POSTSCRIPT / December 15, 2002 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Hagedorn has sealed Roman’s fate at SC?

ROMAN VICTORY?: Friends from Bataan have been telling us that some leaders of Gov. Leonardo B. Roman are bragging that the Supreme Court is about to rule that Roman’s victory in the 1993 recall elections did not give him another term for purposes of reckoning the three-term limit for local officials.

Such a decision would validate Roman’s proclamation as reelected governor that had been questioned before the court on the ground that he has exceeded the three-term limit for local officials.

How can that be, we asked, when the high court ruled just last month in a similar case — that of Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn — that a term won in a recall election is already a term and is to be counted as his first term if he runs again for more successive terms.

This SC ruling on Hagerdorn was handed down only last Nov. 12 and it is unlikely, we said, that the honorable justices could have forgotten it. Neither is it likely, we added, that the court would issue two conflicting judgments on two similar cases.

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THREE-TERM LIMIT: Under the Local Government Code, mayors and governors cannot serve for more than three consecutive terms. But if there is a gap at any time, the three-term counting starts all over again.

If the gap occurs after an official’s third and last term, he or she can run again and start counting another series of three successive terms.

To create a gap, some local executives make their wife or one of their children run and hold the office for one intervening term. After that gap, the mayor or governor bounces back into office.

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WHAT IS A TERM?: Hagedorn had served his limit as Puerto Princesa mayor for three consecutive terms (1992-1995, 1995-1998 and 1998-2001). His short-lived successor — Victorino Dennis Socrates — was elected mayor in 2001 but was recalled in 2002.

Hagedorn ran in the recall election, and he won.

Questions: Is the unserved portion in the term of the defeated mayor that was won by Hagedorn to be legally considered a term of the winner (Hagedorn)? If it is a term, isn’t this his fourth (and therefore disallowed) term?

In a decision handed down last November, the 15-member Supreme Court ruled with a majority of eight votes that Hagedorn’s tenure resulting from his victory in the recall election is a term.

Interestingly, the court added that this new term of Hagedorn is to be counted as his first term in another series of possible successive three terms. The tribunal must have seen a gap in the counting of Hagedorn’s terms during that time that Socrates served before his recall.

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ROMAN EXCEEDS LIMIT: One difference between the cases of Hagedorn and Roman is that the former is mayor while the latter is governor. But the Local Government Code does not distinguish between mayors and governors — both of whom are local officials — in counting and applying the three-term limit.

In the case of Roman, he was elected governor for at least four/at most five terms: (1) 1988-1992 in a regular election, (2) 1993-1995 in a recall election against Gov. Enrique Garcia, (3) 1995-1998 in a regular election, (4) 1998-2001 in a regular election, and (5) 2001-2005 in the last regular election.

With Roman apparently overshooting the three-term limit, some Bataan voters petitioned the Supreme Court in September 2001 to invalidate his 2001 election and remove him from office. Garcia, now a congressman, has joined the case as intervenor.

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LEGAL ACROBATICS: Applying the SC ruling on the Hagedorn case, Roman’s tenure covering the 1993-1995 unused portion of Garcia’s term should be considered his first term. Counting from that first term as governor, Roman is now serving his fourth term in violation of the three-term limit!

Now if by some legal acrobatics, some of the justices will change their minds and rule that Roman’s tenure arising from his recall victory in 1993 is not to be considered a term (contrary to what they said in the Hagedorn case), Roman will now be validly serving his third term.

This is the scenario that Roman’s followers are boasting about from the Bataan peninsula to Metro Manila coffee shops. They brag that some Supreme Court justices have seen the light, thanks to the “dazzling arguments” of Roman.

Incidentally, the Hagedorn case was filed only last November, or one year after the petition against Roman was filed. Yet the later case was decided much ahead! What were the compelling reasons for that?

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CATCH THE FLIP-FLOPS: It would be interesting to place the justices under scrutiny: How they voted in the Hagedorn case and how they would eventually vote in the Roman case. A change of position would raise a red flag on each fickle member of the court.

For the record, the eight justices who ruled that Hagedorn’s tenure resulting from the recall election was a term and is his new first term were Antonio T. Carpio, Josue N. Bellosillo, Artemio V. Panganiban, Leonardo A. Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Conchita Carpio-Morales and Romeo J. Callejo Sr.

Two others, Reynato S. Puno and Vicente V, Mendoza, said Hagedorn’s tenure under recall was not a term, while two others, Hilario G. Davide Jr. (the Chief Justice) and Adolfo S. Azcuna, said it was already his fourth term. Another justice did not participate and another one was absent.

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S.C. MUST BE CONSISTENT: If the high court will be consistent, and we think it should be, it has no other honest recourse but to go the Hagedorn way — and rule that Roman’s tenure after his recall election victory in 1993 was a term and was his first in a new series of successive terms from 1995 to 2004).

Following the Hagedorn precedent, Roman is deemed serving his fourth — and therefore illegal — term as governor of Bataan.

With this, we are wondering why a Bataan official was reported by his followers as having bet P300,000 that Roman would win very soon a Supreme Court decision that his tenure resulting from his victory in the 1993 recall election is not considered a term and is therefore serving only his third term as governor.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 15, 2002)

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