RTC denies Jalosjos voters’ list petition PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 03 November 2012 14:59

It’s strike four for former Zamboanga del Norte congressman Romeo Jalosjos in his bid to apply for voter’s registration in Zamboanga and consequently in his bid for mayor in the 2013 elections. 

This, as the Regional Trial Court on Wednesday, October 31, affirmed the earlier ruling of the Municipal Trial Court denying for lack of merit Jalosjos’ petition for inclusion in the permanent list of voters in precinct 1465-A here in Zamboanga.

The four-page decision, penned by RTC Branch 14 Presiding Judge Reynerio Estacio stressed that the MTC “correctly applied the provision of Article 41 of the Revised Penal Code which provides that the “penalties of reclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal shall carry with them that xxx xxx xxx  of perpetual absolute disqualification which the offender shall suffer even though pardoned as to the principal penalty, unless the same shall have been remitted in the pardon”. And since under Article 30 (2) of the same code, the penalties of perpetual or temporary absolute disqualification shall produce the effect of “deprivation of the right to vote in any election for any popular elective office, the appellant is thus, disqualified to vote and perpetually”.

The court cited the case of Aratea vs Comelec (GR No. 195229, October 9, 2012), as support to the ruling.

Last October 18, the MTC Branch 1, presided by Judge Nancy Bantayanon-Cuaresma, the MTC ruled that Jalosjos is “not qualified to register as a voter and to vote” and  consequently “cannot be a candidate and cannot be voted upon in any national or local elections until his perpetual absolute disqualifications are expressly remitted and restored by pardon.”

The Court took into consideration the final judgment of the Supreme Court affirming the decision of RTC Branch 62 that found Jalosjos “guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of statutory rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count and the decision of RTC Branch 62 that found Jalosjos guilty beyond reasonable doubt of acts of lasciviousness in 6 counts.

The court stressed that because of the said conviction, Jalosjos suffers from the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to register to vote as provided in the Revised Penal Code. Section 41 of the code states that “the penalties of reclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal shall carry with them xxx that of perpetual absolute disqualification which the offender shall suffer even though pardoned as to the principal penalty unless the same shall have been expressly remitted in the pardon”.

It said that the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification which is inherent in and deemed imposed together with the principal penalties of reclusion perpetual and reclusion temporal “is effective during the lifetime of the offender xxx even after the service of the sentence”.

The court explained that the word “perpetual” means that which is to last without limitation as to time; without limit as to time while “absolute” means complete, perfect, final without any condition or encumbrance. “The prisoner shall suffer the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification even though he is pardoned as to the principal penalty, unless the same shall have been expressly remitted in the pardon”.

It stressed  “a pardon shall not work the restoration of the right to hold public office, or the right of suffrage, unless such rights be expressly stated therein”.

According to the Court, other than the accessory penalties, “the right of the state to deprive persons of their right of suffrage by reasons of their having been convicted of crime is beyond question. The manifest purpose of such restrictions upon his right is to preserve the purity of elections”.

The court also emphasized that the qualification of a voter is governed by both the Omnibus Election Code and the Voters Registration Act while the qualification of a local candidate is governed by the Local Government Code. “Moreover the Local Government Code does not pertain to disqualification of the right to vote but the disqualification from running any elective local position.”

On the argument of the petitioner that he has attained his right to vote two years after service of sentence restoration, the Court said “the two years after service sentence restoration of the right to vote only refers to the accessory penalty of temporary special disqualification and not to perpetual absolute disqualification”.

Moreover, the Court cited section 39 of the local government code which states the qualification of a candidate, that he must be a registered voter of the municipality where he intends to be elected.

Jalosjos, through his legal counsels, sought for the RTC’s reconsideration of the MTC ruling a few days after the MTC issued the decision.

The COMELEC’s Election Registration Board last August 31, 2012 disapproved Jalosjos’ application for voter’s registration for the second electoral district. He filed a motion for reconsideration of the said board resolution but the same was denied by the Board last September 27. Jalosjos then elevated the petition to the MTC which also issued a negative ruling. — Rey Carbonel