Dr. Hans Christian Señeres vs Commission on Elections

G.R. No. 178678 – 585 SCRA 557 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Legislative Department – Party-List Representation – Leadership Disputes Within a Party List – Electioneering

Mercantile Law – Corporation Law – Hold-Over Principle

In 1999, Melquiades Robles was elected president and chairperson of BUHAY, a party-list group duly registered with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). The constitution of BUHAY provides for a three-year term for all its party officers, without re-election. BUHAY participated in the 2001 and 2004 elections, with Robles as its president. All the required Manifestations of Desire to Participate in the said electoral exercises, including the Certificates of Nomination of representatives, carried the signature of Robles as president of BUHAY. On January 26, 2007, in connection with the May 2007 elections, BUHAY again filed a Manifestation of its Desire to Participate in the Party-List System of Representation. As in the past two elections, the manifestation to participate bore the signature of Robles as BUHAY president.

Dr. Hans Christian Señeres, on the other hand, filed with the COMELEC a Petition to Deny Due Course to Certificates. In it, Señeres alleged that he was the acting president and secretary-general of BUHAY, having assumed that position since August 17, 2004 when Robles vacated the position. Señeres also claim that the nominations made by Robles (nominations pertaining as to who should represent BUHAY in Congress) were, for lack of authority, void owing to the expiration of the latter’s term as party president. Furthermore, Señeres asserted that Robles was, under the Constitution, disqualified from being an officer of any political party, the latter being the Acting Administrator of the Light Railway Transport Authority (LRTA), a government-controlled corporation. Robles, so Señeres would charge, was into a partisan political activity which civil service members, like the former, were enjoined from engaging in.

On July 9 and July 18, 2007, respectively, the COMELEC issued two resolutions proclaiming BUHAY as a winning party-list organization for the May 2007 elections entitled to three (3) House seats and it also declared Robles as the duly authorized representative of BUHAY.

ISSUE: Whether or not Robles should be disqualified as president of BUHAY.

HELD: No, Robles is not disqualified as the president of BUHAY. His being the chairman of LRTA and the president of BUHAY, a party-list group, is not incompatible. There is no law prohibiting that the LRTA chair cannot be a president of a party-list group. Further, Robles is not guilty of electioneering. Robles’ act of nominating BUHAY representatives to Congress is not electioneering. The crime electioneering is clearly defined under Section 79 (b) of the Omnibus Election Code but Robles did not commit any act defined thereunder.

Anent the issue that Robles’ term as president of BUHAY already expired when he made the nominations hence the nominations are void, the Supreme Court ruled that the nominations are valid. This is because of the “Hold-Over” doctrine under corporation law. As a general rule, officers and directors of a corporation hold over after the expiration of their terms until such time as their successors are elected or appointed. The holdover doctrine has, to be sure, a purpose which is at once legal as it is practical. It accords validity to what would otherwise be deemed as dubious corporate acts and gives continuity to a corporate enterprise in its relation to outsiders.

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