing provisions shall not be construed to deprive any person otherwise qualified of the right to vote at any election.
From this brief historical excursion, it may be gleaned that the second proviso in the third paragraph of Section 13 of R.A. No. 9369—that any person holding a public appointive office or position, including active members of the armed forces, and officers, and employees in government-owned or controlled corporations, shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his/her office and must vacate the same at the start of the day of the filing of his/her certificate of candidacy—traces its roots to the period of the American occupation.
In fact, during the deliberations of Senate Bill No. 2231, the bill later to be consolidated with House Bill No. 5352 and enacted as R.A. No. 9369, Senator Richard Gordon, the principal author of the bill, acknowledged that the said proviso in the proposed legislative measure is an old provision which was merely copied from earlier existing legislation, thus—
Senator Osmeña. May I just opine here and perhaps obtain the opinion of the good Sponsor. This reads like, “ANY PERSON HOLDING [means currently] A PUBLIC APPOINTIVE POSITION… SHALL BE CONSIDERED IPSO FACTO RESIGNED” [which means that the prohibition extends only to appointive officials] “INCLUDING ACTIVE MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES, OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES”… This is a prohibition, Mr. President. This means if one is chairman of SSS or PDIC, he is deemed ipso facto resigned when he files his certificate of candidacy. Is that the intention?
Senator Gordon. This is really an old provision, Mr. President.
Senator Osmeña. It is in bold letters, so I think it was a Committee amendment.
Senator Gordon. No, it has always been there.
Senator Osmeña. I see.
Senator Gordon. I guess the intention is not to give them undue advantage, especially certain people.
Senator Osmeña. All right.
In that Senate deliberation, however, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago expressed her concern over the inclusion of the said provision in the new law, given that the same would be disadvantageous and unfair to potential candidates holding appointive positions, while it grants a consequent preferential treatment to elective officials, thus—
Senator Santiago. On page 15, line 31, I know that this is a losing cause, so I make this point more as a matter of record than of any feasible hope that it can possibly be either accepted or if we come to a division of the House, it will be upheld by the majority.
I am referring to page 15, line 21. The proviso begins: “PROVIDED FINALLY, THAT ANY PERSON HOLDING A PUBLIC APPOINTIVE OFFICE…SHALL BE CONSIDERED IPSO FACTO RESIGNED FROM HIS/HER OFFICE.”
The point that I made during the appropriate debate in the past in this Hall is that there is, for me, no valid reason for exempting elective officials from this inhibition or disqualification imposed by the law. If we are going to consider appointive officers of the government, including AFP members and officers of government-owned and controlled corporations, or any other member of the appointive sector of the civil service, why should it not apply to the elective sector for, after all, even senators and congressmen are members of the civil service as well?
Further, it is self-serving for the Senate, or for the Congress in general, to give an exception to itself which is not available to other similarly situated officials of government. Of course, the answer is, the reason why we are special is that we are elected. Since we are imposing a disqualification on all other government officials except ourselves, I think, it is the better part of delicadeza to inhibit ourselves as well, so that if we want to stay as senators, we wait until our term expires. But if we want to run for some other elective office during our term, then we have to be considered resigned just like everybody else. That is my proposed amendment. But if it is unacceptable to the distinguished Sponsor, because of sensitivity to the convictions of the rest of our colleagues, I will understand.
Senator Gordon. Mr. President, I think the suggestion is well-thought of. It is a good policy. However, this is something that is already in the old law which was upheld by the Supreme court in a recent case that the rider was not upheld and that it was valid.
The obvious inequality brought about by the provision on automatic resignation of appointive civil servants must have been the reason why Senator Recto proposed the inclusion of the following during the period of amendments: “ANY PERSON WHO FILES HIS CERTIFICATE OF CANDIDACY WITHIN THIS PERIOD SHALL ONLY BE CONSIDERED AS A CANDIDATE AT THE START OF THE CAMPAIGN PERIOD FOR WHICH HE FILED HIS COC.” The said proviso seems to mitigate the situation of disadvantage afflicting appointive officials by considering persons who filed their CoCs as candidates only at the start of the campaign period, thereby, conveying the tacit intent that persons holding appointive positions will only be considered as resigned at the start of the campaign period when they are already treated by law as candidates.
Parenthetically, it may be remembered that Section 67 of the OEC and Section 11 of R.A. No. 8436 contained a similar provision on automatic resignation of elective officials upon the filing of their CoCs for any office other than that which they hold in a permanent capacity or for President or Vice-President. However, with the enactment of R.A. No. 9006, or the Fair Election Act, in 2001, this provision was repealed by Section 14 of the said act. There was, thus, created a situation of obvious discrimination against appointive officials who were deemed ipso facto resigned from their offices upon the filing of their CoCs, while elective officials were not.
This situation was incidentally addressed by the Court in Fariñas v. The Executive Secretary when it ruled that—
Section 14 of Rep. Act No. 9006
Is Not Violative of the Equal
Protection Clause of the Constitution
The petitioners’ contention, that the repeal of Section 67 of the Omnibus Election Code pertaining to elective officials gives undue benefit to such officials as against the appointive ones and violates the equal protection clause of the constitution, is tenuous.
The equal protection of the law clause in the Constitution is not absolute, but is subject to reasonable classification. If the groupings are characterized by substantial distinctions that make real differences, one class may be treated and regulated differently from the other. The Court has explained the nature of the equal protection guarantee in this manner:
The equal protection of the law clause is against undue favor and individual or class privilege, as well as hostile discrimination or the oppression of inequality. It is not intended to prohibit legislation which is limited either in the object to which it is directed or by territory within which it is to operate. It does not demand absolute equality among residents; it merely requires that all persons shall be treated alike, under like circumstances and conditions both as to privileges conferred and liabilities enforced. The equal protection clause is not infringed by legislation which applies only to those persons falling within a specified class, if it applies alike to all persons within such class, and reasonable grounds exist for making a distinction between those who fall within such class and those who do not.
Substantial distinctions clearly exist between elective officials and appointive officials. The former occupy their office by virtue of the mandate of the electorate. They are elected to an office for a definite term and may be removed therefrom only upon stringent conditions. On the other hand, appointive officials hold their office by virtue of their designation thereto by an appointing authority. Some appointive officials hold their office in a permanent capacity and are entitled to security of tenure while others serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority.
Another substantial distinction between the two sets of officials is that under Section 55, Chapter 8, Title I, Subsection A. Civil Service Commission, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 (Executive Order No. 292), appointive officials, as officers and employees in the civil service, are strictly prohibited from engaging in any partisan political activity or take part in any election except to vote. Under the same provision, elective officials, or officers or employees holding political offices, are obviously expressly allowed to take part in political and electoral activities.
By repealing Section 67 but retaining Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code, the legislators deemed it proper to treat these two classes of officials differently with respect to the effect on their tenure in the office of the filing of the certificates of candidacy for any position other than those occupied by them. Again, it is not within the power of the Court to pass upon or look into the wisdom of this classification.
Since the classification justifying Section 14 of Rep. Act No. 9006, i.e., elected officials vis-a-vis appointive officials, is anchored upon material and significant distinctions and all the persons belonging under the same classification are similarly treated, the equal protection clause of the Constitution is, thus, not infringed.
However, it must be remembered that the Court, in Fariñas, was intently focused on the main issue of whether the repealing clause in the Fair Election Act was a constitutionally proscribed rider, in that it unwittingly failed to ascertain with stricter scrutiny the impact of the retention of the provision on automatic resignation of persons holding appointive positions (Section 66) in the OEC, vis-à-vis the equal protection clause. Moreover, the Court’s vision in Fariñas was shrouded by the fact that petitioners therein, Fariñas et al., never posed a direct challenge to the constitutionality of Section 66 of the OEC. Fariñas et al. rather merely questioned, on constitutional grounds, the repealing clause, or Section 14 of the Fair Election Act. The Court’s afore-quoted declaration in Fariñas may then very well be considered as an obiter dictum.
The instant case presents a rare opportunity for the Court, in view of the constitutional challenge advanced by petitioners, once and for all, to settle the issue of whether the second proviso in the third paragraph of Section 13 of R.A. No. 9369, a reproduction of Section 66 of the OEC, which, as shown above, was based on provisions dating back to the American occupation, is violative of the equal protection clause.
But before delving into the constitutional issue, we shall first address the issues on legal standing and on the existence of an actual controversy.
Central to the determination of locus standi is the question of whether a party has alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions. In this case, petitioners allege that they will be directly affected by COMELEC Resolution No. 8678 for they intend, and they all have the qualifications, to run in the 2010 elections. The OSG, for its part, contends that since petitioners have not yet filed their CoCs, they are not yet candidates; hence, they are not yet directly affected by the assailed provision in the COMELEC resolution.
The Court, nevertheless, finds that, while petitioners are not yet candidates, they have the standing to raise the constitutional challenge, simply because they are qualified voters. A restriction on candidacy, such as the challenged measure herein, affects the rights of voters to choose their public officials. The rights of voters and the rights of candidates do not lend themselves to neat separation; laws that affect candidates always have at least some theoretical, correlative effect on voters. The Court believes that both candidates and voters may challenge, on grounds of equal protection, the assailed measure because of its impact on voting rights.
In any event, in recent cases, this Court has relaxed the stringent direct injury test and has observed a liberal policy allowing ordinary citizens, members of Congress, and civil organizations to prosecute actions involving the constitutionality or validity of laws, regulations and rulings.
We have also stressed in our prior decisions that the exercise by this Court of judicial power is limited to the determination and resolution of actual cases and controversies. The Court, in this case, finds that an actual case or controversy exists between the petitioners and the COMELEC, the body charged with the enforcement and administration of all election laws. Petitioners have alleged in a precise manner that they would engage in the very acts that would trigger the enforcement of the provision—they would file their CoCs and run in the 2010 elections. Given that the assailed provision provides for ipso facto resignation upon the filing of the CoC, it cannot be said that it presents only a speculative or hypothetical obstacle to petitioners’ candidacy.
Having hurdled what the OSG posed as obstacles to judicial review, the Court now delves into the constitutional challenge.
It is noteworthy to point out that the right to run for public office touches on two fundamental freedoms, those of expression and of association. This premise is best explained in Mancuso v. Taft, viz.:
of expression guarantees to the individual the opportunity to write a letter to
the local newspaper, speak out in a public park, distribute handbills
advocating radical reform, or picket an official building to seek redress of
grievances. All of these activities are protected by the First Amendment if
done in a manner consistent with a narrowly defined concept of public order and
safety. The choice of means will likely depend on the amount of time and energy
the individual wishes to expend and on his perception as to the most effective
method of projecting his message to the public. But interest and commitment are
evolving phenomena. What is an effective means for protest at one point in time
may not seem so effective at a later date. The dilettante who participates in a
picket line may decide to devote additional time and resources to his
expressive activity. As his commitment increases, the means of effective
expression changes, but the expressive quality remains constant. He may decide
to lead the picket line, or to publish the newspaper. At one point in time he
may decide that the most effective way to give expression to his views and to
get the attention of an appropriate audience is to become a candidate for
public office-means generally considered among the most appropriate for those
desiring to effect change in our governmental systems. He may seek to become a
candidate by filing in a general election as an independent or
by seeking the nomination of a political party. And in the latter instance, the
individual's expressive activity has two dimensions: besides urging that his
views be the views of the elected public official, he is
also attempting to become a spokesman for a political party whose substantive
program extends beyond the particular office in question. But
is impossible to ignore the additional fact that the right to run for office also
affects the freedom to associate. In Williams v. Rhodes, supra, the
Court used strict review to invalidate an
Whether the right to run for office is looked at from the point of view of individual expression or associational effectiveness, wide opportunities exist for the individual who seeks public office. The fact of candidacy alone may open previously closed doors of the media. The candidate may be invited to discuss his views on radio talk shows; he may be able to secure equal time on television to elaborate his campaign program; the newspapers may cover his candidacy; he may be invited to debate before various groups that had theretofore never heard of him or his views. In short, the fact of candidacy opens up a variety of communicative possibilities that are not available to even the most diligent of picketers or the most loyal of party followers. A view today, that running for public office is not an interest protected by the First Amendment, seems to us an outlook stemming from an earlier era when public office was the preserve of the professional and the wealthy. Consequently we hold that candidacy is both a protected First Amendment right and a fundamental interest. Hence any legislative classification that significantly burdens that interest must be subjected to strict equal protection review.
Here, petitioners’ interest in running for public office, an interest protected by Sections 4 and 8 of Article III of the Constitution, is breached by the proviso in Section 13 of R.A. No. 9369. It is now the opportune time for the Court to strike down the said proviso for being violative of the equal protection clause and for being overbroad.
In considering persons holding appointive positions as ipso facto resigned from their posts upon the filing of their CoCs, but not considering as resigned all other civil servants, specifically the elective ones, the law unduly discriminates against the first class. The fact alone that there is substantial distinction between those who hold appointive positions and those occupying elective posts, does not justify such differential treatment.
In order that there can be valid classification so that a discriminatory governmental act may pass the constitutional norm of equal protection, it is necessary that the four (4) requisites of valid classification be complied with, namely:
(1) It must be based upon substantial distinctions;
(2) It must be germane to the purposes of the law;
(3) It must not be limited to existing conditions only; and
(4) It must apply equally to all members of the class.
The first requirement means that there must be real and substantial differences between the classes treated differently. As illustrated in the fairly recent Mirasol v. Department of Public Works and Highways, a real and substantial distinction exists between a motorcycle and other motor vehicles sufficient to justify its classification among those prohibited from plying the toll ways. Not all motorized vehicles are created equal—a two-wheeled vehicle is less stable and more easily overturned than a four-wheel vehicle.
Nevertheless, the classification would still be invalid if it does not comply with the second requirement—if it is not germane to the purpose of the law. Justice Isagani A. Cruz (Ret.), in his treatise on constitutional law, explains,
The classification, even if based on substantial distinctions, will still be invalid if it is not germane to the purpose of the law. To illustrate, the accepted difference in physical stamina between men and women will justify the prohibition of the latter from employment as miners or stevedores or in other heavy and strenuous work. On the basis of this same classification, however, the law cannot provide for a lower passing average for women in the bar examinations because physical strength is not the test for admission to the legal profession. Imported cars may be taxed at a higher rate than locally assembled automobiles for the protection of the national economy, but their difference in origin is no justification for treating them differently when it comes to punishing violations of traffic regulations. The source of the vehicle has no relation to the observance of these rules.
The third requirement means that the classification must be enforced not only for the present but as long as the problem sought to be corrected continues to exist. And, under the last requirement, the classification would be regarded as invalid if all the members of the class are not treated similarly, both as to rights conferred and obligations imposed.
Applying the four requisites to the instant case, the Court finds that the differential treatment of persons holding appointive offices as opposed to those holding elective ones is not germane to the purposes of the law.
The obvious reason for the challenged provision is to prevent the use of a governmental position to promote one’s candidacy, or even to wield a dangerous or coercive influence on the electorate. The measure is further aimed at promoting the efficiency, integrity, and discipline of the public service by eliminating the danger that the discharge of official duty would be motivated by political considerations rather than the welfare of the public. The restriction is also justified by the proposition that the entry of civil servants to the electoral arena, while still in office, could result in neglect or inefficiency in the performance of duty because they would be attending to their campaign rather than to their office work.
If we accept these as the underlying objectives of the law, then the assailed provision cannot be constitutionally rescued on the ground of valid classification. Glaringly absent is the requisite that the classification must be germane to the purposes of the law. Indeed, whether one holds an appointive office or an elective one, the evils sought to be prevented by the measure remain. For example, the Executive Secretary, or any Member of the Cabinet for that matter, could wield the same influence as the Vice-President who at the same time is appointed to a Cabinet post (in the recent past, elected Vice-Presidents were appointed to take charge of national housing, social welfare development, interior and local government, and foreign affairs). With the fact that they both head executive offices, there is no valid justification to treat them differently when both file their CoCs for the elections. Under the present state of our law, the Vice-President, in the example, running this time, let us say, for President, retains his position during the entire election period and can still use the resources of his office to support his campaign.
As to the danger of neglect, inefficiency or partisanship in the discharge of the functions of his appointive office, the inverse could be just as true and compelling. The public officer who files his certificate of candidacy would be driven by a greater impetus for excellent performance to show his fitness for the position aspired for.
Mancuso v. Taft,
cited above, explains that the measure on automatic resignation, which
restricts the rights of civil servants to run for office—a right inextricably
linked to their freedom of expression and association, is not reasonably
necessary to the satisfaction of the state interest. Thus, in striking down a
similar measure in the
proceeding to the second stage of active equal protection review, however, we
do see some contemporary relevance of the Mitchell decision. National
Ass'n of Letter Carriers, supra. In order for the
We do not, however, consider the
exclusionary measure taken by
There is thus no valid justification to treat appointive officials differently from the elective ones. The classification simply fails to meet the test that it should be germane to the purposes of the law. The measure encapsulated in the second proviso of the third paragraph of Section 13 of R.A. No. 9369 and in Section 66 of the OEC violates the equal protection clause.
The challenged provision also suffers from the infirmity of being overbroad.
First, the provision pertains to all civil servants holding appointive posts without distinction as to whether they occupy high positions in government or not. Certainly, a utility worker in the government will also be considered as ipso facto resigned once he files his CoC for the 2010 elections. This scenario is absurd for, indeed, it is unimaginable how he can use his position in the government to wield influence in the political world.
While it may be admitted that most appointive officials who seek public elective office are those who occupy relatively high positions in government, laws cannot be legislated for them alone, or with them alone in mind. For the right to seek public elective office is universal, open and unrestrained, subject only to the qualification standards prescribed in the Constitution and in the laws. These qualifications are, as we all know, general and basic so as to allow the widest participation of the citizenry and to give free rein for the pursuit of one’s highest aspirations to public office. Such is the essence of democracy.
Second, the provision is directed to the activity of seeking any and all public offices, whether they be partisan or nonpartisan in character, whether they be in the national, municipal or barangay level. Congress has not shown a compelling state interest to restrict the fundamental right involved on such a sweeping scale.
Specific evils require specific treatments, not through overly broad measures that unduly restrict guaranteed freedoms of the citizenry. After all, sovereignty resides in the people, and all governmental power emanates from them.
Mancuso v. Taft, on this point, instructs—
to approaches less restrictive than a prophylactic rule, there exists the
device of the leave of absence.
Some system of leaves of absence would permit the public employee to take time
off to pursue his candidacy while assuring him his old job should his candidacy
be unsuccessful. Moreover, a leave of absence policy would eliminate many of
the opportunities for engaging in the questionable practices that the statute
is designed to prevent. While campaigning, the candidate would feel no conflict
between his desire for election and his publicly entrusted discretion, nor any
conflict between his efforts to persuade the public and his access to
confidential documents. But instead of adopting a reasonable leave of absence
city might also promote its interest in the integrity of the civil service by
enforcing, through dismissal, discipline, or criminal prosecution, rules or
statutes that treat conflict of interests, bribery, or other forms of official
corruption. By thus attacking the problem directly, instead of using a broad
prophylactic rule, the city could pursue its objective without unduly burdening
the First Amendment rights of its employees and the voting rights of its
citizens. Last term in Dunn v. Blumstein, the Supreme Court faced an analogous
question when the State of
if some sort of prophylactic rule is necessary, we cannot say that
third and last area of excessive and overinclusive coverage of the
also do not find convincing the arguments that after-hours campaigning will
drain the energy of the public employee to the extent that he is incapable of
performing his job effectively and that inevitable on-the-job campaigning and
discussion of his candidacy will disrupt the work of others. Although it is
indisputable that the city has a compelling interest in the performance of
official work, the exclusion is not well-tailored to effectuate that interest. Presumably the city could fire the
individual if he clearly shirks his employment responsibilities or disrupts the
work of others. Also, the efficiency rationale common to both arguments is
significantly underinclusive. It applies equally well to a number of
non-political, extracurricular activities that are not prohibited by the
Incidentally, Clements v. Fashing sustained as constitutional a provision on the automatic resignation of District Clerks, County Clerks, County Judges, County Treasurers, Criminal District Attorneys, County Surveyors, Inspectors of Hides and Animals, County Commissioners, Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, Assessors and Collectors of Taxes, District Attorneys, County Attorneys, Public Weighers, and Constables if they announce their candidacy or if they become candidates in any general, special or primary election.
In Clements, it may be readily observed that a provision treating differently particular officials, as distinguished from all others, under a classification that is germane to the purposes of the law, merits the stamp of approval from American courts. Not, however, a general and sweeping provision, and more so one violative of the second requisite for a valid classification, which is on its face unconstitutional.
On a final note, it may not be amiss to state that the Americans, from whom we copied the provision in question, had already stricken down a similar measure for being unconstitutional. It is high-time that we, too, should follow suit and, thus, uphold fundamental liberties over age-old, but barren, restrictions to such freedoms.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is GRANTED. The second proviso in the third paragraph of Section 13 of Republic Act No. 9369, Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code and Section 4(a) of COMELEC Resolution No. 8678 are declared as UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
REYNATO S. PUNO
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
RENATO C. CORONA
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
ARTURO D. BRION
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
ROBERTO A. ABAD
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.
REYNATO S. PUNO
 Salvacion v. Central Bank of the
 Emphasis supplied.
 Emphasis supplied.
 Promulgated on October 6, 2009.
 Petitioner Eleazar P. Quinto is the Undersecretary for Field Operations of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). He intends to run for Representative in the 4th Congressional District of Pangasinan. Petitioner Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. is the OIC-Director of the Land Management Bureau of the DENR. He likewise desires to run for City Councilor in the 4th District of Manila. (Rollo, pp. 8-9.)
 Rollo, pp. 10-13.
 Comment of the OSG, pp. 11-26.
 The first paragraph of Sec. 1 of Rule 65 provides:
SECTION 1. Petition for certiorari.—When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require. (See Patalinghug v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 178767, January 30, 2008, 543 SCRA 175, 184-185.)
 The first paragraph of Sec. 1 of Rule 63 provides:
SECTION 1. Who may file petition.—Any person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, or whose rights are affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance, or any other governmental regulation may, before breach or violation thereof, bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising, and for a declaration of his rights or duties, thereunder. (See Almeda v. Bathala Marketing Industries, Inc., G.R. No. 150806, January 28, 2008, 542 SCRA 470, 478-479; John Hay Peoples Alternative Coalition v. Lim, G.R. No. 119775, October 24, 2003, 414 SCRA 356, 369.)
 Salvacion v. Central Bank of the Philippines, supra note 1, at 39.
 MCC Industrial Sales Corporation v. Ssangyong Corporation, G.R. No. 170633, October 17, 2007, 536 SCRA 408, 433.
 Emphasis supplied.
 Record of the Senate, Vol. III, Session No. 29, September 27, 2006, pp. 69-70.
 Record of the Senate, Vol. III, Session No. 12, August 16, 2006, pp. 71-72.
 Senate Records and Archives, 13th CP, 3rd Regular Session, Vol. III, August 1, 2006, p. 25.
 Entitled “AN ACT TO ENHANCE THE HOLDING OF FREE, ORDERLY, HONEST, PEACEFUL AND CREDIBLE ELECTIONS THROUGH FAIR ELECTION PRACTICES,” approved on February 12, 2001.
 Sec. 14 of R.A. No. 9006 provides:
SEC. 14 Repealing Clause.—Sections 67 and 85 of the Omnibus Election Code (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881) and Sections 10 and 11 of Republic Act No. 6646 are hereby repealed. As a consequence, the first proviso in the third paragraph of Section 11 of Republic Act No. 8436 is rendered ineffective. All laws, presidential decrees, executive orders, rules and regulations, or any part thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed or modified or amended accordingly.
 463 Phil. 179, 205-208 (2003).
 Citations omitted.
v. Carter, 405
 Mancuso v. Taft, 476 F.2d 187, 190 (1973).
 David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, G.R. Nos. 171396, 171409, 171485, 171483, 171400, 171489 and 171424, May 3, 2006, 489 SCRA 160, 218.
 Dumlao v. COMELEC, G.R. No. L-52245, January 22, 1980, 95 SCRA 392, 401. This case explains the standards that have to be followed in the exercise of the power of judicial review, namely: (1) the existence of an appropriate case; (2) an interest personal and substantial by the party raising the constitutional question; (3) the plea that the function be exercised at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the necessity that the constitutional question be passed upon in order to decide the case.
v. Fashing, 457
 Supra note 25, at 195-196.
 Citations omitted.
 G.R. No. 158793, June 8, 2006, 490 SCRA 318, 351-352.
 Cruz, Constitutional Law (1998 ed.), p. 131.
v. Civil Service Commission of the
 Supra note 25, at 198-199.
v. City and
 Supra note 25, at 199-201.
 Citations omitted.
 Supra note 28.