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ELECTION LAW TOPIC: ELECTION PROTEST

806 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


De Castro vs. Commission on Elections

*
G.R. No. 125249. February 7, 1997.

JIMMY S. DE CASTRO, petitioner, vs. THE


COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and AMANDO A.
MEDRANO, respondents.

Election Law Protests Public office is personal to the public


officer and is not a property transmissible to his heirs upon death.
It is true that a public office is personal to the public officer and
is not a property transmissible to his heirs upon death. Thus,
applying the doctrine of actio personalis moritur cum persona,
upon the death of the incumbent, no heir of his may be allowed to
continue holding his office in his place.
Same Same An election protest is not purely personal and
exclusive to the protestant or to the protestee such that the death of
either would oust the court of all authority to continue the protest
proceedings.But while the right to a public office is personal and
exclusive to the public officer, an election protest is not purely
personal and exclusive to the protestant or to the protestee such
that the death of either would oust the court of all authority to
continue the protest proceedings.
Same Same An election protest involves not merely
conflicting private aspirations but is imbued with paramount
public interests.An election contest, after all, involves not
merely conflicting private aspirations but is imbued with
paramount public interests.
Same Same Death of the protestant neither constitutes a
ground for the dismissal of the contest nor ousts the trial court of
its jurisdiction to decide the election contest.The death of the
protestant, as in this case, neither constitutes a ground for the
dismissal of the contest nor ousts the trial court of its jurisdiction
to decide the election contest. Apropos is the following
pronouncement of this court in the case of Lomugdang v. Javier:
Determination of what candidate has been in fact elected is a
matter clothed with public interest, wherefore, public policy
demands that an election contest, duly commenced, be not abated
by the death of the contestant. We have squarely so ruled in
Sibulo Vda. de De Mesa vs. Judge Mencias, G.R. No. L24583,
October 29, 1966, in the same spirit that led this Court to hold
that the ineligibility of the protestant is not a defense

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* EN BANC.

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De Castro vs. Commission on Elections

(Caesar vs. Garrido, 53 Phil. 97), and that the protestees


cessation in office is not a ground for the dismissal of the contest
nor detract the Courts jurisdiction to decide the case (Angeles vs.
Rodriguez, 46 Phil. 595 Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 62 Phil. 584)."
Same Same The asseveration of petitioner that private
respondent is not a real party in interest entitled to be substituted
in the election protest in place of the late Jamilla is utterly without
legal basis.The asseveration of petitioner that private
respondent is not a real party in interest entitled to be
substituted in the election protest in place of the late Jamilla, is
utterly without legal basis. Categorical was our ruling in Vda. de
De Mesa and Lomugdang that: x x x the Vice Mayor elect has the
status of a real party in interest in the continuation of the
proceedings and is entitled to intervene therein. For if the protest
succeeds and the protestee is unseated, the ViceMayor succeeds
to the office of Mayor that becomes vacant if the one duly elected
can not assume the post.

SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION in the Supreme Court.


Certiorari.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.


Garcia, De la Pea & Partners for petitioner.
Brillantes, Machura, Navarro, Jumamil, Arcilla &
Bello Law Offices for private respondent

HERMOSISIMA, JR., J.:

Before us is a petition for certiorari raising twin issues as


regards the effect of the contestants death in an election
protest: Is said contest a personal action extinguished upon
the death of the real party in interest? If not, what is the
mandatory period within which to effectuate the
substitution of parties?
The following antecedent facts have been culled from the
pleadings and are not in dispute:
Petitioner was proclaimed Mayor of Gloria, Oriental
Mindoro during the May 8,1995 elections.
In the same elections, private respondent was
proclaimed ViceMayor of the same municipality.
808

808 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


De Castro vs. Commission on Elections

On May 19, 1995, petitioners rival candidate, 1


the late
Nicolas M. Jamilla, filed an election protest before the
Regional 2 Trial Court of Pinamalayan, an, Oriental
Mindoro.
3
During the pendency of said contest, Jamilla
died. Four
days after such death or on December 19, 1995, the trial
court dismissed the election protest ruling as it did that "
[a]s this case is personal, the death of the protestant
extinguishes the case itself. The issue or issues brought
4
out
in this protest have become moot and academic."
On January 9, 1995, private respondent learned about
the dismissal of the protest from one Atty. Gaudencio S.
Sadicon, who, as the late Jamillas counsel, was the one
who informed the trial court of his clients demise.
On January 15, 1996, private respondent filed his
Omnibus Petition/Motion (For Intervention 5
and/or
Substitution with Motion for Reconsideration). Opposition
thereto was filed by petitioner on January 30,7
1996.6
In an Order dated February 14, 1996, the trial court
denied private respondents Omnibus Petition/Motion and
stubbornly held that an election protest being personal to
the protestant, is ipso facto terminated by the latters
death.
Unable to agree with the trial courts dismissal of the
election protest, private respondent filed a petition for
certiorari and mandamus before the Commission on
Elections (COMELEC) private respondent mainly assailed
the trial court orders as having been issued with grave
abuse of discretion.
COMELEC 8
granted the petition for certiorari and
mandamus. It ruled that an election contest involves both
the pri
________________

1 Election Protest Case No. 895.


2 Branch 41 presided by Judge Antonio R. Quizon.
3 Jamilla died on December 15, 1995.
4 Order dated December 19, 1995 Rollo, p. 26.
5 Rollo, pp. 7883.
6 Id., pp. 8586.
7 Id., p. 27.
8 Resolution of the COMELEC dated May 28, 1996, penned by
Commissioner Julio F. Desamito Rollo, pp. 1924.

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De Castro vs. Commission on Elections

vate interests of the rival candidates and the public


interest in the final determination of the real choice of the
electorate, and for this reason, an election contest
necessarily survives the death of the protestant or the
protestee.
We agree.
It is true that a public office is personal to the public
officer 9and is not a property transmissible to his heirs upon
death. Thus, applying the doctrine of actio personalis a personal action dies with the person

moritur cum persona, upon the death of the incumbent, no


heir of his may be allowed to continue holding his office in
his place.
But while the right to a public office is personal and
exclusive to the public officer, an election protest is not
purely personal and exclusive to the protestant or to the
protestee such that the death of either would oust the court
of all authority to continue the protest proceedings.
An election contest, after all, involves not merely
conflicting private aspirations but is imbued with
paramount public interests. 10As we have held in the case of
Vda. de De Mesa v. Mencias:

x x x. It is axiomatic that an election contest, involving as it does


not only the adjudication and settlement of the private interests
of the rival candidates but also the paramount need of dispelling
once and for all the uncertainty that beclouds the real choice of
the electorate with respect to who shall discharge the prerogatives
of the offices within their gift, is a proceeding imbued with public
interest which raises it onto a plane over and above ordinary civil
actions. For this reason, broad perspectives of public policy
impose upon courts the imperative duty to ascertain by all means
within their command who is the real candidate elected in as
expeditious a manner as possible, without being fettered by
technicalities and procedural barriers to the end that the will of
the people may not be frustrated (Ibasco vs. Ilao, et al., G.R. L
17512, December 29, 1960 Reforma vs. De Luna, G.R. L13242,
July 31, 1958). So inextricably intertwined are the interests of the
contestants and those of the public that there can be no
gainsaying the logic of the proposition

________________

9 Santos v. Secretary of Labor, 22 SCRA 848, 850 [1968].


10 18 SCRA 533 [1966].

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810 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


De Castro vs. Commission on Elections

that even the voluntary cessation in office of the protestee not


only does not ipso facto divest him of the character of an
adversary in the contest inasmuch as he retains a party interest
to keep his political opponent out of the office and maintain
therein his successor, but also does not in any manner impair or
detract from the jurisdiction of the court to pursue the proceeding
to its final conclusion (De Los Angeles vs, Rodriguez, 46 Phil. 595,
597 Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 62 Phil. 584, 587 Galves vs.
Maramba, G.R. L13206). Upon the same principle, the death of
the protestee De Mesa did not abate the proceedings in the
election protest filed against him, and it may be stated as a rule
that an election contest survives and must be 11
prosecuted to final
judgment despite the death of the protestee."

The death of the protestant, as in this case, neither


constitutes a ground for the dismissal of the contest nor
ousts the trial court of its jurisdiction to decide the election
contest. Apropos is the following pronouncement
12
of this
court in the case of Lomugdang v. Javier:

Determination of what candidate has been in fact elected is a


matter clothed with public interest, wherefore, public policy
demands that an election contest, duly commenced, be not abated
by the death of the contestant. We have squarely so ruled in
Sibulo Vda. de De Mesa vs. Judge Mencias, G.R. No. L24583,
October 29, 1966, in the same spirit that led this Court to hold
that the ineligibility of the protestant is not a defense (Caesar vs.
Garrido, 53 Phil. 97), and that the protestees cessation in office is
not a ground for the dismissal of the contest nor detract the
Courts jurisdiction to decide the case (Angeles 13vs. Rodriguez, 46
Phil. 595 Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 62 Phil. 584)."

The asseveration of petitioner that private respondent is


not a real party in interest entitled to be substituted in the
election protest in place of the late Jamilla, is utterly
without legal basis. Categorical was our ruling in Vda. de
De Mesa and Lomugdang that:

________________

11 Id., p. 538.
12 21 SCRA 402 [1967].
13 Id., p. 407.

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De Castro vs. Commission on Elections

x x x the Vice Mayor elect has the status of a real party in


interest in the continuation of the proceedings and is entitled to
intervene therein. For if the protest succeeds and the protestee is
unseated, the ViceMayor succeeds to the office of Mayor that 14
becomes vacant if the one duly elected can not assume the post."

To finally dispose of this case, we rule that the filing by


private respondent of his Omnibus Petition/Motion on
January 15, 1996, well within a period of thirty days from
December 19, 1995 when Jamillas counsel informed the
trial court of Jamillas death, was in compliance with
Section 17, Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of Court. Since the
Rules of Court, though not generally applicable to election
cases, may however15 be applied by analogy or in a
suppletory character, private respondent was correct to
rely thereon.
The above jurisprudence is not ancient, in fact these
legal moorings have been recently reiterated
16
in the 1991
case of De la Victoria vs. COMELEC. If only petitioners
diligence in updating himself with case law is as spirited as
his persistence in pursuing his legal asseverations up to
the highest court of the land, no doubt further derailment
of the election protest proceedings could have been avoided.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition
for certiorari is hereby DISMISSED.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa (C.J.), Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr.,
Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Francisco, Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.

Petition dismissed.

o0o

______________

14 Ibid.
15 Vda. de De Mesa v. Mencias, 18 SCRA 533, 539 [1966].
16 199 SCRA 561.

812

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