Post-Election Cancellation of Certificate of Candidacy
Time and again, it happens that the eligibility of a person to be elected to a public office is decided after the elections have been held. It is true even in cases where the cancellation of the Certificate of Candidacy (COC) is sought on the grounds of ineligibility already existing at the time of filing.
In such a case, the subject person may be still be voted for by the electorate. What happens if the person garners the highest number of votes, but is eventually declared as ineligible? Will the office be assumed by the candidate who gets the second highest number of votes?
This question was passed upon by the Supreme Court in the case of Diambrang vs. COMELEC.
H. SOHRIA PASAGI DIAMBRANG, Petitioner – versus – COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and H. HAMIM SARIP PATAD, Respondents
G.R. No. 201809
October 11, 2016
Facts in Brief
Petitioner H. Sohria Pasagi Diambrang (Diambrang) and Respondent H. Hamim Sarip Patad (Patad) were candidates for Punong Barangay. Patad got the highest votes. Diambrang got the second highest number of votes.
The Barangay Board of Canvassers, however, proclaimed Diambrang as the duly elected Punong Barangay on the assumption that Patad was disqualified for being a fugitive from justice. The assumption was based on the recommendation of the Provincial Election Supervisor that was not yet final and executory.
Patad filed a Petition to annul the proclamation of Diambrang.
During the pendency of the case the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) En Banc granted the Petition to Disqualify and/or Deny Due Course to the Certificate of Candidacy of Patad on the ground that he is a fugitive from justice and thus disqualified from running for public office.
The COMELEC En Banc Ruling
The COMELEC En Banc ruled that despite Patad’s disqualification, Diambrang was not entitled to be declared elected considering that Diambrang lost the elections, having garnered only the second highest number of votes. The vacant position of Punong Barangay should instead be filled by the first ranked Kagawad in accordance with Section 44 (b) of the Local Government Code.
The Supreme Court Ruling
The Supreme Court reiterated its prevailing ruling enunciated in previous cases.
The person whose Certificate of Candidacy is cancelled due to grounds existing at the time of filing is not considered a candidate at any time. It is immaterial whether the cancellation is made prior or subsequent to the elections. The votes for him or her are stray votes and should not be considered in determining the winner. If the person whose COC has been cancelled gets the highest number of votes, the one among the qualified candidates who garners the overall second highest number of votes, or highest among qualified and eligible candidates, shall be adjudged the first placer and be proclaimed as duly elected to the contested position.
When the Certificate of Candidacy (COC) is void from the very beginning, it cannot give rise to a valid candidacy regardless of whether the COC is annulled before or after the elections. The person who filed such COC was never a candidate, a non-candidate from the very beginning.
Considering that Patad’s Certificate of Candidacy (COC) was cancelled on the ground of ineligibility which existed at the time of filing of the COC, Patad was never a candidate at any point in time.
Diambrang, having garnered the next highest votes, was the first placer among the qualified candidates. Therefore, Diambrang should be proclaimed as the duly elected Punong Barangay.
The Ruling may be summarized as follows:
- A person whose Certificate of Candidacy is cancelled on grounds of ineligibility existing at the time of filing is never a candidate at any time, regardless of whether the cancellation took place before or after the elections;
- All votes pertaining to him or her are stray votes;
- In determining the winner, only the votes garnered by the qualified candidates shall be considered;
- The one who garners the highest number of votes among the qualified and eligible candidates shall be proclaimed the winner, even if the person whose COC has been cancelled gets a highest number of votes.
Sound as it may seem, in many cases, this legal principle may not translate into actual benefits on the part of the second placer and the constituents concerned considering that the term of office may have already expired before the case is finally settled by the Supreme Court.