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P.E.T. CASE No.

002

March 29, 2005

RONALD ALLAN POE a.k.a. FERNANDO POE, JR., Protestant,


vs.
GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, Protestee.
RESOLUTION
QUISUMBING, J.:
The moving finger writes, says Omar Khayyam in the Rubayyat, and having writ, moves on. Nor all your piety nor wit, adds the poet,
could lure it back to cancel half a line; nor all your tears wash out a word of it.
Such is my view on the providential case for our consideration.
Before this Electoral Tribunal, composed pursuant to the Constitution, by all the fifteen members of the Supreme Court, is a matter of
first impression. We are tasked not only to determine, as originally prayed for, who between the Protestant and the Protestee was the
true winner in the May 10, 2004 Presidential Elections, but also to decide now whether the Protestants widow (Mrs. Jesusa Sonora
Poe, popularly known as the cinema star Susan Roces) could intervene and/or substitute for the deceased party,
assuming arguendo that the protest could survive his death.
If one were guided by folk wisdom expressed in the adage that in a democracy, the voice of the people is the voice of God, then it
would appear our task had been made easy by fateful events. Past midnight, in the early hours of June 24, 2004, the Congress as the
representatives of the sovereign people and acting as the National Board of Canvassers, in a near-unanimous roll-call vote, proclaimed
Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) the duly elected President of the Philippines. She obtained 12,905,808 votes, as against
11,782,232 votes for the second-placer, the movie actor Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ).1 She took her Oath of Office before the Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court on June 30, 2004.
Refusing to concede defeat, the second-placer in the elections, Mr. FPJ, filed seasonably an election protest before this Electoral
Tribunal on July 23, 2004. Mrs. GMA, through counsel, filed her Answer with Counter Protest on August 5, 2004. As counsels for the
parties exchanged lively motions to rush the presentation of their respective positions on the controversy, an act of God intervened. On
December 14, 2004, the Protestant died in the course of his medical treatment at St. Lukes Hospital. The medical certificate, filed by
counsel as part of the Notice of Death of the Protestant, showed that he died of cardio-pulmonary arrest, secondary to cerebral
infarction.
However, neither the Protestees proclamation by Congress nor the death of her main rival as a fortuitous intervening event, appears to
abate the present controversy in the public arena. Instead, notice may be taken of periodic mass actions, demonstrations, and rallies
raising an outcry for this Tribunal to decide the electoral protest of Mr. FPJ against Mrs. GMA once and for all. The oracular function of
this Tribunal, it would appear, needs to be fully exercised to make manifest here and abroad who is the duly elected leader of the
Filipino nation. All these, despite the fact that the submissions by the parties on their respective sides in the protest and the counterprotest are thus far, far from completed.
Needless to stress, this Tribunal cannot shirk its constitutional duty. Yet, neither could it go beyond its mandate under the Constitution
and the law. Further, this Tribunal is guided by its Rules, as well as the Rules of Court in a suppletory manner. Considering the
transcendental importance of the electoral contest involving the Presidency, a rush to judgment is simply out of the question. Yet decide
the matter we must, without further delay, to prevent popular unrest and avoid further destabilization of government at the highest level.
Together with the formal Notice of the Death of Protestant, his counsel has submitted to the Tribunal, dated January 10, 2005, a
"MANIFESTATION with URGENT PETITION/MOTION to INTERVENE AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR DECEASED PROTESTANT FPJ," by
the widow, Mrs. Jesusa Sonora Poe, who signed the verification and certification therein.
As movant/intervenor, Mrs. FPJ claims that because of the untimely demise of her husband and in representation not only of her
deceased husband but more so because of the paramount interest of the Filipino people, there is an urgent need for her to continue
and substitute for her late husband in the election protest initiated by him to ascertain the true and genuine will of the electorate in the
2004 elections. In support of her assertion, she cites De Castro v. Commission on Elections,2 and Lomugdang v. Javier,3 to the effect
that the death of the protestant does not constitute a ground for the dismissal of the contest nor oust the trial court of the jurisdiction to

decide the election contest. She stresses nevertheless that even if the instant protest case succeeds, she is cognizant that as a mere
substitute she cannot succeed, assume or be entitled to said elective office, and her utmost concern is not personal but one that
involves the publics interest. She prays, however, that if subsequently determined that the protestee Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not
get the highest number of votes for president, for protestee to be disallowed from remaining in office, and thus prevented from
exercising the powers, duties, responsibilities and prerogatives reserved only to the duly-elected president or her legitimate successor.
In her Comment, the Protestee, Mrs. GMA, relying on Vda. de De Mesa v. Mencias4 and subsequent cases including analogous cases
decided by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), asserts that the widow of a deceased candidate is not the proper
party to replace the deceased protestant since a public office is personal and not a property that passes on to the heirs. She points out
that the widow has no legal right to substitute for her husband in an election protest, since no such right survives the husband,
considering that the right to file an election protest is personal and non-transmissible.
Protestee also contends Mrs. FPJ cannot substitute for her deceased husband because under the Rules of the Presidential Electoral
Tribunal, only the registered candidates who obtained the 2nd and 3rd highest votes for the presidency may contest the election of the
president and patently, Mrs. FPJ did not receive the 2nd and 3rdhighest votes for she was not even a candidate for the presidency in the
election that is being contested.
Citing pertinent PET Rules, protestee also stresses that this Tribunal has no jurisdiction over actions of surviving spouses to ascertain
the vote of the electorate as the Tribunal has jurisdiction only over election protests and quo warranto cases.
According to protestee, movant/intervenor Mrs. FPJ cannot use "the public interest" to justify her request to be substituted for her
husband. "Public interest", i.e. the need to dispel uncertainty over the real choice of the electorate, is applicable only in election
contests, not in an action to merely "ascertain the true and genuine will of the people." She asserts that the only case herein cognizable
by this Tribunal is an election protest involving a protestant and a protestee, not between the electorate and the protestee. Citing
analogous HRET cases, protestee avers that in a case where the protestant, the primary adversary in an election protest case dies, the
public interest in said protest dies with him.
Protestee also contends that in the adversarial nature of a protest case where one of the parties dies, a correct ruling cannot be had
because the dead protestant could no longer refute his adversarys allegations because death has rendered him hors de combat.
Further citing Defensor-Santiago v. Ramos,5 protestee points out that this Tribunal, nonetheless, confirmed its power to dismiss an
electoral case on technical grounds. She adds that if the Tribunal can do so on a technicality, all the more it could for a stronger reason,
that of protestants death.
In her Reply, movant/intervenor argues that reference of protestee to the HRET case of Abadilla v. Ablan,6 was erroneous inasmuch as
said case was a congressional protest and the controlling case is De Castro. She likewise contends that protestant failed to distinguish
between a right to an office which protestant concedes is personal and non-transmissible vis--vis the right to pursue the process which
is not personal but imbued with public interest. She likewise stresses that the death of the protestant abolished the personal/private
character of the protest, as protestants right to assume if he prevails, necessarily disappears, and the same cannot be transferred to
anyone else, protestants widow included. She insists, however, that the public interest remains. Further, movant/intervenor posits that
the protest having been commenced cannot be abated by the death of the protestant and the only real issue is the determination of the
proper substitute. She avers that the Tribunals rule is clear on who can commence and initiate a protest compared to the persons who
can initiate a quo warranto. She admits that in the former, only the second and third placers in the presidential election are authorized to
commence the contest, while in the latter, any voter may initiate the petition. She contends that with no personal interest involved, any
registered voter can continue the duly-commenced protest as the real-party-in-interest which is analogous to a quo warranto. She
contradicts protestee and insists that allowing "any voter" to substitute just like in a quo warranto will not open the floodgate to
whimsical protests, and the imagined political instability feared by protestee will even more be pronounced if the protest is dismissed.
Movant/intervenor reiterates that the issue at hand involves just the continuation of proceedings by allowing substitution and the taking
over by the substitute of the prosecution of the protest already "duly commenced."
Plainly, the issue here is: May the widow substitute/intervene for the protestant who died during the pendency of the latters protest
case?
The fundamental rule applicable in a presidential election protest is Rule 14 of the PET Rules. It provides,

Rule 14. Election Protest.Only the registered candidate for President or for Vice-President of the Philippines who received the
second or third highest number of votes may contest the election of the President or the Vice-President, as the case may be,
by filing a verified petition with the Clerk of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal within thirty (30) days after the proclamation of
the winner.
Pursuant to this rule, only two persons, the 2nd and 3rd placers, may contest the election. By this express enumeration, the rule makers
have in effect determined the real parties in interest concerning an on-going election contest. It envisioned a scenario where, if the
declared winner had not been truly voted upon by the electorate, the candidate who received that 2nd or the 3rd highest number of votes
would be the legitimate beneficiary in a successful election contest.
This Tribunal, however, does not have any rule on substitution nor intervention but it does allow for the analogous and suppletory
application of the Rules of Court, decisions of the Supreme Court, and the decisions of the electoral tribunals.7
Rule 3, Section 16 is the rule on substitution in the Rules of Court.8 This rule allows substitution by a legal representative. It can be
gleaned from the citation of this rule that movant/intervenor seeks to appear before this Tribunal as the legal representative/substitute of
the late protestant prescribed by said Section 16. However, in our application of this rule to an election contest, we have every time
ruled that a public office is personal to the public officer and not a property transmissible to the heirs upon death.9 Thus, we consistently
rejected substitution by the widow or the heirs in election contests where the protestant dies during the pendency of the protest. In Vda.
de De Mesa v. Mencias,10 we recognized substitution upon the death of the protestee but denied substitution by the widow or heirs
since they are not the real parties in interest. Similarly, in the later case of De la Victoria v. Commission on Elections,11 we struck down
the claim of the surviving spouse and children of the protestee to the contested office for the same reason. Even in analogous cases
before other electoral tribunals,12involving substitution by the widow of a deceased protestant, in cases where the widow is not a real
party in interest, we denied substitution by the wife or heirs.
This is not to say that death of the protestant necessarily abates the pending action. We have held as early as Vda. de De Mesa (1966)
that while the right to a public office is personal and exclusive to the public officer, an election protest is not purely personal and
exclusive to the protestant or to the protestee such that the death of either would oust the court of all authority to continue the protest
proceedings.13 Hence, we have allowed substitution and intervention but only by a real party in interest. A real party in interest is the
party who would be benefited or injured by the judgment, and the party who is entitled to the avails of the suit.14 In Vda. de De Mesa v.
Mencias15 and Lomugdang v. Javier,16 we permitted substitution by the vice-mayor since the vice-mayor is a real party in interest
considering that if the protest succeeds and the protestee is unseated, the vice-mayor succeeds to the office of the mayor that becomes
vacant if the one duly elected cannot assume office. In contrast, herein movant/intervenor, Mrs. FPJ, herself denies any claim to the
august office of President. Thus, given the circumstances of this case, we can conclude that protestants widow is not a real party in
interest to this election protest.
We are not unaware that a contest before election tribunals has two aspects. First, it is in pursuit of ones right to a public office, and
second, it is imbued with public interest.
Indeed the personal aspect of the case is inextricably linked with the public interest. For an election protest involves not merely
conflicting private aspirations but is imbued with public interest which raises it into a plane over and above ordinary civil actions.17 But
herein movant/intervenor, Mrs. FPJ, has overly stressed that it is with the "paramount public interest" in mind that she desires "to
pursue the process" commenced by her late husband. She avers that she is "pursuing the process" to determine who truly won the
election, as a service to the Filipino people. We laud her noble intention and her interest to find out the true will of the electorate.
However, nobility of intention is not the point of reference in determining whether a person may intervene in an election protest. Rule
19, Section 1 of the Rules of Court18 is the applicable rule on intervention in the absence of such a rule in the PET Rules. In such
intervention, the interest which allows a person to intervene in a suit must be in the matter of litigation and of such direct and immediate
character that the intervenor will either gain or lose by the effect of the judgment. In this protest, Mrs. FPJ will not immediately and
directly benefit from the outcome should it be determined that the declared president did not truly get the highest number of votes. We
fully appreciate counsels manifestation that movant/intervenor herself claims she has no interest in assuming the position as she is
aware that she cannot succeed to the presidency, having no legal right to it. Yet thus far, in this case, no real parties such as the vicepresidential aspirants in the 2004 elections, have come forward to intervene, or to be substituted for the deceased protestant. In our
view, if persons not real parties in the action could be allowed to intervene, proceedings will be unnecessarily complicated, expensive
and interminable and this is not the policy of the law.19 It is far more prudent to abide by the existing strict limitations on intervention
and substitution under the law and the rules.
Conformably then with the law, the rules and prevailing jurisprudence, this Tribunal finds no justifiable reason to grant the
petition/motion for intervention and substitution.

WHEREFORE, the motion of movant/intervenor JESUSA SONORA POE a.k.a. SUSAN ROCES to intervene and substitute for the
deceased protestant is DENIED for lack of merit.
Acting on the protest and considering the Notice of the Death, submitted by counsel of protestant RONALD ALLAN POE, a.k.a.
FERNANDO POE, JR., we also resolve that Presidential Electoral Tribunal Case No. 002, entitled Ronald Allan Poe a.k.a. Fernando
Poe, Jr. v. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, should be as it is hereby DISMISSED on the ground that no real party in interest has come forward
within the period allowed by law, to intervene in this case or be substituted for the deceased protestant.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 159139

June 15, 2005

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOUNDATION OF THE PHILIPPINES, MA. CORAZON M. AKOL, MIGUEL UY, EDUARDO H.
LOPEZ, AUGUSTO C. LAGMAN, REX C. DRILON, MIGUEL HILADO, LEY SALCEDO, and MANUEL ALCUAZ JR., Petitioners,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; COMELEC CHAIRMAN BENJAMIN ABALOS SR.; COMELEC BIDDING and AWARD COMMITTEE
CHAIRMAN EDUARDO D. MEJOS and MEMBERS GIDEON DE GUZMAN, JOSE F. BALBUENA, LAMBERTO P. LLAMAS, and
BARTOLOME SINOCRUZ JR.; MEGA PACIFIC eSOLUTIONS, INC.; and MEGA PACIFIC CONSORTIUM, Respondents.
RESOLUTION
PANGANIBAN, J.:
Our Decision1 in the present case voided the Contract entered into by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the supply of
automated counting machines (ACMs) because of "clear violation of law and jurisprudence" and "reckless disregard of [Comelecs] own
bidding rules and procedure." Moreover, "Comelec awarded this billion-dollar undertaking with inexplicable haste, without adequately
checking and observing mandatory financial, technical and legal requirements. x x x. The illegal, imprudent and hasty actions of the
Commission have not only desecrated legal and jurisprudential norms, but have also cast serious doubts upon the poll bodys ability
and capacity to conduct automated elections." As a result, the ACMs illegally procured and improvidently paid for by Comelec were not
used during the 2004 national elections.
In its present Motion, the poll body expressly admits that the Decision "has become final and executory," and that "COMELEC and
MPC-MPEI are under obligation to make mutual restitution." Otherwise stated, this admission implies that the ACMs are to be returned
to MPC-MPEI, and that the sum of over one billion pesos illegally paid for them be refunded to the public purse. 2 In short, ownership of
the ACMs never left MPC-MPEI and the money paid for them still belongs, and must be returned, to the government.
Consequently, the ACMs, which "admittedly failed to pass legally mandated technical requirements" cannot be used during the
forthcoming elections in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Apart from formidable legal, jurisprudential, technical
and financial obstacles, the use of the machines would expose the ARMM elections to the same electoral pitfalls and frauds pointed out
in our Decision. If the ACMs were not good enough for the 2004 national elections, why should they be good enough now for the 2005
ARMM elections, considering that nothing has been done by Comelec to correct the legal, jurisprudential and technical flaws
underscored in our final and executory Decision?
The Motion
Before us is the Commission on Elections "Most Respectful Motion for Leave to Use the Automated Counting Machines in [the]
Custody of the Commission on Elections for use (sic) in the August 8, 2005 Elections in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao
(ARMM)," dated December 9, 2004. In its January 18, 2005 Resolution, the Court required the parties to comment. After careful
deliberation on all pleadings at hand, we now resolve the Motion.
Background Information
At the outset, we stress that the Decision in the present case, promulgated on January 13, 2004, has long attained finality.3 In our
February 17, 2004 Resolution, we denied with finality Comelecs Motion for Reconsideration dated January 28, 2004, as well as private
respondents Omnibus Motion dated January 26, 2004. The Decision was recorded in the Book of Entries of Judgments on March 30,
2004.
Recall that our Decision declared Comelec to have acted with grave abuse of discretion when, by way of its Resolution No. 6074, it
awarded the Contract for the supply of automated counting machines (ACMs) to private respondents. It did so, not only in clear
violation of law and jurisprudence, but also with inexplicable haste and reckless disregard of its own bidding rules and procedures;
particularly the mandatory financial, technical and legal requirements. It further manifested such grave abuse of discretion when it
accepted the subject computer hardware and software even though, at the time of the award, these had patently failed to pass eight

critical requirements designed to safeguard the integrity of the elections. Consequently, this Court was constrained to exercise its
constitutional duty by voiding the assailed Resolution No. 6074 awarding the Contract to Mega Pacific Consortium, as well as the
subject Contract itself executed between Comelec and Mega Pacific eSolutions, Inc.
Comelec was further ordered to refrain from implementing any other contract or agreement it had entered into with regard to the said
project. We also declared that, as a necessary consequence of such nullity and illegality, the purchase of the ACMs and the software,
along with all payments made for them, had no basis in law. Hence, the public funds spent must be recovered from the payees and/or
the persons who made the illegal disbursements possible, without prejudice to possible criminal prosecutions against them.4
Likewise, our February 17, 2004 Resolution denying reconsideration found movants to have raised the same procedural and
substantive issues already exhaustively discussed and definitively passed upon in our Decision. In that Resolution, we emphasized
(and we reiterate here) that the Decision did not prohibit automation of the elections. Neither did the Court say that it was opposed to
such project (or the use of ACMs) as a general proposition. We repeated our explanation that the reason for voiding the assailed
Resolution and the subject Contract was the grave abuse of discretion on the part of Comelec; as well as its violations of law -specifically RA 9184, RA 8436, and RA 6955 as amended by RA 7718; prevailing jurisprudence (the latest of which was Agan v.
Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc.5); and the bidding rules and policies of the Commission itself.
Comelecs Claims
Notwithstanding our Decision and Resolution, the present Motion claims, inter alia, that the ARMM elections are slated to be held on
August 8, 2005, and are mandated by RA 9333 to be automated; that the government has no available funds to finance the automation
of those elections; that considering its present fiscal difficulties, obtaining a special appropriation for the purpose is unlikely; that, on the
other hand, there are in Comelecs custody at present 1,991 ACMs, which were previously delivered by private respondents; that these
machines would deteriorate and become obsolete if they remain idle and unused; that they are now being stored in the Comelec
Maxilite Warehouse along UN Avenue, at "storage expenses of P329,355.26 a month, or P3,979,460.24 annually."
The Motion further alleges that "information technology experts," who purportedly supervised all stages of the software development for
the creation of the final version to be used in the ACMs, have unanimously confirmed that this undertaking is in line with the
internationally accepted standards (ISO/IEC 12207) for software life cycle processes, "with its quality assurance that it would be fit for
use in the elections x x x."
Comelec also points out that the process of "enhancement" of the counting and canvassing software has to be commenced at least six
(6) months prior to the August 8, 2005 ARMM elections, in order to be ready by then. It asserts that its Motion is (a) without prejudice to
the ongoing Civil Case No. 04-346 pending before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 59, entitled "Mega Pacific eSolutions,
Inc. v. Republic of the Philippines (represented by the Commission on Elections)," for the collection of a purported P200 million balance
due from Comelec under the voided Contract; and (b) with a continuing respectful recognition of the finality and legal effects of our
aforesaid Decision. At bottom, Comelec prays that it be granted leave to use the ACMs in its custody during the said ARMM elections.
Private Respondents Contentions
Commenting on the present Motion, private respondents take the position that, since the subject ACMs have already been delivered to,
paid for and used by Comelec, the Republic of the Philippines is now their owner, without prejudice to Mega Pacific eSolutions, Inc.s
claim for damages in the case pending before the RTC of Makati; and that, consequently, as far as private respondents are concerned,
the question of using the subject ACMs for the ARMM elections is dependent solely on the discretion of the owner, the Republic of the
Philippines.
Petitioners Comment
On the other hand, petitioners contend that Comelec is asking this Court to render an advisory opinion, in contravention of the
constitutional provision6 that explicitly states that the exercise of judicial power is confined to (1) settling actual controversies involving
rights that are legally demandable and enforceable; and (2) determining whether there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting
to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of government.
Petitioners assert that there is no longer any live case or controversy to speak of -- an existing case or controversy that is appropriate or
ripe for determination, not merely conjectural or anticipatory; and that Comelecs allegations in its Motion do not amount to an actual
case or controversy that would require this Court to render a decision or resolution in the legitimate exercise of its judicial power. This

lack of actual controversy is clearly seen in the relief prayed for in the Motion: the grant of a leave to use the ACMs during the ARMM
elections. Obviously, Comelec merely seeks an advisory opinion from this Court on whether its proposal to use the ACMs during the
said elections might be in violation of this Courts Decision dated January 13, 2004, and Resolution dated February 17, 2004.
Assuming arguendo that the present Motion might somehow be justified by the governments fiscal difficulties, petitioners further argue
that permitting Comelec to use the ACMs would nevertheless allow it to do indirectly what it was not permitted by this Court to do
directly. They argue that the instant Motion is merely a subterfuge on the poll bodys part to resurrect a lost case via a request for an
advisory opinion.
The OSGs Comment
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) declares in its Comment that, in compliance with this Courts directive for it to "take measures
to protect the government and vindicate public interest from the ill effects of the illegal disbursements of public funds made by reason of
the void [Comelec] Resolution and Contract," it filed on behalf of the Republic on July 7, 2004, an Answer with Counterclaim in Civil
Case No. 04-346. The OSG prayed for the return of all payments made by Comelec to Mega Pacific under the void Contract,
amounting to P1,048,828,407.
The OSG also manifests that it received a copy of the Complaint-Affidavit dated September 15, 2004, filed with the Office of the
Ombudsman by the Bantay Katarungan Foundation and the Kilosbayan Foundation against the Comelec commissioners who had
awarded the Contract for the ACMs; and the private individuals involved, including the incorporators and officers of Mega Pacific
eSolutions, Inc. This Complaint-Affidavit was for violation of the Anti-Plunder Law (RA 7030), the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act
(RA 3019 as amended), and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713).
The complainants alleged immense kickbacks and horrendous overpricing involved in the purchase of the 1,991 ACMs. Based on the
OSGs available records, it appears that Comelec withdrew from Land Bank P1.03 billion, but actually paid Mega Pacific only P550.81
million. Furthermore, commercial invoices and bank applications for documentary credits reveal that each ACM cost only P276,650.00,
but that Comelec agreed to pay Mega PacificP430,394.17 per unit -- or a differential of P153,744.17 per unit or an aggregate differential
of P306.10 million. Moreover, Mega Pacific charged P83.924 million for value-added taxes (VAT) and P81.024 million more for customs
duties and brokerage fees, when in fact -- under the nullified Contract -- it was supposed to be exempt from VAT, customs duties and
brokerage fees. Lastly, Comelec agreed to peg the ACM price at the exchange rate of P58 to $1, when the exchange rate was P55 to
$1 at the time of the bidding, resulting in additional losses for the government amounting to about P30 million.
The OSG hews to the view that the automation of elections, if properly carried out, is a desirable objective, but is mindful of the need for
mutual restitution by the parties as a result of the final Decision nullifying the Contract for the ACMs. Nevertheless, in apparent
response to Comelecs clamor to use the ACMs in the ARMM elections, the OSG manifests that it has no objection to the proposal to
use the machines, provided however that (1) Comelec should show with reasonable certainty that the hardware and software of the
ACMs can be effectively used for the intended purpose; (2) Mega Pacific should be made to return to the Republic at least a substantial
portion of the overprice they charged for the purchase of the ACMs; and (3) the use of these machines, if authorized by this Court,
should be without prejudice to the prosecution of the related criminal cases pending before the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB).
The OMBs Manifestation
For its part, the Office of the Ombudsman manifested that as a result of the nullification of the Contract, various fact-finding
investigations had been conducted, and criminal and administrative charges filed before it against the persons who appeared to be
responsible for the anomalous Contract; and that the various cases had been consolidated, and preliminary investigation conducted in
respect of the non-impeachable Comelec officials and co-conspirators/private individuals. Furthermore, the OMB is in the process of
determining whether a verified impeachment complaint may be filed against the poll bodys impeachable officials concerned.
A Supplemental Complaint prepared and filed by the Field Investigation Office of the Ombudsman reveals that the ACMs were
overpriced by about P162,000.00 per unit; that, additionally, Mega Pacific unduly benefited by including VAT and import duties
amounting to P194.60 million in its bid price for the ACMs, despite Section 8 of RA 8436 exempting such equipment from taxes and
duties; that Comelec nonetheless awarded the Contract to Mega Pacific at the same bid price of P1.249 billion, inclusive of VAT, import
duties and so on; and that the Commission allowed Mega Pacific to peg the ACM price using an exchange rate of P58 to $1 instead
of P53 to $1, which further inflated Mega Pacifics windfall.

The foregoing notwithstanding, the OMB had allegedly prepared a comment on the present Motion, stating its position on the issue of
utilizing the ACMs, but upon further reflection decided not to file that comment. It came to the conclusion that ventilating its position on
the matter might engender certain impressions that it had already resolved factual and/or legal issues closely intertwined with the
elements of the offenses charged in the criminal and administrative cases pending before it. "For one, utilizing illegally procured goods
or the intentional non-return thereof to the supplier may have a bearing on the determination of evident bad faith or manifest partiality,
an essential element in any prosecution under the anti-graft law, and may, at the same time, be constitutive of misconduct penalized
under relevant disciplinary laws."
Consequently, out of prudential considerations, the OMB prayed to be excused from commenting on the merits of the present Motion, to
avoid any perception of prejudgment, bias or partiality on its part, in connection with the criminal and administrative cases pending
before it.
The Courts Ruling
Decision Subverted by the Motion
There are several reasons why the present Motion must be denied. First, although it professes utmost respect for the finality of our
Decision of January 13, 2004 -- an inescapable and immutable fact from which spring equally ineludible consequences -- granting it
would have the effect of illegally reversing and subverting our final Decision. Plainly stated, our final Decision bars the grant
of the present Motion.
To stress, as a direct result of our January 13, 2004 Decision, the Contract for the supply of the subject ACMs was voided, and the
machines were not used in the 2004 national elections. Furthermore, the OSG was directed "to take measures to protect the
government and vindicate public interest from the ill-effects of the illegal disbursements of public funds made by reason of the void
Resolution." Accordingly, in Civil Case No. 04-346, the government counsel has prayed for mutual restitution; and for the "return of all
payments, amounting toP1,048,828,407.00 made by Comelec to Mega Pacific under the void Contract."
In the meantime, Comelec has done nothing -- at least, nothing has been reported in the present Motion -- to abide by and enforce our
Decision. Apparently, it has not done anything to rectify its violations of laws, jurisprudence and its own bidding rules referred to in our
judgment. Neither has it reported any attempt to correct and observe the "mandatory financial, technical and legal requirements"
needed to computerize the elections.
Apparently, it has simply filed the present Motion asking permission to do what it has precisely been prohibited from doing under our
final and executory Decision. If law and jurisprudence bar it from using the subject ACMs during the last elections, why should it even
propose to use these machines in the forthcoming ARMM elections? True, these elections are important. But they cannot be more
important than the 2004 national elections. Note that the factual premises and the laws involved in the procurement and use of the
ACMs have not changed. Indeed, Comelec has not even alleged, much less proven, any supervening factual or legal circumstances to
justify its Motion.
Basic and primordial is the rule that when a final judgment becomes executory, it thereby becomes immutable and unalterable. In other
words, such a judgment may no longer undergo any modification, much less any reversal, even if it is meant to correct what is
perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law; and even if it is attempted by the court rendering it or by this Court.7 Equally
well-entrenched is the doctrine that what is not permitted to be done directly may not be done indirectly either. In the instant case, it is
unarguable that the inexorable result of granting the present Motion will precisely be a subversion of the Decision, or at least a
modification that would render the latter totally ineffective and nugatory.
To support its present Motion, Comelec appended as Annex 1 a letter dated January 22, 2004. Addressed to its chairman, the Annex
was signed by four8 self-proclaimed "information technology experts,"9 who had gratuitously contended that this Courts Decision was
"one of the most inopportune rulings ever to come out of the hallowed halls of that High Tribunal"; blame the Decision for supposedly
forcing our people "to entrust their votes to a manual system of counting and canvassing that have been proven to be prone to massive
fraud in the past"; and mouth legal/technical arguments that have already been repeatedly debunked in the Decision and Resolution
here. The letter also included a long-winded, tortuous discussion of the software development life cycle.
A quick check of the case records confirmed our suspicion. The very same letter dated January 22, 2004 had previously been
appended as Annex 2 to private respondents "Omnibus Motion A) for reconsideration of the Decision dated 13 January 2004; b) to
admit exhibits in refutation of the findings of fact of the Court; c) to have the case set for hearing and/or reception of evidence if deemed

necessary by the Court." The only difference is that this time around, Comelec overlooked or failed to photocopy the last page (page
17) of the letter, bearing the signatures of the four other purported "information technology experts."10 In other words, to support its
present Motion, it merely recycled an earlier exhibit that had already been used in seeking reconsideration of our aforesaid Decision.
While expressing utmost reverence for the finality of the Decision, Comelec implicitly seeks, nevertheless, to have this Court take up
anew matters that have already been passed upon and disposed of with finality.
It is a hornbook doctrine that courts are presumed to have passed upon all points that were raised by the parties in their various
pleadings, and that form part of the records of the case. Our Resolution, disposing of respondents arguments on reconsideration, did
not explicitly and specifically address all of the matters raised in the said letter of January 22, 2004. It is presumed however, that all
matters within an issue raised in a case were passed upon by the Court,11 as indeed they were in the instant case. And as we have held
elsewhere,12 courts will refuse to reopen what has been decided; they will not allow the same parties or their privies to litigate anew a
question that has been considered and decided with finality.
Besides, the letter of January 22, 2004, laden as it is with technical jargon and impressive concepts, does not serve to alter by even the
minutest degree our finding of grave abuse of discretion by Comelec, on account of its clear violations of law and jurisprudence and its
unjustifiable and reckless disregard of its own bidding rules and procedures.
Furthermore, the letter would obviously not contain anything that might serve to persuade us that the situation obtaining in January
2004 has so changed in the interim as to justify the use of the ACMs in August 2005.
The Commission seems to think that it can resurrect the dead case by waving at this Court a letter replete with technical jargon, much
like a witch doctor muttering unintelligible incantations to revive a corpse.
In its main text, the Motion concedes that our Decision "has become final and executory," and that all that remains to be done is "to
make mutual restitution."13 So, what is the relevance of all these useless argumentations and pontifications in Annex 1 by the
Commissions self-proclaimed "experts"? For its own illegal acts, imprudence and grave abuse of discretion, why blame this Court? For
Comelec to know immediately which culprit should bear full responsibility for its miserable failure to automate our elections, it should
simply face the mirror.
Recovery of Government Funds Barred by the Motion
Second, the grant of the Motion will bar or jeopardize the recovery of government funds improvidently paid to private respondents,
funds that to date the OSG estimates to be over one billion pesos. At the very least, granting the Motion will be antagonistic to the
directive in our Decision for the OSG to recover the "illegal disbursements of public funds made by reason of the void Resolution and
Contract."
Indeed, if the government is conned into not returning the ACMs but instead keeping and utilizing them, there would be no need for
Mega Pacific to refund the payments made by Comelec. In fact, such recovery will no longer be possible. Consequently, all those who
stood to benefit (or have already benefited) financially from the deal would no longer be liable for the refund. They can argue that there
was nothing wrong with the voided Resolution and Contract, nothing wrong with the public bidding, nothing wrong with the machines
and software, since the government has decided to keep and utilize them. This argument can be stretched to abate the criminal
prosecutions pending before the OMB and the impeachment proceedings it is considering. After all, "reasonable doubt" is all that is
needed to secure acquittal in a criminal prosecution.
In brief, the poll bodys Motion not only asks for what is legally impossible to do (to reverse and subvert a final and executory Decision
of the highest court of the land), but also prevents the Filipino people from recovering illegally disbursed public funds running into
billions of pesos. Verily, by subverting the Decision of this Court, the Motion would be unduly favoring and granting virtual immunity from
criminal prosecution to the parties responsible for the illegal disbursement of scarce public funds.
Use of the ACMs and Software Detrimental to ARMM Elections
Third, the use of the unreliable ACMs and the nonexistent software that is supposed to run them will expose the ARMM elections to the
same electoral ills pointed out in our final and executory Decision. Be it remembered that this Court expressly ruled that the proffered
hardware and software had undeniably failed to pass eight critical requirements designed to safeguard the integrity of elections,
especially the following three items:

10

" They failed to achieve the accuracy rating criterion of 99.9995 percent set up by the Comelec itself.
" They were not able to detect previously downloaded results at various canvassing or consolidation levels and to prevent these from
being inputted again.
" They were unable to print the statutorily required audit trails of the count/canvass at different levels without any loss of data."14
The Motion has not at all demonstrated that these technical requirements have been addressed from the time our Decision was issued
up to now. In fact, Comelec is merely asking for leave to use the machines, without mentioning any specific manner in which the
foregoing requirements have been satisfactorily met.
Equally important, we stressed in our Decision that "[n]othing was said or done about the software -- the deficiencies as to detection
and prevention of downloading and entering previously downloaded data, as well as the capability to print an audit trail. No matter how
many times the machines were tested and retested, if nothing was done about the programming defects and deficiencies, the same
danger of massive electoral fraud remains."15
Other than vaguely claiming that its four so-called "experts" have "unanimously confirmed that the software development which the
Comelec undertook, [was] in line with the internationally accepted standards (ISO/IEC 12207) [for] software life cycle processes," the
present Motion has not shown that the alleged "software development" was indeed extant and capable of addressing the "programming
defects and deficiencies" pointed out by this Court.
At bottom, the proposed use of the ACMs would subject the ARMM elections to the same dangers of massive electoral fraud that would
have been inflicted by the projected automation of the 2004 national elections.
Motion Inadequate and Vague
Fourth, assuming arguendo that the foregoing formidable legal, financial and technical obstacles could be overcome or set aside, still,
the Motion cannot be granted because it is vague; it does not contain enough details to enable this Court to act appropriately.
The sham nature of the Motion is evident from the following considerations. While Comelec asserts a pressing need for the ACMs to be
used in the ARMM elections, strangely enough, it has not bothered to determine the number of units that will be required for the
purpose, much less tried to justify such quantification. It contracted for a total of 1,991 ACMs, intended for use throughout the entire
country during the 2004 elections. Are we to believe that all 1,991 units would be utilized to count and canvass the votes cast in the
ARMM elections? Such a scenario is highly unlikely, even ridiculous.
A genuine, bona fide proposal for the utilization of the ACMs would naturally have included a well-thought-out plan of action, indicating
the number of units to be deployed, places of utilization, number of operators and other personnel required, methods/periods of
deployment and recovery or retrieval, assessments of costs and risks involved in implementing the proposal, and concomitant
justifications, among other things. Now, either "The Plan" is being kept absolutely top secret, or it is completely nonexistent.
Furthermore, once the ACMs are deployed and utilized, they will no longer be in the same condition as when they were first delivered to
Comelec. In fact, it is quite probable that by the time election day comes around, some of the machines would have been mishandled
and damaged, maybe even beyond repair. What steps has the poll body taken to make certain that such eventualities, if not altogether
preventable, can at least be minimized so as to ensure the eventual return of the ACMs and the full recovery of the payments made for
them? A scrutiny of the 4-page Motion16 ends in futility. It is all too clear that a failure or inability of Comelec to return the machines sans
damage would most assuredly be cited as a ground to refuse the refund of the moneys paid. Yet, if Comelec has given any thought at
all to this or any other contingency, such fact has certainly not been made evident to us.
ARMM Elections Not Jeopardized by Nonuse of ACMs
Fifth, there is no basis for the claim that unless the subject ACMs are used, the ARMM elections would not be held.
At the outset, if such elections are not held, the blame must be laid squarely at the doorstep of Comelec. To stress, had it not gravely
abused its discretion, the automation of the vote counting and canvassing processes would have already become a reality over a year
ago, and the ACMs that would have been used in the 2004 national elections would now be available for the ARMM elections.

11

In any event, the Commission in its Motion argues that the government, given its present fiscal difficulties, has no available funds to
finance the automation of the ARMM elections. Without even asking under what authority it has assumed the role of Treasury
spokesman, we emphasize that there would not now be any lack of funds for election automation had it not improvidently turned
over P1 billion of taxpayers moneys to Mega Pacifics bank accounts.
Nevertheless, had the poll body been honestly and genuinely intent on implementing automated counting and canvassing for the
ARMM elections, it ought to have informed Congress of the non-availability of the subject ACMs due to our Decisions and of the need
for special appropriations, instead of wasting this Courts time on its unmeritorious Motion. In fact, if only it had taken proper heed of our
Decision of January 13, 2004, it could have conducted an above-board public bidding for the supply of acceptable ACMs.
Certainly, this option or course of action was not foreclosed by our Decision. Moreover, there was sufficient time within which to conduct
the public bidding process. RA 9333, which set the second Monday of August 2005 (August 8, 2005) as the date of the ARMM
elections, was enacted on September 21, 2004. Undoubtedly, Comelec was made aware of the proposed date of the ARMM elections
way before the passage of RA 9333. Thus, the poll body had about ten (10) months at the very least (between the end of September
2004, when RA 9333 came into force and effect, and August 8, 2005) to lobby Congress, properly conduct a public bidding, award the
appropriate contracts, deliver and test the new machines, and make final preparations for the election.
Even assuming that a new public bidding for ACMs was not a viable option, still, Comelec has had more than sufficient lead time -about ten months counted from the end of September 2004 until August 8, 2005 -- to prepare for manual counting and canvassing in
the ARMM elections. It publicly declared, sometime in late January 2004, that notwithstanding our Decision nullifying the Mega Pacific
Contract, it would still be able to implement such manualization for the May 10, 2004 national elections. It made this declaration even
though it had a mere three months or so to set up the mechanics. In this present instance involving elections on a much smaller scale,
it will definitely be able to implement manual processes if it wants to.
There is therefore absolutely no basis for any apprehension that the ARMM elections would not push through simply because the
present Motion cannot pass muster. More to the point, it would be ridiculous to regard the grant of permission to use the subject ACMs
as the conditio sine qua non for the holding of the ARMM elections.
What is most odious is the resort to the present Motion seeking the use of the subject ACMs despite the availability of viable alternative
courses of action17 that will not tend to disturb or render this Courts final Decision ineffectual. Thus, the present Motion is wholly
unnecessary and unwarranted. Upon it, however has Comelec pinned all its hopes, instead of focusing on what the poll body can and
ought to do under the circumstances. The consequences of granting its lamentable Motion, we repeat, will indubitably subvert and
thwart the Decision of this Court in the instant case.
Equally reprehensible is the attempt of the Commission to pass the onus of its mismanagement problems on to this Court. For instance,
the Motion quotes the cost of storage of the ACMs in its Maxilite Warehouse atP329,355.26 per month or P3,979,460.24 per annum.
Assuming for the nonce that the machines have to be held in storage pending the decision in the civil case (as it would simply not do to
throw the machines out into the streets), why must it assume the cost of storage? Per our Decision, the machines are to be returned to
Mega Pacific. If it refuses to accept them back, it does not follow that Comelec must pick up the tab. Instead of further wasting the
taxpayers money, it can simply send the bill to Mega Pacific for collection.
It would be entirely improper, bordering on unmitigated contempt of court, for the Commission to try to pass on the problem to this Court
through its Motion.
No Actual Case or Controversy
Finally, the Motion presents no actual justiciable case or controversy over which this Court can exercise its judicial authority. It is wellestablished in this jurisdiction that "x x x for a court to exercise its power of adjudication, there must be an actual case or controversy -one which involves a conflict of legal rights, an assertion of opposite legal claims susceptible of judicial resolution; the case must not be
moot or academic or based on extra-legal or other similar considerations not cognizable by a court of justice. x x x [C]ourts do not sit to
adjudicate mere academic questions to satisfy scholarly interest, however intellectually challenging."18 The controversy must be
justiciable -- definite and concrete, touching on the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests.19In other words, the
pleadings must show an active antagonistic assertion of a legal right, on the one hand, and a denial thereof on the other; that is, it must
concern a real and not a merely theoretical question or issue.20 There ought to be an actual and substantial controversy admitting of
specific relief through a decree conclusive in nature, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a
hypothetical state of facts.21

12

A perusal of the present Motion will readily reveal the utter absence of a live case before us, involving a clash of legal rights or opposing
legal claims. At best, it is merely a request for an advisory opinion, which this Court has no jurisdiction to grant.22
EPILOGUE
We close this Resolution by repeating the last two paragraphs of our final and executory Decision:
"True, our country needs to transcend our slow, manual and archaic electoral process. But before it can do so, it must first have a
diligent and competent electoral agency that can properly and prudently implement a well-conceived automated election system.
"At bottom, before the country can hope to have a speedy and fraud-free automated election, it must first be able to procure the proper
computerized hardware and software legally, based on a transparent and valid system of public bidding. As in any democratic system,
the ultimate goal of automating elections must be achieved by a legal, valid and above-board process of acquiring the necessary tools
and skills therefor. Though the Philippines needs an automated electoral process, it cannot accept just any system shoved into its
bosom through improper and illegal methods. As the saying goes, the end never justifies the means. Penumbral contracting will not
produce enlightened results."23
Comelec must follow and not skirt our Decision. Neither may it short-circuit our laws and jurisprudence. It should return the ACMs to
MPC-MPEI and recover the improvidently disbursed funds. Instead of blaming this Court for its illegal actions and grave abuse of
discretion, the Commission should, for a change, devise a legally and technically sound plan to computerize our elections and show our
people that it is capable of managing the transition from an archaic to a modern electoral system.
WHEREFORE, the Motion is hereby DENIED for utter lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.

13

14

15

G.R. No. 148334

January 21, 2004

ARTURO M. TOLENTINO and ARTURO C. MOJICA, Petitioners,


vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, SENATOR RALPH G. RECTO and SENATOR GREGORIO B. HONASAN,Respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
This is a petition for prohibition to set aside Resolution No. NBC 01-005 dated 5 June 2001 ("Resolution No. 01-005") and Resolution
No. NBC 01-006 dated 20 July 2001 ("Resolution No. 01-006") of respondent Commission on Elections ("COMELEC"). Resolution No.
01-005 proclaimed the 13 candidates elected as Senators in the 14 May 2001 elections while Resolution No. 01-006 declared "official
and final" the ranking of the 13 Senators proclaimed in Resolution No. 01-005.
The Facts
Shortly after her succession to the Presidency in January 2001, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nominated then Senator Teofisto T.
Guingona, Jr. ("Senator Guingona") as Vice-President. Congress confirmed the nomination of Senator Guingona who took his oath as
Vice-President on 9 February 2001.
Following Senator Guingonas confirmation, the Senate on 8 February 2001 passed Resolution No. 84 ("Resolution No. 84") certifying
to the existence of a vacancy in the Senate. Resolution No. 84 called on COMELEC to fill the vacancy through a special election to be
held simultaneously with the regular elections on 14 May 2001. Twelve Senators, with a 6-year term each, were due to be elected in
that election.1 Resolution No. 84 further provided that the "Senatorial candidate garnering the 13th highest number of votes shall serve
only for the unexpired term of former Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr.," which ends on 30 June 2004.2
On 5 June 2001, after COMELEC had canvassed the election results from all the provinces but one (Lanao del Norte), COMELEC
issued Resolution No. 01-005 provisionally proclaiming 13 candidates as the elected Senators. Resolution No. 01-005 also provided
that "the first twelve (12) Senators shall serve for a term of six (6) years and the thirteenth (13th) Senator shall serve the unexpired term
of three (3) years of Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. who was appointed Vice-President."3 Respondents Ralph Recto ("Recto") and
Gregorio Honasan ("Honasan") ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, in Resolution No. 01-005.
On 20 June 2001, petitioners Arturo Tolentino and Arturo Mojica ("petitioners"), as voters and taxpayers, filed the instant petition for
prohibition, impleading only COMELEC as respondent. Petitioners sought to enjoin COMELEC from proclaiming with finality the
candidate for Senator receiving the 13th highest number of votes as the winner in the special election for a single three-year term seat.
Accordingly, petitioners prayed for the nullification of Resolution No. 01-005 in so far as it makes a proclamation to such effect.
Petitioners contend that COMELEC issued Resolution No. 01-005 without jurisdiction because: (1) it failed to notify the electorate of the
position to be filled in the special election as required under Section 2 of Republic Act No. 6645 ("R.A. No. 6645");4 (2) it failed to require
senatorial candidates to indicate in their certificates of candidacy whether they seek election under the special or regular elections as
allegedly required under Section 73 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881;5 and, consequently, (3) it failed to specify in the Voters Information
Sheet the candidates seeking election under the special or regular senatorial elections as purportedly required under Section 4,
paragraph 4 of Republic Act No. 6646 ("R.A. No. 6646").6 Petitioners add that because of these omissions, COMELEC canvassed all

16

the votes cast for the senatorial candidates in the 14 May 2001 elections without distinction such that "there were no two separate
Senate elections held simultaneously but just a single election for thirteen seats, irrespective of term."7
Stated otherwise, petitioners claim that if held simultaneously, a special and a regular election must be distinguished in the
documentation as well as in the canvassing of their results. To support their claim, petitioners cite the special elections simultaneously
held with the regular elections of 13 November 1951 and 8 November 1955 to fill the seats vacated by Senators Fernando Lopez and
Carlos P. Garcia, respectively, who became Vice-Presidents during their tenures in the Senate.8 Petitioners point out that in those
elections, COMELEC separately canvassed the votes cast for the senatorial candidates running under the regular elections from the
votes cast for the candidates running under the special elections. COMELEC also separately proclaimed the winners in each of those
elections.9
Petitioners sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order during the pendency of their petition.
Without issuing any restraining order, we required COMELEC to Comment on the petition.
On 20 July 2001, after COMELEC had canvassed the results from all the provinces, it issued Resolution No. 01-006 declaring "official
and final" the ranking of the 13 Senators proclaimed in Resolution No. 01-005. The 13 Senators took their oaths of office on 23 July
2001.
In view of the issuance of Resolution No. 01-006, the Court required petitioners to file an amended petition impleading Recto and
Honasan as additional respondents. Petitioners accordingly filed an amended petition in which they reiterated the contentions raised in
their original petition and, in addition, sought the nullification of Resolution No. 01-006.
In their Comments, COMELEC, Honasan, and Recto all claim that a special election to fill the seat vacated by Senator Guingona was
validly held on 14 May 2001. COMELEC and Honasan further raise preliminary issues on the mootness of the petition and on
petitioners standing to litigate. Honasan also claims that the petition, which seeks the nullity of his proclamation as Senator, is actually
a quo warranto petition and the Court should dismiss the same for lack of jurisdiction. For his part, Recto, as the 12th ranking Senator,
contends he is not a proper party to this case because the petition only involves the validity of the proclamation of the 13th placer in the
14 May 2001 senatorial elections.
The Issues
The following are the issues presented for resolution:
(1) Procedurally
(a) whether the petition is in fact a petition for quo warranto over which the Senate Electoral Tribunal is the sole
judge;
(b) whether the petition is moot; and
(c) whether petitioners have standing to litigate.
(2) On the merits, whether a special election to fill a vacant three-year term Senate seat was validly held on 14 May 2001.
The Ruling of the Court
The petition has no merit.
On the Preliminary Matters
The Nature of the Petition and the Courts Jurisdiction

17

A quo warranto proceeding is, among others, one to determine the right of a public officer in the exercise of his office and to oust him
from its enjoyment if his claim is not well-founded.10 Under Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution, the Senate Electoral Tribunal is the
sole judge of all contests relating to the qualifications of the members of the Senate.
A perusal of the allegations contained in the instant petition shows, however, that what petitioners are questioning is the validity of the
special election on 14 May 2001 in which Honasan was elected. Petitioners various prayers are, namely: (1) a "declaration" that no
special election was held simultaneously with the general elections on 14 May 2001; (2) to enjoin COMELEC from declaring anyone as
having won in the special election; and (3) to annul Resolution Nos. 01-005 and 01-006 in so far as these Resolutions proclaim
Honasan as the winner in the special election. Petitioners anchor their prayers on COMELECs alleged failure to comply with certain
requirements pertaining to the conduct of that special election. Clearly then, the petition does not seek to determine Honasans right in
the exercise of his office as Senator. Petitioners prayer for the annulment of Honasans proclamation and, ultimately, election is merely
incidental to petitioners cause of action. Consequently, the Court can properly exercise jurisdiction over the instant petition.
On the Mootness of the Petition
COMELEC contends that its proclamation on 5 June 2001 of the 13 Senators and its subsequent confirmation on 20 July 2001 of the
ranking of the 13 Senators render the instant petition to set aside Resolutions Nos. 01-005 and 01-006 moot and academic.
Admittedly, the office of the writ of prohibition is to command a tribunal or board to desist from committing an act threatened to be done
without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.11 Consequently, the writ will not lie to
enjoin acts already done.12 However, as an exception to the rule on mootness, courts will decide a question otherwise moot if it is
capable of repetition yet evading review.13Thus, in Alunan III v. Mirasol,14 we took cognizance of a petition to set aside an order
canceling the general elections for the Sangguniang Kabataan ("SK") on 4 December 1992 despite that at the time the petition was
filed, the SK election had already taken place. We noted in Alunan that since the question of the validity of the order sought to be
annulled "is likely to arise in every SK elections and yet the question may not be decided before the date of such elections," the
mootness of the petition is no bar to its resolution. This observation squarely applies to the instant case. The question of the validity of a
special election to fill a vacancy in the Senate in relation to COMELECs failure to comply with requirements on the conduct of such
special election is likely to arise in every such election. Such question, however, may not be decided before the date of the election.
On Petitioners Standing
Honasan questions petitioners standing to bring the instant petition as taxpayers and voters because petitioners do not claim that
COMELEC illegally disbursed public funds. Neither do petitioners claim that they sustained personal injury because of the issuance of
Resolution Nos. 01-005 and 01-006.
"Legal standing" or locus standi refers to a personal and substantial interest in a case such that the party has sustained or will sustain
direct injury because of the challenged governmental act.15 The requirement of standing, which necessarily "sharpens the presentation
of issues,"16 relates to the constitutional mandate that this Court settle only actual cases or controversies.17 Thus, generally, a party will
be allowed to litigate only when (1) he can show that he has personally suffered some actual or threatened injury because of the
allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is likely to be
redressed by a favorable action.18
Applied strictly, the doctrine of standing to litigate will indeed bar the instant petition. In questioning, in their capacity as voters, the
validity of the special election on 14 May 2001, petitioners assert a harm classified as a "generalized grievance." This generalized
grievance is shared in substantially equal measure by a large class of voters, if not all the voters, who voted in that election.19 Neither
have petitioners alleged, in their capacity as taxpayers, that the Court should give due course to the petition because in the special
election held on 14 May 2001 "tax money [was] x x x extracted and spent in violation of specific constitutional protections against
abuses of legislative power or that there [was] misapplication of such funds by COMELEC or that public money [was] deflected to any
improper purpose."20
On the other hand, we have relaxed the requirement on standing and exercised our discretion to give due course to voters suits
involving the right of suffrage.21 Also, in the recent case of Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Zamora,22 we gave the same liberal
treatment to a petition filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines ("IBP"). The IBP questioned the validity of a Presidential directive
deploying elements of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Marines in Metro Manila to conduct patrols even though the IBP
presented "too general an interest." We held:

18

[T]he IBP primarily anchors its standing on its alleged responsibility to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution. Apart from this
declaration, however, the IBP asserts no other basis in support of its locus standi. The mere invocation by the IBP of its duty to preserve
the rule of law and nothing more, while undoubtedly true, is not sufficient to clothe it with standing in this case. This is too general an
interest which is shared by other groups and the whole citizenry x x x.
Having stated the foregoing, this Court has the discretion to take cognizance of a suit which does not satisfy the requirement of legal
standing when paramount interest is involved. In not a few cases, the court has adopted a liberal attitude on the locus standi of a
petitioner where the petitioner is able to craft an issue of transcendental significance to the people. Thus, when the issues raised are of
paramount importance to the public, the Court may brush aside technicalities of procedure. In this case, a reading of the petition shows
that the IBP has advanced constitutional issues which deserve the attention of this Court in view of their seriousness, novelty and
weight as precedents. Moreover, because peace and order are under constant threat and lawless violence occurs in increasing tempo,
undoubtedly aggravated by the Mindanao insurgency problem, the legal controversy raised in the petition almost certainly will not go
away. It will stare us in the face again. It, therefore, behooves the Court to relax the rules on standing and to resolve the issue now,
rather than later.23 (Emphasis supplied)
We accord the same treatment to petitioners in the instant case in their capacity as voters since they raise important issues involving
their right of suffrage, considering that the issue raised in this petition is likely to arise again.
Whether a Special Election for a Single, Three-Year Term
Senatorial Seat was Validly Held on 14 May 2001
Under Section 9, Article VI of the Constitution, a special election may be called to fill any vacancy in the Senate and the House of
Representatives "in the manner prescribed by law," thus:
In case of vacancy in the Senate or in the House of Representatives, a special election may be called to fill such vacancy in the manner
prescribed by law, but the Senator or Member of the House of Representatives thus elected shall serve only for the unexpired term.
(Emphasis supplied)
To implement this provision of the Constitution, Congress passed R.A. No. 6645, which provides in pertinent parts:
SECTION 1. In case a vacancy arises in the Senate at least eighteen (18) months or in the House of Representatives at least one (1)
year before the next regular election for Members of Congress, the Commission on Elections, upon receipt of a resolution of the Senate
or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, certifying to the existence of such vacancy and calling for a special election, shall
hold a special election to fill such vacancy. If Congress is in recess, an official communication on the existence of the vacancy and call
for a special election by the President of the Senate or by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, shall be
sufficient for such purpose. The Senator or Member of the House of Representatives thus elected shall serve only for the unexpired
term.
SECTION 2. The Commission on Elections shall fix the date of the special election, which shall not be earlier than forty-five (45) days
nor later than ninety (90) days from the date of such resolution or communication, stating among other things the office or offices to be
voted for: Provided, however, That if within the said period a general election is scheduled to be held, the special election shall be held
simultaneously with such general election. (Emphasis supplied)
Section 4 of Republic Act No. 7166 subsequently amended Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as follows:
Postponement, Failure of Election and Special Elections. x x x In case a permanent vacancy shall occur in the Senate or House of
Representatives at least one (1) year before the expiration of the term, the Commission shall call and hold a special election to fill the
vacancy not earlier than sixty (60) days nor longer than ninety (90) days after the occurrence of the vacancy. However, in case of such
vacancy in the Senate, the special election shall be held simultaneously with the next succeeding regular election. (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, in case a vacancy arises in Congress at least one year before the expiration of the term, Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as
amended, requires COMELEC: (1) to call a special election by fixing the date of the special election, which shall not be earlier than sixty
(60) days nor later than ninety (90) after the occurrence of the vacancy but in case of a vacancy in the Senate, the special election shall
be held simultaneously with the next succeeding regular election; and (2) to give notice to the voters of, among other things, the office
or offices to be voted for.

19

Did COMELEC, in conducting the special senatorial election simultaneously with the 14 May 2001 regular elections, comply with the
requirements in Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645?
A survey of COMELECs resolutions relating to the conduct of the 14 May 2001 elections reveals that they contain nothing which would
amount to a compliance, either strict or substantial, with the requirements in Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as amended. Thus, nowhere in
its resolutions24 or even in its press releases25 did COMELEC state that it would hold a special election for a single three-year term
Senate seat simultaneously with the regular elections on 14 May 2001. Nor did COMELEC give formal notice that it would proclaim as
winner the senatorial candidate receiving the 13th highest number of votes in the special election.
The controversy thus turns on whether COMELECs failure, assuming it did fail, to comply with the requirements in Section 2 of R.A.
No. 6645, as amended, invalidated the conduct of the special senatorial election on 14 May 2001 and accordingly rendered Honasans
proclamation as the winner in that special election void. More precisely, the question is whether the special election is invalid for lack of
a "call" for such election and for lack of notice as to the office to be filled and the manner by which the winner in the special election is
to be determined. For reasons stated below, the Court answers in the negative.
COMELECs Failure to Give Notice
of the Time of the Special Election Did Not
Negate the Calling of such Election
The calling of an election, that is, the giving notice of the time and place of its occurrence, whether made by the legislature directly or by
the body with the duty to give such call, is indispensable to the elections validity.26 In a general election, where the law fixes the date of
the election, the election is valid without any call by the body charged to administer the election.27
In a special election to fill a vacancy, the rule is that a statute that expressly provides that an election to fill a vacancy shall be held at
the next general elections fixes the date at which the special election is to be held and operates as the call for that election.
Consequently, an election held at the time thus prescribed is not invalidated by the fact that the body charged by law with the duty of
calling the election failed to do so.28 This is because the right and duty to hold the election emanate from the statute and not from any
call for the election by some authority29 and the law thus charges voters with knowledge of the time and place of the election.30
Conversely, where the law does not fix the time and place for holding a special election but empowers some authority to fix the time and
place after the happening of a condition precedent, the statutory provision on the giving of notice is considered mandatory, and failure
to do so will render the election a nullity.31
In the instant case, Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645 itself provides that in case of vacancy in the Senate, the special election to fill such
vacancy shall be held simultaneously with the next succeeding regular election. Accordingly, the special election to fill the vacancy in
the Senate arising from Senator Guingonas appointment as Vice-President in February 2001 could not be held at any other time but
must be held simultaneously with the next succeeding regular elections on 14 May 2001. The law charges the voters with knowledge of
this statutory notice and COMELECs failure to give the additional notice did not negate the calling of such special election, much less
invalidate it.
Our conclusion might be different had the present case involved a special election to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives. In
such a case, the holding of the special election is subject to a condition precedent, that is, the vacancy should take place at least one
year before the expiration of the term. The time of the election is left to the discretion of COMELEC subject only to the limitation that it
holds the special election within the range of time provided in Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as amended. This makes mandatory the
requirement in Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as amended, for COMELEC to "call x x x a special election x x x not earlier than 60 days nor
longer than 90 days after the occurrence of the vacancy" and give notice of the office to be filled. The COMELECs failure to so call and
give notice will nullify any attempt to hold a special election to fill the vacancy. Indeed, it will be well-nigh impossible for the voters in the
congressional district involved to know the time and place of the special election and the office to be filled unless the COMELEC so
notifies them.
No Proof that COMELECs
Failure to Give Notice of the Office
to be Filled and the Manner of
Determining the Winner in the Special
Election Misled Voters

20

The test in determining the validity of a special election in relation to the failure to give notice of the special election is whether the want
of notice has resulted in misleading a sufficient number of voters as would change the result of the special election. If the lack of official
notice misled a substantial number of voters who wrongly believed that there was no special election to fill a vacancy, a choice by a
small percentage of voters would be void.32
The required notice to the voters in the 14 May 2001 special senatorial election covers two matters. First, that COMELEC will hold a
special election to fill a vacant single three-year term Senate seat simultaneously with the regular elections scheduled on the same
date. Second, that COMELEC will proclaim as winner the senatorial candidate receiving the 13th highest number of votes in the special
election. Petitioners have neither claimed nor proved that COMELECs failure to give this required notice misled a sufficient number of
voters as would change the result of the special senatorial election or led them to believe that there was no such special election.
Instead, what petitioners did is conclude that since COMELEC failed to give such notice, no special election took place. This bare
assertion carries no value. Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645, as amended, charged those who voted in the elections of 14 May 2001 with the
knowledge that the vacancy in the Senate arising from Senator Guingonas appointment as Vice-President in February 2001 was to be
filled in the next succeeding regular election of 14 May 2001. Similarly, the absence of formal notice from COMELEC does not preclude
the possibility that the voters had actual notice of the special election, the office to be voted in that election, and the manner by which
COMELEC would determine the winner. Such actual notice could come from many sources, such as media reports of the enactment of
R.A. No. 6645 and election propaganda during the campaign.33
More than 10 million voters cast their votes in favor of Honasan, the party who stands most prejudiced by the instant petition. We simply
cannot disenfranchise those who voted for Honasan, in the absence of proof that COMELECs omission prejudiced voters in the
exercise of their right of suffrage so as to negate the holding of the special election. Indeed, this Court is loathe to annul elections and
will only do so when it is "impossible to distinguish what votes are lawful and what are unlawful, or to arrive at any certain result
whatever, or that the great body of the voters have been prevented by violence, intimidation, and threats from exercising their
franchise."34
Otherwise, the consistent rule has been to respect the electorates will and let the results of the election stand, despite irregularities that
may have attended the conduct of the elections.35 This is but to acknowledge the purpose and role of elections in a democratic society
such as ours, which is:
to give the voters a direct participation in the affairs of their government, either in determining who shall be their public officials or in
deciding some question of public interest; and for that purpose all of the legal voters should be permitted, unhampered and unmolested,
to cast their ballot. When that is done and no frauds have been committed, the ballots should be counted and the election should not be
declared null. Innocent voters should not be deprived of their participation in the affairs of their government for mere irregularities on the
part of the election officers, for which they are in no way responsible. A different rule would make the manner and method of performing
a public duty of greater importance than the duty itself.36 (Emphasis in the original)
Separate Documentation and Canvassing
not Required under Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645,
Neither is there basis in petitioners claim that the manner by which COMELEC conducted the special senatorial election on 14 May
2001 is a nullity because COMELEC failed to document separately the candidates and to canvass separately the votes cast for the
special election. No such requirements exist in our election laws. What is mandatory under Section 2 of R.A. No. 6645 is that
COMELEC "fix the date of the election," if necessary, and "state, among others, the office or offices to be voted for." Similarly,
petitioners reliance on Section 73 of B.P. Blg. 881 on the filing of certificates of candidacy, and on Section 4(4) of R.A. No. 6646 on the
printing of election returns and tally sheets, to support their claim is misplaced. These provisions govern elections in general and in no
way require separate documentation of candidates or separate canvass of votes in a jointly held regular and special elections.
Significantly, the method adopted by COMELEC in conducting the special election on 14 May 2001 merely implemented the procedure
specified by the Senate in Resolution No. 84. Initially, the original draft of Resolution No. 84 as introduced by Senator Francisco Tatad
("Senator Tatad") made no mention of the manner by which the seat vacated by former Senator Guingona would be filled. However,
upon the suggestion of Senator Raul Roco ("Senator Roco"), the Senate agreed to amend Resolution No. 84 by providing, as it now
appears, that "the senatorial candidate garnering the thirteenth (13th) highest number of votes shall serve only for the unexpired term of
former Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr." Senator Roco introduced the amendment to spare COMELEC and the candidates needless
expenditures and the voters further inconvenience, thus:

21

S[ENATOR] T[ATAD]. Mr. President, I move that we now consider Proposed Senate Resolution No. 934 [later converted to Resolution
No. 84].
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none, the motion is approved.
Consideration of Proposed Senate Resolution No. 934 is now in order. With the permission of the Body, the Secretary will read only the
title and text of the resolution.
T[HE] S[ECRETARY]. Proposed Senate Resolution No. 934 entitled
RESOLUTION CERTIFYING TO THE EXISTENCE OF A VACANCY IN THE SENATE AND CALLING ON THE COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS (COMELEC) TO FILL UP SUCH VACANCY THROUGH ELECTION TO BE HELD SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH THE
REGULAR ELECTION ON MAY 14, 2001 AND THE SENATOR THUS ELECTED TO SERVE ONLY FOR THE UNEXPIRED TERM
WHEREAS, the Honorable Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. was elected Senator of the Philippines in 1998 for a term which will expire on June
30, 2004;
WHEREAS, on February 6, 2001, Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo nominated Senator Guingona as Vice-President
of the Philippines;
WHEREAS, the nomination of Senator Guingona has been confirmed by a majority vote of all the members of both House of Congress,
voting separately;
WHEREAS, Senator Guingona will take his Oath of Office as Vice-President of the Philippines on February 9, 2001;
WHEREAS, Republic Act No. 7166 provides that the election for twelve (12) Senators, all elective Members of the House of
Representatives, and all elective provincial city and municipal officials shall be held on the second Monday and every three years
thereafter; Now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the Senate, as it is hereby resolved, to certify, as it hereby certifies, the existence of a vacancy in the Senate and calling
the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to fill up such vacancy through election to be held simultaneously with the regular election
on May 14, 2001 and the Senator thus elected to serve only for the unexpired term.
Adopted,
(Sgd.) FRANCISCO S. TATAD
Senator
S[ENATOR] T[ATAD]. Mr. President, I move for the adoption of this resolution.
S[ENATOR] O[SMEA] (J). Mr. President.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. Sen. John H. Osmea is recognized.
S[ENATOR] O[SMEA] (J). Thank you, Mr. President. Will the distinguished Majority Leader, Chairman of the Committee on Rules,
author of this resolution, yield for a few questions?
S[ENATOR] T[ATAD]. With trepidation, Mr. President. [Laughter]
S[ENATOR] O[SMEA] (J). What a way of flattery. [Laughter]
Mr. President, I think I recall that sometime in 1951 or 1953, there was a special election for a vacant seat in the Senate. As a matter of
fact, the one who was elected in that special election was then Congressman, later Senator Feli[s]berto Verano.

22

In that election, Mr. President, the candidates contested the seat. In other words, the electorate had to cast a vote for a ninth senator
because at that time there were only eight to elect a member or rather, a candidate to that particular seat.
Then I remember, Mr. President, that when we ran after the EDSA revolution, twice there were 24 candidates and the first 12 were
elected to a six-year term and the next 12 were elected to a three-year term.
My question therefore is, how is this going to be done in this election? Is the candidate with the 13th largest number of votes going to
be the one to take a three-year term? Or is there going to be an election for a position of senator for the unexpired term of Sen. Teofisto
Guingona?
S[ENATOR] T[ATAD]. Mr. President, in this resolution, we are leaving the mechanics to the Commission on Elections. But personally, I
would like to suggest that probably, the candidate obtaining the 13th largest number of votes be declared as elected to fill up the
unexpired term of Senator Guingona.
S[ENATOR] O[SMEA] (J). Is there a law that would allow the Comelec to conduct such an election? Is it not the case that the vacancy
is for a specific office? I am really at a loss. I am rising here because I think it is something that we should consider. I do not know if we
can No, this is not a Concurrent Resolution.
S[ENATOR] T[ATAD]. May we solicit the legal wisdom of the Senate President.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. May I share this information that under Republic Act No. 6645, what is needed is a resolution of this Chamber
calling attention to the need for the holding of a special election to fill up the vacancy created, in this particular case, by the appointment
of our colleague, Senator Guingona, as Vice President.
It can be managed in the Commission on Elections so that a slot for the particular candidate to fill up would be that reserved for Mr.
Guingonas unexpired term. In other words, it can be arranged in such a manner.
xxxx
S[ENATOR] R[OCO]. Mr. President.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. Sen. Raul S. Roco is recognized.
S[ENATOR] R[OCO]. May we suggest, subject to a one-minute caucus, wordings to the effect that in the simultaneous elections, the
13th placer be therefore deemed to be the special election for this purpose. So we just nominate 13 and it is good for our colleagues. It
is better for the candidates. It is also less expensive because the ballot will be printed and there will be less disfranchisement.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. That is right.
S[ENATOR] R[OCO]. If we can just deem it therefore under this resolution to be such a special election, maybe, we satisfy the
requirement of the law.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. Yes. In other words, this shall be a guidance for the Comelec.
S[ENATOR] R[OCO]. Yes.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. to implement.
S[ENATOR] R[OCO]. Yes. The Comelec will not have the flexibility.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. That is right.
S[ENATOR] R[OCO]. We will already consider the 13th placer of the forthcoming elections that will be held simultaneously as a special
election under this law as we understand it.

23

T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. Yes. That will be a good compromise, Senator Roco.


S[ENATOR] R[OCO]. Yes. So if the sponsor can introduce that later, maybe it will be better, Mr. President.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. What does the sponsor say?
S[ENATOR] T[ATAD]. Mr. President, that is a most satisfactory proposal because I do not believe that there will be anyone running
specifically
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. Correct.
S[ENATOR] T[ATAD]. to fill up this position for three years and campaigning nationwide.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. Actually, I think what is going to happen is the 13th candidate will be running with specific groups.
S[ENATOR] T[ATAD]. Yes. Whoever gets No. 13.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. I think we can specifically define that as the intent of this resolution.
S[ENATOR] T[ATAD]. Subject to style, we accept that amendment and if there will be no other amendment, I move for the adoption of
this resolution.
xxxx
ADOPTION OF S. RES. NO. 934
If there are no other proposed amendments, I move that we adopt this resolution.
T[HE] P[RESIDENT]. There is a motion to adopt this resolution. Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none, the motion is
approved.37
Evidently, COMELEC, in the exercise of its discretion to use means and methods to conduct the special election within the confines of
R.A. No. 6645, merely chose to adopt the Senates proposal, as embodied in Resolution No. 84. This Court has consistently
acknowledged and affirmed COMELECs wide latitude of discretion in adopting means to carry out its mandate of ensuring free, orderly,
and honest elections subject only to the limitation that the means so adopted are not illegal or do not constitute grave abuse of
discretion.38 COMELECs decision to abandon the means it employed in the 13 November 1951 and 8 November 1955 special
elections and adopt the method embodied in Resolution No. 84 is but a legitimate exercise of its discretion. Conversely, this Court will
not interfere should COMELEC, in subsequent special senatorial elections, choose to revert to the means it followed in the 13
November 1951 and 8 November 1955 elections. That COMELEC adopts means that are novel or even disagreeable is no reason to
adjudge it liable for grave abuse of discretion. As we have earlier noted:
The Commission on Elections is a constitutional body. It is intended to play a distinct and important part in our scheme of
government.1wphi1 In the discharge of its functions, it should not be hampered with restrictions that would be fully warranted in the
case of a less responsible organization. The Commission may err, so may this Court also. It should be allowed considerable latitude in
devising means and methods that will insure the accomplishment of the great objective for which it was created free, orderly and
honest elections. We may not agree fully with its choice of means, but unless these are clearly illegal or constitute gross abuse of
discretion, this court should not interfere.39
A Word to COMELEC
The calling of a special election, if necessary, and the giving of notice to the electorate of necessary information regarding a special
election, are central to an informed exercise of the right of suffrage. While the circumstances attendant to the present case have led us
to conclude that COMELECs failure to so call and give notice did not invalidate the special senatorial election held on 14 May 2001,
COMELEC should not take chances in future elections. We remind COMELEC to comply strictly with all the requirements under
applicable laws relative to the conduct of regular elections in general and special elections in particular.

24

WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the petition for lack of merit.


SO ORDERED.

25

G.R. No. 153945

February 4, 2003

REYNATO BAYTAN, REYNALDO BAYTAN and ADRIAN BAYTAN, petitioners,


vs.
THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
Challenged in this petition for certiorari1 with prayer for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is the Resolution dated
June 3, 20022 of the Commission on Elections ("COMELEC" for brevity) en banc in E.O. Case No. 97-503. In its assailed Resolution,
the COMELEC en banc denied the motion to reconsider Minute Resolution No. 00-2281 dated November 9, 20003 ordering the Law
Department to file criminal cases for "double registration" against petitioners Reynato Baytan, Reynaldo Baytan and Adrian Baytan
("petitioners" for brevity).
The Antecedents
On June 15, 1997, petitioners were on their way to register for the May 1998 elections when they met the newly elected Barangay
Captain, Roberto Ignacio ("Ignacio" for brevity), in Barangay 18, Zone II of Cavite City. Ignacio led petitioners to register in Precinct No.
83-A of Barangay 18. Petitioners registered in this precinct as evidenced by Voters Registration Records Nos. 41762473, 41762472
and 41762470.
When petitioners returned home, they wondered why the registrants in this precinct looked unfamiliar to them. This prompted
petitioners to return to the registration center to study the precinct map of Barangay 18. They then realized that their residence is
situated within the jurisdiction of Barangay 28. Thus, petitioners proceeded to Precinct 129-A of Barangay 28 and registered anew on
June 22, 1997 as evidenced by Voters Registration Records Nos. 42662969, 42662968 and 42662917.

26

Subsequently, petitioners sent a letter dated August 21, 1997 to former COMELEC Assistant Executive Director Jose Pio O. Joson and
furnished a copy thereof to COMELEC Registrar Francisco Trias. In this letter, petitioners requested for advice on how to cancel their
previous registration. They also explained the reason and circumstances of their second registration and expressed their intention to
redress the error.
On September 16, 1997, the Election Officer of Cavite City forwarded copies of petitioners Voters Registration Records to the
Provincial Election Supervisor, Atty. Juanito V. Ravanzo ("Ravanzo" for brevity), for evaluation. Ravanzo endorsed the matter to the
Regional Director for prosecution. Eventually, the Law Department endorsed the case to Ravanzo for resolution.
On January 10, 1998, Ravanzo recommended filing an information for double registration against petitioners. In an en banc meeting
held on November 09, 2000, the COMELEC in its Minute Resolution No. 00-2281 affirmed the recommendation of Ravanzo. Petitioners
moved for reconsideration. The COMELEC en banc denied the motion and disposed as follows:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the En Banc resolution dated November 9, 2000 is hereby AFFIRMED. The Law Department is
hereby directed to file the proper information against respondents for violation of Art. XXII, Sec. 261, par. (y) sub-par. (5) of the Omnibus
Election Code."
Hence, the instant petition.
The Issues
Petitioners contend that the COMELEC en banc committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in
1. Recommending the prosecution of petitioners for double registration despite clear and convincing evidence on record that
they had no intention of committing said election offense;
2. Not considering the letter dated August 21, 1997 addressed to the COMELEC Assistant Director of Cavite City as
substantial compliance with the requirement of the law for cancellation of previous registration; and
3. Taking cognizance of the case in the first instance in violation of Section 3, Article IX-C of the Constitution.
In sum, petitioners insist they are innocent of any wrongdoing in their act of registering twice on different days in two different precincts.
Petitioners argue that they did not intend to perpetrate the act prohibited, and therefore they should be exculpated. They claim honest
mistake and good faith in registering twice. Petitioners claim they made the first registration because of the intervention and instigation
of Ignacio.
Petitioners theorize that their August 21, 1997 letter to the election registrar of Cavite City informing him of the lapse and asking how to
rectify the same constitutes substantial compliance with the Omnibus Election Codes requirement of cancellation of prior registration.
They further implore a liberal construction of the laws on election offenses since almost five years had lapsed from the date of the
commission of the offense on June 15, 1997. They claim the case is about to prescribe under the Election Code.
Lastly, petitioners fault the COMELEC en banc for assuming original jurisdiction over the case in contravention of Section 3, Article IX-C
of the Constitution. Petitioners argue that this constitutional provision requires that election cases must first be heard and decided by a
Division before assumption of jurisdiction by the COMELEC en banc.
The Courts Ruling
The petition is bereft of merit.
First and Second Issues: Whether the criminal cases should be dismissed on the ground of lack of intent and substantial compliance
with the requirement of cancellation of previous registration.
In Minute Resolution No. 00-2281 dated November 9, 2000, the COMELEC en banc affirmed the recommendation of the investigating
officer. The COMELEC thus directed its Law Department to file the necessary information against petitioners for violation of Article XXII,
SEC. 261 (y) (5) of the Election Code which reads:

27

"SEC. 261. Prohibited Acts. The following shall be guilty of an election offense:
(y) On Registration of Voters:
(5) Any person who, being a registered voter, registers anew without filing an application for cancellation of his previous
registration."
Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration to which the COMELEC en banc issued the assailed Resolution dated June 3, 2002
affirming the Minute Resolution.
The grant by the Constitution to the COMELEC of the power to investigate and prosecute election offenses is intended to enable the
COMELEC to assure the people of "free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections." This grant is an adjunct to the COMELECs
constitutional duty to enforce and administer all election laws. Failure by the COMELEC to exercise this power could result in the
frustration of the true will of the people and make an idle ceremony of the sacred right and duty of every qualified citizen to vote.4
Petitioners lose sight of the fact that the assailed resolutions were issued in the preliminary investigation stage. A preliminary
investigation is essentially inquisitorial and is only the means to discover who may be charged with a crime, its function being merely to
determine probable cause.5 All that is required in the preliminary investigation is the determination of probable cause to justify the
holding of petitioners for trial. By definition, probable cause is
"x x x a reasonable ground of presumption that a matter is, or may be, well founded x x x such a state of facts in the mind of the
prosecutor as would lead a person of ordinary caution and prudence to believe or entertain an honest or strong suspicion that a thing is
so. The term does not mean `actual or positive cause nor does it import absolute certainty. It is merely based on opinion and
reasonable belief. Thus, a finding of probable cause does not require an inquiry into whether there is sufficient evidence to procure a
conviction. It is enough that it is believed that the act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged. Precisely, there is a
trial for the reception of evidence of the prosecution in support of the charge."6
There is no question that petitioners registered twice on different days and in different precincts without canceling their previous
registration. Aside from this, the COMELEC found certain circumstances prevailing in the case sufficient to warrant the finding of
probable cause. The COMELEC noted that petitioners wrote down their address in Precinct No. 83-A of Barangay 18 as No. 709 T.
Gomez Extension St., Barangay 18-Maya, Cavite City. However, in Precinct No. 129-A of Barangay 28, petitioners registered as
residents of No. 709 Magcawas St., Barangay 28-Taurus, Caridad, Cavite City. The COMELEC noted further that the affidavits
submitted by petitioners contained glaring inconsistencies. Petitioners claimed that Ignacio led them to the wrong precinct to register.
However, Ignacios affidavit stated that while he led them to the voting precinct of Barangay 18, he immediately left the area not
knowing that petitioners registered in the wrong barangay. Contrary to petitioners sworn statements, Aurora Baytan, mother of
petitioners, had another version. She claimed in her affidavit that on June 15, 1997, Ignacio went to their house to inform them about
the redefinition of their barangays territorial jurisdiction. Right then and there, Ignacio brought her sons to Barangay 18 to register.
The COMELEC also pointed out that since "double registration" is malum prohibitum, petitioners claim of lack of intent to violate the
law is inconsequential. Neither did the COMELEC consider petitioners letter dated August 22, 1997 as an application to cancel their
previous registration. The COMELEC explained that this letter was sent after their second registration was accomplished and after the
election officer of Cavite City had already reported their act of double registration to a higher official.
All told, a reasonably prudent man would readily conclude that there exists probable cause to hold petitioners for trial for the offense of
double registration.
Moreover, petitioners claims of honest mistake, good faith and substantial compliance with the Election Codes requirement of
cancellation of previous registration are matters of defense best ventilated in the trial proper rather than at the preliminary
investigation.7 The established rule is that a preliminary investigation is not the occasion for the full and exhaustive display of the
parties evidence. It is for the presentation of such evidence only as may engender a well-grounded belief that an offense has been
committed and the accused is probably guilty thereof.8
It is also well-settled that the finding of probable cause in the prosecution of election offenses rests in the COMELECs sound
discretion. The COMELEC exercises the constitutional authority to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute cases for violation of
election laws, including acts or omissions constituting election frauds, offenses and malpractices.9 Generally, the Court will not interfere
with such finding of the COMELEC absent a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion. This principle emanates from the COMELECs

28

exclusive power to conduct preliminary investigation of all election offenses punishable under the election laws and to prosecute the
same, except as may otherwise be provided by law.10
We also cannot accept petitioners plea for a liberal construction of the laws on the ground of prescription. Prescription of the crime or
offense is the forfeiture or loss of the right of the State to prosecute the offender after the lapse of a certain time.11
Section 267 of the Election Code provides that "election offenses shall prescribe after five years from the date of their commission." In
this case, the offense of double registration allegedly occurred on June 22, 1997 when petitioners registered for a second time in a
different precinct without canceling their previous registration. At this point, the period of prescription for the alleged offense started to
run.
However, prescription is interrupted when proceedings are instituted against the offender. Specifically, the period of prescription is
interrupted by the filing of the complaint even if it be merely for purposes of preliminary examination or investigation.12
The COMELEC initiated the complaint for double registration against petitioners motu proprio under Sections 3,13414 and 5,15 Rule 34 of
the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure. On September 16, 1997, the Election Officer of Cavite City forwarded copies of petitioners
Voters Registration Records for evaluation to Atty. Juanito V. Ravanzo, Provincial Election Supervisor of Cavite City, who was also
tasked to investigate the case. Ravanzo endorsed the matter to the Regional Director for prosecution. The Regional Director forwarded
the case to the Law Department and the latter re-endorsed the same to the office of Ravanzo for resolution. A preliminary investigation
hearing was conducted on January 19, 1998 where petitioners were instructed to submit their counter-affidavits. After the preliminary
investigation and based on the affidavits and other evidence submitted in the case, Ravanzo recommended the prosecution of
petitioners for the offense of double registration. Ineluctably, the prescriptive period of the offense was interrupted upon the
COMELECs initiation of proceedings against petitioners and remains tolled pending the termination of the case.
The liberal construction of punitive laws in relation to the prescription of offenses cannot be invoked to prejudice the interest of the State
to prosecute election offenses, especially those which the COMELEC described as "ruffling the electoral system."16
Third Issue: Whether the COMELEC en bancs assumption of original jurisdiction over the case violated the Constitution.
Petitioners rely on Section 3, Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution which states:
"Sec. 3. The Commission on Elections may sit en banc or in two divisions, and shall promulgate its rules of procedure in order to
expedite disposition of election cases, including pre-proclamation controversies. All such election cases shall be heard and decided in
division, provided that motions for reconsideration of decisions shall be decided by the Commission en banc."
Petitioners assert that this constitutional provision serves as basis to nullify the proceedings conducted and orders issued by the
COMELEC en banc in E.O. Case No. 97-503. Petitioners cite Sarmiento v. Comelec17 and Zarate v. Comelec18 to support their stand
that the COMELEC en banc acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion when it assumed original jurisdiction over the
case without first referring the same to any of its divisions. In Sarmiento and Zarate, the Court similarly held that "election cases must
first be heard and decided by a Division of the Commission," and that the "Commission, sitting en banc, does not have the authority to
hear and decide the same at the first instance."
In its Comment for the COMELEC, the Solicitor General points out that the rulings in Sarmiento and Zarate were clarified in Canicosa v.
COMELEC19 to mean that
"[I]t is only in the exercise of its adjudicatory or quasi judicial powers that the COMELEC is mandated to hear and decide cases first by
division and then, upon motion for reconsideration, by the COMELEC en banc. This is when it is jurisdictional."
The Solicitor General contends that the conduct of a preliminary investigation before the filing of an information in court does not in any
way adjudicate with finality the rights and liabilities of the parties investigated. A preliminary investigation does not make any
pronouncement as to the guilt or innocence of the party involved. Hence, a preliminary investigation cannot be considered a judicial or
quasi-judicial proceeding required to be heard by the Division in the first instance.
On the other hand, petitioners countered that in Cruz v. People,20 the Court held that the conduct of a preliminary investigation "is a
judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding since there is opportunity to be heard and for the production and weighing of evidence and a
decision is rendered thereon."

29

Under Section 2, Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution, the COMELEC exercises both administrative and quasi-judicial powers. The
COMELECs administrative powers are found in Section 2 (1), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), and (9) of Article IX-C.21 The 1987 Constitution
does not prescribe how the COMELEC should exercise its administrative powers, whether en banc or in division. The Constitution
merely vests the COMELECs administrative powers in the "Commission on Elections," while providing that the COMELEC "may sit en
banc or in two divisions." Clearly, the COMELEC en banc can act directly on matters falling within its administrative powers. Indeed, this
has been the practice of the COMELEC both under the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions.22
On the other hand, the COMELECs quasi-judicial powers are found in Section 2 (2) of Article IX-C, to wit:
"Section 2. The Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and functions:
xxx
(2) Exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over all contests relating to the elections, returns, and qualifications of all elective regional,
provincial, and city officials, and appellate jurisdiction over all contests involving elective municipal officials decided by trial courts of
general jurisdiction, or involving elective barangay officials decided by trial courts of limited jurisdiction.
Decisions, final orders, or rulings of the Commission on election contests involving elective municipal and barangay offices shall be
final, executory, and not appealable."
The COMELECs exercise of its quasi-judicial powers is subject to Section 3 of Article IX-C which expressly requires that all election
cases, including pre-proclamation controversies, shall be decided by the COMELEC in division, and the motion for reconsideration shall
be decided by the COMELEC en banc. It follows, as held by the Court in Canicosa,23 that the COMELEC is mandated to decide cases
first in division, and then upon motion for reconsideration en banc, only when the COMELEC exercises its quasi-judicial powers.
The COMELEC is empowered in Section 2(6), Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution to "prosecute cases of violations of election laws."
The prosecution of election law violators involves the exercise of the COMELECs administrative powers. Thus, the COMELEC en banc
can directly approve the recommendation of its Law Department to file the criminal information for double registration against
petitioners in the instant case. There is no constitutional requirement that the filing of the criminal information be first decided by any of
the divisions of the COMELEC.
In sum, the second sentence of Section 3, Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution is not applicable in administrative cases, like the instant
case where the COMELEC is determining whether probable cause exists to charge petitioners for violation of the provision of the
Election Code prohibiting double registration.
Indeed, the COMELEC acted in accordance with Section 9(b), Rule 34 of the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure governing the
prosecution of election offenses in meeting en banc in the first instance and acting on the recommendation of Investigating Officer
Ravanzo to file charges against petitioners. The rule reads:
"SEC. 9. Duty of the Law Department, State Prosecutor, Provincial or City Fiscal Upon Receipt of Records. x x x
(b). In cases investigated by the lawyers or the field personnel of the Commission, the Director of the Law Department shall review and
evaluate the recommendation of said legal officer, prepare a report and make a recommendation to the Commission affirming,
modifying or reversing the same which shall be included in the agenda of the succeeding meeting en banc of the Commission. If
the Commission approves the filing of an information against the respondent/s, the Director of the Law Department shall prepare and
sign the information for immediate filing with the appropriate court." (Emphasis supplied)
Minute Resolution No. 00-2281 was issued during the en banc meeting held on November 9, 2000 to resolve the recommendation of
Ravanzo in the case.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.

30

G.R. No. 149147

June 18, 2003

FELIX BAROT, Petitioner,


vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS CITY BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF TANJAY CITY and ROLANDO TABALOC,Respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO-MORALES, J.:
Before this Court is a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for temporary restraining order under Rule 64 of the 1997 Rules
of Civil Procedure seeking to set aside the August 3, 2001 En Banc Resolution of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in SPC
No. 01-195.
Felix Barot (petitioner) and Rolando Tabaloc (private respondent) were candidates for councilor of Tanjay City, Negros Oriental in the
May 14, 2001 elections.1
On May 17, 2001, the Board of Canvassers (BOC) of Tanjay City proclaimed the winning candidates for mayor, vice-mayor, and ten
councilors including petitioner who was proclaimed the 10th.2
On May 29, 2001, BOC Chair Erlinda H. Nochefranca sent a Memorandum3 to the COMELEC En Bancrequesting for authority to
correct the erroneous entries in the Certificate of Canvass of Votes and Proclamation of the Winning Candidates,4 and to proclaim
private respondent in place of petitioner. In said Memorandum, Nochefranca alleged that the erroneous entries were made due to
oversight as a result of which votes for some candidates for mayor down to the city councilors were increased and petitioner was
inadvertently proclaimed as the 10th winning member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod when it should have been private respondent
who actually received more votes than petitioner.
Attached to the Memorandum was a Sworn Statement5 executed by Assistant City Treasurer Virginia C. Reyes who was the tabulator of
the BOC wherein she alleged that in the course of transferring the entries from the Statement of Votes to the Summary of Votes, she
erred "by copying the grand totals instead of the subtotals per page," thus overstating several entries appearing in the Summary of
Votes.

31

The COMELEC, which docketed the Memorandum of Nochefranca as SPC No. 01-195 (the petition), set it for hearing on June 13, 25
and 27, 2001 during which the members of the BOC presented evidence. No appearance was made by or for petitioner. The
COMELEC thereafter required the candidates to file their respective comments to the petition.6
Petitioner subsequently filed an opposition7 to the petition on the following grounds:
1. This Honorable Commission has no jurisdiction to rule on this Petition because it was filed outside the mandatory periods
for filing petitions of this nature and that there is no proof that proper filing and docketing fees have been paid.
2. The petitioner is not a proper party in filing this petition. The filing of this petition does not speak well of what the COMELEC
stands for which is an impartial body and does not side any candidate or party.
3. The correction of manifest errors is proper only before proclamation of a winning candidate[;] after proclamation[,] the proper
action is an election protest.8
By the assailed Resolution of August 3, 2001,9 the COMELEC En Banc granted the petition and disposed as follows:
WHEREFORE, the premises considered, this Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to GRANT the instant petition
requesting for authority to correct erroneous entries in the certificate of canvass of votes and proclamation of winning candidates for city
offices in the City of Tanjay, Negros Oriental. The proclamation of herein respondent FELIX BAROT as the tenth (10th) winning
candidate for the position of Member of Sangguniang Panlungsod of Tanjay City is hereby ordered SUSPENDED and/or if one has
already been made, the same is hereby ordered ANNULED.
ACCORDINGLY, the City Board of Canvassers of Tanjay City is hereby directed to RECONVENE and effect the necessary corrections
in the Certificates of Canvass and Proclamation of Winning Candidates in the City of Tanjay and on the basis thereof PROCLAIM the
winning candidates according to their ranks. (Underscoring supplied)
Hence, the present petition upon the following grounds:
1. The respondent COMELEC denied the petitioner his day in Court when it railroaded the hearing of the case in the
Commission a quo. While it gave the petitioner the opportunity to be heard, the observance of due process was but a farce
and diluted exercise.
2. This COMELEC had no jurisdiction to rule on the Petition filed by the City Board of Canvassers of Tanjay City because it
was filed outside the mandatory periods for filing petitions of this nature and that there is no proof that proper filing and
docketing fees have been paid.
3. The respondent City Board of Canvassers of Tanjay City is not a proper party in filing the original petition before the
COMELEC. The filing of the petition [SPC-01-195] does not speak well of what the COMELEC stands for, which is an impartial
body and does not side with any candidate or party.
4. The correction of manifest errors is proper only before proclamation of a winning candidate[;] after proclamation[,] the proper
action is an election contest.
5. The private respondent Rolando Tabaloc has filed an Election Protest now docketed as EPC NO. 2001-51, this change of
position of respondent Tabaloc should be construed as a tacit recognition of the due election of your petitioner Felix Barot.10
By Resolution of August 21, 2001, this Court granted a Temporary Restraining Order11 enjoining the COMELEC and the BOC to cease
and desist from implementing the assailed COMELEC Resolution of August 3, 2001.
In the present petition, petitioner posits that as the dates of hearing of the petition scheduled by the COMELEC were "too successive in
nature without taking into account that petitioner comes from the province," he was denied due process, and had he been given his day,
he would have proven his detractors wrong.12

32

And petitioner maintains that the COMELEC has no jurisdiction over the petition as it was filed beyond the reglementary period. For, so
petitioner contends, since the proclamation was made on May 17, 2001, the petition to correct manifest error should have been filed
within 5 days thereafter or a petition to annul proclamation should have been filed within 10 days also thereafter, citing the case
of Mentang v. Commission on Elections.13
In another vein, petitioner posits that even if there were manifest errors in the Certificate of Canvass of Votes, correction should have
been done before proclamation,14 he citing Section 34 of COMELEC Resolution No. 3848 which provides:
SECTION 34. Manifest Error. (a) Where it is clearly shown before proclamation that manifest errors were committed in the
tabulation or the tallying of election returns, or certificates of canvass, during the canvassing, the Board may motu propio, or
upon verified petition by any candidate, political party, organization or coalition of political parties, after due notice and
hearing, correct the errors committed.
There is manifest error in the tabulation or tallying of the results during canvassing where:
1. A copy of the Election Returns/Certificate of Canvass was tabulated more than once;
2. Two or more copies of the Election Returns of one precinct, or two or more copies of Certificate of Canvass of one city or
municipality were tabulated;
3. There was a mistake in the copying of the figures from the Election Return/ Certificate of Canvass into the Statement of
Votes;
4. Election Returns from non-existent precincts were included in the canvass for another district; or
5. There was a mistake in the addition of the votes of any candidate.
x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Finally, petitioner posits that there is no proof that proper filing and docketing fees were paid, hence, the COMELEC did not acquire
jurisdiction over the petition, and that Nochefranca is not among those who may file an action before the COMELEC, he citing Sections
2 and 3, Rule 5 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure15 which read:
Section 2. Who may be parties. Only natural or juridical persons or entities duly authorized by law, such as a voter, a candidate, or
registered political parties, organization or coalition of political parties, including parties or organizations under the party list system, and
any such person permitted by these Rules to bring an action or proceeding may be parties in any action or proceeding before the
Commission.
Section 3. Parties in Interest. All actions filed with the Commission must be prosecuted and defended in the name of the real party in
interest. (Italics in the original)
The present petition is bereft of merit.
As correctly argued by the COMELEC, while petitioner was unable to attend the scheduled hearings of the petition, he was given the
opportunity to file his comment thereon and he in fact filed an opposition thereto. Petitioner was thus able to air his side of the case.16
Due process does not necessarily mean or require a hearing, but simply an opportunity or right to be heard. One may be
heard, not solely by verbal presentation but also perhaps many times more creditably and predictable than oral argument,
through pleadings.
xxx
The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain
ones side or an opportunity to seek reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. A formal or trial type hearing is not at all times
and in all instances essential. The requirements are satisfied when the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain

33

their side of the controversy at hand. What is frowned upon is the absolute lack of notice or hearing.17 (Emphasis supplied; citations
omitted)
As to the claim that the petition was not filed within the reglementary period, it should be noted that the 5-day period to file a petition for
correction may be done after proclamation as provided under paragraph (b), Section 5, Rule 27 of the COMELEC Rules:
Section 5. Pre-proclamation Controversies Which May Be Filed Directly with the Commission.
xxx
(b) If the petition involves the illegal composition or proceedings of the board under subparagraph (1) of paragraph (a) above, it must be
filed immediately when the board begins to act as such, or at the time of the appointment of the member whose capacity to sit as such
is objected to if it comes after the canvassing of the board, or immediately at the point where the proceedings are or begin to be illegal.
If the petition is for correction, it must be filed not later than five (5) days following the date of proclamation and must implead
all candidates who may be adversely affected thereby.
x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
The petition may also be made before proclamation as provided in Section 34 of Resolution No. 3848 which furnishes instructions for
the Municipal, City, District and Provincial Boards of Canvassers in connection with the May 14, 2001 national and local elections.
At all events, Section 4, Rule 1 of the COMELEC Rules provides:
Section 4. Suspension of the Rules. In the interest of justice and in order to obtain speedy disposition of all the matters pending
before the Commission, these rules or any portion thereof may be suspended by the Commission. (Italics in the original; emphasis and
underscoring supplied)
The COMELEC thus has the discretion to suspend its rules or any portion thereof in the interest of justice such that even if the petition
was filed 12 days after the proclamation, the COMELEC may, in the interest of justice, disregard the reglementary periods provided by
the rules and resolve the matter filed before it.
As to the allegation of lack of proof of proper payment of filing and docketing fees, the COMELEC Rules of Procedure provides:
Rule 40 Fees and Charges
xxx
Section 8. Where fees are to be paid. The fees herein before provided shall be paid by the party concerned to the Cash Division,
Administrative Services Department of the Commission, at the time of request or demand. If the fees are not paid, the
Commission may refuse to take action thereon until they are paid. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
From the immediately-quoted COMELEC Rule, even assuming arguendo that the required fees were not paid, the COMELEC has the
discretion to take action or not in a case. But even if it was not afforded such discretion, as discussed above, it can suspend its rules or
any portion thereof in the interest of justice.
On the claim that the petition was not filed by the proper party, the same does not lie. For under the earlier-quoted Section 34 of
Resolution No. 3848, the BOC may even motu propio, after due notice and hearing, correct errors committed in the tabulation. What
should prevent it from itself filing the petition for correction before the COMELEC?
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. The Temporary Restraining Order issued on August 21, 2001 is
hereby LIFTED.1wphi1 The COMELEC and the City Board of Canvassers of Tanjay City are hereby DIRECTED to implement
COMELEC En Banc Resolution dated August 3, 2001 issued in SPC No. 01-195.
Costs against petitioner.

34

SO ORDERED.

35

G.R. No. 150799

February 3, 2003

IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION TO EXCLUDE ELECTION RETURNS CONTAINED IN NINE (9) BALLOT BOXES, ETC.
AMELITA S. NAVARRO, petitioner,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, CITY BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF SANTIAGO CITY, ISABEL and JOSE C.
MIRANDA, respondents.
x--------------------------x
AMELITA S. NAVARRO, petitioner,
vs.
THE MEMBERS OF THE TASK FORCE, NAMELY: ATTY. ARMANDO C. VELASCO, ATTY. JULIUS TORRES And ATTY. CESAR M.
TORRADO, and THE NEW MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF CANVASSERS NAMELY: ATTY. JOSSLYN DE MESA (Chairman),

36

ATTY. WANDA TALOSIG (Member), ATTY. NELIA AUREUS (Member), as constituted Under Resolution No. 4990 promulgated
On 28 June 2001, respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO-MORALES, J.:
Before this Court is a petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court which seeks to set aside the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) En Banc Resolution1 denying petitioners petition for exclusion of election returns.
The antecedent facts of the case are as follows:
Amelita S. Navarro (petitioner) and Jose C. Miranda (private respondent) were candidates for mayor of Santiago City, Isabela in the
May 14, 2001 elections.2
On May 15, 2001, the City Board of Canvassers (BOC) convened for the canvassing of the election returns.3Upon opening of the
envelope containing the first return, counsel for petitioner objected on the ground that the return was not properly sealed in accordance
with the Omnibus Election Code.4 Also alleging that in fact 95% of the returns in the first ballot box was not properly sealed, petitioner
objected to the inclusion thereof.5
The following day or on May 16, 2001, petitioner filed before the BOC a petition6 to exclude the election returns contained in 9 ballot
boxes on the ground that they were not secured with the required 3 padlocks.7 On account of the filing of such petition, the BOC
suspended the canvassing.8
By Decision of May 19, 2001,9 the BOC denied the petition to exclude the election returns contained in the questioned 9 ballot boxes.
Petitioner appealed10 to the COMELEC the BOC Resolution denying her petition for exclusion of election returns contained in the
contested ballot boxes.
In the meantime, the BOC declared the formal adjournment of the canvassing proceedings. The winning candidates for local positions,
however, were not proclaimed in view of the pending appeal of petitioner with the COMELEC.11
By Resolution of June 6, 2001,12 the COMELEC En Banc ordered the BOC to complete the canvassing of election returns and proclaim
all winning local candidates in Santiago City before June 30, 2001. Pursuant to said resolution, the BOC proclaimed on July 4, 2001 the
winning local candidates of Santiago City including herein respondent Miranda who was proclaimed city mayor.13
By Resolution of July 9, 2001,14 the COMELEC Second Division, finding that "the allegations of the appeal [of petitioner from the BOC
Resolution denying the exclusion of the election returns contained in the contested ballot boxes] do . . . not raise a genuine preproclamation controversy" as she was questioning "the condition of the ballot boxes", denied petitioners appeal. Her motion for
reconsideration was likewise denied by the COMELEC En Banc.
Hence, the present petition, petitioner alleging that:
"THE RESPONDENT COMMISSION COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION WHEN IT RULED THAT SECURING THE BALLOT BOXES CONTAINING THE ELECTION RETURNS AND THE
ABSENCE OF THE REQUIRED PADLOCKS THEREIN ARE NOT PART OF THE PROCEDURE OF THE CBOC. 15 and
THE RESPONDENT COMMISSION COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION WHEN IT RULED THAT PROCLAMATION MAY BE MADE PENDING APPEAL." 16
The issues to be resolved are thus as follows:
1. Whether the lack of the required number of padlocks on the ballot boxes containing the election returns is a proper issue in
a pre-proclamation case; and

37

2. Whether a proclamation may be made pending appeal from the BOC Resolution denying the exclusion of election returns.
Section 243 of the Omnibus Election Code enumerates the issues that may be raised in a pre-proclamationcontroversy, to wit:
a) Illegal composition or proceeding of the board of canvassers;
b) The canvassed election returns are incomplete, contain material defects, appear to be tampered with or falsified, or contain
discrepancies in the same returns or in other authentic copies thereof as mentioned in Sections 233, 234, 235, and 236 of this
Code;
c) The election returns were prepared under duress, threats, coercion, or intimidation, or they are obviously manufactured or
not authentic; and
d) When substitute or fraudulent returns in controverted polling places were canvassed, the results of which materially affected
the standing of the aggrieved candidate or candidates. (Emphasis supplied).
The enumeration is exclusive.17
It is petitioners contention that "proceeding" as used in paragraph (a) of the above-cited provision refers to the entirety of the steps that
have to be done by the BOC from the time it is created to constitute a Reception and Custody Group up to the time it has completed the
canvass and proclaimed a winner.18 Petitioner thus concludes that the BOC failed to comply with COMELEC En Banc Resolution No.
3848 otherwise known as the "General Instructions for Municipal/ City/ Provincial Board of Canvassers" in connection with the May 14,
2001 national and local elections, the pertinent provisions of which are:
"SEC. 21 Safekeeping of transmitted Election Returns or Certificate of Canvass. The Board shall place the Election Returns/
Certificate of Canvass in ballot boxes that shall be locked with three padlocks and one serially numbered self-locking metal seal. The
members of the Board shall keep a key to the three padlocks. The serial number of every metal seal used shall be entered in the
minutes.1awphi1.nt
The said ballot boxes shall be kept in a safe and secured room before, during and after the canvass. The room shall be locked with
three padlocks with the keys thereof kept by each member of the Board." (Emphasis in the original).
xxx
"SEC. 25 Canvassing Procedure. The Board shall comply with the following rules: (Emphasis in the original).
xxx
b) The Reception and Custody Group shall, after recording all the data required under Sec. 23 hereof, place all envelopes
containing Election Returns/Certificate of Canvass received by it inside an empty ballot box.
When the ballot box is already full or when there is no more Election Returns/Certificate of Canvass to be received, the Reception and
Custody Group shall close the ballot box and lock the same with padlock and metal seal. The Reception and Custody Group shall
submit the locked ballot box to the Board, for assignment to the Canvassing Committee, if any, together with the list of precinct numbers
or city/municipality of the Election Returns/ Certificate of Canvass contained therein. For this purpose, the Reception and custody
Group shall maintain a record of the Election Returns/ Certificate of Canvass submitted to the Board."
xxx
"SEC. 26 Adjournment/ suspension of canvass. A. In case of adjournment or suspension of canvass: (Emphasis in the original).
xxx

38

c) The remaining unopened envelopes and Statement of Votes containing the page partial total shall be placed in the ballot
box provided for the purpose for which shall be locked with three padlocks and self-locking metal seals. The members of the
Board shall keep the keys to each padlock.
xxx
B. Upon resumption of the canvass:
a) The secretary of the Board shall verify and enter in the minutes of the three padlocks and the metal seal, as well as its serial
number.
x x x"
Continuing, petitioner argues that when the BOC failed to comply with the procedure prescribed by the COMELEC, the proceedings
before it became illegal and its illegality was a proper issue in a pre-proclamation controversy.
This Court is not persuaded. Non-compliance by a BOC of the prescribed canvassing procedure is not an "illegal proceeding" under
paragraph (a) of Section 243 of the Omnibus Election Code, given the summary nature of a pre-proclamation controversy, consistent
with the laws desire that the canvass and proclamation be delayed as little as possible.19 A pre-proclamation controversy is limited to
an examination of the election returns on their face and the COMELEC as a general rule need not go beyond the face of the returns
and investigate the alleged election irregularities.20
Petitioners allegation that the absence of the required number of padlocks puts into question the integrity of the election returns fails,
she not having alleged nor proved that the election returns showed on their facetampering or alteration.
The case of Baterina, et al. v. COMELEC21 is, contrary to the contention of petitioner, applicable to the case at bar. In Baterina, the
therein petitioners contested the legality of the proceedings before the BOC, questioning "the failure to close the entries with the
signatures of election inspectors; lack of inner and outer paper seals; canvassing by the BOARD of copies not intended for it; lack of
time and date of receipt by the BOARD of election returns; lack of signatures of petitioners watchers; and lack of authority of the person
receiving the election returns." Held this Court:
"While the aforesaid grounds may, indeed, involve a violation of the rules governing the preparation and delivery of election returns for
canvassing, they do not necessarily affect the authenticity and genuineness of the subject election returns as to warrant their
exclusion from the canvassing. The grounds for objection to the election returns made by petitioners are clearly defects in form
insufficient to support a conclusion that the election returns were tampered with or spurious." (Underscoring and emphasis
supplied).l^vvphi1.net
The ground raised by herein petitioner partakes of the nature of those raised in Baterina.
In any event, as correctly observed by the COMELEC, petitioner did not adduce substantial and convincing evidence to support her
objection22 to the inclusion of the contested returns. She merely posited that since the contested ballot boxes did not have the required
number of padlocks, the returns were exposed to tampering, substitution, alteration and switching.23
As to the contention that the proclamation of private respondent is null and void, it having been made by the BOC during the pendency
at the COMELEC Second Division of petitioners appeal from the BOCs denial of her petition for exclusion of the returns24 in the
questioned ballot boxes, this Court finds no error, let alone grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC En Banc which
ordered the proclamation. Petitioners argument that this is a violation of Republic Act 7166, specifically Section 20 thereof which reads:
"Section 20. Procedure in Disposition of Contested Election Returns.
xxx
(i) The board of canvassers shall not proclaim any candidate as winner unless authorized by the Commission after the latter has ruled
on the objections brought to it on appeal by the losing party. Any proclamation in violation hereof shall be void ab initio, unless the
contested returns will not adversely affect the results of the election.",

39

is without merit. As correctly ruled by the COMELEC, petitioners reliance on said Section is misplaced.25 The Section applies only
where the objection deals with a pre-proclamation controversy, not where, as in the present petition, it raises or deals with no such
controversy.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

40

41

G. R. Nos. 148948 & 148951-60

February 17, 2003

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, petitioner,


vs.
HON LUCENITO N. TAGLE, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Imus, Cavite, respondent.
DECISION
DAVIDE, JR., CJ.:
In this special civil action for certiorari and mandamus, petitioner Commission on Elections (COMELEC) seeks the nullification of the
orders of 16 March 20011 and 9 May 20012 of respondent Judge Lucenito N. Tagle of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 20, Imus,
Cavite, denying petitioners motion to dismiss Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00 and motion for reconsideration,
respectively.
During the 11 May 1998 elections, Florentino A. Bautista ran for the position of mayor in the Municipality of Kawit, Cavite. On 8 July
1998, he filed with the COMELEC a complaint against then incumbent mayor Atty. Federico Poblete, Bienvenido Pobre, Reynaldo
Aguinaldo, Arturo Ganibe, Leonardo Llave, Diosdado del Rosario, Manuel Ubod, Angelito Peregrino, Mario Espiritu, Salvador Olaes
and Pedro Paterno, Jr., for violation of Section 261 (a) and (b) of the Omnibus Election Code. The complaint was supported by the
separate affidavits of forty-four (44) witnesses attesting to the vote-buying activities of the respondents and was docketed as E.O. Case
No. 98-219.
On 25 February 1999, upon the recommendation of its Law Department, the COMELEC en banc issued a resolution3 directing the filing
of the necessary information against the respondents in E.O. Case No. 98-219 and authorizing the Director IV of the Law Department
to designate a COMELEC prosecutor to handle the prosecution of the cases and to file the appropriate motion for the preventive
suspension of the respondents.
The Law Department filed the corresponding information against the respondents in E.O. Case No. 98-219 before the RTC, Branch 90,
Imus, Cavite, which was docketed as Criminal Case No. 7034-99.
Before the trial of Criminal Case No. 7034-99 commenced, or on 2 December 1999, a complaint was filed by Innocencio Rodelas and
Gerardo Macapagal with the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Imus, Cavite, for violation of Section 261(a) of the Omnibus Election
Code against the witnesses in the criminal case for vote-buying, who were the witnesses in E.O. Case No. 98-219. The complaint was
docketed as I.S. No. 1-99-1080.
On 10 April 2000, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor resolved to file separate informations for vote-selling in the various branches of
the RTC in Imus, Cavite, against the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080. The cases were docketed as (1) Criminal Cases Nos. 7940-00
to 7949-00 and 7981-00, which were assigned to Branch 22; (2) Criminal Cases Nos. 7973-00 to 7979-00 and 7970-00, assigned to
Branch 21; (3) Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00, assigned to Branch 20; and (4) Criminal Cases Nos. 7960-00 to
7969-00, assigned to Branch 90.
On 23 June 2000, the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080 appealed before the COMELEC the 10 April 2000 Resolution of the Provincial
Prosecutor. On 6 July 2000, the COMELEC en banc denied the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.4 However, upon the urgent motion to set
for hearing the appeal, the COMELEC en banc resolved to defer action on the appeal and refer the same to the Law Department for
comment and recommendation.5
The Law Department of the COMELEC filed motions to suspend proceedings before Branches 20, 21, 22 and 90 of the RTC of Imus,
Cavite, until the COMELEC would have resolved the appeal of the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080. The Presiding Judge of Branch
22 granted the motion for the suspension of proceedings in Criminal Cases Nos. 7940-00 to 7949-00 and 7981-00.1awphi1.nt
In its Minute Resolution No. 00-2453,6 the COMELEC en banc, upon the recommendation of its Law Department, declared null and void
the resolution of the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in I.S. No. 1-99-1080. It held that the respondents therein are exempt from
criminal prosecution pursuant to the fourth paragraph of Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646,7 otherwise known as "The Electoral Reforms Law
of 1987," which grants immunity from criminal prosecution persons who voluntarily give information and willingly testify against those

42

liable for vote-buying or vote-selling. It further directed the Law Department to file the necessary motions to dismiss the criminal cases
filed against the said respondents.
Pursuant to Minute Resolution No. 00-2453, the Law Department filed a motion to dismiss8 Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00
and 7980-00 before Branch 20 of the RTC of Imus, Cavite, presided by herein respondent judge. The latter, however, denied the said
motion and the motion for reconsideration.1a\^/phi1.net According to respondent judge, before one can be exempt from prosecution
under the fourth paragraph of Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646, it is necessary that such person has already performed the overt act of
voluntarily giving information or testifying in any official investigation or proceeding for the offense to which such information or
testimony was given. It was thus premature to exempt the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080 from criminal prosecution, since they have
not yet testified.
Hence, this petition, ascribing to the respondent judge grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction in
peremptorily denying the prosecutions motion to dismiss Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00.
This Court referred the petition to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and required it to manifest whether it is adopting the
petition.9 In a Manifestation and Motion10 filed with this Court, the OSG stated that it repleads the submissions contained in the petition
and adopts the petition as its own.
The petition is meritorious.
A free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible election is indispensable in a democratic society. Without it, democracy would not flourish
and would be a sham. Election offenses, such as vote-buying and vote-selling, are evils which prostitute the election process. They
destroy the sanctity of the votes and abet the entry of dishonest candidates into the corridors of power where they may do more harm.
As the Bible says, one who is dishonest in very small matters is dishonest in great ones. One who commits dishonesty in his entry into
an elective office through the prostitution of the electoral process cannot be reasonably expected to respect and adhere to the
constitutional precept that a public office is a public trust, and that all government officials and employees must at all times be
accountable to the people and exercise their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency.
The provision of law alleged to have been violated by the respondents in E.O. Case No. 98-219, who are the accused in Criminal Case
No. 7034-99, reads as follows:
SEC. 261. Prohibited Acts. - The following shall be guilty of an election offense:
(a) Vote-buying and vote-selling. - (1) Any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises
any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private, or makes or offers to make an expenditure, directly or indirectly,
or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, corporation, entity, or community in order to induce anyone or
the public in general to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election, or to vote for or against any
aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in a convention or similar selection process of a political party.
(2) Any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any
expenditure or promise of any office or employment, public or private, for any of the foregoing considerations.
(b) Conspiracy to bribe voters. - Two or more persons whether candidates or not, who come to an agreement concerning the
commission of any violation of paragraph (a) of this section and decide to commit it.
One of the effective ways of preventing the commission of vote-buying and of prosecuting those committing it is the grant of immunity
from criminal liability in favor of the party whose vote was bought. This grant of immunity will encourage the recipient or acceptor to
come into the open and denounce the culprit-candidate, and will ensure the successful prosecution of the criminal case against the
latter. Congress saw the wisdom of this proposition, and so Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646 on Prosecution of Vote-Buying and VoteSelling concludes with this paragraph:
The giver, offeror, the promisor as well as the solicitor, acceptor, recipient and conspirator referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) of
Section 261 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 shall be liable as principals: Provided, That any person, otherwise guilty under said
paragraphs who voluntarily gives information and willingly testifies on any violation thereof in any official investigation or proceeding
shall be exempt from prosecution and punishment for the offenses with reference to which his information and testimony were given:
Provided, further, That nothing herein shall exempt such person from criminal prosecution for perjury or false testimony.

43

However, to avoid possible fabrication of evidence against the vote-buyers, especially by the latters opponents, Congress saw it fit to
warn "vote-sellers" who denounce the vote-buying that they could be liable for perjury or false testimony should they not tell the truth.
It must be stressed that the COMELEC has the exclusive power to conduct preliminary investigation of all election offenses punishable
under the election laws and to prosecute the same, except as may otherwise be provided by law.11 The Chief State Prosecutor, all
Provincial and City Prosecutors, or their respective assistants are, however, given continuing authority, as deputies of the COMELEC,
to conduct preliminary investigation of complaints involving election offenses and to prosecute the same.12 This authority may be
revoked or withdrawn by the COMELEC anytime whenever, in its judgment, such revocation or withdrawal is necessary to protect the
integrity of the COMELEC and to promote the common good, or when it believes that the successful prosecution of the case can be
done by the COMELEC.13
In this case, when the COMELEC nullified the resolution of the Provincial Prosecutor in I.S. No. 1-99-1080, which was the basis of the
informations for vote-selling, it, in effect, withdrew the deputation granted to the prosecutor. Such withdrawal of the deputation was
clearly in order, considering the circumstances obtaining in these cases where those who voluntarily executed affidavits attesting to the
vote-buying incident and became witnesses against the vote-buyers now stand as accused for the same acts they had earlier
denounced. What the Prosecutor did was to sabotage the prosecution of the criminal case against the "vote-buyers" and put in serious
peril the integrity of the COMELEC, which filed the said case for vote-buying. If the Prosecutor had listened to the command of
prudence and good faith, he should have brought the matter to the attention of the COMELEC.
Petitioner COMELEC found that the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080, who executed affidavits and turned witnesses in Criminal Case
No. 7034-99, voluntarily admitted that they were the acceptors or recipients in the vote-buying done by the accused in said case. It was
precisely because of such voluntary admission and willingness to testify that the COMELEC en banc, in its Minute Resolution No. 002453, declared null and void the resolution of the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Cavite in I.S. No. 1-99-1080 and held that the
respondents therein are exempt from criminal prosecution pursuant to the last paragraph of Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646. Hence, it
directed its Law Department to file a motion to dismiss the criminal cases which the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor filed in court
against the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080.
We agree with the petitioner and hold that the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080, who are the accused in Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00
to 7959-00 and 7980-00, are exempt from criminal prosecution for vote-selling by virtue of the proviso in the last paragraph of Section
28 of R.A. No. 6646. Respondent judge lost sight of the fact that at the time the complaint for vote-selling was filed with the Office of the
Provincial Prosecutor, the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080 had already executed sworn statements attesting to the corrupt practice of
vote-buying in the case docketed as Criminal Case No. 7034-99. It cannot then be denied that they had already voluntarily given
information in the vote-buying case. In fact, they willingly testified in Criminal Case No. 7034-99 per petitioners Memorandum filed with
this Court.14
In a futile attempt to justify his denial of the motion to dismiss Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00, respondent judge
averred in his comment on the petition that nothing was mentioned in the motion to dismiss that the accused in said cases had already
given information or testified in any proceeding.1a\^/phi1.net Besides, no record of any preliminary investigation was attached to the
motion to dismiss. The petitioner merely referred to the dispositive portion of Minute Resolution No. 00-2453 without mentioning any
preliminary investigation conducted by the Law Department of the COMELEC.
This contention is without basis. A reading of the motion to dismiss Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00 shows that a
certified true copy of COMELEC Minute Resolution No. 00-2453 was attached thereto and was made an integral part thereof. The
attached resolution indicated that the accused in the cases sought to be dismissed had voluntarily given information and were willing to
testify against the vote-buyers, and are therefore utilized as witnesses in the pending case for vote-buyers docketed as Criminal Case
No. 7034-99.
Clearly then, respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion when he denied the motion to dismiss Criminal Cases Nos. 795000 to 7959-00 and 7980-00 despite COMELECs determination that the accused therein are exempt from criminal prosecution for voteselling pursuant to the proviso in the fourth paragraph of Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The challenged orders dated 16 March 2001 and 9 May 2001 of respondent judge in Criminal
Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00 before Branch 20 of the Regional Trial Court in Imus, Cavite, are hereby SET ASIDE, and
said criminal cases are ordered DISMISSED.
No pronouncement as to costs.

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SO ORDERED.

45

46

G.R. No. 148075

February 4, 2002

PANGKAT LAGUNA, petitioner,


vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and TERESITA "NINGNING" LAZARO, respondents.
DECISION
BUENA, J.:
In this specie of controversy which involves, to a large extent, the determination of the true will of the electorate and, which by its very
nature, touches upon the ascertainment of the peoples choice as gleaned from the hallowed medium of the ballot, this Court finds
cogency to reiterate at the outset that the factual findings and determinations of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) ought to
be accorded great weight and finality, in the absence of any remarkable trace of grave abuse of discretion in the exercise of its
constitutionally mandated tasks.
Sought to be reversed in this special civil action for certiorari is the Resolution1 of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) en banc in
S.P.A. 01-218 promulgated on 24 May 2001, which set aside the Resolution2 of the COMELEC Second Division dated 11 May 2001,
ordering the disqualification of herein private respondent Teresita "Ningning" Lazaro as candidate for Governor of the Province of
Laguna in the 14 May 2001 Elections.
The antecedents unfold.
On 30 January 2001, respondent Lazaro, who was then Vice Governor of Laguna, assumed by succession the office of the Governor,
when then Laguna Governor Jose D. Lina, Jr. was appointed Secretary of Interior and Local Government by President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo. On 28 February 2001, respondent Lazaro filed her certificate of candidacy3 for the gubernatorial position of Laguna.
On 04 May 2001, herein petitioner Pangkat Laguna, a duly registered political party, filed with the COMELEC a petition4 which sought to
disqualify respondent Lazaro as candidate in the gubernatorial race. Docketed as SPA No. 01-218, the disqualification petition alleged
in the main that respondent Lazaro committed acts violative of Section 80 (Election campaign or partisan political activity outside the
campaign period) and Section 261(v) (Prohibition against release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds) of the Omnibus
Election Code.
In its petition for disqualification, petitioner Pangkat Laguna specifically alleged that private respondent Lazaro, upon assuming by
succession the Office of the Governor on 30 January 2001, "publicly declared her intention to run for governor" in the May 2001
elections. Thus, according to petitioner, respondent Lazaro on 07 February 2001, ordered the purchase of 14,513 items such as
trophies, basketballs, volleyballs, chessboard sets, and t-shirts, allegedly worth Four Million Five Hundred Fifty Six Thousand and Five
Pesos (P4,556,005.00) "serving no public purpose but to promote her popularity as a candidate."5
In addition, petitioner alleged that on 08 February 2001, respondent directed the purchase and distribution of"1,760 medals and pins
valued at One Hundred Ten Thousand Pesos (P110,000.00) to various schools in Laguna, serving no meaningful public purpose but to
again promote her forthcoming candidacy."6 According to petitioner, the abovementioned acts, in effect, constituted "premature

47

campaigning" inasmuch as the same were done prior to the start of the campaign period on 30 March 2001. Petitioner adds that these
acts constitute a ground for disqualification under Section 68, in relation to Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code.
Moreover, petitioner argues that respondent Lazaro violated Section 261 (v) of the Omnibus Election Code, as implemented by
COMELEC Resolution No. 3479, when the latter caused the bidding of seventy nine (79) public works projects on 28 March 2001.
On 08 May 2001, respondent Lazaro filed an answer denying the allegations in the petition for disqualification. In a Resolution dated 11
May 2001, the COMELEC Second Division granted the petition to disqualify respondent as candidate for the gubernatorial post of
Laguna, prompting respondent Lazaro to file a motion for reconsideration before the COMELEC en banc.
On May 17, 2001, petitioner filed a Motion to Suspend Proclamation Under Sec. 6, R.A. 6646.7
On 19 May 2001, the Provincial Board of Canvassers proclaimed respondent Lazaro as the duly elected Governor of Laguna in the 14
May 2001 Elections. On 22 May 2001, petitioner Pangkat Laguna filed a Motion to Annul Proclamation and/or to Suspend Effect of
Proclamation under Sec. 6, R.A. 6646.8
On 24 May 2001, the COMELEC en banc promulgated a resolution, the dispositive portion of which declares:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Motion for Reconsideration filed by respondent Lazaro is hereby granted. The resolution
issued by the Second Division dated 11 May 2001 is hereby correspondingly REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.
"SO ORDERED."
Through the expediency of Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, petitioner now assails the Resolution of the COMELECen banc dated 24 May
2001, for having been "issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction."
The petition is devoid of merit.
Doctrinally entrenched is the rule that in a petition for certiorari, findings of fact of administrative bodies, such as respondent COMELEC
in the instant case, are final unless grave abuse of discretion has marred such factual determinations.9 Stated differently, factual
findings of the COMELEC based on its own assessments and duly supported by evidence, are conclusive upon the Court, more so, in
the absence of a substantiated attack on the validity of the same. The COMELEC, as the government agency tasked with the
enforcement and administration of election laws, is entitled to the presumption of regularity of official acts with respect to the elections.10
First, as to the issue of "premature campaigning", this Court holds that respondent Lazaro was not guilty of violating the provisions of
Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code, to wit:
"SEC. 80. Election campaign or partisan political activity outside campaign period. It shall be unlawful for any person, whether
or not a voter or candidate, or for any party, or association of persons, to engage in an election campaign or partisan political activity
except during the campaign period: Provided, that political parties may hold political conventions or meetings to nominate their official
candidates within thirty days before the commencement of the campaign period and forty-five days for Presidential and VicePresidential election."
On this score, it bears stressing that the act of respondent Lazaro as Chief Executive of the Province of Laguna in ordering the
purchase of various items and the consequent distribution thereof to the constituents of Laguna, in line with the local government units
sports and education program, is to our mind not constitutive of the act of election campaigning or partisan political activity
contemplated and explicitly proscribed under the pertinent provisions of Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code.
To this end, we quote with affirmance respondent COMELECs observation on the matter:
"Not every act of beneficence from a candidate may be considered campaigning. The term campaigning should not be made to
apply to any and every act which may influence a person to vote for a candidate, for that would be stretching too far the meaning of the
term. Examining the definition and enumeration of election campaign and partisan political activity found in COMELEC Resolution
3636, the Commission is convinced that only those acts which are primarily designed to solicit votes will be covered by the
definition and enumeration.

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"In this present case, the respondent was not in any way directly (or) indirectly soliciting votes. Respondent Lazaro was
merely performing the duties and tasks imposed upon her by law, which duties she has sworn to perform as the Governor of
the Province of Laguna.
"Respondent has satisfactorily shown the regularity of the implementation of the questioned sports and education
programs. The number of items purchased and the amount involved were within the regular purchases of the provincial government.
How the funds were sourced and how the program was implemented, as correctly pointed out by respondent, (are) not for us to resolve
for such issue is way beyond our constitutionally mandated jurisdiction."11 (Emphasis ours).
In Lozano vs. Yorac,12 this Court in upholding the findings of the COMELEC negating the charge of vote-buying, in effect, affirmed the
dismissal of the petition for disqualification filed against Makati mayoralty candidate Jejomar Binay, thus:
"We uphold the foregoing factual findings, as well as the conclusions reached by respondent COMELEC, in dismissing the petition for
the disqualification of respondent Binay. No clear and convincing proof exists to show that respondent Binay was indeed
engaged in vote buying. The traditional gift-giving of the Municipality of Makati during the Christmas Season is not refuted.
That it was implemented by respondent Binay as OIC Mayor of Makati at that time does not sufficiently establish that
respondent was trying to influence and induce his constituents to vote for him. This would be stretching the interpretation of
the law too far. Petitioner deduces from this act of gift-giving that respondent was buying the votes of the Makati residents. It requires
more than a mere tenuous deduction to prove the offense of vote buying. There has to be concrete and direct evidence, or, at
least, strong circumstantial evidence to support the charge that respondent was indeed engaged in vote-buying. We are
convinced that the evidence presented, as well as the facts obtaining in the case at bar, do not warrant such finding." (Emphasis ours.)
Notably, upon a close perusal of the entirety of circumstances attendant in the instant case, this Court is of the firm view that herein
petitioner failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that the questioned purchase and distribution of the aforesaid items were,
in any significant way, perpetrated for the purpose of promoting the candidacy of respondent Lazaro or were, in any manner, calculated
to directly or indirectly solicit votes on behalf or in favor of respondent. Similarly, the records are bereft of any clear and convincing proof
that the purchase and distribution of the items were deliberately or consciously done to influence and induce the constituents of Laguna
to vote for respondent, in direct violation of the provisions of the Omnibus Election Code.
To us, respondents acts do not fall within, and are not contemplated by, the prohibition embodied in Section 80 of the Code so as to
effectively disqualify her from the elections and bar her from holding office.
Second, as to the charge of violation of the 45-Day Public Works Ban,13 petitioner asserts that respondent Lazaro transgressed the
provisions of Section 261 (v) of the Omnibus Election Code, as implemented by COMELEC Resolution No. 3479, when the latter
caused or directed the bidding of 79 public works projects on 28 March 2001.
We do not agree. Section 261 (v) of the Omnibus Election Code is explicit:
"Sec. 261. Prohibited Acts. The following shall be guilty of an election offense:
"x x x
"(v) Prohibition against release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds. Any public official or employee including
barangay officials and those of government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries, who, during forty-five days
before a regular election and thirty days before a special election,releases, disburses or expends any public funds for:
"(1) Any and all kinds of public works, except the following:
"x x x
"(b) Work undertaken by contract through public bidding held, or by negotiated contract awarded, before the forty-five day
period before election: Provided, that work for the purpose of this section undertaken under the so-called takay or paquiao system
shall not be considered as work by contract; x x x."
Beyond this, evidence is wanting to sufficiently establish and substantiate petitioners bare allegation that in furtherance of the public
bidding conducted on 28 March 2001 public funds were ever released, disbursed or expended during the 45-day prohibitive period

49

provided under the law and the implementing rules. Absent such clear and convincing proof, we find no cogent reason to disturb the
factual findings and conclusions of respondent COMELEC the constitutional body tasked by no less than the fundamental law
to "decide, except those involving the right to vote, all questions affecting elections."14
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is DENIED. ACCORDINGLY, the Resolution of the Commission on
Elections en banc dated 24 May 2001 is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

50