Constitutional Law, Political Law

Dumlao v. COMELEC G.R. No. L-52245 January 22, 1980 Equal Protection of the Laws

FACTS:

Petitioner Patricio Dumlao questions the constitutionality of section 4 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 52 as discriminatory and contrary to the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Constitution. Said Section 4 provides:

Sec. 4. Special Disqualification in addition to violation of section 10 of Art. XI I-C of the Constitution and disqualification mentioned in existing laws, which are hereby declared as disqualification for any of the elective officials enumerated in section 1 hereof.

Any retired elective provincial city or municipal official who has received payment of the retirement benefits to which he is entitled under the law, and who shall have been 65 years of age at the commencement of the term of office to which he seeks to be elected shall not be qualified to run for the same elective local office from which he has retired.

Dumlao alleges that the aforecited provision is directed insidiously against him, and that the classification provided therein is based on “purely arbitrary grounds and, therefore, class legislation.”

For their part, petitioners Romeo Igot and Alfredo Salapantan, Jr. assail the validity of Secs. 4 and 7 of BP Blg. 51 as well as Secs. 1 & 6 of BP Blg. 52.

Petitioners then pray that the statutory provisions they have challenged be declared null and void for being violative of the Constitution.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws of petitioner was violated.

RULING:

The constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws is subject to rational classification. If the groupings are based on reasonable and real differentiations, one class can be treated and regulated differently from another class. 

For purposes of public service, employees 65 years of age, have been validly classified differently from younger employees. Employees attaining that age are subject to compulsory retirement, while those of younger ages are not so compulsorily retirable.

Just as that provision does not deny equal protection neither does it permit of such denial. Persons similarly situated are similarly treated.

In fine, it bears reiteration that the equal protection clause does not forbid all legal classification. What is proscribed is a classification which is arbitrary and unreasonable. That constitutional guarantee is not violated by a reasonable classification based upon substantial distinctions, where the classification is germane to the purpose of the law and applies to all Chose belonging to the same class. 

The purpose of the law is to allow the emergence of younger blood in local governments. The classification in question being pursuant to that purpose, it cannot be considered invalid “even if at times, it may be susceptible to the objection that it is marred by theoretical inconsistencies.”

Absent herein is a showing of the clear invalidity of the questioned provision. Well accepted is the rule that to justify the nullification of a law, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, not a doubtful and equivocal breach. 

Lastly, it is within the competence of the legislature to prescribe qualifications for one who desires to become a candidate for office provided they are reasonable, as in this case.

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