G.R. No. 133495; 295 SCRA 157
September 3, 1998
Jose T. Capco, Jr. was elected Vice Mayor of Pateros on January 18, 1988 for a term ending June 30, 1992. On September 2, 1989, he became Mayor upon the death of the incumbent, Cesar Borja. On May 11, 1992, he ran and was elected Mayor for a term of three years which ended on June 30, 1995. On May 8, 1995, he was re-elected Mayor for another term of three years ending July 30, 1998. On March 27, 1998, Capco filed a certificate of candidacy for Mayor of Pateros relative to the May 11, 1998 elections. Petitioner Benjamin Borja, Jr., who was also a candidate for Mayor, sought Capco’s disqualification on the theory that the latter would already have served as mayor for three consecutive terms by June 30, 1998 and would thereafter be ineligible to serve for another term after that. The COMELEC ruled in favor of Capco saying that “In both the Constitution and the Local Government Code, the three-term limitation refers to the term of office for which the local official was elected. It made no reference to succession to an office to which he was not elected.” Capco won in the elections against Borja.
Whether a vice-mayor who succeeds to the office of mayor by operation of law and serves the remainder of the term is considered to have served a term in that office for the purpose of the three-term limit.
The Court ruled in favor of Capco. The term served must therefore be one for which the official concerned was elected. If he is not serving a term for which he was elected because he is simply continuing the service of the official he succeeds, such official cannot be considered to have fully served the term notwithstanding his voluntary renunciation of office prior to its expiration. There is a difference between the case of a vice-mayor and that of a member of the House of Representatives who succeeds another who dies, resigns, becomes incapacitated, or is removed from office. The vice-mayor succeeds to the mayorship by operation of law. On the other hand, the Representative is elected to fill the vacancy. In a real sense, therefore, such representative serves a term for which he was elected. To consider Capco to have served the first term in full (when he succeeded the mayorship upon demise of Cesar Borja) and therefore ineligible to run a third time for reelection would be not only to falsify reality but also to unduly restrict the right of the people to choose whom they wish to govern them. Hence, the petition was dismissed.