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Election Law Cases

[G.R. No. 132603. September 18, 2000.]


ELPIDIO M. SALVA, VILMA B. DE LEON, CLEMENTE M. MATIRA,
REGION P. DE LEON, MARILOU C. DE LEON, JAIME RELEVO, JOEY S.
VERGARA, CARMENCITA A. SALVA, DIONISIO B. DE LEON, JORGE S.
VERGARA, GORGONIO B. DE LEON, AND OTHERS TOO NUMEROUS TO
ENUMERATE AS A CLASS SUIT, petitioners, vs. HON. ROBERTO
L. MAKALINTAL, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Br. XI,
Balayan, Batangas; HON. SANGGUNIANG PANGLALAWIGAN OF
BATANGAS, BATANGAS CITY; HON. SANGGUNIANG PANGBAYAN,
CALACA, BATANGAS; and HON. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS, respondents.
Pedro N. Belmi for petitioners.
Solicitor General for respondents.
Dir. Jose P. Ballbuena for COMELEC.
SYNOPSIS
The Sangguniang Panglalawigan of Batangas enacted Ordinance No. 05 which declared the
abolition of Barangay San Rafael and its merger with Barangay Dacanlao, municipality of
Calaca, Batangas and accordingly instructed the COMELEC to conduct the required plebiscite
as provided under Sections 9 and 10 of Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local
Government Code of 1991. The ordinance was vetoed by the Governor of Batangas for
being ultra vires, particularly as it was not shown that the essential requirements under
Section 9, in relation to Section 7, of Republic Act No. 7160 were obtained. However,
Resolution No. 345 was enacted which affirmed the effectivity of Ordinance No. 05, thereby
overriding the veto exercised by the Governor of Batangas. Pursuant to the said ordinance
and resolution, the COMELEC promulgated Resolution No. 2987, series of 1998, providing for
the rules and regulations governing the conduct of the required plebiscite scheduled on
February 28, 1998, to decide the issue of the abolition of Barangay San Rafael and its
merger with barangay Dacanlao, Calaca, Batangas. Hence, petitioners, as officials and
residents of Barangay San Rafael, Calaca, Batangas, filed a class suit before the Regional
Trial Court of Balayan, Batangas, against the respondents for annulment of Ordinance No.
05, Resolution No. 345, series of 1997, and COMELEC Resolution No. 2987, series of 1998,
with prayer for preliminary injunction/temporary restraining order. Thereafter, the RTC, in its
decision, denied the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction
for lack of jurisdiction. According to the trial court, the temporary restraining order/injunction
sought by petitioners is directed to COMELEC Resolution No. 2987. Hence, it must be
brought before the Supreme Court. Hence, this appeal. AaHTIE
Petitioners asserted that when the COMELEC exercises its quasi-judicial functions under
Section 52 of the Omnibus Election Code (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881), its acts are subject to
the exclusive review by this Court but when the COMELEC performs a purely ministerial
duty, such act is subject to scrutiny by the Regional Trial Court. Corollary thereto, petitioners
submitted that the conduct of a plebiscite, pursuant to Ordinance No. 05 and Resolution No.
345, is not adjudicatory or quasi-judicial in nature but simply ministerial or administrative in
nature and only in obedience to the aforesaid Ordinance and Resolution.
The appeal was meritorious.
COMELEC Resolution No. 2987 was not issued pursuant to the COMELEC's quasi-judicial
functions but merely as an incident of its inherent administrative functions over the conduct
of plebiscites, thus, the said resolution may not be deemed as a "final order" reviewable
by certiorari by the Supreme Court. Any question pertaining to the validity of said resolution
may be well taken in an ordinary civil action before the trial courts.
SYLLABUS
1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; COMELEC; ONLY FINAL ORDERS, RULINGS AND DECISIONS ISSUED
IN THE EXERCISE OF ITS QUASI-JUDICIAL POWERS ARE REVIEWABLE BYCERTIORARI BY THE
SUPREME COURT; POWERS OF THE COMELEC. Section 7, Article IX-A of the
1987 Constitution provides in part that: "SEC. 7. . . . . Unless otherwise provided by
this Constitution or by law, any decision, order, or ruling of each Commission may be
Election Law Cases

brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by the aggrieved party within thirty days from
receipt of a copy thereof." In Garces vs. Court of Appeals (259 SCRA 99 [1996]) and Filipinas
Engineering and Machine Shop vs. Ferrer (135 SCRA 25 [1985]), we found occasion to
interpret the foregoing provision in this wise: " . . . . What is contemplated by the term 'final
orders, rulings and decisions' of the COMELEC reviewable by certiorari by the Supreme Court
as provided by law are those rendered in actions or proceedings before the COMELEC and
taken cognizance of by the said body in the exercise of its adjudicatory or quasi-judicial
powers." In Filipinas, we have likewise affirmed that the powers vested by
the Constitution and the law on the Commission on Elections may either be classified as
those pertaining to its adjudicatory or quasi-judicial functions, or those which are inherently
administrative and sometimes ministerial in character.
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; RESOLUTION THEREOF WHICH PROVIDES FOR RULES AND REGULATIONS
GOVERNING CONDUCT OF PLEBISCITE, NOT DEEMED AS A "FINAL ORDER" REVIEWABLE
BY CERTIORARI BY THE SUPREME COURT. We agree with the Solicitor General that " . . . .
[t]he issuance of [COMELEC] Resolution No. 2987 is thus a ministerial duty of the COMELEC
that is enjoined by law and is part and parcel of its administrative functions. It involves no
exercise of discretionary authority on the part of respondent COMELEC; let alone an exercise
of its adjudicatory or quasi-judicial power to hear and resolve controversies defining the
rights and duties of party-litigants, relative to the conduct of elections of public officers and
the enforcement of the election laws." (Citation omitted.) Briefly, COMELEC Resolution No.
2987 which provides for the rules and regulations governing the conduct of the required
plebiscite, was not issued pursuant to the COMELEC's quasi-judicial functions but merely as
an incident of its inherent administrative functions over the conduct of plebiscites, thus, the
said resolution may not be deemed as a "final order" reviewable bycertiorari by this Court.
Any question pertaining to the validity of said resolution may be well taken in an ordinary
civil action before the trial courts.
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; CASES OF ZALDIVAR (23 SCRA 533 (1968), LUISON (101 PHIL. 1218 (1957),
MACUD (23 SCRA 224 (1968), NOT APPLICABLE IN CASE AT BAR. Even the cases cited by
the public respondent in support of its contention that the power to review or reverse
COMELEC Resolution No. 2987 solely belongs to this Court are simply not in
point. Zaldivar vs. Estenzo speaks of the power of the COMELEC to enforce and administer
all laws relative to the conduct of elections to the exclusion of the judiciary. In the present
case, petitioners are not contesting the exclusive authority of the COMELEC to enforce and
administer election laws. Luison vs. Garciarefers to this Court's power to review
"administrative decisions," particularly referring to a COMELEC resolution declaring a certain
certificate of candidacy null and void, based on Article X, Section 2 of the 1935 Constitution.
In Macud vs. COMELEC, we reiterated that when a board of canvassers rejects an election
return on the ground that it is spurious or has been tampered with, the aggrieved party may
elevate the matter to the COMELEC for appropriate relief, and if the COMELEC sustains the
action of the board, the aggrieved party may appeal to this Court. In both Luison and Macud,
the assailed COMELEC resolutions fall within the purview of "final orders, rulings and
decisions" of the COMELEC reviewable by certiorari by this Court. DCASEc
||| (Salva v. Makalintal, G.R. No. 132603, [September 18, 2000], 394 PHIL 855-868)
[G.R. Nos. L-68379-81. September 22, 1986.]
EVELIO B. JAVIER, petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
and ARTURO F. PACIFICADOR, respondents.
Raul S. Roco and Lorna Patajo-Kapunan for petitioner.
SYLLABUS
1. REMEDIAL LAW; DISMISSAL OF ACTION; ISSUES BECAME MOOT AND ACADEMIC; NOT A
CASE OF. The abolition of the Batasang Pambansa and the disappearance of the office in
dispute between the petitioner and the private respondent both of whom have gone their
separate ways could be a convenient justification for dismissing this case. But there are
larger issues involved that must be resolved now, once and for all, not only to dispel the
legal ambiguities here raised. The more important purpose is to manifest in the clearest
possible terms that this Court will not disregard and in effect condone wrong on the
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simplistic and tolerant pretext that the case has become moot and academic. The Supreme
Court is not only the highest arbiter of legal questions but also the conscience of the
government. The citizen comes to us in quest of law but we must also give him justice. The
two are not always the same. There are times when we cannot grant the latter because the
issue has been settled and decision is no longer possible according to the law. But there are
also times when although the dispute has disappeared, as in this case, it nevertheless cries
out to be resolved. Justice demands that we act then, not only for the vindication of the
outraged right, though gone, but also for the guidance of and as a restraint upon the future.
2. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; GIVEN FULL AUTHORITY TO HEAR
AND DECIDE CASES FROM BEGINNING TO END AND ALL MATTERS RELATED THERETO. We
believe that in making the Commission on Elections the sole judge of all contests involving
the election, returns and qualifications of the members of the Batasang Pambansa and
elective provincial and city officials, the Constitution intended to give it full authority to hear
and decide these cases from beginning to end and on all matters related thereto, including
those arising before the proclamation of the winners.
3. ID.; ID.; "CONTEST"; SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN A RESTRICTIVE MEANING. The word
"contests" should not be given a restrictive meaning; on the contrary, it should receive the
widest possible scope conformably to the rule that the words used in the Constitution should
be interpreted liberally. As employed in the 1973 Constitution, the term should be
understood as referring to any matter involving the title or claims as title to an elective
office, made before or after proclamation of the winner, whether or not the contestant is
claiming the office in dispute. Needless to stress, the term should be given a consistent
meaning and understood in the same sense under both Section 2(2) and Section 3 of Article
XII-C of the Constitution.
4. ID.; ID.; PHRASE "ELECTION RETURNS AND QUALIFICATION," DEFINED IN THE SAME SENSE
UNDER SEC. 2(2) AND SEC. 3, ART. XII-C, CONSTITUTION. The phrase "election, returns
and qualifications" should be interpreted in its totality as referring to all matters affecting
the validity of the contestee's title. But if it is necessary to specify, we can say that
"election" referred to the conduct of the polls, including the listing of voters, the holding of
the electoral campaign, and the casting and counting of the votes; "returns" to the canvass
of the returns and the proclamation of the winners, including questions concerning the
composition of the board of canvassers and the authenticity of the election returns; and
"qualifications" to matters that could be raised in a quo warranto proceeding against the
proclaimed winner, such as his delivery or ineligibility or the inadequacy of his certificate of
candidacy.
5. ID.; ID.; ISSUED ON ELECTION, RETURNS AND QUALIFICATIONS; TO BE HEARD AND
DECIDED ONLY BY SITTING EN BAND INSOFAR AS THEY APPLIED TO MEMBERS OF B.P. All
these came under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections insofar as they
applied to the members of the defunct Batasang Pambansa and, under Article XII-C, Section
3, of the 1973 Constitution, could be heard and decided by it only en banc.
6. ID.; ID.; ID.; CASES INVOLVING MEMBERS OF B.P. TO BE HEARD AND DECIDED BY
SITTING EN BANC; PURPOSE. As correctly observed by the petitioner, the purpose of
Section 3 in requiring that cases involving members of the Batasang Pambansa be heard
and decided by the Commission en banc was to insure the most careful consideration of
such cases. Obviously, that objective could not be achieved if the Commission could act en
banc only after the proclamation had been made, for it might then be too late already. We
are all-too-familiar with the grab-the-proclamation-and-delay-the-protest strategy of many
unscrupulous candidates which has resulted in the frustration of the popular will and the
virtual defeat of the real winners in the election. The respondent's theory would make this
gambit possible for the pre-proclamation proceedings, being summary in nature, could be
hastily decided by only three members in division, without the cause and deliberation that
would have otherwise been observed by the Commission en banc. After that, the delay. The
Commission en banc might then no longer be able to rectify in time the proclamation
summarily and not very judiciously made by the division. While in the end the protestant
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might be sustained, he might find himself with only a Phyrric victory because the term of his
office would have already expired.
7. ID.; BILL OF RIGHTS; DUE PROCESS GUARANTY; VIOLATED IN CASE AT BAR. Another
matter deserving the highest consideration of this Court but accorded cavalier attention by
the respondent Commission on Elections is due process of law, that ancient guaranty of
justice and fair play which is the hallmark of the free society. Commissioner Opinion ignored
it. Asked to inhibit himself on the ground that he was formerly a law partner of the private
respondent, he obstinately insisted on participating in the case, denying he was biased.
8. ID.; ID.; COLD NEUTRALITY OF AN IMPARTIAL JUDGE; INDISPENSABLE IMPERATIVE OF DUE
PROCESS. This Court has repeatedly and consistently demanded "the cold neutrality of an
impartial judge" as the indispensable imperative of due process. To bolster that requirement
we have held that the judge must not only be impartial but must also appear to be impartial
as an added assurance to the parties that his decision will be just. The litigants are entitled
to no less than that. They should be sure that when their rights are violated they can go to a
judge who shall give them justice. They must trust the judge, otherwise they will not go to
him at all. They must believe in his sense of fairness, otherwise they will not seek his
judgment. Without such confidence, there would be no point in invoking his action for the
justice they expect.
9. ID.; ID.; DUE PROCESS; INTENDED TO INSURE COMPLIANCE WITH RUDIMENTS OF FAIR
PLAY. Due process is intended to insure that confidence by requiring compliance with what
Justice Frankfurter calls the rudiments of fair play. Fair play calls for equal justice. There
cannot be equal justice where a suitor approaches a court already committed to the other
party and with a judgment already made and waiting only to be formalized after the litigants
shall have undergone the charade of a formal hearing. Judicial (and also extra-judicial
proceedings are not orchestrated plays in which the parties are supposed to make the
motions and reach the denouement according to a prepared script. There is no writer to
foreordain the ending. The judge will reach his conclusions only after all the evidence is in
and all the arguments are filed, on the basis of the established facts and the pertinent law.
10. ID.; ID.; ID.; DEMANDS THAT THE JUDGE INHIBIT HIMSELF OUT OF A SENSE OF
DELICADEZA. The relationship of the judge with one of the parties may color the facts and
distort the law to the prejudice of a just decision. Where this is probable or even only
possible, due possible, due process demands that the judge inhibit himself, if only out of a
sense of delicadeza. For like Caesar's wife, he must be above suspicion. Commissioner
Opinion, being a lawyer, should have recognized his duty and abided by this well-known rule
of judicial conduct. For refusing to do so, he divested the Second Division of the necessary
vote for the questioned decision, assuming it could act, and rendered the proceedings null
and void.
FELICIANO, J., concurring:
1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; MUST DECIDE ALL ELECTION
CONTESTS INVOLVING MEMBERS OF THE BATASAN PAMBANSA SITTING EN BANC. Although
this petition has become moot and academic, the decision, dated 23 July 1984, of the
Second Division of the Commission on Elections which had proclaimed Arturo F. Pacificador
as the duly elected Assemblyman of the province of Antique must be set aside or, more
accurately, must be disregarded as bereft of any effect in law. J. Feliciano reaches this result
on the same single, precisely drawn, ground relied upon by Melencio-Herrera, J., that all
election contests involving members of the former Batasan Pambansa must be decided by
the Commission on Elections en banc under Sections 2 and 3 of Article XII-C of the 1973
Constitution. These Sections do not distinguish between "pre-proclamation" and "post-
proclamation" contests nor between "cases" and "contests."
MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., concurring:
1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; HAS JURISDICTION OVER CONTESTS
INVOLVING MEMBERS OF THE BATASAN PAMBANSA. I concur in the result. The questioned
Decision of the Second Division of the COMELEC, dated July 23, 1984, proclaiming private
respondent, Arturo F. Pacificador, as the duly elected Assemblyman of the province of
Antique, should be set aside for the legal reason that all election contests, without
Election Law Cases

distinction as to cases or contests, involving members of the defunct Batasang Pambansa


fall under the jurisdiction of the COMELEC en banc pursuant to Sections 2 and 3 of Article
XII-C of the 1973 Constitution.
||| (Javier v. COMELEC, G.R. Nos. L-68379-81, [September 22, 1986], 228 PHIL 193-211)

[G.R. No. 142907. November 29, 2000.]


JOSE EMMANUEL L. CARLOS, petitioner, vs. HON. ADORACION
G. ANGELES, IN HER CAPACITY AS THE ACTING PRESIDING JUDGE OF
THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IN CALOOCAN CITY (BRANCH 125) and
ANTONIO M. SERAPIO, respondents.
Pimentel Yusingco Pimentel & Garcia Law Offices for petitioner.
Pete Quirino-Quadra for private respondent.
SYNOPSIS
On May 21, 1998, the Municipal Board of Canvassers, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, proclaimed
petitioner Jose Emmanuel L. Carlos as the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela having obtained
102,688 votes, the highest number of votes, over that of respondent Antonio M. Serapio who
obtained 77,270 votes. On June 1, 1998, respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court,
Valenzuela, Metro Manila, an election protest challenging the election results. The RTC of
Caloocan City, Branch 125, rendered its decision and set aside the final tally of valid votes
because of its finding of "significant badges of fraud." Despite the plurality of valid votes in
favor of protestee Carlos, the trial court set aside his proclamation and declared protestant
Serapio as duly elected mayor of Valenzuela City. On May 4, 2000, petitioner appealed to the
Comelec, but on May 8, 2000, petitioner filed the instant petition for certiorari and
prohibition.
The Supreme Court found the petition meritorious. Both the Supreme Court and Comelec
have concurrent jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition andmandamus over
decisions of regional trial courts in election cases involving elective municipal officials. The
court that takes jurisdiction first shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the case, which in
this case is the Supreme Court. Petitioner's appeal to the Comelec would not bar the present
action for certiorari because appeal is not a speedy and adequate remedy. The proper
remedy is an action before the Comelec en banc to declare a failure of election or to annul
the election. However, the case below was an election protest case involving an elective
municipal position which falls within the jurisdiction of the regional trial court. Petitioner
admittedly received 17,007 valid votes more than the respondent and, therefore, the
nullification of the election would not lie. Elections are won on the basis of a majority or
plurality of votes cast and received by the candidates. The trial court gravely abused its
discretion in rendering the decision proclaiming respondent Serapio the duly elected mayor
of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, on the basis of its perception of the voice of the people of
Valenzuela, even without a majority or plurality votes cast in his favor. Contrary to its own
finding that petitioner obtained 83,600 valid votes against 66,602 valid votes for the
respondent as second placer, or a plurality of 17,007 votes, the trial court declared the
second placer as the winner, a blatant abuse of judicial discretion.
SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; SUPREME COURT AND COMELEC HAVE
CONCURRENT JURISDICTION TO ISSUE WRITS OF CERTIORARI, PROHIBITION
AND MANDAMUS OVER DECISIONS OF TRIAL COURT OF GENERAL JURISDICTION IN ELECTION
CASES INVOLVING ELECTIVE MUNICIPAL OFFICIALS. The Comelec has original jurisdiction
to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus involving election cases in aid of its
appellate jurisdiction. This point has been settled in the case of Relampagos vs. Cumba,
where we held: "In the face of the foregoing disquisitions, the court must, as it now does,
abandon the ruling in the Garcia and Uy andVeloria cases. We now hold that the last
paragraph of Section 50 of B.P. Blg. 697 providing as follows: The Commission is vested with
exclusive authority to hear and decide petitions for certiorari, prohibition
and mandamus involving election cases. remains in full force and effect but only in such
cases where, under paragraph (2), Section 1, Article IX-C of the Constitution, it has exclusive
Election Law Cases

appellate jurisdiction. Simply put, the COMELEC has the authority to issue the extraordinary
writs of certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus only in aid of its appellate jurisdiction."
Consequently, both the Supreme Court and Comelec have concurrent jurisdiction to issue
writs ofcertiorari, prohibition, and mandamus over decisions of trial courts of general
jurisdiction (regional trial courts) in election cases involving elective municipal officials. The
Court that takes jurisdiction first shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the case. Ergo, this
Court has jurisdiction over the present petition of certiorari as a special civil action expressly
conferred on it and provided for in the Constitution.
2. ID.; ID.; ELECTION; EXPLAINED; A DEFEATED CANDIDATE CANNOT BE DEEMED ELECTED
TO THE OFFICE. In this jurisdiction, an election means "the choice or selection of
candidates to public office by popular vote" through the use of the ballot, and the elected
officials of which are determined through the will of the electorate. "An election is the
embodiment of the popular will, the expression of the sovereign power of the people."
"Specifically, the term 'election,' in the context of the Constitution, may refer to the conduct
of the polls, including the listing of voters, the holding of the electoral campaign, and the
casting and counting of votes." The winner is the candidate who has obtained a majority or
plurality of valid votes cast in the election. "Sound policy dictates that public elective offices
are filled by those who receive the highest number of votes cast in the election for that
office. For, in all republican forms of government the basic idea is that no one can be
declared elected and no measure can be declared carried unless he or it receives a majority
or plurality of the legal votes cast in the election." In case of protest, a revision or recount of
the ballots cast for the candidates decides the election protest case. The candidate receiving
the highest number or plurality of votes shall be proclaimed the winner. Even if the
candidate receiving the majority votes is ineligible or disqualified, the candidate receiving
the next highest number of votes or the second placer, can not be declared elected. "The
wreath of victory cannot be transferred from the disqualified winner to the repudiated loser
because the law then as now only authorizes a declaration of election in favor of the person
who has obtained a plurality of votes and does not entitle a candidate receiving the next
highest number of votes to be declared elected." In other words, "a defeated candidate
cannot be deemed elected to the office."
3. ID.; ID.; ELECTION; ELECTIONS ARE WON ON THE BASIS OF THE MAJORITY OR PLURALITY
OF VOTES CAST AND RECEIVED BY THE CANDIDATES. The annulment of an election on the
ground of fraud, irregularities and violations of election laws may be raised as an incident to
an election contest. Such grounds for annulment of an election may be invoked in an
election protest case. However, an election must not be nullified and the voters
disenfranchised whenever it is possible to determine a winner on the basis of valid votes
cast, and discard the illegally cast ballots. In this case, the petitioner admittedly received
17,007 valid votes more than the protestee, and therefore the nullification of the election
would not lie. The power to nullify an election must be exercised with the greatest care with
a view not to disenfranchise the voters, and only under circumstances that clearly call for
such drastic remedial measure. As heretofore stated, in this jurisdiction, elections are won
on the basis of a majority or plurality of votes cast and received by the candidates. "The
right to hold an elective office is rooted on electoral mandate, not perceived entitlement to
the office."
4. ID.; ID.; FAILURE OF ELECTIONS; INSTANCES WHERE A FAILURE OF ELECTIONS MAY BE
DECLARED. In a petition to annul an election under Section 6, Batas Pambansa Blg. 881,
two conditions must be averred in order to support a sufficient cause of action. These are:
(1) the illegality must affect more than 50% of the votescast and (2) the good votes can be
distinguished from the bad ones. It is only when these two conditions are established that
the annulment of the election can be justified because the remaining votes do not constitute
a valid constituency. We have held that: "To declare a failure of election, two (2) conditions
must occur: first, no voting has taken place in the precincts concerned on the date fixed by
law or, even if there were voting, the election nevertheless resulted in a failure to elect; and,
second, the votes not cast would affect the result of the election." Neither of these
conditions was present in the case at bar. More recently, we clarified that, "Under the
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pertinent codal provision of the Omnibus Election Code, there are only three (3) instances
where a failure of elections may be declared, namely: (a) the election in any polling place
has not been held on the date fixed on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud,
or other analogous causes; (b) the election in any polling place had been suspended before
the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting on account of force majeure, violence,
terrorism, fraud, or other analogous causes; or (c) after the voting and during the
preparation and transmission of the election returns or in the custody or canvass thereof,
such election results in a failure to elect on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism,
fraud, or other analogous causes."
5. ID.; ID.; PROCLAIMING A MAYORIAL CANDIDATE WINNER IN THE ELECTION ON THE BASIS
OF PERCEPTION OF THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, EVEN WITHOUT A MAJORITY OR PLURALITY
VOTES CAST IN HIS FAVOR IS VOID. We find that the trial court committed a grave abuse
of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in rendering its decision proclaiming
respondent Serapio the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, on the basis of its
perception of the voice of the people of Valenzuela, even without a majority or plurality
votes cast in his favor. In fact, without a single vote in his favor as the trial court discarded
all the votes. Thus, the decision is not supported by the highest number of valid votes cast
in his favor. This violated the right to due process of law of petitioner who was not heard on
the issue of failure of election, an issue that was not raised by the protestant. "A decision is
void for lack of due process if, as a result, a party is deprived of the opportunity of being
heard." The trial court can not decide the election protest case outside the issues raised. If it
does, as in this case, the trial court is ousted of its jurisdiction. Likewise, it is a basic
principle that a decision with absolutely nothing to support it is void. "A void decision may
be assailed or impugned at any time either directly or collaterally, by means of a petition
filed in the same case or by means of a separate action, or by resisting such decision in any
action or proceeding where it is invoked." Here, the trial court indulged in speculations on its
view of the voice of the people, and decided the case disregarding the evidence, but on its
own intuition,ipse dixit. How was this voice communicated to the trial court? Certainly not by
competent evidence adduced before the court as it should be, but by extra-sensory
perception. This is invalid in law. Contrary to its own finding that petitioner obtained 83,600
valid votes against 66,602 valid votes for the respondent as second placer, or a plurality of
17,007 votes, the trial court declared the second placer as the winner. This is a blatant
abuse of judicial discretion by any account. It is a raw exercise of judicial function in an
arbitrary or despotic manner, amounting to evasion of the positive duty to act in accord with
law. HSCATc

6. REMEDIAL LAW; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTIONS; CERTIORARI; EXPLAINED. In a special civil


action for certiorari, the burden is on petitioner to prove not merely reversible error, but
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the public
respondent Judge. "By grave abuse of discretion is meant capricious and whimsical exercise
of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Mere abuse of discretion is not enough. It
must be grave abuse of discretion as when the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic
manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and must be so patent and so gross as to
amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined
or to act at all in contemplation of law." We must emphasize that election to office is
determined by the highest number of votes obtained by a candidate in the election.
||| (Carlos v. Angeles, G.R. No. 142907, [November 29, 2000], 400 PHIL 405-430)

[G.R. No. L-19260. January 31, 1962.]


DELFIN ALBANO, petitioners, vs. HON. MANUEL ARRANZ, as Judge of
The Court of First Instance of Isabela, Branch I, and SAMUEL
REYES,respondents.
Lorenzo Sumulong for petitioner.
Jose A. Unson for respondent.
SYLLABUS
Election Law Cases

1. ELECTIONS; SUSPENSION OF PROCLAMATION OF WINNING CANDIDATE; COMMISSION ON


ELECTION VESTED WITH AUTHORITY. In view of the exclusive authority conferred upon it
by the Constitution for the administration and enforcement of all laws relative to elections,
the Commission on Elections has the power to suspend the proclamation of the winning
candidate pending an inquiry into irregularities brought to its attention. The Commission has
the right to inquire whether or not discrepancies exist between the various copies of election
returns for the precincts in question, and suspend the canvass in the meantime, so the
parties can ask for a recount in case of variance.
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE WITHOUT POWER TO CORRECT ERROR OF
COMMISSION OF ELECTION. The correction of any error in the order of the Commission of
Elections to suspend the proclamation of the winner in an election does not lie within the
authority of Courts of First Instance, because Article X, section 2 of the Constitution
expressly prescribes "that the decision, orders and rulings of the Commission shall be
subject to review by the Supreme Court" and by no other tribunal (Luison vs. Garcia, G.R. No.
L-10916, May 20, 1957). The Commission on Elections would be reduced to impotence if the
Court of First Instance of every province were to arrogate unto itself the power to disregard,
suspend or contradict any of its orders.
||| (Albano v. Arranz, G.R. No. L-19260, [January 31, 1962], 114 PHIL 318-322)
[G.R. No. 128054. October 16, 1997.]
KILOSBAYAN, INC., FERNANDO A. SANTIAGO, QUINTIN S. DOROMAL,
EMILIO C. CAPULONG JR., RAFAEL G.
FERNANDO, petitioners, vs. COMMISSIONON ELECTIONS, SALVADOR
ENRIQUEZ, FRANKLIN DRILON, CESAR SARINO, LEONORA V. DE
JESUS, TIBURCIO RELUCIO, RONALDO V. PUNO, BENITO R. CATINDIG,
MANUEL CALUPITAN III, VICENTE CARLOS, FRANCISCO CANCIO,
JIMMY DURANTE, MELVYN MENDOZA, respondents.
Haydee B. Yorac, Fernando A. Santiago, Emilio C. Capulong, Jr., Jose Manuel T. Diokno,
Wigberto R. Taada, Jr., and Diosdado Jose M. Allado for petitioners.
Puno & Puno for respondents.
Gutierrez, Sundiam & Villanueva for Sen. Franklin Drilon.
Carlos Law Offices for Vicente J. Carlos.
SYNOPSIS
The Philippine Youth Health and Sports Development Foundation, Inc. (PYHSDFI) was
registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a non-stock, non-profit
foundation with private respondents herein as incorporators. In order to implement its
various sports, health, and cultural activities, the PYHSDFI President entered into a
Memorandum of Agreement with the DILG-NCR Regional Director for the purpose of
allocating an amount from the government's Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) to
finance its various programs. The advice of allotment allocating the amount of P70 million
was signed and released by the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management.
The petitioner Kilosbayan wrote the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to inform them of
two election offenses committed in relation to the release of CDF funds. The Comelec
referred the letter-complaint to its Law Department for comment and/or recommendation.
After the investigation, the Comelec Law Department found that there was insufficient
ground to hold that the respondents had committed the acts complained of and that the
allegations in the complaint were plain conjectures, speculation and based on hearsay
evidence. It was recommended that the complaint were plain conjectures, speculation and
based on hearsay evidence. It was recommended that the complaint of Kilosbayan against
all respondents be dismissed. Adopting the findings and conclusions of the Law Department,
the Comelec en banc promulgated Minute Resolution No. 96-1037 dismissing the charges
against all the respondents, all on the ground of insufficiency of evidence to establish
probable cause. Its Motion for Reconsideration and Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration
having been denied by the Comelec en banc,petitioner Kilosbayan has come before the
Supreme Court ascribing grave abuse of discretion to public respondent Comelec. cdasia
Election Law Cases

The Supreme Court ruled that the Comelec did not commit any act constituting grave abuse
of discretion in dismissing petitioner Kilosbayan's letter-complaint against herein
respondents, the former having failed to prove its cause against the latter. The Comelec is
the "public prosecutor with the exclusive authority to conduct the preliminary investigation
and the prosecution of election offenses punishable under the Omnibus Election Code before
the competent court. This constitutional and statutory mandate for the Comelec to
investigate and prosecute cases of violation of election laws translates, in effect, to the
exclusive power to conduct preliminary investigations in cases involving election offenses for
the twin purpose of filing an information in court and helping the Judge determine, in the
course of preliminary inquiry, whether or not a warrant of arrest should be issued.
SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; PROSECUTORIAL POWER THEREOF;
CONSTRUED. Section 2(7) of Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution provides that the
Comelec shall exercise the power to "investigate and where appropriate, prosecute cases of
violations of election laws including acts or omission constituting election frauds, offenses
and malpractices." Discerning the rationale for this grant of prosecutorial powers to the
Comelec, we already had occasion to rule, thus: "The grant to the COMELEC of the power,
among others, to enforce and administer all laws relative to the conduct of election and the
concomitant authority to investigate and prosecute election offenses is not without
compelling reason. The evident constitutional intendment in bestowing this power to the
COMELEC is to insure the free, orderly and honest conduct of elections, failure of which
would result in the frustration of the true will of the people and make a mere idle ceremony
of the sacred right and duty of every qualified citizen to vote." This constitutional grant of
prosecutorial power in the Comelec finds statutory expression under Section 265 of Batas
Pambansa Blg. 881, otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code, to wit. "SEC. 265.
Prosecution. The Commission shall, through its duly authorized legal officers, have the
exclusive power to conduct preliminary investigation of all election offenses punishable
under this Code, and to prosecute the same. The Commission may avail of the assistance of
other prosecuting arms of the government: Provided, however, That in the event that the
Commission fails to act on any complaint within four months from his filing, the complainant
may file the complaint with the office of the fiscal or with the Ministry of Justice for proper
investigation and prosecution, if warranted." Insofar as the prosecution of election offenses
is concerned, therefore, the Comelec is the "public prosecutor with the exclusive authority to
conduct the preliminary investigation and the prosecution of election offenses punishable
under the [Omnibus Election] Code before the competent court." This constitutional and
statutory mandate for the Comelec to investigate and prosecute cases of violation of
election laws translates, in effect, to the exclusive power to conduct preliminary
investigations in cases involving election offenses for the twin purpose of filing an
information in court and helping the Judge determine, in the course of preliminary inquiry,
whether or not a warrant of arrest should be issued.
2. ID.; ID.; ELECTION OFFENSES; PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION, REQUIRED; CASE AT BAR.
The Comelec, whenever any election offense charge is filed before it, must have first, before
dismissing the same or filing the corresponding information, conducted the preliminary
investigation proper of the case. At this initial stage of criminal prosecution, the primordial
task of the Comelec is the determination of probable cause, i.e., whether or not there is
reason to believe that the accused is guilty of the offense charged and, therefore, whether
or not he should be subjected to the expense, rigors and embarrassment of trial or as the
Comelec Rules of Procedure phrase it, whether or not "there is reasonable ground to believe
that a crime has been committed." The determination of probable cause in any criminal
prosecution, is made indispensable by the Bill of Rights which enshrines every citizen's right
to due process, the presumption that he is presumed innocent, and the inadmissibility
against him of any damaging evidence obtained in violation of his right against self-
incrimination. As Justice Reynato S. Puno has pointed out, probable cause is neither an
"opaque concept in our jurisdiction" or a "high level legal abstraction to be the subject of
warring thoughts." It constitutes those "facts and circumstances which would lead a
Election Law Cases

reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed" by the
person sought to be judicially indicted. In determining probable cause, however, the public
prosecutor must have been apprised by the complainant of his evidence in support of his
accusatory allegations. In other words, determining probable cause is an intellectual activity
premised on the prior physical presentation or submission of documentary or testimonial
proofs either confirming, negating or qualifying the allegations in the complaint.
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; BASIS OF PROBABLE CAUSE; NOT ESTABLISHED IN CASE AT BAR.
Indeed probable cause need not be based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, neither
on evidence establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt and definitely, not on evidence
establishing absolute certainty of guilt, but it certainly demands more than "bare suspicion"
and can never be "left to presupposition, conjecture, or even convincing logic." The efforts of
petitioner Kilosbayan, thus, in order to successfully lead to the judicial indictment of
respondents, should have gone beyond a largely declamatory condemnation of respondents
and diligently focused on its two-fold obligation of not only substantiating its charges against
respondents but also proffering before the Comelec substantial evidence of respondents'
utilization, through conspiratorial, cooperative and/or interrelated acts, of Seventy Million
Pesos from the CDF for electioneering activities in violation of the pertinent provisions on
election offenses as enumerated in the Omnibus Election Code. In the dispensation of this
obligation, however, petitioner Kilosbayan utterly failed. The encompassing narration of the
pertinent facts and circumstances of this case in the early part of this ponencia indubitably
shows the complacency, at the least, and the gross and deliberate negligence, at the most,
of petitioner Kilosbayan in presenting sufficient evidence in support of its letter-complaint.
4. ID., ID.; ID.; ID.; COMPLAINANT HAS THE BURDEN AND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO FOLLOW
THROUGH THE ACCUSATION AND PROVE THE COMPLAINT. The task of the Comelec as
investigator and prosecutor, acting upon any election offense complaint, is not the physical
searching and gathering of proof in support of a complaint for an alleged commission of an
election offense. A complainant, who in effect accuses another person of having committed
an act constituting an election offense, has the burden, as it is his responsibility, to follow
through his accusation and prove his complaint. If the complainant fails to proffer the
necessary evidence to show probable cause, notwithstanding the lack of denial or any
evidence in controversion, of the accusation, the complaint must be dismissed, since any
person accused of a crime is presumed innocent and does not at all have to make a
response or reaction to the charges against him. The Comelec, in acting upon an election
offense complaint in the course of preliminary investigation, initially facilitates the
confrontation process between the complainant and the respondents by requiring the
submission of and interfacing, their respective evidences. Ultimately, the Comelec passes
upon the contending parties' respective submissions and proofs and weighs the fact and
circumstances established therefrom. Contrary to the asseveration of petitioner Kilosbayan,
the preliminary investigation is not an occasion for the Comelec to, as a duty, spoonfeed the
complainant with evidence needed to prove its case. EHCaDS

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; PROBABLE CAUSE CAN NOT BE BASED UPON HEARSAY EVIDENCE; CASE
AT BAR. Cash allocations appear to be evidence of perhaps, a thousand hypothetical,
though, possible scenarios. But they are evidence of only one fact: that a certain amount of
public money was made available to PHYSDFI (Philippine Youth Health and Sports
Development Foundation, Inc.) as it is rightfully entitled thereto as an accredited non-
governmental organization at around the same time that the synchronized elections of 1992
were to be held. But this one fact is certainly no justification to indict herein respondents for
the election offenses imputed to them. There is no proof that respondents conspired to have
PHYSDFI accredited as a non-government organization in order to avail itself of public funds
to spend for electioneering purposes. In order for there to be reasonable ground to believe
that a conspiracy exists among (1) the government officials who set up the mechanism for
accrediting NGOs to implement the projects under the CDF and to qualify the latter to
receive CDF allocations; (2) the incorporators and officers of the PHYSDFI; and (3) the SHO
(Sulo Hotel Operation) implicated by Teodoro Benigno in his newspaper articles in alleged
Election Law Cases

electioneering activities during the May 11, 1992 elections, there must be a semblance of
evidence linking them to each other. There is none, however, except for the hearsay
evidence consisting of the aforementioned newspaper articles. Suffice it to say that although
only a low quantum and quality of evidence is needed to support a finding of probable
cause, the same cannot be justified upon hearsay evidence that is never given any
evidentiary or probative value in this jurisdiction. aTcIAS
||| (Kilosbayan, Inc. v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 128054, [October 16, 1997])

[G.R. No. 205033. June 18, 2013.]


ROMEO G. JALOSJOS, petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
MARIA ISABELLE G. CLIMACO-SALAZAR, ROEL B. NATIVIDAD,
ARTURO N. ONRUBIA, AHMAD NARZAD K. SAMPANG, JOSE L.
LOBREGAT, ADELANTE ZAMBOANGA PARTY, AND ELBERT C.
ATILANO, respondents.
DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J p:
Assailed in this petition for certiorari 1 filed under Rule 64 in relation to Rule 65 of the Rules
of Court is the Commission on Elections' (COMELEC) En Banc Resolution No. 9613 2 dated
January 15, 2013, ordering the denial of due course to and/or cancellation of
petitioner Romeo G. Jalosjos' certificate of candidacy (CoC) as a mayoralty candidate for
Zamboanga City.
The Facts
On November 16, 2001, the Court promulgated its Decision in G.R. Nos. 132875-76,
entitled "People of the Philippines v. Romeo G. Jalosjos," 3 convicting petitioner by final
judgment of two (2) counts of statutory rape and six (6) counts of acts of
lasciviousness. 4 Consequently, he was sentenced to suffer the principal penalties
ofreclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal 5 for each count, respectively, which carried
the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification pursuant to Article 41 of the
Revised Penal Code (RPC). 6 On April 30, 2007, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
issued an order commuting his prison term to sixteen (16) years, three (3) months and three
(3) days (Order of Commutation). After serving the same, he was issued a Certificate of
Discharge from Prison on March 18, 2009. 7 HSTaEC
On April 26, 2012, 8 petitioner applied to register as a voter in Zamboanga City. However,
because of his previous conviction, his application was denied by the Acting City Election
Officer of the Election Registration Board (ERB), prompting him to file a Petition for Inclusion
in the Permanent List of Voters (Petition for Inclusion) before the Municipal Trial Court in
Cities of Zamboanga City, Branch 1 (MTCC). 9 Pending resolution of the same, he filed a
CoC 10 on October 5, 2012, seeking to run as mayor for Zamboanga City in the upcoming
local elections scheduled on May 13, 2013 (May 2013 Elections). In his CoC, petitioner
stated, inter alia, that he is eligible for the said office and that he is a registered voter of
Barangay Tetuan, Zamboanga City.
On October 18, 2012, 11 the MTCC denied his Petition for Inclusion on account of his
perpetual absolute disqualification which in effect, deprived him of the right to vote in any
election. Such denial was affirmed by the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga City, Branch 14
(RTC) in its October 31, 2012 Order 12 which, pursuant to Section 13813 of Batas Pambansa
Bilang 881, as amended, otherwise known as the "Omnibus Election Code" (OEC), was
immediately final and executory. SacTAC
Meanwhile, five (5) petitions were lodged before the COMELEC's First and Second Divisions
(COMELEC Divisions), praying for the denial of due course to and/or cancellation of
petitioner's CoC. Pending resolution, the COMELEC En Banc issued motu
proprio Resolution No. 9613 14 on January 15, 2013, resolving "to CANCEL andDENY due
course the Certificate of Candidacy filed by Romeo G. Jalosjos as Mayor of Zamboanga City
in the May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections" due to his perpetual absolute
disqualification as well as his failure to comply with the voter registration requirement. As
basis, the COMELEC En Banc relied on the Court's pronouncement in the consolidated cases
Election Law Cases

of Dominador Jalosjos, Jr. v. COMELEC and Agapito Cardino v. COMELEC 15 (Jalosjos,


Jr. and Cardino).
Hence, the instant petition.
Issues Before the Court
Submitted for the Court's determination are the following issues: (a) whether the
COMELEC En Banc acted beyond its jurisdiction when it issued motu proprioResolution No.
9613 and in so doing, violated petitioner's right to due process; and (b) whether petitioner's
perpetual absolute disqualification to run for elective office had already been removed by
Section 40 (a) of Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the "Local Government Code of
1991" (LGC).
The Court's Ruling
The petition is bereft of merit.
At the outset, the Court observes that the controversy in this case had already been mooted
by the exclusion of petitioner in the May 2013 Elections. Nevertheless, in view of the
doctrinal value of the issues raised herein, which may serve to guide both the bench and the
bar in the future, the Court takes this opportunity to discuss on the same. TaISDA
A.Nature and validity of motu
proprio issuance of Resolution No.
9613.
Petitioner claims that the COMELEC En Banc usurped the COMELEC Divisions' jurisdiction by
cancelling motu proprio petitioner's CoC through Resolution No. 9613, contrary to Section 3,
Article IX-C of the 1987 Philippine Constitution (Constitution) which reads:
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. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Concomitantly, he also claims that his right to procedural due process had been violated by
the aforementioned issuance.
The Court is not persuaded.
The above-cited constitutional provision requiring a motion for reconsideration before the
COMELEC En Banc may take action is confined only to cases where the COMELEC
exercises its quasi-judicial power. It finds no application, however, in matters concerning
the COMELEC's exercise of administrative functions. The distinction between the two is well-
defined. As illumined in Villarosa v. COMELEC: 16 EcTCAD
[T]he term 'administrative' connotes, or pertains, to 'administration,
especially management, as by managing or conducting, directing or
superintending, the execution, application, or conduct of persons or
things. It does not entail an opportunity to be heard, the production and
weighing of evidence, and a decision or resolution thereon. While a 'quasi-
judicial function' is a term which applies to the action, discretion, etc.,
of public administrative officers or bodies, who are required to
investigate facts, or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings,
and draw conclusions from them, as a basis for their official action
and to exercise discretion of a judicial nature. (Emphasis and
underscoring supplied)
Crucial therefore to the present disquisition is the determination of the nature of the power
exercised by the COMELEC En Banc when it promulgated Resolution No. 9613.
The foregoing matter is not without established precedent. In Jalosjos, Jr. and Cardino, the
Court held that the COMELEC's denial of due course to and/or cancellation of a CoC in view
of a candidate's disqualification to run for elective office based on a final conviction is
subsumed under its mandate to enforce and administer all laws relating to the conduct of
elections. Accordingly, in such a situation, it is the COMELEC's duty to cancel motu
Election Law Cases

proprio the candidate's CoC, notwithstanding the absence of any petition initiating a quasi-
judicial proceeding for the resolution of the same. Thus, the Court stated: 17 cITCAa
Even without a petition under either Section 12 or Section 78 of
the Omnibus Election Code, or under Section 40 of the Local Government
Code, the COMELEC is under a legal duty to cancel the certificate of
candidacy of anyone suffering from the accessory penalty of
perpetual special disqualification to run for public office by virtue of
a final judgment of conviction. The final judgment of conviction is notice
to the COMELEC of the disqualification of the convict from running for public
office. The law itself bars the convict from running for public office, and the
disqualification is part of the final judgment of conviction. The final judgment
of the court is addressed not only to the Executive branch, but also to other
government agencies tasked to implement the final judgment under the law.
Whether or not the COMELEC is expressly mentioned in the judgment to
implement the disqualification, it is assumed that the portion of the final
judgment on disqualification to run for elective public office is addressed to
the COMELEC because under the Constitution the COMELEC is duty bound to
"[e]nforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of
an election." The disqualification of a convict to run for public office
under the Revised Penal Code, as affirmed by final judgment of a
competent court, is part of the enforcement and administration of
"all laws" relating to the conduct of elections. ATCEIc
To allow the COMELEC to wait for a person to file a petition to cancel the
certificate of candidacy of one suffering from perpetual special
disqualification will result in the anomaly that these cases so grotesquely
exemplify. Despite a prior perpetual special disqualification, Jalosjos was
elected and served twice as mayor. The COMELEC will be grossly remiss
in its constitutional duty to "enforce and administer all laws"
relating to the conduct of elections if it does not motu
propriobar from running for public office those suffering from
perpetual special disqualification by virtue of a final judgment.
(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
In Aratea v. COMELEC (Aratea), 18 the Court similarly pronounced that the disqualification of
a convict to run for public office, as affirmed by final judgment of a competent
court, is part of the enforcement and administration of all laws relating to the conduct of
elections. 19
Applying these principles to the case at bar, it is clear that the COMELEC En Banc did not
exercise its quasi-judicial functions when it issued Resolution No. 9613 as it did not assume
jurisdiction over any pending petition or resolve any election case before it or any of its
divisions. Rather, it merely performed its duty to enforce and administer election
laws in cancelling petitioner's CoC on the basis of his perpetual absolute
disqualification, the fact of which had already been established by his final
conviction. In this regard, the COMELEC En Banc was exercising its administrative
functions, dispensing with the need for a motion for reconsideration of a division ruling
under Section 3, Article IX-C of the Constitution, the same being required only in quasi-
judicial proceedings. HcSCED
Lest it be misunderstood, while the denial of due course to and/or cancellation of one's CoC
generally necessitates the exercise of the COMELEC's quasi-judicial functions commenced
through a petition based on either Sections 12 20 or 78 21 of the OEC, or Section 40 22 of
the LGC, when the grounds therefor are rendered conclusive on account of final and
executory judgments as when a candidate's disqualification to run for public office is
based on a final conviction such exercise falls within the COMELEC's administrative
functions, as in this case.
In this light, there is also no violation of procedural due process since the COMELEC En
Banc would be acting in a purely administrative manner. Administrative power is concerned
Election Law Cases

with the work of applying policies and enforcing orders as determined by proper
governmental organs. 23 As petitioner's disqualification to run for public office had already
been settled in a previous case and now stands beyond dispute, it is incumbent upon the
COMELEC En Banc to cancel his CoC as a matter of course, else it be remiss in fulfilling its
duty to enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an
election.
Equally compelling is the fact that the denial of petitioner's Petition for Inclusion as a
registered voter in Zamboanga City had already attained finality by virtue of the RTC's Order
dated October 31, 2012. In this accord, petitioner's non-compliance with the voter
registration requirement under Section 39 (a) of the LGC 24 is already beyond question and
likewise provides a sufficient ground for the cancellation of his CoC altogether.
B.Petitioner's right to run for
elective office.
It is petitioner's submission that Article 30 of the RPC was partially amended by Section 40
(a) of the LGC and thus, claims that his perpetual absolute disqualification had already been
removed. ScAHTI
The argument is untenable.
Well-established is the rule that every new statute should be construed in connection with
those already existing in relation to the same subject matter and all should be made to
harmonize and stand together, if they can be done by any fair and reasonable
interpretation. 25
On the one hand, Section 40 (a) of the LGC, applicable as it is to local elective candidates,
provides:
SEC. 40.Disqualifications. The following persons are disqualified from
running for any elective local position:
(a)Those sentenced by final judgment for an offense involving moral
turpitude or for an offense punishable by one (1) year or more of
imprisonment, within two (2) years after serving
sentence; (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
And on the other hand, Article 30 of the RPC reads:
ART. 30.Effects of the penalties of perpetual or temporary absolute
disqualification. The penalties of perpetual or temporary absolute
disqualification for public office shall produce the following effects: ADaSET
1.The deprivation of the public offices and employments which the offender
may have held, even if conferred by popular election.
2.The deprivation of the right to vote in any election for any
popular office or to be elected to such office.
3.The disqualification for the offices or public employments and for the
exercise of any of the rights mentioned.
In case of temporary disqualification, such disqualification as is comprised in
paragraphs 2 and 3 of this Article shall last during the term of the sentence.
4.The loss of all rights to retirement pay or other pension for any office
formerly held. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Keeping with the above-mentioned statutory construction principle, the Court observes that
the conflict between these provisions of law may be properly reconciled. In particular, while
Section 40 (a) of the LGC allows a prior convict to run for local elective office after the lapse
of two (2) years from the time he serves his sentence, the said provision should not be
deemed to cover cases wherein the law 26 imposes a penalty, either as principal
or accessory, 27 which has the effect of disqualifying the convict to run for
elective office. An example of this would be Article 41 of the RPC, which imposes the
penalty of perpetual 28 absolute 29disqualification as an accessory to the principal
penalties of reclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal:
ART. 41.Reclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal. Their accessory
penalties. The penalties of reclusion perpetua and reclusion
temporal shall carry with them that of civil interdiction for life or during the
Election Law Cases

period of the sentence as the case may be, and that of perpetual
absolute disqualification which the offender shall suffer even though
pardoned as to the principal penalty, unless the same shall have been
expressly remitted in the pardon. (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied) IDTHcA
In this relation, Article 30 of the RPC, as earlier cited, provides that the penalty of perpetual
absolute disqualification has the effect of depriving the convicted felon of the privilege to
run for elective office. To note, this penalty, as well as other penalties of similar import, is
based on the presumptive rule that one who is rendered infamous by conviction of a
felony, or other base offense indicative of moral turpitude, is unfit to hold public
office, 30 as the same partakes of a privilege which the State grants only to such classes of
persons which are most likely to exercise it for the common good. 31
Pertinently, it is observed that the import of Article 41 in relation to Article 30 of the RPC is
more direct and specific in nature insofar as it deprives the candidate to run for elective
office due to his conviction as compared to Section 40 (a) of the LGC which broadly
speaks of offenses involving moral turpitude and those punishable by one (1) year or more
of imprisonment without any consideration of certain disqualifying effects to one's right to
suffrage. Accordingly, Section 40 (a) of the LGCshould be considered as a law of general
application and therefore, must yield to the more definitive RPC provisions in line with the
principle of lex specialis derogat generali general legislation must give way to
special legislation on the same subject, and generally is so interpreted as to
embrace only cases in which the special provisions are not applicable. In other
words, where two statutes are of equal theoretical application to a particular case, the one
specially designed therefor should prevail. 32 HIaTDS
In the present case, petitioner was sentenced to suffer the principal penalties of reclusion
perpetua and reclusion temporal which, pursuant to Article 41 of the RPC, carried with it the
accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification and in turn, pursuant to Article 30 of
the RPC, disqualified him to run for elective office. As discussed, Section 40 (a) of
the LGC would not apply to cases wherein a penal provision such as Article 41 in this case
directly and specifically prohibits the convict from running for elective office. Hence,
despite the lapse of two (2) years from petitioner's service of his commuted prison term, he
remains bound to suffer the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification which
consequently, disqualifies him to run as mayor for Zamboanga City.
Notably, Article 41 of the RPC expressly states that one who is previously convicted of a
crime punishable by reclusion perpetua or reclusion temporal continues to suffer the
accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification even though pardoned as to the
principal penalty, unless the said accessory penalty shall have been expressly
remitted in the pardon. 33 In this case, the same accessory penalty had not been
expressly remitted in the Order of Commutation or by any subsequent pardon and as such,
petitioner's disqualification to run for elective office is deemed to subsist.
Further, it is well to note that the use of the word "perpetual" in the aforementioned
accessory penalty connotes a lifetime restriction and in this respect, does not depend on the
length of the prison term which is imposed as its principal penalty. Instructive on this point is
the Court's ruling in Lacuna v. Abes, 34 where the Court explained the meaning of the term
"perpetual" as applied to the penalty of disqualification to run for public office: CASIEa
The accessory penalty of temporary absolute disqualification disqualifies the
convict for public office and for the right to vote, such disqualification to last
only during the term of the sentence (Article 27, paragraph 3, & Article 30,
Revised Penal Code) that, in the case of Abes, would have expired on 13
October 1961.
But this does not hold true with respect to the other accessory penalty of
perpetual special disqualification for the exercise of the right of
suffrage. This accessory penalty deprives the convict of the right to vote or
to be elected to or hold public office perpetually, as distinguished from
Election Law Cases

temporary special disqualification, which lasts during the term of the


sentence. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Likewise, adopting the Lacuna ruling, the Court, in the more recent cases
of Aratea, 35 Jalosjos, Jr. and Cardino, 36 held:
Clearly, Lacuna instructs that the accessory penalty of perpetual special
disqualification "deprives the convict of the right to vote or to be
elected to or hold public office perpetually.''
The accessory penalty of perpetual special disqualification takes effect
immediately once the judgment of conviction becomes final. The
effectivity of this accessory penalty does not depend on the
duration of the principal penalty, or on whether the convict serves
his jail sentence or not. The last sentence of Article 32 states that "the
offender shall not be permitted to hold any public office during the period
of his [perpetual special] disqualification." Once the judgment of
conviction becomes final, it is immediately executory. Any public
office that the convict may be holding at the time of his conviction
becomes vacant upon finality of the judgment, and the convict
becomes ineligible to run for any elective public
office perpetually. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) HISAET
All told, applying the established principles of statutory construction, and more significantly,
considering the higher interests of preserving the sanctity of our elections, the Court holds
that Section 40 (a) of the LGC has not removed the penalty of perpetual absolute
disqualification which petitioner continues to suffer. Thereby, he remains disqualified to run
for any elective office pursuant to Article 30 of the RPC.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.
||| (Jalosjos v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 205033, [June 18, 2013])

Political Law Election Laws Right of Suffrage Extension of Voters Registration

On January 25, 2001, AKBAYAN-Youth, together with other youth movements sought the
extension of the registration of voters for the May 2001 elections. The voters registration has
already ended on December 27, 2000. AKBAYAN-Youth asks that persons aged 18-21 be
allowed a special 2-day registration. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) denied the
petition. AKBAYAN-Youth the sued COMELEC for alleged grave abuse of discretion for denying
the petition. AKBAYAN-Youth alleged that there are about 4 million youth who were not able
to register and are now disenfranchised. COMELEC invoked Section 8 of Republic Act 8189
which provides that no registration shall be conducted 120 days before the regular election.
AKBAYAN-Youth however counters that under Section 28 of Republic Act 8436, the COMELEC
in the exercise of its residual and stand-by powers, can reset the periods of pre-election acts
including voters registration if the original period is not observed.

ISSUE: Whether or not the COMELEC exercised grave abuse of discretion when it denied the
extension of the voters registration.

HELD: No. The COMELEC was well within its right to do so pursuant to the clear provisions of
Section 8, RA 8189 which provides that no voters registration shall be conducted within 120
days before the regular election. The right of suffrage is not absolute. It is regulated by
measures like voters registration which is not a mere statutory requirement. The State, in
the exercise of its inherent police power, may then enact laws to safeguard and regulate the
act of voters registration for the ultimate purpose of conducting honest, orderly and
peaceful election, to the incidental yet generally important end, that even pre-election
Election Law Cases

activities could be performed by the duly constituted authorities in a realistic and orderly
manner one which is not indifferent and so far removed from the pressing order of the day
and the prevalent circumstances of the times. RA 8189 prevails over RA 8436 in that RA
8189s provision is explicit as to the prohibition. Suffice it to say that it is a pre-election act
that cannot be reset.

Further, even if what is asked is a mere two-day special registration, COMELEC has shown in
its pleadings that if it is allowed, it will substantially create a setback in the other pre-
election matters because the additional voters from the special two day registration will
have to be screened, entered into the book of voters, have to be inspected again, verified,
sealed, then entered into the computerized voters list; and then they will have to reprint the
voters information sheet for the update and distribute it by that time, the May 14, 2001
elections would have been overshot because of the lengthy processes after the special
registration. In short, it will cost more inconvenience than good. Further still, the allegation
that youth voters are disenfranchised is not sufficient. Nowhere in AKBAYAN-Youths pleading
was attached any actual complaint from an individual youth voter about any inconvenience
arising from the fact that the voters registration has ended on December 27, 2001. Also,
AKBAYAN-Youth et al admitted in their pleading that they are asking an extension because
they failed to register on time for some reasons, which is not appealing to the court. The law
aids the vigilant and not those who slumber on their rights.

[G.R. No. 135927. June 26, 2000.]


SULTAN USMAN SARANGANI, SORAIDA M. SARANGANI and HADJI
NOR HASSAN, petitioners, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and HADJI
ABOLAIS R. OMAR, MANAN OSOP and ATTY. NASIB D.
YASSIN, respondents.
Martinez Caparroso & Villasis for petitioners.
The Solicitor General for public respondent.
Nasib D. Yasin for himself and the other private respondents.
SYNOPSIS
Private respondents filed with the COMELEC a petition for annulment of several precincts
and annulment of book of voters in Madalum, Lanao Del Sur. Among the precincts sought to
be annulled was Padian Torogan. The incumbent mayor of Madalum, Lanao Del Sur, Usman
T. Sarangani, herein petitioner, together with others, opposed the petition. After hearing and
submission of formal offer of exhibits and memoranda by the parties, the COMELEC issued
an Order directing the Provincial Election Supervisor of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, to
conduct an investigation on the alleged ghost precincts and thereafter submit a report
thereon. The report on the ocular inspection conducted on the alleged precincts showed that
Padian Torogan and Rakutan were uninhabited. On the basis of the said report, the COMELEC
issued an Order finding Padian Torogan as ghost precinct. Hence, this petition.
The findings of the administrative agency cannot be reversed on appeal
or certiorari particularly when no significant facts and circumstances are shown to have
been overlooked or disregarded which when considered would have substantially affected
the outcome of the case. The COMELEC has broad powers to ascertain the true results of an
election by means available to it. The assailed order having been issued pursuant to
COMELEC's administrative powers and in the absence of any finding of grave abuse of
discretion in declaring a precinct as non-existent, said order shall stand. Judicial interference
is unnecessary and uncalled for. No voter is disenfranchised because no such voter exists.
The sacred right of suffrage guaranteed by the Constitution is not tampered when a list of
fictitious voters is excluded from an electoral exercise. Suffrage is conferred by
Election Law Cases

the Constitution only on citizens who are qualified to vote and are not otherwise disqualified
by law. The Court, therefore, upheld the assailed Order of the Commission on Elections.
SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTIONS; COMELEC; FACTUAL FINDINGS THEREOF BASED ON ITS OWN
ASSESSMENTS AND DULY SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE ARE CONCLUSIVE UPON SUPREME
COURT IN ABSENCE OF SUBSTANTIATED ATTACK ON VALIDITY OF THE SAME. It must be
noted that under the Omnibus Election Code, there should be at least one precinct per
barangay. In designating election precincts, the COMELEC usually refers to them by number.
Nevertheless, the determination of whether a certain election precinct actually exists or not
and whether the voters registered in said precinct are real voters is a factual matter. On
such issue, it is a time-honored precept that factual findings of the COMELEC based on its
own assessments and duly supported by evidence, are conclusive upon this Court, more so,
in the absence of a substantiated attack on the validity of the same.
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; CASE AT BAR. Upon review of the records, the Court finds that the
COMELEC had exerted efforts to investigate the facts and verified that there were no public
or private buildings in the said place, hence its conclusion that there were no inhabitants. If
there were no inhabitants, a fortiori, there can be no registered voters, or the registered
voters may have left the place. It is not impossible for a certain barangay not to actually
have inhabitants considering that people migrate. A barangay may officially exist on record
and the fact that nobody resides in the place does not result in its automatic cessation as a
unit of local government. Under the Local Government Code of 1991, the abolition of a local
government unit (LGU) may be done by Congress in the case of a province, city,
municipality, or any other political subdivision. In the case of a barangay, except in
Metropolitan Manila area and in cultural communities, it may be done by the Sangguniang
Panlalawiganor Sangguniang Panglungsod concerned subject to the mandatory requirement
of a plebiscite conducted for the purpose in the political units affected.
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ORDER THEREOF DECLARING A PRECINCT AS NON-EXISTENT SHALL STAND IN
ABSENCE OF ANY FINDING OF GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION. The findings of the
administrative agency cannot be reversed on appeal or certiorari particularly when no
significant facts and circumstances are shown to have been overlooked or disregarded which
when considered would have substantially affected the outcome of the case. The COMELEC
has broad powers to ascertain the true results of an election by means available to it. The
assailed order having been issued pursuant to COMELEC's administrative powers and in the
absence of any finding of grave abuse of discretion in declaring a precinct as non-existent,
said order shall stand.
4. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; SUFFRAGE; RIGHT OF SUFFRAGE; NOT TAMPERED WHEN A LIST OF
FICTITIOUS VOTERS IS EXCLUDED FROM ELECTORAL EXERCISE. Judicial interference is
unnecessary and uncalled for. No voter is disenfranchised because no such voter exist. The
sacred right of suffrage guaranteed by theConstitution is not tampered when a list of
fictitious voters is excluded from an electoral exercise. Suffrage is conferred by
the Constitution only on citizens who are qualified to vote and are not otherwise disqualified
by law. On the contrary, such exclusion of non-existent voters all the more protects the
validity and credibility of the electoral process as well as the right of suffrage because the
"electoral will" would not be rendered nugatory by the inclusion of some ghost votes.
Election laws should give effect to, rather than frustrate the will of the people.
||| (Sarangani v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 135927, [June 26, 2000], 389 PHIL 719-730)
[G.R. No. 147589. November 20, 2003.]
ANG BAGONG BAYANI, OFW, et al., petitioners, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS, et al., respondents.
[G.R. No. 147613. November 20, 2003.]
BAYAN MUNA, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent.
Allene M. Anigan and Rodrigo E. Marias for APEC.
Froilan M. Bacungan for Buhay, Cocofed & ABA.
Anna Caridad Sazon-Dupaya and Homobono A. Adaza for the True Marcos Loyalist.
Joventino V. Diamante for AMIN.
Election Law Cases

Romulo B. Macalintal for Veterans Federation Party.


J.V. Bautista for Sanlakas & PM.
Musa I. Malayang for NCIA.
Mercado Cordero Bael Acua & Sepulveda for PROMDI.
Jerome Jose F. Paras for Lakas-NUCD-UMDP.
Plutarco B. Bawagan for AKBAYAN.
Ferdinand P. Cordova for Bayan Muna.
Virginia Jose for CIBAC.
Daniel P. Tenefrancia for VFP.
Demaree J.V. Raval for Tomawis and LDB.
Oliver B. San Antonio for Luzon Farmers Party (Butil).
Allado, Mendoza & Associate for Bigkis Pinoy Foundation Inc.
Abdul A. Basar for AKLAT.
Neva B. Blancaver for People Power Party.
Delima & Meez Law Office for ABANSE!PINAY.
Severino D. Corpuz for Lahing Veterano.
SYNOPSIS
Petitioners Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party and Bayan Muna filed the present petitions
under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, challenging Omnibus Resolution No. 37851 issued by
the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on March 26, 2001. This Resolution approved the
participation of 154 organizations and parties, including those herein impleaded, in the 2001
party-list elections. Petitioners seek the disqualification of private respondents, arguing
mainly that the party-list system was intended to benefit the marginalized and
underrepresented; not the mainstream political parties, the non-marginalized or
overrepresented.
The Supreme Court found the petition partly meritorious. The Court remanded the case to
the Comelec and directed the Commission to conduct summary evidentiary hearings on the
qualifications of the party-list participants. The Court rejected the submissions of the
Comelec and the other respondents that the party-list system is, without any qualification,
open to all. According to the Court, such position does not only weaken the electoral
chances of the marginalized and underrepresented; it also prejudices them. It would gut the
substance of the party-list system. Instead of generating hope, it would create a mirage.
Instead of enabling the marginalized, it would further weaken them and aggravate their
marginalization. The Court stressed that the very reason for establishment of the party-list
system is the fundamental social justice principle that those who have less in life should
have more in law. It was for them that the party-list system was enacted to give them not
only genuine hope, but genuine power; to give them the opportunity to be elected and to
represent the specific concerns of their constituencies; and simply to give them a direct
voice in Congress and in the larger affairs of the State. The State cannot now disappoint and
frustrate them by disabling and desecrating this social justice vehicle. The Court also laid
down some guidelines to assist the Comelec in its work of conducting summary evidentiary
hearings on the qualifications of the party-list participants.
SYLLABUS
PANGANIBAN, J., Separate Opinion:
1.REMEDIAL LAW; MOTIONS; NULLITY OF THE ISSUANCES AUTHORIZING THE PROCLAMATION
OF ADDITIONAL NOMINEES OF APEC, BUTIL, CIBAC AND AKBAYAN DOES NOT IPSO FACTO
MEAN THAT THE COURT, IN THE PRESENT PROCEEDINGS AND BY MEANS OF A MERE MOTION
COULD THEREBY UNSEAT THE REPRESENTATIVES. I respectfully submit that the nullity of
these issuances authorizing the proclamation of the additional nominees of APEC, BUTIL,
CIBAC and AKBAYAN does, not ipso facto mean that the Court, in the present
proceedings and by means of a mere motion, could thereby automatically unseat these
representatives. As held in the Court's Resolution dated 16 September 2003 in AM No. 03-8-
22 SC, "there is a distinction between holding in contempt the authors of an arbitrary
proclamation resolution on the one hand[;] and on the other, unseating those who have
been proclaimed, have taken their seats in Congress and have begun performing their
Election Law Cases

lawmaking duties." Be it remembered that on 26 June 2001, the Court in the present
consolidated cases had already rendered its Decision, which has become final and
executory. The instant proceedings are conducted for the purpose merely of passing upon
the COMELEC's compliance with the 8-point guideline issued in the said Decision. The relief
prayed for by BAYAN MUNA to declare Section 11 of RA 7941 unconstitutional is
completely alien to these incidental proceedings. To take up this alleged unconstitutionality
now would mean a reopening of the 26 June 2001 Decision which, to repeat, has already
become final and executory. Obviously, a discussion of that issue cannot be done at this
point.
2.ID.; ID.; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTIONS; TO OUST MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WHO HAVE ALREADY TAKEN THEIR OATHS AND HAVE BEGUN TO DISCHARGE THE
FUNCTIONS OF THEIR OFFICES IS A CONTENTIOUS MATTER AND PARTAKES OF THE NATURE
OF QUO WARRANTO, CERTIORARI AND/OR MANDAMUS. The same observation can be
made of any attempt to unseat the concerned additional nominees by means of a mere
motion in these proceedings. To oust members of the House of Representatives who have
already taken their oaths and have begun to discharge the functions of their offices is a
contentious matter and partakes of the nature of quo warranto, certiorari and/or mandamus.
Clearly, these extraordinary writs may be issued only in special civil actions for which the
Rules of Court prescribe specific requirements, like the verification of
an independent petition with specific allegations showing lack or excess of jurisdiction or
grave abuse of discretion filed in the proper court or quasi judicial agency by
the proper party; and subject to certain formalities like a sworn certificate of non-forum
shopping and so on. Also, these documents must be filed within the prescribed period of
time. IHDCcT
3.ID.; ID.; THE PRESENT ISSUES ARE CONTENTIOUS THAT CANNOT BE RULED UPON UNLESS
THE APPROPRIATE ACTIONS ARE FILED IN THE APPRORIATE FORUM BY THE APPRORIATE TIME
AND ALLEGING THE APPRORIATE JURISDICTIONAL FACTS. True, in Codilla v. Comelec, this
Court ousted an incumbent member of Congress and caused the seating of the
overwhelming winner during the election. However, that Decision was issued only after
an independent petition for mandamus and quo warranto was filed by the proper party, and
only after proper proceedings had been held thereon. In any event, in Guerrero v. Comelec,
this Court declared that "once a winning candidate has been proclaimed, taken his oath, and
assumed office as a member of the House of Representatives, the COMELEC's jurisdiction
over election contests relating to his election, returns and qualification ends, and the HRET's
own jurisdiction begins." Thus, if this Court were to give due course to BAYAN MUNA's
prayer, it will have to rule on the propriety of assuming jurisdiction over the controversy in
the present proceedings; equally important, it will also have to determine which of these two
rulings (Codilla or Guerrero), if any, applies. These are contentious issues that are alien to
the present proceedings; they constitute questions that cannot be ruled upon unless the
appropriate petitions are filed in the appropriate forum by the appropriate party at the
appropriate time and alleging the appropriate jurisdictional facts.
4.POLITICAL LAW; ELECTION LAW; PARTY-LIST LAW; UNLESS AMENDED BY SUBSEQUENT LAW
APPROVED BY CONGRESS OR BY A NEW RULING OF THE COURT IN APPRORIATE
PROCEEDINGS, THE FORMULA SET BY THE COURT IN VETERANS FEDERATION PARTY VS. THE
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS CANNOT BE DISREGARDED, FOR THEY ENSURE THAT THE
NUMBER OF SEATS ALLOCATED TO THE WINNING PARTIES CONFORM TO THE PRINCIPLE OF
PROPORTIONATE REPRESENTATION MANDATED BY LAW. I respectfully submit that these
Motions of BUHAY have no merit. First, the so-called COMELEC formula has long been
expressly rejected by this Court inVeterans Federation Party v. COMELEC. The correct
formulas for computing the proportionate allocation of seats to party-list winners have been
decided in Veteransafter long deliberation and study; these formulas apply to all party-list
elections conducted under the present law. Unless amended by a subsequent law approved
by Congress or by a new ruling of this Court in appropriate proceedings, these formulas
cannot be disregarded, for they ensure that the number of seats allocated to the winning
Election Law Cases

parties conform to the principle of proportional representation mandated by the Party-List


Law.
||| (Ang Bagong Bayani v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 147589, 147613, [November 20, 2003])

94 SCRA 477 Political Law Constitutional Law Legislative Department Party-List


System

This case partially abandoned the rulings in Ang Bagong Bayani vs COMELEC andBANAT vs
COMELEC.

Atong Paglaum, Inc. and 51 other parties were disqualified by the Commission on Elections
in the May 2013 party-list elections for various reasons but primarily for not being qualified
as representatives for marginalized or underrepresented sectors.

Atong Paglaum et al then filed a petition for certiorari against COMELEC alleging grave
abuse of discretion on the part of COMELEC in disqualifying them.

ISSUE: Whether or not the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in disqualifying
the said party-lists.

HELD: No. The COMELEC merely followed the guidelines set in the cases of Ang Bagong
Bayani and BANAT. However, the Supreme Court remanded the cases back to the COMELEC
as the Supreme Court now provides for new guidelines which abandoned some principles
established in the two aforestated cases. The newguidelines are as follows:

I. Parameters. In qualifying party-lists, the COMELEC must use the following parameters:

1. Three different groups may participate in the party-list system: (1) national parties
or organizations, (2) regional parties or organizations, and (3) sectoral parties
ororganizations.

2. National parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations do not need to


organize along sectoral lines and do not need to represent any marginalized and
underrepresented sector.

3. Political parties can participate in party-list elections provided they register under the
party-list system and do not field candidates in legislative district elections. A political party,
whether major or not, that fields candidates in legislative district elections can participate in
party-list elections only through its sectoral wing that can separately register under the
party-list system. The sectoral wing is by itself an independent sectoral party, and is linked
to a political party through a coalition.

4. Sectoral parties or organizations may either be marginalized and underrepresented or


lacking in well-defined political constituencies. It is enough that their principal advocacy
pertains to the special interest and concerns of their sector. The sectors that are
marginalized and underrepresented include labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor,
indigenous cultural communities, handicapped, veterans, and overseas workers. The sectors
Election Law Cases

that lack well-defined political constituencies include professionals, the elderly, women,
and the youth.

5. A majority of the members of sectoral parties or organizations that represent the


marginalized and underrepresented must belong to the marginalized and
underrepresented sector they represent. Similarly, a majority of the members of sectoral
parties or organizations that lack well-defined political constituencies must belong to the
sector they represent. The nominees of sectoral parties or organizationsthat represent the
marginalized and underrepresented, or that represent those who lack well-defined
political constituencies, either must belong to their respective sectors, or must have a track
record of advocacy for their respective sectors. The nominees of national and regional
parties or organizations must be bona-fide members of such parties or organizations.

6. National, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations shall not be disqualified if some of
their nominees are disqualified, provided that they have at least one nominee who remains
qualified.

II. In the BANAT case, major political parties are disallowed, as has always been the practice,
from participating in the party-list elections. But, since theres really no constitutional
prohibition nor a statutory prohibition, major political parties can now participate in the
party-list system provided that they do so through their bona fide sectoral wing (see
parameter 3 above).

Allowing major political parties to participate, albeit indirectly, in the party-list elections
will encourage them to work assiduously in extending their constituencies to the
marginalized and underrepresented and to those who lack well-defined political
constituencies.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court gave weight to the deliberations of the Constitutional
Commission when they were drafting the party-list system provision of the Constitution. The
Commissioners deliberated that it was their intention to include all parties into the party-list
elections in order to develop a political system which is pluralistic and multiparty. (In
the BANAT case, Justice Puno emphasized that the will of the people should defeat the intent
of the framers; and that the intent of the people, in ratifying the 1987 Constitution, is that
the party-list system should be reserved for the marginalized sectors.)

III. The Supreme Court also emphasized that the party-list system is NOT RESERVED for the
marginalized and underrepresented or for parties who lack well-defined political
constituencies. It is also for national or regional parties. It is also for small ideology-based
and cause-oriented parties who lack well-defined political constituencies. The common
denominator however is that all of them cannot, they do not have the machinery unlike
major political parties, to field or sponsor candidates in the legislative districts but they can
acquire the needed votes in a national election system like the party-list system of elections.

If the party-list system is only reserved for marginalized representation, then the system
itself unduly excludes other cause-oriented groups from running for a seat in the lower
house.
Election Law Cases

As explained by the Supreme Court, party-list representation should not be understood to


include only labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities,
handicapped, veterans, overseas workers, and other sectors that by their nature
are economically at the margins of society. It should be noted that Section 5 of Republic
Act 7941 includes, among others, in its provision for sectoral representation groups of
professionals, which are not per se economically marginalized but are still qualified as
marginalized, underrepresented, and do not have well-defined political constituencies as
they are ideologically marginalized.

[G.R. No. 119976. September 18, 1995.]


IMELDA ROMUALDEZ-MARCOS, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECT
IONS and CIRILO ROY MONTEJO, respondents.
Estelito P. Mendoza for petitioner.
The Solicitor General for public respondent.
Paquito N . Ochoa, Jr. and Gracelda N . Andres for private respondent.
SYLLABUS
1. CIVIL LAW; DOMICILE; CONSTRUED. Article 50 of the Civil Code decrees that "[f]or the
exercise of civil rights and the fulfillment of civil obligations, the domicile of natural persons
is their place of habitual residence." In Ong vs. Republic this court took the concept of
domicile to mean an individual's "permanent home," "a place to which, whenever absent for
business or for pleasure, one intends to return, and depends on facts and circumstances in
the sense that they disclose intent." Based on the foregoing, domicile includes the twin
elements of "the fact of residing or physical presence in a fixed place" and animus manendi,
or the intention of returning there permanently.
2. ID.; ID.; RESIDENCE, CONSTRUED. Residence, in its ordinary conception, implies the
factual relationship of an individual to a certain place. It is the physical presence of a person
in a given area, community or country.
3. ID.; ID.; DIFFERENTIATED FROM RESIDENCE. The essential distinction between
residence and domicile in law is that residence involves the intent to leave when the
purpose for which the resident has taken up his abode ends. One may seek a place for
purposes such as pleasure, business, or health. If a person's intent be to remain, it becomes
his domicile; if his intent is to leave as soon as his purpose is established it is residence. It is
thus, quite perfectly normal for an individual to have different residences in various places.
However, a person can only have a single domicile, unless, for various reasons, he
successfully abandons his domicile in favor of another domicile of choice.
4. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTIONS; RESIDENCE USED SYNONYMOUSLY WITH DOMICILE. For
political purposes the concepts of residence and domicile are dictated by the peculiar
criteria of political laws. As these concepts have evolved in our election law, what has clearly
and unequivocally emerged is the fact that residence for election purposes is used
synonymously with domicile.
5. ID.; ID.; ID.; ABSENCE FROM PERMANENT RESIDENCE WITHOUT INTENTION TO ABANDON
IT DOES NOT RESULT IN LOSS OR CHANGE OF DOMICILE. So settled is the concept (of
domicile) in our election law that in these and other election law cases, this Court has stated
that the mere absence of an individual from his permanent residence without the intention
to abandon it does not result in a loss or change of domicile. The deliberations of the
1987 Constitution on the residence qualification for certain elective positions have placed
beyond doubt the principle that when the Constitution speaks of "residence" in election law,
it actually means only "domicile."
6. ID.; ID.; ID.; FACT OF RESIDENCE, NOT STATEMENT IN CERTIFICATE OF CANDIDACY,
DECISIVE FACTOR IN DETERMINING RESIDENCY QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENT. It is the
fact of residence, not a statement in a certificate of candidacy which ought to be decisive in
determining whether or not an individual has satisfied the constitution's residency
qualification requirement. The said statement becomes material only when there is or
appears to be a deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would
Election Law Cases

otherwise render a candidate ineligible. It would be plainly ridiculous for a candidate to


deliberately and knowingly make a statement in a certificate of candidacy which would lead
to his or her disqualification. cdlex
7. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; CASE AT BAR. It stands to reason therefore, that petitioner merely
committed an honest mistake in jotting down the word "seven" in the space provided for the
residency qualification requirement. The circumstances leading to her filing the questioned
entry obviously resulted in the subsequent confusion which prompted petitioner to write
down the period of her actual stay in Tolosa, Leyte instead of her period of residence in the
First district, which was "since childhood" in the space provided. These circumstances and
events are amply detailed in the COMELEC's Second Division's questioned resolution, albeit
with a different interpretation. For instance, when herein petitioner announced that she
would be registering in Tacloban City to make her eligible to run in the First District, private
respondent Montejo opposed the same, claiming that petitioner was a resident of Tolosa, not
Tacloban City. Petitioner then registered in her place of actual residence in the First District,
which was Tolosa, Leyte, a fact which she subsequently noted down in her Certificate of
Candidacy. A close look at said certificate would reveal the possible source of the confusion:
the entry for residence (Item No. 7) is followed immediately by the entry for residence in the
constituency where a candidate seeks election. Having been forced by private respondent to
register in her place of actual residence in Leyte instead of petitioner's claimed domicile, it
appears that petitioner had jotted down her period of stay in her legal residence or domicile.
The juxtaposition of entries in Item 7 and Item 8 the first requiring actual residence and
the second requiring domicile coupled with the circumstances surrounding petitioner's
registration as a voter in Tolosa obviously led to her writing down an unintended entry for
which she could be disqualified. This honest mistake should not, however, be allowed to
negate the fact of residence in the First District if such fact were established by means more
convincing than a mere entry on a piece of paper. cdll
8. ID.; ID.; ID.; ABSENCE FROM LEGAL RESIDENCE OR DOMICILE OF A TEMPORARY OR SEMI-
PERMANENT NATURE DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LOSS OF RESIDENCE. We have stated, many
times in the past, that an individual does not lose his domicile even if he has lived and
maintained residences in different places. Residence, it bears repeating, implies a factual
relationship to a given place for various purposes. The absence from legal residence or
domicile to pursue a profession, to study or to do other things of a temporary or semi-
permanent nature does not constitute loss of residence. Thus, the assertion by the COMELEC
that "she could not have been a resident of Tacloban City since childhood up to the time she
filed her certificate of candidacy because she became a resident of many places" flies in the
face of settled jurisprudence in which this Court carefully made distinctions between (actual)
residence and domicile for election law purposes.
9. CIVIL LAW; DOMICILE; A MINOR FOLLOWS THE DOMICILE OF HIS PARENTS; CASE AT
BENCH. A minor follows the domicile of his parents. As domicile, once acquired is retained
until a new one is gained, it follows that in spite of the fact of petitioner's being born in
Manila, Tacloban, Leyte was her domicile of origin by operation of law. This domicile was not
established only when her father brought his family back to Leyte contrary to private
respondent's averments.
10. ID.; ID.; REQUISITES TO EFFECT CHANGE OF DOMICILE. Domicile of origin is not easily
lost. To successfully effect a change of domicile, one must demonstrate: 1. An actual
removal or an actual change of domicile; 2. A bona fide intention of abandoning the former
place of residence and establishing a new one; and 3. Acts which correspond with the
purpose.
11. ID.; ID.; ID.; CASE AT BENCH. In the absence of clear and positive proof based on these
criteria, the residence of origin should be deemed to continue. Only with evidence showing
concurrence of all three requirements can the presumption of continuity or residence be
rebutted, for a change of residence requires an actual and deliberate abandonment, and one
cannot have two legal residences at the same time. In the case at bench, the evidence
adduced by private respondent plainly lacks the degree of persuasiveness required to
convince this court that an abandonment of domicile of origin in favor of a domicile of choice
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indeed occurred. To effect an abandonment requires the voluntary act of relinquishing


petitioner's former domicile with an intent to supplant the former domicile with one of her
own choosing (domicilium voluntarium).
12. ID.; ID.; ID.; MARRIAGE, NOT A CAUSE FOR LOSS OF DOMICILE. In this connection, it
cannot be correctly argued that petitioner lost her domicile of origin by operation of law as a
result of her marriage to the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1954. For there is a clearly
established distinction between the Civil Code concepts of "domicile" and "residence." The
presumption that the wife automatically gains the husband's domicile by operation of law
upon marriage cannot be inferred from the use of the term "residence" in Article 110 of the
Civil Code because the Civil Code is one area where the two concepts are well delineated. A
survey of jurisprudence relating to Article 110 or to the concepts of domicile or residence as
they affect the female spouse upon marriage yields nothing which would suggest that the
female spouse automatically loses her domicile of origin in favor of the husband's choice of
residence upon marriage. Article 110 is a virtual restatement of Article 58 of the Spanish
Civil Code of 1889: La mujer esta obligada a seguir a su marido donde quiera que fije su
residencia. Los Tribunales, sin embargo, podran con justa causa eximirla de esta obligacion
cuando el marido transende su residencia a ultramar o' a pais extranjero. Note the use of
the phrase "donde quiera su fije de residencia" in the aforequoted article, which means
wherever (the husband) wishes to establish residence. This part of the article clearly
contemplates only actual residence because it refers to a positive act of fixing a family home
or residence. Moreover, this interpretation is further strengthened by the phrase "cuando el
marido translade su residencia" in the same provision which means, "when the
husband shall transfer his residence," referring to another positive act of relocating the
family to another home or place of actual residence. The article obviously cannot be
understood to refer to domicile which is a fixed, fairly-permanent concept when it plainly
connotes the possibility of transferring from one place to another not only once, but as often
as the husband may deem fit to move his family, a circumstance more consistent with the
concept of actual residence. Very significantly, Article 110 of the Civil Code is found under
Title V under the heading: RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS BETWEEN HUSBAND AND WIFE.
Immediately preceding Article 110 is Article 109 which obliges the husband and wife to live
together. The duty to live together can only be fulfilled if the husband and wife are physically
together. This takes into account the situations where the couple has many residences (as in
the case of petitioner). If the husband has to stay in or transfer to any one of their
residences, the wife should necessarily be with him in order that they may "live together."
Hence, it is illogical to conclude that Art. 110 refers to "domicile" and not to "residence."
Otherwise, we shall be faced with a situation where the wife is left in the domicile while the
husband, for professional or other reasons, stays in one of their (various) residences.

13. ID.; ID.; TERM RESIDENCE REFERS TO "ACTUAL RESIDENCE." The term residence may
mean one thing in civil law (or under the Civil Code) and quite another thing in political law.
What stands clear is that insofar as the Civil Code is concerned affecting the rights and
obligations of husband and wife the term residence should only be interpreted to mean
"actual residence." The inescapable conclusion derived from this unambiguous civil law
delineation therefore, is that when petitioner married the former President in 1954, she kept
her domicile of origin and merely gained a new home, not a domicilium necessarium.
14. STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION; STATUTE REQUIRING RENDITION OF JUDGMENT WITHIN
SPECIFIED TIME, MERELY DIRECTORY. It is a settled doctrine that a statute requiring
rendition of judgment within a specified time is generally construed to be merely directory,
"so that non-compliance with them does not invalidate the judgment on the theory that if
the statute had intended such result it would have clearly indicated it." The difference
between a mandatory and a directory provision is often made on grounds of necessity.
15. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; COMELEC; JURISDICTION TO DECIDE PENDING DISQUALIFICATION
CASE NOT LOST BY HOLDING OF ELECTIONS. With the enactment of Sections 6 and 7
of R.A. 6646 in relation to Section 78 of B.P. 881, it is evident that the respondent
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Commission does not lose jurisdiction to hear and decide a pending disqualification case
under Section 78 of B.P. 881 even after the elections.
16. ID.; LEGISLATURE; HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL (HRET); SOLE
JUDGE OF ALL CONTESTS RELATING TO ELECTIONS, RETURNS AND QUALIFICATIONS OF
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS; CANDIDATE MUST HAVE BEEN PROCLAIMED. As to the House of
Representatives Electoral Tribunal's supposed assumption of jurisdiction over the issue of
petitioner's qualifications after the May 8, 1995 elections, suffice it to say that HRET's
jurisdiction as the sole judge of all contests relating to the elections, returns and
qualifications of members of Congress begins only after a candidate has become a member
of the House of Representatives. Petitioner not being a member of the House of
Representatives, it is obvious that the HRET at this point has no jurisdiction over the
question.
||| (Romualdez-Marcos v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 119976, [September 18, 1995], 318 PHIL 329-
466)
[G.R. No. 201716. January 8, 2013.]
MAYOR ABELARDO ABUNDO, SR., petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS and ERNESTO R. VEGA, respondents.
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J p:
The Case
In this Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65, petitioner Abelardo Abundo, Sr. (Abundo) assails
and seeks to nullify (1) the February 8, 2012 Resolution 1 of the Second Division,
Commission on Elections (COMELEC), in EAC (AE) No. A-25-2010 and (2) the May 10, 2012
Resolution 2 of the COMELEC en banc affirming that division's disposition. The assailed
issuances, in turn, affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Virac,
Catanduanes, Branch 43, dated August 9, 2010, in Election Case No. 55 declaring Abundo as
ineligible, under the three-term limit rule, to run in the 2010 elections for the position of, and
necessarily to sit as, Mayor of Viga, Catanduanes.
The antecedent facts are undisputed.
For four (4) successive regular elections, namely, the 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010 national
and local elections, Abundo vied for the position of municipal mayor of Viga, Catanduanes. In
both the 2001 and 2007 runs, he emerged and was proclaimed as the winning mayoralty
candidate and accordingly served the corresponding terms as mayor. In the 2004 electoral
derby, however, the Viga municipal board of canvassers initially proclaimed as winner one
Jose Torres (Torres), who, in due time, performed the functions of the office of mayor. Abundo
protested Torres' election and proclamation. Abundo was eventually declared the winner of
the 2004 mayoralty electoral contest, paving the way for his assumption of office starting
May 9, 2006 until the end of the 2004-2007 term on June 30, 2007, or for a period of a little
over one year and one month.
Then came the May 10, 2010 elections where Abundo and Torres again opposed each other.
When Abundo filed his certificate of candidacy 3 for the mayoralty seat relative to this
electoral contest, Torres lost no time in seeking the former's disqualification to run, the
corresponding petition, 4 docketed as SPA Case No. 10-128 (DC), predicated on the three-
consecutive term limit rule. On June 16, 2010, the COMELEC First Division issued a
Resolution 5 finding for Abundo, who in the meantime bested Torres by 219 votes 6 and was
accordingly proclaimed 2010 mayor-elect of Viga, Catanduanes.
Meanwhile, on May 21, 2010, or before the COMELEC could resolve the adverted
disqualification case Torres initiated against Abundo, herein private respondent Ernesto R.
Vega (Vega) commenced a quo warranto 7 action before the RTC-Br. 43 in Virac,
Catanduanes, docketed as Election Case No. 55, to unseat Abundo on essentially the same
grounds Torres raised in his petition to disqualify.
The Ruling of the Regional Trial Court
By Decision 8 of August 9, 2010 in Election Case No. 55, the RTC declared Abundo ineligible
to serve as municipal mayor, disposing as follows:
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WHEREFORE, Decision is, hereby, rendered GRANTING the petition and


declaring Abelardo Abundo, Sr. ineligible to serve as municipal mayor of
Viga, Catanduanes.
SO ORDERED. 9
In so ruling, the trial court, citing Aldovino, Jr. v. COMELEC, 10 found Abundo to have already
served three consecutive mayoralty terms, to wit, 2001-2004, 2004-2007 and 2007-2010,
and, hence, disqualified for another, i.e., fourth, consecutive term. Abundo, the RTC noted,
had been declared winner in the aforesaid 2004 elections consequent to his protest and
occupied the position of and actually served as Viga mayor for over a year of the remaining
term, i.e., from May 9, 2006 to June 30, 2007, to be exact. To the RTC, the year and a month
service constitutes a complete and full service of Abundo's second term as mayor.
Therefrom, Abundo appealed to the COMELEC, his recourse docketed as EAC (AE) No. A-25-
2010.
The Ruling of the COMELEC
On February 8, 2012, in EAC (AE) No. A-25-2010, the COMELEC's Second Division rendered
the first assailed Resolution, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial
Court Branch 73, Virac, Catanduanes is AFFIRMED and the appeal is
DISMISSED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED. 11
Just like the RTC, the COMELEC's Second Division ruled against Abundo on the strength
of Aldovino, Jr. and held that service of the unexpired portion of a term by a protestant who
is declared winner in an election protest is considered as service for one full term within the
contemplation of the three-term limit rule.
In time, Abundo sought but was denied reconsideration by the COMELEC en banc per its
equally assailed Resolution of May 10, 2012. The fallo of the COMELEC en banc's Resolution
reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the motion for reconsideration is DENIED
for lack of merit. The Resolution of the Commission (Second Division) is
hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED. 12
In affirming the Resolution of its Second Division, the COMELEC en banc held in essence the
following: first, there was no involuntary interruption of Abundo's 2004-2007 term service
which would be an exception to the three-term limit rule as he is considered never to have
lost title to the disputed office after he won in his election protest; and second, what
the Constitution prohibits is for an elective official to be in office for the same position for
more than three consecutive terms and not to the service of the term.
Hence, the instant petition with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order
(TRO) and/or preliminary injunction.
Intervening Events
In the meantime, following the issuance by the COMELEC of its May 10, 2012 Resolution
denying Abundo's motion for reconsideration, the following events transpired:
1.On June 20, 2012, the COMELEC issued an Order 13 declaring its May 10, 2012 Resolution
final and executory. The following day, June 21, 2012, the COMELEC issued an Entry of
Judgment. 14
2.On June 25, 2012, Vega filed a Motion for Execution 15 with the RTC-Br. 43 in Virac,
Catanduanes.
3.On June 27, 2012, the COMELEC, acting on Vega's counsel's motion 16 filed a day earlier,
issued an Order 17 directing the bailiff of ECAD (COMELEC) to personally deliver the entire
records to said RTC.
On June 29, 2012, the COMELEC ECAD Bailiff personally delivered the entire records of the
instant case to, and were duly received by, the clerk of court of RTC-Br. 43.
4.On June 29, 2012, or on the same day of its receipt of the case records, the RTC-Br. 43 in
Virac, Catanduanes granted Vega's Motion for Execution through an Order18 of even date.
And a Writ of Execution 19 was issued on the same day.
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5.On July 2, 2012, Sheriff Q. Tador, Jr. received the Writ of Execution and served the same at
the office of Mayor Abundo on the same day via substituted service.
6.On July 3, 2012, the Court issued a TRO 20 enjoining the enforcement of the assailed
COMELEC Resolutions.
7.On July 4, 2012, Vega received the Court's July 3, 2012 Resolution 21 and a copy of the
TRO. On the same day, Vice-Mayor Emeterio M. Tarin and First Councilor Cesar O. Cervantes
of Viga, Catanduanes took their oaths of office 22 as mayor and vice-mayor of Viga,
Catanduanes, respectively.
8.On July 5, 2012, Vega received a copy of Abundo's Seventh (7th) Most Extremely Urgent
Manifestation and Motion 23 dated June 28, 2012 praying for the issuance of a TRO
and/or status quo ante Order. On the same day, Vice-Mayor Emeterio M. Tarin and First
Councilor Cesar O. Cervantes who had taken their oaths of office the day before
assumed the posts of mayor and vice-mayor of Viga, Catanduanes. 24
9.On July 6, 2012, Vega interposed a Motion (To Admit Attached Manifestation) 25 and
Manifestation with Leave to Admit 26 dated July 5, 2012 stating that the TRO thus issued by
the Court has become functus officio owing to the execution of the RTC's Decision in Election
Case No. 55.
10.On July 10, 2012, Vega filed his Comment/Opposition with Leave to the Petitioner's Prayer
for the Issuance of a Status Quo Ante Order 27 reiterating the argument that since Vice-
Mayor Emeterio M. Tarin and First Councilor Cesar O. Cervantes already assumed the posts
of Mayor and Vice-Mayor of Viga, Catanduanes, then a Status Quo Ante Order would serve
no purpose.
11.On July 12, 2012, Abundo filed his Most Urgent Manifestation and Motion to Convert the
July 3, 2012 TRO into a Status Quo Ante Order (In View of the Unreasonable and
Inappropriate Progression of Events). 28
It is upon the foregoing backdrop of events that Abundo was dislodged from his post as
incumbent mayor of Viga, Catanduanes. To be sure, the speed which characterized Abundo's
ouster despite the supervening issuance by the Court of a TRO on July 3, 2012 is not lost on
the Court. While it is not clear whether Vice-Mayor Tarin and First Councilor Cervantes knew
of or put on notice about the TRO either before they took their oaths of office on July 4, 2012
or before assuming the posts of mayor and vice-mayor on July 5, 2012, the confluence of
events following the issuance of the assailed COMELEC en banc irresistibly tends to show
that the TRO issued as it were to maintain the status quo, thus averting the premature
ouster of Abundo pending this Court's resolution of his appeal appears to have been
trivialized.
On September 11, 2012, Vega filed his Comment on Abundo's petition, followed not long
after by public respondent COMELEC's Consolidated Comment. 29
The Issues
Abundo raises the following grounds for the allowance of the petition:
6.1The Commission En Banc committed grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it declared the
arguments in Abundo's motion for reconsideration as mere rehash
and reiterations of the claims he raised prior to the promulgation of
the Resolution.
6.2The Commission En Banc committed grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it declared that
Abundo has consecutively served for three terms despite the fact
that he only served the remaining one year and one month of the
second term as a result of an election protest. 30
First Issue:
Arguments in Motion for
Reconsideration Not Mere Reiteration
The COMELEC en banc denied Abundo's motion for reconsideration on the basis that his
arguments in said motion are mere reiterations of what he already brought up in his appeal
Brief before the COMELEC Second Division. In this petition, petitioner claims otherwise.
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Petitioner's assertion is devoid of merit.


A comparison of Abundo's arguments in the latter's Brief vis- -vis those in his Motion for
Reconsideration (MR) reveals that the arguments in the MR are elucidations and
amplications of the same issues raised in the brief. First, in his Brief, Abundo raised the sole
issue of lack of jurisdiction of the RTC to consider the quo warrantocase since the alleged
violation of the three-term limit has already been rejected by the COMELEC First Division in
SPA Case No. 10-128 (DC), while in his MR, Abundo raised the similar ground of the
conclusiveness of the COMELEC's finding on the issue of his qualification to run for the
current term. Second, in his Brief, Abundo assailed RTC's reliance on Aldovino, Jr., while in his
MR, he argued that the Court's pronouncement in Aldovino, Jr., which dealt with preventive
suspension, is not applicable to the instant case as it involves only a partial service of the
term. Abundo argued in his Brief that his situation cannot be equated with the case of
preventive suspension as held in Aldovino, Jr., while in his MR, he argued before that the
almost two years which he did not sit as mayor during the 2004-2007 term is an interruption
in the continuity of his service for the full term.
Thus, COMELEC did not err in ruling that the issues in the MR are a rehash of those in the
Brief.
Core Issue:
Whether or not Abundo is deemed
to have served three consecutive terms
The pivotal determinative issue then is whether the service of a term less than the full three
years by an elected official arising from his being declared as the duly elected official upon
an election protest is considered as full service of the term for purposes of the application of
the three consecutive term limit for elective local officials.
On this core issue, We find the petition meritorious. The consecutiveness of what otherwise
would have been Abundo's three successive, continuous mayorship was effectively broken
during the 2004-2007 term when he was initially deprived of title to, and was veritably
disallowed to serve and occupy, an office to which he, after due proceedings, was eventually
declared to have been the rightful choice of the electorate.
The three-term limit rule for elective local officials, a disqualification rule, is found in Section
8, Article X of the 1987 Constitution, which provides:
Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials,
which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official
shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary
renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as
an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he
was elected. (Emphasis supplied.)
and is reiterated in Sec. 43 (b) of Republic Act No. (RA) 7160, or the Local Government
Code (LGC) of 1991, thusly:
Sec. 43. Term of Office.
xxx xxx xxx
(b)No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3)
consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the
office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the
continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned
was elected. (Emphasis Ours.)
To constitute a disqualification to run for an elective local office pursuant to the aforequoted
constitutional and statutory provisions, the following requisites must concur:
(1)that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same
local government post; and
(2)that he has fully served three consecutive terms. 31
Judging from extant jurisprudence, the three-term limit rule, as applied to the different
factual milieus, has its complicated side. We shall revisit and analyze the various holdings
and relevant pronouncements of the Court on the matter.
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As is clearly provided in Sec. 8, Art. X of the Constitution as well as in Sec. 43 (b) of the LGC,
voluntary renunciation of the office by the incumbent elective local official for any length of
time shall NOT, in determining service for three consecutive terms, be considered an
interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official
concerned was elected. In Aldovino, Jr., however, the Court stated the observation that the
law "does not textually state that voluntary renunciation is the only actual interruption of
service that does not affect 'continuity of service for a full term' for purposes of the three-
term limit rule." 32
As stressed in Socrates v. Commission on Elections, 33 the principle behind the three-term
limit rule covers only consecutive terms and that what the Constitutionprohibits is
a consecutive fourth term. Put a bit differently, an elective local official cannot, following
his third consecutive term, seek immediate reelection for a fourth term, 34 albeit he is
allowed to seek a fresh term for the same position after the election where he could have
sought his fourth term but prevented to do so by reason of the prohibition.
There has, in fine, to be a break or interruption in the successive terms of the official after
his or her third term. An interruption usually occurs when the official does not seek a fourth
term, immediately following the third. Of course, the basic law is unequivocal that
a "voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall NOT be considered an
interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official
concerned was elected." This qualification was made as a deterrent against an elective local
official intending to skirt the three-term limit rule by merely resigning before his or her third
term ends. This is a voluntary interruption as distinguished from involuntary interruption
which may be brought about by certain events or causes.
While appearing to be seemingly simple, the three-term limit rule has engendered a host of
disputes resulting from the varying interpretations applied on local officials who were
elected and served for three terms or more, but whose terms or service was punctuated by
what they view as involuntary interruptions, thus entitling them to a, but what their
opponents perceive as a proscribed, fourth term. Involuntary interruption is claimed to result
from any of these events or causes: succession or assumption of office by operation of law,
preventive suspension, declaration of the defeated candidate as the winner in an election
contest, declaration of the proclaimed candidate as the losing party in an election contest,
proclamation of a non-candidate as the winner in a recall election, removal of the official by
operation of law, and other analogous causes.
This brings us to an examination of situations and jurisprudence wherein such consecutive
terms were considered or not considered as having been "involuntarily interrupted or
broken."
(1)Assumption of Office by Operation of Law
In Borja, Jr. v. Commission on Elections and Jose T. Capco, Jr. 35 (1998) and Montebon v.
Commission on Elections 36 (2008), the Court delved on the effects of"assumption to office
by operation of law" on the three-term limit rule. This contemplates a situation wherein an
elective local official fills by succession a higher local government post permanently left
vacant due to any of the following contingencies, i.e., when the supposed incumbent refuses
to assume office, fails to qualify, dies, is removed from office, voluntarily resigns or is
otherwise permanently incapacitated to discharge the functions of his office. 37
In Borja, Jr., Jose T. Capco, Jr. (Capco) was elected vice-mayor of Pateros on January 18, 1988
for a term ending June 30, 1992. On September 2, 1989, Capco became mayor, by operation
of law, upon the death of the incumbent mayor, Cesar Borja. Capco was then elected and
served as mayor for terms 1992-1995 and 1995-1998. When Capco expressed his intention
to run again for the mayoralty position during the 1998 elections, Benjamin U. Borja, Jr., who
was then also a candidate for mayor, sought Capco's disqualification for violation of the
three-term limit rule.
Finding for Capco, the Court held that for the disqualification rule to apply, "it is not enough
that an individual has served three consecutive terms in an elective local office, he must
also have been elected to the same position for the same number of times before the
disqualification can apply." 38 There was, the Court ruled, no violation of the three-term
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limit, for Capco "was not elected to the office of the mayor in the first term but simply found
himself thrust into it by operation of law" 39when a permanent vacancy occurred in that
office.
The Court arrived at a parallel conclusion in the case of Montebon. There, Montebon had
been elected for three consecutive terms as municipal councilor of Tuburan, Cebu in 1998-
2001, 2001-2004, and 2004-2007. However, in January 2004, or during his second term,
Montebon succeeded and assumed the position of vice-mayor of Tuburan when the
incumbent vice-mayor retired. When Montebon filed his certificate of candidacy again as
municipal councilor, a petition for disqualification was filed against him based on the three-
term limit rule. The Court ruled that Montebon's assumption of office as vice-mayor in
January 2004 was an interruption of his continuity of service as councilor. The Court
emphasized that succession in local government office is by operation of law and as
such, it is an involuntary severance from office. Since the law no less allowed
Montebon to vacate his post as councilor in order to assume office as vice-mayor, his
occupation of the higher office cannot, without more, be deemed as a voluntary renunciation
of his position as councilor.
(2)Recall Election
With reference to the effects of recall election on the continuity of service, Adormeo v.
Commission on Elections 40 (2002) and the aforementioned case of Socrates(2002) provide
guidance.
In Adormeo, Ramon Talaga, Jr. (Talaga) was elected and served as mayor of Lucena City
during terms 1992-1995 and 1995-1998. During the 1998 elections, Talaga lost to Bernard
G. Tagarao. However, before Tagarao's 1998-2001 term ended, a recall election was
conducted in May 2000 wherein Talaga won and served the unexpired term of Tagarao until
June 2001. When Talaga ran for mayor in 2001, his candidacy was challenged on the ground
he had already served as mayor for three consecutive terms for violation of the three term-
limit rule. The Court held therein that the remainder of Tagarao's term after the recall
election during which Talaga served as mayor should not be considered for purposes of
applying the three-term limit rule. The Court emphasized that the continuity of Talaga's
mayorship was disrupted by his defeat during the 1998 elections.
A similar conclusion was reached by the Court in Socrates. The petitioners in that case
assailed the COMELEC Resolution which declared Edward Hagedorn qualified to run for
mayor in a recall election. It appeared that Hagedorn had been elected and served as mayor
of Puerto Princesa City for three consecutive terms: in 1992-1995, 1995-1998 and 1998-
2001. Obviously aware of the three-term limit principle, Hagedorn opted not to vie for the
same mayoralty position in the 2001 elections, in which Socrates ran and eventually won.
However, midway into his term, Socrates faced recall proceedings and in the recall election
held, Hagedorn run for the former's unexpired term as mayor. Socrates sought Hagedorn's
disqualification under the three-term limit rule.
In upholding Hagedorn's candidacy to run in the recall election, the Court ruled:
. . . After Hagedorn ceased to be mayor on June 30, 2001, he became a
private citizen until the recall election of September 24, 2002 when he
won by 3,018 votes over his closest opponent, Socrates.
From June 30, 2001 until the recall election on September 24, 2002, the
mayor of Puerto Princesa was Socrates. During the same period, Hagedorn
was simply a private citizen. This period is clearly an interruption in the
continuity of Hagedorn's service as mayor, not because of his voluntary
renunciation, but because of a legal prohibition. 41
The Court likewise emphasized in Socrates that "an elective local official cannot
seek immediate reelection for a fourth term. The prohibited election refers to the next
regular election for the same office following the end of the third consecutive term [and,
hence], [a]ny subsequent election, like recall election, is no longer covered . . . ."42
(3)Conversion of a Municipality into a City
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On the other hand, the conversion of a municipality into a city does not constitute
an interruption of the incumbent official's continuity of service. The Court said so
in Latasa v. Commission on Elections 43 (2003).
Latasa is cast against the ensuing backdrop: Arsenio A. Latasa was elected and served as
mayor of the Municipality of Digos, Davao del Sur for terms 1992-1995, 1995-1998, and
1998-2001. During his third term, Digos was converted into a component city, with the
corresponding cityhood law providing the holdover of elective officials. When Latasa filed his
certificate of candidacy as mayor for the 2001 elections, the Court declared Latasa as
disqualified to run as mayor of Digos City for violation of the three-term limit rule on the
basis of the following ratiocination:
This Court believes that (Latasa) did involuntarily relinquish his office as
municipal mayor since the said office has been deemed abolished due to the
conversion. However, the very instant he vacated his office as
municipal mayor, he also assumed office as city mayor. Unlike
in Lonzanida, where petitioner therein, for even just a short period of time,
stepped down from office, petitioner Latasa never ceased from acting as
chief executive of the local government unit. He never ceased from
discharging his duties and responsibilities as chief executive of Digos.
(Emphasis supplied.)
(4)Period of Preventive Suspension
In 2009, in the case Aldovino Jr., the Court espoused the doctrine that the period during
which a local elected official is under preventive suspension cannot be considered
as an interruption of the continuity of his service. The Court explained why so:
Strict adherence to the intent of the three-term limit rule demands that
preventive suspension should not be considered an interruption that allows
an elective official's stay in office beyond three terms. A preventive
suspension cannot simply be a term interruption because the
suspended official continues to stay in office although he is barred
from exercising the functions and prerogatives of the office within
the suspension period. The best indicator of the suspended official's
continuity in office is the absence of a permanent replacement and
the lack of the authority to appoint one since no vacancy
exists. 44 (Emphasis supplied.)
(5)Election Protest
With regard to the effects of an election protest vis- -vis the three-term limit rule,
jurisprudence presents a more differing picture. The Court's pronouncements inLonzanida v.
Commission on Elections 45 (1999), Ong v. Alegre 46 (2006), Rivera III v. Commission on
Elections 47 (2007) and Dizon v. Commission on Elections 48 (2009), all protest cases, are
illuminating.
In Lonzanida, Romeo Lonzanida was elected and had served as municipal mayor of San
Antonio, Zambales in terms 1989-1992, 1992-1995 and 1995-1998. However, his
proclamation relative to the 1995 election was protested and was eventually declared by the
RTC and then by COMELEC null and void on the ground of failure of elections. On February
27, 1998, or about three months before the May 1998 elections, Lonzanida vacated the
mayoralty post in light of a COMELEC order and writ of execution it issued. Lonzanida's
opponent assumed office for the remainder of the term. In the May 1998 elections,
Lonzanida again filed his certificate of candidacy. His opponent, Efren Muli, filed a petition for
disqualification on the ground that Lonzanida had already served three consecutive terms in
the same post. The Court, citingBorja Jr., reiterated the two (2) conditions which must concur
for the three-term limit to apply: "1) that the official concerned has been elected for three
consecutive terms in the same local government post and 2) that he has fully served three
consecutive terms." 49
In view of Borja, Jr., the Court ruled that the foregoing requisites were absent in the case
of Lonzanida. The Court held that Lonzanida cannot be considered as having been duly
elected to the post in the May 1995 elections since his assumption of office as
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mayor "cannot be deemed to have been by reason of a valid election but by reason of a void
proclamation." And as a corollary point, the Court stated that Lonzanida did not fully serve
the 1995-1998 mayoral term having been ordered to vacate his post before the expiration of
the term, a situation which amounts to an involuntary relinquishment of office.
This Court deviated from the ruling in Lonzanida in Ong v. Alegre 50 owing to a variance in
the factual situations attendant.
In that case, Francis Ong (Ong) was elected and served as mayor of San Vicente, Camarines
Norte for terms 1995-1998, 1998-2001, and 2001-2004. During the 1998 mayoralty
elections, or during his supposed second term, the COMELEC nullified Ong's proclamation on
the postulate that Ong lost during the 1998 elections. However, the COMELEC's decision
became final and executory on July 4, 2001, when Ong had fully served the 1998-2001
mayoralty term and was in fact already starting to serve the 2001-2004 term as mayor-elect
of the municipality of San Vicente. In 2004, Ong filed his certificate of candidacy for the
same position as mayor, which his opponent opposed for violation of the three-term limit
rule.
Ong invoked the ruling in Lonzanida and argued that he could not be considered as having
served as mayor from 1998-2001 because he was not duly elected to the post and merely
assumed office as a "presumptive winner." Dismissing Ong's argument, the Court held that
his assumption of office as mayor for the term 1998-2001 constitutes "service for the full
term" and hence, should be counted for purposes of the three-term limit rule. The Court
modified the conditions stated in Lonzanida in the sense that Ong's service was deemed and
counted as service for a full term because Ong's proclamation was voided only after the
expiry of the term. The Court noted that the COMELEC decision which declared Ong as not
having won the 1998 elections was "without practical and legal use and value" promulgated
as it was after the contested term has expired. The Court further reasoned:
Petitioner [Francis Ong's] contention that he was only a presumptive winner
in the 1998 mayoralty derby as his proclamation was under protest did not
make him less than a duly elected mayor. His proclamation as the duly
elected mayor in the 1998 mayoralty election coupled by his
assumption of office and his continuous exercise of the
functions thereof from start to finish of the term, should legally be
taken as service for a full term in contemplation of the three-term
rule.
The absurdity and the deleterious effect of a contrary view is not hard to
discern. Such contrary view would mean that Alegre would under the
three-term rule beconsidered as having served a term by virtue of a
veritably meaningless electoral protest ruling, when another actually served
such term pursuant to a proclamation made in due course after an
election. 51 (Emphasis supplied.)
The Court did not apply the ruling in Lonzanida and ruled that the case of Ong
was different, to wit:
The difference between the case at bench and Lonzanida is at once
apparent. For one, in Lonzanida, the result of the mayoralty election was
declared a nullity for the stated reason of "failure of election", and, as a
consequence thereof, the proclamation of Lonzanida as mayor-elect was
nullified, followed by an order for him to vacate the office of mayor. For
another, Lonzanida did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term, there
being an involuntary severance from office as a result of legal processes. In
fine, there was an effective interruption of the continuity of
service. 52 (Emphasis supplied.)
Ong's slight departure from Lonzanida would later find reinforcement in the consolidated
cases of Rivera III v. Commission on Elections 53 and Dee v. Morales. 54Therein, Morales
was elected mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga for the following consecutive terms: 1995-1998,
1998-2001 and 2001-2004. In relation to the 2004 elections, Morales again ran as mayor of
the same town, emerged as garnering the majority votes and was proclaimed elective mayor
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for term commencing July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007. A petition for quo warranto was later
filed against Morales predicated on the ground that he is ineligible to run for a "fourth" term,
having served as mayor for three consecutive terms. In his answer, Morales averred that his
supposed 1998-2001 term cannot be considered against him, for, although he was
proclaimed by the Mabalacat board of canvassers as elected mayor vis- -vis the 1998
elections and discharged the duties of mayor until June 30, 2001, his proclamation was later
nullified by the RTC of Angeles City and his closest rival, Anthony Dee, proclaimed the duly
elected mayor. Pursuing his point, Morales parlayed the idea that he only served as a mere
caretaker.
The Court found Morales' posture untenable and held that the case of Morales presents a
factual milieu similar with Ong, not with Lonzanida. For ease of reference, the proclamation
of Francis Ong, in Ong, was nullified, but after he, like Morales, had served the three-year
term from the start to the end of the term. Hence, the Court concluded that Morales
exceeded the three-term limit rule, to wit:
Here, respondent Morales was elected for the term July 1, 1998 to June 30,
2001. He assumed the position. He served as mayor until June 30, 2001. He
was mayor for the entire period notwithstanding the Decision of the
RTC in the electoral protest case filed by petitioner Dee ousting him
(respondent) as mayor. To reiterate, as held in Ong v. Alegre, such
circumstance does not constitute an interruption in serving the full term.
xxx xxx xxx
Respondent Morales is now serving his fourth term. He has been mayor of
Mabalacat continuously without any break since July 1, 1995. In just over a
month, by June 30, 2007, he will have been mayor of Mabalacat for twelve
(12) continuous years. 55 (Emphasis supplied.)
The Court ruled in Rivera that the fact of being belatedly ousted, i,e., after the expiry of the
term, cannot constitute an interruption in Morales' service of the full term; neither can
Morales, as he argued, be considered merely a "caretaker of the office" or a mere "de facto
officer" for purposes of applying the three-term limit rule.
In a related 2009 case of Dizon v. Commission on Elections, 56 the Court would again find
the same Mayor Morales as respondent in a disqualification proceeding when he ran again
as a mayoralty candidate during the 2007 elections for a term ending June 30, 2010. Having
been unseated from his post by virtue of this Court's ruling inRivera, Morales would argue
this time around that the three-term limit rule was no longer applicable as to his 2007
mayoralty bid. This time, the Court ruled in his favor, holding that for purposes of the 2007
elections, the three-term limit rule was no longer a disqualifying factor as against Morales.
The Court wrote:
Our ruling in the Rivera case served as Morales' involuntary
severance from office with respect to the 2004-2007 term.
Involuntary severance from office for any length of time short of the full
term provided by law amounts to an interruption of continuity of service. Our
decision in the Rivera case was promulgated on 9 May 2007 and was
effective immediately. The next day, Morales notified the vice mayor's office
of our decision. The vice mayor assumed the office of the mayor from 17
May 2007 up to 30 June 2007. The assumption by the vice mayor of the
office of the mayor, no matter how short it may seem to Dizon,
interrupted Morales' continuity of service. Thus, Morales did not hold
office for the full term of 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2007. 57 (Emphasis
supplied)
To summarize, hereunder are the prevailing jurisprudence on issues affecting
consecutiveness of terms and/or involuntary interruption, viz.:
1.When a permanent vacancy occurs in an elective position and the official merely assumed
the position pursuant to the rules on succession under the LGC, then his service for the
unexpired portion of the term of the replaced official cannot be treated as one full term as
contemplated under the subject constitutional and statutory provision that service cannot be
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counted in the application of any term limit (Borja, Jr.). If the official runs again for the same
position he held prior to his assumption of the higher office, then his succession to said
position is by operation of law and is considered an involuntary severance or
interruption (Montebon).
2.An elective official, who has served for three consecutive terms and who did not seek the
elective position for what could be his fourth term, but later won in a recall election, had an
interruption in the continuity of the official's service. For, he had become in the
interim, i.e., from the end of the 3rd term up to the recall election, a private
citizen (Adormeo and Socrates).
3.The abolition of an elective local office due to the conversion of a municipality to a city
does not, by itself, work to interrupt the incumbent official's continuity of service (Latasa).
4.Preventive suspension is not a term-interrupting event as the elective officer's continued
stay and entitlement to the office remain unaffected during the period of suspension,
although he is barred from exercising the functions of his office during this period (Aldovino,
Jr.).
5.When a candidate is proclaimed as winner for an elective position and assumes office, his
term is interrupted when he loses in an election protest and is ousted from office, thus
disenabling him from serving what would otherwise be the unexpired portion of his term of
office had the protest been dismissed (Lonzanida andDizon). The break or interruption need
not be for a full term of three years or for the major part of the 3-year term; an interruption
for any length of time, provided the cause is involuntary, is sufficient to break the continuity
of service (Socrates, citing Lonzanida).
6.When an official is defeated in an election protest and said decision becomes final after
said official had served the full term for said office, then his loss in the election contest does
not constitute an interruption since he has managed to serve the term from start to finish.
His full service, despite the defeat, should be counted in the application of term limits
because the nullification of his proclamation came after the expiration of the term
(Ong and Rivera).
The Case of Abundo
Abundo argues that the RTC and the COMELEC erred in uniformly ruling that he had already
served three consecutive terms and is, thus, barred by the constitutional three-term limit
rule to run for the current 2010-2013 term. In gist, Abundo arguments run thusly:
1.Aldovino, Jr.is not on all fours with the present case as the former dealt with preventive
suspension which does not interrupt the continuity of service of a term;
2.Aldovino, Jr.recognizes that the term of an elected official can be interrupted so as to
remove him from the reach of the constitutional three-term limitation;
3.The COMELEC misinterpreted the meaning of "term" in Aldovino, Jr. by its reliance on a
mere portion of the Decision and not on the unified logic in the disquisition;
4.Of appropriate governance in this case is the holding in Lonzanida 58 and Rivera III v.
Commission on Elections. 59
5.The COMELEC missed the point when it ruled that there was no interruption in the service
of Abundo since what he considered as an "interruption" of his 2004-2007 term occurred
before his term started; and
6.To rule that the term of the protestee (Torres) whose proclamation was adjudged invalid
was interrupted while that of the protestant (Abundo) who was eventually proclaimed winner
was not so interrupted is at once absurd as it is illogical.
Both respondents Vega and the COMELEC counter that the ratio decidendi of Aldovino,
Jr. finds application in the instant case. The COMELEC ruled that Abundo did not lose title to
the office as his victory in the protest case confirmed his entitlement to said office and he
was only unable to temporarily discharge the functions of the office during the pendency of
the election protest.
We note that this present case of Abundo deals with the effects of an election protest, for
which the rulings in Lonzanida, Ong, Rivera and Dizon appear to be more attuned than the
case of Aldovino Jr., the interrupting effects of the imposition of a preventive suspension
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being the very lis mota in the Aldovino, Jr. case. But just the same, We find that Abundo's
case presents a different factual backdrop.
Unlike in the abovementioned election protest cases wherein the individuals subject of
disqualification were candidates who lost in the election protest and each declared loser
during the elections, Abundo was the winner during the election protest and was
declared the rightful holder of the mayoralty post. Unlike Mayor Lonzanida and Mayor
Morales, who were both unseated toward the end of their respective terms, Abundo was
the protestant who ousted his opponent and had assumed the remainder of the
term.
Notwithstanding, We still find this Court's pronouncements in the past as instructive, and
consider several doctrines established from the 1998 case of Borja, Jr. up to the most recent
case of Aldovino Jr. in 2009, as potent aids in arriving at this Court's conclusion.
The intention behind the three-term limit rule was not only to abrogate the "monopolization
of political power" and prevent elected officials from breeding "proprietary interest in their
position" 60 but also to "enhance the people's freedom of choice." 61 In the words of Justice
Vicente V. Mendoza, "while people should be protected from the evils that a monopoly of
power may bring about, care should be taken that their freedom of choice is not unduly
curtailed." 62
In the present case, the Court finds Abundo's case meritorious and declares that the two-
year period during which his opponent, Torres, was serving as mayor should be
considered as an interruption, which effectively removed Abundo's case from the
ambit of the three-term limit rule.
It bears to stress at this juncture that Abundo, for the 2004 election for the term starting July
1, 2004 to June 30, 2007, was the duly elected mayor. Otherwise how explain his victory in
his election protest against Torres and his consequent proclamation as duly elected mayor.
Accordingly, the first requisite for the application of the disqualification rule based on the
three-term limit that the official has been elected is satisfied.
This thus brings us to the second requisite of whether or not Abundo had served for "three
consecutive terms," as the phrase is juridically understood, as mayor of Viga, Catanduanes
immediately before the 2010 national and local elections. Subsumed to this issue is of
course the question of whether or not there was an effective involuntary interruption during
the three three-year periods, resulting in the disruption of the continuity of Abundo's
mayoralty.
The facts of the case clearly point to an involuntary interruption during the July 2004-June
2007 term.
There can be no quibbling that, during the term 2004-2007, and with the enforcement of the
decision of the election protest in his favor, Abundo assumed the mayoralty post only on
May 9, 2006 and served the term until June 30, 2007 or for a period of a little over one year
and one month. Consequently, unlike Mayor Ong inOng and Mayor Morales in Rivera, it
cannot be said that Mayor Abundo was able to serve fully the entire 2004-2007 term to
which he was otherwise entitled.
A "term," as defined in Appari v. Court of Appeals, 63 means, in a legal sense, "a fixed and
definite period of time which the law describes that an officer may hold an office." 64 It also
means the "time during which the officer may claim to hold office as a matter of right, and
fixes the interval after which the several incumbents shall succeed one another." 65 It is the
period of time during which a duly elected official has title to and can serve the functions of
an elective office. From paragraph (a) of Sec. 43, RA 7160, 66 the term for local elected
officials is three (3) years starting from noon of June 30 of the first year of said term.
In the present case, during the period of one year and ten months, or from June 30, 2004
until May 8, 2006, Abundo cannot plausibly claim, even if he wanted to, that he
could hold office of the mayor as a matter of right. Neither can he assert title to
the same nor serve the functions of the said elective office. The reason is simple:
during that period, title to hold such office and the corresponding right to assume the
functions thereof still belonged to his opponent, as proclaimed election winner. Accordingly,
Abundo actually held the office and exercised the functions as mayor only upon his
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declaration, following the resolution of the protest, as duly elected candidate in the May
2004 elections or for only a little over one year and one month. Consequently, since the
legally contemplated full term for local elected officials is three (3) years, it cannot be said
that Abundo fully served the term 2004-2007. The reality on the ground is that Abundo
actually served less.
Needless to stress, the almost two-year period during which Abundo's opponent actually
served as Mayor is and ought to be considered an involuntary interruption of Abundo's
continuity of service. An involuntary interrupted term, cannot, in the context of the
disqualification rule, be considered as one term for purposes of counting the three-term
threshold. 67
The notion of full service of three consecutive terms is related to the concepts
of interruption of service and voluntary renunciation of service. The
wordinterruption means temporary cessation, intermission or suspension. 68 To interrupt
is to obstruct, thwart or prevent. 69 When the Constitution and the LGC of 1991 speak
of interruption, the reference is to the obstruction to the continuance of the service by the
concerned elected official by effectively cutting short the service of a term or giving a hiatus
in the occupation of the elective office. On the other hand, the word "renunciation" connotes
the idea of waiver or abandonment of a known right. To renounce is to give up, abandon,
decline or resign. 70 Voluntary renunciation of the office by an elective local official would
thus mean to give up or abandon the title to the office and to cut short the service of the
term the concerned elected official is entitled to.
In its assailed Resolution, the COMELEC en banc, applying Aldovino, Jr., 71 held:
It must be stressed that involuntary interruption of service which
jurisprudence deems an exception to the three-term limit rule, implies that
the service of the term has begun before it was interrupted. Here, the
respondent did not lose title to the office. As the assailed Resolution states:
In the case at bar, respondent cannot be said to have lost his title to
the office. On the contrary, he actively sought entitlement to the
office when he lodged the election protest case. And respondent-
appellant's victory in the said case is a final confirmation that he was
validly elected for the mayoralty post of Viga, Catanduanes in 2004-
2007. At most, respondent-appellant was only unable to
temporarily discharge the functions of the office to which he
was validly elected during the pendency of the election protest,
but he never lost title to the said office. 72 (Emphasis added.)
The COMELEC's Second Division, on the other hand, pronounced that the actual length of
service by the public official in a given term is immaterial by reckoning said service for the
term in the application of the three-term limit rule, thus:
As emphasized in the case of Aldovino, "this formulation no more than
three consecutive terms is a clear command suggesting the existence of
an inflexible rule." Therefore we cannot subscribe to the argument that since
respondent Abundo served only a portion of the term, his 2004-2007 "term"
should not be considered for purposes of the application of the three term
limit rule. When the framers of the Constitution drafted and incorporated the
three term limit rule, it is clear that reference is to the term, not the actual
length of the service the public official may render. Therefore, one's actual
service of term no matter how long or how short is immaterial. 73
In fine, the COMELEC ruled against Abundo on the theory that the length of the actual
service of the term is immaterial in his case as he was only temporarily unable to discharge
his functions as mayor.
The COMELEC's case disposition and its heavy reliance on Aldovino, Jr. do not commend
themselves for concurrence. The Court cannot simply find its way clear to understand the
poll body's determination that Abundo was only temporarily unable to discharge his
functions as mayor during the pendency of the election protest.
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As previously stated, the declaration of being the winner in an election protest grants the
local elected official the right to serve the unexpired portion of the term. Verily, while he was
declared winner in the protest for the mayoralty seat for the 2004-2007 term, Abundo's full
term has been substantially reduced by the actual service rendered by his opponent (Torres).
Hence, there was actual involuntary interruption in the term of Abundo and he cannot be
considered to have served the full 2004-2007 term.
This is what happened in the instant case. It cannot be overemphasized that pending the
favorable resolution of his election protest, Abundo was relegated to being an ordinary
constituent since his opponent, as presumptive victor in the 2004 elections, was occupying
the mayoralty seat. In other words, for almost two years or from July 1, 2004 the start of
the term until May 9, 2006 or during which his opponent actually assumed the mayoralty
office, Abundo was a private citizen warming his heels while awaiting the outcome
of his protest. Hence, even if declared later as having the right to serve the elective
position from July 1, 2004, such declaration would not erase the fact that prior to the finality
of the election protest, Abundo did not serve in the mayor's office and, in fact, had no legal
right to said position.
Aldovino Jr. cannot possibly lend support to respondent's cause of action, or to COMELEC's
resolution against Abundo. In Aldovino Jr., the Court succinctly defines what temporary
inability or disqualification to exercise the functions of an elective office means, thus:
On the other hand, temporary inability or disqualification to exercise the
functions of an elective post, even if involuntary, should not be considered
an effective interruption of a term because it does not involve the loss of
title to office or at least an effective break from holding office;
the office holder, while retaining title, is simply barred from exercising the
functions of his office for a reason provided by law. 74
We rule that the above pronouncement on preventive suspension does not apply to
the instant case. Verily, it is erroneous to say that Abundo merely was temporarily unable
or disqualified to exercise the functions of an elective post. For one, during the intervening
period of almost two years, reckoned from the start of the 2004-2007 term, Abundo cannot
be said to have retained title to the mayoralty office as he was at that time not
the duly proclaimed winner who would have the legal right to assume and serve such
elective office. For another, not having been declared winner yet, Abundo cannot be said
to have lost title to the office since one cannot plausibly lose a title which, in the
first place, he did not have. Thus, for all intents and purposes, even if the belated
declaration in the election protest accords him title to the elective office from the start of the
term, Abundo was not entitled to the elective office until the election protest was finally
resolved in his favor.
Consequently, there was a hiatus of almost two years, consisting of a break and
effective interruption of his service, until he assumed the office and served barely over a
year of the remaining term. At this juncture, We observe the apparent similarities of Mayor
Abundo's case with the cases of Mayor Talaga in Adormeo and Mayor Hagedorn
in Socrates as Mayors Talaga and Hagedorn were not proclaimed winners since they were
non-candidates in the regular elections. They were proclaimed winners during the recall
elections and clearly were not able to fully serve the terms of the deposed incumbent
officials. Similar to their cases where the Court deemed their terms as involuntarily
interrupted, Abundo also became or was a private citizen during the period over which his
opponent was serving as mayor. If in Lonzanida, the Court ruled that there was interruption
in Lonzanida's service because of his subsequent defeat in the election protest, then with
more reason, Abundo's term for 2004-2007 should be declared interrupted since he was not
proclaimed winner after the 2004 elections and was able to assume the office and serve only
for a little more than a year after winning the protest.
As aptly stated in Latasa, to be considered as interruption of service, the "law contemplates
a rest period during which the local elective official steps down from office and ceases to
exercise power or authority over the inhabitants of the territorial jurisdiction of a particular
local government unit." 75 Applying the said principle in the present case, there is no
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question that during the pendency of the election protest, Abundo ceased from
exercising power or authority over the good people of Viga, Catanduanes. Consequently,
the period during which Abundo was not serving as mayor should be considered as a rest
period or break in his service because, as earlier stated, prior to the judgment in the election
protest, it was Abundo's opponent, Torres, who was exercising such powers by virtue of the
still then valid proclamation.
As a final note, We reiterate that Abundo's case differs from other cases involving the effects
of an election protest because while Abundo was, in the final reckoning,the winning
candidate, he was the one deprived of his right and opportunity to serve his
constituents. To a certain extent, Abundo was a victim of an imperfect election system.
While admittedly the Court does not possess the mandate to remedy such imperfections,
the Constitution has clothed it with enough authority to establish a fortress against the
injustices it may bring.
In this regard, We find that a contrary ruling would work damage and cause grave
injustice to Abundo an elected official who was belatedly declared as the winner and
assumed office for only a short period of the term. If in the cases
of Lonzanida and Dizon, this Court ruled in favor of a losing candidate or the person who
was adjudged not legally entitled to hold the contested public office but held it anyway
We find more reason to rule in favor of a winning candidate-protestant who, by popular vote,
deserves title to the public office but whose opportunity to hold the same was halted by an
invalid proclamation.
Also, more than the injustice that may be committed against Abundo is the injustice that
may likewise be committed against the people of Viga, Catanduanes by depriving them of
their right to choose their leaders. Like the framers of the Constitution, We bear in mind that
We "cannot arrogate unto ourselves the right to decide what the people want" 76 and
hence, should, as much as possible, "allow the people to exercise their own sense of
proportion and rely on their own strength to curtail the power when it overreaches
itself." 77 For democracy draws strength from the choice the people make which is the same
choice We are likewise bound to protect.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is PARTLY GRANTED.Accordingly, the assailed February
8, 2012 Resolution of the Commission on Elections Second Division and May 10, 2012
Resolution of the Commission on Elections en banc in EAC (AE) No. A-25-2010 and the
Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Virac, Catanduanes, Branch 43, dated August 9,
2010, in Election Case No. 55, are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
Petitioner Abelardo Abundo, Sr. is DECLARED ELIGIBLE for the position of Mayor of Viga,
Catanduanes to which he was duly elected in the May 2010 elections and is accordingly
ordered IMMEDIATELY REINSTATED to said position. Withal, Emeterio M. Tarin and Cesar
O. Cervantes are ordered to immediately vacate the positions of Mayor and Vice-Mayor of
Viga, Catanduanes, respectively, and shall revert to their original positions of Vice-Mayor and
First Councilor, respectively, upon receipt of this Decision.
The TRO issued by the Court on July 3, 2012 is hereby LIFTED.
This Decision is immediately executory.
SO ORDERED.
Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Abad, Villarama, Jr., Perez, Mendoza,
Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe and Leonen, JJ., concur.
Leonardo-de Castro, J., I join the majority opinion subject to the clarification in the separate
opinion of Justice Brion.
Brion, J., see: separate opinion.
Separate Opinions
BRION, J.:
I agree with Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr.'s conclusion that the proclamation of Jose Torres,
as the "apparent winner" in the 2004 elections, effectively interrupted what could have been
Abelardo Abundo, Sr.'s full term. I write this Opinion to briefly expound on the Court's ruling
in Aldovino, Jr. v. Commission on Elections 1 which the Commission on
Elections (COMELEC) erroneously relied upon in affirming the grant of the quo
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warranto petition against Abundo, and to express my own views on how our present
Decision should be read in light of other three-term limit cases that have been decided
under a protest case scenario.
The Aldovino ruling
The issue in Aldovino was whether the preventive suspension of a local elective official
amounted to an interruption in the continuity of his term for the purpose of applying the
three-term limit rule. The issue arose because an elective local official who is preventively
suspended is prevented, under legal compulsion, from exercising the functions of his office;
thus, the question is there then an interruption of his term of office for purposes of the
three-term limit rule of the Constitution?
After analyzing the first clause of the three-term limit rule (Section 8, Article X of the
1987 Constitution) which provides:
The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials,
which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official
shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.
the Court observed that the limitation specifically refers to the term (or the period of
time an official has title to office and can serve), not to the service of a term.
Complementing the term limitation is the second clause of the same provision on voluntary
renunciation stating that:
[V]oluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be
considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full
term for which he was elected.
The Court construed "voluntary renunciation" as "a loss of title to office by conscious
choice." 2
Based on its analysis of the provision and after a survey of jurisprudence on the three-term
limit rule, the Court concluded that the interruption of a term that would prevent the
operation of the rule involves "no less than the involuntary loss of title to office" or "at least
an effective break from holding office[.]" 3
An interruption occurs when the term is broken because the office holder
lost the right to hold on to his office, and cannot be equated with the failure
to render service. The latter occurs during an office holder's term when he
retains title to the office but cannot exercise his functions for reasons
established by law. . . . .
To put it differently although at the risk of repetition, Section 8, Article X
both by structure and substance fixes an elective official's term of office
and limits his stay in office to three consecutive terms as an inflexible rule
that is stressed, no less, by citing voluntary renunciation as an example of a
circumvention. The provision should be read in the context of interruption of
term, not in the context of interrupting the full continuity of the exercise of
the powers of the elective position. The "voluntary renunciation" it speaks of
refers only to the elective official's voluntary relinquishment of office and
loss of title to this office. It does not speak of the temporary "cessation of
the exercise of power or authority" that may occur for various reasons, with
preventive suspension being only one of them. To quote Latasa v. Comelec:
Indeed, [T]he law contemplates a rest period during which the local
elective official steps down from office and ceases to exercise power
or authority over the inhabitants of the territorial jurisdiction of a
particular local government unit. 4 (italics supplied; citation omitted)
The Court further concluded that while preventive suspension is involuntary in nature, its
imposition on an elective local official cannot amount to an interruption of a term "because
the suspended official continues . . . in office although he is barred from exercising the
functions and prerogatives of the office within the suspension period." 5
Based on these clear rulings, I consider it a grave error for the Comelec to equate the
situation of a preventively suspended elective local official with the situation of anon-
proclaimed candidate who was later found to have actually won the election. With its
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conclusion, the Comelec thereby grossly disregarded the nature and effects of a preventive
suspension, and at the same time glossed over the legal and factual realities that obtain in a
protested election situation where one candidate is proclaimed, only to lose out later during
the term to the winner in the protest case. To state the obvious, election protests are quite
common and it is best for the Court to already provide guidance on how a reversal decision
in a protest case affects the three-term limit rule.
The proclamation alone of an apparent winner (i.e., the candidate immediately proclaimed
but whose election is protested) entitles him to take his oath of office and to perform his
duties as a newly-elected local official. That he may be characterized merely as a
"presumptive winner" 6 during the pendency of a protest against him does not make him
any less of a duly elected local official; for the time being, he possesses all the rights and is
burdened with all the duties of his office under the law. In stark contrast with his situation,
the non-proclaimed candidate cannot but be considered a private citizen while prosecuting
his election protest; 7 he carries no title to office and is denied the exercise of the rights and
the performance of the duties and functions of an elected official.
It is from these perspectives that Aldovino cannot be used as basis for the conclusion that
there had been no interruption in the case of Abundo the eventual election winner who is
so recognized only after winning his protest case. Notably in Aldovino, while a preventive
suspension is an involuntary imposition, what it affects is merely the authority to discharge
the functions of an office that the suspended local official continues to hold. As already
mentioned above, the local elective official continuous to possess title to his office while
under preventive suspension, so that no interruption of his term ensues.
In the present case, Torres (instead of Abundo) was immediately proclaimed the winner in
the 2004 elections and effectively held title to the office until he was unseated. This
circumstance necessarily implied that Abundo had no title to the office of Mayor in the
meanwhile or, at least, had an effective break in the continuity of his term as mayor;
from his first (2001-2004) term, he did not immediately continue into his second (2004-
2007) term and for a time during this term completely ceased to exercise authority in the
local government unit. It was not a mere cessation of the authority to exercise the rights and
prerogatives of the office of Mayor as in the case of Aldovino; he was not the Mayor and had
no title to this office in the meanwhile. No better proof of his loss of title exists than the need
to file an election protest to claim the seat Torres already occupied after his proclamation.
From this perspective, the Aldovino ruling cannot be used as basis for the conclusion that
Abundo enjoyed an uninterrupted 2001-2004 term.
Election to office
In Borja, Jr. v. Commission on Elections, 8 reiterated in Lonzanida v. Commission on
Elections, 9 the Court ruled that a local elective official can seek reelection in the same local
government position unless two requisites concur: the official has been elected for three
consecutive terms to the same local government post, and that he fully served the
three consecutive terms. It is from the prism of these requisites that the three-term limit
rule must be viewed; in Abundo's case, the continuity of his first and third terms are not at
issue; the issue is confined to his second term.
That Abundo has been elected to the position of Mayor in the 2004 elections is a matter that
is now beyond dispute based on the legal reality that he was eventuallyfound, in his election
protest, to be the true choice of the electorate. This legal reality, however, is complicated by
an intervening development the wrongful proclamation of another candidate (Torres) so
that he (Abundo) could only take his oath of office and discharge the duties of a Mayor very
much later into the 2004-2007 mayoralty term. As I have argued above to contradict the use
of the Aldovino ruling, the factual reality that he had no title to office and did not serve as
Mayor while he was a protestant cannot simply be glossed over, and cannot likewise be
brushed aside by trying to draw a conclusion from a combined reading of Ong v.
Alegre10 and Lonzanida v. Commission on Elections. 11 The Court cannot avoid considering
the attendant factual and legal realities, based on the requirements that Borja Jr.established,
and has no choice but to adjust its appreciation of these realities, as may be necessary, as it
Election Law Cases

had done in Ong. This, I believe, is the approach and appreciation that should be made, not
the drawing of a forced conclusion from a combined reading of Ong and Lonzanida.
In Lonzanida (where Lonzanida was the protestee), the Court considered both the
requisites for the application of the three-term limit rule absent where a local official's
(Lonzanida's) proclamation, supposedly for his third consecutive term in office, was later
invalidated prior to the expiration of this third term, i.e., from 1995 to 1998. With the
invalidation, Lonzanida could not really be considered as having been elected to the office
since he was found not to be the real choice of the electorate this is the legal reality for
Lonzanida. Too, he did not fully serve his (supposedly third) term because of the intervening
ruling ordering him to vacate his post. This ruling, no less equivalent to involuntary
renunciation, is the factual reality in Lonzanida's case. Thus, an interruption of the three
consecutive terms took place.
Ong v. Alegre 12 involved facts close, but not completely similar, to Lonzanida. For
in Ong, the ruling ordering the apparent winner and protestee (Francis Ong) to vacate his
post came after the expiration of the contested term, i.e., after Ong's second term from
1998 to 2001. In holding that both requisites were present (so that there was effectively
no interruption), the Court again took the attendant legal and factual realities into account.
Its appreciation of these realities, however, came with a twist to allow for the attendant
factual situation. The Court ruled that while Joseph Alegre was later adjudged the "winner" in
the 1998 elections and, "therefore, was the legally elected mayor," this legal conclusion
"was without practical and legal use and value[.]" 13
[Ong's] contention that he was only a presumptive winner in the 1998
mayoralty derby as his proclamation was under protest did not make him
less than a duly elected mayor. His proclamation by the Municipal Board of
Canvassers of San Vicente as the duly elected mayor in the 1998 mayoralty
election coupled by his assumption of office and his continuous exercise of
the functions thereof from start to finish of the term, should legally be taken
as service for a full term in contemplation of the three-term rule. 14
Effectively, while the Court defined the legalities arising from the given factual situation,
it recognized that the given facts rendered its legal conclusion moot and academic or, in
short, useless and irrelevant; while Ong effectively lost the election, he had served the
full term that should belong to the winning candidate. Based on this recognition, the
Court ruled that no effective interruption took place for purposes of the three-term limit
rule.
From these perspectives, Ong did not "supersede" or "supplant" Lonzanida. Neither Ong nor
the subsequent case of Rivera III v. Commission on Elections 15 says so. The evident factual
variance in Ong simply called for an adjusted appreciation of the element of "election" under
the three-term limit rule. This is what a sensible reading of these two cases yields.
In considering the case of Abundo with Lonzanida and Ong, a noticeable distinction that sets
Abundo apart is his situation as protestant, as against Lonzanida and Ong who were
both protestees the presumptive winners whose election and proclamation were
protested. Both protestees lost in the protest and effectively were not "elected," although
this was appreciated by the Court with twist in Ong, as mentioned above. Abundo, on the
other hand, successfully prosecuted his protest and was thus recognized as the candidate
whom the people voted for, subject only to the question raised in the present case
whether this recognition or declaration rendered him "elected" from the start of his term.
The differing factual situations of the cited cases and Abundo that necessarily gave rise to
different perspectives in appreciating the same legal question, immediately suggest that the
Court's rulings in the cited cases cannot simply be combined nor wholly be bodily lifted and
applied to Abundo. At the simplest, both Lonzanida and Ong were protestees who faced the
same legal reality of losing the election, although Ong fully served the elected term; for
Abundo, the legal reality is his recognized and declared election victory. In terms of factual
reality, Lonzanida and Abundo may be the same since they only partially served their term,
but this similarity is fully negated by their differing legal realities with respect to the element
of "election." Ong and Abundo, on the other hand, have differing legal and factual realities;
Election Law Cases

aside from their differing election results, Ong served the full term, while Abundo only
enjoyed an abbreviated term.
If at all, the parallelism that can be drawn from Ong, that can fully serve the resolution of
Abundo's case, is the practical and purposive approach that the Court used inOng when it
implicitly recognized that dwelling on and giving full stress to the "election" element of the
three-term limit rule (as established in Borja, Jr.) is irrelevant and pointless, given that Ong
had served the full contested term.
Under this same approach, Abundo should not be considered to have been elected for the
full term for purposes of the three-term limit rule, despite the legal reality that he won the
election; as in Ong, the factual reality should prevail, and that reality is that he served for
less than this full term. Thus, where less than a full term is served by a winning protestant,
no continuous and uninterrupted term should be recognized. This is the view that best
serves the purposes of the three-term limit rule.
Footnotes
||| (Abundo, Sr. v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 201716, [January 8, 2013])

[G.R. No. 179695. December 18, 2008.]


MIKE A. FERMIN, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and
UMBRA RAMIL BAYAM DILANGALEN, respondents.
[G.R. No. 182369. December 18, 2008.]
MIKE A. FERMIN, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and
UMBRA RAMIL BAYAM DILANGALEN, respondents.
DECISION
NACHURA, J p:
These consolidated petitions provide a welcome avenue for the Court to dichotomize, once
and for all, two popular remedies to prevent a candidate from running for an elective
position which are indiscriminately interchanged by the Bench and the Bar, adding confusion
to the already difficult state of our jurisprudence on election laws.
For the Court's resolution are two petitions for certiorari under Rule 64 in relation to Rule 65
of the Rules of Court: (1) G.R. No. 179695, which assails the June 29, 2007 Resolution 1 of
the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) 2nd Division in SPA No. 07-372, and the September
20, 2007 Resolution 2 of the COMELEC En Banc affirming the said division resolution; and (2)
G.R. No. 182369, which challenges the February 14, 2008 Resolution 3 of the COMELEC 1st
Division in SPR No. 45-2007, the March 13, 2008 Order 4 of the COMELEC En Banc denying
petitioner's motion for reconsideration, and the March 26, 2008 Entry of Judgment 5 issued
by the Electoral Contests and Adjudication Department (ECAD) of the Commission in the said
case.
The relevant facts and proceedings follow.
After the creation of Shariff Kabunsuan, 6 the Regional Assembly of the Autonomous Region
in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), on November 22, 2006, passed Autonomy Act No.
205 7 creating the Municipality of Northern Kabuntalan in Shariff Kabunsuan. This new
municipality was constituted by separating Barangays Balong, Damatog, Gayonga, Guiawa,
Indatuan, Kapinpilan, P. Labio, Libungan, Montay, Sabaken and Tumaguinting from the
Municipality of Kabuntalan. 8
Mike A. Fermin, the petitioner in both cases, was a registered voter of Barangay Payan,
Kabuntalan. On December 13, 2006, claiming that he had been a resident
ofBarangay Indatuan for 1 year and 6 months, petitioner applied with the COMELEC for the
transfer of his registration record to the said barangay. 9 In the meantime, the creation of
North Kabuntalan was ratified in a plebiscite on December 30, 2006, 10 formally
makingBarangay Indatuan a component of Northern Kabuntalan. SDEITC
Thereafter, on January 8, 2007, the COMELEC approved petitioner's application for the
transfer of his voting record and registration as a voter to Precinct 21A ofBarangay Indatuan,
Northern Kabuntalan. 11 On March 29, 2007, Fermin filed his Certificate of Candidacy (CoC)
for mayor of Northern Kabuntalan in the May 14, 2007 National and Local Elections. 12
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On April 20, 2007, private respondent Umbra Ramil Bayam Dilangalen, another mayoralty
candidate, filed a Petition 13 for Disqualification [the Dilangalen petition] against Fermin,
docketed as SPA (PES) No. A07-003 [re-docketed as SPA No. 07-372 before the COMELEC]
with the Office of the Provincial Election Supervisor of Shariff Kabunsuan. The petition
alleged that the petitioner did not possess the period of residency required for candidacy
and that he perjured himself in his CoC and in his application for transfer of voting record.
The pertinent portions of the petition follow:
1. THE PETITIONER is of legal age, a registered voter, resident and
incumbent Municipal Mayor of the Municipality of Northern
Kabuntalan, holding office at Barangay Paulino Labio in the
Municipality of Northern Kabuntalan where he may be served
summons and other legal processes.
2. THE PETITIONER is a candidate for election as Mayor in the same
Municipality of Northern Kabuntalan, being a resident of and
domiciled in the Municipality since birth. The Respondent is also a
candidate for the same office, Mayor in the same Municipality of
Northern Kabuntalan. He is, however, not a resident of the
Municipality.
3. THE RESPONDENT perjured himself when he swore to the truth of his
statement in his Certificate of Candidacy of being a resident of the
Municipality for the last 38 years, when in truth and in fact he simply
transferred his registration from the Municipality of Kabuntalan on 13
December 2006, wherein he stated that he has relocated to that
municipality a year and six months earlier, or no earlier than June
2005.
4. THE RESPONDENT perjured himself when he swore to the truth of his
statement in his Certificate of Candidacy of being a resident of the
Municipality for the last 38 years, when in truth and in fact he has
stayed for at least 33 years in Barangay Payan, Municipality [of]
Kabunt[a]lan.
5. THE RESPONDENT perjured himself when he swore to the truth of his
statement in his Application for Transfer that he is a resident of
Barangay Indatuan on 13 December 2006, wherein he stated that he
has relocated to that municipality a year and six months earlier, or
on or about June 2005, when in truth and in fact he has never resided
much less domiciled himself in Indatuan or anywhere else in the
Municipality of Northern Kabuntalan earlier than 14 May
2006. HAICTD
6. THE RESPONDENT perjured himself when he swore to the truth of his
statement in his Certificate of Candidacy of being a resident of the
Municipality for the last 38 years, when in truth and in fact he has
never resided in the Municipality, but was simply visiting the area
whenever election is [f]ast approaching.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed that, [in
consideration] of the Respondent not possessing the residence required for
candidacy, and having perjured himself in a number of times, the
Commission disqualify the Respondent. 14
Elections were held without any decision being rendered by the COMELEC in the said case.
After the counting and canvassing of votes, Dilangalen emerged as the victor with 1,849
votes over Fermin's 1,640. 15 The latter subsequently filed an election protest (Election
Case No. 2007-022) with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 13 of Cotabato City. 16
G.R. No. 179695
On June 29, 2007, the COMELEC 2nd Division, in SPA No. 07-372, disqualified Fermin for not
being a resident of Northern Kabuntalan. 17 It ruled that, based on his declaration that he is
a resident of Barangay Payan as of April 27, 2006 in his oath of office before Datu Andal
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Ampatuan, Fermin could not have been a resident ofBarangay Indatuan for at least one
year. 18
The COMELEC En Banc,on September 20, 2007, affirmed the Division's ruling. 19
Thus, petitioner instituted G.R. No. 179695 before this Court raising the following issues:
A.
WHETHER OR NOT THE PETITION TO DISQUALIFY PETITIONER FROM SEEKING
THE MAYORALTY POST OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF NORTHERN KABUNTALAN
SHOULD BE DISMISSED FOR HAVING BEEN FILED OUT OF TIME.
B.
WHETHER OR NOT THE ONE (1) YEAR RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT AS
PROVIDED BY ART. 56, PAR. NO. 3, RULE XIII, RULES AND REGULATIONS
IMPLEMENTING THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF THE AUTONOMOUS
REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO IS APPLICABLE TO PETITIONER, WHO
TRANSFERRED HIS VOTER'S REGISTRATION RECORD DUE TO CHANGE OF
RESIDENCE FROM BARANGAY PAYAN TO BARANGAY INDATUAN IN THE SAME
MUNICIPALITY OF KABUNTALAN. 20
Petitioner contends that the Dilangalen petition is a petition to deny due course to or cancel
a CoC under Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC). 21 Following Republic Act
(R.A.) No. 6646, the same must be filed within 5 days from the last day for the filing of CoC,
which, in this case, is March 30, 2007, and considering that the said petition was filed by
Dilangalen only on April 20, 2007, the same was filed out of time. The COMELEC should have
then dismissed SPA No. 07-372 outright. 22
Petitioner further argues that he has been a resident of Barangay Indatuan long before the
creation of Northern Kabuntalan. This change of residence prompted him to apply for the
transfer of his voter's registration record from Barangay Payan to Barangay Indatuan.
Moreover, the one year residency requirement under the law is not applicable to candidates
for elective office in a newly created municipality, because the length of residency of all its
inhabitants is reckoned from the effective date of its creation. 2 3
In his comment, private respondent counters that the petition it filed is one for
disqualification under Section 68 of the OEC which may be filed at any time after the last
day for filing of the CoC but not later than the candidate's proclamation should he win in the
elections. As he filed the petition on April 20, 2007, long before the proclamation of the
eventual winning candidate, the same was filed on time. 24 ECDaAc
Private respondent likewise posits that petitioner failed to comply with the one-year
residency requirement for him to be able to run for an elective office in Northern Kabuntalan.
Petitioner applied for the transfer of his voting record on December 13, 2006, and this was
approved only on January 8, 2007. 25
G.R. No. 182369
During the pendency of G.R. No. 179695 with the Court, Dilangalen filed, on September 27,
2007, with the RTC of Cotabato a motion to dismiss Election Case No. 07-022 on the ground
that Fermin had no legal standing to file the said protest, the COMELEC En Banc having
already affirmed his disqualification as a candidate; and this Court, in the abovementioned
case, did not issue an order restraining the implementation of the assailed COMELEC
resolutions.
The RTC, however, denied this motion on September 28, 2007. On motion for
reconsideration, the trial court remained steadfast in its stand that the election protest was
separate and distinct from the COMELEC proceedings, and that, unless restrained by the
proper authority, it would continue hearing the protest. 26
Assailing the RTC's denial of his motions, Dilangalen filed a Petition for Certiorari and
Prohibition 27 docketed as SPR No. 45-2007 with the COMELEC. On February 14, 2008, the
COMELEC 1st Division set aside the aforesaid orders of the trial court for having been issued
with grave abuse of discretion, prohibited the said court from acting on and proceeding with
the protest, and ordered it to dismiss the same. 28 The COMELEC En Banc, on March 13,
2008, denied petitioner's motion for the reconsideration of the division's ruling on account
of Fermin's failure to pay the required fees. It further directed the issuance of an entry of
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judgment in the said case.29 On March 26, 2008, the ECAD recorded the finality of the
ruling in SPR No. 45-2007 in the Book of Entries of Judgments. 30

These developments prompted Fermin to file another certiorari petition before this Court,
docketed as G.R. No. 182369. In this petition, Fermin raises the following issues for our
resolution:
A.
Whether or not public respondent has departed from the accepted and usual
course of its rules of procedure, as to call for an exercise of the power of
supervision by the Honorable Court.
B.
Whether or not public respondent in taking cognizance of the certiorari and
prohibition not in aid of its appellate jurisdiction, acted without or in excess
of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
in (sic) excess [of jurisdiction].
C.
Whether or not public respondent, in ordering Judge Ibrahim to dismiss the
election protest case, acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in (sic) excess of jurisdiction.
D.
Whether or not public respondent, in not uniformly observing its process in
the service of its resolution and/or order, had denied to petitioner the equal
protection of the law.
E.
Whether or not the petition for certiorari and prohibition is dismissible in
view of the pendency of another action and whereby the result of the first
action is determinative of the second action in any event and regardless of
which party is successful. SECAHa
F.
Whether or not there is forum shopping.
G.
Whether or not the public respondent, acting not in aid of its appellate
jurisdiction, has authority to issue TRO and/or Preliminary Injunction as
ancillary remedy of the original action for certiorari and prohibition.
H.
Whether or not public respondent has jurisdiction to divest the Court of
Judge Ibrahim of its jurisdiction on the election protest case. 31
The Court, on April 29, 2008, initially dismissed the said petition. 32 Fermin subsequently
filed in succession his motions for reconsideration and for the consolidation of G.R. Nos.
179695 & 182369. Considering that the two petitions were interrelated, the Court resolved
to consolidate them.
The Issues
The primordial issues in these consolidated cases may be encapsulated, as follows:
(1) Whether or not the Dilangalen petition is one under Section 68 or Section
78 of the OEC;
(2) Whether or not it was filed on time;
(3) Whether or not the COMELEC gravely abuse its discretion when it
declared petitioner as not a resident of the locality for at least one
year prior to the May 14, 2007 elections; and
(4) Whether or not the COMELEC gravely abuse its discretion when it
ordered the dismissal of Election Case No. 07-022 on the ground
that Fermin had no legal standing to file the protest.
Our Ruling
I.
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Pivotal in the ascertainment of the timeliness of the Dilangalen petition is its proper
characterization.
As aforesaid, petitioner, on the one hand, argues that the Dilangalen petition was filed
pursuant to Section 78 of the OEC; while private respondent counters that the same is based
on Section 68 of the Code. ACDIcS
After studying the said petition in detail, the Court finds that the same is in the nature of a
petition to deny due course to or cancel a CoC under Section 78 33 of the OEC. The petition
contains the essential allegations of a "Section 78" petition, namely: (1) the candidate made
a representation in his certificate; (2) the representation pertains to a material matter which
would affect the substantive rights of the candidate (the right to run for the election for
which he filed his certificate); and (3) the candidate made the false representation with the
intention to deceive the electorate as to his qualification for public office or deliberately
attempted to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render him
ineligible. 34 It likewise appropriately raises a question on a candidate's eligibility for public
office, in this case, his possession of the one-year residency requirement under the law.
Lest it be misunderstood, the denial of due course to or the cancellation of the CoC is not
based on the lack of qualifications but on a finding that the candidate made a material
representation that is false, which may relate to the qualifications required of the public
office he/she is running for. It is noted that the candidate states in his/her CoC that he/she
is eligible for the office he/she seeks. Section 78 of the OEC, therefore, is to be read
in relation to the constitutional 35 and statutory 36provisions on qualifications or
eligibility for public office. If the candidate subsequently states a material
representation in the CoC that is false, the COMELEC, following the law, is
empowered to deny due course to or cancel such certificate. 37 Indeed, the Court
has already likened a proceeding under Section 78 to a quo warranto proceeding under
Section 253 38 of the OEC since they both deal with the eligibility or qualification of a
candidate, 39 with the distinction mainly in the fact that a "Section 78" petition is filed
before proclamation, while a petition for quo warranto is filed after proclamation of the
winning candidate.
At this point, we must stress that a "Section 78" petition ought not to be interchanged or
confused with a "Section 68" petition. They are different remedies, based on different
grounds, and resulting in different eventualities. Private respondent's insistence,
therefore, that the petition it filed before the COMELEC in SPA No. 07-372 is in the nature of
a disqualification case under Section 68, as it is in fact captioned a "Petition for
Disqualification", does not persuade the Court.
The ground raised in the Dilangalen petition is that Fermin allegedly lacked one of the
qualifications to be elected as mayor of Northern Kabuntalan, i.e., he had not established
residence in the said locality for at least one year immediately preceding the election.
Failure to meet the one-year residency requirement for the public office is not a ground for
the "disqualification" of a candidate under Section 68. The provision only refers to the
commission of prohibited acts and the possession of a permanent resident status in a
foreign country as grounds for disqualification, thus:
SEC. 68. Disqualifications.Any candidate who, in an action or protest in
which he is a party is declared by final decision of a competent court guilty
of, or found by the Commission of having (a) given money or other material
consideration to influence, induce or corrupt the voters or public officials
performing electoral functions; (b) committed acts of terrorism to enhance
his candidacy; (c) spent in his election campaign an amount in excess of
that allowed by this Code; (d) solicited, received or made any contribution
prohibited under Sections 89, 95, 96, 97 and 104; or (e) violated any of
Sections 80, 83, 85, 86 and 261, paragraphs d, e, k, v, and cc, subparagraph
6, shall be disqualified from continuing as a candidate, or if he has been
elected, from holding the office. Any person who is a permanent resident of
or an immigrant to a foreign country shall not be qualified to run for any
elective office under this Code, unless said person has waived his status as a
Election Law Cases

permanent resident or immigrant of a foreign country in accordance with the


residence requirement provided for in the election laws.
Likewise, the other provisions of law referring to "disqualification" do not include the lack of
the one-year residency qualification as a ground therefor, thus: ITSCED
Sections 12 of the OEC
SEC. 12. Disqualifications. Any person who has been declared by
competent authority insane or incompetent, or has been sentenced by final
judgment for subversion, insurrection, rebellion, or for any offense for which
he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than eighteen months or for a
crime involving moral turpitude, shall be disqualified to be a candidate and
to hold any office, unless he has been given plenary pardon or granted
amnesty.
The disqualifications to be a candidate herein provided shall be deemed
removed upon the declaration by competent authority that said insanity or
incompetence had been removed or after the expiration of a period of five
years from his service or sentence, unless within the same period he again
becomes disqualified.
Section 40 of the Local Government Code (LGC) 40
SEC. 40. Disqualifications. The following persons are disqualified from
running for any elective local position:
(a) Those sentence by final judgment for an offense involving moral
turpitude or for an offense punishable by one (1) year or more
of imprisonment, within two (2) years after serving sentence;
(b) Those removed from office as a result of an administrative case;
(c) Those convicted by final judgment for violating the oath of
allegiance to the Republic;
(d) Those with dual citizenship;
(e) Fugitive from justice in criminal or nonpolitical cases here or
abroad;
(f) Permanent residents in a foreign country or those who have
acquired the right to reside abroad and continue to avail of
the same right after the effectivity of this Code; and
(g) The insane or feeble-minded.
Considering that the Dilangalen petition does not state any of these grounds for
disqualification, it cannot be categorized as a "Section 68" petition.
To emphasize, a petition for disqualification, on the one hand, can be premised on Section 12
or 68 of the OEC, or Section 40 of the LGC. On the other hand, a petition to deny due course
to or cancel a CoC can only be grounded on a statement of a material representation in the
said certificate that is false. The petitions also have different effects. While a person who is
disqualified under Section 68 is merely prohibited to continue as a candidate, the person
whose certificate is cancelled or denied due course under Section 78 is not treated as a
candidate at all, as if he/she never filed a CoC. Thus, in Miranda v. Abaya, 41 this Court
made the distinction that a candidate who is disqualified under Section 68 can validly be
substituted under Section 77 of the OEC because he/she remains a candidate until
disqualified; but a person whose CoC has been denied due course or cancelled under Section
78 cannot be substituted because he/she is never considered a candidate. 42

In support of his claim that he actually filed a "petition for disqualification" and not a
"petition to deny due course to or cancel a CoC", Dilangalen takes refuge in Rule 25 of the
COMELEC Rules of Procedure, 43 specifically Section 1 44 thereof, to the extent that it
states, "[a]ny candidate who does not possess all the qualifications of a candidate as
provided for by the Constitution or by existing law . . . may be disqualified from continuing
as a candidate," and COMELEC Resolution No. 7800 45 (Rules Delegating to COMELEC Field
Officials the Authority to Hear and Receive Evidence in Disqualification Cases Filed in
Election Law Cases

Connection with the May 14, 2007 National and Local Elections), which states in Section 5
(C) (1) and (3) (a) (4) that: HSAcaE
Sec. 5. Procedure in filing petitions. For purposes of the preceding section,
the following procedure shall be observed:
xxx xxx xxx
C. PETITION TO DISQUALIFY A CANDIDATE PURSUANT TO SEC. 68 OF
THE OMNIBUS ELECTION CODE AND PETITION TO DISQUALIFY FOR
LACK OF QUALIFICATIONS OR POSSESSING SOME GROUNDS FOR
DISQUALIFICATION
1) A verified petition to disqualify a candidate pursuant to Sec. 68 of
the OEC and the verified petition to disqualify a candidate for lack of
qualifications or possessing some grounds for disqualification may be filed
on any day after the last day for filing of certificates of candidacy but not
later than the date of proclamation.
xxx xxx xxx
3) The petition to disqualify a candidate for lack of qualification or
possessing some grounds for disqualification, shall be filed in ten (10)
legible copies with the concerned office mentioned in Sec. 3 hereof,
personally or through a duly authorized representative by any person of
voting age, or duly registered political party, organization or coalition of
political parties on the grounds that any candidate does not possess all the
qualifications of a candidate as provided for by the constitution or by
existing law, or who possesses some grounds for disqualification,
3.a. Disqualification under existing election laws:
1. For not being a citizen of the Philippines;
2. For being a permanent resident of or an immigrant to a foreign country;
3. For lack of the required age;
4. For lack of residence;
5. For not being a registered voter;
6. For not being able to read and write;
7. In case of a party-list nominee, for not being a bona fide member of the
party or organization which he seeks to represent for at least ninety (90)
days immediately preceding the day of the election. [Emphasis
supplied.] cSCTEH
We disagree. A COMELEC rule or resolution cannot supplant or vary the legislative
enactments that distinguish the grounds for disqualification from those of ineligibility, and
the appropriate proceedings to raise the said grounds. In other words, Rule 25 and COMELEC
Resolution No. 7800 cannot supersede the dissimilar requirements of the law for the filing of
a petition for disqualification under Section 68, and a petition for the denial of due course to
or cancellation of CoC under Section 78 of the OEC.46 As aptly observed by the eminent
constitutionalist, Supreme Court Justice Vicente V. Mendoza, in his separate opinion
in Romualdez-Marcos v. Commission onElections: 47
Apparently realizing the lack of an authorized proceeding for declaring the
ineligibility of candidates, the COMELEC amended its rules on February 15,
1993 so as to provide in Rule 25, 1 the following:
Grounds for disqualification. Any candidate who does not possess
all the qualifications of a candidate as provided for by the
Constitution or by existing law or who commits any act declared by
law to be grounds for disqualification may be disqualified from
continuing as a candidate.
The lack of provision for declaring the ineligibility of candidates,
however, cannot be supplied by a mere rule. Such an act is
equivalent to the creation of a cause of action which is a
substantive matter which the COMELEC, in the exercise of its rule-
making power under Art. IX, A, 6 of the Constitution, cannot do. It
Election Law Cases

is noteworthy that the Constitution withholds from the COMELEC even the
power to decide cases involving the right to vote, which essentially involves
an inquiry into qualifications based on age, residence and citizenship of
voters. [Art. IX, C, 2(3)]
The assimilation in Rule 25 of the COMELEC rules of grounds for
ineligibility into grounds for disqualification is contrary to the
evident intention of the law. For not only in their grounds but also
in their consequences are proceedings for "disqualification"
different from those for a declaration of "ineligibility".
"Disqualification" proceedings, as already stated, are based on
grounds specified in 12 and 68 of the Omnibus Election Code and
in 40 of the Local Government Code and are for the purpose of
barring an individual from becoming a candidate or from continuing
as a candidate for public office. In a word, their purpose is to
eliminate a candidate from the race either from the start or during
its progress. "Ineligibility", on the other hand, refers to the lack of
the qualifications prescribed in the Constitution or the statutes for
holding public office and the purpose of the proceedings for
declaration of ineligibility is to remove the incumbent from office.
Consequently, that an individual possesses the qualifications for a
public office does not imply that he is not disqualified from
becoming a candidate or continuing as a candidate for a public
office and vice-versa. We have this sort of dichotomy in our Naturalization
Law. (C.A. No. 473) That an alien has the qualifications prescribed in 2 of
the law does not imply that he does not suffer from any of [the]
disqualifications provided in 4.
Indeed, provisions for disqualifications on the ground that the candidate is
guilty of prohibited election practices or offenses, like other pre-
proclamation remedies, are aimed at the detestable practice of "grabbing
the proclamation and prolonging the election protest", through the use of
"manufactured" election returns or resort to other trickery for the purpose of
altering the results of the election. This rationale does not apply to cases for
determining a candidate's qualifications for office before the election. To the
contrary, it is the candidate against whom a proceeding for disqualification
is brought who could be prejudiced because he could be prevented from
assuming office even though in the end he prevails. 48
Furthermore, the procedure laid down in the said Rule 25 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure
cannot be used in "Section 78" proceedings, precisely because a different rule, Rule
23, 49 specifically governs petitions to deny due course to or cancel CoCs. TDcCIS
II.
Having thus determined that the Dilangalen petition is one under Section 78 of the OEC, the
Court now declares that the same has to comply with the 25-day statutory period for its
filing. Aznar v. Commission on Elections 50 and Loong v. Commission on Elections 51 give
ascendancy to the express mandate of the law that "the petition may be filed at any
time not later than twenty-five days from the time of the filing of the certificate of
candidacy." Construed in relation to reglementary periods and the principles of
prescription, the dismissal of "Section 78" petitions filed beyond the 25-day period must
come as a matter of course.
We find it necessary to point out that Sections 5 and 7 52 of Republic Act (R.A.) No.
6646, 53 contrary to the erroneous arguments of both parties, did not in any way amend the
period for filing "Section 78" petitions. While Section 7 of the said law makes reference to
Section 5 on the procedure in the conduct of cases for the denial of due course to the CoCs
of nuisance candidates 54 (retired Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., in his dissenting
opinion in Aquino v. Commission on Elections 55 explains that "the 'procedure hereinabove
provided' mentioned in Section 7 cannot be construed to refer to Section 6 which does not
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provide for a procedure but for the effects of disqualification cases, [but] can only refer to
the procedure provided in Section 5 of the said Act on nuisance candidates . . . ."), the same
cannot be taken to mean that the 25-day period for filing "Section 78" petitions under
the OEC is changed to 5 days counted from the last day for the filing of CoCs. The clear
language of Section 78 certainly cannot be amended or modified by the mere reference in a
subsequent statute to the use of a procedure specifically intended for another type of action.
Cardinal is the rule in statutory construction that repeals by implication are disfavored and
will not be so declared by the Court unless the intent of the legislators is manifest. 56 In
addition, it is noteworthy that Loong, 57 which upheld the 25-day period for filing "Section
78" petitions, was decided long after the enactment of R.A. 6646. In this regard, we
therefore find as contrary to the unequivocal mandate of the law, Rule 23, Section 2 of the
COMELEC Rules of Procedure which states:
Sec. 2. Period to File Petition. The petition must be filed within five (5)
days following the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy.
As the law stands, the petition to deny due course to or cancel a CoC "may be filed at
any time not later than twenty-five days from the time of the filing of the
certificate of candidacy."
Accordingly, it is necessary to determine when Fermin filed his CoC in order to ascertain
whether the Dilangalen petition filed on April 20, 2007 was well within the restrictive 25-day
period. If it was not, then the COMELEC should have, as discussed above, dismissed the
petition outright.
The record in these cases reveals that Fermin filed his CoC for mayor of Northern Kabuntalan
for the May 14, 2007 National and Local Elections on March 29, 2007. 58 It is clear
therefore that the petition to deny due course to or cancel Fermin's CoC was filed by
Dilangalen well within the 25-day reglementary period. The COMELEC therefore did not
abuse its discretion, much more gravely, when it did not dismiss the petition outright.

III.
However, the Court finds the COMELEC to have gravely abused its discretion when it
precipitately declared that Fermin was not a resident of Northern Kabuntalan for at least one
year prior to the said elections.
In its assailed June 29, 2007 Resolution, 59 the COMELEC ruled as follows:
In the petitioner's memorandum, an authenticated copy of the respondent's
oath of office subscribed and sworn to before Datu Andal Ampatuan,
Governor Maguindanao Province, it was stated that respondent's residence
is at Barangay Payan, Maguindanao (sic) as of April 27, 2006. Clearly the
respondent is not a resident of Northern Kabuntalan earlier than 15 May
2006 as his very own oath of office would reveal that he is really a resident
of Barangay Payan, Kabuntalan less than 365 days immediately preceding
the May 14, 2007 elections. He is a resident of a barangay not a component
of the local government unit in which he seeks to be elected as of May 15,
2006 and is therefore not qualified or eligible to seek election as mayor in
the said municipality. 60 DHacTC
Obviously, the COMELEC relied on a single piece of evidence to support its finding that
petitioner was not a resident of Barangay Indatuan, Northern Kabuntalan, i.e., the oath of
office subscribed and sworn to before Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan, in which petitioner
indicated that he was a resident of Barangay Payan, Kabuntalanas of April 27, 2006.
However, this single piece of evidence does not necessarily support a finding that petitioner
was not a resident of Northern Kabuntalan as of May 14, 2006, or one year prior to the May
14, 2007 elections. 61 Petitioner merely admitted that he was a resident of another locality
as of April 27, 2006, which was more than a year before the elections. It is not inconsistent
with his subsequent claim that he complied with the residency requirement for the elective
office, as petitioner could have transferred to Barangay Indatuan after April 27, 2006, on or
before May 14, 2006.
Election Law Cases

Neither does this evidence support the allegation that petitioner failed to comply with the
residency requirement for the transfer of his voting record from BarangayPayan
to Barangay Indatuan. Given that a voter is required to reside in the place wherein he
proposes to vote only for six months immediately preceding the election, 62petitioner's
application for transfer on December 13, 2006 does not contradict his earlier admission that
he was a resident of Barangay Payan as of April 27, 2006. Be that as it may, the issue
involved in the Dilangalen petition is whether or not petitioner made a material
representation that is false in his CoC, and not in his application for the transfer of his
registration and voting record.
The foregoing considered, the Court finds that the Dilangalen petition does not make out
a prima facie case. Its dismissal is therefore warranted. We emphasize that the mere filing of
a petition and the convenient allegation therein that a candidate does not reside in the
locality where he seeks to be elected is insufficient to effect the cancellation of his CoC.
Convincing evidence must substantiate every allegation. 63 A litigating party is said to have
a prima facie case when the evidence in his favor is sufficiently strong for his opponent to be
called on to answer it. A prima facie case, then, is one which is established by sufficient
evidence and can be overthrown only by rebutting evidence adduced on the other side. 64
IV.
In light of the foregoing disquisition, the COMELEC's order for the dismissal of Fermin's
election protest is tainted with grave abuse of discretion, considering that the same is
premised on Fermin's alleged lack of legal standing to file the protest, which, in turn, is
based on Fermin's alleged lack of residency qualification. With our disposition herein that the
Dilangalen petition should be dismissed, a disquisition that Fermin has no standing as a
candidate would be reckless and improper.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petitions for certiorari are GRANTED. The assailed
issuances of the COMELEC are ANNULLED and SET ASIDE.
SO ORDERED. cDIaAS
||| (Fermin v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 179695, 182369, [December 18, 2008], 595 PHIL 449-479)

[G.R. No. 132231. March 31, 1998.]


EMILIO M.R. OSMEA and PABLO P. GARCIA, petitioners, vs.
THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent.
Garcia Garcia & Ong Vao Law Offices and Pablo John Garcia, Jr. for petitioners.
The Solicitor General for respondent.
SYNOPSIS
Section 11 of Republic Act No. 6646 (Electoral Reforms Law of 1987) prohibiting mass media
from selling or giving free of charge print space or air time for campaign or other political
purposes except to the Commission on Elections is again challenged on the ground that
events after the ruling in the National Press Club v. Commissionon Elections have called for
its reexamination.
The Supreme Court, finding that petitioners failed to present any empirical data to back up
their claim and simply seek the holding of an academic exercise and not the adjudication of
a case or controversy, reaffirmed the ruling on the NPC. Besides, a majority of the present
Court is unpersuaded that its decision in the NPC case is founded in error. ADcEST
SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6646 (ELECTORAL REFORMS LAW OF 1987); COMELEC
RESOLUTION NO. 2974, CONSTITUTIONAL. NPC v. COMELEC upheld the validity of 11 (b)
of R.A. No. 6646 against claims that it abridged freedom of speech and of the press. And
since a majority of the present Court is unpersuaded that its decision in NPC is founded in
error, it will suffice for present purposes simply to reaffirm the ruling in that case. Stare
decisis et non quieta movere. This is what makes the present case different from the
overruling decisions invoked by petitioners.
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; NO SUPPRESSION OF POLITICAL ADS BUT ONLY A REGULATION OF TIME AND
MANNER OF ADVERTISING. The term political "ad ban," when used to describe 11(b)
of R.A. No. 6646, is misleading, for even as 11(b) prohibits the sale or donation of print
Election Law Cases

space and air time to political candidates, it mandates the COMELEC to procure and itself
allocate to the candidates space and time in the media. There is no suppression of political
ads but only a regulation of the time and manner of advertising. cDCaTS
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; There is no total ban on political ads, much less restriction on the
content of the speech. Given the fact that print space and air time can be controlled or
dominated by rich candidates to the disadvantage of poor candidates, there is a substantial
or legitimate governmental interest justifying exercise of the regulatory power of the
COMELEC under Art. IX-C, 4 of the Constitution. The provisions in question involve no
suppression of political ads. They only prohibit the sale or donation of print space and air
time to candidates but require the COMELEC instead to procure space and time in the mass
media for allocation, free of charge, to the candidates. In effect, during the election period,
the COMELEC takes over the advertising page of newspapers or the commercial time of
radio and TV stations and allocates these to the candidates.
4. ID.; ID.; ID.; MAIN PURPOSE IS REGULATORY. The main purpose of 11(b) is regulatory.
Any restriction on speech is only incidental, and it is no more than is necessary to achieve its
purpose of promoting equality of opportunity in the use of mass media for political
advertising. The restriction on speech, as pointed out inNPC, is limited both as to time and
as to scope. DHECac
5. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT; CHOICE OF REMEDIES FOR SOCIAL
MALADY REQUIRING GOVERNMENT ACTION BELONGS TO CONGRESS. Well-settled is the
rule that the choice or remedies for an admitted social malady requiring government action
belongs to Congress. The remedy prescribed by it, unless clearly shown to be repugnant to
fundamental law, must be respected. As shown in this case, 11(b) of R.A. 6646 is a
permissible restriction on the freedom of speech, of expression and of the press.
6. ID.; VALIDITY OF LAWS; CANNOT DEPEND ON FAITHFUL COMPLIANCE OF THOSE CHARGED
WITH ITS ENFORCEMENT. The validity of a law cannot be made to depend on the faithful
compliance of those charged with its enforcement but by appropriate constitutional
provisions.
||| (Osmea v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 132231, [March 31, 1998], 351 PHIL 692-781)

[G.R. No. 103956. March 31, 1992.]


BLO
UMPAR ADIONG, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, responde
nt.
Romulo R. Macalintal for petitioner.
SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTIONS; PROHIBITION ON POSTING OF DECALS AND STICKERS ON
MOBILE PLACES (SECTION 15 (a) AND SECTION 21 (f) OF COMELEC RESOLUTION NO. 2347);
NULL AND VOID. The COMELEC's prohibition on posting of decals and stickers on "mobile"
places whether public or private except in designated areas provided for by the COMELEC
itself is null and void on constitutional grounds.
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; INFRINGEMENT OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION. COMELEC
Resolution No. 2347 unduly infringes on the citizen's fundamental right of free speech
enshrined in the Constitution (Sec. 4, Article III). There is no public interest substantial
enough to warrant the kind of restriction involved in this case. There are various concepts
surrounding the freedom of speech clause which we have adopted as part and parcel of our
own Bill of Rights provision on this basic freedom. All of the protections expressed in the Bill
of Rights are important but we have accorded to free speech the status of a preferred
freedom. (Thomas v. Collins, 323 US 516, 89 L. Ed. 430 [1945];
Mutuc v. Commission on Elections, 36 SCRA 228 [1980]). This qualitative significance of
freedom of expression arises from the fact that it is the matrix, the indispensable condition
of nearly every other freedom. (Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319 [1937]; Salonga v. Pao,
134 SCRA 438 [1985]). It is difficult to imagine how the other provisions of the Bill of Rights
and the right to free elections may be guaranteed if the freedom to speak and to convince or
persuade is denied and taken away. We have also ruled that the preferred freedom of
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expression calls all the more for the utmost respect when what may be curtailed is the
dissemination of information to make more meaningful the equally vital right of suffrage.
(Mutuc v. Commission on Elections, supra)
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; SUBSTANTIAL GOVERNMENT INTEREST AND PUBLIC INTEREST, NOT
THREATENED; CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER RULE, NOT PRESENT. The regulation in the
present case is of a different category. The promotion of a substantial Government interest is
not clearly shown. "A government regulation is sufficiently justified if it is within the
constitutional power of the Government, if it furthers an important or substantial
governmental interest; if the governmental interest is unrelated to the suppression of free
expression; and if the incidental restriction on alleged First Amendment freedom is no
greater than is essential to the furtherance of that interest. (Id., at 377, 20 L Ed 2d 672, 88
S. Ct 1673." (City council v. Taxpayers For Vincent, 466 US 789, 80 L Ed 2d 772, 104 S. Ct
2118 [1984]) The posting of decals and stickers in mobile places like cars and other moving
vehicles does not endanger any substantial government interest. There is no clear public
interest threatened by such activity so as to justify the curtailment of the cherished citizen's
right of free speech and expression. Under the clear and present danger rule not only must
the danger be patently clear and pressingly present but the evil sought to be avoided must
be so substantive as to justify a clamp over one's mouth or a writing instrument to be stilled:
"The case confronts us again with the duty our system places on the Court to say where the
individual's freedom ends and the State's power begins. Choice on that border, now as
always delicate, is perhaps more so where the usual presumption supporting legislation is
balanced by the preferred place given in our scheme to the great, the indispensable
democratic freedoms secured by the first Amendment ... That priority gives these liberties a
sanctity and a sanction not permitting dubious intrusions and it is the character of the right,
not of the limitation, which determines what standard governs the choice .... For these
reasons any attempt to restrict those liberties must be justified by clear public interest,
threatened not doubtfully or remotely but by clear and present danger. The rational
connection between the remedy provided and the evil to be curbed, which in other context
might support legislation against attack on due process grounds, will not suffice. These
rights rest on firmer foundation. Accordingly, whatever occasion would restrain orderly
discussion and persuasion, at appropriate time and place, must have clear support in public
danger, actual or impending. Only the greatest abuses, endangering permanent interests,
give occasion for permissible limitation. (Thomas V. Collins, 323 US 516 [1945]."
Significantly, the freedom of expression curtailed by the questioned prohibition is not so
much that of the candidate or the political party. The regulation strikes at the freedom of an
individual to express his preference and, by displaying it on his car, to convince others to
agree with him. A sticker may be furnished by a candidate but once the car owner agrees to
have it placed on his private vehicle, the expression becomes a statement by the owner,
primarily his own and not of anybody else. If, in the National Press Club case, the Court was
careful to rule out restrictions on reporting by newspaper or radio and television stations and
commentators or columnists as long as these are not covertly paid-for advertisements or
purchased opinions with less reason can we sanction the prohibition against a sincere
manifestation of support and a proclamation of belief by an individual person who pastes a
sticker or decal on his private property.
4. ID.; ID.; DEBATE ON PUBLIC ISSUES SHOULD BE OPEN. We have adopted the principle
that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide open and that it may
well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government
and public officials. (New York Times Co. v. Sullivan 376 U.S. 254, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 [1964];
cited in the concurring opinion of then Chief Justice Enrique Fernando in Babst v. National
Intelligence Board, 132 SCRA 316 [1984]. Too many restrictions will deny to people the
robust, uninhibited, and wide open debate, the generating of interest essential if our
elections will truly be free, clean, and honest.
5. ID.; ID.; FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND INFORMATION PREVAILS. When faced with border
line situations where freedom to speak by a candidate or party and freedom to know on the
part of the electorate are invoked against actions intended for maintaining clean and free
Election Law Cases

elections, the police, local officials and COMELEC should lean in favor of freedom. For in the
ultimate analysis, the freedom of the citizen and the State's power to regulate are not
antagonistic. There can be no free and honest elections if in the efforts to maintain them,
the freedom to speak and the right to know are unduly curtailed.
6. ID.; ID.; REGULATION OF ELECTION ACTIVITY, LIMITED; TEST OF VALIDITY. The
regulation of election activity has its limits. We examine the limits of regulation and not the
limits of free speech. The carefully worded opinion of the Court, through Mr. Justice Feliciano,
shows that regulation of election campaign activity may not pass the test of validity if it is
too general in its terms or not limited in time and scope in its application, if it restricts one's
expression of belief in a candidate or one's opinion of his or her qualifications, if it cuts off
the flow of media reporting, and if the regulatory measure bears no clear and reasonable
nexus with the constitutionally sanctioned objective.
7. ID.; ID.; SECTION 15 (a) AND SECTION 21 (f) COMELEC RESOLUTION NO. 2347 VOID FOR
OVERBREADTH. Second the questioned prohibition premised on the statute and as
couched in the resolution is void for overbreadth. A statute is considered void for
overbreadth when "it offends the constitutional principle that a governmental purpose to
control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulations may not be achieved
by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected
freedoms." (Zwickler v. Koota, 19 L ed 2d 444 [1967]). "In a series of decisions this Court has
held that, even though the governmental purpose be legitimate and substantial, that
purpose cannot be pursued by means that broadly stifle fundamental personal liberties
when the end can be more narrowly achieved. The breadth of legislative abridgment must
be viewed in the light of less drastic means for achieving the same basic purpose.
8. ID.; ID.; ID.; RESTRICTION PROVIDED THEREIN VIOLATES DUE PROCESS CLAUSE. The
resolution prohibits the posting of decals and stickers not more than eight and one-half (8-)
inches in width and fourteen (14) inches in length in any place, including mobile
places whether public or private except in areas designated by the COMELEC. Verily, the
restriction as to where the decals and stickers should be posted is so broad that it
encompasses even the citizen's private property, which in this case is a privately-owned
vehicle. In consequence of this prohibition, another cardinal rule prescribed by the
Constitution would be violated. Section 1, Article III of the Bill of Rights provides "that no
person shall be deprived of his property without due process of law." Property is more than
the mere thing which a person owns, it includes the right to acquire, use, and dispose of it;
and the Constitution, in the 14th Amendment, protects these essential attributes. Property is
more than the mere thing which a person owns. It is elementary that it includes the right to
acquire, use, and dispose of it. The Constitution protects these essential attributes of
property. Holde v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366, 391, 41 L. ed. 780. 790, 18 Sup. CXt. Rep. 383.
Property consists of the free use, enjoyment, and disposal of a person's acquisitions without
control or diminution save by the law of the land. 1 Cooley's Bl. Com. 127."
(Buchanan v. Warley 245 US 60 [1917])

9. ID.; ID.; ID.; PROHIBITION DEPRIVES CITIZEN OF RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH AND
INFORMATION. "We have to consider the fact that in the posting of decals and stickers on
cars and other moving vehicles, the candidate needs the consent of the owner of the
vehicle. In such a case, the prohibition would not only deprive the owner who consents to
such posting of the decals and stickers the use of his property but more important, in the
process, it would deprive the citizen of his right to free speech and information. Freedom to
distribute information to every citizen wherever he desires to receive it is so clearly vital to
the preservation of a free society that, putting aside reasonable police and health
regulations of time and manner of distribution, it must be fully preserved. The danger of
distribution can so easily be controlled by traditional legal methods leaving to each
householder the full right to decide whether he will receive strangers as visitors, that
stringent prohibition can serve no purpose but that forbidden by the constitution, the naked
restriction of the dissemination of ideas." (Martin v. City of strutters, Ohio, 319 U.S. 141; 87
L. ed. 1313 [1943]) The preference of the citizen becomes crucial in this kind of election
Election Law Cases

propaganda not the financial resources of the candidate. Whether the candidate is rich and,
therefore, can afford to dole-out more decals and stickers or poor and without the means to
spread out the same number of decals and stickers is not as important as the right of the
owner to freely express his choice and exercise his right of free speech. The owner can even
prepare his own decals or stickers for posting on his personal property. To strike down this
right and enjoin it is impermissible encroachment of his liberties.
10. ID.; ID.; RA 6646, SECTION 11; RIGHT TO PROPERTY JOINED BY LIBERTY INTEREST;
REGULATION, NOT JUSTIFIED. The right to property may be subject to a greater degree of
regulation but when this right is joined by a "liberty" interest, the burden of justification on
the part of the Government must be exceptionally convincing and irrefutable. The burden is
not met in this case. Section 11 of Rep. Act 6646 is so encompassing and invasive that it
prohibits the posting or display of election propaganda in any place, whether public or
private except in the common poster areas sanctioned by COMELEC. This means that a
private person cannot post his own crudely prepared personal poster on his own front door
or on a post in his yard. While the COMELEC will certainly never require the absurd, there are
no limits to what overzealous and partisan police officers, armed with a copy of the statute
or regulation, may do. The provisions allowing regulation are so loosely worded that they
inclose the posting of decals or stickers in the privacy of one's living room or bedroom. This
is delegation running riot. As stated by Justice Cardozo in his concurrence in Panama
Refining Co. v. Ryan (293 U.S. 388; 79 L. Ed. 46 [1935], "The delegated power is unconfined
and vagrant . . . This is delegation running riot. No such plenitude of power is susceptible of
transfer."
11. ID.; ID.; ARTICLE 11 SECTION 26 AND ARTICLE XII SECTION 1 IN RELATION TO ARTICLE IX
(c) SECTION 4 OF THE CONSTITUTION; NOT IMPAIRED BY POSTING OF DECALS AND STICKERS
ON PRIVATE VEHICLES. The constitutional objective to give a rich candidate and a poor
candidate equal opportunity to inform the electorate as regards their candidacies, mandated
by Article II Section 26 and Article XIII Section 1 in relation to Article IX (c) Section 4 of the
Constitution, is not impaired by posting decals and stickers on cars and other private
vehicles. Compared to the paramount interest of the State in guaranteeing freedom of
expression, any financial considerations behind the regulation are of marginal significance.
Under Section 26 Article II of the Constitution, "The State shall guarantee equal access to
opportunities for public service, . . . while under Section 1, Article XIII thereof "The Congress
shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right
of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and
remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power nor the common
good."
12. ID.; ID.; SECTION 15 (a) AND SECTION 21 (f) OF COMELEC RESOLUTION NO. 2347;
PROHIBITION BECOMES CENSORSHIP, NOT JUSTIFIED BY CONSTITUTION. In sum, the
prohibition on posting of decals and stickers on "mobile" places whether public or private
except in the authorized areas designated by the COMELEC becomes censorship which
cannot be justified by the Constitution: ". . . The concept of the Constitution as the
fundamental law, setting forth the criterion for the validity of any public act whether
proceeding from the highest official or the lowest functionary, is a postulate of our system of
government. That is to manifest fealty to the rule of law, with priority accorded to that which
occupies the topmost rung in the legal hierarchy. The three departments of government in
the discharge of the functions with which it is entrusted have no choice but to yield
obedience to its commands. Whatever limits it imposes must be observed. Congress in the
enactment of statutes must ever be on guard lest the restrictions on its authority, either
substantive or formal, be transcended. The Presidency in the execution of the laws cannot
ignore or disregard what it ordains. In its task of applying the law to the facts as found in
deciding cases, the judiciary is decreed by the fundamental law. Even its power of judicial
review to pass upon the validity of the acts of the coordinate branches in the course of
adjudication is a logical corollary of this basic principle that the Constitution is paramount. It
overrides any governmental measure that fails to live up to its mandates. Thereby there is a
recognition of its being the supreme law." (Mutuc v.Commission on Elections, supra)
Election Law Cases

13. ID.; ID.; FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND INFORMATION, CALLS FOR MORE LIBERAL
INTERPRETATION. The unusual circumstances of this year's national and local elections
call for a more liberal interpretation of the freedom to speak and the right to know. It is not
alone the widest possible dissemination of information on platforms and programs which
concern us. Nor are we limiting ourselves to protecting the unfettered interchange of ideas
to bring about political change. (Cf. New York Times v. Sullivan, supra) The big number of
candidates and elective positions involved has resulted in the peculiar situation where
almost all voters cannot name half or even two-thirds of the candidates running for Senator.
The public does not know who are aspiring to be elected to public office. There are many
candidates whose names alone evoke qualifications, platforms, programs and ideologies
which the voter may accept or reject. When a person attaches a sticker with such
candidate's name on his car bumper, he is expressing more than the name; he is espousing
ideas.
||| (Adiong v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 103956, [March 31, 1992])
[G.R. No. 160428. July 21, 2004.]
HADJI RASUL BATABOR, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
BARANGAY BOARD OF CANVASSERS, BOARD OF ELECTION
INSPECTORS OF PRECINCTS NOS. 3A, 4A and 5A, BARANGAY
MAIDAN, TUGAYA, LANAO DEL SUR, and MOCASIM ABANGON
BATONDIANG, respondents.
DECISION
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J p:
The power to declare a failure of elections should be exercised with utmost care and only
under circumstances which demonstrate beyond doubt that the disregard of the law has
been so fundamental or so persistent and continuous that it is impossible to distinguish what
votes are lawful and what are unlawful, or to arrive at any certain result whatsoever; or that
the great body of voters have been prevented by violence, intimidation and threats from
exercising their franchise. There is failure of elections only when the will of the electorate
has been muted and cannot be ascertained. If the will of the people is determinable, the
same must as far as possible be respected. 1
Before us is a petition for certiorari 2 with application for a temporary restraining order and
writ of preliminary injunction, assailing the Commission on Elections(COMELEC) En
Banc's Resolution dated October 9, 2003 in SPA No. 02-295 (Brgy.). In this Resolution, the
COMELEC denied Hadji Rasul Batabor's petition seeking: (a) the declaration of failure of
election in Precincts 3A, 4A and 5A of Barangay Maidan, Tugaya, Lanao del Sur; (b) the
annulment of the proclamation that Mocasim Abangon Batondiang is the duly elected
Punong Barangay of Barangay Maidan; and (c) the holding of a special election in the
questioned precincts.
In the synchronized July 15, 2002 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections, Hadji
Rasul Batabor, petitioner, and Mocasim Abangon Batondiang, private respondent, ran as
opposing candidates for the position of Punong Barangay in Barangay Maidan, Tugaya,
Lanao del Sur. It was petitioner's re-election bid being then the incumbent Punong Barangay.
The result of the election shows that private respondent won as Punong Barangay, garnering
123 votes, as against petitioner's 94 votes, or a difference of 29 votes.
In due time, private respondent was proclaimed the duly elected Punong Barangay of
Barangay Maidan.
Bewailing the outcome of the election, petitioner filed with the COMELEC a petition to
declare a failure of election in Precincts 3A, 4A and 5A of Barangay Maidan, docketed as SPA
No. 02-295 (Brgy.). The petition alleges that during the election, the voting started at around
8:30 o'clock in the morning. It was temporarily suspended during the lunch break and was to
resume at 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon of that day. But after lunch, the Chairwoman of the
Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) of Precincts 3A, 4A and 5A suddenly tore all the unused
official ballots. Thus, the voting was not continued. The BEI then padlocked the ballot boxes.
At that time, petitioner was not present. Despite the note of Election Officer Taha Casidar
directing the BEI to resume the voting, the latter did not allow the remaining voters to vote.
Election Law Cases

Thus, petitioner's relatives and followers, numbering more than 100, were not able to cast
their votes.
In his comment, private respondent averred that petitioner's allegations are not supported
by substantial evidence. It was petitioner who padlocked the ballot boxes as shown by the
affidavit of Comini Manalastas. During the counting of votes, petitioner's wife, daughter and
son actually witnessed the same. Besides, petitioner's allegations can be properly ventilated
in an election protest because the issues raised are not grounds for declaration of a failure of
election.
On October 9, 2003, the COMELEC En Banc issued the assailed Resolution 3 denying the
petition.
Petitioner now contends in his petition for certiorari before us that the COMELEC committed
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in denying his petition
in SPA No. 02-295 (BRGY.). He reiterates his allegations in his petition filed with the COMELEC
showing there was failure of election.
The Solicitor General, in his comment on the instant petition, vehemently disputes
petitioner's allegations and prays that the petition be dismissed for lack of merit.
We dismiss the petition.
The power to declare a failure of election is vested exclusively upon the COMELEC. 4 Section
6 of the Omnibus Election Code 5 provides:
"Section 6. Failure of Election. If, on account of force majeure, violence,
terrorism, fraud, or other analogous causes, the election in any polling place
has not been held on the date fixed, or had been suspended before the hour
fixed by law for the closing of the voting, or after the voting and during the
preparation and the transmission of the election returns or in the custody or
canvass thereof, such election results in a failure to elect, and in any such
cases the failure or suspension of election would affect the result of the
election, the Commission shall, on the basis of a verified petition by any
interested party and after due notice and hearing, call for the holding or
continuation of the election not held, suspended or which resulted in a
failure to elect on a date reasonably close to the date of the election not
held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect but not later than
thirty days after the cessation of the cause of such postponement or
suspension of the election or failure to elect."
Explaining the above provisions, we held in Benito vs. Commission on Elections 6 that these
two (2) conditions must exist before a failure of election may be declared: (1) no voting has
been held in any precinct or precincts due to fraud, force majeure, violence or terrorism; and
(2) the votes not cast therein are sufficient to affect the results of the election. The cause of
such failure may arise before or after the casting of votes or on the day of the election.
The familiar rule, as applied to this case, is that grave abuse of discretion exists when the
questioned act of the COMELEC was exercised capriciously and whimsically as is equivalent
to lack or in excess of jurisdiction. Such exercise of judgment must be done in an arbitrary or
despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and it must be so patent and
gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty
enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. 7 It is not sufficient that the COMELEC, in
the exercise of its power, abused its discretion; such abuse must be grave. 8
We find that the COMELEC did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in dismissing
petitioner's petition alleging a failure of election. While the alleged 100 votes of petitioner's
relatives and supporters, if cast during the election, are sufficient to affect its result,
however, he failed to prove that the voting did not take place in precincts 3A, 4A and 5A. As
found by the COMELEC, the Statement of Votes and the Certificate of Canvass of Votes show
that out of the 316 registered voters in the questioned precincts, at least 220 actually voted.
This simply shows that there was no failure of election in the subject precincts. Moreover,
petitioner's allegation that the voting was not resumed after lunch break, preventing 100 of
his relatives and followers to vote, is better ventilated in an election contest. The COMELEC,
in its assailed Resolution, held: ASHaTc
Election Law Cases

"In the first place, the petitioner failed to show with certainty that the voting
did not push through in the questioned precincts. In fact, the Statement of
Votes by Precincts show that out of the three hundred sixteen (316)
registered voters in the questioned precincts, two hundred twenty (220) or
69.62% of the registered voters actually voted. This high turnout in the
number of registered voters who actually voted is clearly not an indication of
a failure of elections.
"We cannot also help but notice that the instant petition seeks to declare a
failure of elections and to annul solely the proclamation of respondent
Batondiang, the elected punong barangay. The prayer for annulment of
proclamation does not extend to all the elected and proclaimed candidates
in Barangay Maidan, Tugaya, Lanao del Sur. The Commission may not, on
the ground of failure of elections, annul the proclamation of one candidate
only, and thereafter call a special election therefor, because failure of
elections necessarily affects all the elective positions in the place where
there has been a failure of elections. To hold otherwise will be discriminatory
and violative of the equal protection of the laws (See Loong vs. COMELEC,
305 SCRA 832 [1999]).
"As pronounced by the Supreme Court
in Mitmug vs. Commission on Elections (230 SCRA 54 [1994]), allegations of
fraud and other election irregularities are better ventilated in an election
contest:
'. . ., the question of whether there have been terrorism and other
irregularities is better ventilated in an election contest. These
irregularities may not as a rule be invoked to declare a failure of
election and to disenfranchise the electorate through the misdeeds of
a relative few. Otherwise, elections will never be carried out with the
resultant disenfranchisement of innocent voters as losers will always
cry fraud and terrorism.
'There can be failure of election in a political unit only if the will of the
majority has been defiled and cannot be ascertained. But, if it can be
determined, it must be accorded respect. After all, there is no
provision in our election laws which requires that a majority of
registered voters must cast their votes. All the law requires is that a
winning candidate must be elected by a plurality of valid votes,
regardless of the actual number of ballots cast. Thus, even if less
than 25% of the electorate in the questioned precincts cast their
votes, the same must still be respected. There is prima facie showing
that private respondent was elected through a plurality of valid votes
of a valid constituency.'" 9

We reiterate our ruling in Benito vs. COMELEC 10 that there is failure of elections only when
the will of the electorate has been muted and cannot be ascertained. In the case at bar, this
incident is not present.
In sum, we find no reason to disturb the assailed Resolution of the COMELEC.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.
||| (Hadji Rasul Batabor v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 160428, [July 21, 2004], 478 PHIL 795-802)

[G.R. No. 142907. November 29, 2000.]


JOSE EMMANUEL L. CARLOS, petitioner, vs. HON. ADORACION
G. ANGELES, IN HER CAPACITY AS THE ACTING PRESIDING JUDGE OF
THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IN CALOOCAN CITY (BRANCH 125) and
ANTONIO M. SERAPIO, respondents.
Pimentel Yusingco Pimentel & Garcia Law Offices for petitioner.
Election Law Cases

Pete Quirino-Quadra for private respondent.


SYNOPSIS
On May 21, 1998, the Municipal Board of Canvassers, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, proclaimed
petitioner Jose Emmanuel L. Carlos as the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela having obtained
102,688 votes, the highest number of votes, over that of respondent Antonio M. Serapio who
obtained 77,270 votes. On June 1, 1998, respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court,
Valenzuela, Metro Manila, an election protest challenging the election results. The RTC of
Caloocan City, Branch 125, rendered its decision and set aside the final tally of valid votes
because of its finding of "significant badges of fraud." Despite the plurality of valid votes in
favor of protestee Carlos, the trial court set aside his proclamation and declared protestant
Serapio as duly elected mayor of Valenzuela City. On May 4, 2000, petitioner appealed to the
Comelec, but on May 8, 2000, petitioner filed the instant petition for certiorari and
prohibition.
The Supreme Court found the petition meritorious. Both the Supreme Court and Comelec
have concurrent jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition andmandamus over
decisions of regional trial courts in election cases involving elective municipal officials. The
court that takes jurisdiction first shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the case, which in
this case is the Supreme Court. Petitioner's appeal to the Comelec would not bar the present
action for certiorari because appeal is not a speedy and adequate remedy. The proper
remedy is an action before the Comelec en banc to declare a failure of election or to annul
the election. However, the case below was an election protest case involving an elective
municipal position which falls within the jurisdiction of the regional trial court. Petitioner
admittedly received 17,007 valid votes more than the respondent and, therefore, the
nullification of the election would not lie. Elections are won on the basis of a majority or
plurality of votes cast and received by the candidates. The trial court gravely abused its
discretion in rendering the decision proclaiming respondent Serapio the duly elected mayor
of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, on the basis of its perception of the voice of the people of
Valenzuela, even without a majority or plurality votes cast in his favor. Contrary to its own
finding that petitioner obtained 83,600 valid votes against 66,602 valid votes for the
respondent as second placer, or a plurality of 17,007 votes, the trial court declared the
second placer as the winner, a blatant abuse of judicial discretion.
SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; SUPREME COURT AND COMELEC HAVE
CONCURRENT JURISDICTION TO ISSUE WRITS OF CERTIORARI, PROHIBITION
AND MANDAMUS OVER DECISIONS OF TRIAL COURT OF GENERAL JURISDICTION IN ELECTION
CASES INVOLVING ELECTIVE MUNICIPAL OFFICIALS. The Comelec has original jurisdiction
to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus involving election cases in aid of its
appellate jurisdiction. This point has been settled in the case of Relampagos vs. Cumba,
where we held: "In the face of the foregoing disquisitions, the court must, as it now does,
abandon the ruling in the Garcia and Uy andVeloria cases. We now hold that the last
paragraph of Section 50 of B.P. Blg. 697 providing as follows: The Commission is vested with
exclusive authority to hear and decide petitions for certiorari, prohibition
and mandamus involving election cases. remains in full force and effect but only in such
cases where, under paragraph (2), Section 1, Article IX-C of the Constitution, it has exclusive
appellate jurisdiction. Simply put, the COMELEC has the authority to issue the extraordinary
writs of certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus only in aid of its appellate jurisdiction."
Consequently, both the Supreme Court and Comelec have concurrent jurisdiction to issue
writs ofcertiorari, prohibition, and mandamus over decisions of trial courts of general
jurisdiction (regional trial courts) in election cases involving elective municipal officials. The
Court that takes jurisdiction first shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the case. Ergo, this
Court has jurisdiction over the present petition of certiorari as a special civil action expressly
conferred on it and provided for in the Constitution.
2. ID.; ID.; ELECTION; EXPLAINED; A DEFEATED CANDIDATE CANNOT BE DEEMED ELECTED
TO THE OFFICE. In this jurisdiction, an election means "the choice or selection of
candidates to public office by popular vote" through the use of the ballot, and the elected
Election Law Cases

officials of which are determined through the will of the electorate. "An election is the
embodiment of the popular will, the expression of the sovereign power of the people."
"Specifically, the term 'election,' in the context of the Constitution, may refer to the conduct
of the polls, including the listing of voters, the holding of the electoral campaign, and the
casting and counting of votes." The winner is the candidate who has obtained a majority or
plurality of valid votes cast in the election. "Sound policy dictates that public elective offices
are filled by those who receive the highest number of votes cast in the election for that
office. For, in all republican forms of government the basic idea is that no one can be
declared elected and no measure can be declared carried unless he or it receives a majority
or plurality of the legal votes cast in the election." In case of protest, a revision or recount of
the ballots cast for the candidates decides the election protest case. The candidate receiving
the highest number or plurality of votes shall be proclaimed the winner. Even if the
candidate receiving the majority votes is ineligible or disqualified, the candidate receiving
the next highest number of votes or the second placer, can not be declared elected. "The
wreath of victory cannot be transferred from the disqualified winner to the repudiated loser
because the law then as now only authorizes a declaration of election in favor of the person
who has obtained a plurality of votes and does not entitle a candidate receiving the next
highest number of votes to be declared elected." In other words, "a defeated candidate
cannot be deemed elected to the office."
3. ID.; ID.; ELECTION; ELECTIONS ARE WON ON THE BASIS OF THE MAJORITY OR PLURALITY
OF VOTES CAST AND RECEIVED BY THE CANDIDATES. The annulment of an election on the
ground of fraud, irregularities and violations of election laws may be raised as an incident to
an election contest. Such grounds for annulment of an election may be invoked in an
election protest case. However, an election must not be nullified and the voters
disenfranchised whenever it is possible to determine a winner on the basis of valid votes
cast, and discard the illegally cast ballots. In this case, the petitioner admittedly received
17,007 valid votes more than the protestee, and therefore the nullification of the election
would not lie. The power to nullify an election must be exercised with the greatest care with
a view not to disenfranchise the voters, and only under circumstances that clearly call for
such drastic remedial measure. As heretofore stated, in this jurisdiction, elections are won
on the basis of a majority or plurality of votes cast and received by the candidates. "The
right to hold an elective office is rooted on electoral mandate, not perceived entitlement to
the office."
4. ID.; ID.; FAILURE OF ELECTIONS; INSTANCES WHERE A FAILURE OF ELECTIONS MAY BE
DECLARED. In a petition to annul an election under Section 6, Batas Pambansa Blg. 881,
two conditions must be averred in order to support a sufficient cause of action. These are:
(1) the illegality must affect more than 50% of the votescast and (2) the good votes can be
distinguished from the bad ones. It is only when these two conditions are established that
the annulment of the election can be justified because the remaining votes do not constitute
a valid constituency. We have held that: "To declare a failure of election, two (2) conditions
must occur: first, no voting has taken place in the precincts concerned on the date fixed by
law or, even if there were voting, the election nevertheless resulted in a failure to elect; and,
second, the votes not cast would affect the result of the election." Neither of these
conditions was present in the case at bar. More recently, we clarified that, "Under the
pertinent codal provision of the Omnibus Election Code, there are only three (3) instances
where a failure of elections may be declared, namely: (a) the election in any polling place
has not been held on the date fixed on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud,
or other analogous causes; (b) the election in any polling place had been suspended before
the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting on account of force majeure, violence,
terrorism, fraud, or other analogous causes; or (c) after the voting and during the
preparation and transmission of the election returns or in the custody or canvass thereof,
such election results in a failure to elect on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism,
fraud, or other analogous causes."
5. ID.; ID.; PROCLAIMING A MAYORIAL CANDIDATE WINNER IN THE ELECTION ON THE BASIS
OF PERCEPTION OF THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, EVEN WITHOUT A MAJORITY OR PLURALITY
Election Law Cases

VOTES CAST IN HIS FAVOR IS VOID. We find that the trial court committed a grave abuse
of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in rendering its decision proclaiming
respondent Serapio the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, on the basis of its
perception of the voice of the people of Valenzuela, even without a majority or plurality
votes cast in his favor. In fact, without a single vote in his favor as the trial court discarded
all the votes. Thus, the decision is not supported by the highest number of valid votes cast
in his favor. This violated the right to due process of law of petitioner who was not heard on
the issue of failure of election, an issue that was not raised by the protestant. "A decision is
void for lack of due process if, as a result, a party is deprived of the opportunity of being
heard." The trial court can not decide the election protest case outside the issues raised. If it
does, as in this case, the trial court is ousted of its jurisdiction. Likewise, it is a basic
principle that a decision with absolutely nothing to support it is void. "A void decision may
be assailed or impugned at any time either directly or collaterally, by means of a petition
filed in the same case or by means of a separate action, or by resisting such decision in any
action or proceeding where it is invoked." Here, the trial court indulged in speculations on its
view of the voice of the people, and decided the case disregarding the evidence, but on its
own intuition,ipse dixit. How was this voice communicated to the trial court? Certainly not by
competent evidence adduced before the court as it should be, but by extra-sensory
perception. This is invalid in law. Contrary to its own finding that petitioner obtained 83,600
valid votes against 66,602 valid votes for the respondent as second placer, or a plurality of
17,007 votes, the trial court declared the second placer as the winner. This is a blatant
abuse of judicial discretion by any account. It is a raw exercise of judicial function in an
arbitrary or despotic manner, amounting to evasion of the positive duty to act in accord with
law. HSCATc

6. REMEDIAL LAW; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTIONS; CERTIORARI; EXPLAINED. In a special civil


action for certiorari, the burden is on petitioner to prove not merely reversible error, but
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the public
respondent Judge. "By grave abuse of discretion is meant capricious and whimsical exercise
of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Mere abuse of discretion is not enough. It
must be grave abuse of discretion as when the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic
manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and must be so patent and so gross as to
amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined
or to act at all in contemplation of law." We must emphasize that election to office is
determined by the highest number of votes obtained by a candidate in the election.
||| (Carlos v. Angeles, G.R. No. 142907, [November 29, 2000], 400 PHIL 405-430)

[G.R. Nos. L-49705-09. February 8, 1979.]


TOMATIC ARATUC, SERGIO TOCAO, CISCOLARIO DIAZ, FRED TAMULA,
MANGONTAWAR GURO and BONIFACIO LEGASPI, petitioners, vs.
TheCOMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, REGIONAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS
for Region XII (Central Mindanao), ABDULLAH DIMAPORO, JESUS
AMPARO, ANACLETO BADOY, et al., respondents.
[G.R. Nos. L-49717-21.]
LINANG MANDANGAN, petitioner, vs.
THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, The REGIONAL BOARD OF
CANVASSERS for Region XII, and ERNESTO ROLDAN, respondents.
Lino M. Patajo for petitioners in G.R. No. L-49705-09 and for private respondent in
G.R. No. L-49717-21.
Estanislao A. Fernandez for private respondents in G.R. No. L-49705-09 and for
petitioner in G.R. No. L-49717-21.
Office of the Solicitor General for public respondents.
SYNOPSIS
Over the objection of the Konsensiya ng Bayan (KB) candidates, the Regional Board of
Canvassers of Region XII issued a resolution declaring all the eight Kilusan ng Bagong
Election Law Cases

Lipunan (KBL) candidates elected representatives to the Batasang Pambansa. The KB


candidates appealed the resolution to the Comelec which consequently issued the now
assailed resolution declaring seven KBL candidates and one KB candidates as having obtain
the first eight places, and ordering the Regional Board of Canvassers to proclaim the winning
candidates. The Aratuc petition alleged that the Comelec in arriving at its conclusion
committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. The Mandangan
petition, on the other hand, claims that it was error of law for Comelec to consider spurious
and manufactured the returns in voting centers showing that the votes of the candidates
obtaining the highest number of votes exceeded the highest possible number of valid votes,
because the excess was not more than 40% as was the rule followed in Bashier/Basman (L-
33758, February 24, 1972), and that the Comelec exceeded its jurisdiction and denied due
process to petitioner in extending its inquiry beyond the election records of "the 878 voting
centers examined by the KB experts and passed upon by the Regional Board of Canvassers"
and in excluding from the canvass the returns form voting centers showing 90% to 100%
voting in places where military operations were certified by the army to be going on, the
same being unsupported by evidence.
The Supreme Court found no grave abuse of discretion in the actuations of the Comelec and
in Mandangan held (1) that considering the historical antecedents relative to the highly
questionable manner in which elections have been held in the past in the provinces
involved, the Comelec may deem spurious and manufactured the returns in voting centers
showing that the votes of the candidates obtaining the highest number of valid votes
exceeded the highest possible number of votes cast therein even if the excess number of
votes were not more than 40%; and (2) that the Comelec could extend its inquiry beyond
that undertaken by the Board of Canvassers and take cognizance of the fact that voting
centers affected by military operations have been transferred to the poblaciones, because as
a superior body having supervision and control over the Board of Canvassers, it may do
directly what the latter was supposed or ought to have done. In Aratuc et al., the Supreme
Court found that the Comelec did consider the high percentage of voting coupled with mass
substitute voting as proof that the pertinent returns had been manufactured, and that apart
from presuming regularity in the performance of its duties, the Comelec had adhered to the
Supreme Court's guidelines in examining and passing on the returns from the voting centers
and in denying petitioner's motion for the opening of ballot boxes concerned. Further, the
High Court stated, it might disagree with the Comelec as to which voting center should be
excluded or included, but still a case of grave abuse of discretion would not come out
considering that Comelec, which concededly is in a better position to appreciate and assess
the vital circumstances clearly and accurately, cannot be said to have acted whimsically or
capriciously, or without basis.
Petition dismissed.
SYLLABUS
Of the Ruling of the Court
1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; NATURE AND EXTENT OF SUPREME COURT'S POWER OF
CERTIORARI OVER DECISIONS, ORDERS, AND RULINGS OF THE COMELEC UNDER THE 1978
CONSTITUTION. While under the constitution of 1935 "the decisions, orders, and rulings of
the Commissions shall be subject to review by the Supreme Court" (Section 2, first par.,
Article X), the 1973 Constitution provides somewhat differently thus: "Any decision, order or
ruling of the Commission may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by the
aggrieved party within 30 days from his receipt of a copy thereof" (Section II, Article XII),
even as it ordains that the Commission shall "be the sole judge of all contests relating to the
election returns and qualifications of all members of the National Assembly and elective
provincial and city officials" (Section 2(2), Article XII). Correspondingly, the Election Code of
1978, which is the first legislative construction of these pertinent constitutional provisions,
makes the Commission also the "sole judge of all pre-proclamation controversies" and
further provides that "any of its decisions, orders or rulings (in such controversies) shall be
final and executory", just as in election contests, "the decisions of the Commission shall be
final and appealable" (Section 192). The framers of the new Constitution must be presumed
Election Law Cases

to have definite knowledge of what its means to make the decisions, orders and rulings of
the Commission "subject to review by the Supreme Court". And since instead of maintaining
that provision intact, it ordained that the Commission's actuations be instead brought to the
Supreme Court on certiorari", the Supreme Court cannot insist that there was no intent to
change the nature of the remedy, considering that the limited scope of certiorari, compared
to a review, is well known in remedial law. A review includes digging into the merits or
unearthing errors of judgment, while certiorari deals exclusively with grave abuse of
discretion, which may not exist even when the decision is otherwise erroneous. Certiorari
implies indifferent disregard of the law, arbitrariness and caprice, an omission to weigh
pertinent considerations, a decision arrived at without rational deliberation. While the effects
of an error of judgment may not differ from that of an indiscretion, as a matter of policy,
there are matters that by their nature ought to be left for final determination to the sound
discretion of certain officers or entities, reserving it to the Supreme Court to insure the
faithful observance of due process only in cases of patent arbitrariness.
2. CERTIORARI; GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION; CONSIDERING AS SPURIOUS VOTES
EXCEEDING THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE NUMBER OF VALID VOTES THAT CAN BE CAST IN A
VOTING CENTER, NOT A CASE OF. It is not grave abuse of discretion for the Comelec to
deem as spurious and manufactured votes exceeding the highest possible number of valid
votes that can be cast in a voting center even if the total number of excess votes in the
voting center is not more than 40%, considering the historical antecedents relative to the
highly questionable manner in which elections have been held in the past in the provinces
involved in this case, of which the Supreme Court has judicial notice.
3. ID.; ID.; NOT A CASE OF; COMELEC MAY DO DIRECTLY WHAT THE BOARD OF CANVASSERS
IS SUPPOSED TO DO OR OUGHT TO HAVE DONE. Under Section 168 of the Revised
Election Code of 1978, the Comelec shall have direct control and supervision of the board of
canvassers, and that relatedly Section 175 of the same Code provides that it "shall be the
sole judge of all pre-proclamation controversies." The authority of the Commission in
reviewing actuations of the board of canvassers does not spring from any appellate
jurisdiction conferred by any specific provision of law, for there is none such provision any
where in the Election Code, but from the plenary prerogative of direct control and
supervision endowed by Section 168 of the Code. And in administrative law, it is a too well
settled postulate to need any supporting citation, that a superior body or office having
supervision and control over another may do directly what the latter is supposed to do or
ought to have done.
4. ID.; ID.; ERRORS OF JUDGMENT NOT REVIEWABLE BY THE SUPREME COURT. Where it
appears from the records that the Comelec has taken pains to consider as meticulously as
the nature of the evidence presented by both parties would permit all the contentions of
petitioners relative to the weight that should be given to such evidence, the Supreme Court
will not hold that the Comelec acted wantonly and arbitrarily in drawing its conclusions. If
errors there are in any of those conclusions, they are errors of judgment which are not
reviewable in certiorari, so long as they are founded on substantial evidence.
5. ID.; ID.; NOT A CASE OF; WHERE COMELEC PASSED UPON RETURNS USING COMMON
SENSE AND PERCEPTION ONLY; PRESUMPTION OF REGULARITY IN THE PERFORMANCE OF
DUTIES. Where the Comelec did not examine the questioned election returns with the aid
of experts but "using common sense and perception only", apart from presuming regularity
in the performance of its duties, a case of grave abuse of discretion would not come out,
considering that Comelec cannot be said to have acted whimsically or capriciously or
without any rational basis, particularity if it is considered that in many respects and from the
very nature of the Supreme Court's and the Commission's respective functions, the
Commission is in a better position to appreciate and assess the vital circumstances closely
and accurately.
6. ID.; NON-IDENTIFICATION OF BALLOT BOXES IN DEFECTIVE CONDITIONS DOES NOT
CONSTITUTE GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHERE COMELEC HAS EXAMINED, STUDIED AND
PASSED UPON THE RECORDS RELATED THERETO. Non-identification of defective ballot
boxes by the Comelec does not constitute grave abuse of discretion where it has examined,
Election Law Cases

studied and passed upon the records related thereto. If at all, deeper inquiry into this point
would be of real value in an electoral protest.
||| (Aratuc v. COMELEC, G.R. Nos. L-49705-09, [February 8, 1979], 177 PHIL 205-246)
[G.R. No. 150477. February 28, 2005.]
LAZARO C. GAYO, petitioner, vs. VIOLETA G. VERCELES, respondent.
DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J p:
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision 1 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Agoo, La Union, Branch 32, in EPC A-07, dismissing a petition for quo warranto filed by
petitioner Lazaro C. Gayo to declare as null and void the proclamation of respondent Violeta
G. Verceles as Mayor of the Municipality of Tubao, La Union, during the May 14, 2001
elections.
This case proceeded from the following antecedents:
Sometime in 1977, the respondent migrated to the United States of America (U.S.A.) with
her family to look for greener pastures. Although her husband was granted American
citizenship, she retained her citizenship as a Filipino. 2 In 1993, she returned to the
Philippines for good. The following year, she was appointed as Treasurer of the B.P. Verceles
Foundation 3 and regularly attended the meetings of its Board of Directors. 4
In 1995, the respondent registered herself as a voter of Precinct No. 16 in Tubao, La
Union. 5 As certified by the Assistant Revenue District Officer, Revenue District No. 3 of the
Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in San Fernando City, the respondent also filed her income
tax returns for the taxable years 1996 and 1997. 6 Between the years 1993 to 1997, the
respondent would travel to the U.S.A. to visit her children. 7
The respondent abandoned her status as lawful permanent resident of the U.S.A. effective
November 5, 1997 for the purpose of filing her candidacy for Mayor of Tubao, La Union in the
May 11, 1998 elections. On January 28, 1998, she surrendered her alien registration receipt
card before the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the American Embassy in
Manila. 8
The respondent ran in the May 11, 1998 elections and was elected Mayor of Tubao, La
Union. CIaASH
Thereafter, during the May 14, 2001 elections, the petitioner ran for re-election and won.
She was proclaimed as the duly-elected Mayor on May 16, 2001. 9
On May 26, 2001, the petitioner, also a candidate for Mayor during the May 2001 elections,
filed a petition for quo warranto with the RTC of Agoo, La Union. He prayed that (a) the
respondent be declared disqualified to hold the position of Mayor of Tubao, La Union; (b) the
respondent's proclamation as winner be declared null and void; and (c) the petitioner be
proclaimed as the duly-elected mayor. iatdcjur
In her Answer, the respondent argued that she had clearly and unequivocally shown,
through direct and positive acts, that she already renounced and waived her right to
permanently reside in the U.S.A. even before she surrendered her "green card" in 1998. As a
counterclaim, she prayed for the payment of attorney's fees and litigation expenses, moral
damages, and exemplary damages.
On October 12, 2001, the RTC rendered a Decision 10 dismissing the petition for quo
warranto. The RTC ruled that the respondent was qualified to occupy the position as
Municipal Mayor.
The RTC held that the respondent's act of registration as a voter, or of filing an income tax
return, does not constitute an abandonment or waiver of her status as a permanent resident
of the U.S.A. 11 Nonetheless, it declared that the respondent was no longer such permanent
resident during the May 2001 elections because she had already waived her green card
even prior to the filing of her certificate of candidacy when she first ran for mayor in the
1998 elections. 12 The RTC held that the waiver of the status as a permanent resident
under Sec. 68(e) 13 of the Omnibus Election Code is still effective. It ruled that Sec.
40(f) 14 of the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 did not repeal Sec. 68(e). For one,
there is nothing in the repealing clause of the LGC that indicates an intention to repeal or
modify the Omnibus Election Code. 15 Moreover, the two provisions are not inconsistent
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with each other. In fact, Section 68(e) of the Omnibus Election Code complements Section
40(f) of the LGC, in the sense that the former may supply the condition when permanent
residents may be qualified to run for public office. 16
Dissatisfied, the petitioner filed this petition for review based on the following ground:
THE TRIAL COURT HAS DEPARTED FROM THE ACCEPTED AND USUAL
COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS AND CONTRAVENED APPLICABLE LAW
AND JURISPRUDENCE IN DISMISSING THE PETITION DESPITE PRESENCE OF
LEGAL GROUND FOR ITS GRANT. 17
The fundamental issue in this case is whether or not the respondent was able to meet the
residency requirement for the position of municipal mayor during the May 2001 elections.
Before ruling on the substantive issues of the case, we note that the petitioner filed a
petition for review on certiorari with this Court under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. While a
petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 may be filed with this Court to assail the
decision of the RTC on questions of law, the rule is that the Court will not entertain direct
resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts, or where
exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within and calling
for the exercise of our primary jurisdiction. 18 The Court notes that the petitioner has not
relied on any such exceptional circumstances.
The remedy of the petitioner was to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals (CA) via a
writ of error under Rule 41 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. Section 2(a) of Rule 41
provides for the appeal to the CA of cases decided by the RTC in the exercise of its original
jurisdiction. The petition for quo warranto in this case was filed with and decided by the RTC
in its original jurisdiction; hence, the remedy of the petitioner was to appeal by writ of error
to the CA.
We also note that the contested term of office, which commenced on June 30, 2001, lasted
only until June 30, 2004. This petition, thus, has become moot and academic insofar as it
concerns the petitioner's right to the mayoralty seat in his municipality. 19 For this reason,
we resolve to accept the appeal and consider the case on the merits. Further, as we have
previously ruled, Courts will decide a question otherwise moot and academic if it is capable
of repetition, yet evading review and if it will aid in fostering free, orderly, and peaceful
elections. 20
The issue in this case involves one of the essential qualifications for running for public office,
that is, the one-year residency requirement prescribed under Section 39 of the LGC, thus:
SECTION 39. Qualifications.
(a) An elective local official must be a citizen of the Philippines; a registered
voter in the barangay, municipality, city, or province or, in the case of a
member of thesangguniang panlalawigan, sangguniang panlungsod,
or sangguniang bayan, the district where he intends to be elected; a
resident therein for at least one (1) year immediately preceding the day of
the election; and able to read and write Filipino or any local language or
dialect. EAcCHI
In interpreting this requirement, our ruling in Papandayan, Jr. v. Commission on
Elections 21 is instructive, thus:
The term "residence," as used in the election law, imports not only an
intention to reside in a fixed place but also personal presence in that place,
coupled with conduct indicative of such intention. "Domicile" denotes a fixed
permanent residence to which when absent for business or pleasure, or for
like reasons, one intends to return. . . . 22
More recently in Coquilla v. Commission on Elections, 23 we further clarified the meaning of
the term, and held as follows:
The term "residence" is to be understood not in its common acceptation as
referring to "dwelling" or "habitation," but rather to "domicile" or legal
residence, that is, the place where a party actually or constructively has his
permanent home, where he, no matter where he may be found at any given
time, eventually intends to return and remain (animus manendi). A domicile
Election Law Cases

of origin is acquired by every person at birth. It is usually the place where


the child's parents reside and continues (sic) until the same is abandoned by
acquisition of new domicile (domicile of choice). 24
In Caasi v. Court of Appeals, 25 we held that a Filipino citizen's immigration to a foreign
country constitutes an abandonment of his domicile and residence in the Philippines. In
other words, the acquisition of a permanent residency status in a foreign country constitutes
a renunciation of the status as a resident of the Philippines. On the other hand, the Court
explained in another case 26 that a new domicile is reacquired if the following conditions
concur:
. . . (1) [R]residence or bodily presence in the new locality; (2) an intention
to remain there; and (3) an intention to abandon the old domicile. There
must be animus manendi coupled with animus non revertendi. The purpose
to remain in or at the domicile of choice must be for an indefinite period of
time; the change of residence must be voluntary; and the residence at the
place chosen for the new domicile must be actual. 27
Applying case law to the present case, it can be said that the respondent effectively
abandoned her residency in the Philippines by her acquisition of the status of a permanent
U.S. resident. Nonetheless, we find that the respondent reacquired her residency in the
Philippines even before the holding of the May 2001 elections. The records show that she
surrendered her green card to the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the American
Embassy way back in 1998. By such act, her intention to abandon her U.S. residency could
not have been made clearer. Moreover, when she decided to relocate to the Philippines for
good in 1993, she continued living here and only went to the U.S.A. on periodic visits to her
children who were residing there. Moreover, she was elected Mayor in the 1998 elections
and served as such for the duration of her term. We find such acts sufficient to establish that
the respondent intended to stay in the Philippines indefinitely and, ultimately, that she has
once again made the Philippines her permanent residence. As we ruled in Perez
v. Commission on Elections: 28

When the evidence on the alleged lack of residence qualification is weak or


inconclusive and it clearly appears, as in the instant case, that the purpose
of the law would not be thwarted by upholding the right to the office, the will
of the electorate should be respected. In this case, considering the purpose
of the residency requirement,i.e., to ensure that the person elected is
familiar with the needs and problems of his constituency, there can be no
doubt that private respondent is qualified, having been governor of the
entire province of Cagayan for ten years immediately before his election as
Representative of that province's Third District. 29
The petitioner posits that, under existing law, the waiver of the status as a permanent
resident of a foreign country is no longer allowed to cure the disqualification, in case of
permanent residents abroad. He argues that the prevailing law is the LGC of 1991 which
impliedly repealed Sec. 68 of the Omnibus Election Code for being inconsistent. He asserts
that the inconsistency lies in the fact that Section 40(f) of the LGC does not provide for the
waiver of the status as permanent residents in a foreign country which, on the other hand, is
provided under Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code. He contends that under Section
40(f) of the LGC, permanent residents or those who have acquired the right to reside abroad
and continue to avail of the same right even after the effectivity of the law on January 1,
1992, are disqualified from running for any local elective position. Hence, the petitioner
argues, since the respondent continued to avail of the right to reside permanently in the
U.S.A. until 1997, the respondent was disqualified from running for mayor during the May
2001 elections.
The respondent counters that the petitioner's interpretation of Sec. 40(f) of the LGC of 1991
is patently illogical, absurd, and myopic, if not totally outrageous. Such interpretation would,
in effect, forever ban Filipinos from running for local elective positions, that is, those who are
permanent residents abroad and who have failed to abandon their status as such after the
Election Law Cases

effectivity of the LGC. 30 The respondent avers that the provision simply means that after
the effectivity of the LGC, permanent residents in a foreign country or those who have
acquired the right to reside there and continue to avail of the said right are disqualified from
running for any elective local position. She argues therefore that she is no longer disqualified
because, at the time she ran for office, she already ceased to avail of her right as a
permanent U.S. resident or immigrant. 31
We agree with the respondent. Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code was not repealed by
the LGC of 1991. The repealing clause of the LGC, Section 534, 32 does not specifically
mention a repeal of any provision of the Omnibus Election Code. The legislature is presumed
to know the existing laws, such that whenever it intends to repeal a particular or specific
provision of law, it does so expressly. The failure to add a specific repealing clause
particularly mentioning the statute to be repealed indicates that the intent was not to repeal
any existing law on the matter, unless an irreconcilable inconsistency and repugnancy exists
in the terms of the new and the old laws. 33
In this case, we discern no irreconcilable inconsistency between Section 68 of the Omnibus
Election Code and Section 40(f) of the LGC. Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code
provides in part:
Any person who is a permanent resident of or an immigrant to a foreign
country shall not be qualified to run for any elective office under this Code,
unless said person has waived his status as a permanent resident or
immigrant of a foreign country in accordance with the residence
requirement provided for in the election laws. acAIES
On the other hand, Sec. 40(f) of the LGC provides that "permanent residents in a foreign
country or those who have acquired the right to reside abroad and continue to avail of the
same right after the effectivity of this Code" are disqualified from running for any elective
local position.
The two provisions are basically the same in that they both provide that permanent
residents or immigrants to a foreign country are disqualified from running for any local
elective position. The difference lies only in the fact that Section 68 of the Omnibus Election
Code specifically provides for an exception to the disqualification. This does not make the
two provisions inconsistent with each other.
Moreover, the two provisions are in pari materia they relate to the same subject matter.
Statutes in pari materia, although in apparent conflict, are so far as reasonably possible
construed to be in harmony with each other. 34 Thus, the RTC correctly made the following
observations:
The deletion is based on the premise that once a person waives or abandons
his status as a permanent resident or immigrant of a foreign country he has,
therefore, ceased to be such from the time of the waiver or abandonment.
The phrase as used in Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code is a
catchphrase or a conditional clause on how a permanent resident or
immigrant of a foreign country could fall outside the coverage of the
prohibition. The legislature found the inclusion of the phrase unnecessary or,
with no offense meant to the framers of Batas Pambansa [Blg.] 881, a
surplusage, so to speak. Hence, the deletion.
So that, the absence of that conditional clause in Section 40(f) of the Local
Government Code may be supplied by Section 68(e) of the Omnibus Election
Code as both provisions relate to the same subject matter and purpose;
hence, in pari materia. And, when statutes are in pari materia, they are to
be "construed together; each legislative intent is to be interpreted with
reference to other acts relating to the same matter or subject." (Black,
Construction and Interpretation of Laws, 2nd ed., p. 331) 35
Finally, the respondent avers that in the event of her disqualification from holding office, the
petitioner cannot assume the mayoralty post because he did not obtain a plurality of votes
for the position.
Election Law Cases

The rule is well settled. The ineligibility of a candidate receiving majority votes does not
entitle the eligible candidate receiving the next highest number of votes to be declared
elected. A minority or defeated candidate cannot be deemed elected to the office. As we
held in Reyes v. Commission on Elections: 36
To simplistically assume that the second placer would have received the
other votes would be to substitute our judgment for the mind of the voter.
The second placer is just that, a second placer. He lost the elections. He was
repudiated by either a majority or plurality of voters. He could not be
considered the first among qualified candidates because in a field which
excludes the disqualified candidate, the conditions would have substantially
changed. We are not prepared to extrapolate the results under the
circumstances. 37
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision of the
Regional Trial Court of Agoo, La Union, Branch 32, in EPC No. A-07 is AFFIRMED.EcSCAD
SO ORDERED.
||| (Gayo v. Verceles, G.R. No. 150477, [February 28, 2005], 492 PHIL 592-604)

[G.R. No. 192221. November 13, 2012.]

CASIMIRA S. DELA CRUZ, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and JOHN

LLOYD M. PACETE, respondents.

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J p:

With the adoption of automated election system in our country, one of the emerging concerns

is the application of the law on nuisance candidates under a new voting system wherein voters

indicate their choice of candidates by shading the oval corresponding to the name of their chosen

candidate printed on the ballots, instead of writing the candidate's name on the appropriate space

provided in the ballots as in previous manual elections. If the name of a nuisance candidate whose

certificate of candidacy had been cancelled by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) was still

included or printed in the official ballots on election day, should the votes cast for such nuisance

candidate be considered stray or counted in favor of the bona fide candidate?

The Case

In this petition for certiorari with prayer for injunctive relief/s under Rule 65 in conjunction with

Section 2, Rule 64 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, filed on May 31,
2010, Casimira S. Dela Cruz (petitioner) assails COMELEC Resolution No. 8844 1 considering as stray
Election Law Cases

the votes cast in favor of certain candidates who were either disqualified or whose COCs had been

cancelled/denied due course but whose names still appeared in the official ballots or certified lists of

candidates for the May 10, 2010 elections.

Petitioner prays for the following reliefs: DHTCaI

1.Upon the filing of the instant Petition, a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of

Preliminary Injunction be issued enjoining the taking of oath and assumption into office

of Private Respondent John Lloyd Pacete as Vice-Mayor of the Municipality of

Bugasong;

2.After the Petition is submitted for resolution, a decision be rendered granting the
instant Petition and:

(a)declaring as null and void the portion of COMELEC Resolution No. 8844

considering as stray the votes cast in favor of the disqualified nuisance

candidate Aurelio N. Dela Cruz;

(b)ordering that the votes cast in favor of Aurelio N. Dela Cruz be counted and

tallied in favor of Petitioner Casimira S. Dela Cruz pursuant to COMELEC

Resolution No. 4116; and

(c)requiring the Regional Trial Court of the Province of Antique where the

Petitioner's Election Protest is pending to proclaim as Vice-Mayor of the

Municipality of Bugasong the candidate who obtained the highest number of

votes after the votes in favor of nuisance candidate Aurelio N. Dela Cruz is

counted and tallied to the votes garnered by Petitioner Casimira S. Dela Cruz.

3.Permanently enjoining the taking of oath and assumption into office of Private

Respondent if Petitioner is proclaimed as the Vice-Mayor of the Municipality of

Bugasong, Province of Antique.

Other just and equitable reliefs are likewise prayed for. 2

Factual Antecedents

In the 2001, 2004 and 2007 elections, petitioner ran for and was elected member of

the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Bugasong, Antique. On November 28, 2009, petitioner filed her
certificate of candidacy 3 for the position of Vice-Mayor of the Municipality of Bugasong, Province of
Election Law Cases

Antique under the ticket of the National People's Coalition (NPC). Subsequently, Aurelio
N. Dela Cruz (Aurelio) also filed a certificate of candidacy 4 for the same position. IATSHE

On December 6, 2009, petitioner filed a petition 5 to declare Aurelio a nuisance candidate on

the ground that he filed his certificate of candidacy for the vice-mayoralty position to put the election

process in mockery and to cause confusion among voters due to the similarity of his surname with

petitioner's surname. Petitioner emphasized that she is considered a very strong candidate for the

said position having been elected as member of the SB for three consecutive terms under the ticket of

the NPC and obtained the fifth (2001), fourth (2004) and third (2007) highest number of votes. In

contrast, Aurelio is an unknown in the political scene with no prior political experience as an elective

official and no political party membership. Being a retiree and having no known business, Aurelio has
no sufficient source of income but since the 2007 elections petitioner's opponents have been prodding

him to run for the same position as petitioner in order to sow confusion and thwart the will of the

voters of Bugasong. Petitioner further cited Aurelio's miserable showing in the previous local elections

when he ran and garnered only 126 and 6 votes for the positions of SB member (May 2007) and

barangay captain of Barangay Maray, Bugasong (November 2007), respectively. CitingBautista v.


COMELEC, 6 petitioner asserted that these circumstances clearly demonstrate Aurelio's lack of

a bona fide intention and capability to run for the position of Vice-Mayor, thus preventing a faithful

determination of the true will of the electorate. cSICHD

On January 29, 2010, the COMELEC First Division issued a Resolution 7 declaring Aurelio as

a nuisance candidate and cancelling his certificate of candidacy for the vice-mayoralty position in

Bugasong.

Despite the declaration of Aurelio as a nuisance candidate, however, his name was not
deleted in the Certified List of Candidates 8 and Official Sample Ballot 9issued by the COMELEC.

The names of the candidates for Vice-Mayor, including Aurelio and respondent John Lloyd M. Pacete,

appeared on the Official Sample Ballot as follows:


VICE-MAYOR
Vote for not more than 1
O 1. DELA CRUZ, Aurelio N. O 2. DELA CRUZ, CasimiraS. O 3. PACETE, John Lloyd M.
"REL" (IND.) "MIRAY" (NPC) "BINGBING" (NP)

Consequently, petitioner filed on March 23, 2010, an Urgent Ex-Parte Omnibus


Motion 10 praying, among other things, that COMELEC issue an order directing the deletion of

Aurelio's name from the Official List of Candidates for the position of Vice-Mayor, the Official Ballots,
Election Law Cases

and other election paraphernalia to be used in Bugasong for the May 2010 elections. She also prayed

that in the event Aurelio's name can no longer be deleted in time for the May 10, 2010 elections, the

COMELEC issue an order directing that all votes cast in favor of Aurelio be credited in her favor, in

accordance with COMELEC Resolution No. 4116 dated May 7, 2001.

On May 1, 2010, the COMELEC En Banc issued Resolution No. 8844 11 listing the names of

disqualified candidates, including Aurelio, and disposing as follows:

NOW THEREFORE, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES,

as follows:

1.to delete the names of the foregoing candidates from the certified list of
candidates; and

2.to consider stray the votes of said candidates, if voted

upon. 12 (Emphasis supplied)

On May 10, 2010, the first automated national and local elections proceeded as scheduled.

Aurelio's name remained in the official ballots.

During the canvassing of the votes by the Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBOC) of

Bugasong on May 13, 2010, petitioner insisted that the votes cast in favor of Aurelio be counted in her

favor. However, the MBOC refused, citing Resolution No. 8844. The Statement of Votes by Precinct
for Vice-Mayor of Antique-Bugasong13 showed the following results of the voting:
TOTAL RANK
DELA CRUZ, AURELIO N. 532 3
DELA CRUZ, CASIMIRA S. 6389 2
PACETE, JOHN LLOYD M. 6428 1

Consequently, on May 13, 2010, private respondent John Lloyd M. Pacete was proclaimed
Vice-Mayor of Bugasong by the MBOC of Bugasong. 14

On May 21, 2010, petitioner filed with the Regional Trial Court of the Province of Antique an

election protest praying for (1) the tallying in her favor of the 532 votes cast for Aurelio; (2) the

annulment of respondent Pacete's proclamation as Vice-Mayor of Bugasong; and (3) her

proclamation as winning candidate for the position of Vice-Mayor of Bugasong. EcTCAD

Petitioner's Arguments
Election Law Cases

Considering that private respondent won by a margin of only thirty-nine (39) votes over

petitioner's 6,389 votes, petitioner contends that she would have clearly won the elections for Vice-

Mayor of Bugasong had the MBOC properly tallied or added the votes cast for Aurelio to her votes.

Thus, petitioner insists she would have garnered a total of 6,921 votes as against the 6,428 votes of

private respondent. By issuing a directive to consider the votes cast for Aurelio as stray votes instead

of counting the same in favor of petitioner in accordance with COMELEC Resolution No. 4116, the

COMELEC's First Division gravely abused its discretion.

Petitioner argues that Resolution No. 8844 violates her constitutional right to equal protection

of the laws because there is no substantial difference between the previous manual elections and the

automated elections conducted in 2010 to justify non-observance of Resolution No. 4116 issued in
2001, particularly on the matter of votes cast for a candidate who was declared a nuisance candidate

in a final judgment where such nuisance candidate has the same name with that of the bona

fide candidate. Moreover, in contrast to the assailed resolution, COMELEC Resolution No. 4116

properly recognized the substantial distinctions between and among (a) disqualified candidates, (b)

nuisance candidates whose names are similar to those of the bona fide candidates, (c) nuisance

candidates who do not have similar names with those of the bona fide candidates, and (d) candidates

who had voluntarily withdrawn their certificates of candidacy. As a result of the failure of the

COMELEC's First Division to make these important distinctions when it issued Resolution No. 8844

that applies to disqualified candidates, nuisance candidates and all other candidates whose

certificates of candidacy had been cancelled or denied course, petitioner's right to due process was

clearly violated, and only made possible the very evil that is sought to be corrected by the former rule

not to consider the votes cast for the nuisance candidate as stray but count them in favor of the bona

fide candidate.

Respondents' Arguments

COMELEC maintains that there is a presumption of validity with respect to its exercise of

supervisory or regulatory authority in the conduct of elections. Also, the time-honored rule is that a

statute is presumed to be constitutional and that the party assailing it must discharge the burden of

clearly and convincingly proving its invalidity. Thus, to strike down a law as unconstitutional, there

must be a clear and unequivocal showing that what the law prohibits, the statute permits. In this case,

petitioner miserably failed to prove a clear breach of the Constitution; she merely invokes a violation

of the equal protection clause and due process of law without any basis.
Election Law Cases

On the claim of equal protection violation, COMELEC contends that there is a substantial

distinction between a manual election where Resolution No. 4116 applies, and an automated election

governed by Resolution No. 8844. While the votes for the nuisance candidate were not considered

stray but counted in favor of the bona fide candidate, this is no longer the rule for automated elections.

COMELEC cites the following factors which changed the previous rule: (1) the official ballots in

automated elections now contain the full names of the official candidates so that when a voter shaded

an oval, it was presumed that he carefully read the name adjacent to it and voted for that candidate,

regardless of whether said candidate was later declared disqualified or nuisance; (2) since the names

of the candidates are clearly printed on the ballots, unlike in manual elections when these were only

listed in a separate sheet of paper attached to the ballot secrecy folder, the voter's intention is clearly
to vote for the candidate corresponding to the shaded oval; (3) the rules on appreciation of ballots

under Section 211, Article XVIII of the Omnibus Election Code apply only to elections where the

names of candidates are handwritten in the ballots; and (4) with the use of the automated election

system where the counting of votes is delegated to the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS)

machines, pre-proclamation controversies, including complaints regarding the appreciation of ballots

and allegations of misreading the names of the candidates written, were flaws which the automation

rectified. Aside from being germane to the purpose of our election laws, Resolution No. 8844 is not

limited to existing conditions as it is applicable to all persons of the same class even in succeeding

elections, and covered all disqualified and nuisance candidates without distinction. CTAIDE

Lastly, COMELEC asserts there is no violation of the right to due process. For public office is

not a property right and no one has a vested right to any public office.

On his part, private respondent Pacete asserts that petitioner cannot validly claim the votes cast for

Aurelio in view of the rule provided in Section 211 (24) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, which cannot be
supplanted by Resolution No. 4116. He also cites an annotation on election law, 15 invoking this Court's

ruling in Kare v. COMELEC16 that the aforesaid provision when read together with Section 72, are

understood to mean that "any vote cast in favor of a candidate, whose disqualification has already been

declared final regardless of the ground therefor, shall be considered stray."

Private respondent also points out the fact that on May 4, 2010, COMELEC caused the

publication of Resolution No. 8844 in two newspapers of general circulation in the country. There was

thus an earnest effort on the part of COMELEC to disseminate the information, especially to the

voters in Bugasong, Antique, that the name of Aurelio was printed on the official ballots as one of the
Election Law Cases

candidates for Vice-Mayor. Said voters were amply forewarned about the status of Aurelio's candidacy

and the consequences that will obtain should he still be voted for. Additionally, the petitioner and

Aurelio bear different first names, female and male, respectively; petitioner and her political party

engaged in a massive voter education during the campaign period, emphasizing to her supporters

that she was given the corresponding number ("2") in the official ballots, and the voters should be very

circumspect in filling up their ballots because in case of error in filling up the same, they will not be

given replacement ballots. As to the Judicial Affidavits of those who voted for petitioner attesting to the

fact of mistakenly shading the oval beside the name of Aurelio in the ballots, which was attached to

the petition, petitioner in effect would want this Court to sit in judgment as trier of facts.

Ruling of the Court

The petition is meritorious. HSCATc

The only question that may be raised in a petition for certiorari under Section 2, Rule 64 of the Revised

Rules of Court is whether or not the COMELEC acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction. 17 For a petition for certiorari to prosper, there must be a clear showing of caprice

and arbitrariness in the exercise of discretion. There is also grave abuse of discretion when there is a
contravention of the Constitution, the law or existing jurisprudence. 18

COMELEC being a specialized agency tasked with the supervision of elections all over the country, its

factual findings, conclusions, rulings and decisions rendered on matters falling within its competence shall

not be interfered with by this Court in the absence of grave abuse of discretion or any jurisdictional
infirmity or error of law.19 In this case, Resolution No. 8844 issued by COMELEC clearly contravened

existing law and jurisprudence on the legal effect of declaration of a candidate as a nuisance candidate,

especially in the case of nuisance candidates who have the same surnames as those of bona

fide candidates.

Private respondent argues that no grave abuse of discretion can be imputed on COMELEC when it issued

Resolution No. 8844 which is simply consistent with the rule laid down in Section 211 (24), Article XVIII

and Section 72, Article IX of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, otherwise known as the Omnibus Election

Code (OEC). Said provisions state:

SEC. 72.Effects of Disqualification cases and priority. The Commission and the

courts shall give priority to cases of disqualification by reason of violation of this Act to

the end that a final decision shall be rendered not later than seven days before the
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election in which the disqualification is sought. Any candidate who has been declared

by final judgment to be disqualified shall not be voted for, and the votes cast for him

shall not be counted. Nevertheless, if for any reason, a candidate is not declared by

final judgment before an election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the

winning number of votes in such election, his violation of the provisions of the

preceding sections shall not prevent his proclamation and assumption of

office. cAaDHT

SEC. 211.Rules for the appreciation of ballots. In the reading and appreciation of

ballots, every ballot shall be presumed to be valid unless there is clear and good reason

to justify its rejection. The board of election inspectors shall observe the following rules,
bearing in mind that the object of the election is to obtain the expression of the voter's

will:

xxx xxx xxx

24.Any vote cast in favor of a candidate who has been disqualified by final judgment

shall be considered as stray and shall not be counted but it shall not invalidate the

ballot.

Private respondent cites the case of Kare v. COMELEC 20 where this Court, construing the above

provisions, stated:

According to the Comelec, Section 211 (24) of the OEC is a clear legislative policy that

is contrary to the rule that the second placer cannot be declared winner.

We disagree.

The provision that served as the basis of Comelec's Decision to declare the second

placer as winner in the mayoral race should be read in relation with other provisions of

the OEC. Section 72 thereof, as amended by RA 6646, provides as follows:

xxx xxx xxx

When read together, these provisions are understood to mean that any vote cast in
favor of a candidate, whose disqualification has already been declared finalregardless

of the ground therefor, shall be considered stray. The Comelec misconstrued this

provision by limiting it only to disqualification by conviction in a final judgment.


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Obviously, the disqualification of a candidate is not only by conviction in a final

judgment; the law lists other grounds for disqualification. It escapes us why the

Comelec insists that Section 211(24) of the OEC is strictly for those convicted by a final

judgment. Such an interpretation is clearly inconsistent with the other provisions of the
election code. 21 (Emphasis supplied; italics not ours) STcEIC

Private respondent thus suggests that regardless of the ground for disqualification, the votes cast for the

disqualified candidate should result in considering the votes cast for him as stray as explicitly mandated

by Section 211 (24) in relation to Section 72 of the OEC.

We disagree.

It bears to stress that Sections 211 (24) and 72 applies to all disqualification cases and not to petitions to

cancel or deny due course to a certificate of candidacy such as Sections 69 (nuisance candidates) and 78

(material representation shown to be false). Notably, such facts indicating that a certificate of candidacy

has been filed "to put the election process in mockery or disrepute, or to cause confusion among the

voters by the similarity of the names of the registered candidates, or other circumstances or acts which

clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office for which the

certificate of candidacy has been filed and thus prevent a faithful determination of the true will of the

electorate" are not among those grounds enumerated in Section 68 (giving money or material

consideration to influence or corrupt voters or public officials performing electoral functions, election

campaign overspending and soliciting, receiving or making prohibited contributions) of the OEC or Section
40 22 of Republic Act No. 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991).

In Fermin v. COMELEC, 23 this Court distinguished a petition for disqualification under Section 68 and a

petition to cancel or deny due course to a certificate of candidacy (COC) under Section 78. Said

proceedings are governed by different rules and have distinct outcomes. TCASIH

At this point, we must stress that a "Section 78" petition ought not to be interchanged or
confused with a "Section 68" petition. They are different remedies, based on

different grounds, and resulting in different eventualities. Private respondent's

insistence, therefore, that the petition it filed before the COMELEC in SPA No. 07-372 is

in the nature of a disqualification case under Section 68, as it is in fact captioned a

"Petition for Disqualification," does not persuade the Court.

xxx xxx xxx


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To emphasize, a petition for disqualification, on the one hand, can be premised on

Section 12 or 68 of the OEC, or Section 40 of the LGC. On the other hand, a petition to

deny due course to or cancel a CoC can only be grounded on a statement of a material

representation in the said certificate that is false. The petitions also have different
effects. While a person who is disqualified under Section 68 is merely prohibited

to continue as a candidate, the person whose certificate is cancelled or denied

due course under Section 78 is not treated as a candidate at all, as if he/she

never filed a CoC. Thus, in Miranda v. Abaya, this Court made the distinction that a

candidate who is disqualified under Section 68 can validly be substituted under Section

77 of the OEC because he/she remains a candidate until disqualified; but a person
whose CoC has been denied due course or cancelled under Section 78 cannot be
substituted because he/she is never considered a candidate. 24 (Additional emphasis

supplied)

Clearly, a petition to cancel or deny due course to a COC under Section 69 as in Section 78 cannot be

treated in the same manner as a petition to disqualify under Section 68 as what COMELEC did when it

applied the rule provided in Section 72 that the votes cast for a disqualified candidate be considered stray,

to those registered candidates whose COC's had been cancelled or denied due course. Strictly speaking,

a cancelled certificate cannot give rise to a valid candidacy, and much less to valid votes. Said votes

cannot be counted in favor of the candidate whose COC was cancelled as he/she is not treated as a

candidate at all, as if he/she never filed a COC. But should these votes cast for the candidate whose COC

was cancelled or denied due course be considered stray?

COMELEC Resolution No. 4116 issued in relation to the finality of resolutions or decisions in special

action cases, provides:

This pertains to the finality of decisions or resolutions of the Commission en banc or

division, particularly on Special Actions (Disqualification Cases).

Special Action cases refer to the following:

a)Petition to deny due course to a certificate of candidacy;

b)Petition to declare a candidate as a nuisance candidate;

c)Petition to disqualify a candidate; and


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d)Petition to postpone or suspend an election. aAcHCT

Considering the foregoing and in order to guide field officials on the finality of decisions

or resolutions on special action cases (disqualification cases) the Commission,

RESOLVES, as it is hereby RESOLVED, as follows:

(1)the decision or resolution of the En Banc of the Commission on disqualification

cases shall become final and executory after five (5) days from its promulgation unless

restrained by the Supreme Court;

xxx xxx xxx

(4)the decision or resolution of the En Banc on nuisance candidates, particularly


whether the nuisance candidate has the same name as the bona fide candidate shall

be immediately executory;

(5)the decision or resolution of a DIVISION on nuisance candidate, particularly

where the nuisance candidate has the same name as the bona fide candidate

shall be immediately executory after the lapse of five (5) days unless a motion for

reconsideration is seasonably filed. In which case, the votes cast shall not be

considered stray but shall be counted and tallied for the bona fide candidate.

All resolutions, orders and rules inconsistent here with are hereby modified or repealed.
(Emphasis supplied) 25

The foregoing rule regarding the votes cast for a nuisance candidate declared as such under a final
judgment was applied by this Court in Bautista v. COMELEC 26 where the name of the nuisance

candidate Edwin Bautista (having the same surname with the bona fide candidate) still appeared on the

ballots on election day because while the COMELEC rendered its decision to cancel Edwin Bautista's

COC on April 30, 1998, it denied his motion for reconsideration only on May 13, 1998 or three days after

the election. We said that the votes for candidates for mayor separately tallied on orders of the COMELEC

Chairman was for the purpose of later counting the votes and hence are not really stray votes. These

separate tallies actually made the will of the electorate determinable despite the apparent confusion

caused by a potential nuisance candidate. TAESDH

But since the COMELEC decision declaring Edwin Bautista a nuisance candidate was not yet final on

election day, this Court also considered those factual circumstances showing that the votes mistakenly
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deemed as "stray votes" refer to only the legitimate candidate (petitioner Efren Bautista) and could not

have been intended for Edwin Bautista. We further noted that the voters had constructive as well as actual

knowledge of the action of the COMELEC delisting Edwin Bautista as a candidate for mayor.

A stray vote is invalidated because there is no way of determining the real intention of

the voter. This is, however, not the situation in the case at bar. Significantly, it has also

been established that by virtue of newspaper releases and other forms of notification,

the voters were informed of the COMELEC's decision to declare Edwin Bautista a
nuisance candidate. 27

In the more recent case of Martinez III v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, 28 this Court

likewise applied the rule in COMELEC Resolution No. 4116 not to consider the votes cast for a nuisance

candidate stray but to count them in favor of the bona fide candidate notwithstanding that the decision to

declare him as such was issued only after the elections.

As illustrated in Bautista, the pendency of proceedings against a nuisance candidate on

election day inevitably exposes the bona fide candidate to the confusion over the

similarity of names that affects the voter's will and frustrates the same. It may be that

the factual scenario in Bautista is not exactly the same as in this case, mainly because

the Comelec resolution declaring Edwin Bautista a nuisance candidate was

issued before and not after the elections, with the electorate having been informed

thereof through newspaper releases and other forms of notification on the day of

election. Undeniably, however, the adverse effect on the voter's will was similarly

present in this case, if not worse, considering the substantial number of ballots with

only "MARTINEZ" or "C. MARTINEZ" written on the line for Representative over five

thousand which have been declared as stray votes, the invalidated ballots being

more than sufficient to overcome private respondent's lead of only 453 votes after the
recount. 29 CASIEa

Here, Aurelio was declared a nuisance candidate long before the May 10, 2010 elections. On the basis of

Resolution No. 4116, the votes cast for him should not have been considered stray but counted in favor of

petitioner. COMELEC's changing of the rule on votes cast for nuisance candidates resulted in the

invalidation of significant number of votes and the loss of petitioner to private respondent by a slim

margin. We observed in Martinez:


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Bautista upheld the basic rule that the primordial objective of election laws is to give

effect to, rather than frustrate, the will of the voter. The inclusion of nuisance candidates

turns the electoral exercise into an uneven playing field where the bona fide candidate

is faced with the prospect of having a significant number of votes cast for him

invalidated as stray votes by the mere presence of another candidate with a similar

surname. Any delay on the part of the COMELEC increases the probability of votes lost

in this manner. While political campaigners try to minimize stray votes by advising the

electorate to write the full name of their candidate on the ballot, still, election woes

brought by nuisance candidates persist.

The Court will not speculate on whether the new automated voting system to be
implemented in the May 2010 elections will lessen the possibility of confusion over the

names of candidates. What needs to be stressed at this point is the apparent failure of

the HRET to give weight to relevant circumstances that make the will of the
electorate determinable, following the precedent in Bautista. . . . 30 CaHAcT

COMELEC justified the issuance of Resolution No. 8844 to amend the former rule in Resolution No. 4116

by enumerating those changes brought about by the new automated election system to the form of official

ballots, manner of voting and counting of votes. It said that the substantial distinctions between manual

and automated elections validly altered the rules on considering the votes cast for the disqualified or

nuisance candidates. As to the rulings in Bautista and Martinez III,COMELEC opines that these find no

application in the case at bar because the rules on appreciation of ballots apply only to elections where

the names of candidates are handwritten in the ballots.

The Court is not persuaded.

In Martinez III, we took judicial notice of the reality that, especially in local elections, political rivals or

operators benefited from the usually belated decisions by COMELEC on petitions to cancel or deny due

course to COCs of potential nuisance candidates. In such instances, political campaigners try to minimize

stray votes by advising the electorate to write the full name of their candidate on the ballot, but still,
election woes brought by nuisance candidates persist. 31

As far as COMELEC is concerned, the confusion caused by similarity of surnames of candidates for the

same position and putting the electoral process in mockery or disrepute, had already been rectified by the

new voting system where the voter simply shades the oval corresponding to the name of their chosen
Election Law Cases

candidate. However, as shown in this case, COMELEC issued Resolution No. 8844 on May 1, 2010, nine

days before the elections, with sufficient time to delete the names of disqualified candidates not just from

the Certified List of Candidates but also from the Official Ballot. Indeed, what use will it serve if

COMELEC orders the names of disqualified candidates to be deleted from list of official candidates if the

official ballots still carry their names?

We hold that the rule in Resolution No. 4116 considering the votes cast for a nuisance candidate declared

as such in a final judgment, particularly where such nuisance candidate has the same surname as that of

the legitimate candidate, not stray but counted in favor of the latter, remains a good law. As earlier

discussed, a petition to cancel or deny a COC under Section 69 of the OEC should be distinguished from

a petition to disqualify under Section 68. Hence, the legal effect of such cancellation of a COC of a
nuisance candidate cannot be equated with a candidate disqualified on grounds provided in

the OEC and Local Government Code. EcTCAD

Moreover, private respondent admits that the voters were properly informed of the cancellation of COC of

Aurelio because COMELEC published the same before election day. As we pronounced in Bautista, the

voters' constructive knowledge of such cancelled candidacy made their will more determinable, as it is

then more logical to conclude that the votes cast for Aurelio could have been intended only for the

legitimate candidate, petitioner. The possibility of confusion in names of candidates if the names of

nuisance candidates remained on the ballots on election day, cannot be discounted or eliminated, even

under the automated voting system especially considering that voters who mistakenly shaded the oval

beside the name of the nuisance candidate instead of the bona fide candidate they intended to vote for

could no longer ask for replacement ballots to correct the same. aDTSHc

Finally, upholding the former rule in Resolution No. 4116 is more consistent with the rule well-ensconced

in our jurisprudence that laws and statutes governing election contests especially appreciation of ballots

must be liberally construed to the end that the will of the electorate in the choice of public officials may not
be defeated by technical infirmities. 32 Indeed, as our electoral experience had demonstrated, such

infirmities and delays in the delisting of nuisance candidates from both the Certified List of Candidates

and Official Ballots only made possible the very evil sought to be prevented by the exclusion of nuisance

candidates during elections.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GIVEN DUE COURSE and the writ prayed for,

accordingly GRANTED. COMELEC Resolution No. 8844 dated May 1, 2010 insofar as it orders that the
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votes cast for candidates listed therein, who were declared nuisance candidates and whose certificates of

candidacy have been either cancelled or set aside, be considered stray, is hereby
declared NULL and VOID. Consequently, the 532 votes cast for Aurelio N. Dela Cruz during the elections

of May 10, 2010 should have been counted in favor of Casimira S. Dela Cruz and not considered stray

votes, making her total garnered votes 6,921 as against the 6,428 votes of private respondent John Lloyd

M. Pacete who was the declared winner.

Petitioner Casimira S. Dela Cruz is hereby DECLARED the duly elected Vice-Mayor of the Municipality of

Bugasong, Province of Antique in the May 10, 2010 elections.

This Decision is immediately executory.

Let a copy of this Decision be served personally upon the parties and the Commission on Elections.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

||| (dela Cruz v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 192221, [November 13, 2012])

ALLIANCE FOR RURAL AND AGRARIAN RECONSTRUCTION, INC., ALSO

KNOWN AS ARARO PARTY-LIST, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON

ELECTIONS,respondent.

DECISION

LEONEN, J p:

It is beyond human expectations that we charge voters with knowledge as to which among the many

party-list groups listed in the ballot they are presented with during election day is disqualified. To do so will

amount to their disenfranchisement and the failure to comply with the proportionality for party-list

representatives required by the Constitution and by law.


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We are asked to decide the Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by a party-list group that ran for the

2010 national elections. The petitioner questions the validity of the formula used by the Commission on
Elections in determining and proclaiming the winning party-list groups. 1

We rule that the Petition is moot and academic. However, we provide guidance for the bench and the bar

with respect to the formula used in determining the winning party-list groups. We refine the divisor in the

formula used in getting the percentage of votes garnered by a party-list.

The facts as established on record are as follows:

Petitioner, Alliance for Rural and Agrarian Reconstruction, Inc., (ARARO) was a duly accredited party-list
under Republic Act No. 7941. 2 It garnered a total of one hundred forty-seven thousand two hundred four

(147,204) votes in the May 10, 2010 elections and ranked fiftieth (50th). 3 The Commission on

Elections En Banc sitting as the National Board of Canvassers initially proclaimed twenty-eight (28) party-

list organizations as winners involving a total of thirty-five (35) seats guaranteed and additional
seats. 4 The result was based on the Commission on Elections' count of one hundred twenty-one (121)

Certificates of Canvass or a total of twenty-nine million seven hundred fifty thousand and forty-one
(29,750,041) votes for the Party-List System. 5

The winning party-list groups were the following: 6

PARTY NUMBER

OF SEATS

1 COALITION OF ASSOCIATIONS OF SENIOR

CITIZENS OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC. 2

2 AKBAYAN! CITIZEN'S ACTION PARTY 2

3 GABRIELA WOMEN' S PARTY 2

4 COOPERATIVE NATCCO NETWORK PARTY 2

5 ABONO 2
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6 BAYAN MUNA 2

7 AN WARAY 2

8 AGRICULTURAL SECTOR ALLIANCE SECTOR

OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC. 1

9 ALLIANCE FOR BARANGAY CONCERNS PARTY 1

10 ANAKPAWIS 1

11 KABATAAN PARTYLIST 1

12 ABANTE MINDANAO, INC. 1

13 ACT TEACHERS 1

14 YOU AGAINST CORRUPTION AND POVERTY 1

15 KASANGGA SA KAUNLARAN, INC. 1

16 BAGONG HENERASYON 1

17 ANG GALING PINOY 1

18 AGBIAG! TIMPUYOG ILOCANO, INC. 1

19 PUWERSA NG BAYANing ATLETA 1

20 ARTS BUSINESS AND SCIENCE PROFESSIONALS 1

21 TRADE UNION CONGRESS PARTY 1


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22 ALYANSA NG MGA GRUPONG HALIGI NG 1

AGHAM AT TEKNOLOHIYA PARA SA

MAMAMAYAN, INC.

23 DEMOCRATIC INDEPENDENT WORKERS' 1

ASSOCIATION, INC.

24 KAPATIRAN NG MGA NAKULONG NA 1

WALANG SALA

25 KALINGA-ADVOCACY FOR SOCIAL 1

EMPOWERMENT AND NATION BUILDING

THROUGH EASING POVERTY, INC.

26 ALAGAD PARTY-LIST 1

27 UNA ANG PAMILYA FORMERLY ALLIANCE 1

OF NEO-CONSERVATIVES

28 ALLIANCE OF VOLUNTEER EDUCATORS 1

TOTAL SEATS 35

=======

Petitioner then filed an election protest before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal questioning
the Resolution of the Commission on Elections that proclaimed the 28 party-list groups listed above. 7

Without waiting for the resolution of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, the petitioner filed

the present Petition for Review on Certiorari with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary
Restraining Order. 8 The petitioner asks that this Court:

1. modify the Commission on Elections' interpretation of the formula stated in BANAT v.


COMELEC 9 by making the divisor for the computation of the percentage
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votes, from total number of votes cast minus the votes for the disqualified party-

list candidates, to the total number of votes cast regardless whether party-list

groups are disqualified;

2. enjoin the public respondent Commission on Elections from proclaiming the

remaining winning party-list candidates until it modifies the interpretation of the

formula used in BANAT v. COMELEC to the formula proposed by the petitioner;

and

3. issue a Temporary Restraining Order against the public respondent until it modifies

the present formula for computing the number of seats for the winning party-list
candidates to the formula proposed by the petitioner. 10

This Court did not issue any Temporary Restraining Order. 11

By Resolution, the National Board of Canvassers proclaimed the winning party-list groups with the
following computation: 12

WHEREAS, as of May 17, 2010, the projected/maximum total party-list votes cannot go

any higher than thirty million two hundred sixty[-]four thousand five hundred

seventy[-] nine (30,264,579) given the following statistical data:

DESCRIPTION REGISTERED

VOTERS

Total party-list votes already 29,750,041

canvassed/tabulated

Less: Votes garnered by the eight (8) 308,335

disqualified parties

Total party-list votes already

canvassed/tabulated after deducting votes of

the eight (8) disqualified parties 29,441,706

Add: Party-list votes still uncanvassed


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Lanao del Sur 515,488

Local Absentee Voting 19,071

Overseas Absentee Voting 9,299

Due to lowering of threshold 92,740

Precincts reporting Final Testing and


Sealing results 186,275


Maximum Total Party-List Votes 30,264,579

=========
WHEREAS, since there are two hundred twenty-nine (229) legislative districts, the total

number of party-list seats available for the May 10, 2010 automated national and local

elections is fifty-seven (57) based on the following formula: number of legislative

districts/0.80 x 0.20;

WHEREAS, the provision of Section 11 of Republic Act No. 7941 provides, in part, that:

"(b)The parties, organizations, and coalitions receiving at least two percent (2%) of the

total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to one seat each: Provided,

That those garnering more than two [sic] (2%) of the votes shall be entitled to additional

seats in proportion to their total number of votes: Provided, finally, That each party,

organization or coalitions shall be entitled to not more than three (3) seats."

WHEREAS, applying the formula in the case of Barangay Association for National

Advancement and Transparency (BANAT) v. Commission on Elections, and [sic] Bayan

Muna, Advocacy for Teacher Empowerment, Cooperation and Harmony Towards

Educational Reforms, Inc., and Abono [v.] Commission on Elections, the ranking of the

participating parties, organizations and coalitions from highest to lowest based on the

number of votes garnered as of May 17, 2010, and the seats that may be obtained by
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each party to complete the allocation of the available 57 party-list seats, are shown
below: 13

VOTES

GARNERED GUARANTEED ADDITIONAL (B) plus

OVER SEAT SEATS (C), in

VOTES TOTAL whole

Second
RANK PARTY GARNERED VOTES FOR First Round integers
Round

PARTY

LIST, in % (B) (C) (D)

(A)

1 AKO BICOL 1,522,986 5.0322% 1 2.26 3

POLITICAL PARTY

COALITION OF

ASSOCIATIONS OF

2 SENIOR CITIZENS OF 1,292,182 4.2696% 1 1.92 2

THE PHILIPPINES, INC.

3 BUHAY HAYAAN 1,249,555 4.1288% 1 1.85 2

YUMABONG

4 AKBAYAN! CITIZEN'S 1,058,691 3.4981% 1 1.57 2

ACTION PARTY

5 GABRIELA 1,001,421 3.3089% 1 1.48 2

WOMEN'S PARTY

COOPERATIVE

6 NATCCO NETWORK 943,529 3.1176% 1 1.40 2

PARTY
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1ST CONSUMERS

7 ALLIANCE FOR 768,829 2.5404% 1 1.14 2

RURAL ENERGY

8 ABONO 766,615 2.5330% 1 1.13 2

9 BAYAN MUNA 746,019 2.4650% 1 1.10 2

10 AN WARAY 711,631 2.3514% 1 1.05 2


CITIZEN'S BATTLE

11 AGAINST 647,483 2.1394% 1 0.96 1

CORRUPTION

ADVOCACY FOR

TEACHER

EMPOWERMENT

12 THROUGH ACTION 614,725 2.0312% 1 0.91 1

COOPERATION AND

HARMONY TOWARDS

EDUCATIONAL

REFORMS

AGRICULTURAL

13 SECTOR ALLIANCE 515,501 1.7033% 0 1 1

SECTOR OF THE

PHILIPPINES, INC.

14 BUTIL FARMERS 506,703 1.6742% 0 1 1

PARTY

ALLIANCE FOR
Election Law Cases

15 BARANGAY 469,093 1.5500% 0 1 1

CONCERNS PARTY

16 ANAKPAWIS 445,628 1.4724% 0 1 1

17 KABATAAN 417,923 1.3809% 0 1 1

PARTYLIST

18 LPG MARKETERS 417,600 1.3798% 0 1 1


ASSOCIATION, INC.

19 ABANTE MINDANAO, 376,011 1.2424% 0 1 1

INC.

20 ACT TEACHERS 369,564 1.2211% 0 1 1

ANG ASOSASYON

SANG

21 MANGUNGUMA NGA 357,009 1.1796% 0 1 1

BISAYA-OWA

MANGUNGUMA, INC.

YOU AGAINST

22 CORRUPTION AND 335,635 1.1090% 0 1 1

POVERTY

ASSOCIATION OF

23 PHILIPPINE ELECTRIC 313,359 1.0354% 0 1 1

COOPERATIVES

24 KASANGGA SA 296,368 0.9793% 0 1 1


Election Law Cases

KAUNLARAN, INC.

25 BAGONG 292,875 0.9677% 0 1 1

HENERASYON

ALLIANCE FOR

26 NATIONALISM AND 292,057 0.9650% 0 1 1

DEMOCRACY

27 ANG GALING PINOY 269,009 0.8889% 0 1 1

28 AGBIAG! TIMBUYOG 262,298 0.8667% 0 1 1

ILOCANO, INC.

29 PUWERSA NG 258,498 0.8541% 0 1 1

BAYANING ATLETA

ARTS BUSINESS AND

30 SCIENCE 257,301 0.8502% 0 1 1

PROFESSIONALS

31 TRADE UNION 244,623 0.8083% 0 1 1

CONGRESS PARTY

ALYANSA NG MGA

GRUPONG HALIGI NG

32 AGHAM AT 241,898 0.7993% 0 1 1

TEKNOLOHIYA PARA

SA MAMAMAYAN, INC.

DEMOCRATIC

33 INDEPENDENT 238,675 0.7886% 0 1 1


Election Law Cases

WORKERS'

ASSOCIATION, INC.

KAPATIRAN NG MGA

34 NAKULONG NA 234,717 0.7756% 0 1 1

WALANG SALA

KALINGA-

ADVOCACY FOR

SOCIAL

35 EMPOWERMENT AND 229,198 0.7573% 0 1 1

NATION BUILDING

THROUGH EASING

POVERTY, INC.

36 ALAGAD PARTY-LIST 227,116 0.7504% 0 1 1

1-UNITED

37 TRANSPORT 220,002 0.7269% 0 1 1

KOALISYON

UNA ANG PAMILYA

38 FORMERLY 217,032 0.7171% 0 1 1

ALLIANCE OF NEO-

CONSERVATIVES

ALLIANCE OF

39 VOLUNTEER 214,760 0.7096% 0 1 1

EDUCATORS

40 AANGAT TAYO 176,074 0.5818% 0 1 1

ADHIKAING
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41 TINATAGUYOD NG 173,711 0.5740% 0 1 1

KOOPERATIBA

42 ANG LABAN NG 170,304 0.5627% 0 1 1

INDIGONG FILIPINO

ASSOCIATION OF

43 LABORERS AND 167,654 0.5540% 0 1 1

EMPLOYEES
KASOSYO

PRODUCER-

44 CONSUMER 166,432 0.5499% 0 1 1

EXCHANGE

ASSOCIATION, INC.

ALAY BUHAY

45 COMMUNITY 163,164 0.5391% 0 1 1

DEVELOPMENT

FOUNDATION, INC.

AKSYON

46 MAGSASAKA 161,674 0.5342% 0 1 1

PARTIDO TINIG NG

MASA

KATIPUNAN NG MGA

47 ANAK NG BAYAN 160,745 0.5311% 0 0 0

ALL FILIPINO

DEMOCRATIC

MOVEMENT
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48 ANAK MINDANAO 157,733 0.5212% 0 0 0

49 VETERANS FREEDOM 154,183 0.5095% 0 0 0

PARTY

ALLIANCE FOR

50 RURAL 147,204 0.4864% 0 0 0

RECONSTRUCTION,

INC.

51 ATONG PAGLAOM 145,435 0.4805% 0 0 0

PILIPINO

ASSOCIATION FOR

52 COUNTRY-URBAN 143,151 0.4730% 0 0 0

POOR YOUTH

ADVANCEMENT AND

WELFARE

53 ABANTE TRIBUNG 142,013 0.4692% 0 0 0

MAKABANSA

ANGAT ATING

54 KABUHAYAN 141,780 0.4685% 0 0 0

PILIPINAS, INC.

55 PARTIDO NG 140,000 0.4626% 0 0 0

MANGGAGAWA

ALYANSANG

BAYANIHAN NG MGA
Election Law Cases

56 MAGSASAKA, 137,842 0.4555% 0 0 0

MANGGAGAWANG-

BUKID AT

MANGINGISDA

57 ALLIANCE 136,710 0.4517% 0 0 0

TRANSPORT SECTOR

KAUNLARAN NG

AGRIKULTURA

58 ASENSADONG 130,270 0.4304% 0 0 0

PROBINSYA ANGAT

NG BAYAN

59 BARANGAY NATIN 126,462 0.4179% 0 0 0

60 1-AKO BABAENG 120,734 0.3989% 0 0 0

ASTIG AASENSO

1 GUARDIANS

61 NATIONALIST OF THE 120,727 0.3989% 0 0 0

PHILIPPINES, INC.

62 BABAE PARA SA 117,299 0.3876% 0 0 0

KAUNLARAN

BAGONG BAYAN

NAGTATAGUYOD SA

63 DEMOKRATIKONG 115,428 0.3814% 0 0 0

IDEOLOHIYA AT

LAYUNIN
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64 AHON PINOY 115,197 0.3806% 0 0 0

ACTION FOR

65 DYNAMIC 115,058 0.3802% 0 0 0

DEVELOPMENT, INC.

KATRIBU

66 INDIGINOUS PEOPLES 114,891 0.3796% 0 0 0

SECTORAL PARTY

67 ANG LADLAD LBGT 113,187 0.3740% 0 0 0

PARTY

CONFEDERATION OF

68 NON-STOCK SAVINGS 110,759 0.3660% 0 0 0

AND LOAN

ASSOCIATIONS, INC.

69 KABALIKAT NG MGA 109,739 0.3626% 0 0 0

MAMAMAYAN

ONE ADVOCACY FOR

70 HEALTH, PROGRESS 109,682 0.3624% 0 0 0

AND OPPORTUNITY

BINHI; PARTIDO NG

71 MGA MAGSASAKA 108,005 0.3569% 0 0 0

PARA SA MGA

MAGSASAKA

72 1-AANI 107,970 0.3568% 0 0 0


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73 AKAP BATA, INC. 107,154 0.3541% 0 0 0

ANG ASOSASYON NG

74 MGA TRABAHADOR 107,135 0.3540% 0 0 0

AT PAHINANTE

AGILA NG MGA

75 KATUTUBONG 105,009 0.3470% 0 0 0

PILIPINO, INC.

The petitioner suggests that the formula used by the Commission on Elections is flawed because votes
that were spoiled or that were not made for any party-lists were not counted. According to the petitioner,

around seven million (7,000,000) votes were disregarded as a result of the Commission on Elections'
erroneous interpretation. The figure presented by petitioner resulted from the following computations: 14

37,377,371 (Number of voters who actually voted LESS votes

for disqualified party lists)

less 30,264,579 (Number of votes for party-list candidates LESS


number of votes for disqualified party-list candidates)

7,112,792 (Total number of disregarded votes

======== according to petitioner ARARO)

First, the total number of votes for disqualified party-lists is deducted from the total number of voters

that actually voted. The total number of votes for disqualified party-list groups is three hundred eight
thousand three hundred thirty-five (308,335). 15 The total number of voters that actually voted is thirty-

seven million six hundred eighty-five thousand seven hundred six (37,685,706). 16 After subtracting the

amounts, the result is thirty-seven million three hundred seventy-seven thousand three hundred seventy-

one (37,377,371) votes.

Second, the number of votes for disqualified party-list groups is again deducted from the number of votes

for party-list candidates which the petitioner pegged at thirty million five hundred seventy-two thousand
Election Law Cases

nine hundred fourteen votes (30,572,914). 17 The difference then is thirty million two hundred sixty-four

thousand five hundred seventy-nine (30,264,579) votes.

Lastly, to get the total number of votes disregarded by the Commission on Elections' interpretation,

30,264,579 is subtracted from 37,377,371. The computation then results to seven million one hundred
twelve thousand seven hundred ninety-two (7,112,792) votes disregarded using the Commission on

Elections' interpretation.

On the other hand, the formula used by the Commission on Elections En Banc sitting as the National

Board of Canvassers is the following:

Number of seats available to Number of seats


legislative districts x .20 = available to party-list

representatives

.80

Thus, the total number of party-list seats available for the May 2010 elections is 57 as shown below:

229

x .20 = 57

.80

The National Board of Canvassers' Resolution No. 10-009 applies the formula used in Barangay
Association for National Advancement and Transparency (BANAT) v. COMELEC 18 to arrive at the

winning party-list groups and their guaranteed seats, where:

Proportion or

Number of votes of party-list = Percentage of votes

garnered by party-list

Total number of votes for party-list

candidates

The Proportion or Percentage of votes garnered by party-list should be greater than or equal to 2% or 0.02

to entitle a party-list candidate to one (1) seat in the first round. There will be a second round if the total

number of guaranteed seats awarded in the first round is less than the total number of party-list seats

available. Thus:

Total Number of Proportion or Additional


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number of - seats x Percentage of votes = seats

party-list allocated in garnered by party- awarded

seats first round list

available

If the total seats available for party-lists are not yet awarded after the second round (this is computed by

getting the sum of the seats awarded in the first round and the additional seats awarded in the second

round), the next in the party-list ranking will be given one (1) seat each until all seats are fully distributed.

A three-seat cap per party-list, however, is imposed on winning groups. Fractional seats are not rounded

off and are disregarded.

The petitioner argues that the Commission on Elections' interpretation of the formula used in BANAT v.
COMELEC is flawed because it is not in accordance with the law.19 The petitioner distinguishes the

phrases, valid votes cast for party-list candidates on the one hand as against votes cast for the party-list

system on the other.

The petitioner puts in issue the interpretation of Sections 11 and 12 of Republic Act No. 7941 or "An Act

Providing for the Election of Party-List Representatives Through the Party-List System, and Appropriating

Funds Therefor." The sections provide the guidelines in allocating seats to party-list representatives:

Section 11.Number of Party-List Representatives. The party-list representatives

shall constitute twenty per centum (20%) of the total number of the members of the

House of Representatives including those under the party-list.

For purposes of the May 1998 elections, the first five (5) major political parties on the

basis of party representation in the House of Representatives at the start of the Tenth

Congress of the Philippines shall not be entitled to participate in the party-list system.

In determining the allocation of seats for the second vote, the following procedure

shall be observed:

(a) The parties, organizations, and coalitions shall be ranked from the highest

to the lowest based on the number of votes they garnered during the

elections.

(b) The parties, organizations, and coalitions receiving at least two percent
(2%) of the total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to
Election Law Cases

one seat each: Provided, That those garnering more than two percent (2%)

of the votes shall be entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total

number of votes: Provided, finally, That each party, organization, or coalition

shall be entitled to not more than three (3) seats.

Section 12. Procedure in Allocating Seats for Party-List Representatives. The

COMELEC shall tally all the votes for the parties, organizations, or coalitions on a

nationwide basis, rank them according to the number of votes received and allocate

party-list representatives proportionately according to the percentage of votes


obtained by each party, organization, or coalition as against the total nationwide

votes cast for the party-list system. (Emphasis provided)

The petitioner argues that the correct interpretation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 7941 or

the Party-list Law does not distinguish between valid and invalid votes, to wit:

Therefore, votes for specific party lists are not the same as votes for the party-list

system. Hence, people whose votes were spoiled for instance (like checking or failure

to properly shade the ovals in the ballots, or voted for two party lists when the

requirement is only one, or had erasures on their ballots for instance), or did not vote
for any party-list at all are still voters for the party-list system. The votes for the

party-list system [include] all those people who voted whether their votes were

counted or not as long as the mechanism for the selection of party-list is in

place. 20 (Emphasis provided)

In its November 12, 2010 Comment, 21 the Commission on Elections through the Office of the Solicitor

General took the position that invalid or stray votes should not be counted in determining the divisor. The

Commission on Elections argues that this will contradict Citizens' Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) v.
COMELEC 22 and Barangay Association for National Advancement and Transparency (BANAT) v.

COMELEC. 23 It asserts that:

Neither can the phrase be construed to include the number of voters who did not even

vote for any qualified party-list candidate, as these voters cannot be considered to have
cast any vote "for the party-list system." 24

The issues in this case are as follows:


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I. Whether the case is already moot and academic

II. Whether petitioners have legal standing

III. Whether the Commission on Elections committed grave abuse of discretion in its
interpretation of the formula used in BANAT v. COMELEC 25 to determine the

party-list groups that would be proclaimed in the 2010 elections

The third issue requires our determination of the computation of the correct divisor to be used. The

options are:

A. All votes cast for the party-list system less the votes cast for subsequently

disqualified party-list groups and votes declared spoiled

B. The total votes cast

C. The total number of valid votes cast for the party-list system including votes cast for

party-list groups listed in the ballot even if subsequently declared disqualified.

The divisor should not include votes that are declared spoiled or invalid.

We decide as follows:

This case is moot and academic.

Mendoza v. Villas 26 defines a moot and academic case:

A moot and academic case is one that ceases to present a justiciable controversy by

virtue of supervening events, so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical

value. As a rule, courts decline jurisdiction over such case, or dismiss it on ground of
mootness. 27

Several supervening events have already rendered this case moot and academic. First, the Commission
on Elections En Banc already proclaimed other winning party-list groups. 28 Second, the term of office of

the winning party-list groups in the May 2010 national elections ended on June 30, 2013. Finally, the

conduct of the May 13, 2013 elections resulted in a new set of party-list groups.
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We held that the expiration of the challenged term of office renders the corresponding Petition moot and
academic. 29 This leaves any ruling on the issues raised by the petitioner with no practical or useful

value. 30

However, the following exceptions to the rule of declining jurisdiction over moot and academic cases are

allowed: (1) there was a grave violation of the Constitution; (2) the case involved a situation of exceptional

character and was of paramount public interest; (3) the issues raised required the formulation of

controlling principles to guide the Bench, the Bar and the public; and (4) the case was capable of
repetition yet evading review. 31 On the importance of the assailed formula, this Court will discuss the

issues raised by the petitioner as these are capable of repetition yet evading review 32 and for the

guidance of the bench, bar, and public. 33

II

The petitioner is not the real party in interest

"A real party in interest is the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgement in the suit, or
the party entitled to the avails of the suit." 34 The party's interest must be direct, substantial, and

material. 35 In this case, the petitioner attacks the validity of the formula used and upheld in BANAT. It

also proposes its own interpretation of the formula to determine the proportional representation of party-

list candidates in the House of Representatives. However despite any new computation, ARARO's

proposed divisor of total votes cast for the party-list system whether valid or invalid still fails to secure one
seat for ARARO. Reviewing the figures presented by the petitioner: 36

With Divisor of total valid With Divisor of

votes cast for party-list votes cast for the

system minus votes cast party-list system as

for disqualified party-lists proposed by

or invalid votes ARARO

(30,264,579) (37,377,371)

Votes garnered 147,204 147,204

Votes garnered over 0.4864 0.3939


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total votes cast for

party-lists (%)

Guaranteed Seat 0 0

This table clearly shows that the petitioner does not suffer a direct, substantial or material injury from the

application of the formula interpreted and used in BANAT in proclaiming the winning party-lists in the

assailed National Board of Canvassers Resolution. The computation proposed by petitioner ARARO even

lowers its chances to meet the 2% threshold required by law for a guaranteed seat. Its arguments will

neither benefit nor injure the party. Thus, it has no legal standing to raise the argument in this Court.

III

However, we review the interpretation of the formula used for the determination of wining party-list

candidates with respect to the divisor used for the guidance of bench and bar and for future elections.

The textual references for determining the formula to be used are found in the Constitution and the statute

interpreting the relevant provisions.

Article VI, Section 5, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the 1987 Constitution provide the following:

1.The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred

and fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from

legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan

Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the

basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be

elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral

parties or organizations.

2.The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number

of representatives including those under the party list. For three consecutive terms

after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list

representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the

labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such

other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.

Sections 11 and 12 of Republic Act No. 7941, thus, provide:


Election Law Cases

Section 11.Number of Party-List Representatives. The party-list representatives

shall constitute twenty per centum (20%) of the total number of the members of the

House of Representatives including those under the party-list.

For purposes of the May 1998 elections, the first five (5) major political parties on the

basis of party representation in the House of Representatives at the start of the Tenth

Congress of the Philippines shall not be entitled to participate in the party-list system.

In determining the allocation of seats for the second vote, the following procedure

shall be observed:

(a)The parties, organizations, and coalitions shall be ranked from the highest to the
lowest based on the number of votes they garnered during the elections.

(b)The parties, organizations, and coalitions receiving at least two percent (2%) of
the total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to one seat each:

Provided, That those garnering more than two percent (2%) of the votes shall be

entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes: Provided,

finally, That each party, organization, or coalition shall be entitled to not more than

three (3) seats.

Section 12.Procedure in Allocating Seats for Party-List Representatives. The

COMELEC shall tally all the votes for the parties, organizations, or coalitions on a

nationwide basis, rank them according to the number of votes received and allocate

party-list representatives proportionately according to the percentage of votes


obtained by each party, organization, or coalition as against the total nationwide

votes cast for the party-list system. (Emphasis provided)

In Veterans Federation Party v. Commission on Elections, 37 we reversed the Commission on Elections'

ruling that the respondent parties, coalitions, and organizations were each entitled to a party-list seat

despite their failure to reach the 2% threshold in the 1998 party-list election. Veterans also stated that the

20% requirement in theConstitution is merely a ceiling.

Veterans laid down the "four inviolable parameters" in determining the winners in a Philippine-style party-

list election based on a reading of the Constitution andRepublic Act No. 7941:
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First, the twenty percent allocation the combined number of all party-list

congressmen shall not exceed twenty percent of the total membership of the House of

Representatives, including those elected under the party list.

Second, the two percent threshold only those parties garnering a minimum of two

percent of the total valid votes cast for the party-list system are "qualified" to have a

seat in the House of Representatives.

Third, the three-seat limit each qualified party, regardless of the number of votes it

actually obtained, is entitled to a maximum of three seats; that is, one "qualifying" and

two additional seats.

Fourth, proportional representation the additional seats which a qualified party is

entitled to shall be computed "in proportion to their total number of votes." 38(Emphasis

provided)

In Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and Butil Farmers Party (Butil) v. COMELEC, 39 the petitioning party-list

groups sought the immediate proclamation by the Commission on Elections of their respective second

nominee, claiming that they were entitled to one (1) additional seat each in the House of Representatives.

We held that the correct formula to be used is the one used in Veterans and reiterated it in Ang Bagong
Bayani OFW Labor Party v. COMELEC. 40 This Court in CIBAC v. COMELEC 41differentiates the

formula used in Ang Bagong Bayani but upholds the validity of the Veterans formula.

In BANAT v. COMELEC, 42 we declared the 2% threshold in relation to the distribution of the additional

seats as void. We said in that case that:

. . . The two percent threshold presents an unwarranted obstacle to the full

implementation of Section 5(2), Article VI of the Constitution and prevents the

attainment of "the broadest possible representation of party, sectoral or group interests

in the House of Representatives." (Republic Act No. 7941, Section 2)

xxx xxx xxx

. . . There are two steps in the second round of seat allocation. First, the percentage is

multiplied by the remaining available seats, 38, which is the difference between the 55

maximum seats reserved under the Party-List System and the 17 guaranteed seats of

the two-percenters. The whole integer of the product of the percentage and of the
Election Law Cases

remaining available seats corresponds to a party's share in the remaining available

seats. Second, we assign one party-list seat to each of the parties next in rank until all

available seats are completely distributed. We distributed all of the remaining 38 seats

in the second round of seat allocation. Finally, we apply the three-seat cap to determine
the number of seats each qualified party-list candidate is entitled. 43

The most recent Atong Paglaum v. COMELEC 44 does not in any way modify the formula set in Veterans.

It only corrects the definition of valid party-list groups. We affirmed that party-list groups may be national,

regional, and sectoral parties or organizations. We abandoned the requirement introduced in Ang Bagong

Bayani that all party-list groups should prove that they represent a "marginalized" or "under-represented"

sector.

Proportional representation is provided in Section 2 of Republic Act No.


7941. 45 BANAT overturned Veterans' interpretation of the phrase in proportion to their total number of

votes. We clarified that the interpretation that only those that obtained at least 2% of the votes may get

additional seats will not result in proportional representation because it will make it impossible for the

party-list seats to be filled completely. As demonstrated in BANAT, the 20% share may never be filled if the

2% threshold is maintained.

The divisor, thus, helps to determine the correct percentage of representation of party-list groups as

intended by the law. This is part of the index of proportionality of the representation of a party-list to the
House of Representatives. 46 It measures the relation between the share of the total seats and the share

of the total votes of the party-list. 47 In Veterans, where the 20% requirement in the Constitution was

treated only as a ceiling, the mandate for proportional representation was not achieved, and thus, was

held void by this Court.

The petitioner now argues that the votes of all the registered voters who actually voted in the May 2010
elections should be included in the computation of the divisor whether valid or invalid. 48 According to the

petitioner, votes cast for the party-list candidates is not the same as the votes cast under or for the

party-list system. Specifically, it said that:

The party list system is not just for the specific party lists as provided in the ballot, but

pertains to the system of selection of the party list to be part of the House of
Representatives. 49
Election Law Cases

The petitioner claims that there should be no distinction in law between valid and invalid votes. Invalid

votes include those votes that were made for disqualified party-list groups, votes that were spoiled due to

improper shading, erasures in the ballots, and even those that did not vote for any party-list candidate at
all. 50 All of the votes should be included in the divisor to determine the 2% threshold.

We agree with the petitioner but only to the extent that votes later on determined to be invalid due

to no cause attributable to the voter should not be excluded in the divisor. In other words, votes

cast validly for a party-list group listed in the ballot but later on disqualified should be counted as

part of the divisor. To do otherwise would be to disenfranchise the voters who voted on the basis

of good faith that that ballot contained all the qualified candidates. However, following this

rationale, party-list groups listed in the ballot but whose disqualification attained finality prior to

the elections and whose disqualification was reasonably made known by the Commission on

Elections to the voters prior to such elections should not be included in the divisor.

Not all votes cast in the elections should be included in the divisor. Contrary to the argument of the

petitioner, Section 11 (b) of Republic Act No. 7941 is clear that only those votes cast for the party-list

system shall be considered in the computation of the percentage of representation:

(b)The parties, organizations, and coalitions receiving at least two percent (2%) of
the total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to one seat each:

Provided, That those garnering more than two percent (2%) of the votes shall be

entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes: Provided,

finally, That each party, organization, or coalition shall be entitled to not more than

three (3) seats. (Emphasis provided)

The total votes cast do not include invalid votes. The invalid votes, for the determination of the

denominator, may be votes that were spoiled or votes that resulted from the following: improper shading
or having no shade at all; 51 existence of stray or ambiguous marks; 52 tears in the ballot; and/or ballots

rejected by the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines under the paper-based 53 automated

election system. All these are causes that nullify the count for that vote that can be attributable to the

voter's action.

Votes cast for the party-list system should, however, include all votes cast for party-list groups contained

in the ballot even if subsequently they are disqualified by the Commission on Elections or by our courts.
Election Law Cases

Thus, the content of the divisor in the formula to determine the seat allocation for the party-list component

of the House of Representatives should be amended accordingly.

We qualify that the divisor to be used in interpreting the formula used in BANAT is the total votes cast for

the party-list system. This should not include the invalid votes. However, so as not to disenfranchise a
substantial portion of the electorate, total votes cast for the party-list system should mean all the votes

validly cast for all the candidates listed in the ballot. The voter relies on the ballot when making his or

her choices.

To the voter, the listing of candidates in the official ballot represents the extent of his or her choices for an

electoral exercise. He or she is entitled to the expectation that these names have properly been vetted by
the Commission on Elections. Therefore, he or she is also by right entitled to the expectation that his or

her choice based on the listed names in the ballot will be counted.

In Reyes v. COMELEC 54 as cited in Loreto v. Brion, 55 this Court said "that the votes cast for the

disqualified candidate are presumed to have been cast in the belief that he is qualified." 56 Therefore, the

votes cast for disqualified candidates are presumed to be made with a sincere belief that the voters'

choices were qualified candidates and that they were without any intention to misapply their
franchise. 57 Their votes may not be treated as stray, void or meaningless 58 for purposes of the divisor in

the party-list elections. Assuming arguendo that petitions for certiorari do not stay the execution of the
judgment or final order or resolution sought to be reviewed, 59 the finality of the disqualification of a

candidate should not be a means for the disenfranchisement of the votes cast for the party-list system.

Section 10 of the Party-list Law should thus be read in conjunction with the intention of the law as seen in

Section 2, to wit:

Sec. 2.Declaration of Policy. The State shall promote proportional representation in

the election of representatives to the House of Representatives through a party-list

system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations or

coalitions thereof, which will enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and

underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined

political constituencies but who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of

appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole, to become members of
the House of Representatives. Towards this end, the State shall develop and

guarantee a full, free and open party system in order to attain the broadest
Election Law Cases

possible representation of party, sectoral or group interests in the House of

Representatives by enhancing their chances to compete for and win seats in the

legislature, and shall provide the simplest scheme possible.(Emphasis provided)

Section 10 of Republic Act No. 7941, which governs party-list elections, states that votes cast for a party-

list "not entitled to be voted for shall not be counted." It does not specify any reckoning period of the

finding of disqualification or cancellation of registration for the validity or the invalidity of votes unlike that
in Section 72 of theOmnibus Election Code, as amended by Section 6, Republic Act No. 6646. 60 Taking

Sections 2 and 10 together, this Court must consider the intention of the law and the nature of Philippine

style party-list elections. Party-list groups provide for a different and special representation in Congress.

To disregard votes of party-list groups disqualified after the conduct of the elections means the
disenfranchisement of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of votes, of the Filipino people. Definitely,

it is not the voter's fault that the party-list group in the ballot it votes for will be subsequently disqualified.

The voter should not be penalized.

The counting of votes for party-list groups in the ballot but subsequently declared as disqualified is, thus,

corollary to the "fundamental tenet of representative democracy that the people should be allowed to
choose whom they please to govern them." 61 It is also part of the right of suffrage, and the law's intention

to ensure a more representative Congress should be given priority.

Therefore, the divisor should now include all votes cast for party-list groups that are subsequently

disqualified for so long as they were presented as a choice to the electorate.

If his or her vote is not counted as part of the divisor, then this would amount to a disenfranchisement of a

basic constitutional right to be able to choose representatives of the House of Representatives in two

ways. First, his or her vote will be nullified. Second, he or she will be deprived of choosing another party-

list group to represent his or her interest should the party listed in the ballot be declared disqualified.

However, there are instances when the Commission on Elections include the name of the party-list group

in the ballot but such group is disqualified with finality prior to the elections. In applying and interpreting
the provisions of Section 6 of Republic Act No. 6646, we said in Cayat v. Commission on Elections 62 that

votes cast in favor of a candidate "disqualified with finality" should be considered stray and not be

counted. To be consistent, the party-list group in the ballot that has been disqualified with finality and

whose final disqualification was made known to the electorate by the Commission on Elections should
Election Law Cases

also not be included in the divisor. This is to accord weight to the disqualification as well as accord respect

to the inherent right of suffrage of the voters.

Thus, the formula to determine the proportion garnered by the party-list group would now henceforth be:

Number of votes of party-list Proportion or

= Percentage of votes

Total number of valid votes for garnered by party-list

party-list candidates

The total votes cast for the party-list system include those votes made for party-list groups indicated in the

ballot regardless of the pendency of their motions for reconsideration or petitions before any tribunal in
relation to their cancellation or disqualification cases. However, votes made for those party-list groups

whose disqualification attained finality prior to the elections should be excluded if the electorate is notified

of the finality of their disqualification by the Commission on Elections. The divisor also shall not include

invalid votes.

WHEREFORE from the above discussion:

1.The prayer to enjoin the Commission on Elections from proclaiming the qualified
party-list groups is denied for being moot and academic;

2.The formula in determining the winning party-list groups, as used and interpreted in
the case of BANAT v. COMELEC, is MODIFIED as follows:

Number of votes of party-list Proportion or

= Percentage of votes

Total number of valid votes for garnered by party-list

party-list candidates

The divisor shall be the total number of valid votes cast for the party-list system including votes cast for

party-list groups whose names are in the ballot but are subsequently disqualified. Party-list groups listed

in the ballot but whose disqualification attained finality prior to the elections and whose disqualification

was reasonably made known by the Commission on Elections to the voters prior to such elections should

not be included in the divisor. The divisor shall also not include votes that are declared spoiled or invalid.

The refined formula shall apply prospectively to succeeding party-list elections from the date of finality of

this case.
Election Law Cases

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Leonardo-de Castro, Brion, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Abad, Villarama, Jr.,

Perez, Mendoza, Reyes and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.

Velasco, Jr., J., pls. see concurring opinion.

||| (Alliance for Rural and Agrarian Reconstruction, Inc. v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 192803, [December 10,
2013])

MARIA LOURDES B. LOCSIN, petitioner, vs. HOUSE OF


REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL and MONIQUE
YAZMIN MARIA Q. LAGDAMEO,respondents.

DECISION

LEONEN, J : p

The Constitution provides that public respondent House of Representatives


Electoral Tribunal (HRET) is the sole judge of all contests relating to the election,
returns, and qualifications of their members. 1 This Court's jurisdiction to
review HRET's decisions and orders is exercised only upon showing
that HRET acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction. Otherwise, this Court will not interfere with an electoral tribunal's
exercise of its discretion or jurisdiction. 2

This is a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court filed by petitioner Locsin praying:

i.for the WRIT OF CERTIORARI declaring the


assailed Decision promulgated on 17 September 2012
and HRET Resolution No. 12-209 dated 15 October 2012 as
NULL AND VOID and/or to REVERSE OR SET ASIDE the
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issuances for having been issued with grave abuse of


discretion amounting to lack of or in excess of jurisdiction;

ii.for the WRIT OF PROHIBITION to enjoin and prohibit the Public


Respondent HRET from implementing the
assailed Decision promulgated on 17 September 2012
and HRET Resolution No. 12-209 dated 15 October 2012;

iii.to NULLIFY the proclamation of private respondent Lagdameo;

iv.to DECLARE and PROCLAIM petitioner Locsin as the duly


elected Representative of the First District of Makati City
having received the HIGHEST NUMBER OF VALID VOTES
during the May 10, 2010 elections. 3

Petitioner Locsin and private respondent Lagdameo, along with three other
candidates, vied for the position to represent the First Legislative District of
Makati in the 2010 national elections. Respondent Lagdameo was proclaimed
winner by the City Board of Canvassers on 11 May 2010 garnering 42,102 votes.
Petitioner came in second with 41,860 votes or a losing margin of 242 votes. 4 EDCcaS

On 21 May 2010, petitioner Locsin instituted an election protest before


the HRET impugning the election results in all 233 clustered precincts in Makati's
First District. 5Petitioner alleged that the results were tainted by election fraud,
anomalies, and irregularities. On 2 July 2010, Lagdameo filed her Answer with
Counter-Protestquestioning the results in 123 clustered precincts.

During the preliminary conference, Locsin designated 59 clustered precincts as


the pilot precincts for her protest while Lagdameo designated 31 clustered
precincts as the pilot precincts for her counter-protest. The revision/recount
proceedings for 59 clustered precincts covering 25% of the pilot protested
precincts were conducted from 14 April 2011 to 19 April 2011. Thereafter,
petitioner presented her documentary evidence. By Resolution No. 11-268,
the HRET admitted in evidence all documentary exhibits offered by petitioner
subject to the Comment/Objections of private respondent.
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Lagdameo's winning margin increased from 242 to 265 votes after the revision
and appreciation of ballots in 25% of the pilot protested
precincts. 6 Nevertheless, HRETthrough the 1 December 2011 Resolution
continued the revision proceedings to clear all doubts surrounding the victory of
private respondent. Revision proceedings covered the remaining 174 clustered
precincts from 18 January 2012 to 31 January 2012.

Petitioner Locsin continued her presentation of additional documentary exhibits.


By Resolution No. 12-061 dated 8 March 2012, the HRET admitted the exhibits
subject to private respondent's Comment/Opposition filed on 27 February 2012.

Private respondent Lagdameo presented her evidence for the counter-protested


precincts. By Order dated 27 April 2012, the HRET admitted all exhibits subject to
the Comment/Opposition filed by petitioner on 24 April 2012. TaDSHC

After the parties filed their respective memoranda, the HRET promulgated on 17
September 2012 the assailed Decision 7 dismissing petitioner's election protest,
the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, for failure to show a reasonable recovery of votes, this


election protest is DISMISSED and the proclamation of protestee
Monique Yazmin Maria Q. Lagdameo as the duly elected Representative
of the First Legislative District of Makati City in the May 10, 2010
Automated National and Local Elections is AFFIRMED. 8

The HRET discussed in detail the results of the recount and its appreciation of
the contested ballots. 9 The results showed that Lagdameo's proclamation margin
of 242 votes increased to 265 votes after revision proceedings in the 25% pilot
protested clustered precincts. The margin rose to 335 votes after the revision and
appreciation of ballots in the remaining precincts. 10 On the allegations of fraud
and election irregularities, respondent tribunal found no compelling evidence that
may cast doubt on the credibility of the results generated by the Precinct Count
Optical Scan (PCOS) electronic system. 11

The HRET also denied with finality petitioner's motion for reconsideration
by Resolution No. 12-209 dated 15 October 2012. 12
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On 16 November 2012, Locsin filed the present petition on the ground that public
respondent HRET committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction when:

1.it promulgated the assailed Decision on 17 September 2012


dismissing the election protest filed by the petitioner on the
basis of the erroneous appreciation of the petitioner's
contested and claimed ballots.

2.it issued the assailed Resolution No. 12-209 dated 15 October


2012 denying with finality the motion for reconsideration filed
by the petitioner despite the presence of substantial grounds
for the reconsideration of the assailed 17 September
2012 Decision. HAISEa

3.it resolved to admit the 2,455 ballots of the private respondent


despite the valid, legitimate and substantial objections of the
petitioner.

4.it resolved to deny the 471 claimed ballots of the petitioner


despite the existence of bona fide and compelling grounds
for their admission. 13

Locsin alleged that the HRET committed grave abuse of discretion when it
ignored the presence of 2,457 invalid, irregular, and rejectible ballots for
Lagdameo and 663bona fide claimed ballots for petitioner. 14 Specifically, only
two of the 2,457 contested ballots were rejected by the HRET, and only 192 of the
663 ballots claimed by petitioner were admitted by the HRET. 15 Petitioner argued
that a re-examination of the private respondent's ballots would show that
markings were placed intentionally for identification, and the ballots should have
been rejected. Those which contained shadings below the 50% threshold should
have been rejected also.

In its Comment, public respondent argued that under the Constitution,


the HRET alone shall have the authority to determine the form, manner, and
Election Law Cases

conduct by which an election controversy is settled and decided with no further


appeal.

For its part, private respondent Lagdameo argued that the HRET's rulings on the
recount, revision and appreciation of objected and claimed ballots are in accord
with law and evidence. 16

The sole issue in the present petition is whether the HRET committed grave
abuse of discretion in dismissing petitioner's election protest.

Article VI, Section 17 of the Constitution provides that the HRET shall be the
"sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of
their respective members." 17 As this Court held in Lazatin v. House of
Representatives Electoral Tribunal: 18 HAaECD

The use of the word "sole" emphasizes the exclusive character of the
jurisdiction conferred. The exercise of the power by the Electoral
Commission under the 1935Constitution has been described as
"intended to be as complete and unimpaired as if it had remained
originally in the legislature." Earlier, this grant of power to the
legislature was characterized by Justice Malcolm "as full, clear and
complete." Under the amended 1935 Constitution, the power was
unqualifiedly reposed upon the Electoral Tribunal and it remained as
full, clear and complete as that previously granted the legislature and
the Electoral Commission. The same may be said with regard to the
jurisdiction of the Electoral Tribunals under the 1987 Constitution. 19

Thus, this Court's jurisdiction to review HRET's decisions and orders is exercised
only upon showing that the HRET acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting
to lack or excess of jurisdiction. 20 Otherwise, this Court shall not interfere with
the HRET's exercise of its discretion or jurisdiction. 21 "Grave abuse of discretion"
has been defined as the capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment, the
exercise of power in an arbitrary manner, where the abuse is so patent and gross
as to amount to an evasion of positive duty. 22
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Time and again, this Court has held that mere abuse of discretion is not
enough. 23 It must be grave abuse of discretion as when the power is exercised in
an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and
must be so patent and so gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or
to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of
law. 24

In the present case, we find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of public
respondent HRET when it dismissed petitioner's election protest.

Public respondent HRET conducted a revision and appreciation of all the ballots
from all the precincts. This was done despite the fact that results of initial revision
proceedings in 25% of the precincts increased the winning margin of private
respondent from 242 to 265 votes. Out of due diligence and to remove all doubts
on the victory of private respondent, the HRET directed continuation of revision
proceedings. This was done despite the dissent of three of its members,
representatives Franklin P. Bautista, Rufus B. Rodriguez, and Joselito Andrew R.
Mendoza. The three voted "for the dismissal of the instant election protest without
further proceedings for lack of reasonable recovery of votes in the pilot protested
clustered precincts. 25 HSaIDc

Thus, in reaching the assailed decision, the HRET took pains in reviewing the
validity or invalidity of each contested ballot with prudence. This is evident from
the decision's ballot enumeration specifying with concrete basis and clarity the
reason for its denial or admittance. 26 The results, as well as the objections,
claims, admissions, and rejections of ballots were explained sufficiently and
addressed by the HRET in its Decision.

In essence, this petition under Rule 65 seeks a re-examination by this Court of


the contested ballots.

An inquiry as to the correctness of the evaluation of evidence is not within the


ambit of the extraordinary remedy of certiorari. 27 "Where the court has
jurisdiction over the subject matter, its orders upon all questions pertaining to the
cause are orders within its jurisdiction, and however erroneous they may be, they
Election Law Cases

cannot be corrected by certiorari." 28 This rule applies to decisions by


the HRET whose independence as a constitutional body has consistently been
upheld by this Court. 29

Well settled also is the rule that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts, and
factual issues are beyond its authority to review. 30

In the absence of any showing of grave abuse of discretion by the HRET, there is
no reason for this Court to annul respondent tribunal's decision or to substitute it
with its own. As held by this Court in Garcia vs. House of Representatives
Electoral Tribunal: 31

[T]he Court has ruled that the power of the Electoral Commission 'is
beyond judicial interference except, in any event, upon a clear showing
of arbitrary and improvident use of power as will constitute a denial of
due process.' The Court does not to paraphrase it
in Co vs. HRET, 32 venture into the perilous area of correcting
perceived errors of independent branches of the Government; it
comes in only when it has to vindicate a denial of due process or
correct an abuse of discretion so grave or glaring that no less
than the Constitution itself calls for remedial action. 33 aETASc

Petitioner's bare assertions of grave abuse of discretion by public respondent


were not, substantiated. Neither was there arbitrariness or use of power as to
constitute denial of due process. In fact, petitioner was given several
opportunities to present its evidence and raise its arguments. These were
considered by public respondent that discussed meticulously its factual and legal
bases in reaching its decision. 34

But still, to erase all lingering doubts, this Court looked into the contested ballots
as summarized by Locsin in the petition.

I.Objected Ballots
Petitioner alleges that the HRET acted with grave abuse of discretion in rejecting
only two (2) out of the 2,457 Lagdameo-identified ballots which were contested
Election Law Cases

timely by petitioner during the judicial recount and revision proceedings.


Petitioner claims that these ballots were marked ballots (MB), spurious ballots
(SB), and miscellaneous/stray ballots (MISC/STRAY) which should have been
rejected. The petition included tables enumerating the contested ballots, ground
for their rejection and findings, and organized by barangay and clustered precinct
number. 35 Petitioner's findings are consolidated and summarized as follows:
No. of Ballots Findings Grounds
446 No BEI signature SB
30 - No BEI signature SB
- Signature affixed on lower left MB
portion of the ballot deliberately
done to mark the ballot
13 No signature on the BEI Chairman's SB
signature box/No BEI Chairman's
signature
3 The signature on the BEI Chairman's SB
signature box is different from the
signature on the other election
documents.
1 Two different signatures written inside MB
rectangle intended for BEI Chairman
slot
575 Different BEI signature SB
1 - Different BEI signature SB
- With distinctive "C" voting mark MB
beside oval shape on candidate
number
"128" partylist deliberately done to
mark the ballot
2 The signatures of these ballots are SB
different from the rest of the ballots
and from the signatures on the
election documents.
5 Different BEI signature affixed on MB
the upper right portion of the ballot
1 BEI signature affixed on president slot MB
portion of ballot deliberately done to
mark the ballot
49 With distinctive voting marks written MB
. . . deliberately done to mark the ballot
1 Thumb print on the slot forsangguniang MB
panglungsod no. 27 which serves no
purpose other than to mark the ballot
Election Law Cases

for identification.
4 "X" mark drawn over the oval shape MB
beside the pre-printed name "[different
candidate]," which serves no purpose
other than to mark the ballot for
identification.
5 Voter's signature affixed . . . MB
deliberately
done to mark the ballot.
17 Oval shape beside pre-printed name MISC/STRAY
"LAGDAMEO" are only shaded
below 50% threshold required by
the rules, hence, it should be stray.
10 Oval shape beside pre-printed name MISC/STRAY
"[different candidate]," [different
position], is only shaded below
50% threshold required by the
rules, hence, it should be stray.
1 Oval shape beside pre-printed name MISC/STRAY
of Lagdameo was crossed out,
hence, it should be stray.
1 Oval shape beside "[different MISC/STRAY
candidate]," [different position],was
slashed, hence, it should be stray.
Petitioner argues that in election law, irrelevant expressions, impertinent figures,
words or phrases, and unnecessary and identifying expressions nullify ballots.
Petitioner cites Section 195 of the Omnibus Election Code which states that it
shall be unlawful to apply "any distinguishing mark" or "make use of any other
means to identify the vote of the voter." 36 Petitioner also cites Alfelor v.
Fuentebella, 37 which states that it is illegitimate practice to include in the ballot
unnecessary writings that detract from the solemnity of the exercise of suffrage.
The 1935 case of Cecilio v. Tomacruz 38 and the 1958 case of Amurao v.
Calangi 39 were also cited saying that ballots containing impertinent, irrelevant,
unnecessary words or expressions are null ballots with these markings serving
no other purpose than to identify the ballot. Finally, petitioner cites the 1962 case
of Tajanlangit v. Cazenas 40 indicating that ballots containing the signature of
voters shall be invalidated. 41 TaSEHD

The cardinal objective in ballot appreciation is to discover and give effect to,
rather than frustrate, the intention of the voter. 42 Extreme caution is observed
Election Law Cases

before any ballot is invalidated and doubts are resolved in favor of the ballot's
validity. 43 Public respondent HRET was guided by this principle and the existing
rules and rulings in its appreciation of the contested ballots. 44

Ballots with an Ambiguous Vote have a mark that is allegedly neither a definite
vote nor a non-vote. This may happen if the mark is too light or the voter
inadvertently made a small mark inside the oval or other similar cases. The
tribunal determined whether the voter clearly intended to draw the mark or if this
was made inadvertently. On this ground, the HRET admitted all 250 ballots
objected by petitioner in favor of Lagdameo. On the other hand,
the HRET admitted all 439 ballots objected by Lagdameo and containing a
definite vote for petitioner.

Marked Ballots contain a mark intentionally written or placed by the voter for the
purpose of identifying the ballot or the voter. In Cailles v. Gomez, 45

The distinguishing mark which the law forbids to be placed in the ballots
is that which the elector may have placed with the intention of facilitating
the means of identifying said ballot, for the purpose of defeating the
secrecy of the suffrage which the law establishes. As this is a question of
fact, it should be resolved with the ballot itself in view. 46

Marks made by the voter unintentionally do not invalidate the ballot. 47 Neither do
marks made by some person other than the voter. 48

Moreover, the Omnibus Election Code provides explicitly that every ballot shall be
presumed valid unless there is clear and good reason to justify its
rejection. 49 Unless it should clearly appear that they have been deliberately put
by the voter to serve as identification marks, commas, dots, lines, or hyphens
between the first name and surname of a candidate, or in other parts of the
ballot, traces of the letter "T", "J", and other similar ones, the first letters or
syllables of names which the voter does not continue, the use of two or more
kinds of writing and unintentional or accidental flourishes, strokes, or strains,
shall not invalidate the ballot. 50 HcaATE
Election Law Cases

On the premise that the alleged markings in the ballots, i.e., "/" ")" and other
similar marks do not qualify to identify the ballot, the HRET admitted as not
marked the 381 ballots objected by petitioner in favor of Lagdameo. On the other
hand, the HRET admitted as not marked 4,562 ballots objected by Lagdameo in
favor of petitioner. Only one (1) ballot for petitioner was rejected while only two (2)
ballots for Lagdameo were rejected for being marked.

Petitioner objected to most of the ballots on the ground that these


were Spurious or Substituted ballots. These are ballots that allegedly do not
contain the signature of the Chairperson of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI)
at the designated space or the signature is allegedly different from the BEI
Chairperson's signature appearing on other election documents.

In Punzalan v. Comelec, 51 this Court held that "[i]t is a well-settled rule that the
failure of the BEI chairman or any of the members of the board to comply with
their mandated administrative responsibility, i.e., signing, authenticating and
thumbmarking of ballots, should not penalize the voter with disenfranchisement,
thereby frustrating the will of the people." 52 The consistent rule is that a ballot is
considered valid and genuine when it bears any one of the following
authenticating marks: (a) the COMELEC watermark or (b) the signature or initials
or thumbprint of the Chairman of the BEI; and (c) in those cases where the
COMELEC watermarks are blurred or not readily apparent to the naked eye, the
presence of red and blue fibers in the ballots. 53

In this case, ultra-violet (UV) lamps were used to confirm the presence of the UV
code or seal placed as security markings at the upper center of the automated
ballots.54 This UV code or seal was inserted to identify ballots that were cast and
fed to the PCOS machines. The HRET found these ballots authentic and
admitted as valid the 1,808 ballots objected by petitioner and favoring Lagdameo.
On the other hand, the HRET admitted 1,905 ballots objected by Lagdameo and
favoring Locsin.

Ballots with an Over-Voting count occur when a voter shaded more than two or
more ovals pertaining to two or more candidates for representative.
Election Law Cases

The HRET admitted 10 ballots in favor of Lagdameo owing to the untenability of


the objections raised. On the other hand, all 597 ballots in favor of
petitioner Locsin were admitted.

Lastly, the HRET found without merit objections made on miscellaneous grounds
and admitted one (1) ballot for petitioner and four (4) ballots for Lagdameo. 55 AHEDaI

This Court finds no grave abuse of discretion by the HRET in its findings
after HRET's careful review of the objected ballots and guided by existing
principles, rules and rulings on its appreciation.
II.Claimed Ballots
Petitioner also alleged that the HRET acted with grave abuse of discretion in
admitting only 192 out of the 663 stray, common or PCOS-rejected ballots
claimed timely and duly by the petitioner during the judicial recount and revision
proceedings. The petition included tables enumerating the contested ballots,
ground for their rejection and findings, organized by barangay and clustered
precinct number. 56 Petitioner's findings are consolidated and summarized as
follows:
Number of Ballots Findings
1 The names of LAGDAMEO and LOCSIN are both
shaded but the shading for LAGDAMEO is more
prominent.

3 Oval shape beside pre-printed name "LOCSIN,


LAGDAMEO" was shaded, the voter's intention
is to vote for "LOCSIN" as Congressman.

17 The shaded oval beside the name "LOCSIN


MARIA LOURDES" is clear and more pertinent
as compared to the other candidate. The intention
of the voter is clear to vote for "LOCSIN" for
representative.

427 Oval shape beside pre-printed name "LOCSIN. . ."


was shaded, the intention of the voter is to vote
for LOCSIN as Congressman.

15 Oval shape beside pre-printed name "LOCSIN"


was shaded, the intention of the voter is to vote
Election Law Cases

for "LOUIE LOCSIN" as Congressman.

2 Oval shape beside pre-printed name "BARBERS,


IBAY, LOCSIN" was shaded, the intention of the
voter is to vote for "LOCSIN" for Congressman.

1 Oval shape beside pre-printed name "BARBERS,


LOCSIN" was shaded, the intention of the voter
is to vote for "LOCSIN" as Congressman.

4 Oval shape beside pre-printed name "BARBERS,


IBAY, CARBONFIL, LAGDAMEO, LOCSIN"
was shaded, the intention of the voter is to vote
for "LOCSIN" as Congressman.

1 Oval shape beside pre-printed name "LOCSIN,


MARIA LOURDES B. "LOUIE" was shaded
60% by semi-illiterate voter, other entries shaded
on the ballot done by another person, the intention
of voter to vote for "LOCSIN".

2 Ballot is clean and no reported incident in the MOV.


Therefore, the voter's intention to vote for "LOCSIN
MARIA LOURDES" for representative of the 1st
district of Makati should not be disenfranchised.

1 Oval shape beside pre-printed name "LOCSIN" was


shaded, the voter's intention is to vote for LOCSIN
as Congressman. ("One and more ambiguous mark"
was written on the ballot.)

2 Oval shape beside pre-printed name "LOCSIN" was


shaded, the intent of voter is to vote for LOCSIN as
Congressman. (The ballots were marked "Rejected"
signed by the BEI Chairman.)
The HRET discussed in the assailed decision that under the 2010 automated
election system, parties' claims are now limited to the applicability of the intent
rule. This requires compliance with the following conditions: (a) only the oval
beside the name of the claimant is shaded or marked; (b) the ballot belongs to
the clustered precinct concerned; (c) the ballot is not marked; and (d) the ballot is
authentic. 57
Election Law Cases

The HRET applied this rule on its appreciation of the claimed ballots.
For Stray ballots, the tribunal admitted two (2) ballots out of the 451 stray ballots
claimed by petitioner and in fact admitted only one (1) out of the 606 stray ballots
claimed by Lagdameo. For PCOS Machine-Rejected ballots, these may still be
admissible for the claimant provided that upon physical examination, the four
requisites for the applicability of the intent rule are present. The HRET admitted
190 claimed ballots in favor of petitioner and 191 in favor of Lagdameo.

The final results of the appreciation of contested ballots were summarized by


respondent tribunal as follows: 58
Objected Ballots
OBJECTION BASIS LOCSIN LAGDAMEO
Admitted Rejected Admitted Rejected
Ballots with an 439 0 250 0
Ambiguous Vote
Ballots Shaded by More 1,118 0 0 0
than One Person
Ballots Objected as Marked 4,562 (1) 381 (2)
Ballots with Pattern Voting 10,625 0 0 0
Spurious/Substituted Ballots 1,905 0 1,808 0
Ballots with an Over-Voting 597 0 10 0
Count
Combination of Grounds 0 0 2 0
Miscellaneous Grounds 1 (1) 4 0
No Stated Objection 1 0 0 0


TOTAL 19,248 (2) 2,455 (2)
====== ==== ===== ===
Claimed Ballots
CLAIM BASIS LOCSIN LAGDAMEO
Admitted Denied Admitted Denied
Stray Ballots 2 (449) 1 (605)
PCOS Machine-Rejected 190 (22) 191 (11)
Ballots


TOTAL 192 (471) 192 (616)
==== ===== ===== =====
Election Law Cases

The HRET did not act with grave abuse of discretion when it in fact applied
meticulously the existing rules and rulings on the ballot appreciation for the
objected and claimed ballots made by both parties. TaCDAH

Clearly, Lagdameo received 42,484 votes. Locsin, on the other hand, received
42,149 votes.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.


The Decision promulgated on 17 September 2012 and HRET Resolution No. 12-
209 dated 15 October 2012 are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Leonardo-de Castro, Del Castillo, Abad, Villarama, Jr.,
Perez, Mendoza, Reyes and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.

Velasco, Jr., Brion, Peralta and Bersamin, JJ., took no part due
to HRET participation.
||| (Locsin v. HRET, G.R. No. 204123, [March 19, 2013])

JAIME
C. REGIO, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and
RONNIE C. CO, respondents.

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J : p

The Case
This Petition for Certiorari filed under Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65, seeks to
nullify and set aside the Resolution dated December 7, 2012 of
the Commission onElections (COMELEC) En Banc in EAC (BRGY-SK) No. 161-
2011. The assailed Resolution reversed and set aside the Resolution of the
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COMELEC First Division dated August 23, 2011, which, in turn, affirmed the May
4, 2011 Decision in Election Case No. 02480-EC of the Metropolitan Trial Court
(MeTC), Branch 4 in Manila.

The Facts
Petitioner Jaime C. Regio (Regio) and private respondent Ronnie C. Co (Co),
among other candidates, ran in the October 25, 2010 barangay elections
in Barangay 296, Zone 28, District III of the City of Manila for the position
of punong barangay.

Immediately following the counting and canvassing of the votes from seven
clustered precincts in the adverted barangay, Regio, who garnered four hundred
seventy-eight (478) votes, as against the three hundred thirty-six (336) votes
obtained by Co, was proclaimed winner for the contested post of punong
barangay. The detailed tally of the votes per precinct, as reflected in the
Statement of Votes, is as follows: 1 SacTCA

Candidate Clustered Precinct Number


Total
1302A 1304A 1306A 1307A
1303A 1305A 1307B

Co, Ronnie C. 76 113 48 99 336

Regio, Jaime C. 171 151 73 83 478


On November 4, 2010, Co filed an election protest before the MeTC. He claimed,
among other things, that the Board of Election Tellers (BET) did not follow
COMELEC Resolution No. 9030, as it: (1) did not permit his supporters to vote;
(2) allowed "flying voters" to cast votes; and (3) ignored the rules on appreciation
of ballots, resulting in misreading, miscounting, and misappreciation of ballots.
Additionally, he alleged that Regio committed vote-buying, and engaged in
distribution of sample ballots inside the polling centers during the day of the
elections. 2
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Of the seven clustered precincts (CPs) initially protested, Co would later exclude
CP Nos. 1304A and 1305A from the protest. During the preliminary conference,
the trial court allowed the revision of ballots. The revision of ballots occurred on
January 13-14, 2011. 3 Per the report of the revision committee, the number of
votes obtained by both candidates in the contested precincts, as shown below,
indicated a substantial recovery on the part of Co: ACIDSc

Candidate Clustered Precinct Number Total


1302A 1304A 1306A 1307A
1303A 1305A 1307B

Co, Ronnie C. 160 - 63 98 321

Regio, Jaime C. 86 - 62 84 232


During his turn to present evidence, Co limited his offer to the revision committee
report, showing that he garnered the highest number of votes.

Regio, on the other hand, denied that the elections were tainted with
irregularities. He claimed that the results of the revision are products of post-
elections operations, as the ballots were tampered with, switched, and altered
drastically to change the results of the elections. He presented as witnesses the
following: poll watchers Evangeline Garcia, Cezar Regio, and Ruben Merilles,
who all testified that there were no instances of electoral fraud, irregularities, and
anomalies during the day of the elections. Presented too were volunteers Love
Agpaoa and Romy Que, who belied allegations of miscounting, misreading, and
misappreciation of the ballots during the counting, and Dominador Dela Cruz,
Chairperson of the BET for CP Nos. 1302A/1303A, as well as Erlina Hernandez,
Chairperson of the BET for CP No. 1306A, who both testified that they followed
the rules and regulations in conducting the elections in Barangay 296, and that
each ballot was correctly tabulated. 4

The results of the revision notwithstanding, the trial court, in its Decision of May
4, 2011, dismissed Co's protest and declared Regio as the duly-elected punong
barangay of Barangay 296. It disposed of the case, as follows: AHacIS
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WHEREFORE, the proclamation of protestee Jaime C. Regio as the duly


elected "Punong Barangay" or "Barangay Chairman" of Barangay 296,
District III, Manila by the Barangay Board of Canvassers is affirmed by
this court. The election protest filed by the protestant Ronnie C. Co is
dismissed for lack of merit. 5

According to the trial court, before it can accord credence to the results of the
revision, it should first be ascertained that the ballots found in the box during the
revision are the same ballots deposited by the voters. In fine, the court "should
first be convinced that the ballots counted during the revision have not been
tampered with before it can declare the ballots a) as superior evidence of how the
electorate voted, and b) as sufficient evidence to set aside the election returns.
For the ballots to be considered the best evidence of how the voters voted, their
integrity should be satisfactorily established." 6

Invoking Rosal v. COMELEC, 7 the trial court ruled that Co failed to sufficiently
show that the integrity of the contested ballots had been preserved. It then cited
the presumption that election returns are genuine, and that the data and
information supplied by the board of election inspectors are true and
correct. 8 The trial court said:

A closer scrutiny of the premise made by the protestant will reveal that
he is trying to prove the misreading, miscounting, and misappreciation of
ballots by introducing as evidence the marked difference of the results of
the revision and of the results in the election returns. This premise is too
presumptuous. The marked difference cannot be used to prove the
misreading, miscounting, and misappreciation of ballots because the
misreading, miscounting, and misappreciation of ballots is precisely what
the protestant needs to prove to justify the marked difference in the
results. Prudence dictates that the protestant should first explain where
this huge discrepancy is coming from before using it as evidence. In
other words, the misreading, miscounting, and misappreciation of ballots
should be proven by other independent evidence. DaACIH
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Without any evidence, the allegation of misreading, miscounting, and


misappreciation of ballots remains a mere allegation without any
probative value. 9

Traversing the allegations of post-elections tampering, the trial court rejected Co's
allegation that the ballot boxes were properly locked and sealed. In fact, the trial
court said, the envelope containing the ballots for CP Nos. 1302A/1303A was
glued on both sides, prompting protestee's revisor to comment that the envelope
appears to be re-pasted and tampered. In CP No. 1306A, the report stated that
the ballots were not placed in a sealed envelope. 10

Corollarily, the trial court stated the observation that Regio has presented credible
witnesses to prove that there were no irregularities or anomalies during the
casting and counting of votes. cTSDAH

Aggrieved, Co filed an appeal before the COMELEC, arguing that the trial court
erred:

1.) In disregarding the result of the physical count of the revised ballots
found in Precinct Nos. 1302A/1303A and 1306A;

2.) In declaring that the protestant appellant was not able to sufficiently
show that the integrity of the contested ballots in Precinct Nos.
1302A/1303A and 1306A was preserved;

3.) In declaring that protestant-appellant was not able to overcome the


presumption of regularity of the election, counting, and
canvassing proceedings in the protested precincts of Barangay
296, Manila;

4.) In declaring that the votes obtained by the parties in Precinct Nos.
1302A/1303A and 1306A as reflected in their respective Election
Returns are [the] true and actual results of the elections;

5.) In giving weight to the incredulous and conflicting testimonies of the


obviously biased witnesses of the protestee-appellee;
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6.) In refusing to lend credence to the testimony of the expert witness


from the Commission on Elections that the ballots obtained from
Precinct Nos. 1302A/1303A and 1306A are genuine ballots;
and ITDHSE

7.) In refusing to appreciate the contested and revised ballots for


Precinct Nos. 1302A/1303A and 1306A and the appreciation of
the contested ballots found in Precinct No. 1307A/1307B. 11

In a Resolution dated August 23, 2011, the COMELEC First Division 12 dismissed
the appeal, noting, as the MeTC did, that Co failed to show that the integrity of
the ballots in question was in fact preserved. Echoing the trial court, the
COMELEC First Division ruled that the absence of any report or record of
tampering of the ballot boxes does not preclude the possibility of ballot
tampering. 13 It also affirmed the rejection of Co's reliance on the revision
committee report as proof that no post-election tampering occurred. The
COMELEC First Division observed:

We note that protestant-appellant did not offer any evidence to prove his
claims of misreading, miscounting, and misappreciation of the ballots; he
posits that the variance between the election results according to the
election documents and the revision of the ballots is in itself enough to
prove his allegations of misreading, miscounting, and misappreciation of
the ballots by the Board of Election Tellers. Protestant-appellant begs the
question instead of laying support to his claims.

xxx xxx xxx

Since it could not divine the will of the electorate from the ballots, the trial
court had no other recourse other than to rely on the available election
documents. And, We cannot fault the trial court for doing so when there
was no question as to the election documents' authenticity and
validity. IDaEHC

Protestant-appellant harps that the election documents are "mere by-


products of the electoral fraud committed to benefit (protestee-appellee)
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including but not limited to misreading, miscounting, and


misappreciation of ballots by the Chairpersons of the Board of
Election Tellers in order to increase the votes of the Protestee-
Appellee and decrease the votes that should have been properly
credited to Protestant-Appellant Co." (emphasis in the original)

As previously mentioned, protestant-appellant's assertion is specious . . .


. The records of the case is bereft of any evidence supporting protestant-
appellant's claims of electoral fraud and, thus, We concur with the trial
court stating, "(w)ithout any evidence, the allegation of misreading,
miscounting, and misappreciation of ballots remains a mere allegation
without probative value." 14

The COMELEC First Division noted that Co could have, but did not, presented
testimonies of witnesses to substantiate his claims of electoral fraud, albeit he
attached affidavits of various witnesses in his protest. The affidavits, the
COMELEC First Division said, asserted, in one form or another, the electoral
malfeasance or misfeasance allegedly committed by the BET. In dismissing the
arguments of Co for his failure to present evidence, the COMELEC commented,
"[I]t appears that protestant-appellant [Co] rested on laurels after seeing the
result of the physical count of the revised ballots and the conclusion of the
Technical Examination. In fine, protestant-appellant proverbially lost the war for
want of a nail." 15 The fallo of the COMELEC First Division Resolution reads: CcAESI

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission (First


Division) RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to DENY the
protestant's Appeal for LACK OF MERIT. The Decision dated 04 May
2011 by Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 04 City of Manila is
hereby AFFIRMED. 16

Co then filed a Motion for Reconsideration. In its assailed December 7, 2012


Resolution, the COMELEC En Banc 17 reconsidered the August 23, 2011
Resolution of the First Division, and accordingly declared Co as the duly
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elected punong barangay. Vital to the En Banc's disposition is its finding that the
ballots subjected to revision were genuine. The En Banc found: EDSHcT

. . . [W]e find merit in appellant's motion for reconsideration. For,


protestant [Co] has sufficiently established that no untoward incident had
attended the preservation of the ballots after the termination of the
proceedings of the Board of Election Tellers or from the time the custody
of the ballot boxes is transferred from the BET to the City Treasurer and
finally to the trial court. Protestee who cried post-election fraud is duty-
bound to establish that the genuine ballots found inside the boxes were
compromised and tampered at any time during that period and before
the revision. However, no such proof has been adduced by protestee
except the discrepancy between the figures in the ERs and the physical
count on revision. But then, said discrepancy could have been caused by
errors in the transposition of the numbers from the ballots to the ERs
during the canvassing and not due to tampering.

As earlier intimated, the discrepancy could be attributed to ER


manipulation during the canvassing and not because of the tampering of
the ballots which were already found by an expert and independent body
to be genuine and authentic. 18

The fallo of the COMELEC En Banc's Resolution reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED as it


hereby RESOLVES to reconsider its Resolution dated August 23, 2011
and proclaim protestant-appellant as the duly elected Punong Barangay
of Barangay 296, District III, Manila. 19

Thus, the present recourse, on the argument that the COMELEC En


Banc committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction when it arbitrarily set aside the Decision of the MeTC and the
Resolution of the COMELEC First Division, in the choice between the revision
results in the protested precincts and the official vote count recorded in the
election returns. Petitioner further argues that the COMELEC gravely abused its
Election Law Cases

discretion when it demanded from protestee direct proof of actual tampering of


ballots to justify consideration of the use of the election returns in determining the
winning candidate in the elections. In fine, petitioner questions the ruling of the
COMELEC giving precedence to the results of the revision over the official
canvassing results. CIAacS

The Issues
I.

WHETHER THE RESPONDENT COMMISSION COMMITTED GRAVE


ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION IN RULING THAT PRIVATE RESPONDENT CO HAD
SUCCESSFULLY DISCHARGED THE BURDEN OF PROVING THE
INTEGRITY OF THE BALLOTS SUBJECTED TO REVISION.

II.

WHETHER THE RESPONDENT COMMISSION COMMITTED GRAVE


ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION IN REVERSING THE RULING OF THE COMELEC
FIRST DIVISION, TO THE EFFECT THAT PETITIONER REGIO IS
THE DULY-ELECTED PUNONG BARANGAY.

The Court's Ruling


At the outset, it must be noted that the protest case is dismissible for being moot
and academic. A case becomes moot when there is no more actual controversy
between the parties or no useful purpose can be served in passing upon the
merits. Generally, courts will not determine a moot question in a case in which no
practical relief can be granted. 20 In Malaluan v. COMELEC, 21 this Court settled
the matter on when an election protest case becomes moot and academic:

When the appeal from a decision in an election case has already


become moot, the case being an election protest involving the office of
mayor the term of which had expired, the appeal is dismissible on that
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ground, unless the rendering of a decision on the merits would be of


practical value. (emphasis added)

In the case now before the Court, the position involved is that of a punong
barangay. The governing law, therefore, is Republic Act No. (RA) 9164, as
amended by RA 9340. Sec. 4 of the law states:

Sec. 4. Assumption of Office. The term of office of


the barangay and sangguniang kabataan officials elected under this
Act shall commence on August 15, 2002, next following their elections.
The term of office of the barangay and sangguniang kabataan officials
elected in the October 2007 election and subsequent elections shall
commence at noon of November 30 next following their election.
(emphasis added) CcADHI

The court takes judicial notice of the holding of barangay elections last October
28, 2013. Following the elections, the new set of barangay officials already
assumed office as of noon of November 30, 2013. It goes without saying, then,
that the term of office of those who were elected during the October
2010 barangay elections also expired by noon on November 30, 2013. In fine,
with the election of a new punong barangay during the October 28, 2013
elections, the issue of who the rightful winner of the 2010 barangay elections has
already been rendered moot and academic.

Notwithstanding the mootness of the case, We find the need to decide the
petition on its merits, in view of the finding of the COMELEC En Banc that
protestant Co should have been declared the winner for the post of punong
barangay for the term 2010-2013. We find that the grave abuse of discretion
committed by the COMELECEn Banc, specifically in ignoring the rules on
evidence, merits consideration. Still in line with the Court's decision
in Malaluan 22 to the effect that the Court can decide on the merits a moot protest
if there is practical value in so doing, We find that the nullification of the
COMELEC En Banc's Resolution is in order, due to its gross contravention of
established rules on evidence in election protest cases. TSADaI
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We shall discuss the issues jointly, related as they are to the finding of the
COMELEC En Banc giving primacy to the results of the revision proceedings
over the results of the canvassing as reflected in the election returns.

The doctrine in Rosal v. COMELEC 23 and


considering the results of the revision vis- -vis
the results reflected in the official canvassing
In Rosal, this Court summarized the standards to be observed in an election
contest predicated on the theory that the election returns do not accurately reflect
the will of the voters due to alleged irregularities in the appreciation and counting
of ballots. These guiding standards are:

(1) The ballots cannot be used to overturn the official count as reflected in the
election returns unless it is first shown affirmatively that the ballots have been
preserved with a care which precludes the opportunity of tampering and
suspicion of change, abstraction or substitution; HISAET

(2) The burden of proving that the integrity of the ballots has been preserved in
such a manner is on the protestant;

(3) Where a mode of preserving the ballots is enjoined by law, proof must be
made of such substantial compliance with the requirements of that mode as
would provide assurance that the ballots have been kept inviolate notwithstanding
slight deviations from the precise mode of achieving that end;

(4) It is only when the protestant has shown substantial compliance with the
provisions of law on the preservation of ballots that the burden of proving actual
tampering or likelihood thereof shifts to the protestee; and ICDSca

(5) Only if it appears to the satisfaction of the court of COMELEC that the
integrity of the ballots has been preserved should it adopt the result as shown by
the recount and not as reflected in the election returns.

In the same case, the Court referred to various provisions in the Omnibus
Election Code providing for the safe-keeping and preservation of the ballots,
more specifically Secs. 160, 217, 219, and 220 of the Code.
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Rosal was promulgated precisely to honor the presumption of regularity in the


performance of official functions. Following Rosal, it is presumed that the BET
and Board of Canvassers had faithfully performed the solemn duty reposed unto
them during the day of the elections. Thus, primacy is given to the official results
of the canvassing, even in cases where there is a discrepancy between such
results and the results of the revision proceedings. It is only when the protestant
has successfully discharged the burden of proving that the re-counted ballots are
the very same ones counted during the revision proceedings, will the court or the
Commission, as the case may be, even consider the revision results.

Even then, the results of the revision will not automatically be given more weight
over the official canvassing results or the election returns. What happens in the
event of discrepancy between the revision results and the election returns is that
the burden of proof shifts to the protestee to provide evidence of actual tampering
of the ballots, or at least a likelihood of tampering. It is only when the court or the
COMELEC is fully satisfied that the ballots have been well preserved, and that
there had been no tampering of the ballots, that it will accord credibility to the
results of the revision.

In Varias v. COMELEC, the Court said: TaEIcS

The Rosal ruling, to be sure, does not involve issues merely related to
the appreciation or calibration of evidence; its critical ruling is on the
propriety of relying on the revision of ballot results instead of the election
returns in the proclamation of a winning candidate. In deciding this issue,
what it notably established was a critical guide in arriving at its
conclusion the need to determine whether the court or the COMELEC
looked at the correct considerations in making its ruling. 24

This Court had long stated that "[u]pholding the sovereignty of the people is what
democracy is all about. When the sovereignty of the people expressed thru the
ballot is at stake, it is not enough for this Court to make a statement but it should
do everything to have that sovereignty obeyed by all. Well done is always better
than well said." 25 This is really what the Rosal doctrine is all about.
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The Rosal doctrine ensures that in election protest cases, the supreme mandate
of the people is ultimately determined. In laying down the rules in appreciating the
conflicting results of the canvassing and the results of a revision later made, the
Court has no other intention but to determine the will of the electorate.

The Rosal doctrine is also supplemented by A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC, 26 establishing


the following disputable presumptions:

SEC. 6.Disputable presumptions. The following presumptions are


considered as facts, unless contradicted and overcome by other
evidence: cEaTHD

(a) On the election procedure:

(1) The election of candidates was held on the


date and time set and in the polling place
determined by the Commission on Elections;

(2) The Boards of Election Inspectors were duly


constituted and organized;

(3) Political parties and candidates were duly


represented by pollwatchers;

(4) Pollwatchers were able to perform their


functions; and

(5) The Minutes of Voting and Counting contains


all the incidents that transpired before the Board of
Election Inspectors.

(b) On election paraphernalia:

(1) Ballots and election returns that bear the


security markings and features prescribed by
the Commission on Elections are genuine;
Election Law Cases

(2) The data and information supplied by the


members of the Boards of Election Inspectors in
the accountable forms are true and correct; and

(3) The allocation, packing and distribution of


election documents or paraphernalia were properly
and timely done. ADEacC

(c) On appreciation of ballots:

(1) A ballot with appropriate security markings is


valid;

(2) The ballot reflects the intent of the voter;

(3) The ballot is properly accomplished;

(4) A voter personally prepared one ballot, except


in the case of assistors; and

(5) The exercise of one's right to vote was


voluntary and free.

Private respondent Co has not proved that


the integrity of the ballots has been preserved
Applying Rosal, viewed in conjunction with A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC, this Court rules
that the COMELEC En Banc committed grave abuse of discretion in ruling that
private respondent had successfully discharged the burden of proving that the
ballots counted during the revision proceedings are the same ballots cast and
counted during the day of the elections. That is the essence of the second
paragraph in the Rosal doctrine.

It is well to note that the respondent Co did not present any testimonial evidence
to prove that the election paraphernalia inside the protested ballot boxes had
been preserved. He mainly relied on the report of the revision committee. There
was no independent, direct or indirect, evidence to prove the preservation of the
ballots and other election paraphernalia. cDTCIA
Election Law Cases

This leads Us to no other conclusion but that respondent Co failed to discharge


his burden under the Rosal doctrine. With no independent evidence to speak of,
respondent Co cannot simply rely on the report of the revision committee, and
from there conclude that the report itself is proof of the preservation of the ballots.
What he needs to provide is evidence independent of the revision proceedings.
Without any such evidence, the Court or the COMELEC, as the case may be, will
be constrained to honor the presumption established in A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC,
that the data and information supplied by the members of the Boards of Election
Inspectors in the accountable forms are true and correct.

Respondent Co admits having, under the Rosal doctrine, the burden of proving
the preservation of the ballots, and corollarily, that their integrity have not been
compromised before the revision proceedings. He, however, argues that he had
successfully discharged that burden. And how? First, he pointed out that from the
moment the various BETs placed the counted official ballots inside the ballot
boxes until they were transported for canvassing, and until they were transmitted
to the Election Officer/City Treasurer of Manila for storage and custody, no
irregularities or ballot-box snatching were reported; neither was there any news or
record of ballot box tampering in the protested precincts. Second, no untoward
incident or irregularity which may taint or affect the integrity of the ballot boxes
was ever reported when they were transported to the storage area of the trial
court. Third, the storage place of the ballot boxes was at all times tightly secured,
properly protected, and well safeguarded. Fourth, all the protested ballot boxes
were properly locked and sealed. Fifth, the petitioner never questioned or raised
any issue on the preservation of the integrity of the protested ballot boxes.
And sixth, the Technical Examination Report signed by the COMELEC
representative confirmed the genuineness, authenticity, and integrity of all the
ballots found during the revision. 27 ETHaDC

We hold, however, that the foregoing statements do not, by themselves,


constitute sufficient evidence that the ballots have been preserved. Respondent
Co cannot simply rely on the alleged absence of evidence of reports of untoward
incidents, and from there immediately conclude that the ballots have been
Election Law Cases

preserved. What he should have presented are concrete pieces of evidence,


independent of the revision proceedings that will tend to show that the ballots
counted during the revision proceedings were the very same ones counted by the
BETs during the elections, and the very same ones cast by the public. He cannot
evade his duty by simply relying on the absence of reports of untoward incidents
that happened to the ballot boxes. At best, this reliance on the condition of the
ballot boxes themselves is speculative; at worst, it is self-serving. Without
presenting to the court any evidence outside of the proceedings, respondent Co
as protestant may simply claim that the ballot boxes themselves are the proof that
they were properly preserved. This goes contrary to the doctrine in Rosal.

The respective custodians of the ballot boxes, from the time they were used in the
elections until they were delivered to the court, were not, to stress, presented in
court. They could have testified as to the security afforded the ballot boxes while
in their custody. Moreover, no witness at all was presented by respondent Co
during the proceedings in the trial court. The Court reminds respondent Co that
the trial court's consideration of the case is confined to whatever evidence is
presented before it. This is amply stated in Rule 13, Sec. 2 of A.M. No. 07-4-15-
SC:

Sec. 2. Offer of evidence. The court shall consider no evidence that


has not been formally offered. Offer of evidence shall be done orally on
the last day of hearing allowed for each party after the presentation of
the last witness. The opposing party shall be required to immediately
interpose objections thereto. The court shall rule on the offer of evidence
in open court. However, the court may, at its discretion, allow the party to
make an offer of evidence in writing, which shall be submitted within
three days. If the court rejects any evidence offered, the party may make
a tender of excluded evidence. aSEHDA

Unfortunately for respondent Co, the witnesses whose affidavits he attached to


his Protest were never presented during trial. While he again raised the tenor of
these affidavits in his Comment filed before Us, those cannot be considered
anymore due to his failure to present them before the trial court. Respondent
Election Law Cases

cannot simplistically insist on the consideration of said affidavits, the trial court
not having been given the opportunity to observe their testimonies, and petitioner
not having been accorded the opportunity to cross-examine them. The fact that
respondent attached the affidavits in his Protest does not mean that the trial court
is bound to consider them, precisely because they have not been formally offered
before the court. The attachments to the Protest will not be considered unless
formally offered.

The Court notes that respondent Co has offered no explanation whatsoever why
he failed to present his witnesses. Nevertheless, he would have this Court
consider as evidence their purported testimonies. This would be incongruously
unfair to petitioner, who endeavored to prove his case by presenting evidence
before the trial court.

Neither can respondent Co disclaim responsibility on the argument that the


petitioner never raised as an issue the preservation of the ballot boxes. Inherent
in all election protest cases is the duty of the protestant to provide evidence of
such preservation. The failure of the protestee to raise that as an issue will
not ipso factomean that protestant need not present evidence to that effect.

Moreover, the Technical Examination Report, is not, without more, evidence of


preservation. The Report merely states that the ballots are genuine. What the
protestant should endeavor to prove, however, in presenting evidence of
preservation, is not that the ballots themselves are genuine or official, but that
they are the very same ones cast by the electorate. The Report cannot possibly
determine that. While it may be that the ballots themselves are official ballots,
there is still a dearth of evidence on whether or not they were the same official
ballots cast by the public during the elections. The Report, therefore, cannot be
considered as evidence of the preservation, as required by Rosal. CDAHaE

The fact of preservation is not, as respondent Co claims, "incontrovertible." In


fact, there is total absence of evidence to that effect. The incontrovertible fact is
that private respondent, during the proceedings before the trial court, did not
present any independent evidence to prove his claim. Without any independent
Election Law Cases

evidence, the trial court, the COMELEC, as well as this Court, is constrained to
affirm as a fact the disputable presumption that the ballots were properly counted
during the counting and canvassing of votes.

In sum, We find that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in ruling that
private respondent had discharged the burden of proving the integrity of the
ballots. We rule, on the contrary, that there is utter lack of evidence to that effect.

Petitioner need not prove actual tampering of the ballots


Corollarily, the COMELEC En Banc had ruled that petitioner, as protestee, failed
to adduce evidence that the ballots found inside the ballot boxes were
compromised and tampered. This strikes us as baseless and a clear departure
from the teachings of Rosal. HaIATC

The duty of the protestee in an election contest to provide evidence of actual


tampering or any likelihood arises only when the protestant has first successfully
discharged the burden of proving that the ballots have been secured to prevent
tampering or susceptibility of change, abstraction or substitution. Such need to
present proof of tampering did not arise since protestant himself failed to provide
evidence of the integrity of the ballots.

A candidate for a public elective position ought to familiarize himself with election
laws, pertinent jurisprudence, and COMELEC resolutions, rules and regulations.
Alternatively, he should have an experienced and knowledgeable election lawyer
to guide him on the different aspects of elections. Sans competent legal advice
and representation, a victory in the elections may turn out to be a crushing defeat
for the candidate who actually got the nod of the electorate. Unfortunately for
respondent Co, he committed several miscues that eventually led to his debacle
in the instant election protest.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Petition for Certiorari is GRANTED.


The Resolution dated December 7, 2012 of the COMELEC En Banc in EAC
(BRGY-SK) No. 161-2011 is hereby NULLIFIED and SET ASIDE. The Resolution
of the COMELEC First Division dated August 23, 2011, affirming the Decision in
Election Law Cases

Election Case No. 02480-EC of the MeTC, Branch 4 in Manila is


hereby REINSTATED. aAHDIc

SO ORDERED.

||| (Regio v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 204828, [December 3, 2013])

SAMSON S. ALCANTARA, ROMEO R. ROBISO, PEDRO T.


DABU, JR., LOPE E. FEBLE, NOEL T. TIAMPONG and JOSE
FLORO
CRISOLOGO, petitioners, vs.COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
JONATHAN DE LA CRUZ, ED VINCENT ALBANO and
BENEDICT KATO, respondents.

DECISION

BRION, J : p

Before the Court is a petition for certiorari under Rule 64 in relation with Rule 65
assailing the May 4, 2010 1 and September 5, 2012 resolutions of
the Commission onElections (COMELEC). The assailed rulings (i) dismissed the
petition filed by Samson S. Alcantara, Romeo R. Robiso, Pedro T. Dabu, Jr.,
Lope E. Feble, Noel T. Tiampong and Jose Floro Crisologo
(collectively, petitioners) for the declaration of nullity of the Supreme
Assembly held on February 6, 2010 and (ii) denied the motion for reconsideration
the petitioners subsequently filed.

The petitioners are officials and members of Abakada Guro Partylist (ABAKADA):
Attys. Alcantara, Tiampong and Dabu (Alcantara, et al.) are the founding
President, Vice President for the Visayas and Secretary, respectively,
of Abakada; while Robiso, Feble and Crisologo have been members of the party
since 2007. 2
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ANTECEDENT FACTS
Sometime between January and April 2003, Alcantara, et al., along with their
fellow law teachers, organized a party named Advocates and Adherents of Social
Justice for School Teachers and Allied Workers. The party has a constitution and
by-laws (CBL) and a principal office at the same location as Atty. Alcantara's law
office. 3

On May 14, 2004, the party name was amended and changed to Abakada Guro
Party list. The change was duly approved by the COMELEC. In the May 2007
elections, where ABAKADA participated and won a seat, Jonathan de la Cruz
(De la Cruz), its first nominee, became the party's sole representative in
Congress. 4

In a May 5, 2009 letter separately addressed to the COMELEC and the Speaker
of the House of Representatives, De la Cruz tendered his "irrevocable"
resignation effective December 31, 2009. 5 Despite the supposed effectivity of his
resignation however, De la Cruz refused to vacate his seat,
prompting Alcantara, et al. to file a petition for quo warranto with the Supreme
Court. This petition was subsequently dismissed for being moot and
academic. 6 acHTIC

In several occasions between October and December 2009, De la Cruz


requested Alcantara in writing to convene the Supreme Assembly. He
informed Alcantara, too, of the nationwide party caucuses being held and of the
common sentiment among members that a party meeting should be called.
Under ABAKADA's CBL, a Supreme Assembly meeting should be held at least
once every three years; since 2004, no Supreme Assembly had been called and
held.

In his letter-response, Alcantara explained that the Supreme Assembly cannot be


held as requested because many of the members reside in the provinces; the
party lacked the funds to cover the necessary expenses.
Instead, Alcantara replied that it would be more "feasible to hold the [Supreme
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Assembly] early next year, as may be determined by the [National Executive


Board]." 7 Alcantara added:

1.Approval of applications for membership in Abakada is a party matter,


and genuine devotion to the advancement of the welfare of the
teachers and other school personnel is a basic qualification for
membership as prescribed in our [CBL].

2.Membership identification cards have to be signed by the Secretary . . .


and the President of ABAKADA.

xxx xxx xxx

Incidentally, we have filed with the Comelec our Manifestation to


Participate on November 24, 2009. 8

On December 15, 2009, an All Leaders Assembly was convened.


While Alcantara failed to attend the meeting, he sent Noel Tiampong in his stead.
The convening of a Supreme Assembly was proposed at the meeting, with the
agenda of amending the ABAKADA CBL, the election of new officers, and the
discussion of other election related matters. The proposal was to hold the
meeting sometime in February 2010.

Accordingly, in a letter dated January 23, 2010, Ed Vincent Albano (Albano),


acting as the party's Secretary, notified the party's chapters and members that
the party would hold its first Supreme Assembly on February 6, 2010 "pursuant to
the resolution adopted by the party during its First All Leaders Assembly held last
December 15, 2009." 9 As scheduled, the respondents proceeded to hold
a Supreme Assembly that resulted in the approval and ratification of the revised
ABAKADA CBL; the ouster of Alcantara, et al. from their positions; the expulsion
of the petitioners from the party; and the election of De la Cruz and Albano as
new President and Secretary-General, respectively. EHaASD

This prompted the petitioners to file a petition with the COMELEC to (i) declare
the meeting held on February 6, 2010 void and (ii) restrain the respondents from
falsely representing themselves as the duly elected officers of ABAKADA.
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In their petition, the petitioners alleged that the sending of notices and the holding
of a Supreme Assembly were contrary to the party's CBL for not having been
authorized by the President and by the party's National Executive Board. They
alleged that Albano has no authority to sign and send notices, much less call a
Supreme Assembly, since he is not the party's Secretary. Likewise, the
membership status of several meeting participants have neither been approved
nor accepted in accordance with the party's CBL.

The respondents defended the validity of the meeting in their comment to the
petition. They narrated that between September 2009 and February 2010, De la
Cruz made several communications to Alcantara to urge him to call a general
membership meeting and to inform him of the consultation meetings and party
caucuses being conducted at the respondents' instance in preparation for the
May 2010 elections. The respondents added that since Alcantara's letter-
response merely sought the deferment of the Supreme Assembly to "early next
year" 10 i.e., 2010, an All Leaders Assembly was convened on December 15,
2009, with prior notice to Alcantara, leading to the Supreme Assembly on
February 6, 2010.

COMELEC Rulings
The COMELEC Second Division dismissed the petition. It ruled that the
holding of an assembly for purposes of electing party officers and the
amendment of the party's CBL have long been overdue. Under the party's CBL, a
Supreme Assembly must be convened every three years to elect officers and to
amend or revise the party's CBL. Under Alcantara's leadership, no Supreme
Assembly was convened since ABAKADA's accreditation in 2004.

As members in good standing, therefore, the respondents had every right to


ask Alcantara to make a call for a Supreme Assembly; the respondents even
notified him of earlier meetings and caucuses being held by the party. Because of
the petitioners' (particularly, Alcantara's) failure, if not outright refusal, to heed the
respondents' requests pursuant to the party's CBL, the respondents had "good
cause" to initiate the holding of the meeting.
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The petitioners moved for reconsideration of the ruling, mainly questioning the
COMELEC Second Division's failure to address the issue of validity of the
Supreme Assembly based on the non-membership status of several meeting
participants. The COMELEC En Banc denied the petitioners' motion under the
following terms: SHTcDE

We find this argument unavailing. While we agree with petitioners'


supposition that only legitimate members of a party may move to
determine its destiny, we believe that petitioners have failed to prove their
allegation that the Supreme Assembly delegates are non-members of
the party. [Petitioners] offer nothing to corroborate such assertion except
the words of Mr. Alcantara himself, which, to our mind, is self serving, at
best. Moreover, we cannot accept their claim that only those one
hundred eight (108) individuals listed by them should be considered as
legitimate members of ABAKADA Guro. The "Member's Personal Data
Cards" that have been submitted by petitioners to confirm the
membership of these persons are dated either 2002 or 2003, or during
the inception of the party as AASJS, which is at least seven (7) years
before the Supreme Assembly of 06 February 2010. At best, what these
documents only evince is that the people listed by petitioner are
members of AASJS or ABAKADA Guro as of 2003. They do not prove
that the attendees in the assailed Supreme Assembly are not legitimate
members of the party, for it is quite possible and highly probable that
several more individuals have become members of the party since 2002
and 2003. A party like ABAKADA Guro, which was able to gain a seat in
Congress following the 2007 elections, could not have remained
stagnant as petitioners would have us believe (sic). 11

With their recourses at the COMELEC exhausted, the petitioners now come
before this Court on the present petition for certiorari under Rules 64 and 65 of
the Rules of Court.

THE PETITION
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The petition alleged that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion when it did
not consider Alcantara's affidavit, the submitted list of party members, and the
attached individual applications for membership. Since the attendance sheets of
the participants in the Supreme Assembly were submitted to the COMELEC, it
could have simply compared the submitted lists to determine whether the
Supreme Assembly participants are legitimate party members.

Assuming arguendo that the participants in the Supreme Assembly were all party
members, the petition further alleged that the meeting was not convened in
accordance with the party's CBL; thus, the COMELEC should have granted their
petition to declare the Supreme Assembly meeting void.

THE RESPONDENTS' COMMENT


The respondents pray for the dismissal of the petition, submitting that the general
membership is empowered to take the initiative and call for a Supreme Assembly
when the duly elected officials unjustifiably refused to do so. This was what the
respondents simply did. Only after sending several letters to
petitioner Alcantara and only after a consensus was reached in the All Leaders
Assembly in December 15, 2009 (that the Supreme Assembly be convened), all
with prior notices to petitionerAlcantara, did respondent Albano, acting as
Secretary General, sign and send notices to the chapter leaders who are the
official representatives of the general membership. AcSCaI

The respondents further posit that the petitioners cannot invoke ABAKADA's CBL
in assailing the validity of the Supreme Assembly because their own refusal to
abide by the democratic provisions of the CBL (among others, on electing new
officers every three years) is the very violation that prompted the conduct of the
party proceeding now being assailed.

The respondents add that during the hearing on the registered party-list groups'
continuing compliance with Republic Act No. 7941 and the 1987 Constitution,
only respondent De la Cruz and the present ABAKADA composition participated
and submitted the necessary documentary and testimonial evidence proving the
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party's continuing existence and accomplishments for the purpose of party-list


accreditation.

OUR RULING
We dismiss the petition.

At the outset, the respondents informed the Court (and the Court takes judicial
notice) of the fact that Atty. Alcantara is now running for a seat in the Senate
under the group Social Justice Society. The respondents claim that by filing his
certificate of candidacy for the Senate under a different
party, Alcantara effectively abandoned any claim to the ABAKADA presidency
the position he seeks to recover by asking for the nullity of the Supreme
Assembly. They argue that petitioner Alcantara's claim to the presidency of
ABAKADA, a marginalized and underrepresented party-list group, is inconsistent
with his act of waging an expensive national campaign for the Philippine Senate.

We need not dwell at length on this development as this is not a matter that the
parties presented and argued before the COMELEC and which that tribunal
resolved; there is no ruling on the matter that is now before us for review.
Additionally, what the petitioners question is petitioner Alcantara's expulsion as a
party president and as a member of the party when he questioned the legality of
the holding of the Supreme Assembly. This was the matter directly litigated before
the COMELEC and an issue that the tribunal directly ruled upon. We can resolve
this issue without need of considering the effect of petitioner Alcantara's Senate
candidacy.

We additionally observe that the respondents merely informed us of the fact of


petitioner Alcantara's Senate candidacy but did not at all attempt to show that by
running under another group, the Social Justice Society, Alcantara effectively
acted prejudicially or to the detriment of the interests that ABAKADA seeks to
advance. We have not been likewise directed to any provision in the ABAKADA's
CBL that would support the respondents' claim of inconsistency between
ABAKADA leadership and filing of a certificate of candidacy in the Senate.
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Hence, petitioner Alcantara's Senate candidacy is a non-issue in the present


case. EHScCA

Valid reasons exist to oust


petitioner Alcantara from ABAKADA
Under the Constitution, the COMELEC is empowered to register political
parties. 12 More specifically, as part of its power to enforce and administer laws
relative to the conduct of an election, the COMELEC possesses the power to
register national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations or coalitions for
purposes of the party-list system of elections. 13 It is the party-list group's
registration under the party-list system that confers juridical personality on the
party-list group for election related purposes. 14

As a juridical entity, a party-list group can only validly act through its duly
authorized representative/s. In the exercise of its power to register parties, the
COMELEC necessarily possesses the power to pass upon the question of who,
among the legitimate officers of the party-list group, are entitled to exercise the
rights and privileges granted to a party-list group under the law. The COMELEC's
jurisdiction on this point is well settled and is not here disputed.

With clear jurisdictional authority to resolve the issue of party leadership and
party identity, this Court will only be justified in interfering with the COMELEC's
action under Rules 64 and 65 of the Rules of Court if the petitioners can establish
that the COMELEC acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse
of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. By grave abuse of
discretion is generally meant the capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment
equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Mere abuse of discretion is not enough. It must
be grave, as when it is exercised arbitrarily or despotically by reason of passion
or personal hostility. Such abuse must be so patent and so gross as to amount to
an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or
to act at all in contemplation of law. 15 The petitioners failed to hurdle this barrier.

The petitioners opened their petition with the principle that only members of a
registered party can chart its destiny to the necessary exclusion of non-members.
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The COMELEC correctly observed that while this may be true, all that the
petitioners established is the group's membership as of 2003. The petitioners
failed to account for the group's actual membership at least as of 2009, i.e., five
(5) years after ABAKADA was accredited and the year immediately prior to the
Supreme Assembly held in February 2010 and the party-list elections of May
2010. ADaECI

What the petitioners presented are simply applications for membership with
ABAKADA as of November 3, 2003 during the party's inceptive stage,
and Alcantara's affidavit that denies the membership of most of those who
attended the 2010 Supreme Assembly. Alcantara alleged on this point that:

17.Nonetheless, Jonathan de la Cruz proceeded with the meeting, and


in that meeting they removed me and the other officers of the party
allied with me. That meeting was illegal because in so far as the
participants therein are concerned, I never signed and approved any
written applications for membership. While they may be party
supporters or guests, they are not necessarily members of the party. I
am listing the names of the participants of that meeting here in an
alphabetical order for easy reference as follows:

xxx xxx xxx

18.These names were culled from the attendance sheets submitted by


the group of Jonathan de la Cruz before the Legal Department of [the
COMELEC]. Except for a few, they did not submit their applications for
membership to me as President of the Party; I did not approve their
membership; neither the National Executive Board, the policy
making body of the party, had seen any written application from any of
them nor have approved of their membership into the party.

The petitioners have not pointed out the basis for such broad claim of authority
by Alcantara. Under Article IV (Membership) of ABAKADA's CBL, 16 however, the
President or the National Executive Board is not given the exclusive authority to
approve applications for party membership. Such applications are approved by
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the membership council in the municipal, city, provincial or regional levels. 17 In


turn each municipal unit is entitled to two delegates to the Supreme Assembly
while each provincial or city unit is entitled to five delegates. 18

Given ABAKADA's membership structure, Alcantara's own affidavit and the


approved membership applications during the ABAKADA's earliest stage are
certainly not sufficient to support the petition's opening legal principle. As the
party seeking to nullify the conduct of the Supreme Assembly, the petitioners
must first clearly substantiate their allegation on who the legitimate members of
ABAKADA were at the time Supreme Assembly was held. After this failure, the
COMELEC cannot be faulted, much less be charged with committing grave
abuse of discretion, in ruling that petitioners failed to discharge its burden of
proving that the attendees in the Supreme Assembly were not legitimate
members of the party. TcIAHS

We remind the petitioners that the findings of fact of the COMELEC are generally
binding on the Court, unless its factual conclusions are clearly shown to be
unsupported by substantial evidence. 19 The petitioners have not demonstrated
that its case fall within this narrow exception.

Even assuming that all participants in the 2010 Supreme Assembly are legitimate
members of the party, the petitioners claim that since the Supreme Assembly
meeting did not comply with the provisions of the party's CBL, then the
COMELEC should have granted their petition to nullify the meeting.

Again, we disagree with the petitioners.

While ABAKADA is registered as a sectoral party, the general principles


applicable to political parties as a voluntary association apply to it. Political
parties constitute a basic element of our democratic institutional
apparatus. 20 Among others, political parties help stimulate public participation in
the political arena and translate the results of this participation into meaningful
policies and programs of government offered to the electorate. Once in
government, they are able to significantly contribute in forging linkages between
the government and the society by adjusting these policies with the varying and
Election Law Cases

often conflicting interests of the different segments of society. Should they belong
to the minority, they also provide a check to counterbalance those who are in
power.

For these reasons, particularly, for the role they play in the general political
process, political parties are generally free to conduct its internal affairs pursuant
to its constitutionally-protected right to free association. 21 This includes the
determination of the individuals who shall constitute the association and the
officials who shall lead the party in attaining its goals. 22 The political parties,
through their members, are free to adopt their own constitution and by-laws that
contain the terms governing the group in pursuing its goals. These terms, include
the terms in choosing its leaders and members, among others. To the group
belongs the power to adopt a constitution; to them likewise belongs the power to
amend, modify or altogether scrap it.

The petitioners' argument is contrary to these basic tenets. If the validity of the
Supreme Assembly would completely depend on the person who calls the
meeting and on the person who sends the notice of the meeting who are
petitioners Alcantara and Dabu themselves then the petitioners would be able
to perpetuate themselves in power in violation of the very constitution whose
violation they now cite. This kind of result would strike at the heart of political
parties as the "basic element of the democratic institutional apparatus." This
potential irregularity is what the COMELEC correctly prevented in ruling for the
dismissal of the petition. TCaAHI

As the COMELEC correctly observed, ABAKADA's constitution expressly


requires the convening of the Supreme Assembly once every three years for
purposes of (i) electing the members of the National Executive Board the
governing body of ABAKADA headed by petitioner Alcantara as
President. 23 In contravention of ABAKADA's own constitution, no Supreme
Assembly was ever held since ABAKADA came into existence in 2003, prompting
the respondents to communicate with petitioner Alcantara to urge him "to call for
and assemble the leaders, as well as members of the party, for the coming May
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2010 elections." This call, to our mind, is far from unreasonable and was in fact a
practical approach to a coming political exercise.

Unfortunately, all the respondents' communications appear to have fallen on deaf


ears. Instead, the petitioners chose to cling to legal technicalities under the
party'sconstitution over the provisions of the same constitution that promotes
democratic accountability within the party. As the COMELEC did, the Court
cannot certainly give primacy to matters of procedure over substance in
ABAKADA's CBL especially after the general membership has spoken.

The COMELEC, in the exercise of its jurisdiction to resolve party leadership


disputes, has rendered its ruling. By failing to establish grave abuse of discretion
on the part of the COMELEC, this Court can do no less than dismiss this petition
and allow ABAKADA as a sectoral party to determine its own affairs under its
present leadership.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby DISMISS the petition.

SO ORDERED.

||| (Alcantara v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 203646, [April 16, 2013])

ANGEL
G. NAVAL, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and
NELSON B. JULIA, respondents.

DECISION

REYES, J : p

A politician thinks of the next election


a statesman of the next generation.

- James Freeman Clarke, American preacher and author


Election Law Cases

The Case
A provincial board member cannot be elected and serve for more than three
consecutive terms. But then, the Court is now called upon to resolve the following
questions. First. What are the consequences to the provincial board member's
eligibility to run for the same elective position if the legislative district, which
brought him or her to office to serve the first two consecutive terms, be
reapportioned in such a way that 8 out of its 10 town constituencies are carved
out and renamed as another district? Second. Is the provincial board member's
election to the same position for the third and fourth time, but now in
representation of the renamed district, a violation of the three-term limit rule?

Before the Court is a Petition for Certiorari with an Urgent Prayer for the Issuance
of a Temporary Restraining Order and a Writ of Preliminary Injunction 1 filed
under Rule 64 of the Rules of Court to assail the following resolutions of the
public respondent Commission on Elections (COMELEC):

(a) Resolution 2 (first assailed resolution) issued by the Second


Division on March 5, 2013, in SPA No. 13-166 (DC), granting
the petition filed by Nelson B. Julia (Julia), seeking to cancel
the Certificate of Candidacy 3 (COC) as Member of
the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Camarines
Sur (Sanggunian) of Angel G. Naval (Naval), who is allegedly
violating the three-term limit imposed upon elective local
officials as provided for in Article X, Section 8 4 of the 1987
Constitution, and Section 43 (b) 5 of the Local Government
Code (LGC); and

(b) En Banc Resolution 6 (second assailed resolution) issued on


June 5, 2013, denying Naval's Motion for
Reconsideration 7 to the Resolution dated March 5, 2013.

Antecedents
From 2004 to 2007 and 2007 to 2010, Naval had been elected and had served as
a member of the Sanggunian, Second District, Province of Camarines Sur.
Election Law Cases

On October 12, 2009, the President approved Republic Act (R.A.) No.
9716, 8 which reapportioned the legislative districts in Camarines Sur in the
following manner: EICSTa

District Before the Enactment of After the Enactment of


R.A. No. 9716 R.A. No. 9716

1st Libmanan, Minalabac, Del Gallego, Ragay, Lupi,


Pamplona, Pasacao, San Sipocot, Cabusao
Fernando, Del Gallego,
Ragay, Lupi, Sipocot,
Cabusao

2nd Naga City, Pili, Ocampo, Libmanan, Minalabac,


Camaligan, Canaman, Pamplona, Pasacao, San
Magarao, Bombon, Fernando, Gainza, Milaor
Calabanga, 9 Gainza,
Milaor

3rd Caramoan, Garchitorena, Naga City, Pili, Ocampo,


Goa, Lagonoy, Presentacion, Camaligan, Canaman,
Sangay, San Jose, Tigaon, Magarao, Bombon,
Tinambac, Siruma Calabanga

4th Iriga City, Baao, Balatan, Caramoan, Garchitorena,


Bato, Buhi, Bula, Nabua Goa, Lagonoy,
Presentacion, Sangay, San
Jose, Tigaon, Tinambac,
Siruma

5th Iriga City, Baao, Balatan,


Bato, Buhi, Bula, Nabua
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Notably, 8 out of 10 towns were taken from the old Second District to form the
present Third District. The present Second District is composed of the two
remaining towns, Gainza and Milaor, merged with five towns from the old First
District.

In the 2010 elections, Naval once again won as among the members of
the Sanggunian, Third District. He served until 2013.

In the 2013 elections, Naval ran anew and was re-elected as Member of
the Sanggunian, Third District.

Julia was likewise a Sanggunian Member candidate from the Third District in the
2013 elections. On October 29, 2012, he invoked Section 78 10 of the Omnibus
Election Code (OEC) and filed before the COMELEC a Verified Petition to Deny
Due Course or to Cancel the Certificate of Candidacy 11 of Naval. Julia posited
that Naval had fully served the entire Province of Camarines Sur for three
consecutive terms as a member of the Sanggunian, irrespective of the district he
had been elected from. The three-term limit rule's application is more with
reference to the same local elective post, and not necessarily in connection with
an identical territorial jurisdiction. Allowing Naval to run as a Sanggunian member
for the fourth time is violative of the inflexible three-term limit rule enshrined in the
Constitution and the LGC, which must be strictly construed. 12 HSATIC

The Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division


In the first assailed resolution issued on March 5, 2013, the COMELEC Second
Division cancelled Naval's COC on grounds stated below:

[W]hen a candidate for public office swears in his COC that he is


eligible for the elective posts he seeks, while, in reality, he knowingly
lacks the necessary requirements for eligibility, he commits a false
material misrepresentation cognizable under Section 78 of the [OEC].

xxx xxx xxx


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The Supreme Court[,] in the case of Lonzanida v. [COMELEC][,] detailed


the important components of [Article X, Section 8 of the Constitution]:

This Court held that the two conditions for the application
of the disqualification must concur: 1) that the official
concerned has been elected for three consecutive
terms in the same local government post and 2) that
he has fully served three consecutive terms. It stated:

To recapitulate, the term limit for elective local


officials must be taken to refer to the right to be
elected as well as the right to serve in the same
elective position. Consequently, it is not enough
that an individual has served three consecutive
terms in an elective local office[;] he must also
have been elected to the same position for the
same number of times before the disqualification
can apply. . . .

. . . The first requisite does not only describe a candidate who has been
elected for public office for three consecutive terms. The candidate must
have been elected in the same local government post. This connotes
that the candidate must have been in the same elective position serving
the same constituency who elected him to office for three consecutive
terms.

xxx xxx xxx

The three-term limit rule was designed by the framers of the Constitution
to prevent the monopoly of power centered only on a chosen few. The
said disqualification was primarily intended to forestall the accumulation
of massive political power by an elective local government official in a
given locality in order to perpetuate his tenure in office. The framers also
considered the necessity of the enhancement of the freedom of choice of
the electorate by broadening the selection of would-be elective public
Election Law Cases

officers. By rendering ineligible for public office those who have been
elected and served for three consecutive terms in the same public
elective post, the prohibition seeks to infuse new blood in the political
arena.

xxx xxx xxx

. . . [T]he new Third District where [Naval] was elected and has served is
composed of the same municipalities comprising the previous Second
District, absent the towns Gainza and [Milaor]. The territorial jurisdiction
[Naval] seeks to serve for the term 2013-2016 is the same as the
territorial jurisdiction he previously served. The electorate who voted for
him in 2004, 2007 and 2010 is the same electorate who shall vote for
him come May 13, 2013 Elections. They are the same group of voters
who elected him into office for three consecutive terms. EAIaHD

The resolution of this Commission in the case of Bandillo, et al[.] v.


Hernandez (SPA No. 10-078) 13 cannot be applied in the case at bar.
Hernandez who then hailed from Libmanan belonged to the First District
of Camarines Sur. With Republic Act 9716, Libmanan, Minalabac,
Pamplona, Pasacao and San Fernando, all originally belonging to the
First District, were merged with Gainza and Milaor to form the Second
District. With the addition of the municipalities of Gainza and Milaor, it
cannot be said that the previous First District became the Second District
only by name. The voters of Gainza and Milaor added to the electorate
of the new Second District formed a different electorate, different from
the one which voted for Hernandez in the 2001, 2004 and 2007
elections. In the case at bar, the municipalities comprising the new Third
District are the same municipalities that consisted of the previous
Second [District], absent Milaor and Gainza.

The Supreme Court, in Latasa v. [COMELEC], ruled that the conversion


of the municipality into a city did not convert the office of the municipal
Election Law Cases

mayor into a local government post different from the office of the city
mayor[.]

xxx xxx xxx 14 (Citations omitted)

The Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc


In the second assailed resolution issued on June 5, 2013, the COMELEC en
banc denied Naval's Motion for Reconsideration to the above. The COMELEC
pointed out that absent the verification required under Section 3, Rule 19 of the
COMELEC Rules of Procedure, Naval's motion was instantly dismissible.
Nonetheless, the COMELEC proceeded to discuss the demerits
of Naval's motion, viz.:

The conditions for the application of the three-term limit rule are present
in the instant case as the records clearly establish that [Naval] is running
for the 4th time for the same government post. To put things in a proper
perspective, it is imperative to review and discuss the salient points in
the case of Latasa v. [COMELEC]. The case involves the question of
whether or not a municipal mayor, having been elected and had already
served for three (3) consecutive terms, can run as city mayor in light of
the conversion of the municipality to a city. In applying the three-term
limit rule, the Court pointed out that the conversion of the municipality
into a city did not convert the office of the municipal mayor into a local
government post different from the office of the city mayor. The Court
took into account the following circumstances: (1) That the territorial
jurisdiction of [the] city was the same as that of the municipality; (2) That
the inhabitants were the same group of voters who elected the municipal
mayor for three (3) consecutive terms; and (3) That the inhabitants were
the same group of voters [over] whom he held power and authority as
their chief executive for nine years.

Anchoring from the said case, it is therefore clear that the position to
which [Naval] has filed his candidacy for the 13 May 2013 . . . Elections
Election Law Cases

is the same position for which he had been elected and had served for
the past nine (9) years.

xxx xxx xxx

. . . The following circumstances establish that the subject posts are one
and the same: First, the territorial jurisdictions of the two (2) districts are
the same except for the municipalities of Gainza and Milaor which were
excluded by R.A. No. 9716; Second, the inhabitants of the 3rd District of
Camarines Sur, where [Naval] is presently running as member of the
[Sanggunian], are the same voters who elected him for the past three (3)
consecutive terms; and Lastly, the inhabitants of the [3rd] District are the
same group of voters whom [Naval] had served as member of the
[Sanggunian] representing the 2nd District. DTAIaH

. . . The enactment of R.A. No. 9716 did not convert [Naval's] post [into
one] different from [w]hat he [previously had]. As correctly ruled by the
Commission (Second Division), [Naval] ha[d] already been elected and
ha[d] already served in the same government post for three consecutive
terms, . . .[.]

xxx xxx xxx. 15 (Citations omitted)

Unperturbed, Naval is now before the Court raising the issues of whether
or not the COMELEC gravely erred and ruled contrary to law and
jurisprudence:

I. IN FINDING THAT NAVAL HAD ALREADY SERVED FOR


THREE CONSECUTIVE TERMS IN THE SAME
GOVERNMENT POST; 16

II. IN IGNORING THE FACT THAT SANGGUNIAN MEMBERS


ARE ELECTED BY LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS; 17 and

III. WHEN IT RULED THAT THE PROHIBITION CONTEMPLATED


BY SECTION 8, ARTICLE X OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION
AND SECTION 43 (B) OF THE LGC APPLIES TO NAVAL. 18
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The Arguments of the Contending Parties


In support of the instant petition, Naval alleges that the First, Second and Third
Legislative Districts of Camarines Sur are not merely renamed but are composed
of new sets of municipalities. With the separation of Gainza and Milaor from the
other eight towns which used to comprise the Second District, the voters from the
Third Legislative District are no longer the same ones as those who had elected
him to office in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

Naval further invokes Article 94 19 of Administrative Order No. 270 prescribing the
Implementing Rules and Regulations of the LGC to argue
that Sanggunian members are elected by districts. Thus, the right to choose
representatives in the Sanggunian pertains to each of the districts. Naval was
elected as Sanggunian member in 2004 and 2007 by the Second District. In 2010
and 2013, it was the Third District, which brought him to office. Essentially
then, Naval's election in 2013 is merely his second term as Sanggunian member
for the Third District.

Naval likewise cites Borja, Jr. v. COMELEC 20 to point out that for the
disqualification on the ground of the three-term limit to apply, it is not enough that
an individual has served three consecutive terms in an elective local office, but it
is also required that he or she had been elected to the same position for the
same number of times. 21

Naval also assails as erroneous the COMELEC's interpretations of the rulings


in Latasa v. COMELEC 22 and Bandillo, et al. v. Hernandez. 23 In Latasa, the
Court applied the three-term prohibition only because notwithstanding the
conversion of the Municipality of Digos into a city, the mayor was to serve the
same territorial jurisdiction and constituents. Naval asserts that the same does
not hold true in his case. Naval further avers that in Bandillo, which finds more
application in the instant petition, the COMELEC ruled that the three-term limit
cannot be invoked in a situation where the legislative districts have been altered.
An extraction or an addition both yields a change in the composition of the voters.
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Naval further emphasizes that he garnered the majority of the votes from his
constituents, whose will and mandate should be upheld. Besides, Julia's counsel
already withdrew his appearance, indicating no less than his client's lack of
interest in still pursuing Naval's ouster from office. 24

In its Comment, 25 the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) seeks the denial of
the instant petition. The OSG contends that Naval had been elected and had fully
served the same local elective post for three consecutive terms. Naval thus
violated Section 78 of the OEC when he filed his COC despite knowledge of his
ineligibility. Naval'sreliance on Bandillo is also misplaced since in the said case,
two towns were instead added to form a new district. Apparently then, in Bandillo,
there was a new set of voters. The OSG also alleges that Naval is not entitled to
the issuance of injunctive reliefs by this Court. No clear and unmistakable right
pertains to Naval and it is his eligibility to be elected as Sanggunian member for
the Third District which is the issue at hand.

Ruling of the Court


The Court denies the petition. TCacIA

As the issues are interrelated, they shall be discussed jointly.

The case before this Court is one of first impression. While the contending
parties cite Latasa, Lonzanida v. COMELEC, 26 Borja, Aldovino, Jr. v.
COMELEC, 27 and Bandillo, which all involve the application of the three-term
limit rule, the factual and legal circumstances in those cases are different and the
doctrinal values therein do not directly address the issues now at hand.

In Latasa, the issue arose as a result of the conversion of a municipality into a


city. The then municipal mayor attempted to evade the application upon him of
the three-term limit rule by arguing that the position of a city mayor was not the
same as the one he previously held. The Court was not convinced and, thus,
declared that there was no interruption of the incumbent mayor's continuity of
service.
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In Lonzanida, a candidate ran for the mayoralty post and won in three
consecutive elections. While serving his third term, his opponent filed an election
protest. Months before the expiration of the mayor's third term, he was ousted
from office. He ran again for the same post in the immediately succeeding
election. A petition was thereafter filed assailing his eligibility to run as mayor on
the ground of violation of the three-term limit rule. The Court ruled that the mayor
could not be considered as having served a full third term. An interruption for any
length of time, if due to an involuntary cause, is enough to break the elected
official's continuity of service.

In Borja, the mayor of Pateros died and was succeeded in office by the vice
mayor. In the two immediately succeeding elections, the latter vied for and won
the mayoralty post. When he ran for the same position for the third time, his
disqualification was sought for alleged violation of the three-term limit rule. The
Court ruled that when he assumed the position of mayor by virtue of succession,
his service should not be treated as one full term. For the disqualification to apply,
the candidate should have been thrice elected for and had served the same post
consecutively.

In Aldovino, preventive suspension was imposed upon an elected municipal


councilor. The Court ruled that the said suspension did not interrupt the elective
official's term. Although he was barred from exercising the functions of the
position during the period of suspension, his continued stay and entitlement to
the office remain unaffected.

In Bandillo, a case decided by the COMELEC, Gainza and Milaor were added to
five of the ten towns, which used to comprise Camarines Sur's old First District,
to form the new Second District. The COMELEC declined to apply the three-term
limit rule against the elected Provincial Board member on the ground that the
addition of Gainza and Milaor distinctively created a new district, with an altered
territory and constituency.

In the case before this Court, the task is to determine the application of the three-
term limit rule upon local elective officials in renamed and/or reapportioned
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districts. In the process of doing so, it is inevitable to discuss the role of elections
and the nature of public office in a democratic and republican state like ours.

The Role of Elections in our


Democratic and Republican State,
and the Restraints Imposed upon
Those Who Hold Public Office
The Court begins with general and undeniable principles.

The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the


people and all government authority emanates from them. 28

Then Associate Justice Reynato S. Puno explained the character of a republican


state and a public office, viz.:

A republic is a representative government, a government run by and for


the people. It is not a pure democracy where the people govern
themselves directly. The essence of republicanism is representation
and renovation, the selection by the citizenry of a corps of public
functionaries who derive their mandate from the people and act on
their behalf, serving for a limited period only, after which they are
replaced or retained, at the option of their principal. Obviously, a
republican government is a responsible government whose officials hold
and discharge their position as a public trust and shall, according to the
Constitution, 'at all times be accountable to the people' they are sworn to
serve. The purpose of a republican government it is almost needless to
state, is the promotion of the common welfare according to the will of the
people themselves. 29 (Emphasis ours and italics in the original)

In Tolentino v. COMELEC, 30 Justice Puno likewise characterized the role of the


electoral process in the following wise: ECcTaH

The electoral process is one of the linchpins of a democratic and


republican framework because it is through the act of voting that
government by consent is secured. Through the ballot, people express
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their will on the defining issues of the day and they are able to choose
their leaders in accordance with the fundamental principle of
representative democracy that the people should elect whom they
please to govern them. Voting has an important instrumental value in
preserving the viability of constitutional democracy. It has traditionally
been taken as a prime indicator of democratic participation. 31 (Citations
omitted and italics ours)

The importance of elections cannot therefore be over emphasized. Thus,

True, election is the expression of the sovereign power of the people. In


the exercise of suffrage, a free people expects to achieve the continuity
of government and the perpetuation of its benefits. However, inspite of its
importance, the privileges and rights arising from having been elected
may be enlarged or restricted by law. . . . . 32(Italics ours)

Hence, while it is settled that in elections, the first consideration of every


democratic polity is to give effect to the expressed will of the majority, there are
limitations to being elected to a public office. 33 Our Constitution and statutes are
explicit anent the existence of term limits, the nature of public office, and the
guarantee from the State that citizens shall have equal access to public
service. 34 Section 8, Article X of our Constitution, on term limits, is significantly
reiterated by Section 43 (b) of the LGC. Moreover, the Court has time and again
declared that a public office is a public trust and not a vested property right. 35

The Deliberations of the Members


of the Constitutional Commission
on the Three-Term Limit's
Application to Local Elective
Officials
Following are entries in the Journal of the Constitutional Commission regarding
the exchanges of the members on the subject of the three-term limit rule imposed
on local elective officials:

VOTING ON THE TERMS OF LOCAL OFFICIALS


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With respect to local officials, Mr. Nolledo, informed that the Committee
on Local Governments had not decided on the term of office for local
officials and suggested that the Body decide on the matter.

xxx xxx xxx

On Mr. Bacani's inquiry regarding local officials, Mr. Davide explained


that local officials would include the governor, vice-governor and the
members of the provincial board; the city mayor, city vice-mayor and
members of the city board; and the municipal mayor, municipal vice
mayor and members of the municipal council. He stated that barangay
officials would be governed by special law, to which Mr. Nolledo
agreed.

xxx xxx xxx

MOTION TO VOTE ON THE PROPOSALS RELATIVE TO


ALTERNATIVE NO. 3

In reply to Mr. Guingona's query on whether the Committee had


decided on the interpretation of "two reelections", Mr. Davide
suggested that the matter be submitted to a vote.

Thereupon, Mr. Romulo moved for a vote on whether Alternative No.


3 as proposed by Mr. Garcia, would allow a local official three
terms, after which he would not be allowed to seek any reelection;
or whether, as interpreted by Mr. Davide, it would mean that after
two successive reelections or a consecutive period of nine years,
he could run for reelection after the lapse of three years.

xxx xxx xxx

RESTATEMENT OF THE PROPOSALS

Mr. Garcia reiterated that the local officials could be reelected


twice, after which, they would be barred from ever running for
reelection.
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On the other proposal, Mr. Davide, on behalf of the Committee,


stated that local officials after two reelections would be allowed to
run for reelection after the lapse of three years.

xxx xxx xxx

MANIFESTATION OF MR. ROMULO

Upon resumption of session, Mr. Romulo manifested that the Body


would proceed to the consideration of two issues on the term of
Representatives and local officials, namely: 1) Alternative No. 1 (no
further reelection after a total of three terms), and 2) Alternative No.
2 (no immediate reelection after three successive terms). ScTIAH

SPONSORSHIP REMARKS OF MR. GARCIA ON ALTERNATIVE NO.


1

Mr. Garcia stated that he was advocating Alternative No. 1 on four


grounds: 1) to prevent monopoly of political power because the
country's history showed that prolonged stay in public office could
lead to the creation of entrenched preserves of political dynasties;
2) to broaden the choice so that more people could be enlisted to the
cause of public service; 3) no one is indispensable in running the
affairs of the country and that reliance on personalities would be
avoided; and 4) the disqualification from running for reelection after
three terms would create a reserve of statesmen both in the local
and national levels.

He added that the turnover in public office after nine years would
ensure the introduction of new ideas and approaches. He stressed
that public office would no longer be a preserve of conservatism
and tradition, and that public service would no longer be limited to
those directly holding public office, but would also include consultative
bodies organized by the people.

INQUIRY OF MR. REGALADO


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In reply to Mr. Regalado's query whether the three terms need not be
served consecutively, Mr. Garcia answered in the affirmative.

SPONSORSHIP REMARKS OF MR. MONSOD ON ALTERNATIVE


NO. 2

Mr. Monsod stated that while the new Constitution would recognize
people power because of a new awareness, a new kind of voter and a
new kind of Filipino, at the same time, it pre-screens the candidates
among whom the people would choose by barring those who
would have served for nine years from being reelected. He opined
that this would actually require an additional qualification for office to a
certain number of people.

He stressed that, while the stand of the Commission is to create a


reserve of statesmen, their future participation is actually limited to
some areas and only for a certain period of time. He added that it is
not for the Commission to decide on the future of our countrymen
who may have more years ahead of them to serve the country.

xxx xxx xxx

INQUIRY OF MR. OPLE

xxx xxx xxx

Thereupon, speaking in support of Mr. Monsod's manifestation, Mr.


Ople expressed apprehension over the Body's exercise of some
sort of omnipotent power in disqualifying those who will have
served their tasks. He opined that the Commission had already
taken steps to prevent the accumulation of powers and
prequisites that would permit officials to stay on indefinitely and
to transfer them to members of their families. He opined, however,
that perpetual disqualification would deprive the people of their
freedom of choice. He stated that the Body had already succeeded
in striking a balance on policies which could ensure a
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redistribution of opportunities to the people both in terms of


political and economic power. He stated that Philippine politics had
been unshackled from the two-party system, which he said was the
most critical support for the perpetuation of political dynasties.
Considering that such achievement is already a victory, Mr. Ople stated
that the role of political parties should not be despised because the
strength of democracy depends on how strong political parties are, that
a splintering thereof will mean a great loss to the vitality and resiliency
of democracy.

Mr. Ople reiterated that he was against perpetual disqualification from


office. DAaIHT

xxx xxx xxx.

MR. GARCIA'S RESPONSE TO MR. OPLE'S STATEMENTS

Mr. Garcia stated that there are two principles involved in Alternative
No. 1: 1) the recognition of the ambivalent nature of political
power, and 2) the recognition of alternative forms of public
service. He stated that it is important to remember the lessons learned
from the recent past; that public service is service to the people and
not an opportunity to accumulate political power, and that a prolonged
stay in public office brings about political dynasties or vested
interests. Regarding political parties, he stated that it will encourage
the constant renewal of blood in party leadership, approach, style
and ideas. He opined that this is very healthy for a pluralist and
multi-party democracy.

On the recognition of alternative forms of public service, Mr. Garcia


stressed that public service could be limited to public office since many
good leaders who were in the streets and in jail fought against the
dictatorship. He stressed that public service would also mean
belonging to consultative bodies or people's councils which brought
about new forms of service and leadership.
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REMARKS OF MR. ABUBAKAR

Mr. Abubakar stated that in any democracy the voice of the people
is the voice of God. He stated that if the people want to elect a
representative to serve them continuously, the Commission should not
arrogate unto itself the right to decide what the people want. He stated
that in the United States, a Senator had served for 30 years.

xxx xxx xxx

REMARKS OF MS. AQUINO

Ms. Aquino stated that she differs from the views advanced by Mr.
Garcia and Ms. Tan, although she stated that they spoke of the same
premises. She stated that she agrees with them that leaders need not
be projected and developed publicly in an election as leaders are
better tempered and tested in the various forms of mass
struggles and organized work. She stated that if the people are to be
encouraged to have their own sense of responsibility in national
leadership, what ultimately matters is the political determination of the
citizenry to chart their own national destiny. She opined that the Body
should allow the people to exercise their own sense of proportion
and imbibe the salutary effects of their own strength to curtail
power when it overreaches itself. She stressed that in the final
analysis, the Commission cannot legislate into the Constitution
the essence of new politics as it is a chastening experience of
learning and unlearning. Adverting to Mr. Garcia's statement that
politics is an imperfect art, she stated that the Commission could
correct politics with all its imperfections and flaws by a constitutional
provision. She opined that perpetual disqualification cannot provide the
cure. She maintained that perpetual disqualification is, at best, a
palliative which could also be counter-productive, in the sense that it
could effectively foil the possibilities of real public service.

REMARKS OF MR. BACANI


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Mr. Bacani stated that when the Body granted the illiterates the right to
vote and that proposals were made to empower the people to engage
in the legislative process, the Body presupposed the political
maturity of the people. He observed that in this instance, political
maturity is denied with the constitutional bar for reelection. He
opined that the Body should stick to the premise that the people are
politically mature.

REJOINDER OF MR. GARCIA

By way of rejoinder to Mr. Bacani's statements, Mr. Garcia stated that


the proposal was basically premised on the undue advantage of
the incumbent in accumulating power, money, party machine and
patronage and not on lack of trust in the people.

Mr. Garcia stated that politics is not won by ideals alone but by solid
organized work by organizations. He stated that with three terms, an
official would have served the people long enough.

xxx xxx xxx

VOTING ON THE TWO ALTERNATIVES

Thereafter, the Body proceeded to vote by ballot on the two


alternatives.

xxx xxx xxx

RESULT OF THE VOTING

The result of the voting was as follows: EcICDT

Alternative No. 1 (no further election after three successive terms)


17 votes

Alternative No. 2 (no immediate reelection after three successive


terms) 26 votes
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With 17 votes in favor of Alternative No. 1 and 26 in favor of Alternative


No. 2, the Chair declared Alternative No. 2 approved by the
Body. 36 (Emphasis and italics ours)

The Constitution mandates the


strict implementation of the
three-term limit rule.
The Court notes that in the process of drafting the Constitution, the framers
thereof had not discussed with specifity the subject of the three-term limit rule's
application on reapportioned districts.

From the above-cited deliberations, however, the divergent stances of the


members of the Constitutional Commission on the general application of the
three-term limit rule show. On one side were those who espoused the stern view
that perpetual disqualification to hold public office after three consecutive terms
would ensure that new blood would be infused into our political system. More
choices for the voters would give fuller meaning to our democratic institutions. On
the other side of the fence were those who believed that the imposition of term
limits would be tantamount to squandering the experience of seasoned public
servants and a curtailment of the power of the citizens to elect whoever they want
to remain in office.

In the end, 26 members of the Commission cast their votes in favor of the
proposal that no immediate re-election after three successive terms shall be
allowed. On the other hand, 17 members stood pat on their view that there
should be no further reelection after three successive terms.

Clearly, the drafters of our Constitution are in agreement about the possible
attendant evils if there would be no limit to re-election. Notwithstanding their
conflicting preferences on whether the term limit would disqualify the elected
official perpetually or temporarily, they decided that only three consecutive
elections to the same position would be allowed. Thereafter, the public official can
once again vie for the same post provided there be a gap of at least one term
from his or her last election. The rule answers the need to prevent the
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consolidation of political power in the hands of the few, while at the same time
giving to the people the freedom to call back to public service those who are
worthy to be called statesmen.

The compromise agreed upon by the drafters of our Constitution was a result of
exhaustive deliberations. The required gap after three consecutive elections is
significant. Thus, the rule cannot be taken with a grain of salt. Nothing less than
its strict application is called for.

Ratio legis est anima. 37

"A foolproof yardstick in constitutional construction is the intention underlying the


provision under consideration. Thus, it has been held that the Court in construing
a Constitution should bear in mind the object sought to be accomplished by its
adoption, and the evils, if any, sought to be prevented or remedied. A doubtful
provision will be examined in the light of the history of the times, and the
condition and circumstances under which the Constitution was framed. The
object is to ascertain the reason which induced the framers of the Constitution to
enact the particular provision and the purpose sought to be accomplished
thereby, in order to construe the whole as to make the words consonant to that
reason and calculated to effect that purpose." 38

In Aldovino, the Court describes the


three-term limit rule as inflexible.
In Aldovino, a local elective official pleaded exemption from the application of the
three-term limit on the ground that there was an interruption in his service after
the penalty of suspension was imposed upon him. Although not in all four
with Naval's case, there are principles enunciated therein which undeniably hold
true, viz.:

As worded, the constitutional provision fixes the term of a local elective


office and limits an elective official's stay in office to no more than three
consecutive terms. This is the first branch of the rule embodied in
Section 8, Article X.
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Significantly, this provision refers to a "term" as a period of time three


years during which an official has title to office and can serve. . . .[.]

xxx xxx xxx

The "limitation" under this first branch of the provision is expressed in


the negative "no such official shall serve for more than three
consecutive terms." This formulation no more than three consecutive
terms is a clear command suggesting the existence of an inflexible
rule. . . . .

xxx xxx xxx

This examination of the wording of the constitutional provision and of the


circumstances surrounding its formulation impresses upon us the clear
intent to make term limitation a high priority constitutional objective
whose terms must be strictly construed and which cannot be defeated
by, nor sacrificed for, values of less than equal constitutional worth. . . . .

xxx xxx xxx

. . . [T]he Court signalled how zealously it guards the three-term limit


rule. Effectively, these cases teach us to strictly interpret the term
limitation rule in favor of limitation rather than its exception.

xxx xxx xxx

[In] Latasa v. Commission on Elections . . .[,] [t]he Court said:

This Court reiterates that the framers of the Constitution


specifically included an exception to the people's freedom to
choose those who will govern them in order to avoid the evil
of a single person accumulating excessive power over a
particular territorial jurisdiction as a result of a prolonged
stay in the same office. . . . .

xxx xxx xxx


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To put it differently although at the risk of repetition, Section 8, Article X


both by structure and substance fixes an elective official's term of
office and limits his stay in office to three consecutive terms as an
inflexible rule that is stressed, no less, by citing voluntary renunciation as
an example of a circumvention. . . . . 39 (Citations omitted, italics and
emphasis in the original and underscoring ours)

Reapportionment and its Basis


Reapportionment is "the realignment or change in legislative districts brought
about by changes in population and mandated by the constitutional requirement
of equality of representation." 40 The aim of legislative apportionment is to
equalize population and voting power among districts. 41 The basis for districting
shall be the number of the inhabitants of a city or a province and not the number
of registered voters therein. 42 DAETHc

R.A. No. 9716 and the Reapportioned


Districts of Camarines Sur
Sections 1 to 3 of R.A. No. 9716 provide:

Section 1. The composition of the current First (1st) and Second (2nd)
Legislative Districts in the Province of Camarines Sur is hereby
reapportioned in order to create an additional legislative district to
commence in the next national elections after the effectivity of this Act.

Section 2. In furtherance of the reapportionment mandated by this Act,


the municipalities of Libmanan, Minalabac, Pamplona, Pasacao and
San Fernando of the current First (1st) Legislative District are hereby
consolidated with the municipalities of Gainza and Milaor of the current
Second (2nd) Legislative District, to comprise the new legislative
district authorized under this Act.

Section 3. The result of the reapportionment described in this Act are


summarized as follows:
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a) First District The remaining municipalities in the current First


(1st) Legislative District shall continue to be designated as
the First (1st) Legislative District, composed of the
following municipalities: Del Gallego, Ragay, Lupi, Sipicot
and Cabusao;

b) Second District This new legislative district shall be


composed of the municipalities enumerated in Section 2
hereof;

c) Third District The current Second (2nd) Legislative District


shall be renamed as the Third (3rd) Legislative District,
composed of the following: Naga City and the
municipalities of Pili, Ocampo, Camaligan, Canaman,
Magarao, Bombon and Calabanga;

d) Fourth District The current Third (3rd) Legislative


District, without any change in its composition, shall be
renamed as the Fourth (4th) Legislative District, composed
of the following municipalities: Caramoan, Garchitorena,
Goa, Lagonoy, Presentacion, Sangay, San Jose, Tigaon,
Tinambac and Siruma; and

e) Fifth District The current Fourth (4th) Legislative


District, without any change in its composition, shall
be renamed as the Fifth (5th) Legislative District,
composed of the following: Iriga City and the municipalities
of Baao, Balatan, Bato, Buhi, Bula and Nabua. (Italics and
emphasis ours)

As a result of the reapportionment made by R.A. No. 9716, the old Second
District of Camarines Sur, minus only the two towns of Gainza and Milaor, is
renamed as the Third District and now configured as follows: 43

Before the Enactment of After the Enactment of


RA 9716 RA 9716
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2nd District 3rd District


Population: 474,899 Population: 439,043
Gainza Naga
Milaor Pili
Naga Ocampo
Pili Canaman
Ocampo Camaligan
Canaman Magarao
Camaligan Bombon
Magarao Calabanga
Bombon
Calabanga

R.A. No. 9716 created a new Second


District, but it merely renamed the
other four.
The Court notes that after the reapportionment of the districts in Camarines Sur,
the current Third District, which brought Naval to office in 2010 and 2013, has a
population of 35,856 less than that of the old Second District, which elected him
in 2004 and 2007. However, the wordings of R.A. No. 9716 indicate the intent of
the lawmakers to create a single new Second District from the merger of the
towns from the old First District with Gainza and Milaor. As to the current Third
District, Section 3 (c) of R.A. No. 9716 used the word "rename." Although the
qualifier "without a change in its composition" was not found in Section 3 (c),
unlike in Sections 3 (d) and (e), still, what is pervasive is the clear intent to create
a sole new district in that of the Second, while merely renaming the rest.

The following statutory construction rules surface: DIcTEC

First, the general rule in construing words and phrases used in a statute
is that, in the absence of legislative intent to the contrary, they should be
Election Law Cases

given their plain, ordinary and common usage meaning; the words
should be read and considered in their natural, ordinary, commonly
accepted usage, and without resorting to forced or subtle construction.
Words are presumed to have been employed by the lawmaker in their
ordinary and common use and acceptation.

Second, a word of general significance in a statute is to be taken in its


ordinary and comprehensive sense, unless it is shown that the word is
intended to be given a different or restricted meaning; what is generally
spoken shall be generally understood and general words shall be
understood in a general sense. 44 (Citations omitted)

The Court looks to the language of the document itself in our search for its
meaning. 45

In Naval's case, the words of R.A. No. 9716 plainly state that the new Second
District is to be created, but the Third District is to be renamed. Verba legis non
est recedendum. The terms used in a legal provision to be construed compels
acceptance and negates the power of the courts to alter it, based on the
postulate that the framers mean what they say. 46

The verb create means to "make or produce something new." 47 On the other
hand, the verb rename means to "give a new name to someone or
something." 48 A complete reading of R.A. No. 9716 yields no logical conclusion
other than that the lawmakers intended the old Second District to be merely
renamed as the current Third District.

It likewise bears noting that the actual difference in the population of the old
Second District from that of the current Third District amounts to less than 10% of
the population of the latter. This numerical fact renders the new Third District as
essentially, although not literally, the same as the old Second District. Hence,
while Naval is correct in his argument that Sanggunian members are elected by
district, it does not alter the fact that the district which elected him for the third
and fourth time is the same one which brought him to office in 2004 and 2007.
Election Law Cases

The application upon Naval of the


three-term limit rule does not
undermine the constitutional
requirement to achieve equality of
representation among districts.
The rationale behind reapportionment is the constitutional requirement to achieve
equality of representation among the districts. 49 It is with this mindset that the
Court should consider Naval's argument anent having a new set of constituents
electing him into office in 2010 and 2013.

Naval's ineligibility to run, by reason of violation of the three-term limit rule, does
not undermine the right to equal representation of any of the districts in
Camarines Sur. With or without him, the renamed Third District, which he labels
as a new set of constituents, would still be represented, albeit by another eligible
person. ACTaDH

The presumed competence of the


COMELEC to resolve matters
falling within its jurisdiction is
upheld.
"Time and again, the Court has held that a petition for certiorari against actions of
the COMELEC is confined only to instances of grave abuse of discretion
amounting to patent and substantial denial of due process, because the
COMELEC is presumed to be most competent in matters falling within its
domain." 50

"In a special civil action for certiorari, the burden rests on the petitioner to prove
not merely reversible error, but grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction on the part of the public respondent issuing the impugned
order, decision or resolution." 51 "Grave abuse of discretion arises when a court
or tribunal violates the Constitution, the law or existing jurisprudence." 52

In the case at bar, the Court finds the COMELEC's disquisitions to be amply
supported by the Constitution, law and jurisprudence.
Election Law Cases

Conclusion
In sum, the Court finds no compelling reason to grant the reliefs prayed for
by Naval. For the Court to declare otherwise would be to create a dangerous
precedent unintended by the drafters of our Constitution and of R.A. No. 9716.
Considering that the one-term gap or rest after three consecutive elections is a
result of a compromise among the members of the Constitutional Commission,
no cavalier exemptions or exceptions to its application is to be
allowed. Aldovino affirms this interpretation. Further,
sustaining Naval's arguments would practically allow him to hold the same office
for 15 years. These are the circumstances the Constitution explicitly intends to
avert.

Certainly, the Court accords primacy to upholding the will of the voting public, the
real sovereign, so to speak. However, let all the candidates for public office be
reminded that as citizens, we have a commitment to be bound by our Constitution
and laws. Side by side our privileges as citizens are restrictions too.

Einer Elhauge, a faculty member from Harvard Law School, wrote an article
entitled "What Term Limits Do That Ordinary Voting Cannot." 53 In the article,
Greek mythology was tapped to make a tempting analogy. The gist of the story
follows.

In Odyssey Book XII, the goddess Circe warned Odysseus of the Sirens who
seduce all men approaching them with their voices. Those who fell into the
Sirens' trap never returned home to their wives and children. A clever strategy
was thus hatched to secure safe passage for Odysseus and his men. The men
were to plug their ears with wax to muffle the songs of the Sirens. Odysseus, on
the other hand, was to be tied to the mast of the ship so he could still listen to the
songs, which may contain clues on how they can get home. When the wind died
down, Odysseus heard beautiful voices calling out to them. The voices were
incomparable to anything he had ever heard before. Even when Odysseus knew
that the irresistible voices were coming from the Sirens, he struggled with all his
strength to free himself from the ropes, but was unable to do so. The voices
became fainter as the men continued to row. When the voices can no longer be
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heard, Odysseus realized how he had nearly been beguiled. They had made it
through safely and Odysseus was untied. It was their clever plan which kept them
all alive. 54

The same lesson holds true in the case before this Court. The drafters of the
Constitution recognized the propensity of public officers to perpetuate themselves
in power, hence, the adoption of term limits and a guarantee of every citizen's
equal access to public service. These are the restrictions statesmen should
observe for they are intended to help ensure the continued vitality of our
republican institutions. IEaCDH

WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED. The


Resolutions dated March 5, 2013 and June 5, 2013 of
the Commission on Elections in SPA No. 13-166 (DC) are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

||| (Naval v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 207851, [July 8, 2014])

RENATO
M. FEDERICO, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
COMELEC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR and OSMUNDO M.
MALIGAYA, respondents.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J : p

This is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, in relation to Rule 64, of the Rules
of Court, assailing the December 21, 2011 Resolution 1 of
the Commission on Elections(Comelec) En Banc, in SPC No. 10-082, entitled In
Re: Petition to Annul the Proclamation of Respondent Renato M. Federico,
Election Law Cases

Osmundo M. Maligaya v. Renato M. Federicoand the Municipal Board of


Canvassers of Santo Tomas, Batangas.

The Facts
Edna Sanchez (Edna) and private respondent Osmundo M.
Maligaya (Maligaya) were candidates for the position of municipal mayor of Sto.
Tomas, Batangas, in the May 10, 2010 Automated National and Local Elections.
Maligaya was the Liberal Party's official mayoralty candidate. 2

On April 27, 2010, Armando Sanchez, husband of Edna and the gubernatorial
candidate for the province of Batangas, died. Two days later, or on April 29,
2010, 3 Edna withdrew her Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for the position of
mayor. She then filed a new COC and the corresponding Certificate of
Nomination and Acceptance(CONA) for the position of governor as substitute
candidate for her deceased husband.

On May 5, 2010, petitioner Renato M. Federico (Federico) filed with the Office of
the Election Officer of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, his COC 4 and CONA 5 as official
candidate of the Nationalista Party and as substitute candidate for mayor, in view
of the withdrawal of Edna.

On May 7, 2010, the Comelec Law Department referred the Affidavit of


Withdrawal, the COC and the CONA of Edna, as substitute candidate for her late
husband, and those of Federico, as substitute candidate for her, to the
Comelec En Banc for its consideration. 6 HIaTCc

On the same day, May 7, 2010, Maligaya filed his Petition to Deny Due Course
and to Cancel Certificate of Candidacy 7 of Federico before the Comelec,
docketed as SPA No. 10-137 (DC). Maligaya sought to have Federico declared
ineligible to run as substitute candidate for Edna because the period to file the
COC for substitute candidates had already lapsed after December 14, 2009,
pursuant to Section 13 of Comelec Resolution No. 8678. 8
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In Resolution No. 8889, 9 dated May 8, 2010, the COMELEC En Banc gave due
course to the COC of Edna as substitute gubernatorial candidate in the Batangas
province and to that of Federico as substitute mayoralty candidate in Sto. Tomas.

By that time, however, the official ballots had already been printed. Expectedly,
on May 10, 2010, the day of elections, the name "SANCHEZ, Edna P." was
retained in the list of candidates for Mayor of Sto. Tomas, and garnered the
highest number of votes 28,389 against Maligaya's 22,577 votes. 10

On May 11, 2010, the Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBOC) printed the
Certificate of Canvass of Votes and Proclamation of Winning
Candidates 11 (COCVP) showing "SANCHEZ Edna P." as the winning mayoralty
candidate. The printed COCVP, reads:

WE, THE UNDERSIGNED MEMBERS of the CITY/MUNICIPAL BOARD


OF CANVASSERS do hereby certify under oath that we have duly
canvassed the votes cast in 81 precincts in the city/municipality for the
Candidates therein for city/municipality offices in the elections held on
May 10, 2010. Attached hereto and forming part hereof is a Statement of
Votes by Precinct (CEF No. 20-A-1) obtained by each candidate for the
offices of Mayor and Vice-Mayor.

That after such canvass, it appears that SANCHEZ, Edna P.


obtained 28389 votes for the office of City/Municipality Mayor, the same
being the highest number of votes legally cast for said office; and SILVA,
Armenius O. obtained 25532 votes for the office of City/Municipality Vice
Mayor, the same being the highest number of votes legally cast for said
office.

ON THE BASIS OF THE FOREGOING, we hereby proclaim the above


candidates as the duly elected City/Municipality Mayor and
City/Municipality Vice Mayor.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, we have signed these presents in SANTO


TOMAS, Province of Batangas this Tue May 11, 14:09:55 PHT 2010. DaCEIc
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[Emphases and underscoring supplied]

This action of MBOC prompted Maligaya to file his Petition to Annul Proclamation
of Respondent Edna Sanchez, 12 docketed as SPC No. 10-022, on May 20,
2010. This petition was, however, later withdrawn, as agreed upon by the parties,
and the case was dismissed by the Comelec First Division. 13

A second print-out 14 of the COCVP was issued by the MBOC bearing the same
time and date with the same number of votes garnered by Edna being credited
toFederico. The second print-out reads:

WE, THE UNDERSIGNED MEMBERS of the CITY/MUNICIPAL BOARD


OF CANVASSERS do hereby certify under oath that we have duly
canvassed the votes cast in 81 precincts in the city/municipality for the
Candidates therein for city/municipality offices in the elections held on
May 10, 2010. Attached hereto and forming part hereof is a Statement of
Votes by Precinct (CEF No. 20-A-1) obtained by each candidate for the
offices of Mayor and Vice-Mayor.

That after such canvass, it appears that FEDERICO, Renato M.


obtained 28389 votes for the office of City/Municipality Mayor, the same
being the highest number of votes legally cast for said office; and SILVA,
Armenius O. obtained 25532 votes for the office of City/Municipality Vice
Mayor, the same being the highest number of votes legally cast for said
office.

ON THE BASIS OF THE FOREGOING, we hereby proclaim the above


candidates as the duly elected City/Municipality Mayor and
City/Municipality Vice Mayor.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, we have signed these presents in SANTO


TOMAS, Province of Batangas this Tue May 11, 14:09:55 PHT 2010.

[Emphases and underscoring supplied]

On June 1, 2010, upon learning of the proclamation of Federico as the winning


mayoralty candidate by the MBOC, Maligaya filed his Petition to Annul
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Proclamation of Respondent Renato M. Federico 15 as mayor of Sto. Tomas,


Batangas, docketed as SPC No. 10-082. The petition was predicated on the
alleged illegal act of the MBOC in issuing a falsified and patently antedated
second COCVP in the name of Federico without reconvening, without due notice,
and without annulling the first COCVP issued in favor of Edna. CDISAc

In his answer to the petition, Federico raised, among others, the defenses that
the petition was an erroneous remedy, having no basis under the rules; that it
was not based on valid grounds; and that it should not have been given due
course as it was belatedly filed. 16

The members of the MBOC likewise filed an answer, claiming good faith when
they proclaimed Federico as winner considering that the substitutions of Edna
andFederico were valid under Comelec Resolution No. 8889. 17

Meanwhile, Maligaya's petition to deny due course and to cancel the COC
of Federico was denied by the Comelec Second Division in its
Resolution, 18 dated October 19, 2010. It gave due course to Federico's COC and
CONA on the basis of the Comelec En Banc's Resolution No. 8889 which
upheld Federico's substitution.

In its Resolution, 19 dated June 21, 2011, the Comelec First Division denied
Maligaya's petition to annul the proclamation of Federico for having been filed out
of time, as it was filed beyond the ten (10) day period from the day of
proclamation as provided for under Section 6, Rule 4 of Comelec Resolution
8804. 20 Further, it held thatFederico's filing of candidacy for mayor, vice Edna,
was valid.

Maligaya then filed his Verified Partial Motion for Reconsideration, 21 dated June
27, 2011, insisting that his petition had not yet prescribed and
that Federico'ssubstitution was null and void with his COC and CONA filed after
December 14, 2009, the deadline provided for under Section 13 of Comelec
Resolution No. 8678. He further claimed that the generation of a second print-out
of the COCVP bearing the same time and date with the same number of votes
garnered by Edna being credited to Federico was questionable for it was
Election Law Cases

impossible for Federico to be proclaimed as the winning candidate because the


Canvassing and Consolidating System(CCS) had already printed a COCVP with
the name of Edna, as the winner.

The said partial motion for reconsideration was elevated to the Comelec En
Banc for proper disposition. ACTIcS

In his Comment 22 on Maligaya's partial motion for


reconsideration, Federico pointed out that his substitution of Edna had already
been upheld with finality and, thus, could no longer be questioned. He prayed for
the dismissal of the case.

In the hearing of August 25, 2011, the Comelec En Banc considered the case
submitted for resolution.

On August 31, 2011, Federico filed a motion for reconsideration 23 of the


Comelec En Banc's Order given in the August 25, 2011 hearing, claiming that the
case was barred by forum shopping and litis pendentia. Pending his motion, he
elevated the matter to the Supreme Court on September 9, 2011 by way of a
Petition forCertiorari and Prohibition, docketed as G.R. No. 198283. This petition
was subsequently dismissed by the Court on October 4, 2011 for being
premature in view of the pendency of the partial motion for reconsideration before
the Comelec En Banc. 24

On December 21, 2011, the Comelec En Banc issued the assailed Resolution
granting Maligaya's partial motion for reconsideration. Thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant Partial Motion for


Reconsideration is GRANTED. The proclamation of
respondent Federico is hereby ANNULLED. Accordingly:

1.The Executive Director is ordered to constitute a Special


Municipal Board of Canvassers for the municipality of Sto.
Tomas, Batangas;

2.The Special Municipal Board of Canvassers is ordered to


immediately notify the parties, reconvene and proclaim
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petitioner OSMUNDO M. MALIGAYA as the duly elected


Mayor of Sto. Tomas, Batangas; and

3.The Law Department is directed to conduct an investigation on


the members of the (Old) Municipal Board of Canvassers
of Sto. Tomas, Batangas for possible violation of Section
32 pars. (c) and (f) Article VI of COMELEC Resolution No.
8809.

Let the Executive Director implement this resolution.

SO ORDERED. 25

The Comelec En Banc ruled that the petition for the annulment
of Federico's proclamation filed on June 1, 2011 was within the prescribed ten
(10) day period. It explained that the period for the filing of the said petition
should be reckoned from May 27, 2011, when Maligaya discovered the existence
of the second COCVP and not on May 11, 2011, the proclamation date. The
Comelec En Banc was of the view that the annulment of Federico's proclamation
was in order because of his invalid substitution of Edna, as his substitute COC
was filed beyond the deadline and due to the illegality of the proceedings of the
MBOC in generating the second COCVP without authority from the Comelec and
without notice to the parties, in violation of Comelec Resolution No. 8804.

Hence, Federico filed the present Petition for Certiorari with Prayer for Writ of
Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order, dated December 23,
2011, before this Court anchored on the following: cADEIa

GROUNDS

(I)

The validity of Petitioner's substitution as mayoralty candidate is


already a settled fact.

A.Petitioner validly substituted Edna Sanchez pursuant to Section


77 of the Omnibus Election Code.
Election Law Cases

B.The validity of Petitioner's substitution was already decided with


finality by the Comelec.

C.Resolution No. 8889 is valid. The Comelec, in issuing Resolution


No. 8889, passed upon all matters and issues laid before it in
the case. Moreover, after Resolution No. 8889 was issued, it
was in force and had to be complied with.

(II)

The proclamation of Petitioner was regular and done in


accordance with law.

A.The votes cast for "SANCHEZ, Edna P." were legally considered
votes for Petitioner.

B.The petition to annul Petitioner's proclamation was filed out of


time.

(III)

Private Respondent cannot validly be proclaimed as elected


mayor because he was the losing candidate. 26

In the meantime, on December 29, 2011, the Comelec En Banc issued Minute
Resolution No. 11-1306 constituting the special MBOC pursuant to its December
21, 2011 Resolution. 27

On January 16, 2012, the Comelec En Banc issued a Writ of Execution


ordering Federico to vacate the position as mayor and to cease and desist from
performing the functions of the said office. 28

On January 17, 2012, the Special MBOC issued a notice to convene on January
24, 2012 at the Comelec's Session Hall for the purpose of proclaiming Maligaya
as the duly elected mayor. 29 cCTAIE

In its Resolution, dated January 17, 2012, the Court required the respondents in
this case to comment on Federico's petition for certiorari within ten (10) days from
notice, to which Maligaya and the Comelec complied. In the same Resolution, the
Election Law Cases

Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) enjoining the Comelec from
constituting and reconvening the Special MBOC and from proclaiming Maligaya
as mayor of Sto. Tomas, Batangas. 30

Pending resolution of the case, on February 28, 2012, Vice-Mayor Armenius


Silva (Intervenor Silva) of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, filed his Motion for Leave to
Intervene, 31praying essentially that as Federico failed to qualify, he should be
adjudged as his legal successor as mayor, under Section 44 of the Local
Government Code 32 (LGC).

Both the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and Maligaya opposed the motion
to intervene, both arguing that he (Maligaya) was the only mayoralty candidate
left to be voted for given the withdrawal of Edna and Federico's invalid
substitution. Maligaya, then, was not a second placer but the sole and only placer
in the elections. Hence, the doctrine of the second-placer would not apply to him.

The Issues
From the pleadings of the parties, the principal issues presented for resolution
are: (1) whether Federico could validly substitute Edna who withdrew her
candidacy for the mayoralty position; (2) whether Maligaya's Petition to Annul
Proclamation of Federico as mayor of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, docketed as SPC
No. 10-082, was filed on time; and (3) granting that Federico was disqualified,
whether he should be succeeded by Intervenor Silva under the LGC or replaced
by Maligaya.

Essentially, the issue thrust upon the Court is whether the Comelec gravely
abused its discretion when it annulled Federico's proclamation as the winning
candidate on the ground that his substitution as mayoralty candidate was void.

Federico insists that his substitution of Edna was valid and had long been final in
view of Comelec Resolution No. 8889. He likewise argues that his proclamation
as mayor of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, was valid and regular and, hence, it must be
upheld. cADaIH

The Court's Ruling


Election Law Cases

The Court agrees with the position taken by the OSG representing public
respondent Comelec En Banc. The electoral commission committed no grave
abuse of discretion when it came out with its December 21, 2011 Resolution, 33 in
SPC No. 10-082, granting Maligaya's partial motion for reconsideration. The
Court shall discuss the issues in seriatim.

Federico's substitution of Edna Sanchez


as mayoralty candidate was not valid
In its assailed December 21, 2011 Resolution, the Comelec En
Banc annulled Federico's proclamation as mayor of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, on
the ground that his substitution of Edna was invalid, the substitute COC and
CONA having been filed after the December 14, 2009 deadline provided for
under Section 13 of Comelec Resolution No. 8678.

Federico argues that Comelec Resolution No. 8678 cannot prevail over the
provisions of Section 77 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 881, the Omnibus Election
Code (OEC), prescribing the rules on substitution of an official candidate of a
registered political party who dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause after
the last day for the filing of his COC. The law provides:

Sec. 77.Candidates in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal


of another. If after the last day for the filing of certificates of
candidacy, an official candidate of a registered or accredited political
party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person
belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file a
certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died,
withdrew or was disqualified. The substitute candidate nominated
by the political party concerned may file his certificate of candidacy
for the office affected in accordance with the preceding sections
not later than mid-day of the day of the election. If the death,
withdrawal or disqualification should occur between the day before the
election and mid-day of election day, said certificate may be filed with
any board of election inspectors in the political subdivision where he is a
Election Law Cases

candidate, or, in the case of candidates to be voted for by the entire


electorate of the country, with the Commission. (Emphasis supplied)

Federico posits that he timely filed his COC as it was not later than midday of the
day of the election. He argues that the law makes no distinction between the
different causes for substitution death, disqualification or withdrawal.
Regardless of the cause of substitution, the deadline for the filing of a substitute
COC is "not later than mid-day of the election." Accordingly, he asserts that he
validly substituted Edna having filed his COC and CONA on May 5, 2010 or five
(5) days before the elections and having complied with all the procedural
requirements for a valid substitution.

Federico's argument is not well-taken.

The Comelec is empowered by law to prescribe such rules so as to make


efficacious and successful the conduct of the first national automated election. aSTAcH

On January 23, 2007, Congress enacted Republic Act (R.A) No. 9369, An Act
Amending Republic Act No. 8436, Entitled 'An Act Authorizing
the Commission on Elections to Use an Automated Election System in the May
11, 1998 National or Local Elections and in Subsequent National and Local
Electoral Exercises,' to Encourage Transparency, Credibility, Fairness and
Accuracy of Elections, Amending for the Purpose Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, As
Amended, Republic Act No. 7166 and Other Related Elections Laws, Providing
Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes. Section 13 of said law partially provides:

SEC. 13.Section 11 of Republic Act No. 8436 is hereby amended to read


as follows:

SEC. 15.Official Ballot. The Commission shall prescribe the


format of the electronic display and/or the size and form of the
official ballot, which shall contain the titles of the position to be
filled and/or the proposition to be voted upon in an initiative,
referendum or plebiscite. Where practicable, electronic displays
must be constructed to present the names of all candidates for the
same position in the same page or screen, otherwise, the
Election Law Cases

electronic displays must be constructed to present the entire ballot


to the voter, in a series of sequential pages, and to ensure that the
voter sees all of the ballot options on all pages before completing
his or her vote and to allow the voter to review and change all
ballot choices prior to completing and casting his or her ballot.
Under each position to be filled, the names of candidates shall be
arranged alphabetically by surname and uniformly indicated using
the same type size. The maiden or married name shall be listed in
the official ballot, as preferred by the female candidate. Under
each proposition to be vote upon, the choices should be uniformly
indicated using the same font and size. DIECTc

A fixed space where the chairman of the board of election


inspector shall affix her/her signature to authenticate the official
ballot shall be provided.

For this purpose, the Commission shall set the deadline for
the filing of certificate of candidacy/petition of
registration/manifestation to participate in the election. Any
person who files his certificate of candidacy within this period
shall only be considered as a candidate at the start of the
campaign period for which he filed his certificate of
candidacy: Provided, That, unlawful acts or omissions applicable
to a candidate shall effect only upon that start of the aforesaid
campaign period: Provided, finally, That any person holding a
public appointive office or position, including active members of
the armed forces, and officers, and employees in government-
owned or -controlled corporations, shall be considered ipso
facto resigned from his/her office and must vacate the same at the
start of the day of the filing of his/her certification of candidacy.
(Emphasis supplied)

Under said provision, "the Comelec, which has the constitutional mandate to
enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an
Election Law Cases

election," 34has been empowered to set the dates for certain pre-election
proceedings. In the exercise of such constitutional and legislated power,
especially to safeguard and improve on the Automated Election System (AES),
Comelec came out with Resolution No. 8678.

As automated elections had been mandated by law, there was a need for the
early printing of the ballots. So that all candidates would be accommodated in the
ballots, the early filing of COCs was necessary. If there would be late filing and
approval of COCs, the names of aspiring candidates would not be included in the
ballot, the only document to be read by the Precinct Count Optical
Scan (PCOS) machines.

The Law, Rules and Regulations


on Substitution
With regard to substitutions, Congress and the Comelec came out with laws and
rules addressing anticipated problems in such cases. Thus, under Section 12
of R.A. No. 9006, in order to obviate confusion, the name of the substitute
candidate should, as much as possible, bear the same surname as that of the
substituted candidate. Section 12 reads: cCAaHD

Section 12.Substitution of Candidates. In case of valid


substitutions after the official ballots have been printed, the votes cast
for the substituted candidates shall be considered as stray votes but
shall not invalidate the whole ballot. For this purpose, the official ballots
shall provide spaces where the voters may write the name of the
substitute candidates if they are voting for the latter: Provided,
however, That if the substitute candidate of the same family name, this
provision shall not apply. [Emphases supplied]

Regarding the May 10, 2010 automated elections, the Comelec came out with
Resolution No. 8678. On substitution, Section 13 thereof provides:

SEC. 13.Substitution of Candidates, in case of death, disqualification or


withdrawal of another. If after the last day for the filing of certificate of
candidacy, an official candidate of a registered political party dies,
Election Law Cases

withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, he may be substituted by a


candidate belonging to, and nominated by, the same political party. No
substitute shall be allowed for any independent candidate.

The substitute for a candidate who withdrew may file his certificate
of candidacy as herein provided for the office affected not later
than December 14, 2009.

The substitute for a candidate who died or suffered permanent incapacity


or disqualified by final judgment, may file his certificate of candidacy up
to mid-day of election day. If the death or permanent disability should
occur between the day before the election and mid-day of election day,
the substitute candidate may file the certificate with any board of election
inspectors in the political subdivision where he is a candidate, or in the
case of a candidate for President, Vice-President or Senator, with the
Law Department of the Commission on Elections in Manila.

No person who has withdrawn his candidacy for a position shall be


eligible as substitute candidate for any other position after the deadline
for filing of certificates of candidacy. [Emphasis and underscoring
supplied]

As correctly pointed out by the OSG, it is clear from the foregoing that different
deadlines were set to govern the specific circumstances that would necessitate
the substitution of a candidate due to death, disqualification or withdrawal. In
case of death or disqualification, the substitute had until midday of the election
day to file the COC. In case of withdrawal, which is the situation at bench, the
substitute should have filed a COC by December 14, 2009.

The reason for the distinction can easily be divined. Unlike death or
disqualification, withdrawal is voluntary. Generally, a candidate has sufficient time
to ponder on his candidacy and to withdraw while the printing has not yet started.
If a candidate withdraws after the printing, the name of the substitute candidate
can no longer be accommodated in the ballot and a vote for the substitute will just
be wasted.
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When Batangas Governor Armando Sanchez died on April 27, 2010, Edna
withdrew her candidacy as mayor and substituted her late husband as
gubernatorial candidate for the province on April 29, 2010. The party actually had
the option to substitute another candidate for Governor aside from Edna. By
fielding Edna as their substitute candidate for Governor, the party knew that she
had to withdraw her candidacy for Mayor. Considering that the deadline for
substitution in case of withdrawal had already lapsed, no person could substitute
her as mayoralty candidate. The sudden death of then Governor Armando
Sanchez and the substitution by his widow in the gubernatorial race could not
justify a belated substitution in the mayoralty race. TIaDHE

Comelec Resolution No. 8889


not binding on Maligaya
Federico asserts that Resolution No. 8889, which gave due course to the COC of
Edna, as gubernatorial candidate; and his COC, as mayoralty candidate, was
valid as the Comelec passed upon all matters and issues laid before it in the
case. According to him, the legal presumption was that official duty had been
regularly performed. The resolution was an operative fact by which the Comelec
denied Maligaya's petition to deny due course to the COC of Federico, and on the
basis of which the MBOC counted the votes for Edna as votes cast for Federico.

As far as Maligaya is concerned, the resolution was void as it lacked legal basis
as Federico's substitution was invalid, his COC having been filed only on May 5,
2010, or after December 14, 2009, the deadline provided for under Section 13 of
Comelec Resolution No. 8678. No reason was mentioned in the resolution why
his COC was given due course except that the withdrawal "merely caused a
vacuum in mayoralty contest." 35 The resolution reads:

Mrs. Edna P. Sanchez is qualified to substitute for her deceased


husband. And this substitution is not contrary to law or our rules. She is
stepping up from her candidacy as Mayor to Governor, and such action
merely caused a vacuum in mayoralty contest. The rule being cited by
the Law Department that the substitute for a candidate who withdrew
may file his certificate of candidacy as herein provided for the office
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affected not later than December 14, 2009, is far from germane
considering that the vacancy arose by reason of the death of Governor
Sanchez.

To stress, the vacancy in the mayoralty race in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, was due to
the withdrawal of Edna as mayoralty candidate, not due to the death of Armando
Sanchez.

Accordingly, the Court agrees with the OSG that Resolution No. 8889 was void
as it was in contravention of the guidelines set forth under Resolution No. 8678.
With respect to Federico, it cannot be regarded as a valid source of any right, like
the right to be voted for public office. Indeed, a void judgment can never be final
and executory and may be assailed at any time. 36 cACEaI

"Where a proclamation is null and void, the proclamation is no proclamation at all


and the proclaimed candidate's assumption of office cannot deprive the Comelec
of the power to declare such nullity and annul the proclamation." 37

More importantly, Resolution No. 8889 was merely an administrative issuance,


based on documents forwarded to the Comelec. It was not a result of an
adversarial proceeding, where the parties were heard and allowed to adduce
evidence. In issuing Resolution No. 8889, the Comelec did not bother to notify
the parties who would have been affected. It was, thus, not a decision in an
actual case or controversy which ripened into finality.

Unquestionably, parties who had no participation therein were not bound by the
resolution. Federico cannot invoke res judicata, one of the requirements of which
is identity of parties. Stated differently, as Maligaya was not a party in the said
proceeding, Resolution No. 8889 was not binding on him.

The second COCVP in favor of


Federico had no legal basis.
Without question, the votes garnered by Edna could not be credited
to Federico as he was never a legitimate candidate. As there was an invalid
substitution, there could not be a valid proclamation. In effect, the second
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COCVP in his name had no legal basis. Granting that those who voted for Edna
had in mind to vote for Federico, nonetheless, the fact that there was no
compliance with the rules cannot be ignored.

. . . . In a choice between provisions on material qualifications of


elected officials, on the one hand, and the will of the electorate in any
given locality, on the other, we believe and so hold that we cannot
choose the electorate will. The balance must always tilt in favor of
upholding and enforcing the law. To rule otherwise is to slowly gnaw at
the rule of law. 38 ICAcHE

It was alleged that the MBOC of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, raised the hands
of Federico as the winner. As correctly pointed out by Maligaya, however, this was
impossible because the CCS printed the name of Edna Sanchez as the winner
on the first COCVP. Thereafter, the MBOC came out with a second COCVP, this
time, with the name ofFederico on it with the same number of votes as that of
Edna, and generated on the very same date and the very same time as the first
COCVP a physical impossibility.

Maligaya's Petition to Annul


the Proclamation of Federico
was filed on time
Maligaya became aware of the issuance of the second COCVP in favor
of Federico only on May 27, 2010. From that day, he had ten (10) days to
question the dubious proceeding in the MBOC under Section 6 of Resolution No.
8804. Considering that Maligaya filed his petition to annul Federico's May 10,
2010 proclamation on June 1, 2010, it was indeed filed on time.

It has been argued that there is no evidence that Maligaya became aware of the
issuance of the second COCVP in favor of Federico only on May 27, 2010. In this
regard, the Court believes that the actions taken by Maligaya after the elections
and the separate proclamations of Edna and Federico strongly indicate that he
was telling the truth. Indeed, there is no rhyme or reason why he should file a
petition questioning the proclamation of Edna if he had knowledge of the
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subsequent proclamation ofFederico. The Court adopts with approbation his


reasoning on the matter. Thus:

5.35.Private respondent pursued and prosecuted this case with the


knowledge that it was Edna Sanchez who was proclaimed, until he came
to know of the alleged proclamation of respondent Federico on May 27,
2010. Consequently, he filed another petition on June 1, 2010, this time
against Federico, to annul his proclamation. The June 1, 2010 petition
was filed within ten days from the knowledge of the alleged proclamation
of Federico.

5.36.The filing of SPC No. 10-022 demonstrates that private respondent


Maligaya believed in good faith that it was Edna Sanchez that was
proclaimed and that he did not initially know that there was a COCVP in
the name of Federico. SPC No. 10-022 is also a proof that petitioner did
not dilly dally in protecting his rights. There simply is no reason and it
runs counter to human conduct for Maligaya to file a petition for
annulment of proclamation of Edna Sanchez if he knew all along that it
wasFederico who was proclaimed. DIAcTE

5.37. In the same manner, the filing of the present petition


against Federico shows that the proclamation of Federico was fraudulent
or at least made surreptitiously. Had Maligaya known of the proclamation
of Federico, he should have outrightly filed the petition for annulment of
proclamation against Federico. But because it was made without any
notice to the herein private respondent, he only knew of it on May 27,
2010, thus, the petition on June 1, 2010. Private respondent did not
certainly sleep on his rights as he filed the proper petition within the
prescribed period. He could not be penalized for belated filing when, as
shown above, the COCVP ofFederico was surreptitiously
accomplished. Thus, the Comelec En Banc did not commit grave
abuse of discretion in upholding the interest of herein private
respondent Maligaya. 39 [Emphasis and underscoring in the
original]
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Accordingly, the Comelec did not abuse its discretion when it annulled the actions
of the MBOC and the proclamation of Federico. Such exercise is within its powers
under the law to administer and enforce election laws.

. . ., [T]he statutory power of supervision and control by the COMELEC


over the boards of canvassers includes the power to revise or reverse
the action of the boards, as well as to do what the boards should have
done. Such power includes the authority to initiate motu propio such
steps or actions as may be required pursuant to law, like reviewing the
actions of the board; conducting an inquiry affecting the genuineness
of election returns beyond the election records of the polling places
involved; annulling canvass or proclamations based on incomplete
returns or on incorrect or tampered returns; invalidating a canvass or
proclamation made in an unauthorized meeting of the board of
canvassers either because it lacked a quorum or because the board
did not meet at all; requiring the board to convene. 40

There being no valid substitution,


the candidate with the highest number
of votes should be proclaimed as the
duly elected mayor
As Federico's substitution was not valid, there was only one qualified candidate in
the mayoralty race in Sto. Tomas, Batangas Maligaya. Being the only
candidate, he received the highest number of votes. Accordingly, he should be
proclaimed as the duly elected mayor in the May 10, 2010 elections. 41 EAcCHI

Considering that Maligaya was the winner, the position of Intervenor Silva that he
be considered the legal successor of Federico, whom he claims failed to qualify,
has no legal basis. There is simply no vacancy. When there is no vacancy, the
rule on succession under Section 44 42 of the LGC cannot be invoked.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

The Motion for Leave to Intervene filed by Armenius Silva is DENIED.


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The Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Court is ordered lifted.

SO ORDERED.

||| (Federico v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 199612, [January 22, 2013])

MAYOR EMMANUEL
L. MALIKSI, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and
HOMER T. SAQUILAYAN, respondents.

DECISION

CARPIO, J : p

The Case
Before the Court is a petition for certiorari 1 assailing the 14 September 2012
Resolution 2 of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) En Banc which
affirmed the 15 August 2012 Resolution 3 of the COMELEC First Division in EAC
(AE) No. A-22-2011.

The Antecedent Facts


Emmanuel L. Maliksi (Maliksi) and Homer T. Saquilayan (Saquilayan) were both
mayoralty candidates for the Municipality of Imus, Cavite during the 10 May 2010
Automated National and Local Elections. The Municipal Board of Canvassers
(MBC) proclaimed Saquilayan as the duly elected municipal mayor garnering a
total of 48,181 votes as against Maliksi's 39,682 votes. Thus, based on the
MBC's canvass, Saquilayan won over Maliksi by 8,499 votes.

Maliksi filed an election protest before the Regional Trial Court of Imus, Cavite,
Branch 22 (trial court), questioning the results of the elections in 209 clustered
precincts. The case was docketed as Election Protest No. 009-10. In its 15
November 2011 Decision, the trial court declared Maliksi as the duly elected
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Municipal Mayor of Imus, Cavite. The trial court ruled that Maliksi garnered
41,088 votes as against Saquilayan's 40,423 votes. Thus, based on the trial
court's recount, Maliksi won over Saquilayan by a margin of 665 votes. The
dispositive portion of the trial court's decision reads: STcDIE

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, this Court finds the Election
Protest filed by Emmanuel L. Maliksi meritorious. Accordingly,
Emmanuel L. Maliksi is hereby DECLARED as the duly elected Mayor of
the Municipality of Imus, Province of Cavite after having obtained the
highest number of legal votes of 41,088 as against Protestant Homer T.
Saquilayan's 40,423 votes or a winning margin of 665 votes in favor of
the former.

Thus, the election and proclamation of Homer T. Saquilayan as Mayor of


Imus, Cavite is hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE and he is
COMMANDED to immediately CEASE and DESIST from performing the
duties and functions of said office.

Finally, pursuant to Section 4, Rule 14 of A.M. 10-4-1-SC, the Clerk of


Court is hereby DIRECTED to personally deliver the copy of the signed
and promulgated decision on the counsels of the parties.

SO ORDERED. 4

Saquilayan filed an appeal before the COMELEC, docketed as EAC (AE) No. A-
22-2011. Meanwhile, in a Special Order dated 28 November 2011, the trial court
grantedMaliksi's motion for execution pending appeal.

On 2 December 2011, Saquilayan also filed with the COMELEC a petition


for certiorari with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and
temporary restraining order or status quo order with prayer for early
consideration, docketed as SPR (AE) No. 106-2011, assailing the trial court's
Special Order of 28 November 2011 granting execution pending appeal. A
COMELEC First Division Order dated 20 December 2011 5 enjoining the trial
court from enforcing its 28 November 2011 Special Order was not implemented
since only Presiding Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento (Sarmiento) voted to grant
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the temporary restraining order while Commissioners Armando C. Velasco


(Velasco) and Christian Robert S. Lim (Lim) dissented. SEcTHA

The Resolution of the COMELEC First Division


The COMELEC First Division, after inspecting the ballot boxes, ruled that it was
apparent that the integrity of the ballots had been compromised. To determine the
true will of the electorate, and since there was an allegation of ballot tampering,
the COMELEC First Division examined the digital images of the contested ballots
stored in the Compact Flash (CF) cards. The COMELEC First Division used the
following guidelines in appreciating the contested ballots:

1.On Marked Ballots. The rule is that no ballot should be discarded


as marked unless its character as such is unmistakable. The distinction
should always be between marks that were apparently, carelessly, or
innocently made, which do not invalidate the ballot, and marks
purposely placed thereon by the voter with a view to possible future
identification of the ballot, which invalidate it. In the absence of any
circumstance showing that the intention of the voter to mark the ballot
is unmistakable, or any evidence aliunde to show that the words or
marks were deliberately written or put therein to identify the ballots, the
ballots should not be rejected.

2.On ballots claimed to have been shaded by two or more persons.


Unlike in the manual elections where it is easy to identify if a ballot has
been written by two persons, in case of an automated election, it would
be very hard if not impossible to identify if two persons shaded a single
ballot. The best way to identify if a ballot has been tampered is to go to
the digital image of the ballot as the PCOS machine was able to
capture such when the ballot was fed by the voter into the machine
when he cast his vote. In the absence of any circumstance showing
that the ballot was shaded by persons other than the voter, the ballots
should not be rejected to give effect to the voter's intent.
Election Law Cases

3.On ballots with ambiguous votes. It has been the position of the
Commission to always take into consideration [that] the intent of the
voter shall be given effect, taking aside any technicalities. A ballot
indicates the voter's will. In the reading and appreciation of ballots,
every ballot is presumed valid unless there is a clear reason to justify
its rejection. The object in the appreciation of ballots is to ascertain and
carry into effect the intention of the voter, if it can be determined with
reasonable certainty. DSIaAE

4.On spurious ballots. Ballots have security features like bar codes,
ultra-violet inks and such other security marks to be able to preserve its
integrity and the PCOS machines were programmed to accept genuine
and valid ballots only. Further, the ballots used in the elections were
precinct specific, meaning, the PCOS machine assigned to a specific
precinct will only accept those ballots designated to such precinct. This
follows that the digital images stored in the CF cards are digital images
of genuine, authentic and valid ballots. In the absence of any evidence
proving otherwise, the Commission will not invalidate a vote cast which
will defeat the sovereign will of the electorate.

5.On over-voting. It has been the position of the Commission that


over-voting in a certain position will make the vote cast for the position
stray but will not invalidate the entire ballot, so in case of over-voting for
the contested position, such vote shall be considered stray and will not
be credited to any of the contending parties.

6.On rejected ballots. As correctly observed by [the] court a quo,


with all the security features of the ballot, the PCOS machines will only
accept genuine ballots and will reject it if, inter alia, fake, duplicate,
ballots intended for another precinct, or has been fed an[d] accepted by
the machines already. Bearing in mind the voter's will, rejected ballots
can still be claimed by the parties and be admitted as valid votes, if,
upon further examination, it is found that the ballot is genuine and was
inadvertently rejected by the machine. 6
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After the counting and appreciation of the ballot images in the CF cards of the
appealed clustered precincts, the COMELEC First Division came up with the
following findings: CIAHaT

Clustered Ruling of Ruling of Votes for Votes for


Precinct No. Trial Court COMELEC Saquilayan Maliksi
First
Division

96 84 ballots were Upon examining 235 270


declared stray because the digital images
both slots for Maliksi of the ballots, there
and Saquilayan was no over-voting.
were shaded.

61 68 ballots were Upon examining the 230 173


declared stray because digital images of
both slots for Maliksi the ballots, there was
and Saquilayan no over-voting.
were shaded.

51 133 ballots were Upon examining the 212 182


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for Maliksi ballots, there was no
and Saquilayan over-voting.
were shaded. 2 ballots
were declared stray
because the slots for
Maliksi and Astillero
were both shaded.

42 207 ballots were Upon examining the 273 231


declared stray because both
digital images of the
slots
for Maliksi and ballots, there was no
Saquilayan were over-voting. 1 ballot
shaded. 1 ballot was was rejected by the
declared stray because PCOS machine but it
the slots for Maliksi was clear that the
and Astillero were intent of the voter was
both shaded. to vote for Maliksi.
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36 92 ballots were Upon examining the 154 202


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for Maliksi ballots there was no
and Saquilayan over-voting. 2 ballots
were shaded. were rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the
intent of the voters
was to vote for Maliksi.

3 33 ballots were Upon examining the 73 89


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for Maliksi ballots, there was no
and Saquilayan were over-voting. 1 ballot
shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but
it was clear that the
intent of the voter
was to vote for
Saquilayan.

49 172 ballots were Upon examining the 279 265


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for Maliksi ballots, there was no
and Saquilayan were over-voting.
shaded.

50 153 ballots were Upon examining the 313 275


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for Maliksi ballots, there was no
and Saquilayan over-voting. 2 ballots
were shaded. were rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the
intent of the voters
was to vote for Maliksi.

34 155 ballots were Upon examining the 210 164


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for Maliksi ballots, there was no
and Saquilayan were over-voting. 1 ballot
shaded. 1 ballot was was rejected by the
declared stray because PCOS machine but
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the slots for Maliksi it was clear that the


and Dominguez were intent of the voter
both shaded. was to vote for
Saquilayan.

35 215 ballots were Upon examining the 286 288


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for Maliksi ballots, there was no
and Saquilayan over-voting. 2 ballots
were shaded. were rejected by the
PCOS machine but
it was clear that the
intent of the voters
was to vote for
Saquilayan.

146 216 ballots were Upon examining the 305 271


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but
it was clear that the
intent of the voter
was to vote for Maliksi.

120 246 ballots were Upon examining the 309 269


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voter was to vote
for Saquilayan.

127 248 ballots were Upon examining the 332 304


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for Maliksi ballots, there was no
and Saquilayan over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
Election Law Cases

of the voter was to vote


for Maliksi.

206 132 ballots were Upon examining the 136 116


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for Maliksi ballots, there was no
and Saquilayan over-voting. 3 ballots
were shaded. (1 for Saquilayan, 2 for
Maliksi) were rejected
by the PCOS machine
but it was clear that
the intent of the voters
was to vote for the
candidate of choice.

76 253 ballots were Upon examining the 329 251


declared stray because digital images of the
both slots for Maliksi ballots, there was no
and Saquilayan over-voting.
were shaded.

202 122 ballots were Upon examining the 140 158


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voter was to vote
for Maliksi.

67 203 ballots were Upon examining the 246 180


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 2 ballots
were shaded. were rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voter was to vote
for Saquilayan.

209 168 ballots were Upon examining the 220 171


declared stray because digital images of the
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both slots for Maliksi ballots, there was no


and Saquilayan over-voting.
were shaded.

81 181 ballots were Upon examining the 329 194


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.

87 107 ballots were Upon examining the 133 147


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 2 ballots
were shaded. were rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voters was to
vote for the candidate
of choice.

86 189 ballots were Upon examining the 246 239


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 3 ballots
were shaded. (1 for Maliksi, 2 for
Saquilayan) were
rejected by the PCOS
machine but it was
clear that the intent of
the voters was to vote
for the candidate of
choice.

91 95 ballots were Upon examining the 137 189


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 3 ballots
were shaded. (2 for Maliksi, 1 for
Saquilayan) were
rejected by the PCOS
machine but it was
clear that the intent of
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the voters was to vote for


the candidate of choice.

88 75 ballots were Upon examining the 142 223


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 2 ballots
were shaded. were rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voters was to vote
for Maliksi.

68 113 ballots were Upon examining the 243 180


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voter was to vote
for Maliksi.

45 120 ballots were Upon examining the 216 211


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voter was to vote
for Maliksi.

43 101 ballots were Upon examining the 256 182


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 3 ballots
were shaded. (2 for Maliksi, 1 for
Saquilayan) were
rejected by the PCOS
machine but it was
clear that the intent of
the voters was to vote for
Election Law Cases

the candidate of choice.

85 89 ballots were Upon examining the 184 213


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.

74 114 ballots were Upon examining the 179 161


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 7 ballots
were shaded. (2 for Maliksi, 5 for
Saquilayan) were
rejected by the PCOS
machine but it was clear
that the intent of the
voters was to vote for
the candidate of choice.

47 186 ballots were Upon examining the 250 226


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the
intent of the voter was
to vote for Saquilayan.

128 105 ballots were Upon examining the 272 223


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.

107 77 ballots were Upon examining the 127 178


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.

97 220 ballots were Upon examining the 280 299


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declared stray because digital images of the


2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 2 ballots
were shaded. (1 for Maliksi, 1 for
Saquilayan) were
rejected by the PCOS
machine but it was
clear that the intent of
the voters was to vote
for the candidate of
choice.

99 114 ballots were Upon examining the 243 354


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the
intent of the voter was
to vote for Saquilayan.

208 154 ballots were Upon examining the 200 163


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.

204 119 ballots were Upon examining the 269 119


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 2 ballots
were shaded. were rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voters was to
vote for Saquilayan.

201 108 ballots were Upon examining the 143 131


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.
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207 338 ballots were Upon examining the 419 117


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voter was to vote
for Maliksi.

109 136 ballots were Upon examining the 173 257


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voter was to vote
for Saquilayan.

131 140 ballots were Upon examining the 297 165


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.

52 98 ballots were Upon examining the 118 87


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1
were shaded. ballot was rejected by
the PCOS machine but
it was clear that the
intent of the voter was
to vote for Maliksi.

117 146 ballots were Upon examining the 302 265


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.
Election Law Cases

100 90 ballots were Upon examining the 370 228


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 3 ballots
were shaded. (2 for Maliksi, 1 for
Saquilayan) were
rejected by the PCOS
machine but it was
clear that the intent of
the voters was to vote
for the candidate of
choice.

95 215 ballots were Upon examining the 288 270


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.

98 103 ballots were Upon examining the 218 304


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voter was to vote
for Saquilayan.

94 257 ballots were Upon examining the 270 150


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 2 ballots
were shaded. were rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voters was to vote
for Maliksi.

93 105 ballots were Upon examining the 205 167


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 2 ballots
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were shaded. were rejected by the


PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voters was to vote
for Maliksi.

64 117 ballots were Upon examining the 170 162


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.

44 169 ballots were Upon examining the 273 200


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.

41 262 ballots were Upon examining the 368 176


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting.
were shaded.

130 156 ballots were Upon examining the 314 170


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 3 ballots
were shaded. (2 for Maliksi, 1 for
Saquilayan) were
rejected by the PCOS
machine but it was
clear that the intent of
the voters was to vote
for the candidate of
choice.

118 126 ballots were Upon examining the 310 248


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 3 ballots
were shaded. (2 for Maliksi, 1 for
Saquilayan) were
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rejected by the PCOS


machine but it was
clear that the intent of
the voters was to vote
for the candidate of
choice.

56 127 ballots were Upon examining the 202 223


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 1 ballot
were shaded. was rejected by the
PCOS machine but it
was clear that the intent
of the voter was to vote
for Saquilayan.

205 153 ballots were Upon examining the 185 242


declared stray because digital images of the
2 slots for the ballots, there was no
mayoralty position over-voting. 3 ballots
were shaded. (1 for Maliksi, 2 for
Saquilayan) were
rejected by the PCOS
machine but it was clear
that the intent of the
voters was to vote for
the candidate of choice.
The COMELEC First Division found that Maliksi obtained a total of 40,092 votes,
broken down as follows: (a) 29,170 votes in the clustered precincts not appealed
as per statement of votes by precinct, and (b) 10,922 votes in the appealed
clustered precincts. On the other hand, Saquilayan obtained a total of 48,521
votes, broken down as follows: (a) 35,908 votes in the clustered precincts not
appealed as per statement of votes by precinct, and (b) 12,613 votes obtained in
the appealed clustered precincts. Saquilayan won over Maliksi by 8,429 votes.
Thus, in a Resolution promulgated on 15 August 2012, the COMELEC First
Division nullified the trial court's decision and declared Saquilayan as the duly-
elected Municipal Mayor of Imus, Cavite. The COMELEC First Division noted
that Maliksi attached a photocopy of an official ballot to his election protest. The
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COMELEC First Division stated that unless one of the clustered precincts had a
photocopying machine, it could only mean that an official ballot was taken out of
the polling place to be photocopied, in violation of Section 30 (a) of COMELEC
Resolution No. 8786. 7 The dispositive portion of the 15 August 2012 Resolution
reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it


hereby RESOLVES, to:

1.NULLIFY the pronouncement of the lower court that


protestant-appellee EMMANUEL L. MALIKSI is the duly-
elected Municipal Mayor of Imus, Cavite and HEREBY
DECLARES HOMER T. SAQUILAYAN as the duly-
elected Municipal Mayor of the above-mentioned
municipality; cDCEIA

2.Further, the Law Department is hereby DIRECTED:

i.To conduct an investigation as to who were


responsible for the tampering of the ballot boxes
for purposes of filing the appropriate information
for violation of election laws; and

ii.To conduct an investigation as to possible


violation of election laws and Comelec Resolutions
by herein protestant-appellee EMMANUEL
L.MALIKSI as to how he was able to secure a
photocopy of the official ballot which he attached
in his Election Protest.

SO ORDERED. 8

Maliksi filed a motion for reconsideration of the COMELEC First Division's


Resolution and for the voluntary inhibition of Commissioners Sarmiento, Velasco,
and Lim from further acting on the case.

The Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc


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In its 14 September 2012 Resolution, the COMELEC En Banc denied Maliksi's


motion for reconsideration and affirmed the 15 August 2012 Resolution of the
COMELEC First Division.

The COMELEC En Banc ruled that the COMELEC First Division did not err in
ordering the decryption, printing, and examination of the ballot images in the CF
cards instead of recounting the physical ballots. The COMELEC En Banc stated
that when the case was elevated to it on appeal, it immediately noted an
"unprecedented number of double-votes involving 8,387 ballots exclusively
affecting the position of Mayor and specifically affecting the ballots for
Saquilayan." 9 The COMELEC En Banc further noted: TECcHA

. . . . Worth noting also is that these 8,387 ballots all came from 53
clustered precincts specifically pinpointed by Maliksi as his pilot precincts
(which is 20% of the total precincts he protested) thereby affecting a
total of 33.38% or more than one-third (1/3) of the total ballots cast in
those precincts. We find this too massive to have not been detected on
election day, too specific to be random and too precise to be accidental
which leaves a reasonable mind no other conclusion except that those
8,387 cases of double-shading were purposely machinated. These
dubious and highly suspicious circumstances left us with no other option
but to dispense with the physical ballots and resort to their digital
images. To recount the tampered ballots will only yield us tampered
results defeating the point of this appeal. 10

The COMELEC En Banc also ruled that it is free to adopt procedures that will
ensure the speedy disposition of its cases as long as the parties are amply heard
on their opposing claims. The COMELEC En Banc ruled that the decryption,
printing, and examination of the ballot images in the CF cards are not without
basis since a Division, through its Presiding Commissioner, may take such
measures as he may deem proper to resolve cases pending before it. The
COMELEC En Banc ruled that Maliksi was not denied due process because he
never questioned the Order of decryption by the COMELEC First Division nor did
he raise any objection in any of his pleadings. Further, the ballot images are not
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mere secondary images, as Maliksi claimed. The digital images of the physical
ballots, which are instantaneously written in the CF cards by the
PCOS 11 machines the moment the ballots are read and counted, are equivalent
to the original for the purpose of the best evidence rule. The COMELEC En Banc
accorded higher evidentiary value to the ballot images because their integrity are
more secure for the following reasons:

(1)the digital images are encrypted to prevent unauthorized alteration


or access; AaCcST

(2)the ballot images cannot be decrypted or in anyway accessed


without the necessary decryption key;

(3)the ballot images may only be decrypted using a special system


designed by the COMELEC and not by any ordinary operating system
or computer;

(4)the CF cards storing the digital images of all the ballots used in the
10 May 2010 elections are kept in a secured facility within the
Commission to prevent unauthorized access. 12

The COMELEC En Banc further ruled that the result of the revision proceedings
in the trial court could not be admitted because of the finding by the COMELEC
First Division that the recounted ballots were tampered. The COMELEC En Banc
explained:

The allegation of post-election fraud of Saquilayan was in fact confirmed


by the First Division when upon examination of the scanned digital
images of all the double-shaded ballots, they were found to bear no
traces of double-shading instead they contain clear and unambiguous
votes for Saquilayan. This finding of the First Division proves that double-
votes did not exist when the PCOS machines counted them on election
day, [w]hich in turn proves that the ballots recounted and admitted
by the trial court were tampered and were clear products of post-
election fraud. Under these circumstances, the doctrines
in Rosal v. COMELECand Varias v. COMELEC edict that the
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tampered revision result which was the basis of the appealed


decision cannot be admitted and cannot be used to overturn the
the n official count. 13 (Emphasis in the original; citations omitted)

Finally, the COMELEC En Banc ruled that Maliksi had no basis to call for the
inhibition of Commissioners Sarmiento and Velasco. Commissioner Lim
voluntarily inhibited himself from the case.

The dispositive portion of the COMELEC En Banc's 14 September 2012


Resolution reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the MOTION FOR


RECONSIDERATION of Protestant-Appellee EMMANUEL L. MALIKSI is
hereby DENIED for lack of merit. Consequently, we are AFFIRMING the
August 15, 2012 Resolution of the First Division NULLIFYING the
November 15, 2011 Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 22 of
Imus, Cavite.

SO ORDERED. 14

Hence, Maliksi filed the present petition before this Court.

In a Resolution dated 11 October 2012, this Court issued a temporary restraining


order directing the COMELEC En Banc to desist from implementing its 14
September 2012 Resolution.

The Issues
The overriding issue in this petition for certiorari is whether the COMELEC En
Banc committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction in issuing its assailed Resolution dated 14 September 2012. In
resolving this issue, we shall examine:

(1)whether Maliksi was deprived of due process when the


COMELEC First Division ordered on appeal the decryption,
printing, and examination of the ballot images in the CF
cards;
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(2)whether the ballot images in the CF cards are mere secondary


evidence that should only be used when the physical ballots
are not available;

(3)whether the issue of tampering of ballots and ballot boxes was


belatedly raised by Saquilayan; and

(4)whether there were grounds for the inhibition of Commissioners


Sarmiento and Velasco.

The Ruling of this Court


We dismiss the petition.

The Alleged Violation of Due Process


Maliksi alleged that he was denied due process when the COMELEC First
Division directed the decryption, printing, and examination of the ballot images in
the CF cards for the first time on appeal without notice to him, thus depriving him
of his right to be present and observe the decryption proceedings.

The records point to the contrary.

In a Motion dated 21 March 2011 filed before the trial court, 15 Saquilayan moved
for the printing of the images of the ballots in the CF cards of the contested
clustered precincts. Thus, it cannot be said that Saquilayan asked for decryption
of the ballot images for the first time only on appeal. Saquilayan had called the
attention of the trial court to the unusually large number of double-shaded ballots
affecting only the position of Mayor, giving rise to a strong suspicion of tampering
of the ballots and ballot boxes. However, the trial court did not immediately act on
his motion, as shown by Saquilayan's Omnibus Motion to Resolve and for
Issuance of Order 16 dated 14 April 2011.

In an Omnibus Order 17 dated 3 May 2011, the trial court granted Saquilayan's
motion for the printing of the ballot images in the CF cards. The trial court gave
Saquilayan a period of 30 days within which to accomplish the printing of the
ballot images. Saquilayan received a copy of the Omnibus Order on 10 May
2011. On 11 May 2011, he sent a letter to the COMELEC requesting it to forward
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at the soonest time the CF cards of the protested precincts to the COMELEC
Election Records and Statistics Department (ERSD) to enable the decrypting and
printing of the ballot images. It turned out that the CF cards were still with the trial
court. Thus, in a Manifestation and Request 18 dated 20 May 2011, Saquilayan
asked the trial court to forward the CF cards of the protested precincts to the
ERSD to enable the COMELEC to decrypt and print the ballot images. TICaEc

In an Order 19 dated 17 June 2011, the trial court noted that the ERSD already
specified the main and back-up CF cards that were used in the 10 May 2010
National and Local Elections in Imus, Cavite and the decryption and copying of
the ballot images was scheduled to start on 21 June 2011. The trial court then
requested the ERSD to specify the procedure that the ERSD would undertake for
the decryption of the ballot images. In a letter 20 dated 20 June
2011, Maliksi wrote the ERSD requesting that further proceedings be deferred
and held in abeyance in deference to the 17 June 2011 Order of the trial court
requiring the ERSD to specify the procedure it would undertake for the
decryption.

Thereafter, Maliksi filed a Motion to Consider That Period Has Lapsed to Print
Ballot's Picture Images, 21 alleging that Saquilayan was only given a maximum of
30 days within which to accomplish the printing of the ballot
images. Maliksi alleged that the period, which was until 22 June 2011, had
lapsed and Saquilayan should be considered barred from having access to the
electronic data in the COMELEC's back-up server to print the ballot images in the
CF cards. The trial court granted Maliksi's motion in its Order dated 3 August
2011. 22 The trial court stated that Saquilayan should have included in his motion
to have access to the electronic data a request for the trial court to turn over to
the COMELEC the CF cards in its possession. As it turned out, the delay in the
turn over of the CF cards likewise delayed the printing of the ballot images in the
CF cards.

It is clear from the foregoing events that the delay in the printing of the ballot
images could not be attributed to Saquilayan alone. In its 17 June 2011 Order,
the trial court set a conference on 27 June 2011 upon Maliksi's motion to request
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the ERSD to specify the procedure it would undertake in decrypting the CF


cards. Maliksi then requested for the deferment of the printing of the ballot
images in his 20 June 2011 letter to ERSD. However, during the 27 June 2011
hearing, Maliksi's counsel filed in open court his Motion to Consider That Period
Has Lapsed to Print Ballot's Picture Images. The trial court acted on the motion
by requiring Saquilayan's counsel to comment within five days. The original
reason for the hearing, which was for ERSD to specify the procedure it would
undertake in decrypting the CF cards, was not even taken up. The trial court
eventually granted Maliksi's motion and declared that the period given to
Saquilayan had lapsed. The failure of the trial court to turn over the CF cards to
the ERSD, as well as the move of Maliksi for the ERSD to specify the procedure
in decrypting the CF cards, contributed significantly to the delay in the printing of
the ballot images. aEHASI

The records also showed that Maliksi was aware of the decryption, printing, and
examination of the ballot images by the COMELEC First Division. The COMELEC
First Division issued an Order 23 dated 28 March 2012 directing Saquilayan to
deposit the required amount for expenses for the supplies, honoraria, and fee for
the decryption of the CF cards, and a copy of the Order was personally delivered
to Maliksi's counsel. 24 Maliksi's counsel was likewise given a copy of
Saquilayan's Manifestation of Compliance with the 28 March 2012 Order. 25 In an
Order 26 dated 17 April 2012, the COMELEC First Division directed Saquilayan to
deposit an additional amount for expenses for the printing of additional ballot
images from four clustered precincts, and a copy of the Order was again
personally delivered toMaliksi's counsel. 27 The decryption took weeks to finish.

Clearly, Maliksi was not denied due process. He received notices of the
decryption, printing, and examination of the ballot images by the COMELEC First
Division. In addition, Maliksi raised his objections to the decryption in his motion
for reconsideration before the COMELEC En Banc. The Court has ruled:

. . . . The essence of due process, we have consistently held, is simply


the opportunity to be heard; as applied to administrative proceedings,
due process is the opportunity to explain one's side or the opportunity to
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seek a 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
requirement is satisfied where the parties are afforded fair and
reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy at hand. . .
. . 28

There is no denial of due process where there is opportunity to be heard, either


through oral arguments or pleadings. 29 It is settled that "opportunity to be heard"
does not only mean oral arguments in court but also written arguments through
pleadings. 30 Thus, the fact that a party was heard on his motion for
reconsideration negates any violation of the right to due process. 31 The Court
has ruled that denial of due process cannot be invoked where a party was given
the chance to be heard on his motion for reconsideration. 32

Evidentiary Value of the Digital Ballot Images


Maliksi assailed the use by the COMELEC First Division of the ballot images in
the CF cards. He alleged that the best and most conclusive evidence are the
physical ballots themselves, and when they cannot be produced or when they are
not available, the election returns would be the best evidence of the votes cast.

We do not agree. We have already ruled that the ballot images in the CF cards,
as well as the printouts of such images, are the functional equivalent of the
official physical ballots filled up by the voters, and may be used in an election
protest.

In the recent consolidated cases of Vinzons-Chato v. House of Representatives


Electoral Tribunal and Panotes and Panotes v. House of Representatives
Electoral Tribunal and Vinzons-Chato, 33 the Court ruled that "the picture images
of the ballots, as scanned and recorded by the PCOS, are likewise 'official ballots'
that faithfully capture in electronic form the votes cast by the voter, as defined by
Section 2 (3) of R.A. No. 9369." 34 The Court declared that the printouts of the
ballot images in the CF cards "are the functional equivalent of the paper ballots
filled out by the voters and, thus, may be used for purposes of revision of votes in
an electoral protest." In short, both the ballot images in the CF cards and the
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printouts of such images have the same evidentiary value as the official physical
ballots filled up by the voters. DacASC

In Vinzons-Chato and Panotes, the Court explained in length:

Section 2 (3) of R.A. No. 9369 defines "official ballot" where AES is
utilized as the "paper ballot, whether printed or generated by the
technology applied, that faithfully captures or represents the votes cast
by a voter recorded or to be recorded in electronic form."

An automated election system, or AES, is a system using appropriate


technology which has been demonstrated in the voting, counting,
consolidating, canvassing, and transmission of election result, and other
electoral process. There are two types of AES identified under R.A. No.
9369: (1) paper-based election system; and (2) direct recording
electronic system. A paper-based election system, such as the one
adopted during the May 10, 2010 elections, is the type of AES that "use
paper ballots, records and counts votes, tabulates,
consolidates/canvasses and transmits electronically the results of the
vote count. On the other hand, direct recording electronic election
system "uses electronic ballots, records, votes by means of a ballot
display provided with mechanical or electro-optical component that can
be activated by the voter, processes data by means of computer
programs, record voting data and ballot images, and transmits voting
results electronically.

As earlier stated, the May 10, 2010 elections used a paper-based


technology that allowed voters to fill out an official paper ballot by
shading the oval opposite the names of their chosen candidates. Each
voter was then required to personally feed his ballot into the Precinct
Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine which scanned both sides of the
ballots simultaneously, meaning, in just one pass. As established during
the required demo tests, the system captured the images of the ballots in
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encrypted format which, when decrypted for verification, were found to


be digitized representations of the ballots cast.

We agree, therefore, with both the HRET and Panotes that the picture
images of the ballots, as scanned and recorded by the PCOS, are
likewise "official ballots" that faithfully captures (sic) in electronic form the
votes cast by the voter, as defined by Section 2 (3) of R.A. No. 9369. As
such, the printouts thereof are the functional equivalent of the paper
ballots filled out by the voters and, thus, may be used for purposes of
revision of votes in an electoral protest. ADcSHC

It bears stressing that the digital images of the ballots captured by the
PCOS machine are stored in an encrypted format in the CF cards.
"Encryption is the process of encoding messages (or information) in
such a way that eavesdroppers or hackers cannot read it, but that
authorized parties can. In an encryption scheme, the message or
information (referred to as plaintext) is encrypted using an encryption
algorithm, turning it into an unreadable ciphertext. This is usually done
with the use of an encryption key, which specifies how the message is to
be encoded. Any adversary that can see the ciphertext, should not be
able to determine anything about the original message. An authorized
party, however, is able to decode the ciphertext using a decryption
algorithm, that usually requires a secret decryption key, that adversaries
do not have access to." 35 (Citations omitted)

Hence, the COMELEC First Division did not gravely abuse its discretion in using
the ballot images in the CF cards.

Maliksi further alleged that the ballot images in the CF cards should merely be
considered as secondary evidence and should be resorted to only when the
physical ballots are not available or could not be produced.

Maliksi is mistaken.

Rule 4 of A.M. No. 01-7-01-SC 36 is clear on this issue. It states:


Election Law Cases

SECTION 1. Original of an Electronic Document. An electronic


document shall be regarded as the equivalent of an original
document under the Best Evidence Rule if it is a printout or output
readable by sight or other means, shown to reflect the data accurately.

SECTION 2. Copies as equivalent of the originals. When a


document is in two or more copies executed at or about the same time
with identical contents, or is a counterpart produced by the same
impression as the original, or from the same matrix, or by mechanical
or electronic recording, or by chemical reproduction, or by other
equivalent techniques which accurately reproduces the original,
such copies or duplicates shall be regarded as the equivalent of the
original.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, copies or duplicates shall not be


admissible to the same extent as the original if:

(a)a genuine question is raised as to the authenticity of the original; or

(b)in the circumstances it would be unjust or inequitable to admit the


copy in lieu of the original. (Emphasis supplied)

The ballot images, which are digital, are electronically generated and written in
the CF cards when the ballots are fed into the PCOS machine. The ballot images
are the counterparts produced by electronic recording which accurately
reproduce the original, and thus are the equivalent of the original. As pointed out
by the COMELEC, "[t]he digital images of the physical ballots are electronically
and instantaneously generated by the PCOS machines once the physical ballots
are fed into and read by the machines." 37 Hence, the ballot images are not
secondary evidence. The official physical ballots and the ballot images in the CF
cards are both original documents. The ballot images in the CF cards have the
same evidentiary weight as the official physical ballots. HDIATS

The Court notes that Maliksi did not raise any allegation that the use of the ballot
images falls under any of the exceptions under Section 2, Rule 4 of A.M. No. 01-
7-01-SC that would make their use inadmissible as original ballots.
Election Law Cases

Tampering of Ballots and Ballot Boxes


Maliksi alleged that there was no allegation of ballot and ballot box tampering
before the trial court. He further alleged that the COMELEC First Division did not
explain how it came to the conclusion that the integrity of the ballot boxes had
been compromised or that there was ballot tampering.

The records reveal otherwise.

Contrary to Maliksi's claim, Saquilayan questioned the integrity of the ballot boxes
and election paraphernalia before the trial court. In an Urgent Manifestation of
Concern and Objections 38 dated 8 June 2010, Saquilayan manifested his serious
concern regarding the integrity of the ballot boxes and election paraphernalia
which remained under the effective control of Maliksi. Saquilayan informed the
trial court that his watchers were being limited to the outside of the building where
the ballot boxes and election paraphernalia were kept, thus preventing them from
looking over the security of the ballot boxes and election paraphernalia. In the
same manifestation, Saquilayan categorically stated that he was "questioning the
integrity of the ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia." 39 Saquilayan also
alleged in the same manifestation that the trial court could have prescribed a
procedure that would allow his watchers to view the ballot boxes and other
election paraphernalia that "would have prevented to some degree the tampering
of the boxes and election material[s]." 40 Clearly, Saquilayan raised before the
trial court the issue of tampering of the ballots and ballot boxes.

Further, the COMELEC En Banc clarified in its Comment 41 that the COMELEC
First Division ordered the decryption, printing, and examination of the digital
images because the COMELEC First Division "discovered upon inspection that
the integrity of the ballots themselves was compromised and that the ballot boxes
were tampered." 42 The COMELEC First Division properly invoked Section 6 (f),
Rule 2 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure which states:

Sec. 6.Powers and Duties of the Presiding Commissioner. The


powers and duties of the Presiding Commissioner of a Division when
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discharging its functions in cases pending before the Division shall be as


follows:

xxx xxx xxx

(f)To take such other measures as he may deem proper upon


consultation with the other members of the Division.

In this case, the COMELEC En Banc categorically stated that the recounting of
the physical ballots in the revision before the trial court yielded dubious results.
The COMELEC En Banc stressed:

. . . . Worth noting also is that these 8,387 ballots all came from 53
clustered precincts specifically pinpointed by Maliksi as his pilot
precincts (which is 20% of the total precincts he protested)
thereby affecting a total of 33.38% or more than one-third (1/3) of
the total ballots cast in those precincts. We find this too massive
to have not been detected on election day, too specific to be
random and too precise to be to be n accidental which leaves a
reasonable mind no other conclusion except that those 8,387
cases of double-shading were purposely machinated. These
dubious and highly suspicious circumstances left us with no
other option but to dispense with the physical ballots and resort
to their digital images. To recount the tampered ballots will only
yield us tampered results defeating the point of this
appeal. 43 (Emphasis supplied) TaCDAH

The tampering of the ballots and ballot boxes had been fully established and it
justified the decryption of the ballot images in the CF cards.

Inhibition of Commissioners Sarmiento and Velasco


Maliksi alleged that the COMELEC En Banc gravely abused its discretion when it
included in the body of its 14 September 2012 Resolution a discussion of his
motion for the inhibition of Commissioners Sarmiento and Velasco instead of
leaving it to their own discretion and prerogative.
Election Law Cases

We see nothing wrong with the inclusion of the matter of inhibition in the
Resolution. Commissioners Sarmiento and Velasco signed the Resolution which
means they concurred with the COMELEC En Banc's ruling that the motion for
their inhibition had no basis. Maliksi himself pointed out that the matter of
inhibition is better left to the Commissioner's discretion and thus, he could not
impose the inhibition of Commissioners Sarmiento and Velasco just because
Commissioner Lim inhibited himself from the case. Commissioners Sarmiento
and Velasco are not even required, although they are neither prohibited, to
individually explain their vote or to individually answer the motion for inhibition,
like what Commissioner Lim did. In this case, the COMELEC En Banc ruled on
the motion for inhibition. Moreover, the dissent of Commissioners Lim and
Velasco in SPR (AE) No. 106-2011 is not a prejudgment of EAC (AE) No. A-22-
2011. While the two cases involved the same parties, the only issue in SPR (AE)
No. 106-2011 is the issuance of a temporary restraining order to stop the
execution of the trial court's decision pending appeal. Contrary to Maliksi's
allegation, the ruling in SPR (AE) No. 106-2011 on the temporary restraining
order is not a confirmation of the validity of the decision subject of the appeal in
EAC (AE) No. A-22-2011. In the same manner, the fact that Commissioner Elias
R. Yusoph did not take part in SPR (AE) No. 106-2011 does not mean he should
also take no part in EAC (AE) No. A-22-2011 considering that they involve
different issues. STaAcC

In sum, we find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC En


Banc when it issued the assailed Resolution of 14 September 2012.

WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the petition. We AFFIRM the Resolution


promulgated on 14 September 2012 by the Commission on Elections En Banc
which affirmed the 15 August 2012 Resolution of
the Commission on Elections First Division declaring HOMER T.
SAQUILAYAN as the duly-elected Municipal Mayor of Imus, Cavite. We LIFTthe
temporary restraining order issued on 11 October 2012. This decision
is IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY considering that the remainder of Saquilayan's
term of office is only less than five (5) months.
Election Law Cases

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Del Castillo, Abad, Villarama, Jr., Perlas-Bernabe and Leonen,
JJ., concur.

Velasco, Jr., J., I join the dissent.

Leonardo-de Castro, J., I join the dissent of Justice Lucas P. Bersamin.

Brion and Peralta, JJ., join the dissent of J. Bersamin.

Bersamin, J., please see my dissent.

Perez, J., I certify that J. Perez left his vote of concurrence with the ponencia of J.
Carpio.

Mendoza, J., I join the position of J. Bersamin.

Reyes, J., I join the dissenting position of J. Bersamin.

Separate Opinions

BERSAMIN, J., dissent:

I DISSENT.

Petitioner Emmanuel L. Maliksi and respondent Homer T. Saquilayan vied for the
position of Mayor of the Municipality of Imus, Cavite during the May 10, 2010
Elections. The Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBC) proclaimed Saquilayan as
the winner garnering 48,181 votes, while Maliksi came in second with 39,682
votes. Maliksi filed an election protest in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Imus,
Cavite, alleging discrepancies and irregularities in the counting of votes in 209
clustered precincts. SEcTHA

Based on the results of the revision, the RTC rendered its November 15, 2011
decision, declaring Maliksi as the duly-elected Mayor, thus:

xxx xxx xxx


Election Law Cases

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, this Court finds the Election
Protest filed by Emmanuel L. Maliksi meritorious. Accordingly,
Emmanuel L. Maliksi is herebyDECLARED as the duly elected Mayor of
the Municipality of Imus, Province of Cavite after having obtained the
highest number of legal votes of 41,088 as against Protestant Homer T.
Saquilayan's 40,423 votes or a winning margin of 665 votes in favor of
the former.

Thus, the election and proclamation of Homer T. Saquilayan as Mayor of


Imus, Cavite is hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE and he
is COMMANDED to immediatelyCEASE and DESIST from performing
the duties and functions of said office.

Finally, pursuant to Section 4, Rule 14 of A.M. 10-4-1-SC, the Clerk of


Court is hereby DIRECTED to personally deliver the copy of the signed
and promulgated decision on the counsels of the parties.

SO ORDERED. 1

Aggrieved, Saquilayan sought recourse from


the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) by appeal (docketed as EAC (AE) No.
A-22-2011).

In the meantime, Maliksi moved for execution pending appeal, and the RTC
granted his motion. Thus, Maliksi was seated as Mayor, prompting Saquilayan to
assail the grant of the motion via petition for certiorari in the COMELEC
(docketed as SPR (AE) No. 106-2011).

After the parties filed their respective briefs in EAC (AE) No. A-22-2011, the
COMELEC First Division issued an order dated March 28, 2012, requiring
Saquilayan to deposit the amount necessary for the printing of the ballot images,
thus:

xxx xxx xxx

In as much as the printing of ballot image in the instant case would entail
expense for supplies, honoraria, one-time fee for the use of the system in
Election Law Cases

the decryption of the CF cards, and storage fee for the ballot boxes, it is
hereby RESOLVED that the appellant be directed to deposit to the Cash
Division of the Commission, the amount of One Hundred Nineteen
Thousand Seven Hundred Fourteen Pesos (P119,714.00)

WHEREFORE, appellant shall deposit the required amount within three


days from receipt hereof.

The Division Clerk of the Commission is DIRECTED to immediately


purchase the necessary supplies needed in the printing of ballot image,
hence, is authorized [to] withdraw the amount above stated. She shall
submit the liquidation report on the cash advance within thirty (30) days
from termination of proceedings.

SO ORDERED. 2 aEIADT

The First Division later issued another order dated April 17, 2012, requiring
Saquilayan to augment his cash deposit. 3

Finally, on August 15, 2012, the First Division issued a resolution nullifying the
RTC's decision, 4 to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED as it


hereby RESOLVES, to:

1.NULLIFY the pronouncement of the lower court that protestant-


appellee EMMANUEL L. MALIKSI is the duly-elected Municipal
Mayor of Imus, Cavite andHEREBY DECLARES HOMER T.
SAQUILAYAN as the duly-elected Municipal Mayor of the above-
mentioned municipality;

2.Further, the Law Department is hereby DIRECTED:

i.To conduct an investigation as to who were responsible for the


tampering of the ballot boxes for purposes of filing the
appropriate information for violation of election laws; and
Election Law Cases

ii.To conduct an investigation as to possible violation of election


laws and Comelec Resolutions by herein protestant-
appellee EMMANUEL L. MALIKSI as to how he was able
to secure a photocopy of the official ballot which he
attached in his Election Protest.

SO ORDERED. 5

In its resolution, the First Division ratiocinated that:

xxx xxx xxx

The Commission (First Division) took into consideration the allegations


of ballot and ballot box tampering and upon inspecting the ballot boxes, it
is apparent that the integrity of the ballots had been compromised so, to
be able to best determine the true will of the electorate, we decided to go
over the digital image of the appealed ballots. cEAaIS

In appreciating the appealed ballots, the Commission used the following


guidelines:

xxx xxx xxx

Pursuant to this principle, to be able to determine fully the true will of the
electorate, we scrutinized the appealed ballots by using its digital images
since there is an allegation of ballot tampering.

xxx xxx xxx

After counting and appreciation of the appealed clustered precincts by


this Commission (First Division), protestant-appellee Maliksi got FORTY
THOUSAND NINETY-TWO (40,092) votes while protestee-appellant
Saquilayan got FORTY-EIGHT THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED TWENTY-
ONE (48,521) or a difference of EIGHT THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED
TWENTY-NINE (8,429) votes. 6

xxx xxx xxx


Election Law Cases

Maliksi filed an omnibus motion, 7 seeking, inter alia, the reconsideration of the
First Division Resolution based on the following arguments, namely: (a) the
decryption proceedings violated his right to due process and were null and void
for being held without notice to the parties; and (b) ballot images were secondary
evidence that could be resorted to only in the event that the ballots were
unavailable, or when sufficient proof existed that tampering or substitution had
taken place.

On September 14, 2012, the COMELEC En Banc issued a resolution, disposing


as follows: CacISA

xxx xxx xxx

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the MOTION FOR


RECONSIDERATION of Protestant-Appellee EMMANUEL L. MALIKSI is
hereby DENIED for lack of merit. Consequently, we are AFFIRMING the
August 15, 2012 Resolution of the First Division NULLIFYING the
November 15, 2011 Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 22 of
Imus, Cavite.

SO ORDERED. 8

Maliksi brought this special civil action for certiorari, reiterating that: (a) his right to
due process of law was violated when he was not notified of the decryption,
printing and examination of the digital images of the ballots; and (b) the printouts
of the picture images of the ballots were secondary evidence to be resorted to
only when the ballots were not available, or when there was evidence that the
integrity of the ballots had not been preserved.

I vote to grant the petition for certiorari. SHTaID

I submit that the proceedings conducted by the First Division, the results of which
became the basis of the questioned resolution, were void and ineffectual for
being in abject violation of Maliksi's right to due process of law.

The picture images of the ballots are electronic documents that are regarded as
the equivalents of the original official ballots themselves. 9 In Vinzons-Chato v.
Election Law Cases

House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, 10 the Court held that "the picture
images of the ballots, as scanned and recorded by the PCOS, are likewise
'official ballots' that faithfully capture in electronic form the votes cast by the voter,
as defined by Section 2 (3) of R.A. No. 9369. As such, the printouts thereof are
the functional equivalent of the paper ballots filled out by the voters and, thus,
may be used for purposes of revision of votes in an electoral protest."

That the two documents the official ballot and its picture image are
considered "original documents" simply means that both of them are given equal
probative weight. In short, when either is presented as evidence, one is not
considered as weightier than the other.

But this juridical reality does not authorize the courts, the COMELEC, and
the Electoral Tribunals to quickly and unilaterally resort to the printouts of
the picture images of the ballots in the proceedings had before them
without notice to the parties. Despite the equal probative weight accorded
to the official ballots and the printouts of their picture images, the rules for
the revision of ballots adopted for their respective proceedings still
consider the official ballots to be the primary or best evidence of the voters'
will. In that regard, the picture images of the ballots are to be used only
when it is first shown that the official ballots are lost or their integrity has
been compromised.

For instance, Section 6, Rule 10 (Conduct of Revision) of the 2010 Rules of


Procedure for Municipal Election Contests, which governs the proceedings in the
Regional Trial Courts exercising original jurisdiction over election protests,
provides: ACTIcS

(m)In the event that the revision committee determines that the
integrity of the ballots and the ballot box have not been preserved,
as when proof of tampering or substitution exists, it shall proceed to
instruct the printing of the picture image of the ballots stored in the data
storage device for the precinct. The court shall provide a non-partisan
technical person who shall conduct the necessary authentication
Election Law Cases

process to ensure that the data or image stored is genuine and not
a substitute. Only after this determination can the printed picture
image be used for the recount.

A similar procedure is found in the 2010 Rules of the Presidential Electoral


Tribunal, to wit:

Rule 43.Conduct of the revision. The revision of votes shall be done


through the use of appropriate PCOS machines or manually and visually,
as the Tribunal may determine, and according to the following
procedures:

xxx xxx xxx

(q)In the event that the RC determines that the integrity of the ballots
and the ballot box was not preserved, as when there is proof of
tampering or substitution, it shall proceed to instruct the printing of the
picture image of the ballots of the subject precinct stored in the data
storage device for the same precinct.The Tribunal may avail itself of
the assistance of the COMELEC for the service of a non-partisan
technical person who shall conduct the necessary authentication
process to ensure that the data or images stored are genuine and
not merely substitutes. It is only upon such determination that the
printed picture image can be used for the revision of votes. aCASEH

xxx xxx xxx

Also, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal's Guidelines on the


Revision of Ballots requires a preliminary hearing to be held for the purpose of
determining whether the integrity of the ballots and ballot boxes used in the May
10, 2010 elections was not preserved, as when there is proof of tampering or
substitutions, to wit:

Section 10.Revision of Ballots.

xxx xxx xxx


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(d)When it has been shown, in a preliminary hearing set by the parties


or by the Tribunal, that the integrity of the ballots and ballot boxes
used in the May 10, 2010 elections was not preserved, as when there
is proof of tampering or substitutions, the Tribunal shall direct the
printing of the picture images of the ballots of the subject precinct stored
in the data storage device for the same precinct. The Tribunal shall
provide a non-partisan technical person who shall conduct the
necessaryauthentication process to ensure that the data or image
stored is genuine and not a substitute. It is only upon such
determination that the printed picture image can be used for the
revision. (as amended per Resolution of February 10, 2011).

xxx xxx xxx

Section 6, Rule 15 of COMELEC Resolution No. 8804 (In Re: Comelec Rules of
Procedure on Disputes in an Automated Election System in Connection with the
May 10, 2010 Elections) itself requires that "the Recount Committee
determines that the integrity of the ballots has been violated or has not
been preserved, or are wet and otherwise in such a condition that (the
ballots) cannot be recounted" before the printing of the image of the ballots
should be made, and that such printing should be done "in the presence of
the parties," to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

(g)Only when the Recount Committee, through its chairman, determines


that the integrity of the ballots has been preserved or that no signs of
tampering of the ballots are present, will the recount proceed. In case
there are signs that the ballots contained therein are tampered,
compromised, wet or are otherwise in such a condition that it could not
be recounted, the Recount Committee shall follow paragraph (l) of this
rule.

xxx xxx xxx


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(l)In the event the Recount Committee determines that the integrity of
the ballots has been violated or has not been preserved, or are wet
and otherwise in such a condition that it cannot be recounted, the
Chairman of the Committee shall request from the Election Records and
Statistics Department (ERSD), the printing of the image of the ballots of
the subject precinct stored in the CF card used in the May 10, 2010
elections in the presence of the parties. Printing of the ballot images
shall proceed only upon prior authentication and certification by a duly
authorized personnel of the Election Records and Statistics Department
(ERSD) that the data or the images to be printed are genuine and not
substitutes. (As amended by COMELEC Resolution No. 9164, March 16,
2011) cACHSE

xxx xxx xxx

All the foregoing rules on revision of ballots stipulate that the printing of
the picture images of the ballots may be resorted to only after the proper
Revision/Recount Committee has first determined that the integrity of the
ballots and the ballot box was not preserved. The foregoing rules further
require that the decryption of the images stored in the CF cards and the
printing of the decrypted images take place during the revision or recount
proceedings, and that it is the Revision/Recount Committee that
determines whether the ballots are unreliable.

There is a good reason for thus fixing where and by whom the decryption and the
printing should be conducted. It is during the revision or recount conducted by the
Revision/Recount Committee when the parties are allowed to be represented,
with their representatives witnessing the proceedings and timely raising their
objections in the course of the proceedings. Moreover, whenever the
Revision/Recount Committee makes any determination that the ballots have been
tampered and have become unreliable, the parties are immediately made aware
of such determination. IDTcHa
Election Law Cases

Here, however, it was not the Revision/Recount Committee or the RTC exercising
its original jurisdiction over the protest that made the finding that the ballots had
been tampered, but the First Division in the exercise of its appellate
jurisdiction. Maliksi was not immediately made aware of that crucial finding
because the First Division did not even issue any written resolution stating its
reasons for ordering the printing of the picture images.

The parties were formally notified that the First Division had found that the ballots
had been tampered only when they received the resolution of August 15, 2012,
whereby the First Division nullified the decision of the RTC and declared
Saquilayan as the duly elected Mayor. Even so, the resolution of the First Division
that effect was unusually mute about the factual bases for the finding of ballot box
tampering, and did not also particularize how and why the First Division was
concluding that the integrity of the ballots had been compromised. All that the
First Division uttered as justification was a simple generality of the same being
apparent from the allegations of ballot and ballot box tampering and upon
inspection of the ballot boxes, viz.:

xxx xxx xxx

The Commission (First Division) took into consideration the allegations


of ballot and ballot box tampering and upon inspecting the ballot boxes, it
is apparent that the integrity of the ballots had been compromised so, to
be able to best determine the true will of the electorate, we decided to go
over the digital image of the appealed ballots. 11 (Emphasis supplied)

xxx xxx xxx

It was the COMELEC En Banc's assailed resolution of September 14, 2012 that
later on provided the explanation to justify the First Division's resort to the picture
images of the ballots, by observing that the "unprecedented number of double-
votes" exclusively affecting the position of Mayor and the votes for Saquilayan
had led to the belief that the ballots had been tampered. However, that
observation did not cure the First Division's lapse and did not erase the
irregularity that had already invalidated the First Division's proceedings. ICHAaT
Election Law Cases

The blatant disregard of Maliksi's right to be informed of the decision to print the
picture images of the ballots and to conduct the recount proceedings during the
appellate stage cannot be brushed aside by the invocation of the fact
that Maliksi was able to file, after all, a motion for reconsideration. To be exact,
the motion for reconsideration was actually directed against the entire resolution
of the First Division, while Maliksi's claim of due process violation is directed only
against the First Division's recount proceedings that resulted in the prejudicial
result rendered against him. I note that the First Division did not issue any order
directing the recount. Without the written order, Maliksi was deprived of the
chance to seek any reconsideration or even to assail the irregularly-held recount
through a seasonable petition for certiorari in this Court. In that context, he had
no real opportunity to assail the conduct of the recount proceedings.

I disagree that the service of the orders requiring Saquilayan to make the cash
deposits for the printing of the picture images made Maliksi aware of the First
Division's decision to print the picture images. The orders still did not meet the
requirement of due process because they did not specifically inform Maliksi that
the ballots had been found to be tampered. Nor did the orders offer the factual
bases for the finding of tampering. Hence, to leave for Maliksi to surmise on the
factual bases for finding the need to print the picture images still violated the
principles of fair play, because the responsibility and the obligation to lay down
the factual bases and to inform Maliksi as the party to be potentially prejudiced
thereby firmly rested on the shoulders of the First Division.

As I see it, the First Division arbitrarily arrogated unto itself the conduct of the
revision/recount proceedings and recounted the ballots, contrary to the regular
procedure of remanding the protest to the RTC and directing the reconstitution of
the Revision Committee for the decryption and printing of the picture images and
the revision of the ballots on the basis thereof. Quite unexpectedly, the
COMELEC En Banc upheld the First Division's unwarranted deviation from the
standard procedures by invoking the COMELEC's power to "take such measures
as [the Presiding Commissioner] may deem proper," and even citing the Court's
minute resolution in Alliance of Barangay Concerns (ABC) Party-
Election Law Cases

List v. Commission on Elections 12 to the effect that the "COMELEC has the
power to adopt procedures that will ensure the speedy resolution of its cases.
The Court will not interfere with its exercise of this prerogative so long as the
parties are amply heard on their opposing claims." 13 CADHcI

The COMELEC En Banc should not have upheld the deviation of the First
Division. Based on the pronouncement in Alliance of Barangay Concerns v.
COMELEC, the power of the COMELEC to adopt procedures that will ensure the
speedy resolution of its cases should still be exercised only after giving to all the
parties the opportunity to be heard on their opposing claims. The parties' right to
be heard upon adversarial issues and matters is never to be waived or sacrificed,
or to be treated so lightly because of the possibility of the substantial prejudice to
be thereby caused to the parties, or to any of them.

Mendoza v. Commission on Elections 14 is instructive on when notice to and the


participation of the parties are required. In that case, after the revision of the
ballots and after the election protest case was submitted for decision, the ballots
and ballot boxes were transferred to the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) in
connection with a protest case pending therein. The petitioner later learned that
the COMELEC, with the permission of the SET, had meanwhile conducted
proceedings within the SET's premises. The petitioner claimed that his right to
due process was violated because he was not given notice by the COMELEC
that it would be conducting further proceedings within the SET premises. The
Court held otherwise, however, and pointed out:

After consideration of the respondents' Comments and the petitioner's


petition and Reply, we hold that the contested proceedings at the SET
("contested proceedings["]) are no longer part of the adversarial
aspects of the election contest that would require notice of hearing
and the participation of the parties. As the COMELEC stated in its
Comment and without any contrary or disputing claim in the petitioner's
Reply: TacESD
Election Law Cases

"However, contrary to the claim of petitioner, public respondent in


the appreciation of the contested ballots in EPC No. 2007-44
simultaneously with the SET in SET Case No. 001-07 is not
conducting "further proceedings" requiring notice to the parties.
There is no revision or correction of the ballots because EPC No.
2007-04 was already submitted for resolution. Public respondent,
in coordinating with the SET, is simply resolving the submitted
protest case before it. The parties necessarily take no part in said
deliberation, which require utmost secrecy. Needless to state, the
actual decision-making process is supposed to be conducted only
by the designated members of the Second Division of the public
respondent in strict confidentiality."

In other words, what took place at the SET were the internal
deliberations of the COMELEC, as a quasi-judicial body, in the course of
appreciating the evidence presented and deciding the provincial election
contest on the merits. These deliberations are no different from judicial
deliberations which are considered confidential and privileged. We find it
significant that the private respondent's Comment fully supported the
COMELEC's position and disavowed any participation in the contested
proceeding the petitioner complained about. The petitioner, on the other
hand, has not shown that the private respondent was ever present in any
proceeding at the SET relating to the provincial election contest.

To conclude, the rights to notice and to be heard are not material


considerations in the COMELEC's handling of the Bulacan provincial
election contest after the transfer of the ballot boxes to the SET; no
proceedings at the instance of one party or of COMELEC has been
conducted at the SET that would require notice and hearing
because of the possibility of prejudice to the other party. The
COMELEC is under no legal obligation to notify either party of the
steps it is taking in the course of deliberating on the merits of the
provincial election contest. In the context of our standard of review for
Election Law Cases

the petition, we see no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or


excess of jurisdiction committed by the COMELEC in its deliberation on
the Bulacan election contest and the appreciation of ballots this
deliberation entailed. 15 (Emphasis supplied.) ECTIHa

Here, the First Division denominated the proceedings it conducted as an


"appreciation of ballots" like in Mendoza. Unlike in Mendoza, however, the
proceedings conducted by the First Division were adversarial, in that the
proceedings included the decryption and printing of the picture images of
the ballots and the recount of the votes were to be based on the printouts
of the picture images. The First Division did not simply review the findings
of the RTC and the Revision Committee, but actually conducted its own
recount proceedings using the printouts of the picture image of the ballots.
As such, the First Division was bound to notify the parties to enable them
to participate in the proceedings.

We should not ignore that the parties' participation during the


revision/recount proceedings would not benefit only the parties. Such
participation was as vital and significant for the COMELEC as well, for only
by their participation would the COMELEC's proceedings attain credibility
as to the result. In this regard, the COMELEC was less than candid, and
was even cavalier in its conduct of the decryption and printing of the
picture images of the ballots and the recount proceedings. The
COMELEC En Banc was merely content with listing the guidelines that the
First Division had followed in the appreciation of the ballots and the results
of the recount. In short, there was vagueness as to what rule had been
followed in the decryption and printing proceeding.

Moreover, I respectfully point out that the First Division should not conduct
the proceedings now being assailed because it was then exercising
appellate jurisdiction as to which no existing rule of procedure allowed the
First Division to conduct the recount in the first instance. The recount
proceedings authorized under Section 6, Rule 15 of COMELEC Resolution
No. 8804, are to be conducted by the COMELEC Divisions only in the
Election Law Cases

exercise of their exclusive original jurisdiction over all election protests


involving elective regional (the autonomous regions), provincial and city
officials. 16

On the other hand, we have Section 6 (l), Rule 15 of COMELEC Resolution No.
8804, as amended by COMELEC Resolution No. 9164, which clearly requires the
parties' presence during the printing of the images of the ballots, thus:

xxx xxx xxx

(l)In the event the Recount Committee determines that the integrity of the
ballots has been violated or has not been preserved, or are wet and
otherwise in such a condition that it cannot be recounted, the Chairman
of the Committee shall request from the Election Records and Statistics
Department (ERSD), the printing of the image of the ballots of the
subject precinct stored in the CF card used in the May 10, 2010
elections in the presence of the parties. Printing of the ballot images
shall proceed only upon prior authentication and certification by a duly
authorized personnel of the Election Records and Statistics Department
(ERSD) that the data or the images to be printed are genuine and not
substitutes. (Emphasis supplied.)

xxx xxx xxx

I write this dissent not to validate the victory of any of the parties in the 2010
Elections. That is not the concern of the Court as yet. I dissent only because the
Court should not countenance a denial of the fundamental right to due process,
which is a cornerstone of our legal system. 17

I am mindful of the urgent need to speedily resolve this protest because the term
of the Mayoralty position involved is about to end. Accordingly, I urge that we
quickly remand this case to the COMELEC, instead of to the RTC, for the conduct
of the decryption, printing and recount proceedings, with due notice to all the
parties and opportunity for them to be present and to participate during such
proceedings. Nothing less serves the ideal objective safeguarded by the
Constitution. cHCSDa
Election Law Cases

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, I vote to GRANT the petition for certiorari, and
to REMAND the protest to the Commission on Elections for the decryption of the
picture images of the ballots after due authentication, for the printing of the
decrypted ballot images, and for the conduct of the recount proceedings using
the printouts of the ballot images, with notice to and in the presence of the parties
or their representatives.
||| (Maliksi v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 203302, [March 12, 2013])

SILVERIO R. TAGOLINO, petitioner, vs. HOUSE OF


REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL AND LUCY
MARIE TORRES-GOMEZ, respondents.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J : p

Assailed in this Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules
of Court is the March 22, 2012 Decision 1 of the House of Representatives
Electoral Tribunal (HRET) in HRET Case No. 10-031 (QW) which declared the
validity of private respondent Lucy Marie Torres-Gomez's substitution as the
Liberal Party's replacement candidate for the position of Leyte Representative
(Fourth Legislative District) in lieu of Richard Gomez.

The Facts
On November 30, 2009, Richard Gomez (Richard) filed his certificate of
candidacy 2 (CoC) with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), seeking
congressional office as Representative for the Fourth Legislative District of Leyte
under the ticket of the Liberal Party. Subsequently, on December 6, 2009, one of
the opposing candidates, Buenaventura Juntilla (Juntilla), filed a Verified
Petition, 3 alleging that Richard, who was actually a resident of Colgate Street,
Election Law Cases

East Greenhills, San Juan City, Metro Manila, misrepresented in his CoC that he
resided in 910 Carlota Hills, Can-adieng, Ormoc City. In this regard, Juntilla
asserted that Richard failed to meet the one (1) year residency requirement
under Section 6, Article VI 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution (Constitution) and
thus should be declared disqualified/ineligible to run for the said office. In
addition, Juntilla prayed that Richard's CoC be denied due course and/or
cancelled. 5

On February 17, 2010, the COMELEC First Division rendered a


Resolution 6 granting Juntilla's petition without any qualification. The dispositive
portion of which reads: aHESCT

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it


hereby RESOLVES, to GRANT the Petition to Disqualify Candidate for
Lack of Qualification filed byBUENAVENTURA O.
JUNTILLA against RICHARD I. GOMEZ. Accordingly, RICHARD I.
GOMEZ is DISQUALIFIED as a candidate for the Office of
Congressman, Fourth District of Leyte, for lack of residency requirement.

SO ORDERED.

Aggrieved, Richard moved for reconsideration but the same was denied by the
COMELEC En Banc through a Resolution dated May 4, 2010. 7 Thereafter, in a
Manifestation of even date, Richard accepted the said resolution with finality "in
order to enable his substitute to facilitate the filing of the necessary documents
for substitution." 8

On May 5, 2010, Lucy Marie Torres-Gomez (private respondent) filed her


CoC 9 together with a Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance 10 from the
Liberal Party endorsing her as the party's official substitute candidate vice her
husband, Richard, for the same congressional post. In response to various letter-
requests submitted to the COMELEC's Law Department (Law Department), the
COMELEC En Banc, in the exercise of its administrative functions, issued
Resolution No. 8890 11 on May 8, 2010, approving, among others, the
Election Law Cases

recommendation of the said department to allow the substitution of private


respondent. The recommendation reads:

STUDY AND OBSERVATION

On the same date, this Department received an Opposition from Mr.


Buenaventura O. Juntilla, thru his counsel, opposing the candidacy of
Ms. Lucy Marie Torres Gomez, as a substitute candidate for Mr. Richard
I. Gomez.

The crux of the opposition stemmed from the issue that there should be
no substitution because there is no candidate to substitute for.

It must be stressed that the resolution of the First Division, this


Commission, in SPA No. 09-059 speaks for disqualification of candidate
Richard I. Gomez and not of cancellation of his Certificate of
Candidacy:

'Wherefore, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED,


as it hereby RESOLVES, to GRANT the Petition to Disqualify
Candidate for Lack of Qualification filed . . . against RICHARD I.
GOMEZ. Accordingly, RICHARD I. GOMEZ is DISQUALIFIED as
a candidate for the Office of Congressman, Fourth District of
Leyte, for lack of residency requirement.'

The said resolution was affirmed by the Commission En Banc on May


04, 2010.

The disqualification of a candidate does not automatically cancel one's


certificate of candidacy, especially when it is nominated by a political
party. In effect, the political party is still allowed to substitute the
candidate whose candidacy was declared disqualified. After all, the right
to substitute is a privilege given to a political party to exercise and not
dependent totally to a candidate.

Nonetheless, in case of doubt, the same must always be resolved to the


qualification of a candidate to run in the public office.
Election Law Cases

The substitution complied with the requirements provided under Section


12 in relation to Section 13 of Comelec Resolution No. 8678 dated
October 6, 2009.

xxx xxx xxx

In view of the foregoing, the Law Department RECOMMENDS the


following:

xxx xxx xxx

2. TO ALLOW CANDIDATE LUCY MARIE TORRES


GOMEZ AS A SUBSTITUTE CANDIDATE FOR
RICHARD GOMEZ; (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied)

xxx xxx xxx

The following day, or on May 9, 2010, Juntilla filed an Extremely Urgent Motion
for Reconsideration 12 (May 9, 2010 Motion) of the above-mentioned
COMELEC En Bancresolution.

Pending resolution of Juntilla's May 9, 2010 Motion, the national and local
elections were conducted as scheduled on May 10, 2010. During the elections,
Richard, whose name remained on the ballots, garnered 101,250 votes while his
opponents, namely, Eufrocino Codilla, Jr. and herein petitioner Silverio Tagolino,
obtained 76,549 and 493 votes, respectively. 13 In view of the aforementioned
substitution, Richard's votes were credited in favor of private respondent and as a
result, she was proclaimed the duly-elected Representative of the Fourth District
of Leyte.

On May 11, 2010, Juntilla filed an Extremely Urgent Motion to resolve the
pending May 9, 2010 Motion relative to Resolution No. 8890. 14 The said motion,
however, remained unacted. AIDTSE

On May 24, 2010, petitioner filed a Petition 15 for quo warranto before the HRET
in order to oust private respondent from her congressional seat, claiming that: (1)
she failed to comply with the one (1) year residency requirement under Section 6,
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Article VI of the Constitution considering that the transfer of her voter registration
from San Rafael, Bulacan 16 to the Fourth District of Leyte was only applied for on
July 23, 2009; (2) she did not validly substitute Richard as his CoC was void ab
initio; and (3) private respondent's CoC was void due to her non-compliance with
the prescribed notarial requirements i.e., she failed to present valid and
competent proof of her identity before the notarizing officer. 17

In her Verified Answer, 18 private respondent denied petitioner's allegations and


claimed that she validly substituted her husband in the electoral process. She
also averred that she was personally known to the notary public who notarized
her CoC, one Atty. Edgardo Cordeno, and thus, she was not required to have
presented any competent proof of identity during the notarization of the said
document. Lastly, she asserted that despite her marriage to Richard and exercise
of profession in Metro Manila, she continued to maintain her residency in Ormoc
City which was the place where she was born and raised.

During the preliminary conference, and as shown in the Preliminary Conference


Order dated September 2, 2010, the parties agreed on the following issues for
resolution:

1. Whether or not the instant petition for quo warranto is meritorious;

2. Whether or not the substitution of respondent is valid;

3. Whether or not a petition for quo warranto can be used as a substitute


for failure to file the necessary petition for disqualification with the
COMELEC;

4. Whether or not respondent's COC was duly subscribed; and

5. Whether or not respondent is ineligible for the position of


Representative of the Fourth District of Leyte for lack of residency
requirement. 19

Ruling of the HRET


After due proceedings, the HRET issued the assailed March 22, 2012
Decision 20 which dismissed the quo warranto petition and declared that private
Election Law Cases

respondent was a qualified candidate for the position of Leyte Representative


(Fourth Legislative District). It observed that the resolution denying Richard's
candidacy i.e., the COMELEC First Division's February 17, 2010 Resolution,
spoke of disqualification and not of CoC cancellation. Hence, it held that the
substitution of private respondent in lieu of Richard was legal and valid. 21 Also, it
upheld the validity of private respondent's CoC due to petitioner's failure to
controvert her claim that she was personally known to the notary public who
notarized her CoC. 22 Finally, the HRET ruled that while it had been admitted that
private respondent resides in Colgate Street, San Juan City and lived in San
Rafael, Bulacan, the fact was she continued to retain her domicile in Ormoc City
given that her absence therefrom was only temporary.

Hence, the instant petition.

Issues Before the Court


The crux of the present controversy is whether or not the HRET gravely abused
its discretion in finding that Richard was validly substituted by private respondent
as candidate for Leyte Representative (Fourth Legislative District) in view of the
former's failure to meet the one (1) year residency requirement provided under
Section 6, Article VI of the Constitution.

It is petitioner's submission that the HRET gravely abused its discretion when it
upheld the validity of private respondent's substitution despite contrary
jurisprudence holding that substitution is impermissible where the substituted
candidate's CoC was denied due course to and/or cancelled, as in the case of
Richard. On the other hand, respondents maintain that Richard's CoC was not
denied due course to and/or cancelled by the COMELEC as he was only
"disqualified" and therefore, was properly substituted by private respondent.

Ruling of the Court


The petition is meritorious.

A. Distinction between a petition


for disqualification and a petition to
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deny due course to/cancel a


certificate of candidacy
The Omnibus Election Code 23 (OEC) provides for certain remedies to assail a
candidate's bid for public office. Among these which obtain particular significance
to this case are: (1) a petition for disqualification under Section 68; and (2) a
petition to deny due course to and/or cancel a certificate of candidacy under
Section 78. The distinctions between the two are well-perceived.

Primarily, a disqualification case under Section 68 of the OEC is hinged on


either: (a) a candidate's possession of a permanent resident status in a foreign
country; 24 or(b) his or her commission of certain acts of disqualification. Anent
the latter, the prohibited acts under Section 68 refer to election offenses under
the OEC, and not to violations of other penal laws. 25 In particular, these are: (1)
giving money or other material consideration to influence, induce or corrupt the
voters or public officials performing electoral functions; (2) committing acts of
terrorism to enhance one's candidacy; (3) spending in one's election campaign
an amount in excess of that allowed by the OEC; (4) soliciting, receiving or
making any contribution prohibited under Sections 89, 95, 96, 97 and 104 of the
OEC; and (5) violating Sections 80, 26 83, 2785, 28 86 29 and 261, paragraphs
d, 30 e, 31 k, 32 v, 33 and cc, sub-paragraph 6 34 of the OEC. Accordingly, the same
provision (Section 68) states that any candidate who, in an action or protest in
which he or she is a party, is declared by final decision of a competent court
guilty of, or found by the COMELEC to have committed any of the foregoing acts
shall be disqualified from continuing as a candidate for public office, or disallowed
from holding the same, if he or she had already been elected. 35

It must be stressed that one who is disqualified under Section 68 is still


technically considered to have been a candidate, albeit proscribed to continue as
such only because of supervening infractions which do not, however, deny his or
her statutory eligibility. In other words, while the candidate's compliance with the
eligibility requirements as prescribed by law, such as age, residency, and
citizenship, is not in question, he or she is, however, ordered to discontinue such
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candidacy as a form of penal sanction brought about by the commission of the


above-mentioned election offenses.

On the other hand, a denial of due course to and/or cancellation of a CoC


proceeding under Section 78 of the OEC 36 is premised on a person's
misrepresentation of any of the material qualifications required for the elective
office aspired for. It is not enough that a person lacks the relevant qualification;
he or she must have also made a false representation of the same in the
CoC. 37 The nature of a Section 78 petition was discussed in the case
of Fermin v. COMELEC, 38 where the Court illumined: AcSIDE

Lest it be misunderstood, the denial of due course to or the


cancellation of the CoC is not based on the lack of qualifications but on
a finding that the candidate made a material representation that is
false, which may relate to the qualifications required of the public office
he/she is running for. It is noted that the candidate states in his/her
CoC that he/she is eligible for the office he/she seeks. Section 78 of
the OEC, therefore, is to be read in relation to the constitutional
and statutory provisions on qualifications or eligibility for public
office. If the candidate subsequently states a material
representation in the CoC that is false, the COMELEC, following
the law, is empowered to deny due course to or cancel such
certificate. Indeed, the Court has already likened a proceeding under
Section 78 to a quo warranto proceeding under Section 253 of the
OEC since they both deal with the eligibility or qualification of a
candidate, with the distinction mainly in the fact that a "Section 78"
petition is filed before proclamation, while a petition for quo warranto is
filed after proclamation of the winning candidate. (Emphasis supplied)

Corollary thereto, it must be noted that the deliberateness of the


misrepresentation, much less one's intent to defraud, is of bare significance in a
Section 78 petition as it is enough that the person's declaration of a material
qualification in the CoC be false. In this relation, jurisprudence holds that an
express finding that the person committed any deliberate misrepresentation is of
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little consequence in the determination of whether one's CoC should be deemed


cancelled or not. 39 What remains material is that the petition essentially seeks to
deny due course to and/or cancel the CoC on the basis of one's ineligibility and
that the same be granted without any qualification. 40

Pertinently, while a disqualified candidate under Section 68 is still considered to


have been a candidate for all intents and purposes, on the other hand, a person
whose CoC had been denied due course to and/or cancelled under Section 78 is
deemed to have not been a candidate at all. The reason being is that a cancelled
CoC is considered void ab initio and thus, cannot give rise to a valid candidacy
and necessarily, to valid votes. 41 In Talaga v. COMELEC 42 (Talaga), the Court
ruled that:

. . . While a person who is disqualified under Section 68 is merely


prohibited to continue as a candidate, a person whose certificate is
cancelled or denied due course under Section 78 is not treated as a
candidate at all, as if he/she never filed a CoC.

The foregoing variance gains utmost importance to the present case considering
its implications on candidate substitution.

B. Valid CoC as a condition sine


qua non for candidate substitution
Section 77 of the OEC provides that if an official candidate of a registered or
accredited political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, a person
belonging to and certified by the same political party may file a CoC to replace
the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified. It states that:

Sec. 77. Candidates in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal of


another. If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy,
an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies,
withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to,
and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of
candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was
disqualified. (Emphasis supplied)
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Evidently, Section 77 requires that there be an "official candidate" before


candidate substitution proceeds. Thus, whether the ground for substitution is
death, withdrawal or disqualification of a candidate, the said section
unequivocally states that only an official candidate of a registered or accredited
party may be substituted.43

As defined under Section 79 (a) of the OEC, the term "candidate" refers to any
person aspiring for or seeking an elective public office who has filed a
certificate of candidacy by himself or through an accredited political party,
aggroupment, or coalition of parties. Clearly, the law requires that one must have
validly filed a CoC in order to be considered a candidate. The requirement of
having a CoC obtains even greater importance if one considers its nature. In
particular, a CoC formalizes not only a person's public declaration to run for office
but evidences as well his or her statutory eligibility to be elected for the said post.
In Sinaca v. Mula, 44 the Court has illumined:

A certificate of candidacy is in the nature of a formal manifestation to


the whole world of the candidate's political creed or lack of political
creed. It is a statement of a person seeking to run for a public
office certifying that he announces his candidacy for the office
mentioned and that he is eligible for the office, the name of the
political party to which he belongs, if he belongs to any, and his post-
office address for all election purposes being as well stated. (Emphasis
and underscoring supplied.)

In this regard, the CoC is the document which formally accords upon a person
the status of a candidate. In other words, absent a valid CoC one is not
considered a candidate under legal contemplation. As held in Talaga: 45

. . . a person's declaration of his intention to run for public office and his
affirmation that he possesses the eligibility for the position he seeks to
assume, followed by the timely filing of such declaration, constitute
a valid CoC that render the person making the declaration a valid
or official candidate. (Emphasis supplied)
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Considering that Section 77 requires that there be a candidate in order for


substitution to take place, as well as the precept that a person without a valid
CoC is not considered as a candidate at all, it necessarily follows that if a
person's CoC had been denied due course to and/or cancelled, he or she cannot
be validly substituted in the electoral process. The existence of a valid CoC is
therefore a condition sine qua non for a disqualified candidate to be validly
substituted. 46

C. Divergent effects of
disqualification and denial of due
course to and/or cancellation of COC
cases vis--vis candidate substitution
Proceeding from the foregoing discourse, it is evident that there lies a clear-cut
distinction between a disqualification case under Section 68 and denial of due
course to and/or cancellation of COC case under Section 78 vis--vis their
respective effects on candidate substitution under Section 77.

As explained in the case of Miranda v. Abaya 47 (Miranda), a candidate who is


disqualified under Section 68 can be validly substituted pursuant to Section 77
because he remains a candidate until disqualified; but a person whose CoC has
been denied due course to and/or cancelled under Section 78 cannot be
substituted because he is not considered a candidate. 48 Stated differently, since
there would be no candidate to speak of under a denial of due course to and/or
cancellation of a CoC case, then there would be no candidate to be substituted;
the same does not obtain, however, in a disqualification case since there remains
to be a candidate to be substituted, although his or her candidacy is
discontinued.

On this note, it is equally revelatory that Section 77 expressly enumerates the


instances where substitution is permissible, that is when an official candidate of a
registered or accredited political party "dies, withdraws or is disqualified for
any cause." Noticeably, material misrepresentation cases are not included in the
said section and therefore, cannot be a valid basis to proceed with candidate
substitution.
Election Law Cases

D. Application to the case at bar


In this case, it is undisputed that Richard was disqualified to run in the May 10,
2010 elections due to his failure to comply with the one year residency
requirement. 49The confusion, however, stemmed from the use of the word
"disqualified" in the February 17, 2010 Resolution of the COMELEC First
Division, which was adopted by the COMELEC En Banc in granting the
substitution of private respondent, and even further perpetuated by the HRET in
denying the quo warranto petition. In short, a finding that Richard was merely
disqualified and not that his CoC was denied due course to and/or cancelled
would mean that he could have been validly substituted by private respondent,
thereby legitimizing her candidacy.

Yet the fact that the COMELEC First Division's February 17, 2010 Resolution did
not explicitly decree the denial of due course to and/or cancellation of Richard's
CoC should not have obviated the COMELEC En Banc from declaring the
invalidity of private respondent's substitution. It should be stressed that the clear
and unequivocal basis for Richard's "disqualification" is his failure to comply with
the residency requirement under Section 6, Article VI of the Constitution which is
a ground for the denial of due course to and/or cancellation a CoC under Section
78 of the OEC, not for disqualification. 50 As earlier mentioned, the material
misrepresentation contemplated under a Section 78 petition refers to statements
affecting one's qualifications for elective office such as age, residence and
citizenship or non-possession of natural-born Filipino status. 51 There is
therefore no legal basis to support a finding of disqualification within the
ambit of election laws. Accordingly, given Richard's non-compliance with the
one year residency requirement, it cannot be mistaken that the COMELEC First
Division's unqualified grant of Juntilla's "Verified Petition to Disqualify Candidate
for Lack of Qualification" 52 which prayed that the COMELEC declare Richard
"DISQUALIFIED and INELIGIBLE from seeking the office of Member of the
House of Representatives" and ". . . that [his] Certificate of Candidacy . . . be
DENIED DUE COURSE and/or CANCELLED" 53 carried with it the denial of
due course to and/or cancellation of Richard's CoC pursuant to Section 78.
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Case law dictates that if a petition prays for the denial of due course to and/or
cancellation of CoC and the same is granted by the COMELEC without any
qualification, the cancellation of the candidate's CoC is in order. This is precisely
the crux of the Miranda ruling wherein the Court, in upholding the COMELEC En
Banc's nullification of the substitution in that case, decreed that the COMELEC
Division's unqualified grant of the petition necessarily included the denial of due
course to and/or cancellation of the candidate's CoC, notwithstanding the use of
the term "disqualified" in the COMELEC Division's resolution, as the foregoing
was prayed for in the said petition:

The question to settle next is whether or not aside from Joel "Pempe"
Miranda being disqualified by the COMELEC in its May 5, 1998
resolution, his certificate of candidacy had likewise been denied due
course and cancelled.

The Court rules that it was.

Private respondent's petition in SPA No. 98-019 specifically prayed for


the following:

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed that the


Certificate of Candidacy filed by respondent for the
position of Mayor for the City of Santiago be not given
due course and/or cancelled.

Other reliefs just and equitable in the premises are


likewise prayed for. CacTSI

In resolving the petition filed by private respondent specifying a very


particular relief, the COMELEC ruled favorably in the following manner:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Commission


(FIRST DIVISION) GRANTS the Petition. Respondent
JOSE "Pempe" MIRANDA is herebyDISQUALIFIED from
running for the position of mayor of Santiago City,
Isabela, in the May 11, 1998 national and local elections.
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SO ORDERED.

From a plain reading of the dispositive portion of the COMELEC


resolution of May 5, 1998 in SPA No. 98-019, it is sufficiently clear that
the prayer specifically and particularly sought in the petition was
GRANTED, there being no qualification on the matter whatsoever.
The disqualification was simply ruled over and above the granting of the
specific prayer for denial of due course and cancellation of the certificate
of candidacy.

xxx xxx xxx

There is no dispute that the complaint or petition filed by private


respondent in SPA No. 98-019 is one to deny due course and to
cancel the certificate of candidacy of Jose "Pempe" Miranda.
There is likewise no question that the said petition was GRANTED
without any qualification whatsoever. It is rather clear, therefore,
that whether or not the COMELEC granted any further relief in SPA No.
98-019 by disqualifying the candidate, the fact remains that the said
petition was granted and that the certificate of candidacy of Jose
"Pempe" Miranda was denied due course and cancelled.
(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The same rule was later discussed in the case of Talaga, viz.:

3. Granting without any qualification


of petition in SPA No. 09-029(DC)
manifested COMELEC's intention to
declare Ramon disqualified and to
cancel his CoC

xxx xxx xxx

In Miranda v. Abaya, the specific relief that the petition prayed for was
that the CoC "be not given due course and/or cancelled". The
COMELEC categorically granted "the petition" and then pronounced
Election Law Cases

in apparent contradiction that Joel Pempe Miranda was "disqualified."


The Court held that the COMELEC, by granting the petition without
any qualification, disqualified Joel Pempe Miranda and at the same
time cancelled Jose Pempe Miranda's CoC.

xxx xxx xxx

The crucial point of Miranda v. Abaya was that the COMELEC


actually granted the particular relief of cancelling or denying due
course to the CoC prayed for in the petition by not subjecting that
relief to any qualification. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

In view of the foregoing rulings, the COMELEC En Banc direly misconstrued the
COMELEC First Division's February 17, 2010 Resolution when it adopted the
Law Department's finding that Richard was only "disqualified" and that his CoC
was not denied due course to and/or cancelled, paving the way for the approval
of private respondent's substitution. It overlooked the fact that the COMELEC
First Division's ruling encompassed the cancellation of Richard's CoC and in
consequence, disallowed the substitution of private respondent. It was therefore
grave and serious error on the part of the COMELEC En Banc to have approved
private respondent's substitution.

Consequently, in perpetuating the COMELEC En Banc's error as above-


discussed, the HRET committed a grave abuse of discretion, warranting the grant
of the instant petition.

Fundamental is the rule that grave abuse of discretion arises when a lower court
or tribunal patently violates the Constitution, the law or existing
jurisprudence. 54 While it is well-recognized that the HRET has been empowered
by the Constitution to be the "sole judge" of all contests relating to the election,
returns, and qualifications of the members of the House, the Court maintains
jurisdiction over it to check "whether or not there has been a grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction" on the part of the
latter. 55 In other words, when the HRET utterly disregards the law and settled
precedents on the matter before it, it commits a grave abuse of discretion.
Election Law Cases

Records clearly show that: (1) Richard was held ineligible as a congressional
candidate for the Fourth District of Leyte due to his failure to comply with the one
year residency requirement; (2) Juntilla's petition prayed for the denial of due
course to and/or cancellation of his CoC; and (3) the COMELEC First Division
granted the foregoing petition without any qualification. By these undisputed and
essential facts alone, the HRET should not have adopted the COMELEC En
Banc's erroneous finding that the COMELEC First Division's February 17, 2010
Resolution "speaks [only] of "disqualification and not of cancellation of [Richard's]
CoC" 56 and thereby, sanctioned the substitution of private respondent.

Lest it be misunderstood, the HRET is not bound by previous COMELEC


pronouncements relative to the qualifications of the Members of the House.
Being the sole judge 57 of all contests relating to the election, returns,
and qualifications of its respective members, the HRET cannot be tied down by
COMELEC resolutions, else its constitutional mandate 58 be circumvented and
rendered nugatory. Instructive on this point is the Court's disquisition
in Fernandez v. HRET, 59 to wit:

Private respondent concludes from the above that petitioner had no legal
basis to claim that the HRET, when reference to the qualification/s of
Members of the House of Representatives is concerned, is "co-equal", to
the COMELEC, such that the HRET cannot disregard any ruling of
COMELEC respecting the matter of eligibility and qualification of a
member of the House of Representatives. The truth is the other way
around, because the COMELEC is subservient to the HRET when
the dispute or contest at issue refers to the eligibility and/or
qualification of a Member of the House of Representatives. A
petition for quo warranto is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the HRET
as sole judge, and cannot be considered forum shopping even if
another body may have passed upon in administrative or quasi-
judicial proceedings the issue of the Member's qualification while
the Member was still a candidate. There is forum-shopping only where
two cases involve the same parties and the same cause of action. The
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two cases here are distinct and dissimilar in their nature and character.
(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Notably, the phrase "election, returns, and qualifications" should be interpreted in


its totality as referring to all matters affecting the validity of the contestee's title.
More particularly, the term "qualifications" refers to matters that could be raised in
a quo warranto proceeding against the proclaimed winner, such as his disloyalty
or ineligibility, or the inadequacy of his certificate of candidacy. 60 As used in
Section 74 of the OEC, the word "eligible" means having the right to run for
elective public office, that is, having all the qualifications and none of the
ineligibilities to run for the public office. 61 In this relation, private respondent's
own qualification to run for public office which was inextricably linked to her
husband's own qualifications due to her substitution was the proper subject
of quo warranto proceedings falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of the HRET
and independent from any previous proceedings before the COMELEC, lest the
jurisdictional divide between the two be blurred. cDAISC

Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that the HRET's independence is not without
limitation. As earlier mentioned, the Court retains certiorari jurisdiction over the
HRET if only to check whether or not it has gravely abused its discretion. In this
regard, the Court does not endeavor to denigrate nor undermine the HRET's
independence; rather, it merely fulfills its duty to ensure that the Constitution and
the laws are upheld through the exercise of its power of judicial review.

In fine, the Court observes that the HRET wantonly disregarded the law by
deliberately adopting the COMELEC En Banc's flawed findings regarding private
respondent's eligibility to run for public office which essentially stemmed from her
substitution. In this light, it cannot be gainsaid that the HRET gravely abused its
discretion.

Owing to the lack of proper substitution in this case, private respondent was
therefore not a bona fide candidate for the position of Representative for the
Fourth District of Leyte when she ran for office, which means that she could not
have been elected. Considering this pronouncement, there exists no cogent
Election Law Cases

reason to further dwell on the other issues respecting private respondent's own
qualification to office.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Accordingly, the March 22, 2012


Decision rendered by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal in HRET
Case No. 10-031 (QW) is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Villarama, Jr., Perez, Reyes and Leonen, JJ., concur.

Velasco, Jr., J., took no part due to participation in HRET.

Leonardo-de Castro, J., please see dissenting opinion.

Brion, J., took no part due to previous participation in HRET.

Peralta, J., took no part, incumbent member, HRET.

Bersamin, J., took no part due to prior participation in the HRET.

Del Castillo, J., I join the dissent of J. Abad.

Abad, J., see dissenting opinion.

Mendoza, J., I join Justice Abad in his dissenting opinion.

Separate Opinions

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J., dissenting:

I vote to deny the petition of Silverio R. Tagolino on the ground that after the
lapse of the reglementary period of ten (10) days from the date of proclamation of
respondent Lucy Marie Torres-Gomez as the duly elected Representative of the
Fourth Legislative District of Leyte, the said proclamation can no longer be
assailed by an election protest or a petition for quo warranto. Moreover, the
substitution by said respondent of her husband Richard Gomez cannot be
questioned, there being no factual basis to assail the decision of
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the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) not to cancel the certificate of


candidacy of respondent's husband.

The Petition for Quo Warranto was filed out of time.


Respondent Gomez was proclaimed as the winning candidate for the position of
Member of the House of Representatives on May 12, 2010 whereas the Petition
forQuo Warranto was filed by petitioner Tagolino on May 24, 2010, or twelve days
after the proclamation of respondent Gomez.

The pertinent provisions of the Rules of the House of Representatives Electoral


Tribunal (HRET) provide as follows:

RULE 16. Election Protest. A verified petition contesting the election


or returns of any Member of the House of Representatives shall be filed
by any candidate who has duly filed a certificate of candidacy and has
been voted for the same office, within ten (10) days after the
proclamation of the winner. The party filing the protest shall be
designated as the protestant while the adverse party shall be known as
the protestee.

No joint election protest shall be admitted, but the Tribunal, for good and
sufficient reasons, may consolidate individual protests and hear and
decide them jointly.

The protest is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read it and that
the allegations therein are true and correct of his knowledge and belief.
A verification based on "information and belief," or upon "knowledge,
information and belief," is not a sufficient verification.

An unverified election protest shall not suspend the running of the


reglementary period to file the protest.

RULE 17. Quo Warranto. A verified petition for quo


warranto contesting the election of a Member of the House of
Representatives on the ground of ineligibility or of disloyalty to the
Republic of the Philippines shall be filed by any voter within ten (10) days
Election Law Cases

after the proclamation of the winner. The party filing the petition shall be
designated as the petitioner while the adverse party shall be known as
the respondent.

The rule on verification provided in Section 16 hereof shall apply to


petitions for quo warranto.

As correctly asserted by respondent Gomez in her Verified Answer filed before


the HRET, the Petition for Quo Warranto should have been dismissed outright
pursuant to Rule 21 of the Rules of the HRET, quoted below:

RULE 21. Summary Dismissal of Election Contest. An election protest


or petition for quo warranto may be summarily dismissed by the Tribunal
without the necessity of requiring the protestee or respondent to answer
if, inter alia: . . .

(2) The petition is filed beyond the period provided in Rules 16


and 17 of these Rules[.]

This Court has emphasized the importance of compliance with the HRET Rules
prescribing reglementary periods to be observed by the parties in an election
contest to expedite the disposition of election controversies so as not to frustrate
the will of the electorate. In Hofer v. House of Representatives Electoral
Tribunal, 1 the Court sustained the dismissal by the HRET of the election protest
for failure to comply strictly with the period prescribed by the HRET Rules. IDTSaC

Similarly, Perez v. Commission on Elections 2 held that remedies are unavailing


once the prescriptive period to bring the appropriate petition has set in. The
pertinent ruling of the Court in Perez is quoted as follows:

Petitioner's remedies should have been (1) to reiterate her prayer in the
petition for disqualification, and move for the issuance of an order by the
COMELEC suspending the proclamation of private respondent pending
the hearing of the said petition and, in the event the motion was denied
before the proclamation of private respondent, file a petition
for certiorari in this Court with a prayer for a restraining order to enjoin
Election Law Cases

the proclamation of private respondent; or (2) to file a petition for quo


warranto in the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal within ten
(10) days after the proclamation of private respondent as
Representative-elect on May 16, 1998. Obviously, neither of these
remedies can be availed of now. 3

The HRET and this Court cannot set aside at will the HRET Rules mandating the
timely filing of election contests. Otherwise, a dangerous precedent will be set
that will cause uncertainty in the application of the HRET Rules and instability in
the holding of an elective post by a proclaimed winning candidate that may
aversely affect public service.

In view of the foregoing, I submit that the HRET is bereft of jurisdiction to


entertain the Petition for Quo Warranto filed by Tagolino, after the lapse of the
reglementary period prescribed by its own Rules. The proclamation of
respondent Gomez has become incontrovertible or unassailable after the
expiration of ten (10) days from its date.

No factual basis to cancel the certificate of candidacy.


The lack of jurisdiction on the part of the HRET to entertain the untimely Petition
for Quo Warranto assailing the proclamation of private respondent Gomez would
suffice to dismiss outright the instant petition. Moreover, the substantive issue
extensively discussed in the ponencia of the Honorable Associate Justice Estela
Perlas Bernabe, particularly as to the "divergent effects of disqualification and
denial of due course to and/or cancellation of COC (Certificate of Candidacy)
cases vis--vis candidate substitution" is inappropriate.

Firstly, the certificate of candidacy of Richard Gomez, the husband of respondent


Gomez, was not cancelled by the COMELEC.

Secondly, the decision by the COMELEC not to cancel said certificate of


candidacy was proper as the COMELEC did not reach any finding that Richard
Gomezdeliberately committed a misrepresentation, which is a requisite for the
cancellation of a certificate of candidacy under Section 78 of the Omnibus
Election Code. InMitra v. Commission on Elections, 4 the Court ruled:
Election Law Cases

Section 74, in relation to Section 78, of the Omnibus Election Code


(OEC) governs the cancellation of, and grant or denial of due course to,
COCs. The combined application of these sections requires that the
candidate's stated facts in the COC be true, under pain of the COC's
denial or cancellation if any false representation of a material fact is
made. . . .

The false representation that these provisions mention must necessarily


pertain to a material fact. The critical material facts are those that refer to
a candidate's qualifications for elective office, such as his or her
citizenship and residence. The candidate's status as a registered voter in
the political unit where he or she is a candidate similarly falls under this
classification as it is a requirement that, by law (the Local Government
Code), must be reflected in the COC. The reason for this is obvious: the
candidate, if he or she wins, will work for and represent the political unit
where he or she ran as a candidate.

The false representation under Section 78 must likewise be


a "deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact that would
otherwise render a candidate ineligible." Given the purpose of the
requirement, it must be made with the intention to deceive the electorate
as to the would-be candidate's qualifications for public office. Thus, the
misrepresentation that Section 78 addresses cannot be the result of a
mere innocuous mistake, and cannot exist in a situation where the intent
to deceive is patently absent, or where no deception on the electorate
results. The deliberate character of the misrepresentation necessarily
follows from a consideration of the consequences of any material falsity:
a candidate who falsifies a material fact cannot run; if he runs and is
elected, he cannot serve; in both cases, he can be prosecuted for
violation of the election laws.

Based on these standards, we find that Mitra did not commit any
deliberate material misrepresentation in his COC. The COMELEC
gravely abused its discretion in its appreciation of the evidence, leading it
Election Law Cases

to conclude that Mitra is not a resident of Aborlan, Palawan. The


COMELEC, too, failed to critically consider whether Mitra
deliberately attempted to mislead, misinform or hide a fact that
would otherwise render him ineligible for the position of Governor of
Palawan. (Emphases supplied and citations omitted.)

The ponencia of Justice Bernabe indulged in the legal fiction that the certificate of
candidacy of Richard Gomez was cancelled when it in fact was not. Neither can
the Court now on its own decree such cancellation in the absence of any factual
basis or evidentiary support for a finding that Richard Gomez committed a
"deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact that would otherwise
render [him] ineligible."

Substitution was valid.


Since the COMELEC did not cancel the certificate of candidacy of Richard
Gomez but only disqualified him from running in the elections, the substitution by
respondent Gomez of Richard Gomez squarely falls within the ambit of Section
77 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), which uses the broad language
"disqualification for any cause," as follows:

Section 77. Candidates in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal


of another. If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy,
an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies,
withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to,
and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of
candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was
disqualified. The substitute candidate nominated by the political party
concerned may file his certificate of candidacy for the office affected in
accordance with the preceding sections not later than mid-day of the day
of the election. If the death, withdrawal or disqualification should occur
between the day before the election and mid-day of election day, said
certificate may be filed with any board of election inspectors in the
political subdivision where he is a candidate, or, in the case of
Election Law Cases

candidates to be voted for by the entire electorate of the country, with the
Commission.

Petition for Quo Warranto lacked factual basis.


Regarding the issue of whether a Petition for Quo Warranto is a proper legal
remedy to assail the validity of the substitution of a candidate under Section 77 of
the OEC, it suffices here to state that, under Rule 17 of the HRET Rules, the
grounds for a Petition for Quo Warranto are ineligibility to run for a public office or
disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines.

Pertinently, Section 6, Article VI of the Constitution, which provides for the


qualifications of a Member of the House of Representatives, states as follows: TCcSDE

Section 6. No person shall be a Member of the House of


Representatives unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines
and, on the day of the election, is at least twenty-five years of age, able
to read and write, and, except the party-list representatives, a registered
voter in the district in which he shall be elected, and a resident thereat
for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the day of
the election.

The above-quoted provision refers to the personal attributes of a candidate.


The ponencia did not find any of the above qualifications absent in the case of
respondent Gomez. However, the ponencia attributed the ineligibility of
respondent Gomez to its erroneous assumption that the certificate of candidacy
of Richard Gomez, whom she substituted, should have been cancelled. As
explained above, the COMELEC correctly did not so cancel said certificate, it
having found no factual basis to do so. This being the case and the fact that the
Petition for Quo Warranto was filed out of time, there is no need to dwell on the
issue of whether the Petition for Quo Warrantomay validly question the validity of
the substitution of a candidate and to discuss the constitutional boundaries of the
respective jurisdictions of the COMELEC and the HRET.

In view of the foregoing, I reiterate my vote to dismiss the Petition


for Certiorari filed by Tagolino.
Election Law Cases

ABAD, J., dissenting:

On November 30, 2009 Richard Gomez (Richard) filed his certificate of


candidacy (CoC) for Congressman of Leyte's 4th District under the Liberal Party
(LP) in the May 10, 2010 elections. He gave his residence as 910 Carlota Hills,
Barangay Can-Adieng, Ormoc City. After a week, Buenaventura O. Juntilla, a
registered voter of the district, filed a Verified Petition to Disqualify Candidate for
Lack of Qualification 1 before the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in SPA
09-059 (DC) on the ground that Richard was not an Ormoc City resident. Juntilla
asked the COMELEC two things: a) disqualify Richard and b) deny due course to
or cancel his CoC for material misrepresentation regarding his residence since he
in fact resided in Greenhills, Mandaluyong City.

On February 17, 2010 the COMELEC First Division issued a resolution


disqualifying Richard for failing to present "sufficient proof that would establish his
ties to Ormoc." The resolution failed, however, to order the denial of due course
or cancellation of his CoC. The dispositive portion of the resolution reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it


hereby RESOLVES, to GRANT the Petition to Disqualify Candidate for
Lack of Qualification filed by BUENAVENTURA O. JUNTILLA against
RICHARD I. GOMEZ. Accordingly, RICHARD I. GOMEZ
is DISQUALIFIED as a candidate for the Office of Congressman, Fourth
District of Leyte, for lack of residency requirement. 2 (Emphasis
supplied.)

On February 20, 2010 Richard moved for reconsideration of the above resolution.
Juntilla, on the other hand, did not file a similar motion even when the COMELEC
failed to grant his other prayer for denial of due course or cancellation of
Richard's CoC.

On May 4, 2010 the COMELEC En Banc issued a Resolution 3 dismissing


Richard's motion for reconsideration. On the same day, Richard filed with the
COMELEC a Manifestation 4 informing it of his acceptance of its decision in his
case to enable a substitute to take his place. Acting on the Manifestation, the
Election Law Cases

COMELEC En Bancissued an Order on May 5 declaring its May 4 Resolution


final and executory.

On May 5, 2010 the LP Secretary-General wrote the Provincial Election


Supervisor of Leyte, nominating respondent Lucy Gomez as a substitute
candidate for her husband, Richard. Lucy Gomez promptly filed her CoC with
COMELEC as substitute candidate. On the same date, Juntilla filed with the
COMELEC a Counter-Manifestation, 5 followed by a letter to the COMELEC Law
Department, opposing Lucy Gomez's substitution of her husband, claiming that
the substitution was invalid since she had no one to substitute in view of the
COMELEC's disqualification of Richard by final order.

On May 8, 2010, the COMELEC En Banc issued Resolution 8890 6 approving


and adopting, among other things, its Law Department's study and
recommendation that Lucy Gomez be allowed to substitute for Richard, given that
the 1st Divisions ruling which did not cancel Richard's CoC but merely
"disqualified" him, had already become final and executory. The pertinent portion
of the study and recommendation that the En Banc adopted states:

The crux of the opposition stemmed from the issue that there
should be no substitution because there is no candidate to
substitute for.

It must be stressed that the resolution of the First Division, this


Commission, in SPA No. 09-059 speaks of disqualification of
candidate Richard I. Gomez and not of cancellation of his Certificate of
Candidacy:

"Wherefore, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it


hereby RESOLVES, to GRANT the Petition to Disqualify Candidate for
Lack of Qualification filed against RICHARD I. GOMEZ. Accordingly,
RICHARD I. GOMEZ is DISQUALIFIED as a candidate for the Office of
Congressman, Fourth District of Leyte, for lack of residency
requirement."
Election Law Cases

The said resolution was affirmed by the Commission En Banc on May 4,


2010.

xxx xxx xxx

In view of the foregoing, the Law Department RECOMMENDS the


following:

xxx xxx xxx

2. TO ALLOW CANDIDATE LUCY MARIE TORRES GOMEZ AS A


SUBSTITUTE CANDIDATE FOR RICHARD GOMEZ; (Emphasis
supplied)

On the same day the COMELEC En Banc issued its May 8, 2010 resolution
allowing the substitution, Juntilla filed an Extremely Urgent Motion for
Reconsideration 7 of the same but the motion remained unacted upon, obviously
owing to the supervening May 10 elections. Juntilla never elevated or questioned
the matter before the Supreme Court.

On May 12, 2010 the Leyte Provincial Board of Canvassers proclaimed Lucy
Gomez as Congresswoman-elect to represent the 4th District of Leyte, having
obtained 101,250 votes. Petitioner Silvestre R. Tagolino and another candidate,
Eufrocino C. Codilla, Jr., garnered 493 votes and 76,549 votes, respectively.

In due time, Tagolino brought a quo warranto action 8 against Lucy Gomez with
the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) pursuant to its Rule 17
which allows the filing of a petition for quo warranto contesting the election of a
member of the House of Representatives "on the ground of ineligibility or
disloyalty to the Republic." Juntilla did not join Tagolino in this action. cSIHCA

Tagolino alleged in his petition (1) that Lucy Gomez was not a resident of Ormoc
City at least one year immediately preceding the election; (2) that she was not a
registered voter in the 4th District of Leyte; and (3) that her CoC was void for
failing to comply with the requirements of Section 2 of the 2004 Notarial
Law. 9 Tagolinodid not raise in his petition the question of the validity of Lucy
Gomez's substitution of her husband Richard.
Election Law Cases

In her Answer, 10 Lucy Gomez averred: (a) that the petition was filed beyond 10
days from proclamation; (b) that the petition assails the validity of her CoC, which
is outside the jurisdiction of the HRET and should have been assailed before the
COMELEC through a petition to deny due course to or cancel her CoC; (c) that
the COMELEC had already resolved her substitution of Richard with finality in its
Resolution 8890; (d) that she did not have to present proof of her identity when
her CoC was notarized the notary public personally knew her; and (e) she never
abandoned her domicile in Ormoc City despite her change of residence and
transfer of voting registration to San Rafael, Bulacan, arising from her marriage to
Richard.

On March 22, 2010 the HRET rendered a Decision 11 dismissing the quo
warranto petition and declaring Lucy Gomez a qualified candidate during the May
2010 election for the subject position, her substitution of her disqualified husband
being valid and legal. HRET ruled that Lucy Gomez's domicile continued to be
Ormoc City despite her marriage to Richard. Tagolino moved for reconsideration
but HRET denied the same on May 28, 2012, hence, this petition.

Question Presented
As the ponencia would have it, the issue boils down to the question of whether or
not Lucy Gomez validly substituted Richard whom the COMELEC declared
disqualified for lack of residency.

But the above is not an accurate statement of the real issue in this case. The real
issue in this case is whether or not the HRET can review and reverse a
COMELEC Decision involving a member of the House of Representatives that
had become final and executory.

Discussion
The election of Lucy Gomez as Congresswoman of the 4th District of Leyte was
preceded by two separate incidents before the COMELEC:

The first incident involved Richard. It consists in Juntilla's self-titled Verified


Petition to Disqualify Candidate for Lack of Qualification. Juntilla asked for
Richard's disqualification, consistent with the substance of his petition, but added
Election Law Cases

in his prayer that the candidate's CoC be also cancelled or denied due course.
The COMELEC First Division granted the petition and disqualified Richard but did
not cancel or deny due course to his CoC.

The second incident involved Lucy Gomez. Juntilla opposed her substitution of
Richard on the ground that the substitution was invalid since she had no one to
substitute in view of the COMELEC First Division's disqualification of Richard by
final order. But the COMELEC En Banc denied the opposition and allowed the
substitution, given that the First Division's resolution, which merely disqualified
Richard, had already become final and executory.

The key issue in this case is actually whether or not the HRET was correct in
ruling that the COMELEC First Division's February 17, 2010 Resolution that
disqualified Richard but did not cancel his CoC or deny it due course had already
become final and executory. For, if it had indeed become final and executory, that
resolution would, as the COMELEC En Banc held in its May 8, 2010 Resolution,
provide legal basis for Lucy Gomez's substitution of Richard.

It is clear from the facts that the COMELEC First Division's February 17, 2010
Resolution, which merely disqualified Richard but did not cancel or deny due
course to his CoC, became final and executory. That resolution may be in error,
as the ponencia would have it, but it certainly became final and executory for the
following reasons:

First. Juntilla never filed a motion for reconsideration of that resolution.


Consequently, he could not help its becoming final and executory as to him.

Second. Only Richard filed a motion for reconsideration of the COMELEC First
Division's February 17, 2010 Resolution, which merely disqualified him. When
the COMELEC En Banc dismissed that motion for reconsideration on May 4,
2010, Richard filed a manifestation on the same day, accepting its validity. On
May 5 the COMELEC En Banc declared its May 4, 2010 Resolution final and
executory. Consequently, what remained the last window of opportunity to review
and possibly reverse the COMELEC First Division's February 17, 2010
Resolution closed down.
Election Law Cases

Third. Juntilla attempted to revive the issue concerning the COMELEC First
Division's February 17, 2010 Resolution when he opposed Lucy Gomez's
substitution of Richard. He claimed that the First Division's resolution resulted in
the COMELEC denying due course to Richard's CoC with the effect that, without
a valid one, he could not be substituted. But Juntilla is clearly in error since the
COMELEC En Banc already declared on May 5 that the First Division's February
17 Resolution merely ordered Richard's disqualification and such resolution had
irreversibly become final and executory.

Juntilla of course filed on May 8, 2010 a motion for reconsideration of the


COMELEC En Banc's Resolution of the same date that allowed Lucy Gomez's
substitution of Richard, but the motion remained unacted upon, obviously owing
to the supervening May 10, 2010 elections. At any rate, Juntilla may be deemed
to have abandoned that motion for reconsideration for he never insisted that it be
resolved. And he never raised before this Court the issue of the validity of that
COMELEC En Banc's May 8 Resolution that allowed the substitution.
Unchallenged, that resolution became final and executory as well.

The Court has of course ruled In Guerrero v. Commission on Elections 12 that,


since the Constitution makes the HRET "the sole judge of all contests relating to
the election, returns and qualifications" of its members, it has the jurisdiction to
pass upon the validity of substitution involving such members. Said the Court:

Whether respondent [Rodolfo] Farias validly substituted Chevylle V.


Farias and whether respondent became a legitimate candidate, in our
view, must likewise be addressed to the sound judgment of the
Electoral Tribunal. Only thus can we demonstrate fealty to the
Constitutional provision that the Electoral Tribunal of each House of
Congress shall be the "sole judge of all contests relating to the election,
returns and qualifications of their respective members." 13 (Emphasis
supplied)

But the above ruling should be understood in the context of the facts of
the Farias case. Guillermo Ruiz, a registered voter, filed a petition with the
Election Law Cases

COMELEC's Second Division seeking the perpetual disqualification of Rodolfo


Farias as candidate for Congressman for the May 11, 1998 elections on the
ground that he had been campaigning for that position despite his failure to file a
CoC. Eventually, Farias filed his CoC on May 8, 1998 in substitution of Chevylle
Farias who withdrew earlier on April 3. Because of this supervening event, on
May 10 the Second Division dismissed Ruiz's petition for lack of merit.

Farias won the elections and was promptly proclaimed. On May 16, 1998,
however, Ruiz filed a motion for reconsideration of the Second Division's May 10
Resolution, contending that Farias could not validly substitute for Chevylle, since
the latter was not the official candidate of the Lakas ng Makabayan Masang
Pilipino but was an independent candidate. Meantime, on June 3, 1998 Farias
took his oath as member of the House of Representatives. caADSE

On June 10, 1998 petitioner Arnold Guerrero, a rival candidate, filed a petition-in-
intervention with the COMELEC, assailing Farias' substitution of Chevylle. On
January 6, 1999, the COMELEC En Banc dismissed Ruiz's motion for
reconsideration and Guerrero's petition-in-intervention for lack of jurisdiction
since Farias had in the meantime assumed office.

Upon Guerrero's petition, this Court held that while the COMELEC has the power
to declare a CoC valid or invalid, its refusal to exercise that power, following
Farias' proclamation and assumption of office, simply recognized the
jurisdictional boundaries between the COMELEC and the HRET. The Court said
that whether Farias validly substituted Chevylle must now be addressed to the
sound judgment of the HRET. The COMELEC's jurisdiction over election contests
relating to his election, returns, and qualifications ends, and the HRET's own
jurisdiction begins.

Tagolino cannot invoke the Farias ruling for three reasons:

First, the Court's thesis in Farias is that the HRET can take over a pending
matter before the COMELEC since the latter may be considered ousted of its
jurisdiction over the same upon the winner's assumption of office. The HRET
takes over the authority to resolve such pending matter.
Election Law Cases

Here, however, the key issue of whether or not the COMELEC First Division's
February 17, 2010 Resolution, which merely disqualified Richard but did not
cancel his CoC, is no longer a pending matter. It became final and executory
since, as pointed out above, Juntilla did not file a motion for its reconsideration
and the COMELEC En Banchad found it to be the case.

Second, Guerrero had the right to raise the issue of Farias' disqualification
before the HRET since he intervened and joined cause with Guillermo in his
action before the COMELEC. This gave Guerrero a stake in the resolution of
Guillermo's motion for reconsideration after the COMELEC declined to further act
on the same.

Here, Tagolino never intervened in Juntilla's actions before the COMELEC. He


stayed out of it. Consequently, he has no right to ask the HRET to resolve
Juntilla's May 8, 2010 motion for reconsideration of the COMELEC En Banc's
order of the same date. The right to press for the resolution of that May 8 motion
for reconsideration belonged to Juntilla who alone filed it. But, as it happened, he
abandoned his motion when he did not come up either to the Supreme Court or
to the HRET to cause it to be resolved.

And third, Tagolino is barred from claiming that, in disqualifying Richard, the
COMELEC's First Division in effect caused the cancellation of his
CoC. Tagolino made a binding admission during the Preliminary Conference
before the HRET that the COMELEC did not in fact order such cancellation of
Richard's CoC. 14 Thus, Tagolinoadmitted that:

xxx xxx xxx

3. By Resolution of February 17, 2010, the Comelec disqualified


Richard I. Gomez as candidate for Representative of the Fourth District
of Leyte for lack of residency;

4. Gomez filed a motion for reconsideration, which the Comelec En


Banc dismissed for lack of merit by Resolution of May 4, 2010;
Election Law Cases

5. Said May 4, 2010 Resolution of the Comelec did not order the
cancellation of Gomez' certificate of candidacy; (Emphasis
supplied)

xxx xxx xxx

Tagolino's admission in paragraph 5 above that the COMELEC did not order
the cancellation of Richard Gomez's certificate of candidacy is binding on him,
especially since he makes no allegation that he made such admission through
palpable mistake. 15

True, the parties raised before the HRET the issue of "whether the substitution of
respondent is valid." But this merely accords with Lucy Gomez's defense in her
answer that the COMELEC had already resolved her substitution of Richard with
finality in its Resolution 8890. It did not mean that the parties were submitting to
the HRET for resolution the issue of the final and executory nature of the
COMELEC First Division's resolution that enabled her to substitute for Richard.

So the Court comes to the real issue in this case: whether or not the HRET can
review and reverse a COMELEC decision, involving a member of the House of
Representatives, that had already become final and executory.

The HRET has no authority to review final and executory resolutions or decisions
of the COMELEC that it rendered pursuant to its powers under the Constitution,
no matter if such resolutions or decisions are erroneous. The parties cannot by
agreement confer such authority on HRET. Neither the HRET nor the Court can
set aside the COMELEC's final and executory resolutions that paved the way for
Lucy Gomez to substitute her husband.

As for Lucy Gomez's residency qualification, the evidence presented in the case
amply supports HRET's conclusion that she met such qualification.

For all of the above reasons, I vote to deny the petition.


||| (Tagolino v. HRET, G.R. No. 202202, [March 19, 2013])
Election Law Cases

ABANG LINGKOD PARTY-LIST


(ABANG LINGKOD), petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIO
NS, respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J : p

This is a petition for certiorari under Rule 64 in relation to Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court filed by Abang Lingkod Party-List (ABANG LINGKOD) assailing the
Resolution 1dated May 10, 2013 issued by
the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) En Banc in SPP No. 12-238 (PLM),
which, inter alia, affirmed the cancellation of ABANGLINGKOD's registration as a
party-list group.

The Facts
ABANG LINGKOD is a sectoral organization that represents the interests of
peasant farmers and fisherfolks, and was registered under the party-list system
on December 22, 2009. It participated in the May 2010 elections, but failed to
obtain the number of votes needed for a seat in the House of Representatives.

On May 31, 2012, ABANG LINGKOD manifested before the COMELEC its intent
to participate in the May 2013 elections. On August 2, 2012, the COMELEC
issued Resolution No. 9513, 2 which, inter alia, required previously registered
party-list groups that have filed their respective Manifestations of Intent to
undergo summary evidentiary hearing for purposes of determining their
continuing compliance with the requirements under Republic Act (R.A.) No.
7941 3 and the guidelines set forth inAng Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v.
COMELEC. 4

Accordingly, on August 9, 2012, the COMELEC issued a Resolution, which set


the summary evidentiary hearing of previously registered party-list groups. The
COMELEC scheduled three (3) dates August 17, 31 and September 3, 2012
Election Law Cases

for the summary hearing of ABANG LINGKOD's Manifestation of Intent, to


enable it to show proof of its continuing qualification under the party-list
system. ESHcTD

On August 16, 2012, ABANG LINGKOD, in compliance with the COMELEC's


August 9, 2012 Resolution, filed with the COMELEC pertinent documents to
prove its continuing compliance with the requirements under R.A. No. 7941.

After due proceedings, the COMELEC En Banc, in a Resolution dated November


7, 2012, cancelled ABANG LINGKOD's registration as a party-list group. The
COMELEC En Banc pointed out that ABANG LINGKOD failed to establish its
track record in uplifting the cause of the marginalized and underrepresented; that
it merely offered photographs of some alleged activities it conducted after the
May 2010 elections. The COMELEC En Banc further opined
that ABANG LINGKOD failed to show that its nominees are themselves
marginalized and underrepresented or that they have been involved in activities
aimed at improving the plight of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors it
claims to represent.

ABANG LINGKOD then filed with this Court a petition 5 for certiorari, alleging that
the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in cancelling its registration under
the party-list system. The said petition was consolidated with the separate
petitions filed by fifty-one (51) other party-list groups whose registration were
cancelled or who were denied registration under the party-list system. The said
party-list groups, including ABANG LINGKOD, were able to obtain status quo
ante orders from this Court.

On April 2, 2013, the Court, in Atong Paglaum,


Inc. v. Commission on Elections, 6 laid down new parameters to be observed by
the COMELEC in screening parties, organizations or associations seeking
registration and/or accreditation under the party-list system, viz.:

1. Three different groups may participate in the party-list system: (1)


national parties or organizations, (2) regional parties or
organizations, and (3) sectoral parties or organizations.
Election Law Cases

2. National parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations


do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to
represent any "marginalized and underrepresented" sector.

3. Political parties can participate in party-list elections provided they


register under the party-list system and do not field candidates in
legislative district elections. A political party, whether major or not,
that fields candidates in legislative district elections can
participate in party-list elections only through its sectoral wing that
can separately register under the party-list system. The sectoral
wing is by itself an independent sectoral party, and is linked to a
political party through a coalition.

4. Sectoral parties or organizations may either be "marginalized and


underrepresented" or lacking in "well-defined political
constituencies." It is enough that their principal advocacy pertains
to the special interests and concerns of their sector. The sectors
that are "marginalized and underrepresented" include labor,
peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities,
handicapped, veterans, and overseas workers. The sectors that
lack "well-defined political constituencies" include professionals,
the elderly, women, and the youth. acCDSH

5. A majority of the members of the sectoral parties or organizations that


represent the "marginalized and underrepresented" must belong
to the "marginalized and underrepresented" sector they represent.
Similarly, a majority of the members of sectoral parties or
organizations that lack "well-defined political constituencies" must
belong to the sector they represent. The nominees of sectoral
parties or organizations that represent the "marginalized and
underrepresented" or that represent those who lack "well-defined
political constituencies," either must belong to their respective
sectors, or must have a track record or advocacy for their
respective sectors. The nominees of national and regional parties
Election Law Cases

or organizations must be bona-fide members of such parties or


organizations.

6. National, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations shall not be


disqualified if some of their nominees are disqualified, provided
that they have at least one nominee who remains qualified.

Thus, the Court remanded to the COMELEC the cases of previously registered
party-list groups, including that of ABANG LINGKOD, to determine whether they
are qualified under the party-list system pursuant to the new parameters laid
down by the Court and, in the affirmative, be allowed to participate in the May
2013 party-list elections.

On May 10, 2013, the COMELEC issued the herein assailed


Resolution, 7 which, inter alia, affirmed the cancellation
of ABANG LINGKOD's registration under the party-list system. The COMELEC
issued the Resolution dated May 10, 2013 sans any summary evidentiary
hearing, citing the proximity of the May 13, 2013 elections as the reason therefor.

In maintaining the cancellation of ABANG LINGKOD's registration, the


COMELEC held that:

The Commission maintains its position in the previous en banc ruling


cancelling the registration of ABANG LINGKOD. To reiterate, it is not
enough that the party-list organization claim representation of the
marginalized and underrepresented because representation is easy to
claim and to feign. It is but reasonable to require from groups and
organizations consistent participation and advocacy in the sector it seeks
to represent, and not just seasonal and "sporadic" programs which are
unrelated to its sector.

ABANG LINGKOD submitted pictures showing a seminar held on 10 July


2010, Medical Mission on 11 November 2010, Disaster Management
Training on 21 October 2011, Book-giving on 28 June 2011, and Medical
Mission on 1 December 2011.
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And as if to insult the Commission, the photographs submitted appear to


have been edited to show in the banners
that ABANG LINGKOD participated in the
activities.ABANG LINGKOD's name and logo was superimposed on
some banners to feign participation in the activities (Joint Medical
Mission, Book-giving).

Under the party-list System Act, a group's registration may be cancelled


for declaring unlawful statements in its petition. Photoshopping images to
establish a fact that did not occur is tantamount to declaring unlawful
statements. It is on this ground that the Commission
cancels ABANG LINGKOD's registration. 8

On May 12, 2013, ABANG LINGKOD sought a reconsideration of the


COMELEC's Resolution dated May 10, 2013. However, on May 15,
2013, ABANG LINGKOD withdrew the motion for reconsideration it filed with the
COMELEC and, instead, instituted the instant petition 9 with this Court, alleging
that there may not be enough time for the COMELEC to pass upon the merits of
its motion for reconsideration considering that the election returns were already
being canvassed and consolidated by the COMELEC.

In support of the instant petition, ABANG LINGKOD claims that the COMELEC
gravely abused its discretion when it affirmed the cancellation of its
registration sans a summary evidentiary hearing for that purpose, asserting that
the COMELEC should have allowed it to present evidence to prove its
qualification as a party-list group pursuant to Atong Paglaum. It claims that there
was no valid justification for the COMELEC to cancel its registration considering
that it complied with the six-point parameters in screening party-list groups laid
down in Atong Paglaum. DaTISc

On the other hand, the COMELEC avers that the instant petition should be
dismissed for utter lack of merit. It asserts that ABANG LINGKOD was not denied
due process when the COMELEC affirmed the cancellation of its registration
since it was given every reasonable opportunity to be heard. The COMELEC
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further claims that it did not abuse its discretion when it


cancelled ABANG LINGKOD's registration on the ground that it failed to establish
a track record in representing the marginalized and underrepresented. Further,
the COMELEC alleges that its finding of facts may not be passed upon by this
Court as the same is supported by substantial evidence.

The Issues
In sum, the issues presented for the Court's resolution are the
following: first, whether ABANG LINGKOD was denied due process when the
COMELEC affirmed the cancellation of its registration under the party-list
system sans any summary evidentiary hearing; and second, whether the
COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in
cancelling ABANG LINGKOD's registration under the party-list system.

The Court's Ruling


The petition is meritorious.

First Issue: Due Process


The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard or as applied to
administrative or quasi-judicial proceedings, an opportunity to explain one's 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 their side of the controversy at hand. What is frowned upon
is the absolute lack of notice or hearing. 10

In the instant case, while the petitioner laments that it was denied due process,
the Court finds that the COMELEC had afforded ABANG LINGKOD sufficient
opportunity to present evidence establishing its qualification as a party-list group.
It was notified through Resolution No. 9513 that its registration was to be
reviewed by the COMELEC. That ABANG LINGKOD was able to file
its Manifestation of Intent and other pertinent documents to prove its continuing
compliance with the requirements under R.A. No. 7941, which the COMELEC set
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for summary hearing on three separate dates, belies its claim that it was denied
due process.

There was no necessity for the COMELEC to conduct further summary


evidentiary hearing to assess the qualification of ABANG LINGKOD pursuant
to Atong Paglaum.ABANG LINGKOD's Manifestation of Intent and all the
evidence adduced by it to establish its qualification as a party-list group are
already in the possession of the COMELEC. Thus, conducting further summary
evidentiary hearing for the sole purpose of
determining ABANG LINGKOD's qualification under the party-list system
pursuant to Atong Paglaum would just be a superfluity.

Contrary to ABANG LINGKOD's claim, the Court, in Atong Paglaum, did not
categorically require the COMELEC to conduct a summary evidentiary hearing
for the purpose of determining the qualifications of the petitioners therein
pursuant to the new parameters for screening party-list groups. The dispositive
portion of Atong Paglaum reads: CcaASE

WHEREFORE, all the present 54 petitions are GRANTED. The 13


petitions, which have been granted Status Quo Ante Orders but without
mandatory injunction to include the names of the petitioners in the
printing of ballots, are remanded to the Commission on Elections only for
determination whether petitioners are qualified to register under the
party-list system under the parameters prescribed in this Decision but
they shall not participate in the 13 May 2013 party-list elections. The 41
petitions, which have been granted mandatory injunctions to include the
names of petitioners in the printing of ballots, are remanded to
the Commission onElections for determination whether petitioners
are qualified to register under the party-list system and to
participate in the 13 May 2013 party-list elections under the
parameters prescribed in this
Decision. The Commission on Elections may conduct summary
evidentiary hearings for this purpose. This Decision is immediately
executory.
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SO ORDERED. 11 (Emphasis ours)

Thus, the cases of previously registered party-list groups,


including ABANG LINGKOD, were remanded to the COMELEC so that it may
reassess, based on the evidence already submitted by the former, whether they
are qualified to participate in the party-list system pursuant to the new parameters
laid down in Atong Paglaum. The Court did not require the COMELEC to conduct
a hearing de novo in reassessing the qualifications of said party-list groups.
Nevertheless, the Court gave the COMELEC the option to conduct further
summary evidentiary hearing should it deem appropriate to do so.

The records also disclose that ABANG LINGKOD was able to file with the
COMELEC a motion for reconsideration of the Resolution dated May 10, 2013,
negating its claim that it was denied due process. As it has been held, deprivation
of due process cannot be successfully invoked where a party was given a chance
to be heard on his motion for reconsideration. 12

Second Issue: Cancellation of


ABANG LINGKOD's Registration
However, after a careful perusal of the factual antecedents of this case, pinned
against the new parameters in screening party-list groups laid down in Atong
Paglaum,the Court finds that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in
cancelling the registration of ABANG LINGKOD under the party-list system.

The COMELEC affirmed the cancellation of ABANG LINGKOD's registration on


the ground that it declared untruthful statement in its bid for accreditation as a
party-list group in the May 2013 elections, pointing out that it deliberately
submitted digitally altered photographs of activities to make it appear that it had a
track record in representing the marginalized and underrepresented.
Essentially, ABANG LINGKOD's registration was cancelled on the ground that it
failed to adduce evidence showing its track record in representing the
marginalized and underrepresented.
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The flaw in the COMELEC's disposition lies in the fact that it insists on requiring
party-list groups to present evidence showing that they have a track record in
representing the marginalized and underrepresented.

Track record is a record of past performance often taken as an indicator of likely


future performance. 13 As a requirement imposed by Ang Bagong Bayani for
groups intending to participate in the party-list elections, track record pertains
to the actual activities undertaken by groups to uplift the cause of the
sector/s, which they represent. ScCDET

Section 5 of R.A. No. 7941 however provides:

Sec. 5. Registration. Any organized group of persons may register as


a party, organization or coalition for purposes of the party-list system by
filing with the COMELEC not later than ninety (90) days before the
election a petition verified by its president or secretary stating its desire
to participate in the party-list system as a national, regional or sectoral
party or organization or a coalition of such parties or
organizations, attaching thereto its constitution, by-laws, platform or
program of government, list of officers, coalition agreement and
other relevant information as the COMELEC may require: Provided,
That the sectors shall include labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor,
indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth,
veterans, overseas workers, and professionals. (Emphasis ours)

R.A. No. 7941 did not require groups intending to register under the party-list
system to submit proof of their track record as a group. The track record
requirement was only imposed in Ang Bagong Bayani where the Court held that
national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations seeking registration
under the party-list system must prove through their, inter alia, track record that
they truly represent the marginalized and underrepresented, thus:

. . . In this light, the Court finds it appropriate to lay down the following
guidelines, culled from the law and the Constitution, to assist the
Comelec in its work.
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First, the political party, sector, organization or coalition must represent


the marginalized and underrepresented groups identified in Section 5
of RA 7941. In other words, it must show through its constitution,
articles of incorporation, bylaws, history, platform of government
and track record that it represents and seeks to uplift
marginalized and underrepresented sectors. Verily, majority of its
membership should belong to the marginalized and underrepresented.
And it must demonstrate that in a conflict of interests, it has chosen or is
likely to choose the interest of such sectors. (Emphasis ours)

Track record is not the same as the submission or presentation of


"constitution, by-laws, platform of government, list of officers, coalition
agreement, and other relevant information as may be required by the
COMELEC," which are but mere pieces of documentary evidence intended to
establish that the group exists and is a going concern. The said documentary
evidence presents an abstract of the ideals that national, regional, and sectoral
parties or organizations seek to achieve.

This is not merely a matter of semantics; the delineation of what constitutes a


track record has certain consequences in a group's bid for registration under the
party-list system. Under Section 5 of R.A. No. 7941, groups intending to register
under the party-list system are not required to submit evidence of their track
record; they are merely required to attach to their verified petitions their
"constitution, by-laws, platform of government, list of officers, coalition
agreement, and other relevant information as may be required by the
COMELEC."

In Atong Paglaum, the Court has modified to a great extent the jurisprudential
doctrines on who may register under the party-list system and the representation
of the marginalized and underrepresented. For purposes of registration under the
party-list system, national or regional parties or organizations need not
represent any marginalized and underrepresented sector; that representation
of the marginalized and underrepresented is only required of sectoral
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organizations that represent the sectors stated under Section 5 of R.A. No.
7941 that are, by their nature, economically marginalized and underrepresented.

There was no mention that sectoral organizations intending to participate in the


party-list elections are still required to present a track record, viz.: ETHaDC

. . . In determining who may participate in the coming 13 May 2013 and


subsequent party-list elections, the COMELEC shall adhere to the
following parameters:

xxx xxx xxx

4. Sectoral parties or organizations may either be "marginalized


and underrepresented" or lacking in "well-defined political
constituencies." It is enough that their principal advocacy pertains
to the special interests and concerns of their sector. The sectors that
are "marginalized and underrepresented" include labor, peasant,
fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, handicapped,
veterans, and overseas workers. The sectors that lack "well-defined
political constituencies" include professionals, the elderly, women, and
the youth. (Emphasis ours)

Contrary to the COMELEC's claim, sectoral parties or organizations, such


as ABANG LINGKOD, are no longer required to adduce evidence showing their
track record, i.e.,proof of activities that they have undertaken to further the cause
of the sector they represent. Indeed, it is enough that their principal advocacy
pertains to the special interest and concerns of their sector. Otherwise stated, it
is sufficient that the ideals represented by the sectoral organizations are
geared towards the cause of the sector/s, which they represent.

If at all, evidence showing a track record in representing the marginalized and


underrepresented sectors is only required from nominees of sectoral parties or
organizations that represent the marginalized and underrepresented who do not
factually belong to the sector represented by their party or organization.
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Dissenting, my esteemed colleague, Mr. Justice Leonen, however, maintains that


parties or organizations intending to register under the party-list system are still
required to present a track record notwithstanding the Court's pronouncement
in Atong Paglaum; that the track record that would have to be presented would
only differ as to the nature of their group/organization. He opines that sectoral
organizations must prove their links with the marginalized and underrepresented
while national or regional parties or organizations must show that they have been
existing as a bona fide organization.

To submit to the dissent's insistence on varying track records, which are


required of those intending to register under the party-list system, depending on
the nature of their group, would result into an absurd and unjust
situation. Under the "varying track record requirement," sectoral organizations
must present evidence showing their track record in representing the
marginalized and underrepresented, i.e., actual activities conducted by them to
further uplift the cause of the sector/s they represent. On the other hand, national
and regional parties or organizations need only prove that they exist as bona
fide organizations which, as the dissent suggests, may be done through the
submission of their constitution, by-laws, platform of government, list of officers,
coalition agreement, and other relevant information required by the COMELEC.

However, submission of a group's constitution, by-laws, platform of government,


list of officers, coalition agreement, and other relevant information required by the
COMELEC, as explained earlier, is not synonymous with the track record
requirement. In such case, only sectoral organizations would be required to
present a track record (actual activities conducted by them to further the cause of
the marginalized and underrepresented); while national and regional
organizations need not present their track record as they are only required to
submit documentary evidence showing that they are bona fide organizations. caHIAS

There is no logic in treating sectoral organizations differently from national and


regional parties or organizations as regards their bid for registration under the
party-list system. The "varying track record requirement" suggested by the
dissent would unnecessarily put a premium on groups intending to register
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as national and regional parties or organizations as against those intending


to register as sectoral organizations. The imposition of an additional burden
on sectoral organizations, i.e., submission of their track record, would be plainly
unjust as it effectively deters the marginalized and underrepresented sectors from
organizing themselves under the party-list system.

Likewise, that there was no explicit reversal of the guidelines in Ang Bagong
Bayani in Atong Paglaum does not mean that groups intending to register under
the party-list system are still required to submit a track record. The track record of
groups intending to register under the party-list system was required under the
first guideline of Ang Bagong Bayani for a very specific purpose to show that
the national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations that would be allowed
to participate in the party-list elections are truly representative of the
marginalized and underrepresented sectors. It was necessary then to require
groups seeking registration under the party-list system since representation of the
marginalized and underrepresented, as understood in the context of Ang Bagong
Bayani, is easy to claim and feign.

There exists no reason to further require groups seeking registration under the
party-list system to submit evidence showing their track record. Pursuant
to Atong Paglaum, not all groups are required to represent the marginalized and
underrepresented sectors and, accordingly, there is no longer any incentive in
merely feigning representation of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors.

In the case of sectoral organizations, although they are still required to represent
the marginalized and underrepresented, they are likewise not required to show a
track record since there would be no reason for them to feign representation of
the marginalized and underrepresented as they can just register as a national or
regional party or organization. Thus, the Court, in Atong Paglaum, stated that, for
purposes of registration under the party-list system, it is enough that the principal
advocacy of sectoral organizations pertains to the sector/s they represent.

There is thus no basis in law and established jurisprudence to insist that groups
seeking registration under the party-list system still comply with the track record
Election Law Cases

requirement. Indeed, nowhere in R.A. No. 7941 is it mandated that groups


seeking registration thereunder must submit evidence to show their track record
as a group.

The dissent likewise suggests that the deceit committed


by ABANG LINGKOD goes into its qualification as a party-list group since it
seriously puts in question the existence of ABANG LINGKOD as a group per
se and the genuineness of its representation of the farmers and fisherfolk.

It must be stressed that the COMELEC


cancelled ABANG LINGKOD's registration solely on the ground of the lack of its
track record that it falsely represented, by submitting digitally altered
photographs of its supposed activities, that it had a track record in representing
the marginalized and underrepresented. The existence ofABANG LINGKOD as
a party-list group per se and the genuineness of its representation of the
farmers and fisherfolks were never raised in the proceedings before the
COMELEC. It would thus be the height of injustice if the Court, in
this certiorari action, would scrutinize the legitimacy of ABANG LINGKOD as a
party-list group and the genuineness of its representation of the farmers and
fisherfolk, and affirm the cancellation of its registration, when the issue is limited
only to the track record of ABANG LINGKOD.

Moreover, ABANG LINGKOD had been previously registered as a party-list


group, as in fact it participated in the May 2010 party-list elections, and it was
able to obtain a sufficient number of votes in the May 2013 party-list elections to
obtain a seat in the House of Representatives. These are circumstances, which
clearly indicate thatABANG LINGKOD is indeed a legitimate party-list group.

ABANG LINGKOD, notwithstanding the cancellation of its registration three days


prior to the May 13, 2013 elections, was able to obtain a total of 260,215 votes
out of the 26,722,131 votes that were cast for the party-list, 14 thus entitling it
to a seat in the House of Representatives. This is indicative of the fact that a
considerable portion of the electorate considers ABANG LINGKOD as truly
representative of peasant farmers and fisherfolk.
Election Law Cases

Anent the photographs submitted by ABANG LINGKOD, these only show book-
giving and medical missions, which are activities it conducted. Suffice it to state,
however, that said activities do not specifically or directly pertain to the interest or
advocacy espoused by ABANG LINGKOD. As such, the misrepresentation
committed by ABANGLINGKOD with regard to said activities would not
necessarily militate against its representation of the farmers and fisherfolk.

Lest it be misunderstood, the Court does not condone the deceit perpetrated
by ABANG LINGKOD in connection with its bid for continued registration under
the party-list system. That ABANG LINGKOD, to establish its track record,
submitted photographs that were edited to make it appear that it conducted
activities aimed at ameliorating the plight of the sectors it represents is a factual
finding by the COMELEC, which the Court, considering that it is supported by
substantial evidence, will not disturb. The Court does not
tolerate ABANG LINGKOD's resort to chicanery and its shabby treatment of the
requirements for registration under the party-list system.

Nevertheless, considering that track record is no longer a requirement, a group's


misrepresentation as to its track record cannot be used as a ground to deny or
cancel its registration it is no longer material to its qualification under the party-
list system. In this case, ABANG LINGKOD's submission of digitally altered
photographs cannot be considered material to its qualification as a party-list
group. Section 6 of R.A. No. 7941, in part, reads:

Sec. 6. Refusal and/or Cancellation of Registration. The COMELEC


may, motu propio or upon verified complaint of any interested party,
refuse or cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of any
national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition on any of the
following grounds:

xxx xxx xxx

(6) It declares untruthful statements in its petition;

Declaration of an untruthful statement in a petition for registration, or in any other


document pertinent to the registration and/or accreditation under the party-list
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system, as a ground for the refusal or cancellation of registration under Section 6


(6) of R.A. No. 7941, is akin to material misrepresentation in the certificate of
candidacy filed by an individual candidate under Section 78 of the Omnibus
Election Code. Both provisions disallow prospective candidates from participating
in an election for declaring false statements in their eligibility requirements.
Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code reads: DHITSc

Sec. 78. A verified petition seeking to deny due course to or cancel a


certificate of candidacy may be filed by any person exclusively on the
ground that any material misrepresentation contained therein as required
under Section 74 hereof is false. The petition may be filed at any time
not later than twenty-five days from the time of the filing of the certificate
of candidacy and shall be decided, after due notice and hearing, not later
than fifteen days before the election.

Elucidating on what constitutes material misrepresentation in a certificate of


candidacy under Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code, the Court,
in Lluz v. Commissionon Elections, 15 explained that:

From these two cases several conclusions follow. First, a


misrepresentation in a certificate of candidacy is material when it refers
to a qualification for elective office and affects the candidate's
eligibility. . . . Third, a misrepresentation of a non-material fact, or a
non-material misrepresentation, is not a ground to deny due course
to or cancel a certificate of candidacy under Section 78. In other
words, for a candidate's certificate of candidacy to be denied due
course or canceled by the COMELEC, the fact misrepresented must
pertain to a qualification for the office sought by the
candidate. 16 (Emphasis ours)

In Velasco v. Commission on Elections, 17 the Court further clarified that a false


representation under Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code, in order to be a
ground to deny due course or cancel a certificate of candidacy, must consist of a
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deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise


render a candidate ineligible. Thus:

The false representation that [Sections 74 and 78 of the Omnibus


Election Code] mention must necessarily pertain to a material fact, not to
a mere innocuous mistake. This is emphasized by the consequences of
any material falsity: a candidate who falsifies a material fact cannot run; if
he runs and is elected, cannot serve; in both cases, he or she can be
prosecuted for violation of the election laws. Obviously, these facts are
those that refer to a candidate's qualification for elective office, such as
his or her citizenship and residence. The candidate's status as a
registered voter similarly falls under this classification as it is a
requirement that, by law (the Local Government Code), must be reflected
in the COC. The reason for this is obvious: the candidate, if he or she
wins, will work for and represent the local government under which he is
running.

Separately from the requirement of materiality, a false


representation under Section 78 must consist of a "deliberate
attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise
render a candidate ineligible." In other words, it must be made with
the intention to deceive the electorate as to the would-be
candidate's qualifications for public office. 18 (Citation omitted and
emphasis ours)

Similarly, a declaration of an untruthful statement in a petition for registration


under Section 6 (6) of R.A. No. 7941, in order to be a ground for the refusal
and/or cancellation of registration under the party-list system, must pertain to the
qualification of the party, organization or coalition under the party-list system. In
order to justify the cancellation or refusal of registration of a group, there must be
a deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact, which would otherwise
render the group disqualified from participating in the party-list elections.
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The digitally altered photographs of activities submitted by ABANG LINGKOD to


prove its continuing qualification under R.A. No. 7941 only pertain to its track
record, which, as already discussed, is no longer a requirement under the new
parameters laid down in Atong Paglaum. Simply put, they do not affect the
qualification ofABANG LINGKOD as a party-list group and, hence, could
not be used as a ground to cancel its registration under the party-list
system.

Further, the Court notes that the COMELEC, in its Resolution dated November 7,
2012, asserted that ABANG LINGKOD failed to adduce evidence that would
show the track record of its five nominees, composed of a non-government
organization worker, an employee and three farmers, in uplifting the cause of the
sector that the group represents. The COMELEC opined that the failure
of ABANG LINGKOD to present a track record of its nominees justified the
cancellation of its registration as a party-list group.

The Court does not agree. Assuming arguendo that the nominees
of ABANG LINGKOD, as opined by the COMELEC, indeed do not have track
records showing their participation in activities aimed at improving the conditions
of the sector that the group represents, the same would not affect the registration
of ABANG LINGKOD as a party-list group.

To stress, in Atong Paglaum, the Court pointed out that "[t]he nominees of
sectoral parties or organizations that represent the 'marginalized and
underrepresented,' or that represent those who lack 'well-defined political
constituencies,' either must belong to their respective sectors, or must have
a track record of advocacy for their respective sectors. Stated otherwise, the
nominee of a party-list groups may either be: first, one who actually belongs to
the sector which the party-list group represents, in which case the track record
requirement does not apply; or second, one who does not actually belong to the
sector which the party-list group represents but has a track record showing the
nominee's active participation in activities aimed at uplifting the cause of the
sector which the group represents."
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In the case under consideration, three of the five nominees


of ABANG LINGKOD are farmers and, thus, are not required to present a track
record showing their active participation in activities aimed to promote the sector
which ABANG LINGKOD represents, i.e., peasant farmers and fisherfolk. That
two of ABANG LINGKOD's nominees do not actually belong to the sector it
represents is immaterial and would not result in the cancellation
of ABANG LINGKOD's registration as a party-list group. This is clear from the
sixth parameter laid down by the Court in Atong Paglaum, which states that
"[n]ational, regional and sectoral organizations shall not be disqualified if some
of their nominees are disqualified, provided that they have at least one
nominee who remains qualified." At the very least, ABANG LINGKOD has three
(3) qualified nominees, being farmers by occupation.

Indeed, the disqualification of one or some of the nominees of a party-list group


should not automatically result in the disqualification of the group. Otherwise it
would accord the nominees the same significance, which the law holds for the
party-list groups; it is still the fact that the party-list group satisfied the
qualifications of the law that is material to consider. The disqualification of the
nominees must simply be regarded as failure to qualify for an office or position. It
should not, in any way, blemish the qualifications of the party-list group itself with
defect. The party-list group must be treated as separate and distinct from its
nominees such that qualifications of the latter must not be considered part and
parcel of the qualifications of the former.

In sum, that ABANG LINGKOD's registration must be cancelled due to its


misrepresentation is a conclusion derived from a simplistic reading of the
provisions of R.A. No. 7941 and the import of the Court's disposition in Atong
Paglaum. Not every misrepresentation committed by national, regional, and
sectoral groups or organizations would merit the denial or cancellation of their
registration under the party-list system. The misrepresentation must relate to their
qualification as a party-list group. In this regard, the COMELEC gravely abused
its discretion when it insisted on requiring ABANG LINGKOD to prove its track
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record notwithstanding that a group's track record is no longer required pursuant


to the Court's pronouncement in Atong Paglaum. EDIHSC

Likewise, upholding the cancellation of ABANG LINGKOD's registration,


notwithstanding that it was able to obtain sufficient number of votes for a
legislative seat, would serve no purpose other than to subvert the will of the
electorate who voted to give ABANG LINGKOD the privilege to represent them in
the House of Representatives.

WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing disquisitions, the instant petition is


hereby GRANTED. The Resolution dated May 10, 2013 issued by
the Commission on Electionsin SPP Case No. 12-238 (PLM), insofar as it
affirmed the cancellation of ABANG LINGKOD's registration and disallowed it to
participate in the May 13, 2013 elections isREVERSED and SET ASIDE.

The Commission on Elections is


hereby ORDERED to PROCLAIM ABANG LINGKOD as one of the winning
party-list groups during the May 13, 2013 elections with the number of seats it
may be entitled to based on the total number of votes it garnered during the said
elections.

SO ORDERED.

Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-de Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Abad, Villarama, Jr., Perez,
Mendoza and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.

Sereno, C.J. and Carpio, J., join the dissent of J. Leonen.

Brion, J., I join J. Leonen.

Del Castillo, J., is on official leave.

Leonen, J., see dissenting opinion.

Separate Opinions

LEONEN, J., dissenting:


Election Law Cases

I dissent. This Petition should be denied.

The Commission on Elections did not gravely abuse its discretion so as to give
due course to this Petition. Reversing the Commission on Elections in this case
makes us party to the mockery of the electoral process done by the petitioner.

Atong Paglaum v. Commission on Elections 1 did not remove the legal


requirement that party-list groups must have proof of their existence and
genuineness as provided by law. It did not remove the Commission on Elections'
discretion to determine whether the party-list group that intends to be sectoral
as opposed to national or regional is genuine, has bona fide existence, and
truly represents its sector.

The petitioner submitted clearly falsified evidence to support its Manifestation


before the Commission on Elections. This is a statutory ground for the
cancellation of a party-list group's registration with the Commission on Elections.
Allowing a party-list organization that willfully presents false credentials betrays
the public trust, and We should not be party to its countenance.

The Procedural Antecedents


In this Petition for Certiorari, 2 Abang Lingkod Party List (ABANG LINGKOD)
challenged the May 10, 2013 Resolution issued by
the Commission on Elections En Banc in SPP No. 12-238 (PLM). The Resolution
affirmed the cancellation of the party-list's registration with
the Commission on Elections.

Petitioner ABANG LINGKOD filed its Petition for Registration and Accreditation as
a sectoral party on December 19, 2000. 3 The Commission on Elections granted
the Petition on December 22, 2009. 4 The petitioner participated in the 2010
party-list elections but failed to obtain the required 2% of the votes cast, and it
was not able to get a seat in the House of Representatives. 5

On May 31, 2012, ABANG LINGKOD filed its Manifestation of Intent to Participate
in the Party-list System of Representation in the May 2013 elections. 6
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In a Resolution dated August 9, 2012, the Commission on Elections set the


summary evidentiary hearing for all registered party-list groups. It required them
to submit relevant documents to prove continuing compliance with the provisions
of Republic Act No. 7941 or the Party-List System Act, including the names of the
witnesses it would present to testify to their continuing compliance, and the
judicial affidavits of these witnesses.

According to the respondent, it set three (3) hearing dates (August 17, August 31,
and September 3, 2012) for petitioner to present its witness and prove continuing
compliance with the requirements under Republic Act No. 7941. Petitioner failed
to present its witness on these hearing dates. 7

On November 7, 2012, respondent promulgated a Resolution cancelling


petitioner's Certificate of Registration/Accreditation for the then upcoming May
13, 2013 elections. The respondent stated in its Resolution that:

. . . it is not enough that the party-list organization claim


representation of the marginalized and underrepresented because
representation is easy to claim and feign. A careful perusal of the
records of the case would show that ABANG LINGKOD failed to
establish its track record. The track record is very important to prove that
the party-list organization continuously represents the marginalized and
underrepresented. . . . . cAEDTa

xxx xxx xxx

ABANG LINGKOD merely offered pictures of some alleged activities they


conducted after the elections in 2010. However, there is nothing in the
said records that would show that the party-list organization is indeed
composed of organizations of farmers, fisherfolk and peasants or that
they really conducted activities in line with its platform of government.

xxx xxx xxx

The importance of this examination of existing party-list organizations as


to their continuing compliance with the requirements of the law must be
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greatly emphasized. It is the duty of the Commission to ensure that only


those legitimate party-list organizations will have a chance to vie for a
seat in the Congress. Even those party-list organizations which are
previously accredited must pass the scrutiny of the Commission. Hence,
the party-list organizations must provide pieces of evidence showing that
it is indeed working for the upliftment of the lives of the . . . sector it
represents even after the elections in 2010. . . . . 8

On November 22, 2012, the petitioner and more than fifty (50) other party-list
groups filed a Petition for Certiorari with Prayer for Immediate Issuance of a Writ
of Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order and/or Status Quo
Ante Order assailing the November 7, 2012 Resolution of
the Commission on Elections En Banc.

In Atong Paglaum v. Commission on Elections 9 promulgated on April 2, 2013,


this Court resolved the Petitions of the party-list groups affected by the November
7, 2012 Resolution of the Commission on Elections. This Court also remanded
the Petitions to determine if these party-list groups were qualified for registration
under the parameters laid down in the Decision.

On May 10, 2013, the Commission on Elections issued the assailed Resolution,
affirming the cancellation of ABANG LINGKOD's registration under the party-list
system. The Commission on Elections issued the Resolution without any
summary evidentiary hearing and explained its Decision, to wit:

ABANG LINGKOD's registration was cancelled as it failed to establish a


track record of continuously representing the peasant [and] farmers
sector, and that its nominees are not marginalized and
underrepresented, without any participation in its programs and
advocacies.

The Commission maintains its petition in the previous en banc ruling


cancelling the registration of ABANG LINGKOD. To reiterate, it is not
enough that the party-list organization claim representation of the
marginalized and underrepresented because representation is easy to
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claim and to feign. It is but reasonable to require from groups and


organizations consistent participation and advocacy in the sector it seeks
to represent, and not just seasonal and "sporadic" programs which are
unrelated to its sector.

ABANG LINGKOD submitted pictures showing a seminar held on 10 July


2010, Medical Mission on 11 November 2010, Disaster Management
Training on 21 October 2011, Book-giving on 28 June 2011, and Medical
Mission on 1 December 2011.

And as if to insult the Commission, the photographs submitted appear to


have been edited to show in the banners
that ABANG LINGKOD participated in the
activities.ABANG LINGKOD's name and logo was superimposed on
some banners to feign participation in the activities (Joint Medical-Dental
Mission, Book-giving).

Under The Party-List System Act, a group's registration may be


cancelled for declaring unlawful statements in its petition. Photoshopping
images to establish a fact that did not occur is tantamount to declaring
unlawful statements. It is on this ground that the Commission
cancels ABANG LINGKOD's registration. 10

On May 12, 2013, petitioner ABANG LINGKOD filed an Extremely Urgent Motion
for Reconsideration before the Commission on Elections En Banc. However,
because of the exigencies of the case, the petitioner filed on May 15, 2013 a
Manifestation with Motion to Withdraw its Extremely Urgent Motion for
Reconsideration since the results of the May 13, 2013 elections were then being
canvassed, and the public respondent Commission on Elections may not have
the time to pass upon the merits of the case.

The petitioner then filed the current Petition for Certiorari (With Prayer for
Immediate Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Temporary
Restraining Order and/or Status Quo Ante Order).

The material issues in this case are the following:


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I.Whether national, regional, and sectoral parties and organizations


are required under the law to show their genuineness
and bona fide existence in determining if they are eligible for
registration with the Commission on Elections; and

II.Whether the Commission on Elections gravely abused its


discretion in cancelling ABANG LINGKOD's registration
under the party-list system.

The petitioner submitted that the Commission on Elections En Banc committed


grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in affirming
the cancellation of ABANG LINGKOD's Certificate of Registration/Accreditation
under the party-list system of representation. It claimed
that ABANG LINGKOD was not given the opportunity to show that it meets the
six-point parameters set by this Honorable Court in Atong
Paglaum v. Commission on Elections. 11 It also claimed that, since it had
previously been registered with the Commission on Elections, it is, therefore,
qualified to participate in the May 13, 2013 elections. Thus, it concluded that
theCommission on Elections violated ABANG LINGKOD's constitutional right to
due process.

The petitioner also submitted that the Commission on Elections En


Banc committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction in affirming the cancellation of ABANG LINGKOD's Certificate of
Registration/Accreditation on the sole basis that it supposedly "photoshopped" or
digitally manipulated images through Adobe Photoshop an act tantamount to
declaring unlawful statements. It claimed that the fact sought to be proven by
these pieces of evidence is not part of the six-point criteria set by this Honorable
Court in the Atong Paglaum case and that it was not given its day in court to
refute these findings.

Respondent, on the other hand, asserted that proof of track record and the
proscription against declaring untruthful statements in a party-list organization's
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Petition are requirements of the law reiterated in the cases of Ang Bagong
Bayani and Atong Paglaum.

It added that the petitioner does not have a vested right in its registration and
accreditation as a party-list organization.

Finally, the respondent Commission on Elections reiterated that its findings of


facts are supported by substantial evidence. Hence,
the Commission on Elections' determination that the pieces of evidence
submitted by the petitioner were falsified is now final and non-reviewable.

We should deny the Petition for the reason that the Commission on Elections did
not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying the registration of
petitioner ABANGLINGKOD.

Certiorari exercised only when grave abuse of discretion is sufficiently shown


The jurisdiction of this Court in cases involving certiorari and the decisions,
orders or rulings of the Commission on Elections must be discussed first.

Section 7 of Article IX-A of the 1987 Constitution provides that:

Section 7.Each Commission shall decide by a majority vote of all its


Members, any case or matter brought before it within sixty days from the
date of its submission for decision or resolution. A case or matter is
deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last
pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the rules of the Commission
or by the Commission itself. Unless otherwise provided by
this Constitution or by law, any decision, order, or ruling of each
Commission may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by
the aggrieved party within thirty days from receipt of a copy
thereof. (Emphasis provided)

This constitutional provision serves as the basis for this Court's review of
the Commission on Elections' rulings under the standards of Rule 65 through
Rule 64 of the Rules of Court. 12 Such power of review of this Court must be
exercised under the standard of grave abuse of
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discretion. In Ocate v. Commission on Elections, 13 this Court laid down the rule
in resolving petitions for certiorari under Rule 64, to wit:

The purpose of a petition for certiorari is to determine whether the


challenged tribunal has acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction
or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction. Thus, any resort to a petition for certiorari under Rule 64 in
relation to Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is limited to the
resolution of jurisdictional issues. 14 (Emphasis provided)

Thus, in Typoco v. Commission on Elections, 15 We said that:

In a special civil action for certiorari, the burden rests on petitioner to


prove not merely reversible error, but grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of public
respondent issuing the impugned order, decision or
resolution. "Grave abuse of discretion" is such capricious and whimsical
exercise of judgment equivalent to lack of jurisdiction or excess thereof.
It must be patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty
or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in
contemplation of law as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and
despotic manner by reason of passion and hostility. "Grave abuse of
discretion" arises when a court or tribunal violates the Constitution, the
law or existing jurisprudence. 16 (Emphasis provided)

The rule on limited jurisdiction on certiorari should be applied in this case. It is


only when the petitioner has sufficiently shown that
the Commission on Elections may have committed grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction that this Court should take cognizance
of the Petition filed under Rule 64.

Requirement of genuineness and bona fide existence


Proof that national, regional, and sectoral parties and organizations exist and are
genuine is required by the law to determine whether a party-list group is eligible
for registration with the Commission on Elections and may participate in the
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national elections. The kind of record that is required by law is not the same as
that which was formerly required in Ang Bagong Bayani. This requirement is
evident from an analysis of the provisions of Republic Act No. 7941 and the
interpretations of this Court. DEHaAS

The Declaration of Principles or Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7941 provides that:

. . . the State shall develop and guarantee a full, free and open party
system in order to attain the broadest possible representation of party,
sectoral or group interests in the House of Representatives by
enhancing their chances to compete for and win seats in the
legislature, and shall provide the simplest scheme possible.

A party, by law, is either "a political party or a sectoral party or a coalition of


parties." 17 A political party is defined as:

. . . an organized group of citizens advocating an ideology or


platform, principles and policies for the general conduct of
government and which, as the most immediate means of securing
their adoption, regularly nominates and supports certain of its leaders
and members as candidates for public office. 18 (Emphasis provided)

A party is a national party "when its constituency is spread over the


geographical territory of at least a majority of the regions. It is a regional party
when itsconstituency is spread over the geographical territory of at least a
majority of the cities and provinces comprising the region." 19

On the other hand, a sectoral party:

. . . refers to an organized group of citizens belonging to any of the


sectors enumerated in Section 5 hereof whose principal advocacy
pertains to the special interest and concerns of their
sector[.] 20 (Emphasis provided)

The use of ideology, platform, principles, policies, advocacy of special interests


and concerns of the sector, and the existence of constituencies in defining
parties all pertain to evidence of a duly existing and genuine party-list
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group. All these are what the law, Republic Act No. 7941, requires from parties
that aspire to participate in the party-list elections.

With regard to this Court's interpretation of the provisions of the law, We recently
redefined party-list groups and set new parameters in determining who may
participate in the party-list elections, to wit:

1.Three different groups may participate in the party-list system: (1)


national parties or organizations, (2) regional parties or organizations,
and (3) sectoral parties or organizations.

2.National parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations


do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to
represent any "marginalized and underrepresented" sector.

3.Political parties can participate in party-list elections provided they


register under the party-list system and do not field candidates in
legislative district elections. A political party, whether major or not, that
fields candidates in legislative district elections can participate in party
list elections only through its sectoral wing that can separately register
under the party-list system. The sectoral wing is by itself an independent
sectoral party, and is linked to a political party through a coalition.

4.Sectoral parties or organizations may either be "marginalized and


underrepresented" or lacking in "well-defined political constituencies." It
is enough that their principal advocacy pertains to the special interest
and concerns of their sector. The sectors that are "marginalized and
underrepresented" include labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor,
indigenous cultural communities, handicapped, veterans, and overseas
workers. The sectors that lack "well-defined political constituencies"
include professionals, the elderly, women, and the youth.

5.A majority of the members of sectoral parties or organizations that


represent the "marginalized and underrepresented" must belong to the
"marginalized and underrepresented" sector they represent. Similarly, a
majority of the members of sectoral parties or organizations that lack
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"well-defined political constituencies" must belong to the sector they


represent. The nominees of sectoral parties or organizations that
represent the "marginalized and underrepresented," or that represent
those who lack "well-defined political constituencies," either must belong
to their respective sectors, or must have a track record of advocacy for
their respective sectors. The nominees of national and regional parties
or organizations must be bona fide members of such parties or
organizations.

6.National, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations shall not be


disqualified if some of their nominees are disqualified, provided that they
have at least one nominee who remains qualified. 21

This redefinition was based on a plain reading of Article VI, Section 5 (1) of the
1987 Constitution. In Atong Paglaum, We said that:

Section 5(1), Article VI of the Constitution is crystal-clear that there shall


be "a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral
parties or organizations." The commas after the words "national[,]"
and "regional[,]" separate national and regional parties from sectoral
parties. Had the framers of the 1987Constitution intended national and
regional parties to be at the same time sectoral, they would have stated
"national and regional sectoral parties." They did not, precisely because
it was never their intention to make the party-list system exclusively
sectoral.

xxx xxx xxx

Moreover, Section 5(2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution mandates


that, during the first three consecutive terms of Congress after the
ratification of the 1987Constitution, "one-half of the seats allocated to
party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection
or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural
communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided
by law, except the religious sector." This provision clearly shows again
Election Law Cases

that the party-list system is not exclusively for sectoral parties for two
obvious reasons.

First, the other one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives


would naturally be open to non-sectoral party-list representatives, clearly
negating the idea that the party-list system is exclusively for sectoral
parties representing the "marginalized and
underrepresented." Second, the reservation of one-half of the party-list
seats to sectoral parties applies only for the first "three consecutive
terms after the ratification of this Constitution," clearly making the party-
list system fully open after the end of the first three congressional terms.
This means that, after this period, there will be no seats reserved for any
class or type of party that qualifies under the three groups constituting
the party-list system.

Hence, the clear intent, express wording, and party-list structure


ordained in Section 5(1) and (2), Article VI of the
1987 Constitution cannot be disputed: the party-list system is not
for sectoral parties only, but also for non-sectoral parties.

xxx xxx xxx

Section 3(a) of R.A. No. 7941 defines a "party" as "either a political


party or a sectoral party or a coalition of parties." Clearly, a political
party is different from a sectoral party. Section 3(c) of R.A. No.
7941 further provides that a "political party refers to an
organized group of citizens advocating an ideology or platform,
principles and policies for the general conduct of government." On
the other hand, Section 3(d) of R.A. No. 7941 provides that a "sectoral
party refers to an organized group of citizens belonging to any of the
sectors enumerated in Section 5 hereof whose principal advocacy
pertains to the special interest and concerns of their sector." R.A.
No. 7941 provides different definitions for a political and a sectoral party.
Obviously, they are separate and distinct from each other. cCTESa
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R.A. No. 7941 does not require national and regional parties or
organizations to represent the "marginalized and
underrepresented" sectors. To require all national and regional parties
under the party-list system to represent the "marginalized and
underrepresented" is to deprive and exclude, by judicial fiat, ideology-
based and cause-oriented parties from the party-list system. . . . . 22

To reiterate and as I have explained in my Concurring and Dissenting


Opinion 23 in Atong Paglaum, the Constitution acknowledges that there are
different kinds of party-list groups aside from sectoral groups. "To require
that all the seats for party-list representatives continue to be sectoral is clearly
and patently unconstitutional." 24 "Article VI, [S]ection[s] 5 (1) and (2) already
imply a complete Constitutional framework for the party-list system." 25 Congress
should not legislate if it adds requirements laid down in the Constitution such that
even national and regional parties or organizations may be considered
sectoral. 26

The ponencia in this case supposes that when the majority in Atong
Paglaum declared as part of the fifth (5th) parameter that the "nominees of the
sectoral party either must belong to the sector, or must have a track record of
advocacy for the sector represented," it meant that the track record
requirement will only apply to the sectoral groups. I take a contrary view,
especially since this Court in several cases already deemed track record as one
of the factors considered in allowing groups to participate in party-list elections,
although discussed in the previous definition or framework of party-list groups. 27

The redefinition of the parameters for party-list registration to include national and
regional parties or organizations did not remove the requirement of showing that
these groups existed prior to the elections they wish to participate in and that they
indeed operate as genuine organizations. I maintain that the record of a party
or an organization's genuineness and bona fide existence is necessary for
all parties and organizations, whether national, regional or sectoral. This
will show whether the party-list group is genuine and not an expediently
Election Law Cases

created formation that does not have any advocacy. This is evident from the
law, particularly from Section 5 of Republic Act No. 7941, to wit:

Section 5.Registration. Any organized group of persons may register


as a party, organization or coalition for purposes of the party-list system
by filing with the COMELEC not later than ninety (90) days before the
election a petition verified by its president or secretary stating its desire
to participate in the party-list system as a national, regional or sectoral
party or organization or a coalition of such parties or
organizations, attaching thereto its constitution, by-laws, platform or
program of government, list of officers, coalition agreement and
other relevant information as the COMELEC may require: Provided,
That the sectors shall include labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor,
indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth,
veterans, overseas workers, and professionals. (Emphasis provided)

Atong Paglaum declared that there may be national or regional parties or


organizations apart from sectoral groups. Thus, the requirements for each of
these groups have been modified. All national, regional or sectoral parties or
organizations should show that they have been existing as bona
fide organizations. Sectoral organizations should, therefore, prove links with the
sector that they represent. Reading the text of Republic Act No. 7941 and
previous rulings of this Court, this record may be established by presenting an
organization's constitution, by-laws, platform or program of government, list of
officers, coalition agreement, and other relevant information as may be required
by the Commission on Elections.

It is important for the groups to show that they are capable of participating in the
elections and that they will not make a mockery of the electoral system,
specifically the party-list system.

It is the parties or organizations, and not only the nominees, that must have a
concrete and verifiable record of political participation that shows how their
political platforms have been translated into action. It must be noted that when
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the Commission on Elections cancelled ABANG LINGKOD's registration, it


reasoned that:

ABANG LINGKOD merely offered pictures of some alleged activities


they conducted after the elections in 2010. However, there is nothing
in the said records that would show that the party-list organization is
indeed composed of organizations of farmers, fisherfolk and peasants or
that they really conducted activities in line with its platform of
government. 28 (Emphasis provided)

When the Commission on Elections made this statement, it was clearly reviewing
the qualifications of the party and not just its nominees.

Atong Paglaum did not in any way remove the genuineness and bona
fide existence requirements for registration with the Commission on Elections,
contrary to the stand taken by the ponencia. It only qualified that
the nominees of sectoral parties or organizations need not
prove both membership in their sector and record of advocacy for their respective
sectors. Atong Paglaum did not categorically state that party-list groups are not
required to show records of its genuineness and bona fide existence.

Petitioner is a sectoral party-list group that purports to represent the peasant


farmers. 29 However, it did not even comply with the bare requirement that
sectoral party-list groups representing a sector should show that their principal
advocacy pertains to the special interest and concerns of their sector. 30 As
correctly argued by the public respondent, 31 petitioner will not, therefore, qualify
even under the new parameters set forth in Atong Paglaum.

Untruthful statements
The Commission on Elections did not commit grave abuse of discretion in
cancelling ABANG LINGKOD's registration under the party-list system when the
party-list group made an "untruthful statement" in its Petition, thereby violating
Section 6 of Republic Act No. 7941. Section 6 provides:
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Section 6.Refusal and/or Cancellation of Registration. The


COMELEC may, motu propio or upon verified complaint of any interested
party, refuse or cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of
any national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition on any
of the following grounds:

xxx xxx xxx

(4)It is receiving support from any foreign government, foreign political


party, foundation, organization, whether directly or through any of its
officers or members or indirectly through third parties for partisan
election purposes;

(5)It violates or fails to comply with laws, rules or regulations relating to


elections;

(6)It declares untruthful statements in its petition;

(7)It has ceased to exist for at least one (1) year; or

(8)It fails to participate in the last two (2) preceding elections or fails to
obtain at least two per centum (2%) of the votes cast under the party-list
system in the two (2) preceding elections for the constituency in which it
has registered. (Emphasis provided) AHCaES

In the Commission on Elections Resolution No. 9366, 32 the Commission laid


down the rules applicable to party-list groups expecting to participate in the May
13, 2013 national elections:

RULE 1

FILING OF PETITIONS FOR REGISTRATION

Section 7.Documents to support petition for registration. The


following documents shall support petitions for registration:

a.Constitution and by-laws as an organization seeking


registration under the party-list system of representation;
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b.Platform or program of government;

xxx xxx xxx

f.Track record summary showing that it represents and


seeks to uplift the marginalized and
underrepresented sector/s it seeks to represent;

g.Coalition agreement, if any, and the detailed list of affiliates


comprising the coalition, including the signed coalition
agreement;

h.Sworn proof/s of existence in the areas where the organization


is claiming representation; and

i.Other information required by the Commission.

xxx xxx xxx

RULE 2
OPPOSITION TO A PETITION FOR REGISTRATION
Section 2.Grounds for opposition to a petition for registration.
The Commission may deny due course to the petition motu propio or
upon verified opposition of any interested party, after due notice and
hearing, on any of the following grounds:

xxx xxx xxx

f.It violates or fails to comply with laws, rules or regulations


relating to elections;

g.It has made untruthful statements in its Petition;

h.It has ceased to exist for a period of at least one (1) year;

i.It fails to participate in the last two (2) preceding elections or


fails to obtain at least two per centum (2%) of the votes
cast under the party-list system in the two (2) preceding
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elections for the constituency in which it has registered;


or

j.The petition has been filed to put the election process in


mockery or disrepute, or to cause confusion among the
voters by the similarity of names or registered parties, or
by other circumstances or acts which clearly demonstrate
that the petitioner has no bona fide intention to represent
the sector for which the petition has been filed and thus
prevent a faithful determination of the true will of the
electorate.

Section 3.Removal and/or cancellation of registration; Grounds.


The Commission may motu proprio or upon a verified complaint of
any interested party, remove or cancel, after due notice and
hearing, the registration of any party-list group organization or
coalition on any of the grounds mentioned in Section 2 of this
Rule. Any party whose registration has been removed or cancelled shall
not be allowed to participate in the party-list system, or from being
proclaimed if the evidence is strong. (Emphasis provided)

All these clearly state that the declaration of untruthful statements is a ground for
cancelling the registration of a party-list group. However, the ponencia states that:

. . . a declaration of an untruthful statement in a petition for registration


under Section 6(6) of R.A. No. 7941, in order to be a ground for the
refusal and/or cancellation of registration under the party-list system,
must pertain to the qualification of the party, organization or coalition
under the party-list system. . . .

The digitally altered photographs of activities submitted


by ABANG LINGKOD to prove its continuing qualification under R.A. No.
7941 only pertains to its track record, which, as already discussed, is no
longer a requirement under the new parameters laid down in Atong
Paglaum. Simply put, it does not affect the qualification
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ofABANG LINGKOD as a party-list group and, hence, could not be used


as a ground to cancel its registration under the party-list system. 33

I do not question the point that the disqualification of one or some of the
nominees of party-list groups will not automatically result to disqualification. I
agree that a party-list group must be treated separately and distinctly from its
nominees, such that the qualifications of the nominees are not considered part
and parcel of the qualifications of the party-list itself. However, in this case, when
the digitally manipulated pictures were submitted by ABANG LINGKOD, it was
done to prove the continuous qualifications of the party-list group for
registration with the Commission on Elections. 34 The "photoshopped" or altered
pictures indicating the name of the party-list group were intended to deceive
people into thinking that the group was engaging in joint medical and dental
mission and book-giving activities.

The reliance of the ponencia on Lluz v. Commission on Elections 35 in relating the


act of declaring an untruthful statement to the concept of material
misrepresentation is not precise. The circumstances and provisions of law
involved in Lluz do not square with the present case. In Lluz, this Court
determined whether the respondent committed material misrepresentation when
he declared his profession as "Certified Public Accountant" in his Certificate of
Candidacy. As We said in that case, "Profession or occupation not being a
qualification for elective office, misrepresentation of such does not constitute a
material misrepresentation." 36 In the present case, what is at issue is the
genuineness and existence of the party-list group. This includes the
question as to whether they truly represent the sector. The claim of
representation can be supported by proof of their activities in relation to their
sector. As established above, this record of genuineness and existence is a
continuing requirement of the law and goes into the qualifications of the party-list.

The brazen use of falsified documents of ABANG LINGKOD in its compliance for
registration is deplorable and appalling because of the obvious intent to deceive
theCommission on Elections and the electorate. It cannot be tolerated. It
denigrates the right to suffrage. Submitting falsified documents is tantamount to
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making declarations of untruthful statements. It is a ground for cancellation of the


registration/accreditation of the party-list group under Section 6 of Republic Act
No. 7941. SETaHC

In V.C. Cadangen v. Commission on Elections, 37 this Court denied the Alliance


of Civil Servants, Inc.'s (or Civil Servants') Petition for failing to comply with the
law and for declaring an untruthful statement in its Memorandum, as found by
the Commission on Elections. As proof of a nationwide constituency, Civil
Servants presented a picture of its website where members allegedly discussed
different issues confronting government employees and where it was asserted
that its membership was divided into different working committees to address
several issues of its sectors. Upon verification, the Commission on Elections'
election officers reported that Civil Servants existed only in Paraaque City's First
and Second Districts and in Quezon City's Fourth District. This finding was
contrary to the petitioner's claim of national constituency in its Memorandum. In
holding that the Commission on Elections did not commit grave abuse of
discretion in issuing the assailed Resolutions, 38 this Court said:

The COMELEC, after evaluating the documents submitted by


petitioner, denied the latter's plea for registration as a sectoral party,
not on the basis of its failure to prove its nationwide presence, but for
its failure to show that it represents and seeks to uplift marginalized
and underrepresented sectors. Further, the COMELEC found that
petitioner made an untruthful statement in the pleadings and
documents it submitted.

. . . The findings of fact made by the COMELEC, or by any other


administrative agency exercising expertise in its particular field of
competence, are binding on the Court." 39

The actions of the group amounted to declaring untruthful statements, which


the Commission on Elections correctly considered as a ground for the
cancellation of the petitioner's Certificate of Registration under Section 6
of Republic Act No. 7941. Again, to constitute grave abuse of discretion, the
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abuse of discretion must be such "capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment


as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, or in other words, where the power is
exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal
hostility." 40 It "must be so patent and gross to amount to an evasion of positive
duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation
of law." 41 The Commission on Elections, therefore, did not commit grave abuse
of discretion in promulgating the assailed Resolution.

WHEREFORE, I vote to DENY the Petition. The Resolution dated May 10, 2013
issued by the Commission on Elections in SPP Case No. 12-238 (PLM) should
be AFFIRMED.
||| (Abang Lingkod Party List v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 206952, [October 22, 2013])

SILVERIO R. TAGOLINO, petitioner, vs. HOUSE OF


REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL AND LUCY
MARIE TORRES-GOMEZ, respondents.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J : p

Assailed in this Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules
of Court is the March 22, 2012 Decision 1 of the House of Representatives
Electoral Tribunal (HRET) in HRET Case No. 10-031 (QW) which declared the
validity of private respondent Lucy Marie Torres-Gomez's substitution as the
Liberal Party's replacement candidate for the position of Leyte Representative
(Fourth Legislative District) in lieu of Richard Gomez.

The Facts
On November 30, 2009, Richard Gomez (Richard) filed his certificate of
candidacy 2 (CoC) with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), seeking
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congressional office as Representative for the Fourth Legislative District of Leyte


under the ticket of the Liberal Party. Subsequently, on December 6, 2009, one of
the opposing candidates, Buenaventura Juntilla (Juntilla), filed a Verified
Petition, 3 alleging that Richard, who was actually a resident of Colgate Street,
East Greenhills, San Juan City, Metro Manila, misrepresented in his CoC that he
resided in 910 Carlota Hills, Can-adieng, Ormoc City. In this regard, Juntilla
asserted that Richard failed to meet the one (1) year residency requirement
under Section 6, Article VI 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution (Constitution) and
thus should be declared disqualified/ineligible to run for the said office. In
addition, Juntilla prayed that Richard's CoC be denied due course and/or
cancelled. 5

On February 17, 2010, the COMELEC First Division rendered a


Resolution 6 granting Juntilla's petition without any qualification. The dispositive
portion of which reads: aHESCT

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it


hereby RESOLVES, to GRANT the Petition to Disqualify Candidate for
Lack of Qualification filed byBUENAVENTURA O.
JUNTILLA against RICHARD I. GOMEZ. Accordingly, RICHARD I.
GOMEZ is DISQUALIFIED as a candidate for the Office of
Congressman, Fourth District of Leyte, for lack of residency requirement.

SO ORDERED.

Aggrieved, Richard moved for reconsideration but the same was denied by the
COMELEC En Banc through a Resolution dated May 4, 2010. 7 Thereafter, in a
Manifestation of even date, Richard accepted the said resolution with finality "in
order to enable his substitute to facilitate the filing of the necessary documents
for substitution." 8

On May 5, 2010, Lucy Marie Torres-Gomez (private respondent) filed her


CoC 9 together with a Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance 10 from the
Liberal Party endorsing her as the party's official substitute candidate vice her
husband, Richard, for the same congressional post. In response to various letter-
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requests submitted to the COMELEC's Law Department (Law Department), the


COMELEC En Banc, in the exercise of its administrative functions, issued
Resolution No. 8890 11 on May 8, 2010, approving, among others, the
recommendation of the said department to allow the substitution of private
respondent. The recommendation reads:

STUDY AND OBSERVATION

On the same date, this Department received an Opposition from Mr.


Buenaventura O. Juntilla, thru his counsel, opposing the candidacy of
Ms. Lucy Marie Torres Gomez, as a substitute candidate for Mr. Richard
I. Gomez.

The crux of the opposition stemmed from the issue that there should be
no substitution because there is no candidate to substitute for.

It must be stressed that the resolution of the First Division, this


Commission, in SPA No. 09-059 speaks for disqualification of candidate
Richard I. Gomez and not of cancellation of his Certificate of
Candidacy:

'Wherefore, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED,


as it hereby RESOLVES, to GRANT the Petition to Disqualify
Candidate for Lack of Qualification filed . . . against RICHARD I.
GOMEZ. Accordingly, RICHARD I. GOMEZ is DISQUALIFIED as
a candidate for the Office of Congressman, Fourth District of
Leyte, for lack of residency requirement.'

The said resolution was affirmed by the Commission En Banc on May


04, 2010.

The disqualification of a candidate does not automatically cancel one's


certificate of candidacy, especially when it is nominated by a political
party. In effect, the political party is still allowed to substitute the
candidate whose candidacy was declared disqualified. After all, the right
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to substitute is a privilege given to a political party to exercise and not


dependent totally to a candidate.

Nonetheless, in case of doubt, the same must always be resolved to the


qualification of a candidate to run in the public office.

The substitution complied with the requirements provided under Section


12 in relation to Section 13 of Comelec Resolution No. 8678 dated
October 6, 2009.

xxx xxx xxx

In view of the foregoing, the Law Department RECOMMENDS the


following:

xxx xxx xxx

2. TO ALLOW CANDIDATE LUCY MARIE TORRES


GOMEZ AS A SUBSTITUTE CANDIDATE FOR
RICHARD GOMEZ; (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied)

xxx xxx xxx

The following day, or on May 9, 2010, Juntilla filed an Extremely Urgent Motion
for Reconsideration 12 (May 9, 2010 Motion) of the above-mentioned
COMELEC En Bancresolution.

Pending resolution of Juntilla's May 9, 2010 Motion, the national and local
elections were conducted as scheduled on May 10, 2010. During the elections,
Richard, whose name remained on the ballots, garnered 101,250 votes while his
opponents, namely, Eufrocino Codilla, Jr. and herein petitioner Silverio Tagolino,
obtained 76,549 and 493 votes, respectively. 13 In view of the aforementioned
substitution, Richard's votes were credited in favor of private respondent and as a
result, she was proclaimed the duly-elected Representative of the Fourth District
of Leyte.
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On May 11, 2010, Juntilla filed an Extremely Urgent Motion to resolve the
pending May 9, 2010 Motion relative to Resolution No. 8890. 14 The said motion,
however, remained unacted. AIDTSE

On May 24, 2010, petitioner filed a Petition 15 for quo warranto before the HRET
in order to oust private respondent from her congressional seat, claiming that: (1)
she failed to comply with the one (1) year residency requirement under Section 6,
Article VI of the Constitution considering that the transfer of her voter registration
from San Rafael, Bulacan 16 to the Fourth District of Leyte was only applied for on
July 23, 2009; (2) she did not validly substitute Richard as his CoC was void ab
initio; and (3) private respondent's CoC was void due to her non-compliance with
the prescribed notarial requirements i.e., she failed to present valid and
competent proof of her identity before the notarizing officer. 17

In her Verified Answer, 18 private respondent denied petitioner's allegations and


claimed that she validly substituted her husband in the electoral process. She
also averred that she was personally known to the notary public who notarized
her CoC, one Atty. Edgardo Cordeno, and thus, she was not required to have
presented any competent proof of identity during the notarization of the said
document. Lastly, she asserted that despite her marriage to Richard and exercise
of profession in Metro Manila, she continued to maintain her residency in Ormoc
City which was the place where she was born and raised.

During the preliminary conference, and as shown in the Preliminary Conference


Order dated September 2, 2010, the parties agreed on the following issues for
resolution:

1. Whether or not the instant petition for quo warranto is meritorious;

2. Whether or not the substitution of respondent is valid;

3. Whether or not a petition for quo warranto can be used as a substitute


for failure to file the necessary petition for disqualification with the
COMELEC;

4. Whether or not respondent's COC was duly subscribed; and


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5. Whether or not respondent is ineligible for the position of


Representative of the Fourth District of Leyte for lack of residency
requirement. 19

Ruling of the HRET


After due proceedings, the HRET issued the assailed March 22, 2012
Decision 20 which dismissed the quo warranto petition and declared that private
respondent was a qualified candidate for the position of Leyte Representative
(Fourth Legislative District). It observed that the resolution denying Richard's
candidacy i.e., the COMELEC First Division's February 17, 2010 Resolution,
spoke of disqualification and not of CoC cancellation. Hence, it held that the
substitution of private respondent in lieu of Richard was legal and valid. 21 Also, it
upheld the validity of private respondent's CoC due to petitioner's failure to
controvert her claim that she was personally known to the notary public who
notarized her CoC. 22 Finally, the HRET ruled that while it had been admitted that
private respondent resides in Colgate Street, San Juan City and lived in San
Rafael, Bulacan, the fact was she continued to retain her domicile in Ormoc City
given that her absence therefrom was only temporary.

Hence, the instant petition.

Issues Before the Court


The crux of the present controversy is whether or not the HRET gravely abused
its discretion in finding that Richard was validly substituted by private respondent
as candidate for Leyte Representative (Fourth Legislative District) in view of the
former's failure to meet the one (1) year residency requirement provided under
Section 6, Article VI of the Constitution.

It is petitioner's submission that the HRET gravely abused its discretion when it
upheld the validity of private respondent's substitution despite contrary
jurisprudence holding that substitution is impermissible where the substituted
candidate's CoC was denied due course to and/or cancelled, as in the case of
Richard. On the other hand, respondents maintain that Richard's CoC was not
Election Law Cases

denied due course to and/or cancelled by the COMELEC as he was only


"disqualified" and therefore, was properly substituted by private respondent.

Ruling of the Court


The petition is meritorious.

A. Distinction between a petition


for disqualification and a petition to
deny due course to/cancel a
certificate of candidacy
The Omnibus Election Code 23 (OEC) provides for certain remedies to assail a
candidate's bid for public office. Among these which obtain particular significance
to this case are: (1) a petition for disqualification under Section 68; and (2) a
petition to deny due course to and/or cancel a certificate of candidacy under
Section 78. The distinctions between the two are well-perceived.

Primarily, a disqualification case under Section 68 of the OEC is hinged on


either: (a) a candidate's possession of a permanent resident status in a foreign
country; 24 or(b) his or her commission of certain acts of disqualification. Anent
the latter, the prohibited acts under Section 68 refer to election offenses under
the OEC, and not to violations of other penal laws. 25 In particular, these are: (1)
giving money or other material consideration to influence, induce or corrupt the
voters or public officials performing electoral functions; (2) committing acts of
terrorism to enhance one's candidacy; (3) spending in one's election campaign
an amount in excess of that allowed by the OEC; (4) soliciting, receiving or
making any contribution prohibited under Sections 89, 95, 96, 97 and 104 of the
OEC; and (5) violating Sections 80, 26 83, 2785, 28 86 29 and 261, paragraphs
d, 30 e, 31 k, 32 v, 33 and cc, sub-paragraph 6 34 of the OEC. Accordingly, the same
provision (Section 68) states that any candidate who, in an action or protest in
which he or she is a party, is declared by final decision of a competent court
guilty of, or found by the COMELEC to have committed any of the foregoing acts
shall be disqualified from continuing as a candidate for public office, or disallowed
from holding the same, if he or she had already been elected. 35
Election Law Cases

It must be stressed that one who is disqualified under Section 68 is still


technically considered to have been a candidate, albeit proscribed to continue as
such only because of supervening infractions which do not, however, deny his or
her statutory eligibility. In other words, while the candidate's compliance with the
eligibility requirements as prescribed by law, such as age, residency, and
citizenship, is not in question, he or she is, however, ordered to discontinue such
candidacy as a form of penal sanction brought about by the commission of the
above-mentioned election offenses.

On the other hand, a denial of due course to and/or cancellation of a CoC


proceeding under Section 78 of the OEC 36 is premised on a person's
misrepresentation of any of the material qualifications required for the elective
office aspired for. It is not enough that a person lacks the relevant qualification;
he or she must have also made a false representation of the same in the
CoC. 37 The nature of a Section 78 petition was discussed in the case
of Fermin v. COMELEC, 38 where the Court illumined: AcSIDE

Lest it be misunderstood, the denial of due course to or the


cancellation of the CoC is not based on the lack of qualifications but on
a finding that the candidate made a material representation that is
false, which may relate to the qualifications required of the public office
he/she is running for. It is noted that the candidate states in his/her
CoC that he/she is eligible for the office he/she seeks. Section 78 of
the OEC, therefore, is to be read in relation to the constitutional
and statutory provisions on qualifications or eligibility for public
office. If the candidate subsequently states a material
representation in the CoC that is false, the COMELEC, following
the law, is empowered to deny due course to or cancel such
certificate. Indeed, the Court has already likened a proceeding under
Section 78 to a quo warranto proceeding under Section 253 of the
OEC since they both deal with the eligibility or qualification of a
candidate, with the distinction mainly in the fact that a "Section 78"
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petition is filed before proclamation, while a petition for quo warranto is


filed after proclamation of the winning candidate. (Emphasis supplied)

Corollary thereto, it must be noted that the deliberateness of the


misrepresentation, much less one's intent to defraud, is of bare significance in a
Section 78 petition as it is enough that the person's declaration of a material
qualification in the CoC be false. In this relation, jurisprudence holds that an
express finding that the person committed any deliberate misrepresentation is of
little consequence in the determination of whether one's CoC should be deemed
cancelled or not. 39 What remains material is that the petition essentially seeks to
deny due course to and/or cancel the CoC on the basis of one's ineligibility and
that the same be granted without any qualification. 40

Pertinently, while a disqualified candidate under Section 68 is still considered to


have been a candidate for all intents and purposes, on the other hand, a person
whose CoC had been denied due course to and/or cancelled under Section 78 is
deemed to have not been a candidate at all. The reason being is that a cancelled
CoC is considered void ab initio and thus, cannot give rise to a valid candidacy
and necessarily, to valid votes. 41 In Talaga v. COMELEC 42 (Talaga), the Court
ruled that:

. . . While a person who is disqualified under Section 68 is merely


prohibited to continue as a candidate, a person whose certificate is
cancelled or denied due course under Section 78 is not treated as a
candidate at all, as if he/she never filed a CoC.

The foregoing variance gains utmost importance to the present case considering
its implications on candidate substitution.

B. Valid CoC as a condition sine


qua non for candidate substitution
Section 77 of the OEC provides that if an official candidate of a registered or
accredited political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, a person
belonging to and certified by the same political party may file a CoC to replace
the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified. It states that:
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Sec. 77. Candidates in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal of


another. If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy,
an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies,
withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to,
and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of
candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was
disqualified. (Emphasis supplied)

Evidently, Section 77 requires that there be an "official candidate" before


candidate substitution proceeds. Thus, whether the ground for substitution is
death, withdrawal or disqualification of a candidate, the said section
unequivocally states that only an official candidate of a registered or accredited
party may be substituted.43

As defined under Section 79 (a) of the OEC, the term "candidate" refers to any
person aspiring for or seeking an elective public office who has filed a
certificate of candidacy by himself or through an accredited political party,
aggroupment, or coalition of parties. Clearly, the law requires that one must have
validly filed a CoC in order to be considered a candidate. The requirement of
having a CoC obtains even greater importance if one considers its nature. In
particular, a CoC formalizes not only a person's public declaration to run for office
but evidences as well his or her statutory eligibility to be elected for the said post.
In Sinaca v. Mula, 44 the Court has illumined:

A certificate of candidacy is in the nature of a formal manifestation to


the whole world of the candidate's political creed or lack of political
creed. It is a statement of a person seeking to run for a public
office certifying that he announces his candidacy for the office
mentioned and that he is eligible for the office, the name of the
political party to which he belongs, if he belongs to any, and his post-
office address for all election purposes being as well stated. (Emphasis
and underscoring supplied.)
Election Law Cases

In this regard, the CoC is the document which formally accords upon a person
the status of a candidate. In other words, absent a valid CoC one is not
considered a candidate under legal contemplation. As held in Talaga: 45

. . . a person's declaration of his intention to run for public office and his
affirmation that he possesses the eligibility for the position he seeks to
assume, followed by the timely filing of such declaration, constitute
a valid CoC that render the person making the declaration a valid
or official candidate. (Emphasis supplied)

Considering that Section 77 requires that there be a candidate in order for


substitution to take place, as well as the precept that a person without a valid
CoC is not considered as a candidate at all, it necessarily follows that if a
person's CoC had been denied due course to and/or cancelled, he or she cannot
be validly substituted in the electoral process. The existence of a valid CoC is
therefore a condition sine qua non for a disqualified candidate to be validly
substituted. 46

C. Divergent effects of
disqualification and denial of due
course to and/or cancellation of COC
cases vis--vis candidate substitution
Proceeding from the foregoing discourse, it is evident that there lies a clear-cut
distinction between a disqualification case under Section 68 and denial of due
course to and/or cancellation of COC case under Section 78 vis--vis their
respective effects on candidate substitution under Section 77.

As explained in the case of Miranda v. Abaya 47 (Miranda), a candidate who is


disqualified under Section 68 can be validly substituted pursuant to Section 77
because he remains a candidate until disqualified; but a person whose CoC has
been denied due course to and/or cancelled under Section 78 cannot be
substituted because he is not considered a candidate. 48 Stated differently, since
there would be no candidate to speak of under a denial of due course to and/or
cancellation of a CoC case, then there would be no candidate to be substituted;
Election Law Cases

the same does not obtain, however, in a disqualification case since there remains
to be a candidate to be substituted, although his or her candidacy is
discontinued.

On this note, it is equally revelatory that Section 77 expressly enumerates the


instances where substitution is permissible, that is when an official candidate of a
registered or accredited political party "dies, withdraws or is disqualified for
any cause." Noticeably, material misrepresentation cases are not included in the
said section and therefore, cannot be a valid basis to proceed with candidate
substitution.

D. Application to the case at bar


In this case, it is undisputed that Richard was disqualified to run in the May 10,
2010 elections due to his failure to comply with the one year residency
requirement. 49The confusion, however, stemmed from the use of the word
"disqualified" in the February 17, 2010 Resolution of the COMELEC First
Division, which was adopted by the COMELEC En Banc in granting the
substitution of private respondent, and even further perpetuated by the HRET in
denying the quo warranto petition. In short, a finding that Richard was merely
disqualified and not that his CoC was denied due course to and/or cancelled
would mean that he could have been validly substituted by private respondent,
thereby legitimizing her candidacy.

Yet the fact that the COMELEC First Division's February 17, 2010 Resolution did
not explicitly decree the denial of due course to and/or cancellation of Richard's
CoC should not have obviated the COMELEC En Banc from declaring the
invalidity of private respondent's substitution. It should be stressed that the clear
and unequivocal basis for Richard's "disqualification" is his failure to comply with
the residency requirement under Section 6, Article VI of the Constitution which is
a ground for the denial of due course to and/or cancellation a CoC under Section
78 of the OEC, not for disqualification. 50 As earlier mentioned, the material
misrepresentation contemplated under a Section 78 petition refers to statements
affecting one's qualifications for elective office such as age, residence and
citizenship or non-possession of natural-born Filipino status. 51 There is
Election Law Cases

therefore no legal basis to support a finding of disqualification within the


ambit of election laws. Accordingly, given Richard's non-compliance with the
one year residency requirement, it cannot be mistaken that the COMELEC First
Division's unqualified grant of Juntilla's "Verified Petition to Disqualify Candidate
for Lack of Qualification" 52 which prayed that the COMELEC declare Richard
"DISQUALIFIED and INELIGIBLE from seeking the office of Member of the
House of Representatives" and ". . . that [his] Certificate of Candidacy . . . be
DENIED DUE COURSE and/or CANCELLED" 53 carried with it the denial of
due course to and/or cancellation of Richard's CoC pursuant to Section 78.

Case law dictates that if a petition prays for the denial of due course to and/or
cancellation of CoC and the same is granted by the COMELEC without any
qualification, the cancellation of the candidate's CoC is in order. This is precisely
the crux of the Miranda ruling wherein the Court, in upholding the COMELEC En
Banc's nullification of the substitution in that case, decreed that the COMELEC
Division's unqualified grant of the petition necessarily included the denial of due
course to and/or cancellation of the candidate's CoC, notwithstanding the use of
the term "disqualified" in the COMELEC Division's resolution, as the foregoing
was prayed for in the said petition:

The question to settle next is whether or not aside from Joel "Pempe"
Miranda being disqualified by the COMELEC in its May 5, 1998
resolution, his certificate of candidacy had likewise been denied due
course and cancelled.

The Court rules that it was.

Private respondent's petition in SPA No. 98-019 specifically prayed for


the following:

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed that the


Certificate of Candidacy filed by respondent for the
position of Mayor for the City of Santiago be not given
due course and/or cancelled.
Election Law Cases

Other reliefs just and equitable in the premises are


likewise prayed for. CacTSI

In resolving the petition filed by private respondent specifying a very


particular relief, the COMELEC ruled favorably in the following manner:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Commission


(FIRST DIVISION) GRANTS the Petition. Respondent
JOSE "Pempe" MIRANDA is herebyDISQUALIFIED from
running for the position of mayor of Santiago City,
Isabela, in the May 11, 1998 national and local elections.

SO ORDERED.

From a plain reading of the dispositive portion of the COMELEC


resolution of May 5, 1998 in SPA No. 98-019, it is sufficiently clear that
the prayer specifically and particularly sought in the petition was
GRANTED, there being no qualification on the matter whatsoever.
The disqualification was simply ruled over and above the granting of the
specific prayer for denial of due course and cancellation of the certificate
of candidacy.

xxx xxx xxx

There is no dispute that the complaint or petition filed by private


respondent in SPA No. 98-019 is one to deny due course and to
cancel the certificate of candidacy of Jose "Pempe" Miranda.
Ther