Political Law

Cicero Punsalan vs Estelito Mendoza

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G.R. No. L-69576 – 140 SCRA 153 – Political Law – The Legislative Department – Separation of Powers – Singularity of Office/Position

Cicero Punsalan and Estelito Mendoza were the vice governor and the governor of Pampanga, respectively. Both belong to KBL (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan). On 17 May 1984, Mendoza tendered his resignation as the governor but the same should only be “effective at the President’s pleasure.” On 30 June 1984, Mendoza was appointed as the Minister of Justice by the president. On 14 July 1984, he was concurrently appointed as a member of the Batasan Pambansa. On 16 July 1984, he filed a request to the Minister of Local Government (MLG) to consider him as the governor-on-leave of Pampanga while the President was considering his resignation. The request was subsequently approved by the MLG. Mendoza advised Punsalan to take the governorship temporarily while his resignation is being considered.  Punsalan subsequently took his oath of office not as the acting governor but as the governor and thereafter assumed office. About 6 months later however, Mendoza resigned from his Batasan membership and upon the result of the KBL’s caucus, he returned to Pampanga to assume his governorship. Punsalan denounced Mendoza’s return claiming that he has already vacated his office by virtue of his resignation which was impliedly approved by the President. Punsalan also pointed out that when Mendoza was a member of the Batasan, he was barred from holding governorship because there is an inhibition against Batasan Members from holding two elective positions; this is a constitutional provision which cannot be compromised. Further, Punsalan claimed that Mendoza had forfeited his right and title to the office when he accepted his appointment as Minister of Justice and that of “appointive” Batasan Member because of the incompatibility” of the positions with the Governor’s office.

ISSUE: Whether or not Mendoza can still return to his governorship.

HELD: Section 10, Article 8 of the 1973 Constitution provides:

“A Member of the Batasang Pambansa shall not hold any other office or employment in the Government, or any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, during his tenure except that of Prime Minister, Member of the Cabinet or Deputy Minister. Neither shall he, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office which may have been created or emoluments thereof increased while he was a Member of the Batasang Pambansa.”

Punsalan anchored his contention upon the above provision but he failed to ascertain that the Constitution made a distinction. The Constitution itself divided the Batasan membership into three categories: The elective provincial/city/district representative; the sectoral representatives who are either “elected or selected as may be provided by law”; and those “chosen” from Members of the Cabinet. SC said that the prohibition in question does not extend to the third group of members, those chosen from the Cabinet. The prohibitions, undoubtedly, deal with “a Member” who enters the Batasan primarily as a legislator voted into office by the electorate of his constituency, the “elected” provincial or city or district representative with a “fixed term” (6 years) of office i.e an elected governor who, while in office, was elected as a member of the Batasan cannot concurrently hold those two elective positions. Mendoza was elected as the governor but was not elected as a member of the Batasan; he was appointed. Punsalan’s contention that Mendoza’s resignation was impliedly approved by the president is not tenable. The president in fact needed more time to consider the validity of the resignation and upon the KBL’s recommendation, he instead chose to approve Mendoza’s return to his governorship.

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