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Digest: Lacuna v. Abes (24 SCRA 780, 1968)

Digest: Lacuna v. Abes (24 SCRA 780, 1968)

Facts: Appeal from a dismissal, after trial, of a petition for quo warranto (Civil Case No. 306 of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Branch V, Gapan) challenging the eligibility of the herein respondent-appellee, Benjamin Abes, to the position of mayor of PeƱaranda, Nueva Ecija, to which he was duly proclaimed elected in the elections of 14 November 1967.

Mayor-elect Abes (appellee herein) had been convicted of the crime of counterfeiting treasury warrants and sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of six (6) years and one (1) day to eight (8) years, eight (8) months, and (1) day of prision mayor, and to pay a fine of five thousand pesos (P5,000.00). After he had partially served his sentence, he was released from confinement on 7 April 1959 by virtue of a conditional pardon granted by the President of the Philippines, remitting only the unexpired portion of the prison term and fine.

With the approach of the 1967 elections, Abes applied for registration as a voter under the new system of registration, but the Election Registration Board of the municipality of PeƱaranda denied his application. The denial notwithstanding, he filed his certificate of candidacy for the office of mayor, and, in the ensuing elections in November, he came out the winner over three other aspirants.

Issue: Whether or not he is eligible to run as mayor and be declared as winner.

Ruling: it must be remembered that appellee's conviction of a crime penalized with prision mayor carried the accessory penalties of temporary absolute disqualification and perpetual special disqualification from the right of suffrage (Article 42, Revised Penal Code); and Section 99 of the Revised Election Code disqualifies a person from voting if he had been sentenced by final judgment to suffer one year or more of imprisonment.

The accessory penalty of temporary absolute disqualification disqualifies the convict for public office and for the right to vote, such disqualification to last only during the term of the sentence (Article 27, paragraph 3, & Article 30, Revised Penal Code) that, in the case of Abes, would have expired on 13 October 1961.

But this does not hold true with respect to the other accessory penalty of perpetual special disqualification for the exercise of the right of suffrage. This accessory penalty deprives the convict of the right to vote or to be elected to or hold public office perpetually, as distinguished from temporary special disqualification, which lasts during the term of the sentence. Article 32, Revised Penal Code, provides:

Art. 32. Effects of the penalties of perpetual or temporary special disqualification for the exercise of the right of suffrage. — The perpetual or temporary special disqualification for the exercise of the right of suffrage shall deprive the offender perpetually or during the term of the sentence, according to the nature of said penalty, of the right to vote in any popular election for any public office or to be elected to such office. Moreover, the offender shall not be permitted to hold any public office during the period of disqualification.

The word "perpetually" and the phrase "during the term of the sentence" should be applied distributively to their respective antecedents; thus, the word "perpetually" refers to the perpetual kind of special disqualification, while the phrase "during the term of the sentence" refers to the temporary special disqualification. The duration between the perpetual and the temporary (both special) are necessarily different because the provision, instead of merging their durations into one period, states that such duration is "according to the nature of said penalty" — which means according to whether the penalty is the perpetual or the temporary special disqualification.

Since, under the criminal code, the second accessory penalty of perpetual special disqualification for to exercise of the right of suffrage, deemed imposed on appellee Abes, did not expire on 13 October 1961, or thereafter, he was, at the time of the election on 14 November 1967, not qualified to vote or be voted for, or to hold public office, if the effect of his subsequent absolute pardon is not to be considered. He is thus thrown back upon his second defense.

Thus, the decisive issue in the case becomes whether or not a plenary pardon, granted after election but before the date fixed by law for assuming office, had the effect of removing the disqualifications prescribed by both the criminal and electoral codes.

On this point, appellant Lacuna urges that the presidential prerogative of mercy is prospective in operation and, when granted to Abes on 7 December 1967, did not retroact to the time of the election; that Abes political and civil rights were lost through his conviction and were restored, not at the time of the erection, but only upon the grant of the plenary pardon; that, not being a qualified voter at the time of the election, Abes was not eligible to the office in question.

we conclude that the pardon granted to appellee Abes has removed his disqualification, and his election and assumption of office must be sustained.

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