Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dumlao v COMELEC G.R. No. L-52245. January 22, 1980

Preliminary Injunction and/or Restraining Order
J. Melencio-Herrera

 Petitioner Dumlao is a former Governor of Nueva Vizcaya, who has filed his certificate of candidacy for said position of Governor in the forthcoming elections of January 30, 1980.

He specifically questions the constitutionality of section 4 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 52 as discriminatory and contrary to the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Constitution.

S4 -Any retired elective provincial, city of municipal official who has received payment of the retirement benefits to which he is entitled under the law and who shall have been 65 years of age at the commencement of the term of office to which he seeks to be elecOted, shall not be qualified to run for the same elective local office from which he has retired.

He claimed that the aforecited provision was directed insidiously against him, and that the classification provided therein is based on "purely arbitrary grounds and, therefore, class legislation.

His colleague Igot, assailed the same law for the prohibition for candidcay of a person who was convicted of a crime given that there was judgment for conviction and the prima facie nature of the filing of charges for the commission of such crimes.

He also questioned the accreditation of some political parties by respondent COMELEC, as authorized by Batas Pambansa Blg. 53, on the ground that it is contrary to section 9(1), Art. XII(C) of the Constitution, which provides that a "bona fide candidate for any public office shall be free from any form of harassment and discrimination." Apart form this, hey also attacked the term of office and the election period. These were Sec 7 of BP 51, Sec 4; Sec 6, and Sec 1 of BP 52.

1. Did petitioners have standing
2. Are the statutory provisions violative of the Constitution?

1. No
2. Dumlao's petition dismissed. Igot's petition partially granted.
Petition granted

1. Dumalo sued as a candidate while Igot sued as a taxpayer. In order to determine judicial review, three requisites are present:
a. actual case and controversy
b. proper party
c. existence of a constitutional question

a. Dumlao has not yet been affected by the statute. No petition has yet been filed for his disqualification. It was only a hypothetical question.
b. Did they sustain direct injury as a result of the enforcement? No one has yet been adversely affected by the operation of the statutes.
c. They are actually without cause of action. It follows that the necessity for resolving the issue of constitutionality is absent, and procedural regularity would require that his suit be dismissed.

However, they relaxed the procedural standard due to the public interest involved and the imminent elections.

2. Section 4 of BP Blg. 52 is not contrary to equal protection. The constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws is subject to rational classification.

If the groupings are based on reasonable and real differentiations, one class can be treated and regulated differently from another class. For purposes of public service, employees 65 years of age, have been validly classified differently from younger employees. Employees attaining that age are subject to compulsory retirement, while those of younger ages are not so compulsorily retirable.

The requirement to retire government employees at 65 may or may not be a reasonable classification. Young blood can be encouraged to come in to politics.

But, in the case of a 65-year old elective local official who has already retired, there is reason to disqualify him from running for the same office, as provided for in the challenged provision. The need for new blood assumes relevance.

The tiredness of the retiree for government work is present, and what is emphatically significant is that the retired employee has already declared himself tired an unavailable for the same government work, but, which, by virtue of a change of mind, he would like to assume again.

It is for the very reason that inequality will neither result from the application of the challenged provision. Just as that provision does not deny equal protection, neither does it permit such denial.

In fine, it bears reiteration that the equal protection clause does not forbid all legal classification. What is proscribes is a classification which is arbitrary and unreasonable. hat constitutional guarantee is not violated by a reasonable classification is germane to the purpose of the law and applies to all those belonging to the same class.

The purpose of the law is to allow the emergence of younger blood in local governments. The classification in question being pursuant to that purpose, it cannot be considered invalid "even if at times, it may be susceptible to the objection that it is marred by theoretical inconsistencies.

Regarding Igot's petition, the court held that explicit is the constitutional provision that, in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel. An accusation, according to the fundamental law, is not synonymous with guilt. The challenged proviso contravenes the constitutional presumption of innocence, as a candidate is disqualified from running from public office on the ground alone that charges have been filed against him before a civil or military tribunal. It condemns before one is fully heard. In ultimate effect, except as to the degree of proof, no distinction is made between a person convicted of acts of disloyalty and one against whom charges have been filed for such acts, as both of them would be ineligible to run for public office.

A person disqualified to run for public office on the ground that charges have been filed against him is virtually placed in the same category as a person already convicted of a crime with the penalty of arresto, which carries with it the accessory penalty of suspension of the right to hold office during the term of the sentence.

And although the filing of charges is considered as but prima facie evidence, and therefore, may be rebutted, yet, there is "clear and present danger" that because the proximity of the elections, time constraints will prevent one charged with acts of disloyalty from offering contrary proof to overcome the prima facie evidence against him.

A legislative/administrative determination of guilt should not be allowed to be substituted for a judicial determination. Igot's petition was meritorious.

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