Juan G. Frivaldo vs. Commission on Elections.
G.R. Nos. 120295 and 123755, June 28, 1996
Raul R. Lee, a candidate for the position of Governor of Sorsogon, filed a petition with the Comelec for disqualification of Frivaldo by reason of not yet being a citizen of the Philippines. COMELEC declares Frivaldo disqualified. The Motion for Reconsideration filed by Frivaldo remained unacted upon until after the May 8, 1995 elections. So, his candidacy continued and he was voted for during the elections held on said date. On May 11, 1995, the Comelec en banc affirmed the aforementioned Resolution of the Second Division.
Frivaldo won the election but Comelec en banc directed the Board of Canvassers to declare candidate Raul Lee as the winning gubernatorial candidate.
Frivaldo alleged that he had successfully acquired citizenship by repatriation under P.D. No. 725; that he took his oath of allegiance on June 30, 1995.
Lee argues that Frivaldo’s repatriation is tainted with serious defects – asserting that Frivaldo’s application therefor was “filed on June 29, 1995 x x x (and) was approved in just one day or on June 30, 1995 x x x,” which “prevented a judicious review and evaluation of the merits thereof.”
Frivaldo counters that he filed his application for repatriation with the Office of the President in Malacañang Palace on August 17, 1994. However, the Special Committee was reactivated only on June 8, 1995.
(1) Whether repatriation is valid?
(2) Assuming the assailed repatriation to be valid, it could only be effective as at 2:00 p.m. of June 30, 1995 whereas the citizenship qualification prescribed by the Local Government Code “must exist on the date of his election, if not when the certificate of candidacy is filed.
(1) YES. The presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty and the presumption of legality in the repatriation of Frivaldo have not been successfully rebutted by Lee. The mere fact that the proceedings were speeded up is by itself not a ground to conclude that such proceedings were necessarily tainted. Unlike in naturalization where an alien covets a first-time entry into Philippine political life, in repatriation the applicant is a former natural-born Filipino who is merely seeking to reacquire his previous citizenship.
(2) The law does not specify any particular date or time when the candidate must possess citizenship, unlike that for residence. Frivaldo re-assumed his citizenship on June 30, 1995—the very day the term of office of governor (and other elective officials) began—he was therefore already qualified to be proclaimed, to hold such.
If the law intended the citizenship qualification to be possessed prior to election consistent with the requirement of being a registered voter, then it would not have made citizenship a SEPARATE qualification. The liberal interpretation that should give spirit, life and meaning to our law on qualifications consistent with the purpose for which such law was enacted – If the law intended the citizenship qualification to be possessed prior to election consistent with the requirement of being a registered voter, then it would not have made citizenship a SEPARATE qualification.
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