Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 40

Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.

2) 2014

[G.R. No. 139357. May 5, 2000]
ABDULMADID P.B. MARUHOM, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION
ON ELECTIONS and HADJI JAMIL DIMAPORO, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
YNARES_SANTIAGO, J.:
Whether or not a motion to dismiss, filed after an answer has
been filed, is a prohibited pleading in an election protest
pending before the Regional Trial Court is the issue posed in
this petition for certiorari with prayer for preliminary
injunction challenging the Resolution of the Commission on
Elections (COMELEC) dated July 6, 1999
[1]
dismissing Comelec
Case SPR No. 52-98.
The COMELECs challenged order summarizes the relevant
facts of the controversy thus:
1. Petitioner and private respondent were
both candidates for Mayor in the
Municipality of Marogong, Lanao del Sur
and voted as such in the last May 11, 1998
national and local election (sic). Petitioner is
a re-electionist and a veteran politician;
2. The election in Marogong functioned on
May 11, 1998, and after the voting the
ballot boxes were transmitted to the
Kalimodan Hall, Provincial Capitol of Lanao
del Sur at Marawi City where the
automated counting of votes and canvass of
election returns were centralized;
3. During the counting of votes, serious
irregularities, anomalies and electoral
frauds were committed at the instance of
petitioner or his followers in that votes
actually casted (sic)for the private
respondent were not counted and credited
in his favor thru (sic) the concerted acts,
conspiracy and manipulation of the Board
of Election Inspectors, military, Election
Officer and the Machine Operator who
happens to be a nephew of the petitioner;
4. In Precincts Nos. 1A-1A1, 7A1, 8A, 10A-
10A1 and 11A about 115 official ballots
were refused or rejected by the counting
machine which the private respondents
watchers or representatives have requested
and insisted to be re-fed to the automated
machine for the second and third times
pursuant to the provisions of Comelec
Resolution No. 3030 but their requests
were not heeded by the Election Officer and
the Machine Operator, Solaiman Rasad,
who is a close kin of the Petitioner, and
instead considered the said ballots as finally
rejected, while in Precincts Nos. 12A, 23A1
and 6A, around 56 ballots were found
therein which were not drawn from the
official ballots and were included in the
counting of votes over the objection of the
private respondents watchers or
representatives;
5. Before the termination of the counting of
votes and the consolidation of the results,
the machine operator and the Election
Officer carried away from the Kalimodan
Hall the diskette and brought the same to
the down town without the knowledge of
the private respondents watchers or
representatives;
6. As a result of the foregoing irregularities,
anomalies and electoral frauds, the
petitioner was illegally proclaimed as
winner because he appeared to have
obtained 2,020 votes while the private
respondent garnered 2,000 votes with a
slight margin of only 20 votes;
7. After the counting of votes, the ballot
boxes were kept at the Kalimodan Hall,
Provincial Capitol, Marawi City guarded and
secured by military and PNP personnel
together with the watchers/representatives
of the petitioner and the private
respondent and other candidates or
political parties until they were transported
and delivered to the respondent court at
Malabang, Lanao del Sur sometime on
August 13, 1998 by 1Lt. Napisa AG together
with the duly authorized representatives of
both parties.
xxx xxx xxx
1. On May 22, 1998, private respondent,
knowing that he was cheated and the true
winner for Mayor, filed before this
Honorable Commission a petition to annul
the proclamation of petitioner Abdulmadid
Maruhom as the duly elected Mayor of
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

Marogong, Lanao del Sur docketed as SPC
No. 98-226.
[2]

2. As precautionary measure to avoid any
technicality, private respondent filed on
May 25, 1998, an ordinary "Protest ad
Cautelam" against the petitioner before the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 11, Malabang,
Lanao del Sur entitled "Hadji Jamil D.
Dimaporo vs. Abdulmadid Maruhom" for
election protest (Manual Judicial Recount,
revision and reappreciation of ballots)
docketed as Election Case No. 11-127.
[3]

3. On June 1, 1998, petitioner Abdulmadid
Maruhom filed an answer with counter-
protest in Election Case No. 11-127 special
and affirmative defenses and counter-
protest.
[4]
In his answer petitioner prayed to
hold in abeyance further proceedings since
the protest is ad cautelam or subject to the
petition filed before this Honorable
Commission.
4. On July 2, 1998, before SPC No. 98-228
could be set for hearing by this Honorable
Commission, the private respondent as
petitioner therein, filed a motion to
withdraw his petition in said SPC No. 98-228
albeit said case was among those cases the
proceedings of which were ordered to be
continued beyond June 30, 1998, under
Comelec Resolution No. 3049 promulgated
on June 29, 1998.
[5]
xxx
5. On July 17, 1998, an order was issued by
this Honorable Commission, (First
Division) granting the private respondents
motion to withdraw petition in SPC No. 98-
228 and considered the same
withdrawn.
[6]
xxx.
6. Upon receipt of a copy of said order,
dated July 17, 1998, private respondent
filed an urgent motion before the
respondent court on July 27, 1998, praying
for the issuance of an order directing the
proper officials/officers concerned to bring
and produce before said court the ballot
boxes subjects of the protest and counter-
protest and to set the case for hearing as
mandated by law.
[7]
xxx
7. After the delivery of the ballot boxes
involved in the protest and counter-protest,
the public respondent issued an order,
dated August 17, 1998, setting Election
Case No. 11-127 for hearing (a) for the
creation of the Committee on Revision and
appointment of the Chairman and Members
thereof; (b) making of the cash deposit and
payment of the revisors compensation; (c)
partial determination of the case, etc. on
September 1, 1998, at 8:30 oclock in the
morning.
[8]

8. When the case was called for hearing on
September 2, 1998, a Revision Committee
was created and its membership were duly
appointed in open court which committee
was directed by the respondent court to
finish the revision of ballots, if possible,
within 20 days from the commencement of
the revision
[9]
xxx
9. After the Revision Committee was
directed by the respondent to commence
the revision of ballots, the petitioner
Abdulmadid Maruhom thru counsel orally
moved for the dismissal of the protest on
the grounds that (1) The ballot boxes
containing the ballots in the protested and
counter-protested precincts have been
violated; (2) Automated counting of ballots
does not contemplate a manual recount of
the ballots; and (3) Protestant is guilty of
forum shopping warranting summary
dismissal of the petitioner of the protest.
10. The private respondent thru (sic)
undersigned counsel, vigorously opposed
the said oral motion to dismiss and orally
argued that the motion is clearly dilatory
having been made only after the Revision
Committee has been ordered to commence
the revision of ballots on September 1,
1998 and maintained that (1) The motion to
dismiss is not allowed in an election
protest; (2) The sanctity and integrity of the
ballot boxes subject matter of the protest
and counter-protest have been preserved
and never violated; (3) The automated
counting of ballots does not preclude the
filing of the election protest for the judicial
recount and revision of ballots; and (4) The
private respondent is not guilty of forum
shopping because his petition of protest is
clearly and explicitly a Protest Ad
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

Cautelam in view of the pendency of his
petition before this Honorable Commission
which was withdrawn by the private
respondent before it could be set for
hearing or acted upon by this Honorable
Commission.
11. After the oral arguments of both
parties, the petitioners counsel asked that
he be given ample time to file a written
Omnibus Motion to Dismiss and the
respondent court thru then Acting Presiding
Judge Rasad Balindong, issued an order
dated September 2, 1998, giving ten (10)
days to Atty. Tingcap T. Mortaba to file an
Omnibus Motion in substantiation of all the
oral motions he made, furnishing a copy
thereof to the undersigned counsel for the
private respondent who was likewise given
an equal period of time to comment.
[10]

12. On September 11, 1998, petitioner filed
his motion to dismiss
[11]
and on September
21, 1998, the private respondent filed a
vigorous opposition to motion to dismiss.
[12]

13. During the hearing on the motion to
dismiss and the opposition thereto on
September 21, 1998, the petitioners
counsel requested for ample time to file a
rejoinder to the vigorous opposition to
motion to dismiss submitted by the private
respondent which was granted by the court
and on September 28, 1998, petitioner filed
his rejoinder
[13]
and on October 5, 1998
private respondent filed his
comment
[14]
thereto and thereafter all
incidents were submitted for resolution of
the court.
14. On November 10, 1998, the respondent
court thru Honorable Presiding Judge
Moslemen T. Macarambon, issued the
assailed order denying the petitioners
motion to dismiss for lack of merit and
ordering the Revision Committee to report
to the court on November 19, 1998, at 8:30
oclock in the morning for their oath taking
and to receive the instruction of the court
in the revision of the ballots and other allied
matters.
[15]

15. On November 18, 1998, the petitioner
filed a motion for reconsideration of the
order dated November 10, 1998,
[16]
and on
November 23, 1998, private respondent
filed a vigorous opposition [to motion] for
reconsideration.
[17]

16. Finding no compelling reason to disturb
its order dated November 10, 1998, the
respondent court issued the assailed order
dated December 1, 1998 which denied the
motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.
In the same order, the respondent court
reiterated its previous order to the
members of the Revision Committee to take
their oaths before Atty. Raqueza T. Umbaro
or Atty. Khalil Laguindab and thereafter to
convene and start the revision of ballots on
December 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, 1998,
morning and afternoon.
[18]

17. As a diabolical scheme to cause further
delay of the proceedings of the case more
specifically the revision of ballots, the
petitioner filed on December 10, 1998, the
instant petition for certiorari and
prohibition with prayer for preliminary
injunction and on December 11, 1998,
petitioner filed an urgent motion before the
respondent court praying that further
proceedings in Election Case No. 11-127 be
deferred until after protestees petition for
certiorari and prohibition before this
Honorable Commission shall have been
finally resolved, copy of which was served
upon the undersigned counsel only on
December 12, 1998, at 10:50 A.M.
[19]
xxx
18. That before the undersigned counsel
could file his opposition to said urgent
motion on December 14, 1998 and in the
absence of a restraining order or writ of
preliminary injunction issued by (the
COMELEC), the respondent judge already
issued an order granting the same motion
and ordering the Revision Committee to
hold in abeyance the scheduled revision of
ballots on December 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18,
1998, etc. until further order from the court
xxx.
[20]

Petitioner alleges that in dismissing the petition the COMELEC
acted in excess of, or with grave abuse of discretion,
amounting to lack of jurisdiction in
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

1.] holding that a motion to dismiss an
election protest case filed in the Regional
Trial Court is a prohibited pleading;
2.] holding that the motion to dismiss filed
after the answer is not allowed;
3.] failing to resolve the issues raised in SPR
No. 52-98 which are sufficient legal bases to
dismiss Election Case No. 11-127.
In sum, petitioner insists that in refusing to pass upon the
three (3) principal issues raised in COMELEC Case SPR No. 52-
98, to wit:
1. Whether or not public respondent acted
in excess of, or with grave abuse of
discretion, amounting to lack of jurisdiction
in holding that a motion to dismiss an
election protest case in the Regional Trial
Court is a prohibited pleading;
2. Whether or not public respondent acted
in excess of, or with grave abuse of
discretion, amounting to lack of jurisdiction,
in holding that a motion to dismiss filed
after the answer to an election protest case
in the Regional Trial court is not allowed;
and
3. Whether or not public respondent
gravely abused its discretion amounting to
lack of jurisdiction, in failing to resolve the
relevant material and substantial issues
raised in SPR No. 52-98.
the COMELEC "abdicated its duty under its own rules of
procedure and under the Constitution and the election laws."
Such abdication of duty, according to petitioner, amounts to
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.
It must be borne in mind that the purpose of governing
statutes on the conduct of elections
[i]s to protect the integrity of elections to
suppress all evils that may violate its purity
and defeat the will of the voters. The purity
of the elections is one of the most
fundamental requisites of popular
government. The Commission on Elections,
by constitutional mandate must do
everything in its power to secure a fair and
honest canvass of the votes cast in the
elections. In the performance of its
duties, the Commission must be given a
considerable latitude in adopting means
and methods that will insure the
accomplishment of the great objective for
which it was created to promote free,
orderly and honest elections. The choice of
means taken by the Commission on
Elections, unless they are clearly illegal or
constitute grave abuse of discretion, should
not be interfered with.
[21]

Section 2 (1) of Article IX of the Constitution gives the
COMELEC the broad power to "enforce and administer all
laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election,
plebiscite, initiative, referendum and recall." There can hardly
be any doubt that the text and intent of this constitutional
provision is to give COMELEC all the necessary and
incidental powers for it to achieve the holding of free,
orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections.
In accordance with this intent, the Court has been liberal in
defining the parameters of the COMELECs powers in
conducting elections. Sumulong v. COMELEC
[22]
aptly points
out that
Politics is a practical matter, and political
questions must be dealt with realistically
not from the standpoint of pure theory. The
Commission on Elections, because of its
fact-finding facilities, its contacts with
political strategists, and its knowledge
derived from actual experience in dealing
with political controversies, is in a peculiarly
advantageous position to decide complex
political questions xxx. There are no ready
made formulas for solving public problems.
Time and experience are necessary to
evolve patterns that will serve the ends of
good government. In the matter of the
administration of laws relative to the
conduct of election xxx we must not by any
excessive zeal take away from the
Commission on Elections that initiative
which by constitutional and legal mandates
properly belongs to it.
Succinctly stated, laws and statutes governing election
contests especially the 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.
[23]
An election protest is imbued with public
interest so much so that the need to dispel uncertainties
which becloud the real choice of the people is
imperative,
[24]
much more so in this case considering that a
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

mere twenty (20) votes separates the winner from the loser
of the contested election results.
The primordial issue to be resolved herein is whether or not
the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in dismissing SPR
No. 52-98.
In support of his cause, petitioner insists that there is
"nothing irregular or anomalous in the filing of the motion to
dismiss" after the filing of the answer because in effect he is
merely insisting on a preliminary hearing of his special and
affirmative defenses. Thus, he claims that the summary
dismissal of his motion to dismiss is tainted with grave abuse
of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
We disagree.
The filing of the motion to dismiss, in fact, appears to be part
of a perfidious plot to prevent the early termination of the
proceedings in Election Case No. 4847 as evidenced by a
confluence of events clearly showing a pattern of delay
employed by petitioner to avert the revision ballots. These
events, pointed out by private respondent
[25]
and borne by
the record, show that
1. It was only on September 1, 1999 after
the creation of the Revision Committee and
the appointment of its Chairman and
Members and after the said committee was
ordered by the trial court to commence the
revision and to render its report within 20
days that the petitioner orally moved for
the dismissal of the case on the flimsy
grounds that (1) the ballot boxes subject of
the protest and counter protest have
been violated; (2) the automated counting
of ballots does not contemplate a manual
recount of ballots; and (3) protestant is
guilty of forum-shopping warranting
summary dismissal of the protest;
2. After the oral arguments on the oral
motion to dismiss the petitioner requested
for ample time within which to file an
Omnibus Motion to Dismiss and over the
vigorous opposition of the private
respondent the same was granted by the
court and the petitioner was given a period
of ten (10) days to file the same and the
private respondent was likewise given a
period of ten (10) days to file his comment;
3. On September 11, 1998, the motion to
dismiss
[26]
and during the hearing on the
said motion and the opposition
[27]
thereto
on September 21, 1998, the petitioner
again asked for ample time to file a
rejoinder to the vigorous opposition to
motion to dismiss which was again granted
by the court and it was only on September
28, 1998 that said rejoinder was filed;
4. After a denial of the motion to dismiss on
November 10, 1998,
[28]
the petitioner filed a
motion for reconsideration on November
18, 1998;
[29]

5. When the motion for reconsideration
was denied on December 1,
1998,
[30]
petitioner filed on December 18,
1998 before the Commission on Elections a
petition for certiorari and prohibition with
prayer for preliminary injunction and asked
the trial court to defer the proceedings of
Election Case No. 11-27 until after his
petition shall have been finally resolved
which was granted by the trial court. Hence,
the scheduled revision of the ballots on
December 14, 15, 16 and 17, 1998 was
cancelled and the proceedings of the case
held in abeyance;
[31]

6. As the Comelec En Banc did not give due
course to petitioners prayer for writ of
preliminary injunction, the trial court, upon
motion of the private respondent, issued an
order for the revision of ballots on February
8, 1999.
[32]
On said day, neither the
petitioners counsel nor his designated
revisors appeared, instead the petitioner,
assisted by his numerous armed men,
numbering around 30 stated (sic) in
strategic places, prevented the court
personnel to enter the court premises.
Were it not for the maximum tolerance
exercised by the PNP personnel and the
intervention of the local datus/leaders,
there would have been bloodshed;
7. On February 9, 1999, the petitioners
counsel filed a withdrawal of appearance
with the attached letter-request of the
petitioner asking for the deferment of the
revision of ballots for at least two (2) weeks
to enable him to engage the services of
another counsel. Considering that the
incident was designed to delay the further
the early disposition of the case which
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

would frustrate the ends of justice, the
court held in abeyance its ruling on the
withdrawal of appearance of and directed
petitioners counsel to handle the case after
the appearance of a new counsel;
[33]

8. To further delay the proceedings of the
case, the petitioner filed a petition for
transfer of venue of the trial to from RTC,
Branch 11, Malabang, Lanao del Sur to
Iligan City or in Metro Manila which the
private respondent did not oppose so as not
to delay the early resolution of this
Honorable Supreme Court on the said
petition;
9. Again, the proceedings of the case was
held in abeyance in view of the pendency of
the said petition for transfer of venue;
10. After the dismissal of the petition in
Election Case No. 52-98, the petitioner filed
the instant petition for certiorari before this
Honorable Supreme Court with a prayer for
issuance of temporary restraining order;
11. As a diabolical scheme to cause further
delay of the proceedings of the case, the
petitioner filed an urgent motion before
this Honorable Supreme Court praying for
the immediate issuance of a TRO directing
the Presiding Judge, RTC, Branch III, Iligan
City to cease, desist and refrain from
conducting any further proceedings of
Election Case No. 4847 until the instant
case shall have been resolved. This
Honorable Supreme Court, without granting
the prayer for TRO, directed the RTC,
Branch III, Iligan City not to promulgate any
decision in the said election case until
further order[s] from this most Honorable
Court.
[34]

It is clear, given the foregoing facts of this case, that the
roundabout manner within which petitioner virtually
substituted his answer by belatedly filing a motion to dismiss
three (3) months later is a frivolous resort to procedure
calculated to frustrate the will of the electorate. As pointedly
observed by the COMELEC in its challenged Resolution dated
July 6, 1999,
[35]
petitioner only filed his motion to dismiss
"when the results of the trial appear[ed] to be adverse to
him"
[36]
or right after the creation of the Revision Committee
had been ordered by the trial court. If petitioner truly
intended to move for the preliminary hearing of his special
and affirmative defenses as he claims, then he should have
simultaneously moved for the preliminary hearing of his
special and affirmative defenses at the time he filed his
answer. Otherwise, he should have filed his motion to dismiss
"within the time for but before filing the answer" pursuant
to Section 1, Rule 16 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
Suffice it to state in this regard that such a whimsical change
of mind by petitioner can not be countenanced much more
so in election cases where time is of the essence in the
resolution thereof. Indeed, the Omnibus Election Code states
in no uncertain terms that
SEC. 258. Preferential disposition of contests
in courts. The RTC, in their respective
cases, shall give preference to election
contests over all other cases, except those
of habeas corpus, and shall, without delay,
hear and within thirty (30) days from the
date of their submission for decision, but in
every case within six (6) months after filing,
decide the same. xxx
[37]
(emphasis and
italics supplied)
Petitioner further argues that his submissions that a.] the
integrity of the ballot boxes has been violated; b.] only
rejected ballots or ballots manually counted are the proper
subjects of an election protest; and c.] private respondent is
guilty of forum-shopping, are enough grounds to dismiss the
case.
We remain unconvinced.
As aptly observed by the COMELEC in the challenged
Resolution, these grounds are "evidentiary in nature and can
be best ventilated during the trial of the case."
[38]
It needs be
stressed in this regard that the purpose of an election protest
is to ascertain whether the candidate proclaimed elected by
the board of canvassers is really the lawful choice of the
electorate.
[39]
In an election contest where the correctness of
the number of votes is involved, the best and most conclusive
evidence are the ballots themselves; where the ballots can
not be produced or are not available, the election returns
would be the best evidence.
[40]
In this case, the counted
official ballots are available and there is no evidence, other
than the bare allegation of petitioner, that the sanctity of the
ballot boxes subject matter of the protest have been violated
or the official ballots contained therein impaired. The best
way, therefore, to test the truthfulness of petitioners claim is
to open the ballot boxes in the protested precincts followed
by the examination, revision, recounting and re-appreciation
of the official ballots therein contained in accordance with
law and pertinent rules on the matter. Needless to state this
can only be done through a full-blown trial on the merits, not
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

a peremptory resolution of the motion to dismiss on the basis
of the bare and one-sided averments made therein.
Petitioners reliance on COMELEC Resolution No. 2868
[41]
to
support his restrictive claim that only rejected ballots or
ballots manually counted in case of failure of the automated
counting machines are the proper subjects of an election
protest, is just as unpersuasive.
There is admittedly a lacuna leges in R.A. No. 8436 which
prescribes the adoption of an automated election system.
However, while conceding as much, this Court ruled in Tupay
Loong v. COMELEC,
[42]
that the Commission is nevertheless
not precluded from conducting a manual count when the
automated counting system fails, reasoning thus:
In enacting R.A. No. 8436, Congress
obviously failed to provide a remedy where
the error in counting is not machine related
for human foresight is not all-seeing. We
hold, however, that the vacuum in the law
cannot prevent the COMELEC from
levitating above the problem. Section 2(1)
of Article IX (C) of the Constitution gives the
COMELEC the broad power "to enforce and
administer all laws and regulations relative
to the conduct of an election, plebiscite,
initiative, referendum and recall."
Undoubtedly, the text and intent of this
provision is to give the COMELEC all the
necessary and incidental powers for it to
achieve the objective of holding free,
orderly, honest, peaceful and credible
elections. Congruent to this intent, this
Court has not been niggardly in defining the
parameters of powers of COMELEC in the
conduct of our elections In the case at
bar, the COMELEC order for a manual count
was not only reasonable. It was the only
way to count the decisive local votes ... The
bottom line is that by means of the manual
count, the will of the voters of Sulu was
honestly determined. We cannot kick away
the will of the people by giving a literal
interpretation to R.A. 8436. R.A. 8436 did
not prohibit manual counting when
machine count does not work. Counting is
part and parcel of the conduct of an
election which is under the control and
supervision of the COMELEC
Our elections are not conducted under
laboratory conditions. In running for public
offices, candidates do not follow the rules
of Emily Post. Too often, COMELEC has to
make snap judgments to meet unforeseen
circumstances that threaten to subvert the
will of our voters. In the process, the actions
of COMELEC may not be impeccable,
indeed, may even be debatable. We cannot,
however, engage in a swivel chair criticism
of these actions often taken under very
difficult circumstances.
Verily, the legal compass from which the COMELEC should
take its bearings in acting upon election controversies is the
principle that "clean elections control the appropriateness of
the remedy."
[43]

Be that as it may, the fact is the averments in petitioners
counter-protest and private respondents protest already
justified the determination of the issues through a judicial
revision and recounting of the ballots pursuant to Section 255
of the Omnibus Election Code which provides that
Sec. 255. Judicial counting of votes in
election contest.- Where allegations in a
protest or counter-protest so warrant or
whenever in the opinion of the court the
interests of justice so require, it shall
immediately order the book of voters,
ballot boxes and their keys, ballots and
other documents used in the election be
brought before it and that the ballots be
examined and votes recounted. (Italics
supplied)
So too must fall petitioners procedural objection that private
respondent should be faulted for forum-shopping vis--
vis this Courts pronouncement in Samad v.
COMELEC
[44]
which states in no uncertain terms that
As a general rule, the filing of an election
protest or a petition for quo
warranto precludes the subsequent filing of
a pre-proclamation controversy, or
amounts to the abandonment of one earlier
filed, thus depriving the COMELEC of the
authority to inquire into and pass upon the
title of the protestee or the validity of his
proclamation. The reason is that once the
competent tribunal has acquired
jurisdiction of an election protest or a
petition for quo warranto, all questions
relative thereto will have to be decided in
the case itself and not in another
proceeding. This procedure will prevent
confusion and conflict of authority.
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

Conformably, we have ruled in a number of
cases that after a proclamation has been
made, a pre-proclamation case before the
COMELEC is no longer viable.
The rule admits of exceptions, however, as
where: (1) the board of canvassers was
improperly constituted; (2) quo
warranto was not the proper remedy;
(3) what was filed was not really a petition
for quo warranto or an election protest but
a petition to annul a proclamation; (4) the
filing of a quo warranto petition or an
election protest was expressly made
without prejudice to the pre-proclamation
controversy or was made ad cautelam; and
(5) the proclamation was null and void.
Petitioners argument that the filing of a motion to dismiss in
an election contest filed with a regular court is not a
prohibited pleading is well taken. As we pointed out
in Melendres, Jr. v. COMELEC:
[45]

Neither can petitioner seek refuge behind
his argument that the motion to dismiss
filed by private respondent is a prohibited
pleading under Section 1, Rule 13 of the
COMELEC Rules of Procedure because the
said provision refers to proceedings
filed before the COMELEC. The applicable
provisions on the matter are found in Part
VI of the Rules of Procedure titled
"PROVISIONS GOVERNING ELECTION
CONTESTS BEFORE TRIAL COURT" and as
this Court pointedly stated in Aruelo v.
Court of Appeals
[46]

It must be noted that nowhere in
Part VI of the COMELEC Rules of
Procedure is it provided that
motions to dismiss and bill of
particulars are not allowed in
election protests or quo warranto
cases pending before regular
courts.
Constitutionally speaking, the
COMELEC cannot adopt a rule
prohibiting the filing of a certain
pleading in the regular courts. The
power to promulgate rules
concerning pleadings, practice and
procedure in all courts is vested in
the Supreme Court.
[47]

The foregoing pronouncement, however, will not extricate
petitioner from his predicament because the denial of
petitioners motion to dismiss was based on the fact that
the other grounds relied therein was considered
unmeritorious and not because the said motion is a
prohibited pleading in electoral protest cases. While the
challenged COMELEC Resolution may not have been entirely
correct in dismissing the petition in this regard, the
soundness of its discretion to accord unto the trial court the
competence to resolve the factual issues raised in the
controversy cannot be doubted. Indeed, as reasoned by the
COMELEC, the
Commission assumes the competence of
the trial court to handle electoral protest
and cannot encroach on its original and
exclusive jurisdiction on electoral protest
cases involving the contested mayoralty
seat. To our mind, the trial court should be
allowed to resolve the case on the merits to
be able to rule on the factual and legal
grounds raised by the petitioner as his
defenses in his Answer. Should the
petitioner be dissatisfied with the outcome
of the case in the lower court, he can still
appeal, as his relief, to this Commission
within the reglementary period provided by
law.
Moreover
At balance, the question really boils down
to a choice of philosophy and perception of
how to interpret and apply the laws relating
to elections; literal or liberal; the letter or
the spirit; the naked provision or the
ultimate purpose; legal syllogism or
substantial justice; in isolation or in the
context of social conditions; harshly against
or gently in favor of the voters obvious
choice. In applying elections laws, it would
be far better to err in favor of popular
sovereignty than to be right in complex but
little understood legalisms.
[48]

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the petition is
hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Quisumbing,
Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Melo, Kapunan, and Purisima, JJ., on leave.
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

Panganiban, J., in the result.
_______________
Rollo, pp. 45-47; Annex C, Petition, which provides, inter
alia, that:
SEC. 2. Filing of Protest. Any losing candidate, who registers
his objections on the rejection of ballots, may file a protest
with the Commission within ten (10) days from proclamation
of the winning candidates in accordance with the Comelec
Rules of Procedure.
Only rejected ballots and ballots manually counted shall be
the subject of protest.
SEC. 3. Examination of rejected ballots. In determining the
intent of the voter in the case of rejected ballots,
the rejection of which have been objected to and noted in the
Minute of Counting, the Commission shall examine and
appreciate the rejected ballots concerned applying the
provision of Section 7 of Resolution No. 2862 (Rules and
Regulations on the Manual Counting and Canvassing of Votes
in Case of Failure of the Automated Counting System in the
September 9, 1996 Elections in the Autonomous Region in
Muslim Mindanao [ARMM], promulgated 14 August 1996).



















































































Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

[G.R. No. 123037. March 21, 1997]
TEODORO Q. PEA, petitioner, vs. HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL AND
ALFREDO E. ABUEG, JR., respondents.
D E C I S I O N
TORRES, JR., J.:
Assailed herein is the October 12, 1995 Resolution
[1]
of
the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET)
dismissing the Petition Ad Cautelam of the Petitioner
Teodoro Q. Pea in HRET Case No. 95-014. Petitioner
questioned the election of the private respondent Alfredo
E. Abueg, Jr. as Member of the House of Representatives
representing the Second District of the province of Palawan.
Petitioner and the private respondent were contenders
for the said Congressional Office in the May 8, 1995
elections. On May 12, 195, upon canvassing the votes cast,
the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Palawan proclaimed the
private respondent as the winner.
On May 22, 1995, the instant petition was filed with the
HRET, wherein the petitioner, as protestant, averred that:
7. The elections in the precincts of the Second District of
Palawan were tainted with massive fraud, widespread vote-
buying, intimidation and terrorism and other serious
irregularities committed before, during and after the voting,
and during the counting of votes and the preparation of
election returns and certificates of canvass which affected the
results of the election. Among the fraudulent acts committed
were the massive vote-buying and intimidation of voters,
disenfranchisement of petitioners known supporters through
systematic deletion of names from the lists of voters,
allowing persons to vote in excess of the number of
registered voters, misappreciation, misreading and non-
reading of protestants ballots and other irregularities.
8. According to the Statement of Votes by
Precinct/Municipality/City, the protestee allegedly obtained
52,967 votes, while the protestant allegedly obtained 46,023
votes, or a difference of 6,944 votes. A copy of said
document is attached hereto as Annex B.
9. Had the massive fraud, widespread intimidation and
terrorism and other serious irregularities not been
committed, the result of the elections for Member of the
House of Representatives would have been different and the
protestant would have garnered the highest number of votes
for the Office Member of the House of Representatives in the
Second District of Palawan, which was the true expression of
the will of the voters of the Province of Palawan.
10. The proclamation by the members of the Provincial
Board of Canvassers of Palawan that the protestee was
allegedly the duly elected Member of the House of
Representatives for the Second District of Palawan is contrary
to law and to the true expression of the will of the voters of
the Province of Palawan.
[2]

Private respondent-Protestee Abueg filed an Answer
With Affirmative Defense, Counterclaim and Counter-
Protest
[3]
on June 5, 1995, to which Pea filed a Reply on June
23, 1995. Subsequent to the filing of his Answer, Abueg filed a
Motion to Dismiss
[4]
the Petition on June 22, 1995, averring
that the HRET has not acquired jurisdiction over the petition,
the same being insufficient in form and substance. In
essence, the motion to dismiss anchors its challenge on the
fact that the petition failed to allege the precincts where the
massive fraud and disenfranchisement of voters occurred,
nor did it point out how many votes would be gained by the
protestant as a result of the same.
Petitioner filed an Opposition to the Motion to
Dismiss
[5]
on July 10, 1995, attaching thereto a Summary of
Contested Precincts, naming 700 precincts where election
irregularities allegedly occurred.
In its Resolution of October 12, 1995, the respondent
HRET ruled that although it had jurisdiction over the petition,
as the sole judge of all contests relating to the election,
returns and qualifications of the members of the House of
Representatives, the said petition, however, fails to state a
cause of action, and is therefore, insufficient in form and
substance, meriting its dismissal.
The HRET states pertinently:
There are 743 precincts in the second congressional district
of Palawan which is comprised of Puerto Princesa City and
the municipalities of Aborlan, Balabac, Bataraza, Brookes
Point, Narra, Quezon, and Marcos (Ordinance appended to
the 1973 Constitution). The Protestant failed to specify which
are the 700 precincts, out of the said 743 precincts, that are
included in his protest; he even failed to allege the
municipalities where the protested precincts are
located. Worse, the body of the Petition does not even
mention the 700 precincts. Reference to them is made only
in the Prayer. These omissions prevent Protestee from being
apprised of the issues which he has to meet and make it
virtually impossible for the Tribunal to determine which ballot
boxes have to be collected.
The Supreme Court, in Fernando vs. Pastor M. Endencia,
Judge of First Instance of Bulacan, et. al. (No. 46099, 66 Phil
148, 150, August 30, 1938) observed that, [w]hile the
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

election law does not say so directly, it is clearly inferred from
its relevant provisions that where the grounds of contest are
that legal votes were rejected and illegal votes received, the
motion of protest should state in what precincts such
irregularities occurred. xxx The specification in the motion of
protest of the election precinct or precincts where the
alleged irregularities occurred, is required in order to apprise
the contestee of the issues which he has to meet. xxx
In its more recent resolution in Grand Alliance for Democracy
(GAD) vs. COMELEC (G.R. No. 78302, May 26, 1987, 150 SCRA
665), the Supreme Court held that the petition therein could
have been dismissed outright as deficient in form and
substance, being couched in general terms only, without
precise indication of thetime, place and manner of the
commission of the alleged irregularities. xxx
Similarly, this Tribunal, in dismissing an election protest,
observed that the protest, in general language, impugns,
contests and protests the illegal, improper and fraudulent
electoral practices, acts and deeds of the protestee and
impugns and contests all the election returns in the lone
district of Catanduanes. The tribunal held that this
scattershot allegation is not allowed in election contests and
that it is necessary to make a precise indication of the
precincts protested and a specification of the claimed
offenses to have been committed by the parties. (Alberto
vs. Tapia, HRET Case No. 37, January 23, 1989)
While Protestant has attached as Annex A to his Opposition
to the Motion to Dismiss, filed on 10 July 1995, a Summary of
contested Precincts, the defects in his Protest were not cured
thereby as the Summary was submitted only after the Motion
to Dismiss had been filed. The Opposition and the attached
Summary do not amend the original Petition. There is not
even a prayer in the Opposition suggesting such amendment.
Moreover, in a Resolution promulgated on 17 June 1995, the
Commission on Elections en banc (COMELEC) dismissed
herein Petitioners Petition (SPA Case No. 95-258) to declare
a failure of elections in the second district of Palawan. Copy
of said Resolution was sent to Petitioner Peas Petition Ad
Cautelam was thus converted into a regular protest (not Ad
Cautelam) effective upon the finality of the official COMELEC
resolution, thereby providing him an opportunity to amend it
to cure the defects cited above, Protestant took no positive
and affirmative steps for that purpose.
Protestant alleges in his Opposition that Protestee has
likewise failed to specify the 47 precincts he contests in his
Counter-Protest. This omission merely renders Protestees
Counter-Protest defective for insufficiency in form and
substance and for failure to state a cause of action. It does
not cure the fatal defects in Protestants Petition.
WHEREFORE, for failure of the petition (Protest) to state a
cause of action because it is fatally insufficient in form and
substance, the Tribunal Resolved to GRANT Protestees
Motion to Dismiss and to DISMISS, as it hereby DISMISSES,
the instant Petition of Protest. As a logical consequence
thereof and also for the same reason, Protestees Counter-
Protest is DISMISSED.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
[6]

Petitioners motion for reconsideration of the said
resolution was denied by the respondent tribunal on
November 14, 1995.
In this Petition for Certiorari, filed on December 29,
1995, petitioner argues that the respondent HRET acted with
grave abuse of discretion amounting to having acted without
or in excess of jurisdiction in dismissing the election protest
of petitioner considering that:
I
THE PETITION AD CAUTELAM DATED 22 MAY 1995 STATED A
CAUSE OF ACTION AND IS SUFFICIENT IN FORM AND
SUBSTANCE.
II
ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE PETITION WAS INITIALLY
DEFECTIVE BECAUSE IT FAILED TO SPECIFY THE CONTESTED
PRECINCTS, SAID DEFECT WAS CURED WHEN PETITIONER
SUBMITTED A SUMMARY OF THE CONTESTED PRECINCTS
WHICH FORMS PART OF THE RECORD OF THE RESPONDENT
HRET.
It is the Petitioners view that the instant election
protest is sufficient in form and substance even while failing
to specify the precincts where irregularities allegedly
occurred. Nowhere is it provided that the specification of the
precincts is a jurisdictional requirement that must be
complied with in order that an election protest can be
entertained by the HRET. To support his submission,
petitioner cites the cases of Yalung vs. Atienza, 52 Phil 781,
Arao vs. COMELEC, 210 SCRA 790 and Gallares vs. Casenas, 48
Phil 362, the latter stating that:
From a reading of the allegations of the protest, it may be
seen that frauds, irregularities and violations of the law are
alleged therein, which, if true, would undoubtedly change the
result of the elections.
The fact that in the protest the number of votes which would
result in favor of the protestant after the judicial counting is
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

not specified, does not affect the right of the protestant, for it
being known that said omission is a defect of the protest, the
same may be cured by a specification of the votes mentioned
in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of the protest, without thereby
adding new grounds for those already alleged by the
protestant.
Applying the same principle to the specification of
precincts in the instant case, the defect in the petition should
have been cured by the opposition to the private
respondents Motion to Dismiss.
Moreover, the fact that the HRET did not summarily
dismiss the Petition Ad Cautelam, and instead, required the
private respondent Abueg to file an Answer, the HRET has
thus made a prior determination that the petition is sufficient
in form and substance.
We do not agree.
In the first place, in requiring the private respondent to
answer the petition, the HRET was not ruling on the formal
and substantive sufficiency of the petition. The order to
require an answer is but a matter of course, as under the
Revised Rules of Procedure of the HRET, it is provided that:
RULE 22. Summons. - Upon the filing of the petition, the
Clerk of the Tribunal shall forthwith issue the corresponding
summons to the protestee or respondent together with a
copy of the petition, requiring him within ten (10) days from
receipt thereof to file his answer.
As to the adequacy of the protest, we agree with
respondent HRET in ruling for the insufficiency of the same.
A perusal of the petition Ad Cautelam, reveals that
Petitioner makes no specific mention of the precincts where
widespread election, fraud and irregularities occured. This is
a fatal omission, as it goes into the very substance of the
protest. Under Section 21 of the Revised Rules of Procedure
of HRET, insufficiency in form and substance of the petition
constitutes a ground for the immediate dismissal of the
Petition.
The prescription that the petition must be sufficient in
form and substance means that the petition must be more
than merely rhetorical. If the allegations contained therein
are unsupported by even the faintest whisper of authority in
fact and law, then there is no other course than to dismiss
the petition, otherwise, the assumptions of an elected public
official may, and will always be held up by petitions of this
sort by the losing candidate.
Notably, the instant petition ad cautelam poses a more
serious inadequacy than a mere failure to specify the number
of votes which would inure to the protestant, as was the case
in Gallares vs. Casenas, or the failure to impugn the validity of
some of the ballots cast, as in Yalung vs. Atienza, supra, both
of which cases were decided in the 1920s. The defect in the
instant case arises from the failure to allege the contested
precincts. Only a bare allegation of massive fraud,
widespread intimidation and terrorism and other serious
irregularities, without specification, and substantiation, of
where and how these occurences took place, appears in the
petition. We cannot allow an election protest based on such
flimsy averments to prosper, otherwise, the whole election
process will deteriorate into an endless stream of crabs
pulling at each other, racing to disembank from the water.
On his second point of argument, Petitioner likewise
fails to impress. The Court has already ruled in Joker P.
Arroyo vs. HRET,
[7]
that substantial amendments to the
protest may be allowed only within the same period for filing
the election protest, which, under Rule 16 of the HRET Rules
of Procedure is ten (10) days after proclamation of the
winner.
While it is conceded that statutes providing for election
contests are to be liberally construed to the end that the will
of the people in the choice of public officers may not be
defeated by mere technical questions, the rule likewise
stands, that in an election protest, the protestant must stand
or fall upon the issues he had raised in his original or
amended pleading filed prior to the lapse of the statutory
period for filing of the protest.
[8]

Admittedly, the rule is well-established that the power
to annul an election should be exercised with the greatest
care as it involves the free and fair expression of the popular
will. It is only in extreme cases of fraud and under
circumstances which demonstrate to the fullest degree a
fundamental and wanton disregard of the law that elections
are annulled, and then only when it becomes impossible to
take any other step.
[9]
xxx This is as it should be, for the
democratic system is good for the many although abhorred
by a few.
In sum, this Courts jurisdiction to review decisions and
orders of electoral tribunals operates only upon a showing of
grave abuse of discretion on the part of the tribunal. Only
where such a grave abuse of discretion is clearly shown shall
the Court interfere with the electoral tribunals
judgment. There is such showing in the present petition.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court hereby resolves
to DISMISS the present petition for lack of merit. The
resolution of the respondent House of Representatives
Electoral Tribunal dated October 12, 1995 is hereby
AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr. and Panganiban, JJ., concur.
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

G.R. Nos. 111624-25 March 9, 1995
ALFONSO C. BINCE, JR., petitioner,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, PROVINCIAL BOARD OF
CANVASSERS OF PANGASINAN, MUNICIPAL BOARDS OF
CANVASSERS OF TAYUG AND SAN MANUEL, PANGASINAN
AND EMILIANO MICU, respondents.

KAPUNAN, J.:
Petitioner Alfonso C. Bince, Jr. and private respondent
Emiliano S. Micu were among the candidates in the
synchronized elections of May 11, 1992 for a seat in
the Sanguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Pangasinan
allotted to its Sixth Legislative District.
Ten (10) municipalities, including San Quintin, Tayug and San
Manuel, comprise the said district.
During the canvassing of the Certificates of Canvass (COC's)
for these ten (10) municipalities by respondent Provincial
Board of Canvassers (PBC) on May 20, 1992, private
respondent Micu objected to the inclusion of the COC for San
Quintin on the ground that it contained false statements.
Accordingly, the COCs for the remaining nine (9)
municipalities were included in the canvass. On May 21,
1992, the PBC rules against the objection of private
respondent.
1
From the said ruling, private respondent Micu
appealed to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), which
docketed the case as SPC No. 92-208.
On June 6, 1992, the COMELEC en banc promulgated a
resolution which reads:
Acting on the appeal filed by petitioner-
appellant Atty. Emiliano S. Micu to the
ruling of the Provincial Board of Canvassers
of Pangasinan, dated May 21, 1992, the
Commission en banc tabulated the votes
obtained by candidates Atty. Emiliano S.
Micu and Atty. Alfonso C. Bince for the
position of Sangguniang Panlalawigan
member of the province of Pangasinan,
using as basis thereof the statement of
votes by precinct submitted by the
municipality of San Quintin, Pangasinan, as
(sic) a result of said examination, the
Commission rules, as follows:
1. That the actual number
of votes obtained by
candidate Alfonso C. Bince
in the municipality of San
Quintin, Pangasinan is
1,055 votes whereas
petitioner/appellant Atty.
Emiliano S. Micu obtained
1,535 votes for the same
municipality.
Accordingly, the Provincial Board of
Canvassers for the province of Pangasinan is
directed to CREDIT in favor of
petitioner/appellant Atty. Emiliano S. Micu
with 1,535 votes and candidate Alfonso C.
Bince with 1,055 votes in the municipality
of San Quintin, Pangasinan.
2

Twenty-one (21) days after the canvass of the COCs for the
nine (9) municipalities was completed on May 20, 1992,
private respondent Micu together with the Municipal Boards
of Canvassers (MBCs) of Tayug and San Manuel filed with the
PBC petitions for correction of the Statements of Votes
(SOVs) earlier prepared for alledged manifest errors
committed in the computation thereof.
In view of the motion of herein petitioner to implement the
Resolution of June 6, 1992 which was alleged to have become
final, the PBC, on June 18, 1992, credited in favor of the
petitioner and private respondent the votes for each as
indicated in the said resolution and on the basis of the COCs
for San Quintin and the other nine (9) municipalities,
petitioner had a total of 27,370 votes while the private
respondent had 27,369 votes. Petitioner who won by a
margin of 1 vote was not, however, proclaimed winner
because of the absence of authority from the COMELEC.
Accordingly, petitioner filed a formal motion for such
authority.
On June 29, 1992, the COMELEC en banc promulgated a
Supplemental Order
3
directing the PBC "to reconvene,
continue with the provincial canvass and proclaim the
winning candidates for Sangguniang Panlalawigan for the
Province of Pangasinan, and other candidates for provincial
offices who have not been proclaimed
4
as of that date.
In the meantime, on June 24, 1992, the PBC, acting on the
petitions for correction of the SOVs of Tayug and San Manuel
filed by private respondent and the MBCs of the said
municipalities, rules "to allow the Municipal Boards of
Canvassers of the municipalities of Tayug and San Manuel,
Pangasinan to correct the Statement of Votes and Certificates
of Canvass and on the basis of the corrected documents, the
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

Board (PBC) will continue the canvass and thereafter proclaim
the winning candidate.
5

On June 25, 1992, petitioner Bince appealed from the above
ruling allowing the correction alleging that the PBC had no
jurisdiction to entertain the petition. The appeal was
docketed as SPC No. 92-384.
On July 8, 1992, private respondent Micu filed before the
COMELEC an urgent motion for the issuance of an order
directing the PBC to reconvene and proceed with the canvass.
He alleged that the promulgation of COMELEC Resolution No.
2489 on June 29, 1992 affirmed the ruling of the PBC dated
June 24, 1992. Similarly, petitioner Bince filed an urgent
petition to cite Atty. Felimon Asperin and Supt. Primo. A.
Mina, Chairman and Member, respectively, of the PBC, for
Contempt with alternative prayer for proclamation as winner
and Injunction with prayer for the issuance of Temporary
Restraining Order (TRO).
On July 9, 1992, the PBC Chairman, Atty. Felimon Asperin,
filed a petition with the COMELEC seeking a "definitive ruling
and a clear directive or order as to who of the two (2)
contending parties should be proclaimed"
6
averring that
"there were corrections already made in a separate sheet of
paper of the Statements of Votes and Certificates of Canvass
of Tayug and San Manuel, Pangasinan which corrections if to
be considered by the Board in its canvass and proclamation,
candidate Emiliano will win by 72 votes. On the other hand, if
these corrections will not be considered, candidate Alfonso
Bince, Jr. will win by one (1) vote.
7
On even date, the
COMELEC promulgated its resolution, the dispositive portion
of which reads:
(1) To RECONVENE immediately and
complete the canvass of the Certificates of
Votes, as corrected, of the municipalities
comprising the 6th District of Pangasinan;
(2) To PROCLAIM the winning candidate for
Member of the provincial Board, 6th District
of Pangasinan, on the basis of the
completed and corrected Certificates of
Canvass, aforesaid; in accordance with the
law, the rules and guidelines on canvassing
and proclamation.
8

As directed therein, the PBC on July 21, 1992, by a vote of 2-1
with its Chairman Atty. Felimon Asperin dissenting,
proclaimed candidate Bince as the duly elected member of
the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Pangasinan. Assailing the
proclamation of Bince, private respondent Micu filed an
Urgent Motion for Contempt and to Annul Proclamation and
Amended Urgent Petition for Contempt and Annul
Proclamation on July 22 and 29, 1992, respectively, alleging
that the PBC defied the directive of the COMELEC in its
resolution of July 9, 1992. Acting thereon, the COMELEC
promulgated a resolution on July 29, 1992, the decretal
portion of which reads:
The Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES:
1. To direct Prosecutor Jose Antonio
Guillermo and Supt. Primo Mina, vice-
chairman and secretayr, respectively, of the
Provincial Board of Canvassers of
Pangasinan, to show cause why they should
not be declared in contempt of defying and
disobeying the Resolution of this
Commission dated 09 July 1992, directing
them to RECOVENE immediately and
complete the canvass of the Certificates of
Votes as corrected, of the Municipal Boards
of Canvassers of the Municipalities
comprising the 6th District of Pangasinan;
and to PROCLAIM the winning candidate of
the Provincial Board, 6th District of
Pangasinan, on the basis of the completed
and corrected Certificates of Canvass,
aforesaid; instead they excluded the
corrected Certificated of Canvass of the
Municipal Boards of Canvassers of Tayug
and San Manuel, Pangasinan;
2. To ANNUL the proclamation dated 21 July
1992, by the said Provincial Board of
Canvassers (dissented by Chairman Felimon
Asperin), of candidate Alfonso Bince;
3. To DIRECT the Provincial Board of
Canvassers to recovene immediately and
proclaim the winning candidate for the
second position of the Provincial Board, 6th
District of Pangasinan, on the basis of the
completed and corrected Certificates of
Canvass submitted by the Municipal Boards
of Canvassers of all the municipalities in the
6th District of Pangasinan, in accordance
with law.
9

Consequently, petitioner filed a special civil action
for certiorari before this Court seeking to set aside the
foregoing resolution of the COMELEC, contending that the
same was promulgated without prior notice and hearing with
respect to SPC No. 92-208 and SPC No. 92-384. The case was
docketed as G.R. No. 106291.
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

On February 9, 1993, the Court en banc
10
granted the
petition ratiocinating that:
Respondent COMELEC acted without
jurisdiction or with grave abuse of
discretion in annulling the petitioner's
proclamation without the requisite due
notice and hearing, thereby depriving the
latter of due process. Moreover, there was
no valid correction of the SOVs and COCs
for the municipalities of Tayug and San
Manuel to warrant the annullment of the
petitioner's proclamation.
1. Petitioner had been proclaimed, had
taken his oath of office and had assumed
the position of the second elected member
of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the
Province of Pangasinan for its Sixth
Legislative District. Such proclamation
enjoys the presumption of regularly and
validity. The ruling of the majority of the
PBC to proclaim the petitioner is based on
its interpretation of the 9 July 1992
Resolution of respondent COMELEC which
does not expressly single out the corrected
COCs of Tayug and San Manuel; since, as of
that time, the only corrected COC which
existed was that for San Quintin, which was
made by the PBC on 18 June 1992, the
majority of the PBC cannot be faulted for
ruling the way it did. the 9 July 1992
Resolution (Rollo, p. 51) merely directed it:
(1) To RECOVENE
immediately and
complete the canvass of
the Certificates of Votes,
as corrected, of the
Municipal Boards of
Canvassers of
the municipalities
comprising the 6th District
of Pangasinan;
(2) To PROCLAIM the
winning candidate for
Member of the Provincial
Board, 6th District of
Pangasinan, on the basis
of the completed and
corrected Certificates of
Canvass, aforesaid; in
accordance with the law,
the rules and guideline on
canvassing and
proclamation. (Emphasis
supplied)
The PBC thus had every reason to believe
that the phrase "completed and corrected"
COCs could only refer to the nine 99) COCs
for the nine municipalities, canvass for
which was completed on 21 May 1992, and
that of San Quintin, respectively. Verily, the
above resolution is vague and ambiguous.
Petitioner cannot be deprived of his office
without due process of law. Although public
office is notproperty under Section 1 of the
Bill of Rights of the Constitution (Article III,
1987 Constitution), and one cannot acquire
a vested right to public office (CRUZ, I.A.,
Constitutional Law, 1991 ed., 101), it is,
nevertheless, a protected right (BERNAS J.,
The Constitution of the Republic of the
Philippines, vol. I, 1987 ed.,
40, citing Segovia vs. Noel, 47 Phil. 543
[1925] and Borja vs. Agoncillo, 46 Phil. 432
[1924]). Due process in proceedings before
the respondent COMELEC, exercising its
quasi-judicial functions, requires due notice
and hearing, among others. Thus, although
the COMELEC possesses, in appropriate
cases, the power to annul or suspend the
proclamation of any candidate (Section 248,
Omnibus Election Code [B.P. Blg. 881]), We
had ruled in Farinas vs. Commission on
Elections (G.R. No. 81763, 3 March
1988), Reyes vs. Commission on
Elections G.R. No. 81856, 3 March 1988)
andGallardo vs. Commission on
Elections (G.R. No. 85974, 2 May 1989) that
the COMELEC is without power to partially
or totally annul a proclamation or suspend
the effects of a proclamation without notice
and hearing.
xxx xxx xxx
Furthermore, the said motion to annul
proclamation was treated by the
respondent COMELEC as a Special Case
(SPC) because its ruling therein was made in
connection with SPC No. 92-208 and SPC
No. 92-384. Special Cases under the
COMELEC RULES OF PROCEDURE involve
the pre-proclamation controversies (Rule 27
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

in relation to Section 4(h)l Rule 1, and
Section 4, Rule 7). We have categorically
declared in Sarmiento vs. Commission on
Elections (G.R. No. 105628, and companion
cases, 6 August 1992) that pursuant to
Section 3, Article IX-C of the 1987
Constitution, . . . the commission en
banc does not have jurisdiction to hear and
decide pre-proclamation cases at the first
instance. Such cases should first be referred
to a division
Hence, the COMELEC en banc had no
jurisdiction to decide on the aforesaid to
annul the proclamation; consequently, its
29 July 1992 Resolution is motion is null and
void. For this reason too, the COMELEC en
banc Resolution of 6 June 1992 in SPC No.
92-2()8 resolving the private respondent's
appeal from the ruling of the PBC with
respect to the COC of San Quintin is
similarly void.
2. It is to be noted, as correctly stressed by
the petitioner, that there are no valid
corrected Statements of Votes and
Certificates of Canvass for Tayug and San
Manuel; thus, any reference to such would
be clearly unfounded. While it may be true
that on 24 June 1992, the PBC, acting on
simultaneous petitions to correct the SOVs
and COCs for Tayug and San Manuel
ordered the MBCs for these two (2)
municipalities to make the appropriate
corrections in the said SOVs and their
corresponding COCs, none of said Boards
convened to the members of actually
implement the order. Such failure could
have been due to the appeal seasonably
interposed by the petitioner to the
COMELEC or the fact that said members
simply chose not to act thereon. As already
adverted to the so-called "corrected"
Statements of Votes and Certificates of
Canvass consist of sheets of paper signed by
the respective Election Registrars of Tayug
(Annex "F-l" of Comment of private
respondent; Annex "A" of Consolidated
Reply of petitioner) and San Manuel (Annex
"F-2, Id.; Annex "B", Id.). These are not valid
corrections because the Election Registrars,
as Chairmen of the MBCs cannot, by
themselves, act for their Section 225 of the
respective Board. Section 225 of the
Omnibus Election Code (B.P. Blg. 881)
provides that "[A] majority vote of all the
members of the board of canvassers shall
be necessary to render a decision." That
majority means at least two (2) of the three
(3) members constituting the Board
(Section 20(c) of the Electoral Reforms Law
of 1987 (R.A. No. 6646) provides that the
"municipal board of canvassers shall be
composed of the election registrar or a
representative of the Commission, as
chairman, the municipal treasurer, as vice-
chairman, and the most senior district
school supervisor or in his absence a
principal of the school district or the
elementary school, as members"). As to
why the Election Registrars, in their
capacities as Chairmen, were 7th only ones
who prepared the so-called correction
sheets, is beyond Us. There is no showing
that the other members of the Boards were
no longer available. Since they are from the
Province of Pangasinan, they could have
been easily summoned by the PBC to
appear before it and effect the corrections
on the Statements of Votes and Certificates
of Canvass.
Besides, by no stretch of the imagination
can these sheets of paper be considered as
the corrected SOVs and COCs. Corrections
in a Statement of Vote and a Certificate of
Canvass could only be accomplished either
by inserting the authorized corrections into
the SOV and COC which were originally
prepared and submitted by the MBC or by
preparing a new SOV and COC incorporating
therein the authorized corrections. Thus,
the statement in the 29 July 1992
Resolution of the COMELEC referring to
"the Certificates of Canvass of the municipal
Boards of Canvassers of Tayug and San
Manuel" (Last clause, paragraph 1 of the
dispositive portion, Annex "A" of
Petition: Rollo 15), is palpably unfounded.
The Commission could have 7 been misled
by Atty. Asperin's ambiguous reference to
"corrections already made in separate
sheets of paper of the Statements of Votes
and Certificate of Canvass of Tayug and San
Manuel, Pangasinan" (Quoted in the
Resolution of 9 July 1992; Id., 50-51), in his
petition asking the COMELEC to rule on who
shall be proclaimed. However, if it only took
the trouble to carefully examine what was
held out to be as the corrected documents,
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

respondent COMELEC should not have been
misled.
Even if We are to assume for the sake of
argument that these sheets of paper
constitute sufficient corrections, they are,
nevertheless, void and of no effect. At the
time the Election Registrars prepared them
on 6 July 1992 respondent COMELEC
had not yet acted on the petitioner's appeal
(SPC No. 92-384) from the 24 June 1992
ruling of the PBC authorizing the
corrections. Petitioner maintains that until
now, his appeal has not been resolved. The
public respondent, on the other hand,
through the Office of the Solicitor General,
claims that the same had been:
. . . resolved in the
questioned resolution of
July 29, 1992, where
COMELEC affirmed
respondents (sic) Board's
correction that petitioner
only received 2,415 votes
in Tayug and 2,179 in San
Manuel (see p. 2, Annex
"A", Petition) (Rollo, p. 71)
On the same matter, the
private respondent
asserts that:
This SPC-92-384, is
however, deemed
terminated and the ruling
of the PBC is likewise
deemed affirmed by
virtue of the 2nd par., Sec.
16, R.A. No.
7166, supra and
Comelecen
banc Resolution No.
2489, supra, dated June
29, 1992 (Id., 36);
If We follow the respondent COMELEC's
contention to its logical conclusion, it was
only on 29 July 1992 that SPC No. 92-384
was resolved; consequently, the so-called
"correction sheets" were still prematurely
prepared. In any event, the COMELEC could
not have validly ruled on such appeal in its
29 July 1992 Resolution because the same
was promulgated to resolve the Urgent
Motion For Contempt and to Annul
Proclamation filed by the private
respondent. Furthermore, before the
resolution of SPC No. 92-384 on the
abovementioned date, no hearing was set
or conducted to resolve the pending
motion. Therefore, on this ground alone,
the 29 July 1992 Resolution, even if it was
meant to resolve the appeal, is a patent
nullity for having been issued in gross
violation of the requirement of notice and
hearing mandated by Section 246 of the
Omnibus Election Code, in relation to
Section 18 of R.A. No. 7166 and Section 6,
Rule 27 of the COMELEC Rules of
Procedure, and for having been resolved by
the COMELEC en banc at the first instance.
The case should have been referred first to
a division pursuant to Section 3, Article IX-C
of the 1987 constitution and Our ruling
in Sarmiento vs. Commission on Elections.
Moreover, the COMELEC's claim that the
questioned resolution affirmed the
correction made by the Board is totally
baseless. The PBC did not make any
corrections. It merely ordered the
Municipal Boards of Canvassers of Tayug
and San Manuel to make such corrections.
As earlier stated, however, the said MBCs
did not convene to make these corrections.
It was the Chairmen alone who signed the
sheets of paper purporting to be
corrections.
For being clearly inconsistent with the
intention and official stand of respondent
COMELEC, private respondent COMELEC
private respondent's theory of termination
under the second paragraph of Section 16
of R.A. No. 7166, and the consequent
affirmance of the ruling of the PBC ordering
the correction of the number of votes, must
necessarily fail.
The foregoing considered, the proclamation
of the private respondent on, 13 August
1992 by the Provincial Board of Canvassers
of Pangasinan is null and void.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is
GRANTED. The challenged resolution of the
respondent Commission on Elections of 29
July 1992 and the proclamation of the
private respondent on 13 August 1992 as
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

the second Member of the Sangguniang
Panlalawigan of the Province of
Pangasinan, representing its Sixth
Legislative District ANNULLED and SET
ASIDE and respondent Commission on
Elections is DIRECTED to resolve the
pending incidents conformably with the
foregoing disquisitions and
pronouncements.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.
11

On February 23, 1993, private respondent Micu filed an
Urgent Omnibus Motion before the COMELEC praying that
the latter hear and resolve the pending incidents referred to
by this Court. Private respondent was obviously referring to
SPC No. 92-208 and SPC No. 92-384, both cases left
unresolved by the COMELEC.
Consequently, the First Division of the COMELEC set the cases
for hearing on March 8, 1993. During the hearing, both Micu
and Bince orally manifested the withdrawal of their
respective appeals. Also withdrawn were the petitions to
disqualify Atty. Asperin and to cite the Board for contempt.
The parties agreed to file their respective
memoranda/position papers by March 15, 1993.
Petitioner Bince filed his Position Paper on March 12, 1993
arguing that the withdrawal of SPC No. 92-208 affirmed the
ruling of the PBC dated May 21, 1992 and even if it were not
withdrawn, Section 16 of R.A. 7166 would have worked to
terminate the appeal. Bince likewise asserts that his appeal in
SPC No. 92-384 became moot and academic in view of this
Court's ruling nullifying the June 24, 1992 order of the PBC
granting the petitions for correction of the SOVs and COCs of
Tayug and San Manuel aside from being superseded by the
PBC ruling proclaiming him on July 21, 1992.
On the other hand, private respondent Micu, in his Position
Paper filed on March 15, 1993 postulated that the petitions
filed on June 11, 1992 for the correction of the SOVs and
COCs of Tayug and San Manuel under Section 6 of Rule 27 of
the Comelec Rules of Procedure, as well as the ruling of the
PBC of June 24, 1992 granting the same were valid so that the
withdrawal of Bince's appeal in SPC No. 92-384 firmly
affirmed the PBC ruling of June 24, 1992 allowing the
corrections.
On July 15, 1993, the First Division of the COMELEC
promulgated a Resolution, the dispositive portion of which
reads:
Viewed from the foregoing considerations,
the Commission (First Division) holds that
the petitioner Alfonso C. Bince Jr. is entitled
to sit as member of the Sangguniang
Panlalawigan, Sixth District of Pangasinan.
ACCORDINGLY, the Commission (First
Division) RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES,
to AFFIRM the proclamation of petitioner
Alfonso C. Bince, Jr. by the Provincial Board
of Canvassers of Pangasinan on 21 July 1992
as the duly elected member of the
Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Sixth
District of the Province of Pangasinan.
12

On July 20, 1993, private respondent Micu filed a Motion for
reconsideration of the above-quoted resolution.
On September 9, 1993, the COMELEC en banc granted the
private respondentls motion for reconsideration in a
resolution which dispositively reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the
Motion for Reconsideration filed by
respondent Emiliano S. Micu is granted. The
Resolution of the Commission First Division
is hereby SET ASIDE. The proclamation of
petitioner Alfonso Bince, Jr. on July 21, 1992
is hereby declared null and void.
Accordingly, the Provincial Board of
Canvassers is hereby directed to reconvene,
with proper notices, and to order the
Municipal Board of Canvassers of San
Manuel and Tayug to make the necessary
corrections in the SOVs and COCs in the said
municipalities. Thereafter, the Provincial
Board of Canvassers is directed to include
the results in the said municipalities in its
canvass.
The PBC is likewise ordered to proclaim the
second elected member of the Sangguniang
Panlalawigan of the Sixth Legislative District
of Pangasinan.
SO ORDERED.
13

This is the resolution assailed in the instant petition
for certiorari.
We do not find merit in this petition and accordingly rule
against petitioner.
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

Respondent COMELEC did not act without jurisdiction or with
grave abuse of discretion in annulling the proclamation of
petitioner Alfonso Bince, Jr. and in directing the Provincial
Board of Canvassers of Pangasinan to order the Municipal
Boards of Canvassers of Tayug and San Manuel to make the
necessary corrections in the SOVs and COCs in said
municipalities and to proclaim the winner in the sixth
legislative district of Pangasinan.
At the outset, it is worthy to observe that no error was
committed by respondent COMELEC when it resolved the
"pending incidents" of the instant case pursuant to the
decision of this Court in the aforesaid case
of Bince, Jr. v.COMELEC on February 9, 1993 Petitioner's
contention that his proclamation has long been affirmed and
confirmed by this Court in the aforesaid case is baseless.
In Bince, we nullified the proclamation of private respondent
because the same was done without the requisite due notice
and hearing, thereby depriving the petitioner of his right to
due process. In so doing, however, we did not affirm nor
confirm the proclamation of petitioner, hence, our directive
to respondent COMELEC to resolve the pending incidents of
the case so as to ascertain the true and lawful winner of the
said elections. In effect, petitioner's proclamation only
enjoyed the presumption of regularity and validity of an
official act. It was not categorically declared valid.
Neither can the COMELEC be faulted for subsequently
annulling the proclamation of petitioner Bince on account of
a mathematical error in addition committed by respondent
MBCs in the computation of the votes received by both
petitioner and private respondent.
The petitions to correct manifest errors were filed on time,
that is, before the petitioner's proclamation on July 21, 1992.
The petition of the MBC of San Manuel was filed on June 4,
1992 while that of still, the MBC of Tayug was filed on June 5,
1992. Still, private respondent's petition was filed with the
MBCs of Tayug and San Manuel on June 10, 1992 and June
11, 1992, respectively, definitely well within the period
required by Section 6 (now Section 7), Rule 27 of the
COMELEC Rules of Procedure. Section 6 clearly provides that
the petition for correction may be filed at any time before
proclamation of a winner, thus:
Sec. 6. Correction of errors in tabulation or
tallying of results by the board of
canvassers. (a) Where it is clearly
shown before proclamation that manifest
errors were committed in the tabulation or
tallying of election returns, or certificates of
canvass, during the canvassing as where (1)
a copy of the election returns of one
precinct or two or more copies of a
certificate of canvass was tabulated more
than once, (2) two copies of the election
returns or certificate of canvass were
tabulated separately, (3) there had been a
mistake in the adding or copying of the
figures into the certificate of canvass or into
the statement of votes, or (4) so-called
election returns from non-existent precincts
were included in the canvass, the board
may, motu propio, or upon verified petition
by any candidate, political party,
organization or coalition of political parties,
after due notice and hearing, correct the
errors committed.
(b) The order for correction must be in
writing and must be promulgated.
(c) Any candidate, political party,
organization or coalition of political parties
aggrieved by said order may appeal
therefrom to the Commission within
twenty-four (24) hours from the
promulgation.
(d) Once an appeal is made, the board of
canvassers shall not proclaim the winning
candidates, unless their votes are not
affected by the appeal.
(e) The appeal must implead as
respondents all parties who may be
adversely affected thereby.
(f) Upon receipt of the appeal, the Clerk of
Court concerned shall forthwith issue
summons, together with a copy of the
appeal, to the respondents.
(g) The Clerk of Court concerned shall
immediately set the appeal for hearing.
(h) The appeal shall be heard an decided by
he Commission en banc (Emphasis ours).
The rule is plain and simple. It needs no other
interpretation contrary to petitioner's protestation.
Assuming for the sake of argument that the petition was filed
out of time, this incident alone will not thwart the proper
determination and resolution of the instant case on
substantial grounds. Adherence to a technicality that would
put a stamp of validity on a palpably void proclamation, with
the inevitable result of frustrating the people's will cannot be
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

countenanced. In Benito v. COMELEC,
14
categorically
declared that:
. . . Adjudication of cases on substantive
merits and not on technicalities has been
consistently observed by this Court. In the
case of Juliano vs. Court of Appeals (20
SCRA 808) cited in Duremdes
vs. Commission on Elections (178 SCRA 746),
this Court had the occasion to declare that:
Well-settled is the
doctrine that election
contests involve public
interest, and technicalities
and procedural barriers
should not be allowed to
stand if they constitute an
obstacle to the
determination of the true
will of the electorate in
the choice of their
elective officials. And also
settled is the rule that
laws governing election
contests must be liberally
construed to the end that
the will of the people in
the choice of public
officials may not be
defeated by mere
technical objections
(Gardiner v. Romulo, 26
Phil. 521; Galang v.
Miranda, 35 Phil. 269;
Jalandoni v. Sarcon, G.R.
No.
L-6496, January 27, 1962;
Macasunding v.
Macalanang, G.R. No.
L-22779, March 31, 1965;
Cauton v. Commission on
Elections, G.R. No. L-
25467, April 27, 1967). In
an election case the court
has an imperative duty to
ascertain all means within
its command who is the
real candidate elected by
the electorate (Ibasco v.
Ilao, G.R. No. L-17512,
December 29, 1960). . . .
(Juliano vs. Court of
Appeals, supra, pp. 818-
819). (Emphasis ours)
In the later case of Rodriguez
vs. Commission on Elections (119 SCRA 465),
this doctrine was reiterated and the Court
went on to state that:
Since the early case
of Gardiner v. Romulo (26
Phil. 521), this Court has
made it clear that it
frowns upon any
interpretation of the law
or the rules that would
hinder in any way not only
the free and intelligent
casting of the votes in an
election but also the
correct ascertainment of
the results, This bent or
disposition continues to
the present. (Id., at p.
474).
The same principle still holds true today.
Technicalities of the legal rules enunciated
in the election laws should not frustrate the
determination of the popular will.
Undoubtedly therefore, the only issue that remains
unresolved is the allowance of the correction of what are
purely mathematical and/or mechanical errors in the addition
of the votes received by both candidates. It does not involve
the opening of ballot boxes; neither does it involve the
examination and/or appreciation of ballots. The correction
sought by private respondent and respondent MBCs of Tayug
and San Manuel is correction of manifest mistakesin
mathematical addition. Certainly, this only calls for a mere
clerical act of reflecting the true and correct votes received by
the candidates by the MBCs involved. In this case, the
manifest errors sought to be corrected involve the proper
and diligent addition of the votes in the municipalities of
Tayug and San Manuel, Pangasinan.
In Tayug, the total votes received by petitioner Bince was
erroneously recorded as 2,486 when it should only have been
2,415. Petitioner Bince, in effect, was credited by 71 votes
more.
In San Manuel, petitioner Bince received 2,179 votes but was
credited with 6 votes more, hence, the SOV reflected the
total number of votes as 2,185. On the other hand, the same
SOV indicated that private respondent Micu garnered 2,892
votes but he actually received only 2,888, hence was credited
in excess of 4 votes.
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

Consequently, by margin of 72 votes, private respondent
indisputably won the challenged seat in theSangguniang
Panlalawigan of the sixth district of Pangasinan. Petitioner's
proclamation and assumption into public office was therefore
flawed from the beginning, the same having been based on a
faulty tabulation. Hence, respondent COMELEC did not
commit grave abuse of discretion in setting aside the illegal
proclamation.
As a parting note, we reiterate' our concern with respect to
insignificant disputes plaguing this Court. Trifles such as the
one at issue should not, as much as possible, reach this Court,
clog its docket, demand precious judicial time and waste
valuable taxpayers' money, if they can be settled below
without prejudice to any party or to the ends of justice.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED with
costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Regalado, Davide, Jr.,
Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza and
Francisco, JJ., concur.








































Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

[G.R. No. 135716. September 23, 1999]
FERDINAND TRINIDAD, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS and MANUEL C. SUNGA, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
The instant Petition for Certiorari questions the June 22,
1998 Resolution
[1]
of the Commission on Elections
(hereinafter referred to as COMELEC) in SPA No. 95-213,
disqualifying petitioner as a candidate for Mayor of Iguig,
Cagayan, in the May 8, 1995 elections. It also questions the
October 13, 1998 COMELEC Resolution
[2]
which not only
denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration, but also
annulled his proclamation as elected Mayor in the May 11,
1998 elections.
This case has been filed before this Court when the
Petition for Disqualification of private respondent (SPA No.
95-213) was dismissed by the COMELEC. Acting on the
Petition for Certiorari of private respondent, this court,
in Sunga v. Commission on Elections,
[3]
ordered the COMELEC
to reinstate SPA No. 95-213 and act thereon.
The facts of the case, as found in Sunga v. Commission
on Elections, supra, are as follows:
Petitioner (herein private respondent) Manuel C. Sunga was
one of the candidates for the position of Mayor in the
Municipality of Iguig, Province of Cagayan, in the May 8, 1995
elections. Private respondent (herein petitioner) Ferdinand
B. Trinidad, then incumbent mayor, was a candidate for re-
election in the same municipality.
On 22 April 1995, Sunga filed with the COMELEC a letter-
complaint for disqualification against Trinidad, accusing him
of using three (3) local government vehicles in his campaign,
in violation of Section 261, par. (o), Art. XXII, of BP Blg. 881
(Omnibus Election Code, as amended). On 7 May 1995,
Sunga filed another letter-complaint with the COMELEC
charging Trinidad this time with violation of Sec. 261, par. (e)
(referring to threats, intimidation, terrorism or other forms of
coercion) of the Omnibus Election Code, in addition to the
earlier violation imputed to him in the first letter-
complaint. This was followed by an Amended Petition for
disqualification consolidating the charges in the two (2)
letters-complaint, including vote buying, and providing more
specific details of the violations committed by Trinidad. The
case was docketed as SPA No. 95-213.
In a Minute Resolution dated 25 May 1995, the COMELEC 2nd
Division referred the complaint to its Law Department for
investigation. Hearings were held wherein Sunga adduced
evidence to prove his accusations. Trinidad, on the other
hand, opted not to submit any evidence at all.
Meanwhile, the election results showed that Trinidad
garnered the highest number of votes, while Sunga trailed
second.
On 10 May 1995 Sunga moved for the suspension of the
proclamation of Trinidad. However, notwithstanding the
motion, Trinidad was proclaimed the elected mayor,
prompting Sunga to file another motion to suspend the
effects of the proclamation. Both motions were not acted
upon by the COMELEC 2nd Division.
On 28 June 1995 the COMELEC Law Department submitted its
Report to the COMELEC En Banc recommending that Trinidad
be charged in court for violation of the following penal
provisions of the Omnibus Election Code: (a) Sec. 261, par.
(a), on vote buying; (b) Sec. 261, par. (e), on threats,
intimidation, terrorism or other forms of coercion; and, (c)
Sec. 261, par. (o), on use of any equipment, vehicle owned by
the government or any of its political subdivisions. The Law
Department likewise recommended to recall and revoke the
proclamation of Ferdinand D. Trinidad as the duly elected
Mayor of Iguig, Cagayan; proclaim Manuel C. Sunga as the
duly elected Mayor, and, direct Sunga to take his oath and
assume the duties and functions of the office.
The COMELEC En Banc approved the findings of the Law
Department and directed the filing of the corresponding
informations in the Regional Trial Court against
Trinidad. Accordingly, four (4) informations for various
election offenses were filed in the Regional Trial Court of
Tuguegarao, Cagayan. The disqualification case, on the other
hand, was referred to the COMELEC 2nd Division for hearing.
On 2 May 1996 Sunga filed a Second Urgent Motion to
Suspend the Effects and Annul the Proclamation with Urgent
Motion for Early Resolution of the Petition. But in its 17 May
1996 Resolution, the COMELEC 2nd Division dismissed the
petition for disqualification, x x x.
His motion for reconsideration having been denied by the
COMELEC En Banc, Sunga filed the instant petition
contending that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of
discretion in dismissing the petition for disqualification x x x.
As we have mentioned, above, private respondents
Petition with this Court was granted and COMELEC was
ordered to reinstate SPA No. 95-213 and hear the same.
[4]

Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

Finally, on June 22, 1998, the COMELEC 1st Division
(former 2nd Division) promulgated the first questioned
Resolution disqualifying petitioner as a candidate in the May
8, 1995 elections.
[5]
Petitioner filed a Motion for
Reconsideration,
[6]
claiming denial of due process. Private
respondent filed his Opposition to the Motion,
[7]
at the same
time moving for the cancellation of petitioners proclamation
as elected Mayor in the 1998 elections and praying that he be
proclaimed Mayor instead.
On October 13, 1998, the COMELEC En Banc denied
petitioners Motion for Reconsideration and also annulled his
proclamation as duly elected Mayor of Iguig, Cagayan in the
May 11, 1998 elections.
[8]
Private respondents motion to be
declared Mayor was, however, denied. Commissioner
Teresita Dy-Liacco Flores rendered a dissenting opinion
insofar as the Resolution annulled the proclamation of
petitioner as Mayor in the May 11, 1998 elections, which she
found to be bereft of any legal basis.
Petitioner alleges that the questioned Resolutions were
promulgated without any hearing conducted and without his
evidence having been considered by the COMELEC, in
violation of his right to due process. He also contends that
the portion of the October 13, 1998 Resolution annulling his
proclamation as Mayor in the May 11, 1998 elections was
rendered without prior notice and hearing and that he was
once more effectively denied due process. Petitioner also
adopts the stand of Commissioner Dy-Liacco Flores that his
disqualification, if any, under SPA No. 95-213 cannot extend
beyond the three-year term to which he was elected on May
8, 1995, in relation to which the corresponding Petition for
his disqualification was lodged.
In his Comment,
[9]
private respondent assails the
arguments raised in the Petition and prays that he be
proclaimed as the elected Mayor in the 1998
elections. Petitioner filed a Reply
[10]
to private respondents
Comment on February 24, 1999. Meanwhile, on February 25,
1999, the criminal cases filed against the petitioner with the
Regional Trial Court of Tuguegarao, Cagayan were
dismissed.
[11]
On March 8, 1999, the Solicitor General filed a
Comment for the COMELEC,
[12]
reiterating the argument that
the COMELEC is empowered to disqualify petitioner from
continuing to hold public office and at the same time, barring
private respondents moves to be proclaimed elected in the
1998 elections. Respective Memoranda were filed by both
parties.
The issues before us may be summarized as follows:
1. Was petitioner deprived of due process in the
proceedings before the COMELEC insofar as his
disqualification under the May 8, 1995
elections was concerned?
2. Was petitioner deprived of due process in the
proceedings before the COMELEC insofar as his
disqualification under the May 11, 1998
elections was concerned?
3. May petitioners proclamation as Mayor under
the May 11, 1998 elections be cancelled on
account of the disqualification case filed
against him during the May 8, 1995 elections?
4. May private respondent, as the candidate
receiving the second highest number of votes,
be proclaimed as Mayor in the event of
petitioners disqualification?
The Commission on Elections is the agency vested with
exclusive jurisdiction over election contests involving
regional, provincial and city officials, as well as appellate
jurisdiction over election contests involving elective municipal
and barangay officials. Unless the Commission is shown to
have committed a grave abuse of discretion, its decision and
rulings will not be interfered with by this Court.
[13]

Guided by this doctrine, we find that no violation of due
process has attached to the COMELECs June 22, 1998
Resolution.
Petitioner complains that while the COMELEC reinstated
SPA No. 95-213, it conducted no hearing and private
respondent presented no evidence.
[14]
Yet, this does not
equate to a denial of due process. As explained in Paat v.
Court of Appeals
[15]
--
x x x. Due process does not necessarily mean or require a
hearing, but simply an opportunity or right to be heard (Pepsi
Cola Distributors of the Phil. V. NLRC, G.R. No. 100686,
August 15, 1995). One may be heard, not solely by verbal
presentation but also, and perhaps many times more
creditably and predictable than oral argument, through
pleadings (Concerned Officials of MWSS v. Vasquez, G.R. No.
109113, January 25, 1995). In administrative proceedings
moreover, technical rules of procedure and evidence are not
strictly applied; administrative process cannot be fully
equated with due process in its strict judicial sense
(Ibid.) Indeed, deprivation of due process cannot be
successfully invoked where a party was given a chance to be
heard on his motion for reconsideration (Rodriguez v. Project
6 Market Service Cooperative, G.R. No. 79968, August 23,
1995), as in the instant case, when private respondents were
undisputedly given the opportunity to present their side
when they filed a letter of reconsideration dated June 28,
1989 which was, however, denied in an order of July 12, 1989
of Executive Director Baggayan. In Navarro III vs. Damasco
(G.R. No. 101875, July 14, 1995), we ruled that:
The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be
heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, an
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

opportunity to explain ones side or an opportunity to 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 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.
In the case at bar, petitioner was able to file an Answer
with Counter Petition and Motion to Dismiss.
[16]
He was also
able to submit his counter-affidavit and sworn statements of
forty-eight (48) witnesses. While he complains that these
were not considered by the Hearing Officer, he, himself,
admits that the COMELEC did not rely on the findings of the
Hearing Officer but referred the case to its Second
Division. Thus, by the time the Second Division reviewed his
case, petitioners evidence were already in place. Moreover,
petitioner was also given a chance to explain his arguments
further in the Motion for Reconsideration which he filed
before the COMELEC. Clearly, in the light of the ruling
in Paat, no deprivation of due process was
committed. Considering that petitioner was afforded an
opportunity to be heard, through his pleadings, there is really
no denial of procedural due process.
[17]

Being interrelated, we shall discuss the second and third
issues together.
We note that petitioners term as Mayor under the May
8, 1995 elections expired on June 30, 1998.
[18]
Thus, when the
first questioned Resolution was issued by COMELEC on June
22, 1998, petitioner was still serving his term. However, by
the time the Motion for Reconsideration of petitioner was
filed on July 3, 1998, the case had already become moot and
academic as his term had already expired. So, too, the
second questioned Resolution which was issued on October
13, 1998, came at a time when the issue of the case had
already been rendered moot and academic by the expiration
of petitioners challenged term of office.
In Malaluan v. Commission on Elections,
[19]
this Court
clearly pronounced that expiration of the challenged term of
office renders the corresponding petition moot and
academic. Thus:
It is significant to note that the term of office of the local
officials elected in the May, 1992 elections expired on June
30, 1995. This petition, thus, has become moot and academic
insofar as it concerns petitioners right to the mayoralty seat
in his municipality (Amatong v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 71003,
April 28, 1988, En Banc, Minute Resolution; Artano v. Arcillas,
G.R. No. 76823, April 26, 1988, En Banc, Minute Resolution)
becauseexpiration of the term of office contested in the
election protest has the effect of rendering the same moot
and academic (Atienza v. Commission on Elections, 239 SCRA
298; Abeja v. Tanada, 236 SCRA 60; Yorac v. Magalona, 3
SCRA 76).
When the appeal from a decision in an election case has
already become moot, the case being an election protest
involving the office of the mayor the term of which had
expired, the appeal is dismissible on that ground, unless the
rendering of a decision on the merits would be of practical
value (Yorac v. Magalona, supra). This rule we established in
the case of Yorac v. Magalona which was dismissed because it
had been mooted by the expiration of the term of office of
the Municipal Mayor of Saravia, Negros Occidental. x x x.
(underscoring, ours)
With the complaint for disqualification of private
respondent rendered moot and academic by the expiration of
petitioners term of office therein contested, COMELEC acted
with grave abuse of discretion in proceeding to disqualify
petitioner from his reelected term of office in its second
questioned Resolution on the ground that it comes as a
matter of course after his disqualification in SPA No. 95-213
promulgated after the 1998 election. While it is true that the
first questioned Resolution was issued eight (8) days before
the term of petitioner as Mayor expired, said Resolution had
not yet attained finality and could not effectively be held to
have removed petitioner from his office.
[20]
Indeed, removal
cannot extend beyond the term during which the alleged
misconduct was committed. If a public official is not removed
before his term of office expires, he can no longer be
removed if he is thereafter reelected for another term.
[21]

In this regard, therefore, we agree with the dissenting
opinion of Commissioner Teresita Dy-Liacco Flores in the
second questioned Resolution that petitioners
disqualification under SPA No. 95-213 cannot extend beyond
the term to which he was elected in 1995.
[22]

Yet another ground to reverse the COMELECs
annulment of petitioners proclamation under the 1998
elections is the undeniable fact that petitioner was not
accorded due process insofar as this issue is concerned. To be
sure, this was not part of the first questioned Resolution
which only touched on the matter raised in the complaint
the May 8, 1995 elections. Private respondent merely prayed
for the annulment of petitioners proclamation as winner in
the 1998 elections in his Opposition to the Motion for
Reconsideration. It was with grave abuse of discretion, then,
that the COMELEC went on to annul petitioners
proclamation as winner of the 1998 elections without any
prior notice or hearing on the matter.
[23]

As per the Certificate of Canvass,
[24]
petitioner obtained
5,920 votes as against the 1,727 votes obtained by private
respondent and 15 votes garnered by the third mayoral
candidate, Johnny R. Banatao. This gives petitioner a high
77.26% of the votes cast. There is no doubt, therefore, that
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

petitioner received his municipalitys clear mandate. This,
despite the disqualification case filed against him by private
respondent.
This further lends support to our decision to bar his
disqualification insofar as the May 11, 1998 elections is
concerned. Indeed, in election cases, it is fundamental that
the peoples will be at all times upheld. As eloquently
stressed in Frivaldo v. Commission on Elections
[25]
--
This Court has time and again liberally and equitably
construed the electoral laws of our country to give fullest
effect to the manifest will of our people, for in case of doubt,
political laws must be interpreted to give life and spirit to the
popular mandate freely expressed through the
ballot. Otherwise stated, legal niceties and technicalities
cannot stand in the way of the sovereign will. Consistently,
we have held:
x x x (L)aws governing election contests must be liberally
construed to the end that the will of the people in the choice
of public officials may not be defeated by mere technical
objections (Benito v. Commission on Elections, 235 SCRA 436,
442 [August 17, 1994]).
Finally, we see no error in the COMELECs rejection of
private respondents move to be declared as Mayor on
account of petitioners disqualification. To begin with, the
issue had been rendered moot and academic by the
expiration of petitioners challenged term of office. Second,
even in law and jurisprudence, private respondent cannot
claim any right to the office. As held by the COMELEC, the
succession to the office of the mayor shall be in accordance
with the provisions of the Local Government Code which, in
turn, provides that the vice mayor concerned shall become
the mayor.
[26]
Also, in Nolasco v. Commission on
Elections,
[27]
citing Reyes v. Commission on Elections,
[28]
we
already rejected, once and for all, the position that the
candidate who obtains the second highest number of votes
may be proclaimed the winner in the event of disqualification
or failure of the candidate with the highest number of votes
to hold office. This court ratiocinated thus
That the candidate who obtains the second highest number
of votes may not be proclaimed winner in case the winning
candidate is disqualified is now settled (Frivaldo v. COMELEC,
174 SCRA 245 [1989]; Labo, Jr. v. COMELEC, 176 SCRA 1
[1989]; Abella v. COMELEC, 201 SCRA 253 [1991]; Labo, Jr. v.
COMELEC, 211 SCRA 297 [1992]; Benito v. COMELEC, 235
SCRA 436 [1994]). The doctrinal instability caused by see-
sawing rulings (Compare Topacio v. Paredes, 23 Phil. 238
[1912] with Ticson v. COMELEC, 103 SCRA 687 [1981];
Geronimo v. Ramos, 136 SCRA 435 [1985] with Santos v.
COMELEC, 137 SCRA 740 [1985]) has since been removed. In
the latest ruling (Aquino v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 120265,
September 18, 1995) on the question, this Court said:
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.
Private respondent claims that there are compelling
reasons to depart from this doctrine. He argues that since
the disqualification case filed against the petitioner for the
1995 elections has been rendered moot and academic, it is
with the 1998 elections that its impact must be felt. He also
claims that justice should be given him as victim of
petitioners dilatory tactics.
We are not persuaded. On the other hand, the fact that
despite the disqualification case filed against petitioner
relating to the 1995 elections, he still won the mandate of the
people for the 1998 elections, leads us to believe that the
electorate truly chose petitioner and repudiated private
respondent. To allow private respondent, a defeated and
repudiated candidate, to take over the mayoralty despite his
rejection by the electorate is to disenfranchise the electorate
without any fault on their part and to undermine the
importance and meaning of democracy and the peoples right
to elect officials of their choice.
[29]

Therefore, the Resolution of the COMELEC dated
October 13, 1998 which annulled petitioners proclamation as
Mayor of Iguig, Cagayan in the May 11, 1998 elections should
be set aside. On the other hand, the petition filed before the
COMELEC against petitioner for election offenses committed
during the May 1995 elections should be dismissed for being
moot and academic, the term of office to which petitioner
was elected having already expired.
WHEREFORE, the petition is partly GRANTED. The
Resolution of the COMELEC, dated October 13, 1998 is SET
ASIDE insofar as it annuls the proclamation of petitioner as
winner in the May 11, 1998 elections. Insofar as the May 8,
1995 elections is concerned, we find the issues related
thereto rendered moot and academic by expiration of the
term of office challenged and, accordingly, DISMISS the
petition lodged in connection therewith. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan,
Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima,
Buena, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.
Pardo, J., no part.
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014


SYNOPSIS
This is a petition for certiorari questioning the
Resolution of the Commission on Elections disqualifying
petitioner as a mayoralty candidate in the May 1995
elections. Likewise, it seeks the review of a subsequent
resolution annulling petitioners proclamation as elected
mayor in the May 1998 elections.
Petitioners term as mayor under the May 8, 1995
elections expired on June 30, 1998. Thus, when the first
questioned Resolution was issued by the COMELEC on June
22, 1998, petitioner was still serving his term. However, by
the time the Motion for Reconsideration of petitioner was
filed on July 3, 1998, the case had already become moot and
academic as his term had already expired. So, too, the second
questioned Resolution issued on October 13, 1998, came at a
time when the issue of the case had already been rendered
moot and academic by the expiration of petitioners
challenged term of office. With the complaint for
disqualification of private respondent rendered moot and
academic by the expiration of petitioners term of office
therein contested, the COMELEC acted with grave abuse of
discretion in proceeding to disqualify petitioner from his
reelected term of office. Removal cannot extend beyond the
term during which the alleged misconduct was committed. If
a public official is not removed before his term of office
expires, he can no longer be removed if he is thereafter
reelected for another term.

SYLLABUS
1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS;
DECISIONS AND RULING THEREOF, GENERALLY NOT
INTERFERED WITH BY SUPREME COURT.- The
Commission on Elections is the agency vested with
exclusive jurisdiction over election contests involving
regional, provincial and city officials, as well as appellate
jurisdiction over election contests involving elective
municipal and barangay officials. Unless the
Commission is shown to have committed a grave abuse
of discretion, its decision and rulings will not be
interfered with by this Court.
2. ID.; DUE PROCESS; CONSTRUED.- As explained in Paat v.
Court of Appeals - xxx The essence of due process is
simply an opportunity to be heard, or as applied to
administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain
ones side or an opportunity to seek 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 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.
3. ID.; ID.; NOT DENIED WHERE PARTY AFFORDED
OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD THRU PLEADINGS.-
Petitioner complains that while the COMELEC
reinstated SPA No. 95-213, it conducted no hearing and
private respondent presented no evidence. Yet, this
does not equate to a denial of due process. In the case
at bar, petitioner was able to file an Answer with
Counter Petition and Motion to Dismiss. He was also
able to submit his counter-affidavit and sworn
statements of forty-eight (48) witnesses. While he
complains that these were not considered by the
Hearing Officer, he, himself, admits that the COMELEC
did not rely on the findings of the Hearing Officer but
referred the case to its Second Division. Thus, by the
time the Second Division reviewed his case, petitioners
evidence were already in place. Moreover, petitioner
was also given a chance to explain his arguments further
in the Motion for Reconsideration which he filed before
the COMELEC. Clearly, in the light of the ruling
in Paat, no deprivation of due process was committed.
Considering that petitioner was afforded an opportunity
to be heard, through his pleadings, there is really no
denial of procedural due process.
4. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTIONS; DISQUALIFICATION;
RENDERED MOOT AND ACADEMIC BY EXPIRATION OF
TERM OF OFFICE.- We note that petitioners term as
Mayor under the May 8, 1995 elections expired on June
30, 1998. Thus, when the first questioned Resolution
was issued by COMELEC on June 22, 1998, petitioner
was still serving his term. However, by the time the
Motion for Reconsideration of petitioner was filed on
July 3, 1998, the case had already become moot and
academic as his term had already expired. So, too, the
second questioned Resolution which was issued on
October 13, 1998, came at a time when the issue of the
case had already been rendered moot and academic by
the expiration of petitioners challenged term of office.
In Malaluan v. Commission on Elections, this Court
clearly pronounced that expiration of the challenged
term of office renders the corresponding petition moot
and academic.
5. ID.; ID.; REMOVAL; CANNOT EXTEND BEYOND TERM
DURING WHICH ALLEGED MISCONDUCT WAS
COMMITTED.- With the complaint for disqualification of
private respondent rendered moot and academic by the
expiration of petitioners term of office therein
contested, COMELEC acted with grave abuse of
discretion in proceeding to disqualify petitioner from his
reelected term of office in its second questioned
Resolution on the ground that it comes as a matter of
course after his disqualification in SPA No. 95-213
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

promulgated after the 1998 election. While it is true
that the first questioned Resolution was issued eight (8)
days before the term of petitioner as Mayor expired,
said Resolution had not yet attained finality and could
not effectively be held to have removed petitioner from
his office. Indeed, removal cannot extend beyond the
term during which the alleged misconduct was
committed. If a public official is not removed before his
term of office expires, he can no longer be removed if
he is thereafter reelected for another term.
6. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; DUE PROCESS; DENIAL THEREOF
BY ANNULMENT OF PROCLAMATION WITHOUT ANY
PRIOR NOTICE OR HEARING.- Yet another ground to
reverse the COMELECs annulment of petitioners
proclamation under the 1998 elections is the undeniable
fact that petitioner was not accorded due process
insofar as this issue is concerned. To be sure, this was
not part of the first questioned Resolution which only
touched on the matter raised in the complaint - the May
8, 1995 elections. Private respondent merely prayed for
the annulment of petitioners proclamation as winner in
the 1998 elections in his Opposition to the Motion for
Reconsideration. It was with grave abuse of discretion,
then, that the COMELEC went on to annul petitioners
proclamation as winner of the 1998 elections without
any prior notice or hearing on the matter.
7. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTIONS; PEOPLES WILL AT ALL TIMES
UPHELD.- It is fundamental that the peoples will be at
all times upheld. As eloquently stressed in Frivaldo v.
Commission on Elections - This Court has time and
again liberally and equitably construed the electoral
laws of our country to give fullest effect to the manifest
will of our people, for in case of doubt, political laws
must be interpreted to give life and spirit to the popular
mandate freely expressed through the ballot. Otherwise
stated, legal niceties and technicalities cannot stand in
the way of the sovereign will. Consistently, we have
held: x x x (L)aws governing election contests must be
liberally construed to the end that the will of the people
in the choice of public officials may not be defeated by
mere technical objections (Benito v. Commission on
Elections, 235 SCRA 436, 442 [August 17, 1994]).
8. ID.; ID.; DISQUALIFICATION CASES; CANDIDATE WHO
OBTAINED SECOND HIGHEST NUMBER OF VOTES
CANNOT BE PROCLAIMED IN EVENT WINNER
DISQUALIFIED.- Finally, we see no error in the
COMELECs rejection of private respondents move to be
declared as Mayor on account of petitioners
disqualification. To begin with, the issue had been
rendered moot and academic by the expiration of
petitioners challenged term of office. Second. even in
law and jurisprudence, private respondent cannot claim
any right to the office. As held by the COMELEC, the
succession to the office of the mayor shall be in
accordance with the provisions of the Local Government
Code which, in turn, provides that the vice mayor
concerned shall become the mayor. Also, in Nolasco v.
Commission on Elections, citing Reyes v. Commission on
Elections, we already rejected, once and for all, the
position that the candidate who obtains the second
highest number of votes may be proclaimed the winner
in the event of disqualification or failure of the
candidate with the highest number of votes to hold
office.






















Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

[G.R. No. 126669. April 27, 1998]
ERNESTO M. PUNZALAN, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS and FERDINAND D.
MENESES, respondents.
[G.R. No. 127900. April 27, 1998]
FERDINAND D. MENESES, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS and ERNESTO M.
PUNZALAN, respondents.
[G.R. No. 128800. April 27, 1998]
ERNESTO M. PUNZALAN, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS and FERDINAND D.
MENESES, respondents.
[G.R. No. 132435. April 27, 1998]
ERNESTO M. PUNZALAN, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS and FERDINAND D.
MENESES, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
KAPUNAN, J.:
Danilo Manalastas, Ferdinand Meneses and Ernesto
Punzalan were among the four (4) candidates for mayor of
the municipality of Mexico, Pampanga during the May 8,
1995 elections.
On May 24, 1995, the Municipal Board of Canvassers
(MBC) proclaimed Ferdinand Meneses as the duly elected
mayor, having garnered a total of 10,301 votes against Danilo
Manalastas 9,317 votes and Ernesto Punzalans 8,612 votes.
On May 30, 1995, Danilo Manalastas filed an election
protest docketed as Election Case No. E-005-95 before the
Regional Trial Court of San Fernando, Pampanga, challenging
the results of the elections in the municipalitys forty-seven
(47) precincts.
[1]
In due time, Ferdinand Meneses filed his
answer with counter protest impugning the results in twenty-
one (21) precincts
[2]
of the 47 protested by Manalastas.
On June 2, 1995, Ernesto Punzalan filed his own election
protest docketed as Election Case No. E-006-95, also before
the RTC in San Fernando, Pampanga, questioning the results
of the elections in one hundred and fifty seven (157)
precincts.
[3]
Meneses, on his part, filed an answer with
counter-protest with respect to ninety-six (96) precincts
[4]
of
the 157 protested by Punzalan.
Since the two (2) election protests involved the same
parties and subject matter, they were ordered consolidated
and were jointly tried by the RTC of San Fernando,
Pampanga, Branch 44.
Succinctly, the election contests sought the nullification
of the election of Meneses allegedly due to massive fraud,
irregularities and other illegal electoral practices during the
registration and the voting as well as during the counting of
votes such as:
a. the registration of flying voters;
b. the preparation of ballots by persons other than the
registered electors concerned;
c. the use of electoral fraudulent practice such as the
lansadera;
d. false reading of votes for the
petitioner/protestant;
e. the counting of illegal and marked ballots and stray
votes as votes for the respondent/protestee;
f. switching of ballots in favor of respondent/protestee;
g. tampering with the ballots for the petitioner/protestant
after having been cast, so as to annul the same or to
substitute therefor illegal votes for respondent/protestee;
h. the adding of more votes to those actually counted for
the respondent/protestee and the reducing of the votes
actually counted for the petitioner/protestant in the
preparation of the corresponding election return;
i. groups of two or more ballots for the
respondent/protestee were written each group, by only one
(1) person;
j. one (1) ballot for the respondent/protestee written
by two or more persons.
[5]

By way of counter-protest to the two (2) election
protests, Meneses alleged that he, too, was a victim of
massive fraud and illegal electoral practices such as:
a. The preparation of the ballots by persons other than
the registered electors concerned;
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

b. The use of electoral fraudulent practice known as the
lansadera;
c. False reading of votes for the protestee;
d. The counting of illegal and marked ballots and stray
votes for the protestant;
e. Switching of ballots in favor of of protestant;
f. Tampering with the ballots for the Protestee after
having been cast, so as to annul the same or to substitute
therefor illegal votes for the protestant;
g. The adding of more votes to those actually counted for
the protestant and the reducing of the votes actually counted
for the protestee in the preparation of the corresponding
election returns;
h. Group of two (2) or more ballots for protestant were
written, each group, by only one (1) person;
i. One (1) ballot for the protestant written by two (2) or
more persons.
[6]

Finding the protests and counter-protests sufficient in
form and substance, the trial court ordered a revision of the
ballots. The result of said physical count coincided with the
figures reflected in the election returns, thus: Meneses -
10,301 votes; Manalastas - 9,317 votes; and Punzalan - 8,612
votes.
After hearing the election protests, the trial court
rendered judgment on September 23, 1996 with the
following findings, viz: that massive fraud, illegal electoral
practices and serious anomalies marred the May 8, 1995
elections; that ballots, election returns and tally sheets
pertaining to Precinct Nos. 8, 20, 41, 53, 68, 68-A and 70
disappeared under mysterious circumstances; and that
filled-up ballots with undetached lower stubs and groups of
ballots with stubs cut out with scissors were found inside
ballot boxes. Because of these irregularities, the trial court
was constrained to examine the contested ballots and the
handwritings appearing thereon and came up with the
declaration that Punzalan was the winner in the
elections. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby
rendered:
1. In EPC No. E-005-95 declaring Ferdinand D. Meneses as
having garnered 7,719 votes or 33 votes more than the 7,686
votes received by Danilo D. Manalastas and dismissing the
instant protest.
2. In EPC No. E-006-95 declaring Ernesto M. Punzalan as the
duly elected Municipal Mayor of Mexico,
Pampanga. Protestee Ferdinand D. Meneses is hereby
ordered to vacate his position and to cease and desist from
further discharging the duties and functions officially vested
in the Office of the Municipal Mayor of Mexico, Pampanga
which now and henceforth, unless otherwise disqualified by
law, are conferred unto and in favor of Ernesto M. Punzalan,
who is hereby ordered to act, perform and discharge the
duties, functions and responsibilities and all incidents
appertaining to and in connection with the Office of the
Municipal Mayor of Mexico, Pampanga, immediately and
after he shall have taken his oath of office as such.
3. The counterclaims interposed by Ferdinand D. Meneses in
both cases are hereby dismissed.
The authorities concerned are hereby ordered to enforce,
implement and assist in the enforcement and
implementation of this Decision immediately after Ernesto M.
Punzalan shall have had taken his oath of office.
As soon as this Decision becomes final, let notice thereof be
sent to the Commission on Elections, Department of Interior
and Local Governments and Commission on Audit.
Without pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
[7]

Immediately thereafter, Meneses filed a notice of
appeal from the aforesaid decision declaring Punzalan as the
duly elected mayor of Mexico, Pampanga. The case was
docketed as EAC No. 48-96 by the COMELEC. Manalastas did
not appeal from the said decision.
On October 1, 1996, Punzalan filed a motion for
execution pending appeal with the RTC in San Fernando,
Pampanga. On the same day, the COMELEC issued an order
directing the RTC to elevate the entire records of the case.
On October 10,
1996, the RTC issued an order which granted Punzalans
motion for execution pending appeal. On the same
date, Meneses filed before the COMELEC a petition
forcertiorari and prohibition with prayer for the issuance of
temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or preliminary
injunction, docketed as SPR No. 47-96, seeking the
nullification of the RTCs order of execution pending appeal.
On October 11, 1996, the COMELEC issued a TRO
enjoining the RTC from enforcing its Order dated October 10,
1996.
On October 22, 1996, Meneses filed with the COMELEC
a motion for contempt against Punzalan, alleging that the
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

latter was holding the office of mayor of Mexico, Pampanga
in violation of the TRO issued by the COMELEC.
On October 28, 1996, Punzalan filed before this Court a
petition for certiorari, prohibition and declaratory relief with
application for a writ of preliminary injunction and temporary
restraining order, docketed as G.R. No. 126669, to set aside
the COMELECs TRO issued on October 11, 1996.
On November 7, 1996, the COMELEC issued two (2)
orders, one which submitted for resolution Meneses
application for a writ of preliminary injunction and motion for
contempt and another which granted a writ of preliminary
injunction enjoining the enforcement of the RTCs order of
execution dated October 10, 1996.
On November 12, 1996, this Court issued a TRO
directing the COMELEC to cease and desist from enforcing the
TRO it issued on October 11, 1996 in SPR No. 47-96.
On November 21, 1996, Punzalan filed before this Court
a supplement to the petition seeking to declare as void the
COMELECs preliminary prohibitory and
mandatory injunction and to declare Meneses in contempt
of court.
On January 9, 1997, the COMELEC issued an order which
dispositively read as follows:
Considering that the 7 November 1996 preliminary
injunction of the Commission was pursuant to its 11 October
1996 temporary restraining order, which was specifically
covered by the Supreme Courts temporary restraining order,
the Commission will respect and abide by the order of the
Supreme Court. Considering, however, that the temporary
restraining order of the Supreme Court relates only to the
implementation of the order of execution of judgment
pending appeal of the Regional Trial Court, the Commission
finds no legal impediment to proceed with the resolution of
the main action for certiorari pending before it and shall act
accordingly.
On January 30, 1997, the COMELEC issued an order
stating that: 1) it need not act on Meneses motion
reiterating the prayer to suspend pendente lite the
implementation of the Order dated January 9, 1997, and 2)
the Order dated January 9, 1997 shall take effect thirty (30)
days from notice thereof to the parties.
On February 10, 1997, Meneses filed with this Court a
petition for certiorari with prayer for the issuance of a
temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary
injunction, docketed as G.R. No. 127900, which sought to set
aside the COMELEC Orders dated January 9 and 30, 1997.
On April 24, 1997, the COMELEC issued a resolution
granting the petition of Meneses to set aside the RTCs order
of execution pending appeal and allowing Meneses to
continue to discharge the duties and functions of municipal
mayor of Mexico, Pampanga, without prejudice to the
resolution of his pending appeal from the RTCs decision.
On April 28, 1997, Punzalan filed with this Court a
petition for certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 128000, which
sought to nullify the COMELECs Resolution dated April 24,
1997.
On December 8, 1997, the COMELEC promulgated a
resolution in EAC No. 48-96 setting aside the trial courts
decision and affirming the proclamation of Meneses by the
MBC as the duly elected mayor of Mexico, Pampanga, thusly:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision of the
court a quo in Election Protest Case No. E-006-95 declaring
protestant-appellee Ernesto M. Punzalan as the duly elected
Mayor of the Municipality of Mexico, Pampanga in the May 8,
1995 local elections is hereby ANNULLED and SET-ASIDE.
ACCORDINGLY, the Commission [First Division] hereby
AFFIRMS the proclamation of protestee-appellant Ferdinand
D. Meneses by the Municipal Board of Canvassers as the duly
elected Mayor of Mexico, Pampanga but with the
modification that protestee-appellant received only 9,864
votes, or a deduction of 437 votes from his original 10,301
votes. Further, this Commission [First Division] hereby
COMMANDS protestant-appellee Ernesto M. Punzalan to
RELINQUISH his post in favor of protestee-appellant
Ferdinand Meneses immediately upon finality of this
Resolution.
[8]

Punzalan filed a motion for reconsideration of the
aforesaid resolution. In its Resolution dated February 13,
1998, the COMELEC denied said motion for lack of merit.
Hence, this petition for certiorari with preliminary
injunction and a prayer for the issuance of a temporary
restraining order, filed on February 16, 1998 and docketed as
G.R. No. 132435, to set aside the COMELECs resolutions of
December 8, 1997 and February 13, 1998. Thus, petitioner
alleges:
1. that the decision (resolution) in question is tainted with
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction;
2. that it was rendered in disregard of law and the
evidence;
3. that the decision (resolution) in question is a prejudged
decision; and
4. that the decision (resolution) in question is the
culmination of a series of acts of the public respondent
favoring the private respondent.
[9]

First. Punzalan maintains that the COMELEC acted with
grave abuse of discretion in declaring as valid the ballots
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

credited to Meneses which did not bear the signature of the
BEI chairman at the back thereof, invoking the ruling of this
Court in Bautista v. Castro
[10]
wherein it was held that the
absence of the signature of the BEI chairman in the ballot
given to a voter as required by law and the rules as proof of
the authenticity of said ballot is fatal.
This contention is not meritorious.
While Section 24
[11]
of Republic Act No. 7166, otherwise
known as An Act Providing For Synchronized National and
Local Elections and For Electoral Reforms, requires the BEI
chairman to affix his signature at the back of the ballot, the
mere failure to do so does not invalidate the same although it
may constitute an election offense imputable to said BEI
chairman. Nowhere in said provision does it state that the
votes contained therein shall be nullified. It 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.
[12]

In the recent case of Marcelino C. Libanan v. House of
Representatives Electoral Tribunal and Jose T. Ramirez,
[13]
this
Court affirmed the ruling of the Tribunal in Libanan v.
Ramirez
[14]
to the effect that a ballot without BEI chairmans
signature at the back is valid and not spurious, provided that
it bears any one of these other authenticating marks, to
wit: (a) the COMELEC watermark; and (b) in those cases
where the COMELEC watermarks are blurred or not readily
apparent, the presence of red and blue fibers in the
ballots. The Court explained in this wise:
What should, instead, be given weight is the consistent rule
laid down by the HRET that a ballot is considered valid and
genuine for as long as it bears any one of these
authenticating marks, to wit: (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 or blue fibers in the ballots. It is
only when none of these marks appears extant that the ballot
can be considered spurious and subject to rejection.
Similarly, Section 211 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881,
otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code of the
Philippines provides that in the reading and appreciation of
ballots, every ballot shall be presumed to be valid unless
there is a clear and good reason to justify its
rejection. Certainly, the inefficiency of an election officer in
failing to affix his signature at the back of the ballot does not
constitute as a good and clear reason to justify the rejection
of a ballot.
Second. Punzalan contends that the COMELEC
committed grave abuse of discretion in declaring valid (a) the
ballots wherein the signatures of the BEI chairmen were
different from their respective signatures appearing on
several COMELEC documents, (b) those group of ballots
allegedly written by one (1) hand and (c) a number of single
ballots written by two (2) persons. He argues that the trial
courts findings on the authenticity of said handwritings must
prevail over the findings of the COMELEC because: 1) the
finding of the Regional Trial Court was based first on the
findings of the revisors with the assistance of an expert
witness in the person of Atty. Desiderio Pagui; (2) the
finding of the Regional Trial Court was arrived at after an
adversarial proceeding where both parties were represented
by their lawyers and the expert witness was cross-examined;
and (3) on the other hand, the findings of the public
respondent were made unilaterally, without any hearing.
and without the presence of the lawyers of the parties and of
the parties themselves.
[15]

These arguments fail to persuade us.
The appreciation of the contested ballots and election
documents involves a question of fact best left to the
determination of the COMELEC, a specialized agency tasked
with the supervision of elections all over the country. It is
the constitutional commission vested with the exclusive
original jurisdiction over election contests involving regional,
provincial and city officials, as well as appellate jurisdiction
over election protests involving elective municipal and
barangay officials. Consequently, in the absence of grave
abuse of discretion or any jurisdictional infirmity or error of
law, the factual findings, conclusions, rulings and decisions
rendered by the said Commission on matters falling within its
competence shall not be interfered with by this Court.
[16]

Anent Punzalans assertion that the trial courts finding
which was arrived at after an adversarial proceeding wherein
an expert witness testified and was cross-examined, should
not be interfered with by the COMELEC whose finding was
arrived at without the benefit of a hearing or the aid of an
expert, it is axiomatic that the COMELEC need not conduct an
adversarial proceeding or a hearing to determine the
authenticity of ballots or the handwriting found
thereon. Neither does it need to solicit the help of
handwriting experts in examining or comparing the
handwriting.
[17]
In fact, even evidence aliunde is not
necessary to enable the Commission to determine the
authenticity of the ballots and the genuineness of the
handwriting on the ballots as an examination of the ballots
themselves is already sufficient.
[18]

In Erni v. COMELEC,
[19]
we held that:
x x x. With respect to the contention that a technical
examination of the ballots should have been ordered to
determine whether they had been written by two or more
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

persons, or in groups written by only one hand, we hold that
the Commission en banc did not commit an abuse of its
discretion in denying petitioner-protestees request. The rule
is settled that the Commission itself can make the
determination without the need of calling handwriting
experts.
Nor was evidence aliunde necessary to enable the
Commission to determine the genuineness of the handwriting
on the ballots, an examination of the ballots themselves
being sufficient. x x. x..
[20]

In Bocobo v. COMELEC,
[21]
we likewise ruled that:
x x x. Handwriting experts, while probably useful, are not
indispensable in examining or comparing handwriting; this
can be done by the COMELEC itself. We have ruled that
evidence aliunde is not allowed to prove that a ballot is
marked, an inspection of the ballot itself being sufficient
(Penson v. Parungao, 52 Phil. 718). x x x.
[22]

In the case at bar, the opinion of Atty. Pagui, who was
claimed to be a handwriting expert, was not binding upon the
COMELEC especially so where the question involved the
mere similarity or dissimilarity of handwritings which could
be determined by a comparison of existing signatures or
handwriting.
[23]
Section 22 of Rule 132 of the Revised Rules
on Evidence explicitly authorizes the court, by itself, to make
a comparison of the disputed handwriting with writings
admitted or treated as genuine by the party against whom
the evidence is offered, or proved to be genuine to the
satisfaction of the judge.
In Lorenzo v. Diaz,
[24]
this Court enumerated the tools to
aid one in the examination of handwriting, thus:
The authenticity of a questioned signature cannot be
determined solely upon its general characteristics, similarities
or dissimilarities with the genuine signature. Dissimilarities
as regards spontaneity, rhythm , presence of the pen, loops in
the strokes, signs of stops, shades, etc., that may be found
between the questioned signature and the genuine one are
not decisive on the question of the formers authenticity. The
result of examination of questioned handwriting, even with
the benefit of aid of experts and scientific instruments, is, at
best, inconclusive. There are other factors that must be
taken into consideration. The position of the writer, the
condition of the surface on which the paper where the
questioned signature is written is placed, his state of mind,
feelings and nerves, and the kind of pen and/or paper used,
played an important role on the general appearance of the
signature. Unless, therefore, there is, in a given case,
absolute absence, or manifest dearth, or direct or
circumstantial competent evidence of the character of a
questioned handwriting, much weight should not be given to
characteristic similarities, or dissimilarities, between the
questioned handwriting and an authentic one.
[25]

Indeed, the haste and pressure, the rush and
excitement permeating the surroundings of polling places
could certainly affect the handwriting of both the voters and
the election officers manning the said precincts. The volume
of work to be done and the numerous documents to be filled
up and signed must likewise be considered. Verily, minor
and insignificant variations in handwriting must be perceived
as indicia of genuineness rather than of falsity.
In Go Fay v. Bank of the Philippine Islands,
[26]
this Court
held that carelessness, spontaneity, unpremeditation, and
speed in signing are evidence of genuineness. In U.S. v.
Kosel,
[27]
it was ruled that dissimilarity in certain letters in a
handwriting may be attributed to the mental and physical
condition of the signer and his position when he
signed. Grief, anger, vexation, stimulant, pressure and
weather have some influence in ones writing. Because of
these, it is an accepted fact that it is very rare that two (2)
specimens of a persons signature are exactly alike.
On the issue of the genuineness of the handwriting on
the ballots, it is observed that the specimens examined by
Atty. Desiderio A. Pagui, presented by Punzalan as an expert
witness, were mere certified true copies of the ballots and
documents concerned.
[28]
This fact raised a cloud of doubt
and made the findings suspect. Consequently, the
examination of the ballots themselves by the COMELEC
should not be brushed aside. Section 23, Rule 132 of the
Rules of Court explicitly authorizes the court (the COMELEC in
this case) to make itself the comparison of the disputed
handwriting with writings admitted as genuine by the party
whom the evidence is offered.
Expert opinions are not ordinarily conclusive in the
sense that they must be accepted as true on the subject of
their testimony, but are generally regarded as purely advisory
in character; the courts may place whatever weight they
choose upon such testimony and may reject it, if they find
that it is consistent with the facts in the case or otherwise
unreasonable.
[29]

In the same manner, whether or not certain ballots
were marked had been addressed by the COMELEC by
personally and actually examining the ballots
themselves. We find no compelling reasons to disturb its
findings.
In closing, we would like to stress a well-founded rule
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.
[30]
An election protest is
imbued with public interest so much so that the need to
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

dispel uncertainties which becloud the real choice of the
people is imperative.
Prescinding from the foregoing, we find that respondent
COMELEC did not act with grave abuse of discretion in G.R.
No. 132435. The petitions in G.R. Nos. 126669, 127900 and
128800 are rendered moot by the preceding disquisition.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition in G.R.
No. 132435 is hereby DISMISSED. The status
quo order issued by this Court on February 24, 1998
is LIFTED. The petitions in G.R. Nos. 126669, 127900 and
128800 are rendered moot and academic by the foregoing
disquisition.
Further, this decision is immediately executory in view
of the shortness of time between now and the next elections
and to prevent the case from becoming moot and academic.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo,
Melo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban, Martinez,
Quisumbing, and Purisima, JJ., concur.














































Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

G.R. No. L-61260 February 17, 1992
SERGIO BAUTISTA, petitioner,
vs.
HON. JOSE P. CASTRO, In His Capacity as Presiding Judge of
Branch IX (Quezon City), COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF
RIZAL, and ROBERTO MIGUEL, respondents.
R.C. Domingo, Jr. & Associates for petitioner.
Cenon C. Sorreta for private respondent.

MEDIALDEA, J.:
This petition seeks the reversal of the decision of respondent
Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of Rizal,
Branch 9, Quezon City rendered in an appealed election case
and which decision proclaimed herein private respondent
Roberto Miguel as the duly elected Barangay Captain of
Barangay Teachers Village East, Quezon City, in the Barangay
Elections held on May 17, 1982, with a plurality of twenty-
four (24) votes over herein petitioner Sergio Bautista.
Both the petitioner Sergio Bautista and private respondent
Roberto Miguel were candidates for the office above
mentioned. After canvass, petitioner Bautista was proclaimed
the winner by the Barangay Board of Canvassers on May 17,
1982 with a plurality of two (2) votes.
On May 25, 1982, Roberto Miguel filed a protest before the
City Court of Quezon City, (docketed as Election Case No. 82-
408) on the ground of fraud and illegal acts or practices
allegedly committed by Bautista. The latter filed an answer
but filed no counter protest.
It appears that the results of the election in all the four (4)
voting centers in Bgy. Teachers Village East, Quezon City were
contested. A revision and recounting of the ballots was
conducted which resulted in a tie. The votes obtained by both
of the protagonists were as follows:
1. In Voting Center. No. 519:
MIGUEL = 126
votes
BAUTISTA = 180
votes
Protestant-appellant contested the
ruling of the lower Court on the
following ballots: Exhs. a, b, c, d, e,
f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, and o.
Protestee-appellee contested the
ruling of the lower Court on the
following ballots: Exhs. 1, 2, 3, 4
and 5.
2. In Voting Center No. 520:
MIGUEL = 152
votes
BAUTISTA = 122
votes
Protestant-appellant contested the
ruling of the lower Court on the
following ballots: Exhs. P, Q and R.
3. In Voting Center No. 521:
MIGUEL = 150
votes
BAUTISTA = 136
votes
Protestant-appellant contested the
ruling of the lower Court on the
following ballots: Exhs. 6 and 7.
4. In Voting Center No. 522:
MIGUEL = 222
votes
BAUTISTA = 212
votes
Protestant-appellant contested the
ruling of the lower Court on the
following ballots: Exhs. AA, BB, BB-
1, BB-2 and CC.
Protestee-appellee contented the
ruling of the lower court on the
following ballots: Exhs. 8, 9, 9-a 10,
10-a, 11, 11-a, 12, 12-a, 13, 14, 14-
a, 15, 15-a, 16 and 16-a.
5. Total Votes in all Voting Centers Nos. 519, 520,
521 and 522:
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

MIGUEL = 650
BAUTISTA = 650
(pp. 11-12, Rollo)
The trial court rendered a decision the dispositive portion of
which reads:
ACCORDINGLY, Roberto Miguel is hereby declared to
have received the same number of votes as the
protestee Sergio Bautista for the position of
Bgy. Captain of Bgy. Teachers Village East, Quezon
City. (p. 12, Rollo)
From this decision of the city court, protestant Roberto
Miguel filed an appeal to the Court of First Instance of
Rizal. * On July 29, 1982, judgment was rendered on the
appeal which, as stated in the first portion of this decision,
declared protestant Roberto Miguel the duly elected
Barangay Captain of Bgy. Teachers Village East, Quezon City
and setting aside as null and void the proclamation of
protestee Sergio Bautista. The dispositive portion of the
decision reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring
and proclaiming protestant-appellant ROBERTO
MIGUEL as the duly elected Barangay Captain of
Barangay Teachers Village East, Quezon City, in the
Barangay elections held on May 17, 1982 with a
plurality of twenty-four (24) votes over and above
his protagonist protestee-appellee SERGIO
BAUTISTA; setting aside as null and void the
proclamation of protestee-appellee as the elected
Barangay Captain made by the Barangay Board of
Canvassers on May 17, 1982; sentencing protestee-
appellee to pay protestant-appellant the costs and
expenses that the latter has incurred in this protest,
in accordance with Sec. 7, of COMELEC Resolution
no. 1568, to wit:
P 25.00 for filing and research fee
for petition of
protest
2,500.00 for cash deposit for
expenses for revision of
ballots;
25.00 for appellant docket and
research fee;
50.00 for appeal bond deposit;
P 2,600.00 Total
The Clerk of Court is hereby directed to furnish 4
copies of this Decision to the Commission on
Elections, the Ministry of Local Governments, the
Commission on Audit, and the Secretaries of the
Sangguniang Bayan and Sangguniang Barangay, in
accordance with Sec. 15 of Comelec Resolution No.
1566.
SO ORDERED. (pp. 87-88, Rollo)
Petitioner Sergio Bautista filed the instant petition for review
by certiorari on August 13, 1982 on the following questions of
law:
1) Whether or not the supposed opinion of a person, who
was brought by private respondent but who was never
presented as a witness, is competent and admissible evidence
to support the appellate court's (CFI) conclusion that no less
than eighteen (18) votes cast in favor of your petitioner were
written by one and the same person.
2) Whether or not a ballot which does not contain the
signature of the poll chairman be considered a valid ballot.
3) Whether or not respondent Judge acted correctly in its
appreciation of the contested ballots (Exhibits "Z", "Z-I", "S",
"5", "6", "7").
Considering that the term for the contested office had
expired on June 7, 1988,
1
this petition has become moot and
academic. However, this case had already been submitted for
decision as early as December 19, 1984, prior to the
expiration of the contested office. Hence, We deem it proper
to resolve this case on the merits and determine the true
winner of that elections.
Anent the first question, petitioner Bautista questions the
reliance by respondent court on the opinion of oneDesiderio
A. Pagui, who was never presented and qualified as an expert
witness. The report of Pagui allegedly appeared only in the
records of the case on file with the CFI which was attached in
the Memorandum for Protestant Miguel.
The ballots involved in this objection of petitioner are exhibits
"B" to "O" which all pertained to voting center No. 519 and
Exhibits "T", "T-l", "U", "U-l", "V" and "V-1" from voting center
No. 521. Respondent court ruled:
b) Exhs. B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N and O were
counted by the lower court for BAUTISTA, over the
objection of protestant-appellant that these ballots
were written by a single hand. These ballots and the
writings therein contained were the subject of
QUESTIONED HANDWRITINGS EXAMINATIONS and
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

PDIL REPORT NO. 09-682 of Atty. Desiderio A. Pagui,
Examiner of Questioned Documents (Ret. Chief
Document Examiner, NBI), who was allowed by the
lower court to assist it in the appreciation of ballots
contested by either party as having been written by
a single hand and to take photographs of the
questioned ballots, his report and photographs
having been submitted by protestant-appellant to
this Court accompanying his memorandum. The
pertinent portions of the FINDINGS in the said report
read as follows:
Comparative examinations
between and among the various
letter designs, their structural
constructions and other
characteristics appearing in
Exhibits "B" to "O" inclusive, "T",
"T-1", "U", "U-I", "V" and "V-l",
reveal the existence of significant
identifying handwriting
characteristics, more particularly in

l. general style of
writings;
2. size and
propertion (sic)
of letter designs;
base and height
alignments; and
relationship
between
adjacent letters;
3. lateral spacing;
and initial and
terminal strokes;
4. structural
constructions
and more
perplexed
elements
embedded in the
structures of
letter forms; and
such
characteristics
are exemplified
in the following
words/ names: . .
.; and the
scientific
evaluation of the
aforementioned
writing
characteristics
includes the
consideration of
the
idiosyncrasies of
natural variation
as shown in the
numerous similar
letter forms,
although at some
instances, the
writer succeeded
in having
changed the
entire letter
designs of certain
letters (at
different style),
but somehow
certain
significant
writing
characteristics
reappeared in
the various
letters during the
process of
writing, thus be
able to connect
one writing from
the others as
having emanated
from one
source."
The probative value of the above-
mentioned writing characteristics
are further augmented by the
presence of unusual structural
construction of letter forms and/or
in combinations with adjacent-
letters, thus . . .
The CONCLUSION of the said
report states:
The questioned handwritings
appearing in Exhs. "B" to "O",
inclusive, "T", "T-1", "U", "V" and
"V-l", were WRITTEN BY ONE AND
THE SAME PERSON.
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

Notwithstanding this report, this Court has taken
pains and meticulous effort to examine with its
naked eye the questioned ballots and handwritings,
and compare the same with each other in order to
determine whether or not they were indeed written
by a single hand, and this Court is convinced beyond
doubt that Exhs. B, C, D, E, F, G, H, K, L, M, N and O,
were written by a single hand, considering the
remarkable similarity if not almost identity of the
writings on these ballots. The lower Court's ruling on
these twelve (12) ballots is hereby reversed, and the
twelve (12) votes for protestee-appellee based
thereon should be deducted from him.
With respect to Exhs. I and J, this Court entertains
some doubt on their having been written by a single
hand, and therefore resolves the doubt in favor of
the validity of these two (2) ballots, as votes for
protestee-appellee. Therefore, the ruling of the
lower Court counting Exhs. I and J for protestee-
appellee stands. (pp. 78-80, Rollo)
The contention of petitioner that respondent court relied on
the report of an alleged handwriting expert is misplaced. It
should be noted that while respondent court considered the
report of Atty. Pagui, it did not rely solely on the said
report. In the words of respondent court, "(I)t has taken pains
and meticulous effort to examine with its naked eye the
questioned ballots and handwritings and compare the same
with each other . . ." In fact, in its effort to determine the true
value of the contested ballots and in order not to
disenfranchise bona fide voters, it counted certain ballots in
favor of petitioner which the alleged handwriting expert
found as written by only one person. It contradicted said
report as regards Exhibits "I", "J", "V" and "V-1". The
respondent court was circumspect in relying on its own
findings on whether or not these contested ballots were
prepared by one person. The ballots are the best evidence of
the objections raised. Resort to handwriting experts is not
mandatory. Handwriting experts, while probably useful,
are not indispensable in examining or comparing handwriting,
this can be done by the COMELEC (in this case, the court
taking cognizance of the appeal in this election protest) itself
(Bocobo v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 94173, November 21, 1990,
191 SCRA 576).
Petitioner also argues that respondent court misinterpreted
and misapplied Section 36(f) of Comelec Resolution No.
1539. It allegedly failed to take into consideration the other
provisions of said Section 36 of the Resolution.
We do not agree. Section 36 in its entirety provides:
Sec. 36. Procedure in the casting of votes.
(a) Identification of votes. The chairman shall
check in the certified list of voters the name of the
person offering to vote. He shall then announce the
voter's name distinctly in a loud tone. If there is no
challenge, or if having been challenged and the
question is decided in his favor, the voter shall be
allowed to vote and he shall affix his signature on
the proper space of the Voting Record (Comelec
Form No. 5).
(b) Delivery of ballot. Before delivering the ballot
to the voter, the Chairman shall, in the presence of
the voter, the other members of the board and the
watchers present, affix his signature at the back
thereof and write the serial number of the ballot in
the space provided in the ballot, beginning with No.
"1" for the first ballot issued, and so on
consecutively for the succeeding ballots, which serial
number shall be entered in the corresponding space
of the voting record. He shall then fold the ballot
once, and without removing the detachable coupon,
deliver it to the voter together with a ball pen.
(c) Instructions to the voter. If a voter so requests,
the poll clerk shall instruct him on how to fill the
ballot.The voter shall be reminded that he should fill
the ballot secretly and return it folded so as not to
show the names of the candidates he voted for. He
shall also be warned not to use any other ballot; not
to show the content of his ballot; not to put any
mark thereon; not to erase, deface or tear the same;
and not to remove the detachable coupon.
(d) Preparing the ballot. Upon receiving the ballot,
the voter shall fill the ballot secretly.
(e) Returning the ballot. (1) In the presence of all
the members of the Board, the voter shall affix his
right hand thumbmark on the corresponding space
in the detachable coupon; and shall give the folded
ballot to the chairman; (2) The chairman shall
without unfolding the ballot or looking at its
contents, and in the presence of the voter and all the
members of the Board, verify if it bears his signature
and the same serial number recorded in the voting
record. (3) If the ballot is found to be authentic, the
voter shall then be required to imprint his right hand
thumbmark on the proper space in the voting record.
(4) The chairman shall then detach the coupon and
shall deposit the folded ballot in the compartment
for the valid ballot and the coupon in the
compartment for spoiled ballots. (5) The voter shall
then leave the voting center.
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

(f) When ballot may be considered spoiled. Any
ballot returned to the chairman with its coupon
already detached, or which does not bear the
signature of the chairman, or any ballot with a serial
number that does not tally with the serial number of
the ballot delivered to the voter as recorded in the
voting record, shall be considered as spoiled and
shall be marked and signed by the members of the
board and shall not be counted.
The ballots concerned were marked Exhibits "BB", "BB-1" and
"BB-2" from voting center No. 522. The respondent court
ruled that:
b) Exhs. BB, BB-l and BB-2 were counted by the
lower court for BAUTISTA over the objection of
protestant-appellant that these ballots are not duly
authenticated by the absence of the signature of the
Chairman of the Board of Election Tellers at the back
thereof. An examination of the back portion of these
ballots reveals that it is completely blank of any
signature or initial. The mandatory requirement of
authentication of ballots is found in Sec. 14 of B.P.
222 and in Sec. 36 of COMELEC Resolution No. 1539,
and the legal consequence for the absence of such
authentication is stated precisely in Sec. 36, sub-par.
(f), and generally in Sec. 152 of the 1978 Election
Code, . . . (p. 84, Rollo)
The law (Sec. 14 of B.P. 222) and the rules implementing it
(Sec. 36 of Comelec Res. No. 1539) leave no room for
interpretation. The absence of the signature of the Chairman
of the Board of Election Tellers in the ballot given to a voter
as required by law and the rules as proof of the authenticity
of said ballot is fatal. This requirement is mandatory for the
validity of the said ballot.
As regards exhibit "Z" and "Z-l", respondent court reversed
the decision of the trial court which ruled that these were not
marked ballots and hence, were valid votes for petitioner
BAUTISTA. In reversing the trial court, respondent court ruled
that the presence of an arrow with the words "and party,"
was meant for no other purpose than to Identify the voter.
We agree. It cannot be said that these writings were
accidental. As a general rule, a voter must write on the ballot
only the names of candidates voted for the offices appearing
thereon. Certain exceptions, however, are provided in Section
149 of the Revised Election Code. For example, prefixes such
as "Sr.," "Mr.", and the like and suffixes such as "hijo", "Jr.",
etc. will not invalidate the ballot (par. 5). Initials (paragraph
15), nicknames or appellation of affection and friendship will
not invalidate the ballot, if accompanied by the name or
surname of the candidate, and above all, if they were not
used as a means to identify the voter. Even under a liberal
view, the words written on the ballots under consideration
cannot be considered as falling within the exception to the
rule. Consequently, they are irrelevant expressions that
nullified the ballots. (Lloren v. CA, et al., No. L-25907, January
25, 1967, 19 SCRA 110). Hence, respondent court excluded
Exhibits "Z" and "Z-l".
Exhibit "S" (Voting Center No. 521) was excluded by
respondent court as a vote for petitioner. It held:
a) Exh. S was counted by the lower court for
BAUTISTA over the objection of protestant-appellant
that this ballot was found in the small compartment
of the ballot box for spoiled ballots and the said
ballots appear to be in excess of the number of
ballots actually used. The records show that as
reflected in the MINUTES OF VOTING AND
COUNTING OF VOTES found inside the ballot box, (1)
there were 311 voters who cast their votes, and the
ballots actually used bear Serial Nos. 1-311, (2) 1
voter did not return his/her ballot, 8 ballots were
spoiled ballots and 302 ballots appreciated by the
Board of Election Tellers. The questioned ballot, Exh.
S, together with blank questioned ballot, was found
by the Committee in the small compartment for
spoiled ballots. It does clearly appear that these two
(2) ballots, one of which is Exh. S, are in excess of the
311 ballots actually used and must be considered as
"EXCESS BALLOTS" under Sec. 151 of the 1978
Election Code and "shall not be read in the counting
of votes." In view of the foregoing considerations,
the ruling of the lower court on Exh. S is hereby
reversed, and this ballot shall not be counted as a
vote of protestee-appellee and therefore deducted
from him. (pp. 81-82, Rollo)
We affirm.
Petitioner objects to respondent court's ruling rejecting
Exh. "5". The word "BLBIOY" was written in the spare for
Barangay Captain. "BIBOY", petitioner's nickname was duly
registered in his certificate of candidacy. Section 155 (11) of
the 1978 Election Code provides:
11. The use of nicknames and appellations of
affection and friendship, if accompanied by the first
name or surname of the candidate, does not annul
such vote, except when they were used as a means
to identify the voter, in which case the whole ballot
is invalid: Provided, That if the nickname used is
unaccompanied by the name or surname of a
candidate and it is the one by which he is generally
or popularly known in the locality and stated in his
Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

certificate of candidacy, the same shall be counted in
favor of said candidate, if there is no other candidate
for the same office with the same nickname.
While the name written was "BLBIOY", there was no doubt
that the voter intended to vote for "BIBOY", the nickname of
which petitioner was popularly known and which nickname
was duly registered in his certificate of candidacy. Hence, the
respondent court's decision as regards Exhibit "5" is reversed
and the vote is counted for petitioner.
Exhibit "6" was invalidated by both respondent court and the
city court as stray vote on the ground that petitioner's name,
written as "Bo. Barangay Bautista" was placed on the first line
intended for councilmen. In the case of Farin v. Gonzales and
CA, G.R. No. L-36893, September 28, 1973, 53 SCRA 237, cited
by petitioner, it was ruled that where the name of a
candidate is not written in the proper space in the ballot but
is preceded by the name of the office for which he is a
candidate, the vote should be counted as valid for such
candidate. Such rule stems from the fact that in the
appreciation of the ballot, the object should be to ascertain
and carry into effect the intention of the voter, if it could be
determined with reasonable certainty. In this case, while the
name of petitioner was written in the space for barangay
councilman, his name was preceded by the name of the office
for which he is being elected, that as Punong Barangay or
Barangay Captain (See Exh. "6"). The respondent court ruled
that what was placed before the name BAUTISTA was Bo.
Barangay and not Po. Barangay for Punong Barangay (or
Barangay Captain). We believe however that the voter's
intention to vote for BAUTISTA as Barangay Captain was
present and said vote should be counted in favor of
petitioner.
Respondent court correctly invalidated Exhibit "7". This ballot
cannot be considered as a vote for petitioner whose name
was written seven (7) times in the ballot. The writing of a
name more than twice on the ballot is considered to be
intentional and serves no other purpose than to identify the
ballot (Katigbak v. Mendoza, L-24477, February 28, 1967, 19
SCRA 543).
ACCORDINGLY, the decision of respondent court is MODIFIED
as regards Exhibits "5" and "6". Private respondent Roberto
Miguel in declared the duly elected Barangay Captain of
Barangay Teachers Village East, Quezon City, with a plurality
of twenty-two (22) votes. The temporary restraining order
issued Court on December 2, 1982 is hereby LIFTED.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., Cruz and Grio-Aquino, JJ., concur.


Footnotes
* This was the correct procedure under BP 222, as
allowed by the 1973 Constitution. Art. IX, Sec. 1(2) of
the 1987 Constitution now requires the appeal to be
made directly to the Commission on Elections
(see Flores v. Commission on Elections, 184 SCRA
484).
1 Under BP. 222, Sec. 3, the term of office of the
barangay officials elected under this Act shall be six
years, which shall commence on June 7, 1982 and
shall continue until their successors shall have been
elected and shall have qualified. This term however
was cut short by Proclamation No. 3 of the President
dated March 25, 1986 particularly Sec. 2 of Art. 111
thereof, which provides:
Sec. 2. All elective and appointive officials and
employees under the 1973 Constitution shall
continue in office until otherwise provided by
proclamation or executive order or upon the
designation or appointment and qualification of
their successors, if such is made within a period of
one year from February 25, 1986.
Under the present administration, the first barangay
election was conducted on March 28, 1989 by virtue
of R.A. 6679 which provides in Section 1 thereof:
Sec. 1. The elections of barangay officials set on the
second Monday of November 1988 by Republic Act
No. 6653 are hereby postponed and reset to March
28, 1989. They shall serve a term which shall begin
on the first day of May 1989 and ending on the
thirty-first day of May 1994.







Election Laws: Prelimaries Cases (1.1-1.2) 2014

REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6466
AN ACT CREATING A BRANCH OFFICE OF THE REGISTER
OF DEEDS OF THE PROVINCE OF QUEZON, WITH
PERMANENT STATION AT THE MUNICIPALITY OF
GUMACA, SAME PROVINCE AND AUTHORIZING THE
APPROPRIATION OF FUNDS FOR THE PURPOSE
Section 1. There is hereby created a branch office of the
Register of Deeds of the Province of Quezon, with
permanent station at the Municipality of Gumaca, same
province, which shall perform all the duties and
functions of the register of deeds for the entire second
congressional district of the said province which
comprises the Municipalities of Agdangan, Alabat,
Atimonan, Buenavista, Calauag, Catanauan, General
Luna, Guinayangan, Gumaca, Lopez, Macalelon,
Mulanay, Padre Burgos, Perez, Pitogo, Plaridel, Quezon,
San Andres, San Francisco, San Narciso, Tagkawayan
and Unisan.
Section 2. To carry out the provisions of this Act, there
is hereby authorized to be appropriated out of any
funds in the National Treasury not otherwise
appropriated, the sum of thirty-eight thousand seventy-
pesos which shall be spent for the following:
(a) One deputy register of deeds P6,798.00
(b) One supervising clerk I4,544.00
(c) Two clerks at P2,424.004,848.00
(d) One cash clerk 2,560.00
(e) One janitor-messenger 2,160.00
(f) One laborer 2,160.00
(g) Sundry expenses 15,000.00
Total 38,070.00
=======
Such sum as may be necessary for the same purpose in
the subsequent years shall be included in the annual
General Appropriations Act.
Section 3. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
Approved, June 17, 1972.