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[ GR No. 6160, Mar 21, 1911 ]



19 Phil. 134

[ G. R. No. 6160, March 21, 1911 ]




The appellants in  this case were convicted in  the court below of a violation of section 30 of the Election Law (Act No. 1582),, and each  of them  was sentenced to pay a  fine of P200 and costs, to be extinguished at the rate of one day's imprisonment for each P2 of fine and costs  remaining  unpaid.

The evidence of record satisfactorily establishes that each of the appellants made oath, before an election officer in the municipality of Piddig, in proceedings had in connection with the general election held on the 2d day of November, 1909, that  he owned real  property to  the  value  of P500.  The evidence further discloses that at the time none of these appellants, except Daniel Navarro and Genaro Calixtro, owned property of the assessed value of P500.  Upon this evidence we think the court below properly convicted all of the  appellants except Daniel Navarro  and Genaro Calixtro,  but each  of these defendants having proven that he owned, at the time when he made oath to the value of his property, real estate  of  the  assessed value of more than P500,  the judgment of conviction as to them should  be reversed.

It will be seen that the proof upon which the judgment of conviction rests is limited to evidence touching the assessed value of the property owned by the person making oath that he is a qualified voter.   It has  been suggested that, under the statute, the true test of the qualification of a voter is the actual or market value of the real property owned by him and not the assessed value thereof, so that proof that one is not the owner of  real property of the assessed  value of P500 is not proof that he is lacking this qualification of a voter, in the absence of further proof that he is not the owner of unassessed real property of the value of P500, or that the assessed property owned by him is not of the actual or market value of P500 whatever may be the amount for which it is  assessed.   
But while the statute  does not in express terms declare that it  is the ownership of property  of the assessed value of P500 which determines this qualification of a voter, nevertheless,  that such was the intention of the legislator becomes clear from an examination of the immediate context of the provision of the statute defining the "property qualifications" of voters, and of the statute as a whole, keeping in mind the purpose and object sought to be attained by the provisions of the statute generally, and particularly of those provisions defining qualifications and disqualifications of voters and providing machinery whereby persons entitled to vote may be secured in the exercise of that right, while any unlawful attempt to vote is severely penalized.

In the first place this qualification is made immediately alternative to the qualification based upon an annual payment of  a fixed amount of the established  taxes, both qualifications  falling under  a single head.  This striking juxtaposition under one head or class of these separate and distinct kinds of qualifications at once suggests that in the mind of the  legislator there was some intimate relation which justified their being thus bound together, as it were, under one head.  The liability for the payment  of  a substantial amount of "the established taxes" at once sug- gests itself as the relation  which must  have been  in the mind of the legislator, and  since taxes are collected upon "real property" in accordance with its assessed Value, we think we are justified in concluding that it was the intention of the legislator to limit the grant of the voting  franchise based upon ownership of  real property to owners  of real property to the  assessed value of P500.

Our conclusion that this is the true meaning to be given the language of this section of the statute is reinforced by the fact that another section of  the statute provides that "any person"  is  disqualified  from  voting "who  is delinquent in the payment  of public taxes assessed since August thirteenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight," this being the only disqualifying provision based on  the nonpayment of taxes.  It is quite clear that this provision was directed to the case of delinquency in the payment of land taxes as well as all other taxes, and it would indeed be an anomaly if the failure  to pay assessed land taxes would disqualify one person, as a voter, while the possession of nonassessed real  estate, whatever its value, could be held  as the sole and sufficient ground upon which another person may qualify as a voter.

Finally, the most superficial examination of the statute as a whole discloses that many of its most important provisions looking to the due administration of the law as a whole - that is to say, as an election law - and especially those provisions intended to secure the purity of the ballot box, would be in large measure defeated, if not rendered wholly abortive by any other construction of the language of the provision under consideration than that which we give it.  We confidently assert that, if a successful challenge of the right to vote,  asserted by one basing his claim on his alleged  ownership of property of the value of P500, could only be successfully  maintained by proof that  the real or market value of the land owned  by  him is  less than P500,  then the task assigned by the law to the electoral boards, the registration boards, the judges of elections, and other elective officers, as well  as  to  the  courts of the  Islands, could never be efficiently and intelligently performed so as to  secure practical  results within the limited time necessarily allowed to them  for the.performance of their respective duties in connection with elections, in the event of  any general or even considerable attack on the^purity of the ballot box by persons setting up an illegal claim of a right to vote based on this property qualification.   While  on the other hand,  such a construction placed  on the language of the statute, would place, for  practical  purposes, almost  arbitrary  power in the hands of dishonest registration boards to harass honest voters seeking registration based on their property qualification, and to deny their right of registry on the pretense that the proof offered of the existence of such qualification is not satisfactory.

When the language of a particular  section of a  statute admits of  more  than one construction, that construction should be adopted which tends to give effect to the manifest purposes and objects sought to be attained by the enactment of the statute  as a whole;  and  a construction should  be rejected which would defeat or strongly tend to defeat the intention of the Legislature as  expressed in  other sections of the same statute.   Applying this rule in construing the provision of the Election Law under consideration, we have no doubt that it  is the ownership of real property  to  the assessed value of F500, whatever may be the real or market value thereof, wjiich constitutes the qualification of voters prescribed in subsection (b) section 13 of the Election Law.

The judgment  of the court  below, convicting and sentencing the appellants in this  case, is affirmed as to all and each of them, except Daniel Navarro and Genaro Calixtro, with  a proportionate share  of the  costs of this instance against the appellants as to whom the judgment is affirmed, the provision for the extinguishment of  the penalty and costs  being modified, however, so as to exclude  therefrom the amount of the costs and so as to fix the  rate of extinguishment at one day's imprisonment for each P2.50 of the fine imposed.

The judgment convicting and sentencing Daniel Navarro and Genaro  Calixtro is reversed and those  appellants are acquitted of the offense with which they are charged, with the costs of both instances de oficio as to them.

Arellano, C, J., Moreland and Trent, JJ., concur.