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LINGATING V COMELEC

G.R. No. 153475


November 13, 2002
BACKGROUND:
Cesar Sulong (Respondent)
1988 Jan-18
Elected Mayor of Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur (1st term)
1992 May-11 Re-elected Mayor of Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur (2nd term)
1995 May-8
Re-elected Mayor of Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur (3rd term)
2001 May-16 Elected Mayor of Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur
Cesar Sulong, 4,382 votes vs Miguel Lingating, 3,611 votes (Petitioner)
Administrative Complaint No. 12-91
During the first term of Mayor Sulong, an administrative complaint was filed against him and several other
individuals for Dishonesty, Falsification of Public Documents, Malversation of Public Funds and violation
of RA No. 3019. On February 4 1992, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Zamboanga del Sur found him
guilty of the charges and ordered his removal from office. Mayor Sulong filed a motion for reconsideration
and/or notice of appeal shortly thereafter. The Sanggunian ordered the complainant in AC No 12-91 to
comment. Pending appeal, then Vice-Mayor Vicente Imbing took his oath and assumed the office of
Mayor of Lapuyan on March 3, 1992 pursuant to Section 68 of the Local Gov't Code which allows for the
execution pending appeal of administrative decisions. From February 1992 - August 2001, no comment
was ever filed by the complainant in AC No 12-91 nor has the Sanggunian resolved Sulong's MR/Appeal.
May 2001 Elections
Candidates for position of Mayor of Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur: Miguel Lingating (petitioner) and Cesar
Sulong (respondent)
FACTS OF THE CASE:
On May 3, 2001 Lingating filed with a petition for disqualification of Cesar Sulong on the ground that
petitioner is disqualified from running for any elective local position having been removed from office
during his first term (1988-1991) as a result of an administrative case (AC No 12-91) pursuant to Section
40(b) of the Local Government Code. Respondent Sulong denied that the decision in AC No 12-91 had
ever become final and executory since up to the filing of the disqualification case, no comment has been
filed nor has the appeal been resolved. After the parties had filed their memoranda, the case was
submitted for resolution. The COMELEC however, was unable to render judgment before the elections of
May 14, 2001, where Cesar Sulong was elected and proclaimed Mayor of Lapuyan.
COMELEC First Division (Disqualified)
In a resolution dated August 1, 2001, the COMELEC declared respondent Cesar B. Sulong disqualified
adhering to section 40(b) of the Local Government Code. Respondent Sulong filed an MR arguing that
the decision in AC No. 12-91 has not become final and executory; that at no time had he been removed
by virtue of the said decision, and that the issue was moot and academic having been "overtaken by the
local elections of May 11, 1992." Petitioner Lingating filed an opposition to the MR contending that the fact
that Sulong was succeeded by Vice Mayor Imbing was proof that AC No. 12-91 had indeed become final.
Petitioner also prayed that he be installed as Mayor of Lapuyuan in view of Sulong's disqualification. The
COMELEC First Division denied petitioners motion on the ground that the disqualification of an elected
candidate does not entitle the candidate who obtained the second highest number of votes to occupy the
office vacated. Petitioner then filed a motion for reconsideration of this order.
COMELEC en banc (Not disqualified)
The COMELEC en banc reversed the decision of the first division, citing Aguinaldo v COMELEC that reelection renders an administrative case moot and academic. It also ruled that respondent Sulong was not
entitled to occupy the office thus vacated.
Petitioner contends that the COMELEC en banc erred in applying the ruling in Aguinaldo v. COMELEC.
Instead, Lingating argues that the applicable case is Reyes v. COMELEC where the court held that an

elective local executive officer, who is removed before the expiration of the term for which he was elected,
is disqualified from being a candidate for a local elective position under Section 40(b) of the Local
Government Code. Hence, this petition.
ISSUE:
WON respondent Sulong is disqualified to run for local election
HELD: Sulong is qualified.
Aguinaldo and Reyes Cases inapplicable.
In Aguinaldo v COMELEC, the court held that removal cannot extend beyond the term during which the
alleged misconduct was committed. If a public official is not removed before his term of office expires, he
can no longer be removed if he is thereafter re-elected for another term. However, Aguinaldo is not
applicable as at the time the case was decided, there was no provision similar to 40(b) of the LGC and
hence, cannot be given retroactive effect. Neither is Reyes v COMELEC applicable as AC No. 12-91
remains to this day, not final.
Administrative case not final.
The filing of an MR by Sulong prevented the decision of Sangguniang Panlalawigan from becoming final.
There is thus no decision finding respondent guilty to speak of. The court also agreed with the
Sangguniang Panlalawigan and considered the matter moot and academic having been overtaken by the
local elections of May 1992. Neither can the succession of then vice-mayor of Lapuyan to the office of
mayor be considered proof that the decision in AC No. 12-91 had become final because it appears to
have been made pursuant to Section 6816 of the LGC, which makes decisions in administrative cases
immediately executory.