Recent SC rulings on the residency issue

The Asia Foundation PhilippinesRaising residency issues related to electoral bids is anything but new in the Philippines, with the Supreme Court extensively ruling on the controversial matter many times in the past.

And with this same issue now bedeviling Senator Grace Poe, who has dominantly and consistently figured in recent survey polls, the nagging question on what constitutes “residency” once again surfaces in the public consciousness.

A rundown of some of its more recent rulings would reveal that the high tribunal had in several instances ruled against the disqualification of aspirants whose candidacy was questioned due to residency issues.

Abraham Kahil Mitra

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Palawan Governor Abraham Kahil Mitra after the Commission on Elections cancelled his certificate of candidacy for allegedly failing to meet residency requirements to run in the local polls.

The Comelec said Mitra lost his right to run in the Palawan gubernatorial race after Puerto Princesa City was converted into a highly urbanized city in 2007.

Mitra claimed he had moved into the mezzanine of a feed mill in the municipality of Aborlan in Palawan, where he had been living since March 2008, but the Comelec said the place had no toilet or kitchen to sustain basic living conditions.

In its ruling, however, the SC bought Mitra’s argument that his transfer from Puerto Princesa City to a lowly room in a farmhouse in Aborlan town should not be grounds for his disqualification.

Rommel Apolinario Jalosjos

Two years later, Rommel Apolinario Jalosjos, son of convicted child rapist Romeo Jalosjos, earned a similar relief from the high tribunal when it nullified his disqualification by the Comelec from running as governor of Zamboanga Sibugay.

The disqualification stemmed from a case filed by Dan Erasmo Sr., chairman of Brangay Veteran Village in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, questioning Jalosjos’ nationality.

Erasmo further said that Jalosjos was not qualified to run in Zamboanga Sibugay because he failed to comply with the residency requirement under the law.

In its ruling, the SC said a candidate does not necessarily need to have a house in a specific area to establish his residence or domicile.

“What matters is that Jalosjos has proved two things: actual physical presence in Ipil and an intention of making it his domicile,” the SC said.

Richard Gomez

Rcihard Gomez too once had a brush with the residency issue when the Comelec granted a petition to disqualify him filed by former village chairman Buenaventura Juntilla for Gomez’s alleged failure to fulfill the legal residency requirement of at least one year when he ran for Leyte congressman.

His wife Lucy Torres-Gomez ended up replacing him as candidate and eventually won. Three years later, however, the Supreme Court unseated Torres-Gomez, saying that her replacing Gomez was invalid.

Imelda Marcos

The Supreme Court held in 1995 that First Lady Imelda Marcos could run for Congresswoman in Leyte despite her long absence from the province because several manifestations of her intention to return there still made the province her domicile. Domicile is defined as the “permanent home, the place to which, whenever absent for business or pleasure, one intends to return, and depends on the facts and circumstances, in the sense that they disclose intent.”

In the 1995 SC ruling, the tribunal said an individual does not lose his or her domicile even if he or she has lived and maintained several residences in different places.

“The absence from legal residence or domicile to pursue a profession, to study or to do other things of a temporary or semi-permanent nature does not constitute loss of residence,” read the SC ruling.

Grace Poe

Uncertainties about Poe’s residency has already divided legal experts, with one side saying she is outright prevented from running due to the mandatory 10-year residency requirements, and the other insisting that animus revertendi—or one’s intention of returning to his or her domicile despite the absence of actual residency—is what matters more. — BM, GMA News

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