Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Marquez vs. COMELEC

Facts: It is averred that at the time respondent Rodriguez filed his certificate of candidacy, a criminal charge against him for ten counts of insurance fraud or grand theft of personal property was still pending before the Municipal Court of Los Angeles, USA. A warrant issued by said court for his arrest, it is claimed, has yet to be served on private respondent on account of his alleged “flight” from that country. Before the May 1992 elections, a petition for cancellation of respondent’s certificate of candidacy on the ground of the candidate’s disqualification under section 40 of the Local Government Code [Section 40. Disqualification. The following persons are disqualified from running for any local elective position... (e) Fugitive from justice in criminal or non-political cases here or abroad.] was filed by petitioner, but COMELEC dismissed the petition. Private respondent was proclaimed Governor-elect of Quezon. Petitioner instituted quo warranto proceedings against private respondent before the COMELEC but the latter dismissed the petition. 

Issue: Whether private respondent, who at the time of the filing of his certificate of candidacy is said to be facing a criminal charge before a foreign court and evading a warrant of arrest comes within the term “fugitive from justice.” 

Held: The Supreme Court ruled that Article 73 of the Rules and Regulations implementing the Local Government Code of 1991 provides:

Article 73. Disqualifications – The following persons shall be disqualified from running for any elective local position: 

“xxxx(e) Fugitives from justice in criminal or non-political cases here or abroad. Fugitive from justice refers to a person who has been convicted by final judgment.” 

It is clear from this provision that fugitives from justice refer only to persons who has been convicted by final judgment. However, COMELEC did not make any definite finding on whether or not private respondent is a fugitive from justice when it outrightly denied the petition for quo warranto. The Court opted to remand the case to COMELEC to resolve and proceed with the case. 

The Oversight Committee evidently entertained serious apprehensions on the possible constitutional infirmity of Section 40(e) of RA 7160 if the disqualification therein meant were to be so taken as to embrace those who merely were facing criminal charges. A similar concern was expressed by Senator R. A. V. Saguisag who, during the bicameral conference committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives, made this reservation: “de ipa-refine lang natin 'yung language especially 'yung, the scope of fugitive. Medyo bothered ako doon, a.” 

The Oversight Committee finally came out with Article 73 of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991. It provided:

Art. 73. Disqualifications. The following persons shall be disqualified from running for any elective local position: (e) Fugitives from justice in criminal or non-political cases here or abroad. Fugitive from justice refers to a person who has been convicted by final judgment. It includes those who after being charged flee to avoid prosecution. The COMELEC is directed to proceed and settle the case in conformity of the given clarification with the term “fugitive from justice”. 


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