Arsenio Latasa was elected Mayor of Digos, Davao del Sur to 3 three consecutive terms (1992, 1995, 1998). During his third term, a plebiscite was held to convert Digos into a component city (2000). The ratification of the Charter of the City of Digos ended the tenure of Latasa as Mayor. However, he was still mandated as hold-over mayor of the city until the next election.
For the election of 2001, Latasa filed his COC for his first term as mayor of the city. He acknowledges that he served as mayor of Digos when it was still a municipality. Sunga, also a candidate for mayor, filed a petition to disqualify Latasa as he already had served as mayor for three consecutive terms in violation of the Local Government Code and the Constitution. Comelec issued a resolution in favor of Sunga and disqualified Latasa. Latasa submitted a motion for reconsideration which was not acted upon by the Comelec until the end of the May 14 elections. As a result, Latasa was still able to continue his campaign and eventually won the election. Sunga now also sought to annul Latasa’s proclamation. Comelec only rendered its decision denying Latasa’s motion for reconsideration in 2002. Sunga claims that he should be proclaimed mayor as he holds the second most number of votes in 2001
WON Latasa is eligible to run as candidate for the position of mayor of the newly-created City of Digos immediately after he served for three consecutive terms as mayor of the Municipality of Digos.
Latasa cannot serve as Mayor of the new city of Digos. Latasa having been elected as mayor in 1998, the conversion of Digos from a municipality to a city in 2000 falls within his term. As Digos acquired a new corporate existence, qualifications for its elective positions also change. As a result, the Office of the Municipal Mayor was abolished to make way for the creation of the Office of the City Mayor. However, under the Charter of the City of Digos, the elective officials of the Municipality of Digos shall have hold-over power until a new election and the duly elected officials have assumed their office. Latasa never ceased to discharge his duties as Mayor during the conversion of Digos. Also, although Digos was converted into a city, Digos never redefined its territory, the inhabitants are the same group of voters who elected petitioner Latasa to be their municipal mayor for three consecutive terms. These are also the same inhabitants over whom he held power and authority as their chief executive for nine years.
Sunga’s cannot claim that he be proclaimed as mayor after the disqualification of Latasa, the SC already ruled that the disqualification of the winning candidate does not entitle the second highest vote earner the position of mayor. Vacancy be filled by succession.