Political Law

Aquilino Pimentel vs Commission on Elections

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G.R. No. 161658 – 570 SCRA 410 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Legislative Department; Qualifications of a Senator / Member of the House of Representatives

NOTE: This is consolidated with Laserna vs Dangerous Drugs Board (G.R. No. 158633) and Social Justice Society vs Dangerous Drugs Board (G.R. No. 157870)

In 2002, Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 was implemented. Section 36 thereof requires mandatory drug testing of candidates for public office, students of secondary and tertiary schools, officers and employees of public and private offices, and persons charged before the prosecutor’s office with certain offenses.

In December 2003, COMELEC issued Resolution No. 6486, prescribing the rules and regulations on the mandatory drug testing of candidates for public office in connection with the May 10, 2004 synchronized national and local elections. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., a senator and a candidate for re-election in the May elections, filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65. In it, he seeks (1) to nullify Sec. 36(g) of RA 9165 and COMELEC Resolution No. 6486 dated December 23, 2003 for being unconstitutional in that they impose a qualification for candidates for senators in addition to those already provided for in the 1987 Constitution; and (2) to enjoin the COMELEC from implementing Resolution No. 6486.

According to Pimentel, the Constitution only prescribes a maximum of five (5) qualifications for one to be a candidate for, elected to, and be a member of the Senate.  He says that both the Congress and COMELEC, by requiring, via RA 9165 and Resolution No. 6486, a senatorial aspirant, among other candidates, to undergo a mandatory drug test, create an additional qualification that all candidates for senator must first be certified as drug free. He adds that there is no provision in the Constitution authorizing the Congress or COMELEC to expand the qualification requirements of candidates for senator.

ISSUE: Whether or not Sec 36 of RA 9165 and Resolution 6486 are constitutional.

HELD: No. Pimentel is right. Accordingly, Sec. 36 of RA 9165 is unconstitutional. It is basic that if a law or an administrative rule violates any norm of the Constitution, that issuance is void and has no effect. The Constitution is the basic law to which all laws must conform; no act shall be valid if it conflicts with the Constitution. In the discharge of their defined functions, the three departments of government have no choice but to yield obedience to the commands of the Constitution.  Whatever limits it imposes must be observed.

The provision [n]o person elected to any public office shall enter upon the duties of his office until he has undergone mandatory drug test is not tenable as it enlarges the qualifications.  COMELEC cannot, in the guise of enforcing and administering election laws or promulgating rules and regulations to implement Sec. 36, validly impose qualifications on candidates for senator in addition to what the Constitution prescribes. If Congress cannot require a candidate for senator to meet such additional qualification, the COMELEC, to be sure, is also without such power. The right of a citizen in the democratic process of election should not be defeated by unwarranted impositions of requirement not otherwise specified in the Constitution.

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Aquilino Pimentel vs Commission on Elections

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