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EN BANC

JEREMIAS V. ESTEVES,
Petitioner,

G.R. No. 182374


Present:

- versus -

RENE V. SARMIENTO, NICODEMO


T. FERRER, in their respective
and Member of the Second Division
COMELEC, Manila and REYNALDO
TEH BITONG,
Respondents.

PUNO, C.J.,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
CARPIO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO, capacities as Presiding Officer VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA,
REYES,
LEONARDO DE CASTRO, and
BRION, JJ.
Promulgated:

November 11, 2008


x--------------------------------------------------------------------------- x
DECISION
TINGA, J.:
This is a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition[1] under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure, assailing the Resolution[2] of the Second Division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in
SPR No. 46-2007. Said resolution set aside the Order [3] dated 8 September 2007 issued by the Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Branch 96, Baler, Aurora and consequently dismissed the election protest filed by herein
petitioner Jeremias V. Esteves against private respondent Mayor Reynaldo Teh Bitong.
As culled from the records of the case, the following antecedent facts appear:
In the national and local elections conducted last 14 May 2007, petitioner and private respondent both
ran for the position of municipal mayor of the Municipality ofCasiguran, Aurora. On 15 May 2007, the
Municipal Board of Canvassers proclaimed private respondent as the duly-elected Mayor of Casiguran on the
basis of the results of the canvassing, which showed him having garnered 3,342 votes or with a margin of 48
votes over petitioner, who obtained 3,294 votes.[4]
On 25 May 2007, petitioner filed an election protest before the Regional Trial Court of Baler, Aurora.
The protest was docketed as Election Protest Case (EPC) No. 99 and raffled to Branch 96 presided by Judge
Corazon D. Soluren.[5]
The RTC then issued a precautionary protection order directing the Municipal Treasurer and Election
Officer of Casiguran to take immediate steps to safeguard the integrity of all the ballot boxes, lists of voters and
other paraphernalia used in the elections and thereafter directed that all the election paraphernalia, including the
ballot boxes and lists of voters, subject of the protest be brought before the court. [6]
Private respondent then filed an answer, which the RTC admitted in an Order dated 2 August 2007. In
the same order, the RTC denied the motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of private respondents counterprotest on the ground of non-payment of filing fee. Thereafter, the RTC ordered the creation of the revision
committees.[7]

On 6 September 2007, private respondent filed a motion to dismiss the election protest, arguing that it
was defective in form and substance as it did not specify the precincts where fraud and irregularities were
committed. On 8 September 2007, the RTC issued the order denying private respondents motion to dismiss for
lack of merit.[8]
Thus, private respondent filed before the COMELEC a petition for certiorari and prohibition with
application for temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction. [9] The petition sought to
nullify the RTC Order dated 8 September 2007 denying private respondents motion to dismiss. It also prayed
that the election protest filed by petitioner be dismissed and the proceedings thereon enjoined on the ground that
the election protest failed to comply with the requirements of Section 11(f), Rule 2[10] of A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC.
Petitioner filed an answer on 5 December 2007.
After hearing private respondents application, the COMELEC (Second Division) issued a temporary
restraining order (TRO) on 06 December 2007, which directed Judge Soluren to desist from further proceeding
with Election Protest Case No. 96 until further orders from the COMELEC.[11]
Thereafter, petitioner filed before this Court a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition with
application for issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction. The petition,
docketed as G.R. No. 180792, prayed that a temporary restraining order be issued enjoining the COMELEC
(Second Division) from taking cognizance of SPR Case No. 46-2007 and that the TRO issued by the
COMELEC be ordered lifted.
On 15 January 2008, the Court resolved to dismiss G.R. No. 180792 for failure of the petition to state
the material dates showing that the petition was filed on time, failure to submit the required competent proof of
identity in the verification/certification, failure to give an explanation why service was not personally made and
failure to show that any grave abuse of discretion was committed by the COMELEC in rendering the challenged
order.
On 29 February 2008, the COMELEC (Second Division) issued the assailed resolution penned by
Commissioner Nicodemo T. Ferrer. The assailed resolution nullified the 8 September 2007 Order of the RTC
and, accordingly, dismissed EPC No. 99.[12] The other member of the Second Division, Commissioner Rene V.
Sarmiento, wrote a dissenting opinion.[13] It appears that before the issuance of the assailed resolution, the third
member of the Second Division, Presiding Commissioner Florentino A. Tuazon, Jr. had retired from the
service.
Hence, the instant petition, raising the following arguments: (1) the COMELEC (Second Division) has
no jurisdiction to entertain special relief cases like petitions for certiorari, prohibition or mandamus; (2) the
challenged resolution did not comply with the constitutional requirement that it must be decided by a majority
vote of all the members; and (3) the challenged resolution negated the spirit and very purpose of A.M. No. 07-415-SC.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) manifested that under Section 5, Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court, only the private respondent is required to appear and defend the case, both on his own behalf and on
behalf of the public respondent COMELEC, and prayed that the COMELEC be excused from filing the required
comment.[14] In a Resolution dated 12 August 2008, the Court granted the motion of the OSG.[15]
The petition deserves dismissal.
Section 3, Article IX-C of the Constitution expressly states:
SECTION 3. The Commission on Elections may sit en banc or in two divisions, and
shall promulgate its rules of procedure in order to expedite disposition of election cases,
including pre-proclamation controversies. All such election cases shall be heard and decided
in division, provided that motions for reconsideration of decisions shall be decided by the
Commission en banc.
Also, Section 7, Article IX-A of the Constitution provides:

SECTION 7. Each Commission shall decide by a majority vote of all its Members any
case or matter brought before it within sixty days from the date of its submission for decision
or resolution. A case or matter is deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing
of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the rules of the Commission or by the
Commission itself. Unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law, any decision,
order, or ruling of each Commission may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by
the aggrieved party within thirty days from receipt of a copy thereof.
Under the aforequoted constitutional provisions, the requirement that an aggrieved party must first file
a motion for reconsideration of a resolution of the Division to the COMELEC en banc is mandatory and
jurisdictional in invoking the power of review of the Supreme Court. Failure to abide by this procedural
requirement constitutes a ground for dismissal of the petition.[16]
All election cases, including pre-proclamation controversies, shall be decided by the COMELEC in
division, and the motion for reconsideration shall be decided by the COMELEC en banc. [17] As held in Ambil v.
Commission on Elections,[18] the power of review of the Supreme Court of the rulings of the COMELEC is
limited only to the final decision or resolution of the COMELEC en banc and not the final resolution of its
Division. The Supreme Court has no power to review, via certiorari, an interlocutory order or even a final
resolution of a Division of the Commission on Elections.
Moreover, pursuant to Section 5 (c), Rule 3[19] of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, a resolution
issued by a Division of the COMELEC must first be elevated to the COMELEC en banc by filing a motion for
reconsideration.
The filing of a motion for reconsideration is mandatory because the mode by which a decision, order or
ruling of the COMELEC en banc may be elevated to the Supreme Court is by the special civil action
of certiorari under Rule 64 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. It is settled that the filing of a motion for
reconsideration of the order, resolution or decision of the tribunal, board or office is, subject to well-recognized
exceptions, a condition sine qua non to the institution of a special civil action for certiorari. The rationale
therefore is that the law intends to afford the tribunal, board or office an opportunity to rectify the errors and
mistakes it may have lapsed into before resort to the courts of justice can be had. [20]
Since the COMELEC Rules of Procedure allows the review of a resolution of the Division by the
COMELEC en banc, the filing of the instant petition for certiorari and prohibition is premature. The petition
does not allege that petitioner indeed filed a motion for reconsideration before the COMELEC en banc. The
unquestioned rule in this jurisdiction is that certiorari will lie only if there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy
and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law against the acts of public respondent. [21] Certiorari cannot be
resorted to as a shield from the adverse consequences of petitioners own omission to file the required motion
for reconsideration.[22] A litigant should first exhaust the administrative remedies provided by law before
seeking judicial intervention in order to give the administrative agency an opportunity to decide correctly the
matter and prevent unnecessary and premature resort to the court. [23] The premature invocation of judicial
intervention is fatal to ones cause of action.[24]

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari and prohibition is DENIED. Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice

ADOLFO J. AZCUNA
Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice

RUBEN T. REYES
Associate Justice

TERESITA J. LEONARDO DE CASTRO


Associate Justice

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the
above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Court.

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

[1]

Rollo, pp. 3-20.

[2]

Dated 29 February 2008; signed by Commissioner Nicodemo T. Ferrer with Presiding Commissioner
Rene V. Sarmiento, dissenting; id. at 21-29.
[3]

Id. at 79-80.

[4]

Id. at 22.

[5]

Id.

[6]

Rollo, p. 22.

[7]

Id. at 22-23.

[8]

Id. at 23.

[9]

Id. at 51-78.

[10]

SUPREME COURT A.M. NO. 07-4-15-SC (2007), Rule 2, Section 11. Contents of the Protest or
Petition. An election protest or petition for quo warranto shall specifically state the following facts: x x x
(f) a detailed specification of the acts or omissions complained of showing the electoral
frauds, anomalies or irregularities in the protested precincts.
[11]

Rollo, pp. 81-82.

[12]

Rollo, p. 21.

[13]

Id. at 90.

[14]

Id. at 107-110.

[15]

Id. at 112.

[16]

Repol v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 161418, 28 April 2004, 428 SCRA 321, 330.

[17]

Baytan v. COMELEC, 444 Phil. 812, 826 (2003); See also Milla v. Balmores-Laxa, 454 Phil. 452,
462 (2003); Villarosa v. COMELEC, 377 Phil. 497, 506 (1999); Zarate v. COMELEC, 376 Phil. 722
(1999); Canicosa v.COMELEC, 347 Phil. 189 (1999); Sarmiento v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 105628, 06 August
1992, 212 SCRA 307.
[18]

398 Phil. 257 (2000).

[19]

Sec. 5. Quorum; Votes Required. x x x

(c) Any motion to reconsider a decision, resolution, order or ruling of a Division shall be resolved by
the Commission en banc except motions on interlocutory orders of the division which shall be resolved by the
division which issued the order.

[20]

Alcosero v. NLRC, 351 Phil. 368, 378 (1998).

[21]

Palomado v. NLRC, 327 Phil. 472, 481 (1996).

[22]

Alcosero v. NLRC, supra.

[23]

Joson III . v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 160562, 13 February 2006, 482 SCRA 360, 370-371.