Marquez vs COMELEC GR 112889 (April 18, 1995)

GR No. 112889
243 SCRA 538
April 18, 1995

FACTS:
Bienvenido Marquez, a defeated candidate in the Province of Quezon filed a petition for certiorari praying for the reversal of the COMELEC Resolution which dismissed his petition for quo warranto against Eduardo Rodriguez, for being allegedly a fugitive from justice.

It is averred that at the time private respondent filed his certificate of candidacy, a criminal charge against him for ten (10) counts of insurance fraud or grand theft of personal property was still pending before the Municipal Court of Los Angeles Judicial District, County of Los Angeles, State of California, U.S.A. A warrant issued by said court for his arrest, it is claimed, has yet to be served on private respondent on account of his alleged “flight” from that country.

Petitioner’s subsequent recourse (in G.R. No. 105310) from the COMELEC’s May 8, 1992 resolution was dismissed without prejudice, however, to the filing in due time of a possible post-election quo warranto proceeding against private respondent.

Before the 11th May 1992 elections, petitioner filed a petition with the COMELEC for cancellation of respondent’s CoC on account of the candidate’s disqualification under Sec. 40 (e) of the LGC.

Private respondent was proclaimed Governor-elect of Quezon on 29 May 1992. Forthwith, petitioner instituted quo warranto proceedings (EPC 92-28) against private respondent before the COMELEC.

ISSUE:
Whether private respondent who, at the time of the filing of his certificate of candidacy (and to date), is said to be facing a criminal charge before a foreign court and evading a warrant for his arrest comes within the term “fugitive from justice” contemplated by Section 40(e) of the LGC and is, therefore, disqualified from being a candidate for, and thereby ineligible from holding on to, an elective local office.

HELD:
Section 40(e) of the LGC (RA 7160) provide that a “Fugitive from justice in criminal cases here and abroad” are “disqualified from running for any elective local position”.

It has been held that construction placed upon law by the officials in charge of its enforcement deserves great and considerable weight (Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. vs. CA, 182 SCRA 166,181). However, when there clearly is no obscurity and ambiguity in an enabling law, it must merely be made to apply as it is so written. An administrative rule or regulation can neither expand nor constrict the law but must remain congruent to it.

The confinement of the term “fugitive from justice” in Article 73 of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the LGC of 1991 to refer only to a person “who has been convicted by final judgment” is an inordinate and undue circumscription of the law.

Unfortunately, the COMELEC did not make any definite finding on whether or not private respondent is in fact a “fugitive from justice” as such term must be interpreted and applied in the light of the Court’s opinion. The omission is understandable since the COMELEC outrightly dismissed the petition for quo warranto on the basis instead of Rule 73 of the Rules and Regulations promulgated by the Oversight Committee. The Court, not being a trier of facts, is thus constrained to remand the case to the COMELEC for a determination of this unresolved factual matter.

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