Political Law

Fortunato Pamil vs Victorino Teleron

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G.R. No. L-34854 – 86 SCRA 413 – Political Law – Basic Principles – Elements of a State – Government – Inviolability of the Separation of Church and State

Political Law – Election Law / Law on Public Officers – May a priest run for public office?

In 1971, Fr. Margarito Gonzaga, a priest, won the election for mayoralty in Alburquerque, Bohol. He was later proclaimed as mayor therein. Fortunato Pamil, a rival candidate filed a quo warranto case against Gonzaga questioning the eligibility of Gonzaga. He argued that as provided for in Section 2175 of the 1917 Revised Administrative Code:

…in no case shall there be elected or appointed to a municipal office ecclesiastics, soldiers in active service, persons receiving salaries or compensation from provincial or national funds, or contractors for public works of the municipality.

In this case, the elected mayor is a priest. However, Judge Victorino Teleron ruled that the Administrative Code is repealed by the Election Code of 1971 which now allows ecclesiastics to run.

ISSUE: Whether or not Section 2175 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 is no longer operative?

HELD: The Supreme Court decision was indecisive. Under the 1935 Constitution, “No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.” If the doctrine of constitutional supremacy is to be maintained, then Section 2175 shall not prevail, thus, an ecclesiastic may run for elective office. However, this issue proved to have divided the Supreme Court because it failed to obtain the majority vote of eight (8) which is needed in order to declare Section 2175 of the RAC to be unconstitutional. For this, the petition filed by Pamil must be granted and the decision of the lower court reversed and set aside. Fr. Gonzaga is hereby ordered to vacate the mayoralty position.

It was also pointed out (in the dissenting opinions) that how can one who swore to serve the Church’s interest above all be in duty to enforce state policies which at times may conflict with church tenets. This is in violation of the separation of the church and state. The Revised Administrative Code still stands because there is no implied repeal.

Dissenting Opinion

J. Teehankee – The Comelec stated that soldiers in active service and persons receiving salaries or compensation from provincial or national funds “are obviously now allowed to run for a public elective office because under Sec. 23 of the Election Code of 1971 ‘every person holding a public appointive office or position, including active members of the Armed Forces’ shall ipso facto cease in their office or position on the date they file their certificates of candidacy. This implies that they are no longer disqualified from running for an elective office.” The Comelec further ruled that as to the two remaining categories formerly banned under the Revised Administrative Code, “ecclesiastics and contractors for public works of the municipality are allowed to run for municipal elective offices under the maxim, ‘Inclusio unius est exclusio alterius‘, they being not included in the enumeration of persons ineligible under the New Election Code. The rule is that all persons possessing the necessary qualifications, except those expressly disqualified by the election code, are eligible to run for public office.”

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NOTE: The Revised Administrative Code of 1917 has been finally repealed by the Administrative Code of 1987 which did not specifically bar ecclesiastics from running for public office.

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