High Court kicks out Lanao del Norte mayor

June 11, 2013 9:34 pm

THE Supreme Court unseated a Lanao del Norte municipal mayor who won in the May 2010 polls after it was found that he is not qualified from running for any elective local position as he had dual citizenship during the filing of his certificate of candidacy (COC).

In a full court ruling, the High Court granted the petition for certiorari (Rule 64 in relation to Rule 65) filed by candidate Casan Macode Maquiling who assailed the resolution of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc dated February 2, 2011.
The Court annulled and set aside the Comelec decision.

“Respondent Rommel Arnado is disqualified from running for any elective local position . . . Maquiling is declared the duly elected Mayor of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte on the 10 May 2010 elections,” the ruling said.

On April 28, 2010, Linog Balua, another mayoralty candidate, filed a petition to disqualify Arnado and/or to cancel the latter’s COC, contending that Arnado is not a resident of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte and that he is a foreigner, attaching as ostensible proof a certification issued by the Bureau of Immigration dated April 23, 2010 indicating the nationality of Arnado as “USA-American.”

To further support this claim, Balua presented a computer-generated travel record dated December 3, 2009 indicating that Arnado had been using his US passport in entering and departing the Philippines.

The record showed that Arnado left the country on April 14, 2009 and returned on June 25, 2009 and again departed on July 29, 2009 arriving back in the country on November 24, 2009.

Balua also presented a certification from the Bureau of Immigration dated April 23, 2010 certifying that a person named “Arnado, Rommel Cagoco” appeared in the database listing as of April 21, 2010 as an American citizen.

Arnado garnered the highest number of votes and was proclaimed winning candidate for Mayor of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

It was only after his proclamation that Arnado filed his answer, attaching, among other documents, his Affidavit of Renunciation and Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines dated April 3, 2009.

The Comelec First Division considered Balua’s petition as one for disqualification, instead of an action for cancellation of COC based on misrepresentation.

Balua’s contention that Arnado was a resident of the US was dismissed upon a finding that “Balua failed to present any evidence to support his contention” whereas the First Division still could “not conclude that Arnado failed to meet the one-year residency requirement under the Local Government Code.”

The poll body annulled Arnado’s proclamation as mayor and declared that the order of succession under Section 44 of the Local Government Code of 1991 would then take effect.

Arnado sought reconsideration of the resolution claiming insufficiency of the evidence to justify the Resolution and contending that the resolution is contrary to law.

The Comelec en banc allowed Maquiling’s intervention, agreed with the First Division’s treatment of Balua’s petition as one for disqualification. It, however, reversed and set aside the ruling of the First Division and granted Arnado’s motion for reconsideration, which prompted Maquiling to seek redress with the high court.

In its decision, the Court en banc ruled that by the time Arnado filed his COC on November 30, 2009, Arnado was a dual citizen.

He was qualified to vote but, the Court said, by the express disqualification under section 40(d) of the LGC, was not qualified to run for a local elective position.

“The disqualifying circumstance surrounding Arnado’s candidacy involves his citizenship.

It does not involve the commission of election offenses as provided for in the first sentence of Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, the effect of which is to disqualify the individual from continuing as a candidate, or if he has already been elected, from holding the office,” the Court ruling said.

Arnado was effectively solely and exclusively Filipino only for a period of eleven days, from April 3, 2009 until April 14, 2009, when he first used his American passport after renouncing his American citizenship, the Court said.

Thus, it added that, Arnado, by using his US passport after renouncing his US citizenship, has recanted the same Oath of Renunciation he took.

Section 40(d) of the LGC disqualifies him not only from holding the public office but even from becoming a candidate in the first place, it further said.