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Election Law AQUILINO L. PIMENTEL III v.

THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS EN BANC SITTING AS THE NATIONAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS, THE SPECIAL PROVINCIAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS FOR MAGUINDANAO CHAIRED BY ATTY. EMILIO S. SANTOS, and JUAN MIGUEL F. ZUBIRI G. R. No. 178413 Oct. 2, 2001 Chico-Nazario, J. FACTS This is a case for Certiorari and Mandamus filed by the petitioner Aquilino L. Pimentel III with regard to the proceedings of the Special Provincial Board of Canvassers for Maguindanao in recanvassing the votes therein to settle the 12 th senatorial seat of the 14 May 2007 elections, now a contest between him and private respondent, Juan Miguel F. Zubiri. Among his claims in the case at bar is his question of the manner the re-canvassing was being done where parties are not allowed to ask questions. He claims that it deprives him of his right to due process and equal protection. ISSUE Whether or not the procedure followed by the Special Provincial Board of Canvassers for Maguindanao was without legal basis and violative of petitioners constitutional right to due process and equal protection. RULING The Supreme Court ruled that the procedure followed by the SPBOC Maguindanao was in order. The matter is a preproclamation controversy defined by BP 881 or the Omnibus Election Code as any question pertaining to or affecting the proceeding of the board of canvassers which may be raised by any candidate or by any registered political party before the board or directly with the Commission. Further, according to Section 16 of Republic Act No. 7166, pre-proclamation cases to resolve pre-proclamation controversies are allowed in local

elections. However, in Section 15 of the same statute, this is prohibited as to elections for President, Vice-President, Senators and Members of the House of Representatives. RA 9369 amended Section 15 of RA 7166 by adding an excepting phrase to the general prohibition against pre-proclamation controversies in elections for President down to the Members of the House of Representatives. The exemption is contained in Section 30 of RA 7166, likewise amended by RA 9369. This mandates Congress and the Commission en banc to determine the authenticity and due execution of the certificate of canvass for president and vicepresident and senators, respectively as accomplished and transmitted to it by the local board of canvassers. In elections for House of Representatives up to the President, the general rule still is that the pre-proclamation cases on matters relating to the preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of election returns or certificates of canvass are still prohibited. The recognized exceptions to the prohibition, namely: (1) correction of manifest errors; (2) questions affecting the composition or proceedings of the board of canvassers; and (3) determination of the authenticity and due execution of certificates of canvass as provided in Section 30 of Republic Act No. 7166, as amended by Republic Act No. 9369. Pimentel argues that his pre-proclamation case is an exemption to the prohibition. The Court ruled for the respondents. Undeniably, the SPBOC-Maguindanao is not Congress nor COMELEC en banc acting as the NBC, as specifically charged by law to perform such function; (1) Congress as the NBC for the election for President and Vice-President; and (2) COMELEC en banc as the NBC for the election for Senators. This is a case where the law is clear. It speaks in a language that is categorical. It is quite explicit; it is too plain to be misread. No interpretation is needed. All that is called for is to apply the statutory command. Even if there is still a need for this Court to construe Section 30 of Republic Act No. 7166, as amended by Republic Act No. 9369, it still cannot extend the scope of said provision to local boards of canvassers. A preproclamation case under Section 30 is allowed only as an exception to the prohibition under Section 15 of Republic Act No. 7166, as amended by Republic Act No. 9369. According to the rules of statutory construction, exceptions, as a general rule, are strictly, but reasonably construed; they extend

only so far as their language fairly warrants, and all doubts should be resolved in favor of the general provisions rather than the exception. Where a general rule is established by statute with exceptions, the court will not curtail the former nor add to the latter by implication. A maxim of recognized practicality is the rule that the expressed exception or exemption excludes others. Exceptio firmat regulim in casibus non exceptis . The express mention of exceptions operates to exclude other exceptions; conversely, those which are not within the enumerated exceptions are deemed included in the general rule. And, in the case, the exception applies only to Congress or the COMELEC en banc acting as the NBC, and not the local boards of canvassers who must still be deemed covered by the prohibition on preproclamation controversies. This Court finds Pimentels argument of deprivation of due process problematic since he has not established what he is being deprived of: life, liberty, or property. Pimentel cannot invoke denial of substantive due process because he is not assailing any law, which, arbitrarily or without sufficient justification, supposedly deprived him of life, liberty, or property. At most, Pimentel can claim that he was denied procedural due process when he was not allowed by the NBC and the SPBOCMaguindanao to propound questions to certain election officials. But even on this point, Pimentel fails to convince this Court. Asking election officials questions and confronting them with evidence are not part of the canvass proceedings. There is no statute or regulation expressly providing for such a procedure. With regard to his right to equal protection, he was in fact similarly treated with other senatorial candidates, none were allowed to question the canvassers. Finding no basis for the other grounds as well, the Court dismissed the petition.