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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

G.R. No. 106270-73 February 10, 1994
SULTAN MOHAMA L. M!TMUG, petitioner,
vs.
"OMM!SS!ON ON #L#"T!ONS, MUN!"!$AL %OAR OF "AN&ASS#RS OF LUM%A-%A'A%AO, LANAO #L SUR, a() ATU GAM%A!
AGALANG!T, respondents.
Pimentel, Apostol, Layosa & Sibayan Law Office for petitioner.
Brillantes, Nachura, Navarro & Arcilla for private respondent.

%#LLOS!LLO, J.:
The turnout of voters during the 11 May 1992 election in Lumba-Bayabao, Lanao del ur, !as abnormally lo!. "s a result, several petitions
!ere filed see#ing the declaration of failure of election in precincts !here less than 2$% of the electorate managed to cast their votes. But a
special election !as ordered in precincts !here no voting actually too# place. The &ommission on 'lections (&)M'L'&* ruled that for as
long as the precincts functioned and conducted actual voting during election day, lo! voter turnout !ould not +ustify a declaration of failure of
election. ,e are no! called upon to revie! this ruling.
-etitioner .LT"/ M)0"M"1 L. M2TM.3 and private respondent 1"T. 3"MB"2 1"3"L"/32T !ere among the candidates for the
mayoralty position of Lumba-Bayabao during the 11 may 1992 election. There !ere si4ty-seven (56* precincts in the municipality.
"s !as heretofore stated, voter turnout !as rather lo!, particularly in forty-nine (79* precincts !here the average voter turnout !as 22.25%,
i.e., only 2,889 out of 9,:89 registered voters therein cast their votes. ;ive ($* of these precincts did not conduct actual voting at all.
1
&onse<uently, &)M'L'& ordered the holding of a special election on 89 May 1992 in the five ($*
precincts !hich failed to function during election day. )n 89 =uly 1992 another special election !as held
for a si4th precinct.
2
2n the interim, petitioner filed a petition see#ing the annulment of the special election conducted on 89
May 1992 alleging various irregularities such as the alteration, tampering and substitution of ballots. But
on 18 =uly 1992, &)M'L'& considered the petition moot since the votes in the sub+ect precincts !ere
already counted.
3
)ther petitions see#ing the declaration of failure of election in some or all precincts of Lumba-Bayabao
!ere also filed !ith &)M'L'& by other mayoralty candidates, to !it>
1. SPA No. !"#!$> )n 5 =une 1992, private respondent 1atu 3amba 1agalangit filed an urgent petition
praying for the holding of a special election in -recinct /o. 22-" alleging therein that !hen the ballot bo4
!as opened, ballots !ere already torn to pieces. )n 17 =uly 1992, the petition !as granted and a special
election for -recinct /o. 22-" !as set for 2$ =uly 1992.
4
2. SP% No. !"##&> )n 15 =une 19992, 1atu 'lias "bdusalam, another mayoralty candidate, filed a
petition to declare failure of election in t!enty-nine (29* more precincts as a result of alleged tampering of
ballots
*
and clustering of precincts.
6
)n 15 =uly 1992, the petition !as dismissed. &)M'L'& ruled that
there must be a situation !here there is absolute inability to vote before a failure of election can be
declared.
7
ince voting !as actually conducted in the contested precincts, there !as no basis for the
petition.
8. SPA No !"#&'> )n 29 =une 1992, private respondent filed another petition, this time see#ing to
e4clude from the counting the ballots cast in si4 (5* precincts on the ground that the integrity of the ballot
bo4es therein !as violated.
+
"gain, on 17 =uly 1992, &)M'L'& considered the petition moot, as the
issue raised therein !as related to that of -" /o. 92-811 !hich on 9 =uly 1992 !as already set aside as
moot.
9
7. SPA No. !"#$(> )n 1 =uly 1992, 1atu Bagato ?halid Lonta, a fourth mayoralty candidate, filed a
petition !hich in the main sought the declaration of failure of election in all si4ty-seven (56* precincts of
Lumba-Bayabao, Lanao del ur, on the ground of massive disenfranchisement of voters.
10
)n 9 =uly
1992, &)M'L'& dismissed the petition, ruling that the allegations therein did not support a case of
failure of election.
11
)n : =uly 1992, petitioner filed a motion to intervene in these four (7* petitions.
12
But &)M'L'& treated
the same as a motion for reconsideration and promptly denied it considering that under the &)M'L'&
@ules of -rocedure such motion !as a prohibited pleading.
13
Thereafter, a ne! board of 'lection 2nspectors !as formed to conduct the special election set for 2$ =uly
1992. -etitioner impugned the creation of this Board. /evertheless, on 89 =uly 1992, the ne! Board
convened and began the canvassing of votes. ;inally, on 81 =uly 1992, private respondent !as
proclaimed the duly elected Mayor of Lumba-Bayabao, Lanao del ur.
)n 8 "ugust 1992, petitioner instituted the instant proceedings see#ing the declaration of failure of
election in forty-nine (79* precincts !here less than a <uarter of the electorate !ere able to cast their
votes. 0e also prayed for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to en+oin private respondent from
assuming office.
)n 19 "ugust 1992, petitioner lodged an election protest !ith the @egional trial &ourt of Lanao del ur
disputing the result not only of some but all the precincts of Lumba-Bayabao, del ur.
14
@espondents, on the other hand, assert that !ith the filing of an election protest, petitioner is already
deemed to have abandoned the instant petition.
2t may be noted that !hen petitioner filed his election protest !ith the @egional Trial &ourt of Lanao del
ur, he informed the trial court of the pendency of these proceedings. -aragraph 8 of his protest states
ABTChat on "ugust 8, 1992, your protestant filed a -etition for %ertiorari !ith the
upreme &ourt . . . doc#eted as 3.@. /o. 195269 assailing the validity of the proclamation of the herein
protestee. . . .A
1*
'vidently, petitioner did not intend to abandon his recourse !ith this &ourt. )n the
contrary, he intended to pursue it. ,here only an election protest e) abundante ad cautela is filed, the
&ourt retains +urisdiction to hear the petition see#ing to annul an election.
16
The main issue is !hether respondent &)M'L'& acted !ith grave abuse of discretion amounting to lac#
of +urisdiction in denying motu proprio and !ithout due notice and hearing the petitions see#ing to declare
a failure of election in some or all of the precincts in Lumba-Bayabao, Lanao del ur. "fter all, petitioner
argues, he has meritorious grounds in support thereto, vi*., the massive disenfranchisement of voters due
to alleged terrorism and unla!ful clustering of precincts, !hich &)M'L'& should have at least heard
before rendering its +udgment.
2ncidentally, a petition to annul an election is not a pre-proclamation controversy. &onse<uently, the
proclamation of a !inning candidate together !ith his subse<uent assumption of office is not an
impediment to the prosecution of the case to its logical conclusion.
17
.nder the &)M'L'& @ules of -rocedure, !ithin t!enty-four (27* hours from the filing of a verified
petition to declare a failure to elect, notices to all interested parties indicating therein the date of hearing
should be served through the fastest means available.
1+
The hearing of the case !ill also be summary in
nature.
19
Based on the foregoing, the clear intent of the la! is that a petition of this nature must be acted upon !ith
dispatch only after hearing thereon shall have been conducted. ince &)M'L'& denied the other
petitions
20
!hich sought to include forty-three (78* more precincts in a special election !ithout conducting
any hearing, it !ould appear then that there indeed might have been grave abuse of discretion in denying
the petitions.
0o!ever, a closer e4amination of the &)M'L'& @ules of -rocedure, particularly ec. 2, @ule 25, thereof
!hich !as lifted from ec. 5, B.-. ::1, other!ise #no!n as the )mnibus 'lection &ode of the -hilippines,
indicates other!ise. 2t reads D
ec. 2. +ailure of election. D 2f, on account of force ma,eure, violence, terrorism, fraud or
other analogous causes the election in any precinct has not been held on the date fi4ed,
or had been suspended before the hour fi4ed by la! for the closing of the voting, or after
the voting and during the preparation and the transmission of the election returns or in
the custody of canvass thereof, such election results in a failure to elect, and in any of
such cases the failure or suspension of election !ould affect the result of the election, the
&ommission shall, on the basis of a verified petition by any interested party and after due
notice and hearing, call for the holding or continuation of the election not held, suspended
or !hich resulted in a failure to elect on a date reasonably close to the date of the
election not held, suspended or !hich resulted in a failure to elect but not later than thirty
(89* days after the cessation of the cause of such postponement or suspension of the
election or failure to elect.
Before &)M'L'& can act on a verified petition see#ing to declare a failure of election, t!o (2* conditions
must concur> first, no voting has ta#en place in the precinct or precincts on the date fi4ed by la! or, even
if there !as voting, the election nevertheless results in failure to electE and, second, the votes not cast
!ould affect the result of the election.
21
2n the case before us, it is indubitable that the votes not cast !ill definitely affect the outcome of the
election. But, the first re<uisite is missing, i.e., that no actual voting too# place, or even if there is, the
results thereon !ill be tantamount to a failure to elect. ince actual voting and election by the registered
voters in the <uestioned precincts have ta#en place, the results thereof cannot be disregarded and
e4cluded.
22
&)M'L'& therefore did not commit any abuse of discretion, much less grave, in denying the
petitions outright. There !as no basis for the petitions since the facts alleged therein did not constitute
sufficient grounds to !arrant the relief sought. ;or, the language of the la! e4pressly re<uires the
concurrence of these conditions to +ustify the calling of a special election.
23
2ndeed, the fact that a verified petition is filed does not automatically mean that a hearing on the case !ill
be held before &)M'L'& !ill act on it. The verified petition must still sho! on its face that the conditions
to declare a failure to elect are present. 2n the absence thereof, the petition must be denied outright.
&onsidering that there is no concurrence of the t!o (2* conditions in the petitions see#ing to declare
failure of election in forty-three (78* more, precincts, there is no more need to receive evidence on alleged
election irregularities.
2nstead, the <uestion of !hether there have been terrorism and other irregularities is better ventilated in
an election contest. These irregularities may not as a rule be invo#ed to declare a failure of election and
to disenfranchise the electorate through the misdeeds of a relative fe!.
24
)ther!ise, elections !ill never
be carried out !ith the resultant disenfranchisement of innocent voters as losers !ill al!ays cry fraud and
terrorism.
There can be failure of election in a political unit only if the !ill of the ma+ority has been defiled and cannot
be ascertained. But, if it can be determined, it must be accorded respect. "fter all, there is no provision in
our election la!s !hich re<uires that a ma+ority of registered voters must cast their votes. "ll the la!
re<uires is that a !inning candidate must be elected by a plurality of valid votes, regardless of the actual
number of ballots cast.
2*
Thus, even if less than 2$% of the electorate in the <uestioned precincts cast
their votes, the same must still be respected. There is prima facie sho!ing that private respondent !as
elected through a plurality of valid votes of a valid constituency.
,0'@';)@', there being no grave abuse of discretion, the -etition for %ertiorari is 12M2'1.
) )@1'@'1.
Narvasa, %.-., %ru*, +eliciano, Padilla, Bidin, .e/alado, 0avide, -r., .omero, 1elo, 2uiason, Puno, 3itu/
and 4apunan, --., concur.
Nocon, -., is on leave.

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