The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) has dismissed the election protest filed by Lalaine Villafuerte-Abonal that aims to unseat incumbent Congressman Gabriel H. Bordado Jr. as representative of the 3rd district of Camarines Sur.
The decision was promulgated March 17 this year and was received by Bordado’s lawyers on Monday, April 4.
It should be recalled that right after the filing of protest by Villafuerte-Abonal on Sept. 17, 2021, a report on social media said that “Bordado should not stay a minute longer as a legislator in the Batasan Complex as he is not the one and true occupant of the seat reserved for the 3rd District of Camarines Sur, considering that he did not actually win in the 2019 race.”
In dismissing the protest, the HRET, which is chaired by Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, said that Villafuerte-Abonal does not possess the status required to legally represent her father, the late former Congressman Luis R. Villafuerte, in the protest
In an 8-page resolution, the Tribunal said: “The right to a public office is personal and exclusive to the public officer and is not a property transmissible to his heirs upon death.”
It further said that if the heirs of a public officer cannot legally represent him when he dies, who may do so? For congressional candidates, they are the candidates who obtained the second or third highest number of votes in the congressional elections.
They are the real parties in interest concerning an on-going contest, for if the declared winner had not been truly voted upon by the electorate, the second or the third placers would be the legitimate beneficiary in a successful election contest.
“Thus, the legal representative intended by the Rules of Court to substitute a deceased party to an election protest still pending under Rule 3, Section 16 is one who is a real party in interest or the party who would be benefitted or injured by the judgment, and the party who is entitled to the avails of the suit,” the Tribunal said.
It emphasized that Villafuerte-Abonal evidently cannot qualify to be a legal representative of his departed father on the following grounds:
1. Even if she is an heir of protestant, she is not allowed to hold public office in her father’s place for the same is a personal right;
2. She is not a real party in interest for she admits that she did not participate in the 2019 congressional elections;
3. On her allegation that Rule 17 of the 2015 HRET Rules merely applies to the initial filing of a verified election protest before the Tribunal with paragraph 2 thereof identifying only those who may file a protest, namely, the second and third placers, she failed to see that said Rule was, in fact, a determination of who are the real parties in interest to a protest and thus, may legally substitute a deceased party;
4. She has a layman’s concept of what a legal representative means when, in fact, the terms “to legally represent protestant” actually means to substitute for him and take his place, including his right to office. The fact that she has no intention to assume public office in place of his father as protestant only highlights that she is not a legitimate beneficiary if the protest is successful, and;
5. Contrary to her allegation that protestee misquoted or misread the jurisprudence cited, the Tribunal finds that it is Villafuerte-Abonal, through her counsel, who actually committed the same.
The Tribunal, in its resolution, grants Bordado’s Motion to Dismiss Election Protest dated Jan. 11, 2022 and ruled that the instant Verified Election Protest under the Automated Election System is dismissed, and decreed that all the proceedings pending in the case are terminated.