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THE DIOCESE OF BACOLOD, REPRESENTED BY REV.

BISHOP VICENTE NAVARRA are exceptional circumstances which would allow the SC to take
AND THE BISHOP HIMSELF IN HIS PERSONAL CAPACITY vs. COMELEC AND THE cognizance of the case.
ELECTION OFFICER OF BACOLOD CITY, ATTY. MAVIL MAJARUCON
JANUARY 21, 2015 RULING: The Notice/Order of Election Officer Majarucon and the Order by the
LEONEN, J. COMELEC Law Department are reviewable under Rule 65.

FACTS Rule 64 is not the exclusive remedy for all acts of the COMELEC. Rule 65 is
Ps posted two tarpaulins within the private compound that houses the San applicable especially to raise objections relating to a grave abuse of discretion
Sebastian Cathedral of Bacolod. The second one - the subject of this case - resulting in the ouster of jurisdiction. As a special civil action, there must also
contains the heading "Conscience Vote" and lists electoral candidates as either be a showing that there be no plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the
"Team Buhay" with a check mark, or "Team Patay" with an "x" mark, according ordinary course of the law.
to their vote on the adoption of the RH Law. Election Officer Majarucon issued
a Notice to Remove Campaign Materials to P, and subsequently, a letter In Ambil, Jr. vs COMELEC, the SC interpreted [Section 7, Article IX-A of the
ordering the immediate removal of the tarpaulin; otherwise, the filing of an Constitution], as a general rule, to mean final orders, rulings and decisions of
election offense against Ps. the COMELEC rendered in the exercise of its adjudicatory or quasi-judicial
powers." This decision must be a final decision or resolution of the COMELEC
Ps then filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with application for En Banc, not of a division, certainly not an interlocutory order of a division. The
preliminary injunction and TRO with the SC, questioning Rs' notice and letter. Supreme Court has no power to review via certiorari, an interlocutory order
SC issued a TRO and set the case for oral arguments. or even a final resolution of a Division of the Commission on Elections.

Rs, in their Comment, argued that: (1) a petition for certiorari and prohibition However, there are exceptions to this rule. In Repol vs. COMELEC, the Court
under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is not the proper remedy to question the held that, based on ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. vs. COMELEC, SC could review
notice and letter of respondents and (2) the tarpaulin is an election orders and decisions of COMELEC — in electoral contests — despite not being
propaganda subject to regulation by COMELEC pursuant to its mandate under reviewed by the COMELEC En Banc, if:
the Constitution. Rs pray for the petition to be dismissed on the ground that
the notice and letter are not final orders, decisions, rulings or judgments of 1) It will prevent the miscarriage of justice;
the COMELEC En Banc issued in the exercise of its adjudicatory powers, 2) The issue involves a principle of social justice;
reviewable via Rule 64 of the Rules of Court. They contend that the notice and 3) The issue involves the protection of labor;
letter are reviewable only by COMEEC itself pursuant to Article IX-C, Sec. 2(3) 4) The decision or resolution sought tobe set aside is a nullity; or
of the Constitution and that the SC's power to review is "limited only to final 5) The need for relief is extremely urgent and certiorari is the only adequate
decisions, rulings and orders of the COMELEC En Banc rendered in the exercise and speedy remedy available.
of its adjudicatory or quasi-judicial power."
The cases cited by Rs (Ambil, Repola, etc.) do not operate as precedents to
TOPICAL ISSUE: oust the Court from taking jurisdiction over the present case. All the cases
1. Whether the Notice/Order by Election Officer Majarucon and the cited involve election protests or disqualification cases filed by the losing
Order by the COMELEC Law Department are considered candidate against the winning candidate. n the present case, petitioners are
judgments/final orders/resolutions of the COMELEC which would not candidates seeking for public office. Their petition is filed to assert their
warrant a review of this Court via Rule 65 Petition; fundamental right to expression. Furthermore, this case pertains to acts of
2. Assuming that the aforementioned Orders are not considered COMELEC in the implementation of its regulatory powers. When it issued the
judgments/final orders/resolutions of the COMELEC, whether there notice and letter, the COMELEC was allegedly enforcing election laws.
Certainly, a breach of the fundamental right of expression by COMELEC is grave
The main subject of this case is an alleged constitutional violation: the abuse of discretion. Thus, the constitutionality of the notice and letter coming
infringement on speech and the "chilling effect" caused by respondent from COMELEC is within this court’s power to review.
COMELEC’s notice and letter. Ps allege that the notice and letter issued by the
COMELEC infringe on their fundamental right to freedom of expression and During elections, we have the power and the duty to correct any grave abuse
violate the principle of separation of church and state, and thus, are of discretion or any act tainted with unconstitutionality on the part of any
unconstitutional. government branch or instrumentality. This includes actions by the COMELEC.
Furthermore, it is this court’s constitutional mandate to protect the people
COMELEC’s notice and letter affect preferred speech. Respondents’ acts are against government’s infringement of their fundamental rights. This
capable of repetition. Under the conditions in which it was issued and in view constitutional mandate outweighs the jurisdiction vested with the COMELEC.
of the novelty of this case ,it could result in a "chilling effect" that would affect
other citizens who want their voices heard on issues during the elections. It will, thus, be manifest injustice if the court does not take jurisdiction over
Other citizens who wish to express their views regarding the election and this case.
other related issues may choose not to, for fear of reprisal or sanction by the
COMELEC. Direct resort to this court is allowed to avoid such proscribed The Petition is GRANTED. The act of the COMELEC in issuing the assailed notie
conditions. Rule 65 is also the procedural platform for raising grave abuse of and letter is declared unconstitutional.
discretion.

Rs relied on its constitutional mandate to decide all questions affecting


elections. However, SC held that Rs' reliance on such provision is misplaced.
“We are not confronted here with the question of whether the COMELEC, in
its exercise of jurisdiction, gravely abused it. We are confronted with the
question as to whether the COMELEC had any jurisdiction at all with its acts
threatening imminent criminal action effectively abridging meaningful political
speech.”

It is clear that the subject matter of the controversy is the effect of COMELEC’s
notice and letter on free speech. This does not fall under Article IX-C, Section
2(3) of the Constitution. The use of the word "affecting" in this provision
cannot be interpreted to mean that COMELEC has the exclusive power to
decide any and al lquestions that arise during elections. COMELEC’s
constitutional competencies during elections should not operate to divest this
court of its own jurisdiction.

The more relevant provision for jurisdiction in this case is Article VIII, Section
5(1) of the Constitution. This provision provides for this court’s original
jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari and prohibition. This should be read
alongside the expanded jurisdiction of the court in Article VIII, Section 1 of the
Constitution.