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Digest: Frivaldo v. Commission on Elections (174 SCRA 245, 1989)

Qualifications Usually Required of Public Officers
Digest: Frivaldo v. Commission on Elections (174 SCRA 245, 1989)
G.R. No. 87193 June 23, 1989

Facts: Petitioner Juan G. Frivaldo was proclaimed governor-elect of the province of Sorsogon on January 22, 1988, and assumed office in due time. On October 27, 1988. the League of Municipalities, Sorsogon Chapter (hereafter, League), represented by its President, Salvador Estuye, who was also suing in his personal capacity, filed with the Commission on Elections a petition for the annulment of Frivaldo

In his answer dated May 22, 1988, Frivaldo admitted that he was naturalized in the United States as alleged but pleaded the special and affirmative defenses that he had sought American citizenship only to protect himself against President Marcos

Frivaldo moved for a preliminary hearing on his affirmative defenses but the respondent Commission on Elections decided instead by its Order of January 20, 1988, to set the case for hearing on the merits. His motion for reconsideration was denied in another Order dated February 21, 1988. He then came to this Court in a petition for certiorari and prohibition to ask that the said orders be set aside on the ground that they had been rendered with grave abuse of discretion. Pending resolution of the petition, we issued a temporary order against the hearing on the merits scheduled by the COMELEC and at the same time required comments from the respondents.

Issue: The basic question we must resolve is whether or not Juan G. Frivaldo was a citizen of the Philippines at the time of his election on January 18, 1988, as provincial governor of Sorsogon. All the other issues raised in this petition are merely secondary to this basic question.

Ruling: The herein private respondents are seeking to prevent Frivaldo from continuing to discharge his office of governor because he is disqualified from doing so as a foreigner. Qualifications for public office are continuing requirements and must be possessed not only at the time of appointment or election or assumption of office but during the officer's entire tenure. Once any of the required qualifications is lost, his title may be seasonably challenged. If, say, a female legislator were to marry a foreigner during her term and by her act or omission acquires his nationality, would she have a right to remain in office simply because the challenge to her title may no longer be made within ten days from her proclamation? It has been established, and not even denied, that the evidence of Frivaldo's naturalization was discovered only eight months after his proclamation and his title was challenged shortly thereafter.

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