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EN BANC

[G.R. Nos. 122250 & 122258. July 21, 1997.]


EDGARDO
C. NOLASCO, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
MUNICIPAL
CANVASSERS, MEYCAUAYAN, BULACAN, and EDUARDO A. ALARILLA, respondents.

FLORENTINO
P.
BLANCO, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
ALARILLA, respondents.

and

BOARD

EDUARDO

OF

A.

Pete Quirino-Cuadra for petitioner in G.R. No. 122250.


Benitez, Parlade, Africa, Herrera, Parlade & Panga Law Offices for petitioner G.R. No. 122258.
Romulo B. Macalintal, and George S. Briones for private respondent.

SYNOPSIS
In the 1995 election for Mayor of Meycauayan, Bulacan, Florentino Blanco won over Eduardo Alarilla while Edgardo Nolasco was
elected vice-mayor. Alarilla however, filed with the COMELEC a petition to disqualify Blanco. The COMELEC(First Division), on the
ground of vote-buying, disqualified Blanco who moved for reconsideration in the COMELEC en banc. Nolasco, as vice-mayor,
intervened in the proceedings, moved for reconsideration, urging that as vice-mayor he should be declared Mayor in the event Blanco
was finally disqualified, citing Section 44 of RA 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991) and the Courts' decision in Labo v. COMELEC.
The COMELEC en banc denied both motions for reconsideration. Hence, this two petitions for certiorari by Blanco and Nolasco. The
Court affirmed the resolution of the COMELEC en banc but with modification that Nolasco is adjudged Mayor of Meycauayan, Bulacan
in view of the disqualification of Blanco.

SYLLABUS
1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; PETITION FOR DISQUALIFICATION; COMELEC HAS JURISDICTION
OVER PROCLAMATION AND DISQUALIFICATION CASES. It cannot be denied that the COMELEC has jurisdiction over
proclamation and disqualification cases. Article IX-C, Section 2 of the Constitution endows the COMELEC the all encompassing power
to "enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election . . . " We have long ruled that this broad power
includes the power to cancel proclamations. Section 68 of B.P. Blg. 881 (Omnibus Election Code) and Section 6 of R.A. No. 6646.
2. ID.; PETITIONS FOR DISQUALIFICATION ARE SUBJECT TO SUMMARY HEARINGS. Petitions for disqualification are subject to
summary hearings. Blanco also urges that COMELEC erred in using summary proceedings to resolve his disqualification case. Again,
the COMELEC action is safely anchored on Section 4 of its Rules of Procedure which expressly provides that petitions for
disqualification "shall be heard summarily after due notice." Vote-buying has its criminal and electoral aspects. Its criminal aspect to
determine the guilt or innocence of the accused cannot be the subject of summary hearing. However, its electoral aspect to ascertain
whether the offender should be disqualified from office can be determined in an administrative proceeding that is summary in character.
3. ID.; RESOLUTION NO. 2050; COMELEC CANNOT ALWAYS BE STRAITJACKETED BY THE PROCEDURAL RULE UNDER
RESOLUTION NO. 2050. We hold that COMELEC cannot always be straitjacketed by this procedural rule. TheCOMELEC has
explained that the resolution was passed to take care of the proliferation of disqualification cases at that time. It deemed it wise to
delegate its authority to its Law Department as partial solution to the problem. The May 8, 1995 elections, however, did not result in a
surfeit of disqualification cases which the COMELEC cannot handle. Hence, its decision to resolve the disqualification of Blanco directly
and without referring it to its Law Department is within its authority, a sound exercise of its discretion. The action of the COMELEC is in
accord with Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646.
4. ID.; THE CASE LAW IS THAT IN A MAYORALTY ELECTION, THE CANDIDATE WHO OBTAINED THE SECOND HIGHEST
NUMBER OF VOTES CANNOT BE PROCLAIMED WINNER IN THE CASE THE WINNING CANDIDATE IS DISQUALIFIED. Our
case law is now settled that in a mayoralty election, the candidate who obtained the second highest number of votes, in this case
Alarilla, cannot be proclaimed winner in case the winning candidate is disqualified. Thus, we reiterated the rule in the fairly recent case

of Reyes v. COMELEC viz: . . . "We likewise find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC in denying claimed mayor
petitioner Julius O. Garcia's petition to be proclaimed mayor in view of the disqualification of Renato U. Reyes." That the candidate who
obtains the second highest number of votes may not be proclaimed winner in case the winning candidate is disqualified is not settled.
The doctrinal instability caused by see-sawing rulings has since been removed. In the latest ruling 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. "Garcia's
plea that the votes cast for Reyes be invalidated is without merit. The votes cast for Reyes are presumed to have been cast in the belief
that Reyes was qualified and for that reason can not be treated as stray, void, or meaningless. The subsequent finding that he is
disqualified cannot retroact to the date of the elections so as to invalidate the votes cast for him." Consequently,
respondent COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion insofar as it failed to follow the above doctrine, a descendant of our ruling
in Labo v. COMELEC.
||| (Nolasco v. Commission on Elections, G.R. Nos. 122250 & 122258, [July 21, 1997], 341 PHIL 761-786)

DECISION

PUNO, J p:
First, we rewind the facts. The election for mayor of Meycauayan, Bulacan was held on May 8, 1995. The principal protagonists were
petitioner Florentino P. Blanco and private respondent Eduardo A. Alarilla. Blanco received 29,753 votes, while Alarilla got 23,038
votes. 1 Edgardo Nolasco was elected Vice-Mayor with 37,240 votes.
On May 9, 1995, Alarilla filed with the COMELEC a petition to disqualify Blanco. He alleged:
"xxx xxx xxx
"4. Based on intelligence reports that respondent was maintaining his own 'private army' at his aforesaid resident,
P/Insp. Ronaldo O. Lee of the Philippine National Police assigned with the Intelligence Command at Camp Crame,
applied for and was granted search warrant no. 95-147 by Branch 37 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila on 5
May 1995. A copy of the said search warrant is attached as Annex "A" hereof.
5. In compliance with said search warrant no. 95-147, an elite composite team of the PNP Intelligence Command,
Criminal Investigation Service (CIS), and Bulacan Provincial Command, backed up by the Philippine National
Police Special Action Force, accompanied by mediamen who witnessed and recorded the search by video and still
cameras, raided the house of respondent Florentino Blanco at his stated address at Bancal, Meycauayan, Bulacan.
6. Enclosed as Annex. "A-1" is a video tape taken of the proceedings during the raid.
7. The composite team was able to enter the said premises of respondent Florentino Blanco where they conducted
a search of the subject firearms and ammunition.
8. The search resulted in the arrest of six (6) men who were found carrying various high powered firearms without
any license or authority to use or possess such long arms. These persons composing respondent's 'private army,'
and the unlicensed firearms are as follows:
A. Virgilio Luna y Valderama
1. PYTHOM (sic) Cal. 347 SN 26946 with six (6) Rounds of Ammo.
2. INGRAM M10 Cal. 45 MP with Suppressor SN: 45457 with two (2) Mags and 54 Rounds of
Ammo.
B. Raymundo Bahala y Pon
1. HKMP5 Sn. C334644 with two (2) Mags and 47 Rounds of Ammo.
C. Roberto Santos y Sacris
1. Smith and Wesson 357 Magnum Sn: 522218 with six (6) Rounds of Ammo.
D. Melchor Cabanero y Oreil

1. Armscor 12 Gauge with three (3) Rounds of Ammo.


E. Edgardo Orteza y Asuncion
1. Paltik Cal. 38 Rev with six (6) Rounds of Ammo.
F. Francisco Libari y Calimag
1. Paltik Cal. 38 SN: 36869
Copies of the inventory receipts are hereto attached as Annexes "B" to "B-5" hereof.
9. During the search, members of the composite team saw through a large clear glass window, respondent's Galil
assault rifle on a sofa inside a closed room of the subject premises.
10. Not allowed entry thereto by respondent and his wife, the members of the composite police-military team
applied for the issuance of a second search warrant (Annex "B-6") so that they could enter the said room to seize
the said firearm.
11. While waiting for the issuance of the second search warrant, respondent's wife and respondent's brother,
Mariano Blanco, claiming to be the campaign manager of respondent in the Nationalist People's Coalition Party,
asked permission to enter the locked room so they could withdraw money in a vault inside the locked room to pay
their watchers, and the teachers of Meycauayan in the 8 May 1995 elections.
12. For reasons not known to petitioner, Mrs. Florentino Blanco and Mariano Blanco, were allowed to withdraw ten
(10) large plastic bags from the vault.
13. When the said PNP composite team examined the ten (10) black plastic bags, they found out that each bag
contained ten (10) shoe boxes. Each shoe box when examined contained 200 pay envelopes, and each pay
envelope when opened contained the amount of P1,000.00. When questioned, respondent's brother Mariano
Blanco and respondent's wife, admitted to the raiding team that the total amount of money in the ten (10) plastic
bags is P10,000,00.00.
14. The labels found in the envelope shows that the money were intended as respondent's bribe money to the
teachers of Meycauayan. Attached as Annex "C" is the cover of one of the shoe boxes containing the inscription
that it is intended to the teachers of Brgy. Lawa, Meycauayan, Bulacan.

15. On election day 8 May 1995, respondent perpetrated the most massive vote-buying activity ever in the history
of Meycauayan politics. Attached as Annex "D" is the envelope where this P10,000,000.00 was place in 100 peso
denominations totalling one thousand pesos per envelope with the inscription 'VOTE !!! TINOY.' cdphil
This massive vote-buying activity was engineered by the respondent through his organization. called 'MTB' or
'MOVEMENT FOR TINOY BLANCO VOLUNTEERS.' The chairman of this movement is respondent's brother,
Mariano P. Blanco, who admitted to the police during the raid that these money were for the teachers and watchers
of Meycauayan. Bulacan.
Attached as Annex "E" hereof is an MTB ID issued to one Armando Bulan of Precinct 77-A, Brgy. Jasmin, Bancal,
Meycauayan, Bulacan. You will note that the ID is perforated in the middle. The purpose is for the voter to tear the
office copy and return it to respondent's headquarters to receive the balance of the P500.00 of the bribe money
after voting for respondent during the elections. The voter will initially be given a down-payment of P500.00.
16. This massive vote-buying was also perpetrated by respondent thru the familiar use of flying voters. Attached as
Annex "F" hereof is a copy of the Police Blotter dated 8 May 1995 showing that six (6) flying voters were caught in
different precincts of Meycauayan, Bulacan, who admitted after being caught and arrested that they were paid
P200.00 to P300.00 by respondent and his followers, to vote for other voters in the voter's list.
17. Not satisfied, and with his overflowing supply of money, respondent used another scheme as follows.
Respondent's paid voter will identify his target from the list of voter and will impersonate said voter in the list and
falsify his signature.
Attached as Annex "G" hereof is the Minutes of Voting and Counting of Votes in Precinct No. 26, Brgy. Calvario,
Meycauayan, Bulacan. Annex "G-1" is the statement of one Ma. Luisa de los Reyes Cruz stating that when she
went to her precinct to vote, her name was already voted upon by another person. This entry was noted by Leticia
T. Villanco, Poll Chairman; Estelita Artajo, Poll Clerk; and Nelson John Nito Poll Member.

18. Earlier before the election, respondent used his tremendous money to get in the good graces or the
local Comelec Registrar, who was replaced by this Office upon the petition of the people of Meycauayan. Attached
as Annex "H" hereof is an article in the 3 May 1995 issue of Abante entitled '1 M Suhol sa Comelec Registrar.'
19. The second search warrant on respondent's residence yielded to more firearms and thousands of rounds of
ammunition. These guns were used by respondent to terrorize the population and make the people afraid to
complain against respondent's massive vote buying and cheating in today's elections. Respondent's bribery of the
teachers ensured the implementation of his vote-buying ballot box switching, impersonations, and other cheating
schemes.
Attached as Annexes 'I-1' to I-2' are the pertinent Receipts of the guns and ammunitions seized from respondent.
Attached as Annex "J" is a Certification to the same effect.
20. The above acts committed by respondent are clear grounds for disqualification under Sec. 68 of the Omnibus
Election Code for giving money to influence, induce or corrupt the voters or public officials performing election
functions; for committing acts of terrorism to enhance his candidacy, and for spending in his election campaign an
amount in excess of that allowed by the Election Code. There are only 97,000 registered voters in
Meycauayan versus respondent's expenses of at least P10,000,000.00 as admitted above. (Emphasis supplied).
On May 15, 1995, Alarilla filed a Very Urgent Ex Parte Motion to Suspend Proclamation. The COMELEC (First Division) granted the
motion after finding that there was a "probable commission of election offenses which are grounds for disqualification pursuant to the
provisions of Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code (BP 881), and the evidence in support of disqualification is strong." It directed
the Municipal Board of Canvassers "to complete the canvassing of election returns of the municipality of Meycauayan, but to suspend
proclamation of respondent Florentino P. Blanco should he obtain the winning number of votes for the position of Mayor of
Meycauayan, Bulacan until such time when the petitions for disqualification, against him shall have been resolved."
On May 25, 1995, Blanco filed a Motion to Lift or Set Aside the Order suspending his proclamation. On May 29, 1995, he filed his
Answer to the petition to disqualify him.
On May 30, 1995, the COMELEC (First Division) heard the petition to disqualify Blanco. The parties thereafter submitted their positions
papers. 2 Blanco even replied to the position paper of Alarilla on June 9, 1995.
On August 15, 1995, the COMELEC (First Division) disqualified Blanco on the ground of vote-buying, viz.: 3
"xxx xxx xxx
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission (First Division) RESOLVES to DISQUALIFY Respondent
Florentino P. Blanco as a candidate for the Office of Mayor of Meycauayan, Bulacan in the May 8,
1995 elections for having violated Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code. The Order suspending the
proclamation of herein Respondent is now made PERMANENT. The Municipal Board of Canvassers of
Meycauayan, Bulacan shall immediately reconvene and, on the basis of the completed canvass of the election
returns, determine the winner out of the remaining qualified candidates who shall be immediately proclaimed.
SO ORDERED."
Blanco moved for reconsideration on August 19, 1995 in the COMELEC en banc. Nolasco, as vice mayor, intervened in the
proceedings. 4 He moved for reconsideration of that part of the resolution directing the Municipal Board of Canvassers to "immediately
reconvene and, on the basis of the completed canvass of the election returns, determine the winner out of the remaining qualified
candidates who shall be immediately proclaimed." He urged that as vice-mayor he should be declared mayor in the event Blanco was
finally disqualified. The motions were heard on September 7, 1995. The parties were allowed to file their memoranda with right of
reply. On October 23, 1995, the COMELEC en banc denied the motions for reconsideration.
In this petition for certiorari, 5 Blanco contends:
"xxx xxx xxx
18. Respondent COMELEC En Banc committed grave abuse or discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction and acted arbitrarily in affirming en toto and adopting as its own the majority decision of the First
Division in that:
18.1 It upheld the validity of the May 17, 1995 order suspending proclamation of Petitioner Blanco herein
as the winning candidate for Mayor of Meycauayan without the benefit of any notice or hearing in gross
and palpable violation of Blanco's constitutional right to due process of law.
18.2 It violated the provisions of COMELEC Res. No. 2050 as amended, prescribing the procedure for
disposing of disqualification cases arising out of the prohibited acts mentioned in Sec. 68 of the Omnibus

Election Code, which Resolution this Honorable Tribunal explicitly sanctioned in the case
of Lozano vs. Yorac. Moreover, it (COMELEC) violated Blanco's right to equal protection of the laws by
setting him apart from other respondents facing similar disqualification suits whose case were referred
by COMELEC to the Law Department pursuant to Com. Res. No. 2050 and ordering their proclamation
an, act which evidently discriminated against Petitioner Blanco herein.
18.3 It decided Petitioner Blanco's disqualification case in a SUMMARY PROCEEDING in violation of law
and the precedents which consistently hold that questions of VOTE-BUYING, terrorism similar such acts
should be resolve in a formal election protest where the issue of vote buying is subjected to a full-dress
hearing instead of disposing of the issue in a summary proceeding;
18.4 It declared Petitioner Blanco as having been involved in a conspiracy to engage in VOTE-BUYING
without that minimum quantum of proof required to establish a disputable presumption of vote-buying in
gross and palpable violation of the provisions of Section 28, Rep. Act. 6646;
18.5 It ordered the proclamation of a SECOND PLACER as the duly elected Mayor of Meycauayan,
Bulacan, in gross violation and utter disregard of the doctrine laid down by this Honorable Supreme Court
in the case of LABO vs.COMELEC which was reiterated only recently in the case of Aquino vs. Syjuco.
On the other hand. Nolasco contends in his petition for certiorari 6 that he should be declared as Mayor in view of the disqualification of
Blanco. He cites section 44 of R.A. No. 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991and our decision in
Labo vs. COMELEC. 7
We shall first resolve the Blanco petition.
Blanco was not denied due process when the COMELEC (First Division) suspended his proclamation as Mayor pending determination
of the petition for disqualification against him. Section 6 of R.A. 6646 and sections 4 and 5 of the Rule 25 of the Comelec Rules of
Procedure merely require that evidence of guilt should be strong to justify the COMELEC in suspending a winning candidate's
proclamation. It ought to be emphasized that the suspension order is provisional in nature and can be lifted when the evidence so
warrants. It is akin to a temporary restraining order which a court can issue ex-parte under exigent circumstances.
In any event, Blanco was given all the opportunity to prove that the evidence on his disqualification was not strong. On May 25, 1995,
he filed a Motion to Lift or Set Aside the Order suspending his proclamation. On May 29, 1995, he filed his Answer to the petition to
disqualify him. The COMELEC heard the petition. Blanco thereafter submitted his position paper and reply to Alarilla's position paper.
The COMELEC considered the evidence of the parties and their arguments and thereafter affirmed his disqualification. The hoary rule
is that due process does not mean prior hearing but only an opportunity to be heard. The COMELEC gave Blanco all the opportunity to
be heard. Petitions for disqualification are subject to summary hearings. 8

Blanco also faults the COMELEC for departing from the procedure laid down in COMELEC Resolution 2050 as amended, in
disqualification cases. The resolution pertinently provides:
"xxx xxx xxx
Where a similar complaint is filed after election but before proclamation of the respondent candidate the complaint
shall, nevertheless, be dismissed as a disqualification case. However, the complaint shall be referred for
preliminary investigation to the Law Department. If, before proclamation, the Law Department makes a prima
facie finding of guilt and the corresponding information has been filed with the appropriate trial court, the
complainant may file a petition for suspension of the proclamation the respondent with the court before which the
criminal case is pending and the said court may order the suspension of the proclamation if the evidence of guilt is
strong."
It is alleged that the violation is fatal as it deprived Blanco of equal protection of our laws.
We do not agree. It cannot be denied that the COMELEC has jurisdiction over proclamation and disqualification cases. Article IX-C,
section 2 of the Constitution endows the COMELEC the all encompassing power to "enforce and administer all laws and
regulations relative to the conduct of an election . . ." We have long ruled that this broad power includes the power to cancel
proclamations. 9 Our laws are no less explicit on the matter. Section 68 of B.P. Blg. 881 (Omnibus Election Code) provides:
"Sec. 68. Disqualification. Any candidate who, in an action or protest in which he is a party is declared by final
decision of a competent court guilty of, or found by the Commission of having (a) given money or other material
consideration to influence, induce or corrupt the voters or public officials performing electoral functions; (b)
committed acts of terrorism to enhance his candidacy; (c) spent in his election campaign an amount in excess of
that allowed by this Code; (d) solicited, received or made any contribution prohibited under Sections 89, 95, 96, 97
and 104; or (e) violated any of Sections 80, 83, 85, 86 and 261, paragraphs d, e, k, v, and cc, sub-paragraph 6,

shall be disqualified from continuing as a candidate, or if he has been elected, from holding the office. Any person
who is a permanent resident of or an immigrant to a foreign country shall not be qualified to run for an elective
office under this Code, unless said person has waive his status as permanent resident or immigrant of a foreign
country in accordance with the residence requirement provided for in the elections laws."
Section 6 of R.A. No. 6646 likewise provides:
"Sec. 6. Effect of Disqualification Case. Any candidate who has been declared by final judgment to be
disqualified shall not be voted for, and the votes cast for him shall not be counted. If for any reason a candidate is
not declared by final judgment before an election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the winning
number of votes in such election, the Court or Commission shall continue with the trial and hearing of the action,
inquiry or protest and, upon motion of the complainant or any intervenor, may during the pendency thereof order
the suspension of the proclamation of such candidate whenever the evidence of his guilt is strong."
Despite these laws and existing jurisprudence, Blanco contends that COMELEC must follow the procedure in Resolution No. 2050 as
amended. We hold that COMELEC cannot always be straitjacketed by this procedural rule. The COMELEChas explained that the
resolution was passed to take care of the proliferation of disqualification cases at that time. It deemed it wise to delegate its authority to
its Law Department as partial solution to the problem. The May 8, 1995elections, however, did not result in a surfeit of disqualification
cases which the COMELEC cannot handle. Hence, its decision to resolve the disqualification case of Blanco directly and without
referring it to its Law Department is within its authority, a sound exercise of its discretion. The action of the COMELEC is in accord
with Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646, viz:
"xxx xxx xxx
SEC. 28. Prosecution of Vote-Buying and Vote-Selling. The presentation of a complaint for violations of
paragraph (a) or (b) of Section 261 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 supported by affidavits of complaining witness
attesting to the offer or promise by or of the voter's acceptance of money or other consideration from the relatives,
leaders or sympathizers of a candidate, shall be sufficient basis for an investigation to be immediately conducted
by the Commission, directly or though its duly authorized legal officers under Section 68 or Section 265 of
said Batas Pambansa Blg. 881. (emphasis supplied)
"xxx xxx xxx"
Indeed, even Commissioner Maambong who dissented from the majority ruling, clings to the view that "Resolution No. 2050 cannot
divest the Commission of its duty to resolve disqualification cases under the clear provision of section 6 of R.A. 6646." 10 Clearly too,
Blanco's contention that he was denied equal protection of the law is off-line. He was not the object of any invidious
discrimination. COMELEC assumed direct jurisdiction over his disqualification case not to favor anybody but to discharge its
constitutional duty of disposing the case in a fair and as fast a manner as possible.
Blanco also urges that COMELEC erred in using summary proceedings to resolve his disqualification case. Again,
the COMELEC action is safely anchored on section 4 of its Rules of Procedure which expressly provides that petitions for
disqualification "shall be heard summarily after due notice." Vote-buying has its criminal and electoral aspects. Its criminal aspect to
determine the guilt or innocence of the accused cannot be the subject of summary hearing. However, its electoral aspect to
ascertain whether the offender should be disqualified from office can be determined in an administrative proceeding that is
summary in character.
The next issue is whether there is substantial evidence to prove the vote buying activities of Blanco. The factual findings of
the COMELEC (First Division) are as follows: 11
"xxx xxx xxx
"Respondent argues that the claim of vote-buying has no factual basis because the affidavits and sworn statements
admitted as evidence against him are products of hearsay; inadmissible because of the illegal searches; they
violate the Rule of Res Inter Alios Acta and the Offense of vote-buying requires consummation.
We are not impressed.
A studied reading of the affidavits [Respondent's affidavit is unsigned] attached to the Reply of the Respondent to
the Position Paper of the Petitioner [Annexes 1, 2 and 3] would reveal that they are in the nature of general denials
emanating from individuals closely associated or related to respondent Blanco.
The same holds true with the affidavits attached to Respondent's Position Paper [Annexes 1, 2, 3 and 4]. Said
affidavits were executed by Blanco's political leaders and private secretary.
On the other hand, the affidavit of Romeo Burgos [Exhibit "E-1"] is rich in detail as to how the alleged vote-buying
was conducted.

Moreover, the same is corroborated by object evidence in the nature of MTB [Movement for Tinoy Blanco] cards
which were in the possession of the affiants and allegedly used as a means to facilitate the vote-buying scheme.
There are also admissions of certain individuals who received money to vote for Respondent [Annexes "E-2", "E3", "E-4", "E-5", "E-6", "E-7", "E-8", "E-9" and "E-10].
On the day of the elections, two individuals were apprehended for attempting to vote for Respondent when they
allegedly are not registered voters of Meycauayan. A criminal complaint for violation of section 261 [2] of BP
881 was filed by P/Sr. Inspector Alfred S. Corpus on May 9, 1995 with the Municipal Trial Court of Bulacan. The
same was docketed as Criminal Case 95-16996 [Exhibit F-2].
Again similar pay envelopes with money inside them were found in the possession of the suspected flying voters.
The incident was corroborated by Adriano Llorente in his affidavit narrating the same [Exhibit "F-1"]. Llorente, a poll
watcher of Petitioner, was the one who accosted the two suspected flying voters when the latter attempted to vote
despite failing to locate their names in the voter's list.
From rich backdrop of detail, We are disappointed by the general denial offered by Respondent. In People of the
Philippines vs. Navarro, G.R. No. 96251, May 11, 1993, 222 SCRA 684, the Supreme Court noted that "Denial is
the weakest defense' [page 692].
In People of the Philippines vs. Rolando Precioso, et al., G.R. No. 95890, May 12, 1993, 221 SCRA 1993, the
Supreme Court observed that,
'We have consistently ruled that denials if unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence are negative
and self-serving evidence which deserves no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary weight
over the testimony of credible witnesses. Ergo, as between the positive declarations of the prosecution
witness and the negative statements of the accused, the former deserve more credence." [page 754].'
However, Respondent conveniently resorts to section 33, Rule 130 of the Revised Rules of Court which states that
a declaration of an accused acknowledging his guilty of the offense charged, or of any offense necessarily included
herein, may be given in evidence against him [affiants who executed Exhibits E-1 to E-10] but not against
Respondent.
There is no merit in this contention.
The affiants are not the accused. Their participation in the herein case is in the nature of witnesses who have
assumed the risk of being subsequently charged with violating Section 261 [1] of BP 881. In fact, their affidavits
were sought by the Petitioner and not by any law enforcement agency. Even Respondent admits this finding when
he filed his Reply to Petitioner's Position Paper and Motion to Refer for Preliminary Investigation and Filing of
Information in Court against the Persons Who Executed Exhibits E-1 to E-10 for Having Admitted Commission of
Election Offense. If they were the accused, why file the motion? Would not this be redundant if not irrelevant?

xxx xxx xxx


Another telling blow is the unexplained money destined for the teachers. Why such a huge amount? Why should
the Respondent, a mayoralty candidate, and according to his own admission, be giving money to teachers a day
before theelections? What were the peso bills doing in pay envelopes with the inscription "VOTE !!! TINOY", and
kept in shoe boxes with the word "Teachers" write on the covers thereof?
There is also something wrong with the issuance of the aforementioned MTB cards when one considers the
testimony of Burgos that more or less 50,000 of these cards, which is equivalent to more or less 52% of the 97,000
registered voters of Meycauayan, Bulacan, were printed by respondent; that there are only 443 precincts in
Meycauayan; that under the law, a candidate is allowed only one watcher per polling place and canvassing area;
and, finally, that there is no explanation at all by the respondents as to what these "watchers" did in order to get
paid P300.00 each.
xxx xxx xxx
Respondent also avers that for an allegation of vote-buying to prosper, the act of giving must be consummated.
Section 281 [a] of BP 881 states "any person who gives, offers, or promises money . . ." Section 28 of RA
6646 also states that "the giver, offeror, the promisor as well as the solicitor, recipient and conspirator referred to in
paragraphs [a] and [b] of section 261 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 shall be liable as principals: . . .

While the giving must be consummated, the mere act of offering or promising something in consideration for
someone's vote constitutes the offense of vote-buying.
In the case at bar, the acts of offering and promising in consideration for the votes of said affiants is sufficient for a
finding of the commission of the offense of vote-buying."
These factual findings were affirmed by the COMELEC en banc against the lone dissent of Commissioner Maambong.
There is an attempt to discredit these findings. Immediately obvious in the effort is the resort to our technical rules of evidence. Again,
our ingrained jurisprudence is that technical rules of evidence should not be rigorously applied in administrative proceedings especially
where the law calls for the proceeding to be summary in character. More importantly, we cannot depart from the settled norm of
reviewing decisions of the COMELEC, i.e., that "this Court cannot review the factual findings of the COMELEC absent a grave abuse of
discretion and a showing of arbitrariness in its decision, order or resolution." 12
We now come to the petition of Nolasco that he should be declared as mayor in the event Blanco is finally disqualified. 13 We sustain
the plea. Section 44, Chapter 2 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. No. 7160) is unequivocal, thus:
"xxx xxx xxx
"SEC. 44. Permanent Vacancies in the Offices of the Governor, Vice Governor, Mayor, and Vice Mayor. (a) If a
permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the governor or mayor, the vice governor or vice mayor concerned shall
become the governor or mayor. If a permanent vacancy occurs in the offices of the governor, vice governor, mayor,
or vice mayor, the highest ranking sanggunian member or, in case of his permanent inability, the second highest
ranking sanggunian member, shall become the governor, vice governor, mayor or vice mayor, as the case may be.
Subsequent vacancies in the said office shall be filled automatically by the other sanggunian members according to
their ranking as defined herein.
(b) If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the punong barangay, the highest ranking sanggunian barangay
member or, in case of his permanent inability, the second highest ranking sanggunian member shall, become the
punong barangay.
(c) A tie between or among the highest ranking sangguniang members shall be resolved by the drawing of lots.
(d) The successors as defined herein shall serve only the unexpired terms of their predecessors.
For purposes of this Chapter, a permanent vacancy arises when an elective local official fills a higher vacant office,
refuses to assume office, fails to qualify, dies, is removed from office, voluntarily resigns, or is otherwise
permanently incapacitated to discharge the functions of his office. cdasia
For purposes of succession as provided in this Chapter, ranking in the sanggunian shall be determined on the
basis of the proportion of votes obtained by each winning candidate to the total number of registered voters in each
distribution the immediately preceding election."
In the same vein, Article 83 of the Rules and Regulations Implementing, the Local Government Code of 1991 provides"
"xxx xxx xxx
"ART. 83. Vacancies and Succession of Elective Local Officials. (a) What constitutes permanent vacancy A
permanent vacancy arises when an elective local official fills a higher vacant office, refuses to assume office, fails
to qualify, dies, is removed from office, voluntarily resigns, or is otherwise permanently incapacitated to discharge
the functions of his office.
(b) Permanently vacancies in the offices of the governor, vice governor, mayor and vice mayor
(1) If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the governor or mayor, the vice governor or vice mayor
concerned shall ipso facto become the governor or mayor. If a permanent vacancy occurs in the offices of
the governor, mayor, or vice mayor, the highest ranking sanggunian member or, in case of his permanent
inability, the second highest ranking sanggunian member, shall ipso facto become the governor, vice
governor, mayor or vice mayor, as the case may be. Subsequent vacancies in the said office shall be filled
automatically by the other sanggunian members according to their ranking as defined in this Article."
Our case law is now settled that in a mayoralty election, the candidate who obtained the second highest number of votes, in this case
Alarilla, cannot be proclaimed winner in case the winning candidate is disqualified. Thus, we reiterated the rule in the fairly recent case
of Reyes v. COMELEC, 14 viz:
"xxx xxx xxx

"We likewise find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC in denying petitioner Julius O. Garcia's
petition to be proclaimed mayor in view of the disqualification of Renato U. Reyes.
"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. The doctrinal instability by see-sawing rulings has since been
removed. In the latest ruling 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.
"Garcia's plea that the votes cast for Reyes be invalidated is without merit. The votes cast for Reyes are presumed
to have been cast in the belief that Reyes was qualified and for that reason can not be treated as stray, void, or
meaningless. The subsequent finding that he is disqualified cannot retroact to the date of the elections so as to
invalidate the votes cast for him."
Consequently, respondent COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion insofar as it failed to follow the above doctrine, a
descendant of our ruling in Labo v. COMELEC. 15
A final word. The dispute at bar involves more than the mayoralty of the municipality of Meycauayan, Bulacan. It concerns the right of
suffrage which is the bedrock of republicanism. Suffrage is the means by which our people express their sovereign judgment. Its free
exercise must be protected especially against the purchasing power of the peso. As we succinctly held in People v. San Juan, 16 "each
time the enfranchised citizen goes to the polls to assert this sovereign will, that abiding credo of republicanism is translated into living
reality. If that will must remain undefiled at the starting level of its expression and application, every assumption must be indulged in and
every guarantee adopted to assure the unmolested exercise of the citizen's free choice. For to impede, without authority valid in law,
the free and orderly exercise of the right of suffrage, is to inflict the ultimate indignity on the democratic process."
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the resolution of the respondent COMELEC en banc dated October 23, 1995 is affirmed with the modification that
petitioner Edgardo C. Nolasco is adjudged as Mayor of Meycauayan, Bulacan in view of the disqualification of Florentino P. Blanco. No
costs.
SO ORDERED.
||| (Nolasco v. Commission on Elections, G.R. Nos. 122250 & 122258, [July 21, 1997], 341 PHIL 761-786)

EN BANC
[G.R. No. 46863. November 18, 1939.]
IRINEO MOYA, petitioner, vs. AGRIPINO GA. DEL FIERRO, respondent.
Elpidio Quirino; for petitioner.
Claro M. Recto; for respondent.
SYLLABUS
1. ELECTION; APPRECIATION OF BALLOTS; TECHNICAL RULES SHOULD NOT DEFEAT INTENTION OF VOTER. AS long as
popular government is an end to be achieved and safeguarded, suffrage, whatever may be the modality and form devised, must
continue to be the means by which the great reservoir of power must be emptied into the receptacular agencies wrought by the people
through their Constitution in the interest of good government and the common weal. Republicanism, in so far as it implies the adoption
of a representative type of government, necessarily points to the enfranchised citizen as a particle of popular sovereignty and as the
ultimate source of the established authority. He has a voice in his Government and whenever possible it is the duty of the judiciary,
when called upon to act in justiciable cases, to give it efficacy and not to stifle or frustrate it. This, fundamentally, is the reason for the
rule that ballots should be read and appreciated, if not with utmost, with reasonable, liberality. Counsel for both parties have called our
attention to the different and divergent rules laid down by this court on the appreciation of ballot. It will serve no good and useful
purpose for us to engage in the task of reconciliation or harmonization of these rules, although this may perhaps be undertaken, as no
two cases will be found to be exactly the same in factual or legal environment. It is sufficient to observe, however, in this connection that
whatever might have been said in cases heretofore decided, no technical rule or rules should be permitted to defeat the intention of the
voter, if that intention is discoverable from the ballot itself, not from evidence aliunde. This rule of interpretation goes to the very root of
the system. Rationally, also, this must be the justification for the suggested liberalization of the rules on appreciation of ballots which are
now incorporated in section 144 of the Election Code (Comm. Act No. 357).

DECISION
LAUREL, J p:
This is a petition for review by certiorari of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in the above entitled case declaring the respondent,
Agripino Ga. del Fierro, the candidate-elect for the office of mayor of the municipality of Paracale, Province of Camarines Norte, with a
majority of three votes over his rival, Irineo Moya. In the general elections held on December 14, 1937, the parties herein were
contending candidates for the aforesaid office. After canvass of the returns the municipal council of Paracale, acting as board of
canvassers, proclaimed the petitioner as the elected mayor of said municipality with a majority of 102 votes. On December 27, 1937,
the respondent filed a motion of protest in the Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte which, on December 7, 1938, sustained the
election of the petitioner with a plurality of 91 votes. Upon appeal from the decision of the Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte,
the Court of Appeals, on July 13, 1939 rendered the judgment hereinbefore mentioned which is sought by the petitioner to be reviewed
and reversed upon the errors alleged to have been committed by the Court of Appeals:
1. In admitting and counting in favor of the respondent, 8 ballots either inadvertently or contrary to the con- trolling decisions of this
Honorable Court.
2. In admitting and counting in favor of the respondent, 3 ballots marked "R. del Fierro."
3. In admitting and counting in favor of the respondent, 7 ballots marked "Rufino del Fierro."
4. In admitting and counting in favor of the respondent, 72 ballots marked "P. del Fierro."
Taking up seriatim the alleged errors, we come to the first assignment involving the eight (8) ballots now to be mentioned. (1) With
reference to ballot Exhibit F-175 in precinct No. 2, alleged to have been inadvertently admitted in favor of the respondent, such
inadvertence raises a question of fact which could have been corrected by the Court of Appeals and which we are not in a position to
determine in this proceeding for review by certiorari. Upon the other hand, if the error attributed to the Court of Appeals consisted in
having admitted ballot Exhibit F-175 in precinct No. 2 instead of the ballot bearing the same number corresponding to precinct No. 1,
and this latter ballot clearly appears admissible for the respondent because the name written on the space for mayor is
"Primo del Fierro" or "Pimo del Fierro", the error is technical and deserves but scanty consideration. (2) Ballot Exhibit F-26 in precinct
No. 3 was erroneously admitted for the respondent by the Court of Appeals, the name written on the space for mayor being "G. T.
Krandes." It is true that on the fourth line for councilor "Alcalde Pinong del Fierro" appears; but the intention of the elector is rendered
vague and incapable of ascertaining and the ballot was improperly counted for the respondent. As to this ballot, the contention of the
petitioner is sustained (3) Ballot Exhibit F-77 in precinct No. 2 should also have been rejected by the Court of Appeals. The ballot bears
the distinguishing mark "O. K." placed after the name "M. Lopis" written on space for vice-mayor. The contention of the petitioner in this
respect is likewise sustained. (4) Ballot Exhibit F-9 in precinct No. 2 was properly admitted for respondent. On this ballot the elector
wrote within the space for mayor the name of Regino Guinto, a candidate for the provincial board and wrote the respondent's name
immediately below the line for mayor but immediately above the name "M. Lopez" voted by him for vice-mayor. The intention of the
elector to vote for the respondent for the office of mayor is clear under the circumstances. (5) Ballot F-131 in precinct No. 1 was also
properly counted for the respondent. On this ballot the elector wrote the respondent's name on the space for vice mayor, but,
apparently realizing his mistake, he placed an arrow connecting the name of the respondent to the word "Mayor" (Alcalde) printed on
the left side of the ballot. The intention of the elector to vote for the respondent for the office of mayor is thus evident, in the absence of
proof showing that the ballot had been tampered with. (6) Ballot F-7 in precinct No. 5 is admissible for the respondent and the Court of
Appeals committed no error in so adjudicating. Although the name of the respondent is written on the first space for member of the
provincial board, said name is preceded by the word "prisidinti" and immediately followed in the next line by "Bice" Culastico Palma,
which latter name is followed in the next line by word "consehal" and the name of a candidate for this position. The intention of the
elector to vote for the respondent for the office of mayor being manifest, the objection of the petitioner to the admission of the ballot is
overruled. (7) Ballot F-1 in precinct No. 2 is valid for the respondent. On this ballot the Christian name of the respondent was written on
the second space for member of the provincial board, but his surname was written on the proper space for mayor with no other
accompanying name or names. The intention of the elector being manifest, the same should be given effect in favor of the respondent.
(8) Ballot F 14 in precinct No. 2 wherein "Agripino F. Garcia" appears written on the proper space, is valid for the respondent. In his
certificate of candidacy the respondent gave his name as "Agripino Ga. del Fierro." The conclusion of the trial court, upheld by the
Court of Appeals, that the letter "F" stands for "Fierro" and "Garcia" for the contraction "Ga." is not without justification and, by liberal
construction, the ballot in question was properly admitted for the respondent.
The second error assigned by the petitioner refers to three ballots, namely, Exhibit F-119 in precinct No. 1 Exhibit F-24 in precinct No. 2,
and Exhibit F-6 in precinct No. 4. These three ballots appear to be among the 75 ballots found by the Court of Appeals as acceptable
for the respondent on the ground that the initial letter "P" stands for "Pino" in "Pino del Fiero" which is a name mentioned in the
certificate of candidacy of the respondent. The petitioner contends that the initial letter is "R" and not "P". Even if we could reverse this
finding, we do not feel justified in doing so after examining the photostatic copies of these ballots attached to the herein petition for
certiorari. The second assignment of error is accordingly overruled.

Upon the third assignment of error, the petitioner questions the correctness of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in adjudicating to
the respondent the seven ballots wherein "Rufino del Fierro" was voted for the office of mayor. We are of the opinion that the position
taken by the Court of Appeals is correct. There was no other candidate for the office of mayor with the name of "Rufino" or similar name
and, as the respondent was distinctly identified by his surname on these ballots, the intention of the voters in 'preparing the same was
undoubtedly to vote for the respondent for the office for which he was a candidate.
The fourth assignment of error deals with the 72 ballots wherein "P. del Fierro" was voted for the office of mayor, and it is the contention
of the petitioner that said ballots should not have been counted by the Court of Appeals in favor of the respondent. For the identical
reason indicated under the discussion of petitioner's second assignment of error, namely, that "P" stands for "Pino" in "Pino del Fierro"
which is a name mentioned in the certificate of candidacy of the respondent, we hold that there was no error in the action of the Court
of Appeals in awarding the said ballots to the respondent.
With the exception of ballot marked as Exhibit F-26 in precinct No. 3 and ballot marked as Exhibit F-77 in precinct No. 2, we are inclined
to accept the rest of the disputed ballots for the respondent not only for the specific reasons already given ,but also and principally for
the more fundamental reason now to be stated. As long as popular government is an end to be achieved and safeguarded, suffrage,
whatever may be the modality and form devised, must continue to be the means by which the great reservoir of power must be emptied
into the receptacular agencies wrought by the people through their Constitution in the interest of good government and the common
weal. Republicanism, in so far as it implies the adoption of a representative type of government, necessarily points to the enfranchised
citizen as a particle of popular sovereignty and as the ultimate source of the established authority. He has a voice in his Government
and whenever possible it is the solemn duty of the judiciary, when called upon to act in justifiable cases, to give it efficacy and not to
stifle or frustrate it. This, fundamentally, is the reason for the rule that ballots should be read and appreciated, if not with utmost, with
reasonable, liberality. Counsel for both parties have called our attention to the different and divergent rules laid down by this Court on
the appreciation of ballots. It will serve no good and useful purpose for us to engage in the task of reconciliation or harmonization of
these rules, although this may perhaps be undertaken, as no two cases will be found to be exactly the same in factual or legal
environment. It is sufficient to observe, however, in this connection that whatever might have been said in cases heretofore decided, no
technical rule or rules should be permitted to defeat the intention of the voter, if that intention is discoverable from the ballot itself, not
from evidence aliunde. This rule of interpretation goes to the very root of the system. Rationally, also, this must be the justification for
the suggested liberalization of the rules on appreciation of ballots which are now incorporated in section 144 of the Election
Code (Commonwealth Act No. 357).

It results that, even crediting the petitioner with the two ballots herein held to have been erroneously admitted by the Court of Appeals
for the respondent, the latter still wins by one vote. In view whereof it becomes unnecessary to consider the counter-assignment of
errors of the respondent.
With the modification of the decision of the Court of Appeals, the petition for the writ of certiorari is hereby dismissed, without
pronouncement regarding costs.
Avancea, C.J., Villa-Real, Imperial, Diaz, Concepcion and Moran, JJ., concur.
||| (Moya v. del Fierro, G.R. No. 46863, [November 18, 1939], 69 PHIL 199-205)

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

G.R. No. L-33541 January 20, 1972


ABDULGAFAR PUNGUTAN, petitioner,
vs.
BENJAMIN ABUBAKAR, COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, and THE PROVINCIAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF
SULU. respondents.
Jose W. Diokno and Manuel M. Gonzales for petitioner.
Salonga, Ordoez, Yap, Sicat and Associates for respondent Benjamin Abubakar.
Teao, Garcia and Apostol for respondent COMELEC, etc.

FERNANDO, J.:p
The resolution of respondent Comelec 1 now assailed in this petition for review, was undoubtedly motivated by the objective of insuring
free, orderly and honest elections in the discharge of its constitutional function to enforce and administer electoral laws. 2 It excluded
from the canvass for the election of delegates for the lone district of the province of Sulu the returns from 107 precincts of Siasi, 56
precincts of Tapul, 67 precincts of Parang and 60 precincts of Luuk for being spurious or manufactured and therefore no returns at all.
Unless set aside then, petitioner Abdulgafar Pungutan, who otherwise would have been entitled to the last remaining seat for delegates
to the Constitutional Convention, there being no question as to the election of the other two delegates, 3 would lose out to respondent
Benjamin Abubakar. Petitioner would thus dispute the power of respondent Commission to exclude such returns as a result of oral
testimony as well as the examination of the fingerprints and signatures of those who allegedly voted as the basis for the holding that no
election in fact did take place. This contention is, however, unavailing, in the light of our holding last month in Usman v. Comelec. 4The
other principal question raised is whether the recognition of such prerogative on the part of respondent Commission would contravene
the constitutional provision that it cannot pass on the right to vote. The appropriate answer as will be made clear is likewise adverse to
petitioner. Hence, respondent Commission must be sustained.
The case had its origin from a petition filed on December 16, 1970, by respondent Abubakar and the other candidates, 5 superseding an
earlier one dated December 7, 1970 alleging that in the towns of Siasi, Tapul, Parang and Luuk, no elections were in effect held in view
of massive violence, terrorism and fraud. 6 The respondents named therein, including now petitioner Pungutan, answered on December
18, 1970 to the effect that the elections were duly held in the above-mentioned municipalities and denied the allegation as to the
existence of massive fraud, terrorism and serious irregularities. The case was duly heard, with oral testimony from five chairmen of
certain precincts in Tapul, five teachers from Parang, five teachers from Luuk and three teachers from Siasi, followed by an examination
of the precinct book of voters from said towns and the fingerprints and signatures of those who voted, as shown at the back of CE Form
No. 1 and CE Form No. 39 for the 1970 elections for the Constitutional Convention.
After reciting the relevant facts, respondent Commission came to this conclusion: "In the light of the foregoing findings of the
Commission with respect to the manner in which the elections were conducted in Siasi, Tapul, Parang and Luuk, the Commission is of
the opinion that the elections in said municipalities were just as bad if not worse than the elections in Karomatan, Lanao del Norte.
Actually no elections were held in said municipalities as the voting was done by persons other than the registered voters while armed
men went from precinct to precinct, prepared the ballots and dictated how the election returns were to be prepared. The same reasons
which compelled the Commission to reject the returns from Karomatan and to consider said returns as no returns at all or spurious or
manufactured returns not one notch above returns prepared at gunpoint (again paraphrasing in the reverse the second Pacis case)
compel us with much greater justification to find that the returns from Siasi, Tapul, Parang and Luuk are spurious returns or
manufactured returns and no returns at all and that the elections in said municipalities are sham." 7 The above findings of fact found
support in the light of the competent and credible evidence sustaining that the most flagrant irregularities did attend the so-called
elections in Siasi, Tapul, Parang and Luuk.
As to Siasi: "In Siasi where there were 21,688 registered voters it was made to appear that 20,970 had voted. However, the result of the
examination of the thumbmarks and signatures of those who voted compared with the fingerprints of the registered voters appearing in
their registration record, CE Form 1 showed that only 460 of the registered voters had been definitely established to have actually
voted, 131 identified through the thumbmarks and 329 by their signatures. The 11,154 of those who voted were found to be substitute
voters: 7,557 were discovered to be voters voting in substitution of the registered voters through their thumbmarks and 3,597 through
their signatures. No opinion was made with respect to the rest of the votes cast because not all of the 13,282 voters whose thumbprints
could not be analyzed were referred to the NBI for signature examination. Only 4,631 of these blurred thumbprints from 28 precincts
were referred to the NBI for signature examination. Examination of these 4,631 signatures revealed that 3,597 were by persons other
than the registered voters, only 329 were by the register voters and no opinion could be rendered with respect to 705 for lack of
sufficient basis of comparison. In 26 precincts of Siasi there was 100% voting but not necessarily by the registered voters. The overall
average for the whole town is 96.6% voting. There were 80 persons who were able to vote without any CE Form 1 or without voting in
the name of the voters registered in the precinct." 8
With respect to Tapul: "In Tapul where there were 12,223 registered voters it appeared that 11,575 votes were cast. 197 persons were
able to vote without CE Form No. 1 without using the names of registered voters in the precinct. When the thumbprints corresponding
to the 11,575 votes cast were examined by the Fingerprint Identification Division of the Commission, only 3 were found to be identical
with the thumbprints of the registered voters in their registration record: one each in Precincts 8, 29 and 20-A. 5,300 thumbmarks were
found to be not identical with the corresponding thumbmarks of the registered voters in their registration records, CE Form 1. 6,199
thumbmarks, however, could not be analyzed because they were blurred, smudged or faint. Of these 6,199 blurred thumbprints from 56
precincts, 4,187 from 31 precincts were referred to the NBI handwriting experts for signature examination. The result of said
examination by the NBI of these 4,187 signatures showed that only 13 were found to be identical with the signatures of the registered
voters in their registration record, CE Form 1, while 2,897 were those of persons other than the registered voters. No opinion could be
rendered on 1,277 signatures for lack of sufficient basis of comparison." 9 Further: "It appeared, therefore, that in the whole town of
Tapul out of the 11,575 votes cast only 13 were definitely established as cast by the registered voters. 8,197 were definitely established

as cast by substitute voters. No opinion could be rendered with respect to 1,277 for lack of sufficient basis, 2,012 were not examined
anymore since these were in precincts where the number of substitute voting had been found to constitute a very high percentage. It
has been also established that on Election Day about one hundred men armed with long arms were seen going around from precinct to
precinct in Tapul driving away the voters and instructing the teachers-inspectors on how to prepare the election returns. Some of the
ballot boxes were seen to have been brought to the Municipal Treasurer's office early in the afternoon of Election Day hours before the
closing of voting. Nineteen (19) precincts of Tapul reported 100% voting while the over-all percentage of voting in the whole municipality
was 94.5%." 10
Then came the recital as to Parang: "In Parang, where there were 11,761 registered voters in 67 precincts, it was made to appear that
11,083 votes were cast. 66 voters who were not registered in the precinct were able to vote illegally without even using the names of
the registered voters therein. An examination of the thumbprints of those who voted appearing in CE Form 39 or at the back of CE
Form 1 compared with the corresponding thumbprints of the registered voters appearing in their registration record in CE Form 1
showed that only 39 thumbprints of the registered voters in his CE Form 1, while 4,698 were different from those of the registered
voters. 6,539 thumbmarks could not be analyzed because they were blurred, smudged or faint. However, only 2,647 of these 6,539
smudged thumbprints were referred to the NBI for signature examination since the rest of said blurred thumbmarks were in precincts
where a high percentage of non-identical thumbmarks was already discovered. 1,573 signatures were found to be by persons other
than the registered voters and only 83 were found to be identical with those of the registered voters. No opinion could be rendered with
respect to 991 signatures for lack of sufficient basis. In 20 precincts it was made to appear that all the registered voters had voted. The
overall percentage for the whole town of Parang was 94%. The evidence also showed that in a number of precincts in Parang armed
men had entered the polling places and prepared the ballots. The registered voters were not able to vote." 11 Lastly, as to Luuk: "In Luuk
where there were 13,124 registered voters, 12,263 votes were cast. 281 persons who were not registered voters in this precinct were
able to vote illegally without even using the names of the registered voters. The thumbprints of those who voted appearing in their
voting record either in CE Form 1 or in CE Form 39 compared with the thumbprints of the registered voters appearing in the voter's
registration record in CE Form 1 showed that only 22 of the thumbmarks of those who voted were identical with the thumbmarks of the
registered voters, while 6,021 were found to be different from those of the registered voters. 6,134 thumbmarks could not, however, be
analyzed because they were found to be blurred, smudged or faint. However, the signatures of those who voted in 13 precincts were
examined by the NBI and it was found that the said signatures were written by just a few persons as explained with greater particularity
in the earlier pages of this resolution." 12
In the light of the above and finding no need to determine how the election was in fact conducted as to Pata, Patikul, Indanan,
Panamao, South Ubian, Balimbing, Bongao and Tandubas, it was the holding of the Commission in the resolution of May 14, 1971: "1.
To rule by unanimous vote that the returns from the 107 precincts of Siasi, 56 precincts of Tapul, 67 precincts of Parang and 60
precincts of Luuk are spurious and/or manufactured returns or no returns at all and as such should be excluded from the canvass for
the election of delegates for the lone congressional district of the province of Sulu; 2. To hold also by unanimous vote that further
hearings on the petition of [Benjamin Abubakar, et al] for the rejection or exclusion from the canvass of the returns from Indanan,
Panamao, Pata, Tandubas South Ubian, Patikul, Bongao and Balimbing would no longer be necessary, it appearing that the results of
the election would no longer be affected by the returns from said municipalities after the rejection of the returns from the four towns of
Siasi, Tapul, Parang and Luuk and, therefore, for the purpose of the completion of the canvass, to direct the Board of Canvassers to
include the returns from said municipalities in the canvass; 3. By majority vote of the members of the Commission to direct the
Provincial Board of Canvassers of Sulu to reconvene in Jolo and complete the canvass excluding from said canvass the returns from
the towns of Siasi, Parang, Tapul, and Luuk and to proclaim the 3rd winning candidate at 5:00 P.M. on May 28, 1971, unless restrained
by the Supreme Court." 13 On May 22, 1971, this petition for the review of the above resolution of May 14, 1971 of respondent
Commission was filed. Three days later, a resolution was adopted by this Court requiring respondents to file an answer not later than
June 4, 1971. Both respondent Commission on Elections and respondent Abubakar duly filed their answers on said date. Respondent
Commission took pains to explain with even more detail why such a resolution had to be issued considering the "massive voting
anomalies ranging from substitute voting to grabbing of ballots to preparation of election returns and other election documents at
gunpoint" thus justifying its conclusion that the elections in the four towns amounted to a sham. The case was heard on June 8, 1971
with petitioner Pungutan represented by Attorney Jose W. Diokno. Respondent Abubakar, represented by Attorney Jovito R. Salonga,
sought permission to submit a memorandum, which was received by this Court on June 28, 1971. Petitioner was given the opportunity
to reply thereto, and he did so in his memorandum filed with this Court on October 18, 1971. The case was deemed submitted on
December 3, 1971. It is the decision of this Court, as noted at the outset, after a careful study of the pleadings and in the light of our
decision last month in Usman v. Commission on Elections 14 that the challenged resolution of respondent Commission of May 14, 1971
is in accordance with law. The petition must therefore fail.
1. There is no merit to the contention that respondent Commission is devoid of power to disregard and annul the alleged returns from
107 precincts of Siasi, 56 precincts of Tapul, 67 precincts of Parang and 60 precincts of Luuk for being spurious or manufactured. So
we have held on facts analogous in character in the above Usman decision rendered last month. Nor is it to be wondered at. Any other
view would indict itself for lack of fealty to reason and to the realities of the situation. It goes without saying that what is contemplated in
the law is that the electors in the exercise of their free will can go to the polls and exercise their right of suffrage, with the boards of
inspectors crediting each candidate with the votes duly obtained after an honest count. It is on that basis that election returns are to be
made. Where no such election was in fact held as was found by respondent Commission with respect to the four towns, it is not only

justified but it is its clear duty to stigmatize the alleged returns as clearly spurious and manufactured and therefore bereft of any value.
The words of Justice Castro, in the Usman decision, referring to the election returns from Karomatan, considered as likewise not
entitled to credit because of their lack of integrity and authenticity, are opposite: "These circumstances definitely point, not merely to a
few isolated instances of irregularities affecting the integrity and authenticity of the election returns, but to an organized, well-directed
large-scale operation to make a mockery of the elections in Karomatan. We find and so hold that the election returns from the 42
precincts in question were prepared under circumstances conclusively showing that they are false, and are so devoid of value as to be
completely unworthy of inclusion in the canvass. We have no alternative but to affirm the Comelec's finding that they are spurious and
manufactured." 15 Nor is it to be lost sight of that the power to reject returns of such a character has been exercised most judiciously.
Even a cursory perusal of the mode and manner of inquiry conducted by respondent Commission resulting in the challenged resolution
should suffice to remove any doubt as to the absence of any impropriety or improvidence in the exercise of such a prerogative. Clearly,
there was care and circumspection to assure that the constitutional objective of insuring that an election be "free, orderly and honest"
be realized. If, under the circumstances disclosed, a different conclusion were arrived at, then certainly there is a frustration of such an
ideal. Moreover, this Court has not displayed any reluctance in yielding the imprimatur of its approval to the action taken by respondent
Commission in the discharge of its constitutional function of the enforcement of all laws relative to the conduct of elections. The long
line of decisions especially so since Cauton v. Commission on Elections, 16 is not susceptible of any other interpretation. Only thus may
there be an assurance that the canvassing and proclamation reflect with fidelity and accuracy the true results of an election, in fact
actually held. We do so again. As a matter of fact, such a sympathetic approach to the results arrived at in the discharge of its functions
started with the leading case of Sumulong v. Commission on Elections. 17 As was so well put by Justice, later Chief Justice, Abad
Santos: "The Commission on Elections is a constitutional body. It is intended to play a distinct and important part in our scheme of
government. In the discharge of its functions, it should not be hampered with restrictions that would be fully warranted in the case of a
less responsible organization. The Commission may err, so may this Court also. It should be allowed considerable latitude in devising
means and methods that will insure the accomplishment of the great objective for which it was created -- free, orderly and honest
elections. We may not agree fully with its choice of means, but unless these are clearly illegal or constitute gross abuse of discretion,
this court should not interfere." 18 The same approach is reflected in the opinion of the Chief Justice in Lucman v. Dimaporo when as he
pointed out if "pursuant to our Administrative Law, the findings of fact of administrative organs created by ordinary legislation will not be
disturbed by courts of justice, except when there is absolutely no evidence or no substantial evidence in support of such findings ...
there is no reason to believe that the framers of our Constitution intended to place the Commission on Elections created and
explicitly made 'independent' by the Constitution itself on a lower level than said statutory administrative organs; ... ." 19
2. The right to vote has reference to a constitutional guarantee of the utmost significance. It is a right without which the principle of
sovereignty residing in the people becomes nugatory. 20 In the traditional terminology, it is a political right enabling every citizen to
participate in the process of government to assure that it derives its power from the consent of the governed. What was so eloquently
expressed by Justice Laurel comes to mind: "As long as popular government is an end to be achieved and safeguarded, suffrage,
whatever may be the modality and form devised, must continue to be the means by which the great reservoir of power must be emptied
into the receptacular agencies wrought by the people through their Constitution in the interest of good government and the common
weal. Republicanism, in so far as it implies the adoption of a representative type of government, necessarily points to the enfranchised
citizen as a particle of popular sovereignty and as the ultimate source of the established authority." 21
How such a right is to be exercised is regulated by the Election Code. 22 Its enforcement under the Constitution is, as noted, vested in
respondent Commission. Such a power, however, is purely executive or administrative. So it was characterized by the Chief Justice
in Abcede v. Imperial: 23 "Lastly, as the branch of the executive department although independent of the President to which the
Constitution has given the 'exclusive charge' of the 'enforcement and administration of all laws relative to the conduct of elections,' the
power of decision of the Commission is limited to purely 'administrative questions.' ...."
It becomes obvious then why the right to vote, a denial of which should find redress in the judiciary as the guardian of constitutional
rights, is excluded from the authority vested in respondent Commission. If the exclusion of the returns from the four towns in Sulu
involved a question as to such a right, then, clearly, what the Commission did was beyond its competence. Such is not the case
however. What is deemed outside such a sphere is the determination of whether or not a person can exercise or is precluded from
exercising the right of suffrage. Thus, the question of inclusion or exclusion from the list of voters is properly judicial. 24 As to whether or
not an election has been held is a question of a different type. It is properly within the administrative jurisdiction of respondent
Commission. If, as is our decision, no such voting did take place, considering the massive irregularities that attended it in the four
towns, then the exclusion of the alleged returns is not tainted by infirmity. In that sense, the second issue raised by petitioner that in so
acting the respondent Commission exceeded its constitutional power by encroaching on terrain properly judicial, the right to vote being
involved, is likewise to be resolved against him. At any rate, what was set forth by Justice J.B.L. Reyes in Diaz v. Commission on
Elections 25 would likewise dispose of such a contention adverse to petitioner. Thus: "It is pleaded by respondents that the rejection of
the Sagada returns would result in the disfranchisement of a large number of legitimate voters. But such disfranchisement would only
be provisional, subject to the final determination of the validity of the votes at the protest that may be filed with the Constitutional
Convention." 26
3. As to the plea in the prayer of the petition that in the event that the challenged resolution of May 14, 1971 as to the power of
respondent Commission is sustained, a special election be called by it in all the 290 precincts in the four municipalities of Siasi, Tapul,

Parang and Luuk, it suffices to refer to our ruling in Usman v. Commission on Elections, where a similar point was raised without
success. So it should be in this case. We see no reason to order such a special election. 27
WHEREFORE, the petition is dismissed and the resolution of the Commission on Elections dated May 14, 1971 is affirmed. The
Commission on Elections is directed to order the board of canvassers to convene without delay and forthwith proceed with and
complete the canvass of the election returns from all the precincts of Sulu, excluding therefrom all the election returns from 107
precincts of Siasi, 56 precincts of Tapul, 67 precincts of Parang and 60 precincts of Luuk, and thereafter proclaim the winning candidate
for the third Constitutional Convention seat allotted to the said province. This decision is hereby declared immediately executory. No
pronouncement as to costs.
Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Teehankee, Villamor and Makasiar, JJ., concur.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-29333

February 27, 1969

MARIANO LL. BADELLES, protestant-appellant,


vs.
CAMILO P. CABILI, protegee-appellee.
-------------------------G.R. No. L-29334

February 27, 1969

BONIFACIO P. LEGASPI and CECILlO T. BARAZON protestants-appellants,


vs.
FELIX Z. ACTUB, PROVIDENCIO P. ABRAGAN, MANUEL F. CELDRAN, CASIMERO P. CABIGON and BENITO ONG, protesteesappellees.
Bonifacio P. Legaspi for and in his own behalf.
Camilo P. Cabili. Gerardo B. Padilla and Ignacio Espaol and Voltaire I. Roviro for protestees-appellees.
FERNANDO, J.:
Two election protests against the duly proclaimed Mayor and Councilors of Iligan City, after the Nov. 14, 1967 elections, based on the
allegations of flagrant violations of certain mandatory provisions of the Election Code, to be more specifically set forth hereafter, were
dismissed in a single order by the Court of First Instance of Lanao del Norte, the Honorable Teodulo C. Tandayag presiding. The cases
are now before us on appeal.
In one of them, 1 the election of Honorable Camilo P. Cabili to the Office of City Mayor of Iligan City, was contested by protestant, now
appellant, Mariano Badelles. In the other, 2 the protestants are the now appellants, Bonifacio P. Legaspi and Cecilia T. Barazon who
along with the five protestees 3 were among those who were registered candidates voted for in such election for councilors in the City of
Iligan, with the protestees being credited with the five highest number of votes, with protestants Legaspi and Barazon obtaining sixth
and seventh places, respectively.
In such order of dismissal, it was admitted that while irregularities as well as misconduct on the part of election officers were alleged in
the election protests filed, there was however an absence of an allegation that they would change the result of the election in favor of
the protestants and against the protestees, that such irregularities would destroy the secrecy and integrity of the ballots cast, or that the
protestees knew of or participated in the commission thereof. For the lower court then, the lack of a cause of action was rather evident.
Hence the order of dismissal of March 23, 1968, which was sought to be fortified by the invocation of the doctrines that voters should
not be deprived of their right to vote occasioned by the failure of the election officials to comply with the formal prerequisites to the
exercise of the right of suffrage and that the rules and regulations for the conduct of elections while mandatory before the voting should
be considered directory thereafter. The validity of such order of dismissal is now to be inquired into by us in this appeal.
In the petition of protestant Badelles, dated December 8, 1967, and marked as received the next day by the Clerk of Court of the Court
of First Instance of Lanao del Norte, 15th Judicial District, it was stated that both he and protestee Camilo P. Cabili were the duly
registered candidates for the Office of City Mayor of Iligan City, both having filed their respective certificates of candidacy in accordance
with law and as such candidates voted for in the November 14, 1967 election. It was then alleged that the Board of Canvassers, on
November 25, 1967, proclaimed as elected protestee for having obtained 11,310 votes while protestant was credited with 8,966 votes.
Protestant would impugn the election of Cabili on the ground that there were "flagrant violation of mandatory provisions of law relating

to or governing elections ...." in that more than 200 voters were registered per precinct contrary to the provision limiting such number of
200 only and that no publication of the list of voters for each precinct was made up to the election day itself, enabling persons who
under the law could not vote being allowed to do so. As a result of such alleged "flagrant violations of the laws relation to or governing
elections" around 8,300 individuals were allowed to vote illegally.
It was likewise asserted that not less than 8,000 qualified voters were unable to exercise their right of suffrage in view of their failure,
without any fault on their part, to have the proper identification cards or the non-listing of their names in the list of voters. It was stated
further that even in the case of those individuals provided with identification cards with their names included in the list of voters, they
could not avail themselves of their right of suffrage as their applications for registration could not be found. Mention was also made of
the fact that the final lists of voters and the applications for registration were delivered to their respective precincts late on election day
itself thus preventing them from voting. Moreover, confusion, so it was alleged, was caused by the excessive number of voters being
listed and many having been assigned to precincts other than the correct ones.
What was thus objected to is the fact that illegal votes were cast by those not qualified to do so, numbering 8,300 or more and that an
approximately equal number, who were duly registered with the Commission on Elections, Iligan City, were unable to vote due to the
above circumstances. The proclamation then could not have reflected the true will of the electorate as to who was the mayor elected,
as the majority of protestee Cabili over the protestant consisted of only 2,344 votes.
The prayer was among others for the proclamation of protestee as well as other candidates for elective positions in the City of Iligan
being set aside and declared null and void, protestant pleading further that he be granted other such relief as may be warranted in law
and equity.
The protest of the candidates for councilor Legaspi and Barazon in the other case against protestees 4 was in substance similarly
worded. The prayer was for the setting aside and declaring null and void the proclamation of protestees with protestants seeking such
other relief which should be theirs according to law and to equity.
In the first case, protestee Cabili moved to dismiss the petition on the following grounds: "1. That the protest was filed beyond the
reglementary period allowed by the Revised Election Code; 2. That [the lower court] has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the
present case, the Commission on Elections being the proper body to hear the same; 3. That the complaint states no cause of
action." 5 This very same grounds were relied upon in a motion to dismiss by protestees Actub and Cabigon, filed in the other suit.
As above noted, in a single order of March 23, 1968, the two above election protests were dismissed, the lower court being of the
opinion that neither petition alleged a cause of action "to justify [it] to try the same." The first ground of the motion to dismiss to the
effect that the protests in both cases were filed beyond the reglementary period was rejected. The claim as to lack of jurisdiction was
likewise held to be without merit. The single order of dismissal in both cases as indicated was based on the lack of a cause of action.
The reasoning followed by the lower court in reaching the above conclusion that there was no cause of action, proceeded along these
lines: "Mere irregularities or misconduct on the part of election officers which do not tend to affect the result of the elections are not of
themselves either ground for contest or for proper matters of inquiry... There is no allegation in the protest that the alleged irregularities
committed by the election officers would tend to change the result of the election in favor of the protestants and against the protestees.
There is no allegation in the petition that the 8,000 voters who failed to vote were all voters of protestants and the 8,300 illegal voters
who voted were for the protestees. There is, therefore, no legal and practical justification for the court to inquire into the irregularities
committed by the election officials, as alleged in the petition, for it would not give any benefit in favor of the protestants to the end that
they will be declared the duly elected mayor and councilors, respectively, of this City." 6
It was further stated in such order of dismissal: "There is no allegation in the petition that the irregularities committed by the election
officials have destroyed the secrecy and integrity of the ballots cast. There is no allegation in the petition that the non-compliance of the
election officials of the provisions of the election laws regarding the registration of voters were intentional on their part for the purpose of
committing frauds for the benefit of the protestees. There is no allegation in the petition that because of the alleged irregularities
committed by the election officials in not following the provisions of the election laws regarding the registration of voters and the
distribution of the precincts, that all the votes cast during said elections are illegal, nor is there an allegation in the protests that the
irregularities committed by the election officials would affect the election in favor of the protestees." 7
A greater regard for the cause of accuracy ought to have admonished the lower court from asserting in an uncompromising tone the
absence of an allegation that the protestants in both cases failed to allege that if the facts pleaded by them were proved the result
would not have been different. It is true the complaints could have been more explicitly worded, but as they stood, the absence of such
a claim could not be so confidently asserted.
To repeat, both protests were dismissed. We do not discount a certain degree of plausibility attaching to the line of reasoning thus
pursued by the lower court. We are not unaware of the undeniable fact that both petitions were not distinguished by skill in their drafting
or precision in their terminology. Nonetheless the seriousness and gravity of the imputed failure to have the elections conducted freely
and honestly, with such irregularities alleged, give rise to doubts, rational and honest, as to who were the duly elected officials. Such
allegations, it is to be stressed, would have to be accepted at their face value for the purpose of determining whether there is a cause of

action, a motion to dismiss amounting to a hypothetical admission of facts thus pleaded. We cannot in law and in conscience then
sustain the order of dismissal.
Without the lower court having so intended, the dismissal would amount to judicial abnegation of a sworn duty to inquire into and pass
upon in an appropriate proceeding allegations of misconduct and misdeeds of such character. Accordingly, we reverse.
Abes v. Commission on Elections 8 points the way, but the lower court was apparently impervious to its teaching. It may not be
controlling, but it furnishes more than a hint. It would seem, though, that for the court below, its message did not ring out loud and clear.
The opinion in the Abes case, penned by Justice Sanchez, starts thus: "Petitioner's cry for relief, so their petition avers, is planted upon
the constitutional mandate of free, orderly, and honest elections. Specifically, they list a number of repressible acts." Among those
mentioned were that blank official registration forms were taken from the office of the Quezon City Comelec Register several weeks
before election day, November 14, 1967; that active campaigning within the polling places by Nacionalista leaders or sympathizers of
Nacionalista candidates were allowed; that voters were permitted to vote on mere mimeographed notices of certain Nacionalista
candidates; that voters were compelled to fill their official ballots on open tables, desks and in many precincts outside the polling places;
that thousands of voters sympathetic to the Nacionalista candidates were allowed to vote beyond the hours for voting allowed by law;
that identification cards were delivered by partisan leaders of respondents Nacionalista candidates, and those who did not signify their
preference for Nacionalista candidates were not given such cards; that the precinct books of voters were not sealed within the deadline
fixed by law; and that the resulting effect of irregularities was to prevent full fifty-one per cent of the registered voters from voting.
One of the issues raised on the above facts is whether or not the Commission on Elections could annul the aforesaid election in
Quezon City on the above allegations of fraud, terrorism and other illegal practices committed before and during the election. The
petition did not prosper; it was dismissed. The remedy, we held, lay not with the Commission on Elections but with the courts of justice
in an election protest.
In the language of Justice Sanchez: "The boundaries of the forbidden area into which Comelec may not tread are also marked by
jurisprudence. That Comelec is not the proper forum to seek annulment of an election based on terrorism, frauds and other illegal
practices, is a principle emphasized in decisions of this Court." For as announced in Nacionalista Party v. Commission on
Elections, 9 assuming that there be a failure to conduct an election in a free, orderly and honest manner, "the duty to cure or remedy the
resulting evil" did not rest with the Commission on Elections but in "some other agencies of the Government." More specifically, with
reference to provincial and municipal officials, election contests "are entrusted to the courts." Then came this express affirmation: "The
power to decide election contests necessarily includes the power to determine the validity or nullity of the votes questioned by either of
the contestants." .
As so emphatically observed in the Abes opinion, "there has been neither deviation nor retreat from the foregoing pronouncement."
After which came the following: "The ratiocination advanced that there was failure of election due to rampancy of terrorism, frauds, and
other irregularities, before and during elections, such that allegedly about 51% of the registered voters were not able to vote, will not
carry the day for petitioners. For, in the first place, this is grounded upon bare assertions. Respondents contest the correctness thereof.
And in the answer of respondents Amoranto, Mathay and others, they aver that out of 162,457 registered voters in Quezon City,
100,382 voters actually cast their votes about 62% of the registered voters. But above all, as pointed out in City Board of
Canvassers vs. Moscoso, [the] nullity of an election for municipal officials should be determined in a petition contesting the election of
municipal officers-elect to be filed before the Court of First Instance."
Why an election protest is more fitly and appropriately the procedure for determining whether irregularities or serious violations of the
electoral law vitiated the conduct of elections was clearly and succinctly explained in the Moscoso decision above cited, the opinion
coming from Justice Makalintal. 10 Thus: "The question of whether or not there had been terrorism, vote-buying and other irregularities in
the 1959 elections in Tacloban City should be ventilated in a regular election protest, pursuant to section 174 of the Election Code, and
not in a petition to enjoin the city board of canvassers from canvassing the election returns and proclaiming the winning candidates for
municipal offices."
It would follow then that if the grievance relied upon is the widespread irregularities and the flagrant violations of the election law, the
proper remedy is the one availed of here, the protest.
That such should be the case should occasion no surprise. Time and time again, 11 we have stressed the importance of preserving
inviolate the right of suffrage. If that right be disregarded or frittered away, then popular sovereignty becomes a myth.
As Justice Laurel correctly pointed out: "As long as popular government is an end to be achieved and safeguarded, suffrage, whatever
may be the modality and form devised, must continue to be the means by which the great reservoir of power must be emptied into the
receptacular agencies wrought by the people through their Constitution in the interest of good government and the common weal.
Republicanism, in so far as it implies the adoption of a representative type of government, necessarily points to the enfranchised citizen
as a particle of popular sovereignty and as the ultimate source of the established authority." 12
A republic then to be true to its name requires that the government rests on the consent of the people, consent freely given, intelligently
arrived at, honestly recorded, and thereafter counted. Only thus can they be really looked upon as the ultimate sources of established

authority. It is their undeniable right to have officials of their unfettered choice. The election law has no justification except as a means
for assuring a free, honest and orderly expression of their views. It is of the essence that corruption and irregularities should not be
permitted to taint the electoral process.
It may not always be thus unfortunately. That should be the ideal however. If there be a failure to observe the mandates of the Election
Code, the aggrieved parties should not be left remediless. Under the law as it stands, it is precisely an election protest that fitly serves
that purpose.lawphi1.nt
It was sought to be thus utilized in these two cases, perhaps in a rather awkward and far from entirely satisfactory manner. Than itself is
no reason for the courts to slam the door against any opportunity for redress. Yet, that is what would happen if the order of dismissal
complained of were not set aside.
Hence the inevitability of its reversal. The scope of our decision must not be misinterpreted however. All that it directs is that the
protetees in both cases be required to answer. Thereafter, if, as is not unlikely, there be a denial of the serious imputations made as to
the alleged irregularities, the lower court could properly inquire into what actually transpired. After the facts are thus ascertained in
accordance with the accepted procedural rules, then the appropriate law could be applied.
It must be clearly emphasized that we do not at this stage intimate any view as to the merit, or lack of it, of either protest. That would be
premature to say the least. All we do is to set aside the order of dismissal.
WHEREFORE, the order of dismissal of March 23, 1968, is reversed and the two cases remanded to the lower court for proceeding
and trial in accordance with this opinion and the law. Without costs.
Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Zaldivar, Sanchez, Castro, Capistrano and Teehankee, JJ., concur.
EN BANC
[G.R. No. 104960. September 14, 1993.]
PHILIP G. ROMUALDEZ, petitioner, vs. REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 7, TACLOBAN CITY, DONATO ADVINCULA, BOARD
OF ELECTION INSPECTORS, PRECINCT No. 9, MALBOG, TOLOSA, LEYTE, and the MUNICIPAL REGISTRAR COMELEC,
TOLOSA, LEYTE, respondents.
Otalia Dimayuga-Molo for petitioner.
The Solicitor General for respondents.
SYLLABUS
1. REMEDIAL LAW; JURISDICTION; ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE PROCEEDINGS WILL ESTOP PARTY FROM ASSAILING
LACK OF JURISDICTION. While lack of jurisdiction may be assailed at any stage, a party's active participation in the proceedings
before a court without jurisdiction will estop such party from assailing such lack of jurisdiction." Undoubtedly, the petitioner is now
estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the respondent court not only by his active participation in the proceedings thereat but,
more importantly, in having sought an affirmative relief himself when the appeal was made to the latter court whose jurisdiction he, in
effect, invoked.
2. POLITICAL LAW; DOMICILE AND RESIDENCE TREATED AS SYNONYMOUS TERMS IN ELECTION CASES; ELEMENTS IN
ORDER TO ACQUIRE A NEW DOMICILE BY CHOICE. In election cases, the Court treats domicile and residence as synonymous
terms, thus: "(t)he term "residence" as used in the election law is synonymous with "domicile", which imports not only an intention to
reside in a fixed place but also personal presence in that place, coupled with conduct indicative of such intention". "Domicile" denotes a
fixed permanent residence to which when absent for business or pleasure, or for like reasons, one intends to return. That residence, in
the case of the petitioner, was established during the early 1980's to be at Barangay Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte. Residence thus acquired,
however, may be lost by adopting another choice of domicile. In order, in turn, to acquire a new domicile by choice, there must concur
(1) residence or bodily presence in the new locality, (2) an intention to remain there, and (3) an intention to abandon the old domicile. In
other words, there must basically be animus manendi coupled with animus non revertendi. The purpose to remain in or at the domicile
of choice must be for an indefinite period of time; the change of residence must be voluntary; and the residence at the place chosen for
the new domicile must be actual.
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; SUDDEN DEPARTURE OF PARTY IN CASE AT BAR CANNOT BE DESCRIBED AS "VOLUNTARY" OR AS
"ABANDONMENT" OF RESIDENCE. The political situation brought about by the "People's Power Revolution" must have truly
caused great apprehension to the Romualdezes, as well as a serious concern over the safety and welfare of the members of their
immediate families. Their going into self-exile until conditions favorable to them would have somehow stabilized is understandable.
Certainly, their sudden departure from the country cannot be described as "voluntary", or as "abandonment of residence" at least in the
context that these terms are used in applying the concept of "domicile by choice." We have closely examined the records, and we find

not that much to convince us that the petitioner had, in fact, abandoned his residence in the Philippines and established his domicile
elsewhere.
DECISION
VITUG, J p:
An event in this decade, which future generations would likely come to know simply as the "EDSA People's Power Revolution of 1986,"
has dramatically changed the course of our nation's history. So, too, not a few of our countrymen have by it been left alone in their own
personal lives. One such case is that of the petitioner in this special civil action for certiorari.
The petitioner is Philip Romualdez, a natural born citizen of the Philippines, the son of the former Governor of Leyte, Benjamin
"Kokoy" Romualdez, and nephew of the then First Lady Imelda Marcos. Sometime in the early part of 1980, the petitioner, in
consonance with his decision to establish his legal residence at Barangay Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte, 1 caused the construction of his
residential house therein. He soon thereafter also served as a Barangay Captain of the place. In the 1984 Batasan Election and 1986
"snap" Presidential Election, Romualdez acted as the Campaign Manager of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) in Leyte where he
voted. 2
When the eventful days from the 21st to the 24th of February, 1986, came or were about to come to a close, some relatives and
associates of the deposed President, fearing for their personal safety, whether founded or not, "fled" the country. Petitioner Romualdez,
for one, together with his immediate family, left the Philippines and sought "asylum" in the United States which the United States (U.S.)
government granted. 3 While abroad, he took special studies on the development of Leyte-Samar and international business finance. 4
In the early part of 1987, Romualdez attempted to come back to the Philippines to run for a congressional seat in Leyte. On 23 March
1987, he finally decided to book a flight back to the Philippines but the flight was somehow aborted. 5
On 25 September 1991, Romualdez received a letter from Mr. Charles Cobb, District Director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization
Service, informing him that he should depart from the U.S. at his expense on or before 23 August 1992, thus:
". . . Failure to depart on or before the specified date may result in the withdrawal of voluntary departure and action being taken to effect
your deportation. In accordance with a decision made to your case, you are required to depart from the United States at your expense
on or before 23 August 1992." 6
Upon receipt of the letter, Romualdez departed from the U.S. for the Philippines, arriving on 23 December 1991 apparently without any
government travel document. 7
When Romualdez arrived in the Philippines, he did not delay his return to his residence at Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte. During the registration
of voters conducted by the Commission on Elections ("COMELEC") on 01 February 1992 for the Synchronized National and Local
Election scheduled for 11 May 1992, petitioner registered himself anew as a voter at Precinct No. 9 of Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte. The
Chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors, who had known Romualdezto be a resident of the place and, in fact, an elected
Barangay Chairman of Malbog in 1982, allowed him to be registered.
Romualdez's registration, however, was not to be unquestioned. On 21 February 1992, herein private respondent Donato Advincula
("Advincula") filed a petition with the Municipal Trial Court of Tolosa, Leyte, praying that Romualdez be excluded from the list of voters in
Precinct No. 9 of Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte, under BP 881 and RA 7166. 8 Advincula alleged that Romualdez was a resident of
Massachusetts, U.S.A.; that his profession and occupation was in the U.S.A.; that he had just recently arrived in the Philippines; and
that he did not have the required one-year residence in the Philippines and the six-month residence in Tolosa to qualify him to register
as a voter in Barangay Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte. 9
On 25 February 1992, Romualdez filed an answer, contending that he has been a resident of Tolosa, Leyte, since the early 1980's, and
that he has not abandoned his said residence by his physical absence therefrom during the period from 1986 up to the third week of
December 1991. 10
After due hearing, the Municipal Court of Tolosa, Leyte rendered a decision 11 on 28 February 1992, the dispositive portion of which
reads:
"WHEREFORE PREMISES CONSIDERED, the court finds the respondent to be a resident of Brgy. Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte and qualified
to register as a voter thereat. Hence, the instant petition for exclusion of Philip G. Romualdez from the list of voter of Precinct No. 9,
Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte is hereby ordered DENIED and petition DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED."
Upon receipt of the adverse decision, Advincula appealed the case to the respondent court.
On 03 April 1992, the respondent court rendered the assailed decision 12 , thus:

"WHEREFORE, this Court finds respondent Philip Romualdez disqualified to register as a voter for the 1992 elections and hereby
reverses the decision of the lower court on toto.
The Municipal Registrar of the Commission on Elections of Tolosa, Leyte, is hereby ordered to delete and cancel the name of
respondent Philip G. Romualdez from the list of qualified voters registered February 1, 1992, at Precinct 9, barangay Malbog, Tolosa,
Leyte.
SO ORDERED."
Hence, this recourse.
On 7 May 1992, this Court issued a temporary restraining order directing respondent Regional Trial Court Judge Pedro Espino to cease
and desist from enforcing his questioned decision. 13
The petitioner has raised several issues which have been well synthesized by the Solicitor General into
(1) Whether or not the MTC and RTC acquired jurisdiction over, respectively, Case No. 01-S. 1992 and Case No. 92-03-42, the petition
having been filed by one who did not allege to be himself a registered voter of the municipality concerned; and
(2) Whether or not the respondent court erred in finding the petitioner to have voluntarily left the country and abandoned his residence
in Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte.
The petition is impressed with merit.
Anent the first issue, the petitioner assails for the first time the jurisdiction of the respondent Court and the MTC of Tolosa, Leyte, in
taking cognizance of the case, despite an absence of any allegation in the petition filed with the MTC that Advincula was himself a
registered voter in Precinct No. 9 of Barangay Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte conformably with Section 142 of the Omnibus Election Code. 14
When respondent Advincula filed the petition with the MTC for the exclusion of herein petitioner Romualdez, the latter countered by
filing his answer 15 and praying for the denial of the petition, without raising the issue of jurisdiction. But what can be telling is that when
the MTC decision, denying the petition for disqualification, went on appeal to the RTC, Romualdez, in his own appeal-memorandum,
explicitly prayed that the MTC decision be affirmed. This unassailable incident leads us to reiterate that "while lack of jurisdiction may
be assailed at any stage, a party's active participation in the proceedings before a court without jurisdiction will estop such party from
assailing such lack of jurisdiction." 16Undoubtedly, the petitioner is now estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the
respondent court not only by his active participation in the proceedings thereat but, more importantly, in having sought an affirmative
relief himself when the appeal was made to the latter court whose jurisdiction he, in effect, invoked. Furthermore, the question is not
really as much the jurisdiction of the courts below as merely the locus standi of the complainant in the proceedings, a matter that, at this
stage, should be considered foreclosed.

In any case, we consider primordial the second issue of whether or not Romualdez voluntarily left the country and abandoned his
residence in Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte. Here, this time, we find for the petitioner.
The Solicitor-General himself sustains the view of petitioner Romualdez. Expressing surprise at this stance given by the SolicitorGeneral, respondent Advincula posits non sequitur argument 17 in his comment assailing instead the person of Solicitor Edgar Chua. If
it would have any value, at all, in disabusing the minds of those concerned, it may well be to recall what this Court said in Rubio v. Sto.
Tomas: 18
"It is also incumbent upon the Office of the Solicitor General to present to the Court the position that will legally uphold the best interest
of the government although it may run counter to a client's position."
In election cases, the Court treats domicile and residence as synonymous terms, thus: "(t)he term "residence" as used in the election
law is synonymous with "domicile", which imports not only an intention to reside in a fixed place but also personal presence in that
place, coupled with conduct indicative of such intention". 19 "Domicile" denotes a fixed permanent residence to which when absent for
business or pleasure, or for like reasons, one intends to return. 20 That residence, in the case of the petitioner, was established during
the early 1980's to be at Barangay Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte. Residence thus acquired, however, may be lost by adopting another choice
of domicile. In order, in turn, to acquire a new domicile by choice, there must concur (1) residence or bodily presence in the new locality,
(2) an intention to remain there, and (3) an intention to abandon the old domicile. 21 In other words, there must basically be animus
manendicoupled with animus non revertendi. The purpose to remain in or at the domicile of choice must be for an indefinite period of
time; the change of residence must be voluntary; and the residence at the place chosen for the new domicile must be actual. 22
The political situation brought about by the "People's Power Revolution" must have truly caused great apprehension to the
Romualdezes, as well as a serious concern over the safety and welfare of the members of their immediate families. Their going into
self-exile until conditions favorable to them would have somehow stabilized is understandable. Certainly, their sudden departure from

the country cannot be described as "voluntary", or as "abandonment of residence" at least in the context that these terms are used in
applying the concept of "domicile by choice."
We have closely examined the records, and we find not that much to convince us that the petitioner had, in fact, abandoned his
residence in the Philippines and established his domicile elsewhere.
It must be emphasized that the right to vote is a most precious political right, as well as a bounden duty of every citizen, enabling and
requiring him to participate in the process of government so as to ensure that the government can truly be said to derive its power
solely from the consent of the governed. 23 We, therefore, must commend respondent Advincula for spending time and effort even all
the way up to this Court, for as the right of suffrage is not to be abridged, so also must we safeguard and preserve it but only on behalf
of those entitled and bound to exercise it.
WHEREFORE, finding merit on the petition the same is hereby GRANTED DUE COURSE; the Decision of the
respondent Regional Trial Court dated 03 April 1992 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and the Decision of the
Municipal TrialCourt dated 28 February 1992 is hereby REINSTATED and the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Court in this
case is correspondingly made PERMANENT. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Cruz, Padilla, Bidin, Grio-Aquino, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Nocon, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason and Puno, JJ ., concur.
Narvasa, C .J . and Feliciano, J., is on leave.
||| (Romualdez v. RTC, Branch 7, Tacloban City, G.R. No. 104960, [September 14, 1993])
SECOND DIVISION
[A.M. No. 74-MJ. July 30, 1976.]
SALVADOR LACSON, JR., complainant, vs. RAMON POSADAS, Municipal Judge, of Talisay, Negros Occidental, respondent.
SYNOPSIS
In a verified complaint, respondent was charged with (a) ignorance of the law, (b) partiality, and (c) violation of the Election Code of
1971.
The Investigating Judge, to whom the administrative case had been referred, dismissed the first two charges for being without factual
basis, but found respondent guilty of violating the requirements of Sec. 136 of the Election Code of 1971. Exoneration was however
recommended for the respondent was found to have acted in good faith.
The Supreme Court held that respondent's good faith or lack of malice in failing to comply with the requirements of the Election law is of
no avail considering that in crimes of mala prohibita, the act alone irrespective of its motives, constitutes the offense. In view however of
the general amnesty granted by President Decree No. 433, to all person who have violated the election law on the dates and occasions
therein-mentioned, respondent judge was relieved of his criminal liability and was only admonished to exercise greater care in the
observance of the provisions of existing laws in the discharge of his judicial duties.
Respondent admonished.
SYLLABUS
1. JUDGES; ADMINISTRATIVE COMPLAINTS; VIOLATION OF THE ELECTION CODE OF 1971; MALA PROHIBITA; LACK OF
IMPROPER MOTIVE NOT SUFFICIENT TO EXTINGUISH OFFENSE. Respondent Judge's good faith lack of malice in failing to
comply with the requirements of Section 136 of the Electoral law is to no avail, considering that in crimes which are mala prohibita, the
act alone, irrespective of its motives, constitutes the offense.
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 433 EFFECT ON CRIMINAL LIABILITY FOR VIOLATION OF ELECTION LAW.
Presidential Decree No. 433, promulgated by the President of the Philippines on April 8, 1974 grants general amnesty under certain
conditions to public school teachers, other government officials and employees, members of the armed forces of the Philippines and
other persons for violation of election laws and other related statutes in connection with the election of delegates to the Constitutional
convention. Such general amnesty relives an offender of any criminal liability for his infraction of the law.
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ADMONITION. In the public interest, respondent Judge who violated the law should be admonished to exercise
greater care in the observance of the provisions of existing laws on the discharge of his judicial duties.
RESOLUTION
ANTONIO, J p:

Respondent Municipal Judge Ramon Posadas, of Talisay, Negros Occidental, is charged in a verified complaint by Salvador Lacson, Jr.
with (a) ignorance of the law, (b) partiality, and (c) violation of the Election Code of 1971.
The Executive Judge, to whom this case was referred for investigation, report and recommendation, found the charges of ignorance of
the law and partiality to be without factual basis. He, however, found that respondent Judge has failed to comply with the requirements
of Section 136 of the Election Code of 1971, which provides:
"Any person who has been refused registration or whose name has been stricken out from the permanent list of voters may at any time
except sixty (60) days before a regular election or twenty-five (25) days before a special election, apply to the proper court for an order
directing the election registration board or the board of inspectors as the case may be, to include or reinstate his name in the
permanent list of voters, attaching to his application for inclusion the certificate of the Election registration board or the board of
inspectors regarding his case and proof of service of a copy of his application and of the notice of hearing thereof upon a member of
the said board." (Emphasis supplied.)
In his report of July 17, 1972, the Investigating Judge stated:
"Respondent disregarded this requirement and none of the petitions for inclusion based on lack of forms contains the attached
certificate of the Chairman or any member of the Board of Inspectors of the precinct concerned to the effect that petitioner or petitioners
applied for registration on October 9, 1971 but were refused registration for lack of registration forms. While it may be true that the
various petitions for inclusion contained the sworn statement of Eduardo Belbes that a copy of the petition had been served on the
members of the Board of Inspectors of the corresponding precinct, yet this notice applied to the original dates of hearing stated in the
petition and it is reasonable to assume that on the dates at which the petitions were ordered reset for hearing by respondent Judge, to
wit: On October 18 for the petitions filed on October 14; and on October 20 for the petitions filed on October 19, the Board of Inspectors
were not notified. This is impliedly admitted by respondent when he expressed the belief that notice to the Election Registration Board
alone was sufficient, and that the certificate of the Board of Inspectors to the effect that the petitioners applied for registration in the
corresponding precinct on October 9, 1971, but were refused registration for lack of forms was not necessary inasmuch as he relied on
the testimonies of the petitioners themselves on that point. Also, even if respondent was motivated by a desire to adhere strictly to the
requirement of Comelec Resolution No. RR-938 that inclusion cases be decided within two (2) days from the filing of the petition, it
would seem that respondent acted rather hastily in resetting the inclusion cases filed in the afternoon of October 19, 1971 for hearing
immediately the following morning or on October 20, 1971. This is especially true of Election Cases Nos. 93 to 172, except Cases Nos.
162 to 172 (Exhs. '8-A' to '8-K'), inasmuch as Mrs. Efren admittedly informed respondent of the filing of the cases right the same
morning of October 20. Hence it is not likely that the various members of the Board of Inspectors could have been notified to appear
and testify that petitioners in fact appeared before their respective precincts and were denied registration for lack of forms. Ordinary
caution dictated that this requirement or this procedure be followed as this was one sure way of identifying the petitioners and
ascertaining whether in fact they applied for and were refused registration for lack of forms. True, inclusion and exclusion cases are
summary in nature but the procedure adopted by respondent Judge provided no safeguard whatsoever against indiscriminate inclusion.
For he admitted that as long as the petitioners were present when he called the inclusion cases for hearing and the respondent Election
Registration Board or the members of the Board of Inspectors of the precincts concerned were not present he considered the latter in
default and summarily granted the petition. This could be the only reason why practically all the inclusion cases resulted in the issuance
of orders directing the inclusion of the petitioners now marked as Exhs. 'B', 'B-1' to 'B-54' and, as it turned out, on appeal most of the
petitions were dismissed either for failure of the petitioners to appear or, as in Cases Nos. 136-153, because the Court found on the
basis of the testimony of the Chairman of Precinct No. 41 of Talisay that he even had a surplus of seventeen (17) application forms." 1
In extenuation, the Investigating Judge found also that respondent, in his aforesaid actuations, did so without improper motive but in
good faith.
In our republican system of government, the exercise by the people of their right of suffrage is the expression of their sovereign will. It
is, therefore, absolutely essential that the free and voluntary use of this right be effectively protected by the law and by governmental
authority. As stated in an earlier case: 2
". . . The people in clothing a citizen with the elective franchise for the purpose of securing a consistent and perpetual administration of
the government they ordain, charge him with the performance of a duty in the nature of a public trust, and in that respect constitute him
a representative of the whole people. This duty requires that the privilege thus bestowed should be exercised, not exclusively for the
benefit of the citizen or class of citizens professing it, but in good faith and with an intelligent zeal for the general benefit and welfare of
the state. (U.S. vs. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 588.) In the last analysis, therefore, the inclusion in or exclusion from the permanent electoral
list of any voter concerns not only the latter in his individual capacity but the public in general."
In the light of the statutory purpose, the seriousness of respondent's failure to comply with the requirements of Section 136 of the
electoral law becomes evident. His good faith or lack of malice is of no avail, considering that in crimes which are mala prohibita, the
act alone irrespective of its motives, constitutes the offense. It appears, however, that on April 8, 1974, the President of the Philippines
promulgated Presidential Decree No. 433, which grants general amnesty under certain conditions to public school teachers, other
government officials and employees, members of the armed forces of the Philippines and other persons for violation of election laws

and other related statutes in connection with the elections of 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971, and the election of delegates to the Constitutional
Convention.
There is no question that as a consequence of the general amnesty all persons who violated the election law on the dates and
occasions therein mentioned are relieved of their criminal liability. 3 In the case at bar, respondent is relieved of any criminal liability for
his aforecited infraction; however, in the public interest he should be admonished.
WHEREFORE, respondent is hereby admonished that he should exercise greater care in the observance of the provisions of existing
laws in the discharge of his judicial duty, and warned that any subsequent misconduct shall be dealt with more severely.

Fernando (Chairman), Barredo and Aquino, JJ., concur.


Concepcion, Jr., J., is on leave.
Martin, J., was designated to sit in the Second Division.
||| (Lacson, Jr. v. Posadas, A.M. No. 74-MJ (Resolution), [July 30, 1976], 164 PHIL 184-188)
FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 47243. June 17, 1940.]
CIPRIANO ABANIL ET AL., petitioners-appellees, vs. JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT OF BACOLOD, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL,
ET AL., respondents-appellants.
Vicente J. Francisco, Ramon H. Severino, Abundio Z. Arrieta and Res. A. Sobretodo for the appellants.
Emilio R. Severino, Amado B. Parreo, Vicente T. Remetio and Carlos Hilado for the appellees.
SYLLABUS
1. SUFFRAGE, NATURE OF. In the scheme of our present republican government, the people are allowed to have a voice therein
through the instrumentality of suffrage to be availed of by those possessing certain prescribed qualifications (Art. V,
Constitution of the Philippines; secs. 93 and 94, Election Code). The People in clothing a citizen with the elective franchise
for the purpose of securing a consistent and perpetual administration of thegovernment they ordain, charge him
with the performance of a duty in the nature of a public trust, and in that respect constitute him a representative of the whole people.
This duty requires that the privilege thus bestowed should be exercised, not exclusively for the benefit of the citizen or class of citizens
professing it, but in good faith and with an intelligent zeal for the general benefit and welfare of the state. (U.S. vs. Cruikshank, 92 U. S.,
583.) In the last analysis, therefore, the inclusion in or exclusion from the permanent electoral list of any voter concerns not
only the latter in his individual capacity but the public in general.
2. ID.; ID.; PETITION FOB EXCLUSION FROM LIST OF VOTERS; JURISDICTION OF COURT OF FIRSTS INSTANCE. Section
113 of the Election Code provides that if the judge of the Court of First Instance is in the province, theproceeding for the inclusion in or
exclusion from the list of voters shall, upon petition of any interested party filed before the presentation of evidence, be remanded
to the said judge who shall hear and decide the name in the first and last instance. When, therefore, the attorneys for the challenged
voters moved the justice of the peace of Bacolod to remand all the exclusion cases to the Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental,
then presided over by two judges, it was mandatory on said justice of the peace to grant the motion.
3. ID.; ID.; ID; ID. In the exercise of the court's discretionary power the case is remanded to the Court of First Instance of Negros
Occidental with instruction to hear and decide the petition for exclusion on the merits, in thefirst and last instance (sec 113, Electoral
Code), giving the parties every opportunity to present their respective evidence, so that it may thereafter make such corrections
in the electoral census of Talisay, Negros Occidental, as may be proper (sec. 90. Electoral Code), and to refer to the Solicitor-General
such violation of the Election Law as might have been committed.
DECISION
In the year 1937 the total number of registered voters in the municipality of Talisay, Negros Occidental, was 3,658. In 1938 the electoral
census of the place, after the registration on September 24 and October 1, 1938, showed that the number of registered voters had
increased to 18,288. A few days before the election for Assemblymen on November 8, 1938, or on October 18, 1938, 17,344 petitions
were filed in the justice of the peace court of Bacolod, Negros Occidental, for the exclusion of the names of an equal number of persons
from the permanent list of registered voters of Talisay, Negros Occidental, on the grounds that they were not residents of Talisay in
accordance with theElection Code, that they could not prepare their ballots themselves, and that their registration as voters was not
done in accordance with law. The hearing of the petitions for exclusion was held on October 28, 1938. After attorneys Hilado, Parreo,
Remitio and Severino entered their appearance for the challenged voters, the justice of the peace of Bacolod ascertained

who of the challenged voters were present in court and who were absent. Thereafter the saidjustice of the peace declared those who
were absent in default. Failing to obtain a reconsideration, the attorneys for the challenged voters moved that,
since the presentation of evidence had not yet commenced, all the petitions be forwarded to the Court of First Instance of Negros
Occidental which was then presided over by two Judges. The attorneys for the petitioners in the said 17,344 exclusion cases objected
on the ground that the aforesaid attorneys had no authority to represent those who were absent.
Whereupon the justice of the peace of Bacolod ruled that said attorneys could represent only the 87 challenged voters who were
present in the court room and accordingly remanded their cases to the Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental. At the same
time the justice of the peace dismissed 253 of the petitions upon motion of the petitioners themselves. Although no evidence was
presented by the petitioners in support of their petition against those who were declared in
default, the justice of the peace of Bacolod ordered their exclusion from the list of voters on the ground that it
was the duty of the challenged voters to appear in court in order to be personally examined in accordance with section 118
(f) of the Election Code, as one of the grounds for their exclusion from the list of voters was that they could not prepare their ballots
themselves, that is, that they could not read and write. The attorneys for the challenged voters received
notice of the decision of the justice of the peace of Bacolod on November 2, 1938, when the present petition for certiorari was instituted
in the Court of First Instanceof Negros Occidental by the petitioners in their own behalf and in behalf of the other challenged voters
for the purpose of having the judgment of the justice of the peace of Bacolod in the aforesaid exclusion proceedings set aside. After
hearing, the Honorable Judge Sotero Rodas of the Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental rendered judgment setting
aside the decision of the respondent justice of the peace of Bacolod and ordering the restoration of theexcluded voters
in the permanent electoral census of Talisay, Negros Occidental. From this judgment the instant appeal was brought,
and the respondents-appellants make an elaborate assignment of nine errors. In view of the result hereinbelow reached, we do not
consider it necessary to consider seriatim these errors.
While the present controversy may seem academic be cause the 1938 election is over, we have nevertheless
assumed the task of deciding the same on its merits in view of the imperative necessity and importance of having a correct electoral
census in the municipality of Talisay, Negros Occidental, and for that matter in any municipality or city in the Philippines, for use in
future elections. In the scheme of our present republican government, the people are allowed to have a voice therein
through the instrumentality of suffrage to be availed of by those possessing certain prescribe qualifications (Article V,
Constitution of the Philippines; sections 93 and 94, Election Code). The people in clothing a citizen with the elective franchise
for the purpose of securing a consistent and perpetual administration of the government they ordain, charge him
with the performance of a duty in the nature of a public trust, and in that respect constitute him a representative of the whole people.
This duty requires that the privilege thus bestowed should be exercised, not exclusively for the benefit of the citizen or class of citizens
professing it, but in good faith and with an intelligent zeal for the general benefit and welfare of the state. (U.S. vs. Cruikshank, 92 U.S.,
588.) In the last analysis, therefore, the inclusion in or exclusion from the permanent electoral list of any voter concerns not
only thelatter in his individual capacity but the public in general.
Section 113 of the Election Code provides that if the Judge of the Court of First Instance is in the province, the proceeding
for the inclusion in or exclusion from the list of voters shall, upon petition of any interested party filed
before the presentation of evidence, be remanded to the said Judge who shall hear and decide the same in the first and last instance.
When, therefore, the attorneys for the challenged voters moved the justice of the peace of Bacolodto remand all the exclusion cases
to the Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental, then presided over by two Judges, it was mandatory on said justice of the peace to
grant the motion. Without deciding whether the attorneys who appeared for the challenged voters were in fact authorized by all, it is our
opinion that, in view of the extraordinary circumstance that the challenged voters were more than seventeen thousand and a
representative number thereof were present, and in view of the nature of the proceedings which affect public interest, it was error
for the aforesaid justice of the peace not to have remanded all the petitions for exclusion to the Court of First Instance of Negros
Occidental. Thereafter, in the interest of prompt and economical administration of justice the necessary arrangement could have been
made to enable the corresponding judge of First Instance of the province to proceed to Talisay and hear the cases there.
The judgment appealed from will accordingly be reversed and in the exercise of our discretionary power (Cason vs. Rickards, 5 Phil.,
611; Rementeria vs. Lara, 6 Phil., 532; Agonoy vs. Ruiz, 11 Phil., 204; Muerteguy & Aboitiz vs. Delgado, 22 Phil., 109; Hongkong &
Shanghai Banking Corporation vs. Aldanese, 46 Phil., 713; Tinsay vs. Yusay, 47 Phil., 639; Singh vs. Tan Chay, 51 Phil., 259;
Province of Tayabas vs. Perez, 56 Phil., 257), the case is remanded to theCourt of First Instance of Negros Occidental with instruction
to hear and decide the petitions for exclusion on the merits, in the first and last instance (section 113, Electoral Code), giving the parties
every opportunity to present their respective evidence, so that it may thereafter make such corrections in the electoral
census of Talisay, Negros Occidental, as may be proper (section 90, Electoral Code), and to refer to the Solicitor-General such
violations of the Election Law as might have been committed. Without pronouncement as to costs.

Avancea C.J., Imperial Diaz, Concepcion, and Moran, JJ., concur.


___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

EN BANC
[G.R. No. 139357. May 5, 2000.]
ABDULMADID P.B. MARUHOM, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and HADJI JAMIL DIMAPORO, respondents.
Tingcap T. Mortaba for petitioner.
The Solicitor General for public respondent.
Dimnatang Saro for private respondent.
SYNOPSIS
Petitioner Abdulmadid P.B. Maruhom and private respondent Hadji Jamil Dimaporo were both candidates for Mayor in the Municipality
of Marogong, Lanao del Sur in the May 11, 1998, national and local elections. Private respondent alleged that during the counting of
votes, serious irregularities, anomalies and electoral frauds were committed at the instance of petitioner or his followers. As a result, the
petitioner was illegally proclaimed as winner because he appeared to obtain 2,020 votes while private respondent garnered 2,000
votes. On May 25, 1998, private respondent filed an ordinary "Protest ad Cautelam" against the petitioner before the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 11, Malabang, Lanao del Sur docketed as Election Case No. 11-127. On June 1, 1998, the petitioner filed an answer with
counter protest. The case was then set for hearing and a Revision Committee was created. The trial court directed the members of the
committee to finish the revision within 20 days from its commencement. The petitioner then orally moved for the dismissal of the
protest. After the oral arguments of both parties, the petitioner's counsel was given by the acting presiding judge ten days to file an
Omnibus Motion in substantiation of all the oral motions he made and the private respondent was likewise given an equal period of time
to file his comment. On September 11, 1998, petitioner's filed his motion to dismiss, and on September 21, 1988, the private
respondent filed a vigorous opposition thereto. Subsequently, the presiding judge issued an order denying the petitioner's motion to
dismiss for lack of merit. He likewise denied the motion for reconsideration in relation thereto. To further delay the proceedings of the
case, petitioner filed before the COMELEC a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for preliminary injunction. On December
11, 1998, the petitioner filed an urgent motion before the trial court to defer further proceedings of the case until after the petition before
the COMELEC shall have been finally resolved. The trial court granted the urgent motion before the private respondent could file his
opposition thereto. Subsequently, the COMELEC dismissed the petition. Hence, the instant petition.
The Court ruled that 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. HDAaIc
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 was 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, petitioner only filed his motion to
dismiss "when the results of the trial appear[ed] to be adverse to him" 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 that such a whimsical change of mind by petitioner cannot be
countenanced much more so in election cases where time is of the essence in the resolution thereof.
SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTION LAW; PURPOSE OF GOVERNING STATUTES ON THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS. 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 of 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."
2. ID.; CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS (COMELEC); GIVEN ALL THE NECESSARY AND INCIDENTAL
POWERS TO ACHIEVE THE HOLDING OF FREE, ORDERLY, HONEST, PEACEFUL AND CREDIBLE ELECTIONS. 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.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; POWERS; THE COURT IS LIBERAL IN DEFINING THE PARAMETERS OF COMELEC'S POWERS IN
CONDUCTING ELECTIONS. [T]he Court has been liberal in defining the parameters of the COMELEC's powers in
conductingelections. Sumulong v. COMELEC 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 . . .. 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 . . . 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."
4. ID.; ELECTIONS; LAWS AND STATUTES GOVERNING APPRECIATION OF BALLOTS MUST BE LIBERALLY CONSTRUED TO
THE END THAT WILL OF ELECTORATE MAY NOT BE DEFEATED. 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. 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, much more so in this case considering that a mere
twenty (20) votes separates the winner from the loser of the contested election results.
5. ID.; ID.; ELECTION PROTEST; MOTION TO DISMISS FILED THREE MONTHS AFTER THE ANSWER IS A FRIVOLOUS RESORT
CALCULATED TO FRUSTRATE THE WILL OF THE ELECTORATE; CASE AT BAR. [T]he 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, petitioner only filed his motion to dismiss "when the results of the trial appear[ed] to be adverse to him" 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. AECcTS
6. ID.; ID.; ID.; TIME IS THE ESSENCE IN THE RESOLUTION THEREOF. 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. . . ." (italics supplied)
7. ID.; ID.; ID.; GROUNDS ARE EVIDENTIARY IN NATURE AND CAN BE BEST VENTILATED DURING THE TRIAL; CASE AT BAR.
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. 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."
8. ID.; ID.; ID.; PURPOSE. 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.

9. ID.; ID.; ELECTION CONTEST; WHERE CORRECTNESS OF NUMBER OF VOTES IS INVOLVED, THE BEST AND MOST
CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE ARE THE BALLOTS THEMSELVES. 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. 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 petitioner's 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 a peremptory resolution of the motion to dismiss on the basis of the bare and one-sided averments made therein.
10. POLITICAL LAW; ID.; MANUAL COUNTING NOT PROHIBITED WHEN MACHINE COUNT DOES NOT WORK. 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, 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 COMELECfrom 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.
11. ID.; ID.; LEGAL COMPASS OF COMELEC IN ACTING UPON ELECTION CONTROVERSIES. Verily, the legal compass from
which the COMELEC should take its bearings in acting upon election controversies is the principle that "cleanelections control the
appropriateness of the remedy."
12. ID.; ID.; ELECTION CONTEST; AVERMENTS IN PROTEST AND COUNTER-PROTEST JUSTIFIED DETERMINATION OF
ISSUES THROUGH JUDICIAL REVISION AND RECOUNTING OF BALLOTS; CASE AT BAR. The fact is the averments in
petitioner's counter-protest and private respondent's 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)
13. ID.; ID.; FILING OF ELECTION PROTEST OR PETITION FOR QUO WARRANTO PRECLUDES SUBSEQUENT FILING OF PREPROCLAMATION CONTROVERSY; EXCEPTIONS. So too must fall petitioner's procedural objection that private respondent should
be faulted for forum-shopping vis--vis this Court's pronouncement in Samad v. COMELEC which states in no uncertain terms that
"As a general rule, the filing of an election protest or a petition for quo warrantoprecludes 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. 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."
14. ID.; ID.; ELECTION CONTEST; MOTION TO DISMISS NOT A PROHIBITED PLEADING. Petitioner's 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: "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 COMELECRules 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 "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 protest 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."
15. ID.; ID.; TRIAL COURT'S COMPETENCE TO RESOLVE FACTUAL ISSUES RAISED IN THE ELECTORAL PROTEST INVOLVING
MAYORALTY SEAT SHOULD NOT BE DOUBTED; CASE AT BAR. [T]he soundness of its discretion to accord unto the trial court the
competence to resolve the factual issues raised in the controversy can not 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 onthe 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 voter's 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 legalism." SHDAEC
DECISION

YNARES- SANTIAGO, J p:
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. LexLib
The COMELEC's challenged order summarizes the relevant facts of the controversy thus:
1. Petitioner and private respondent were both candidates for Mayor in the Municipality of Maragong, 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 respondent's 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 found therein which were not drawn from the official ballots and
were included in the counting of votes over the objection of the private respondent's watchers or representative; prLL
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
respondent's 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. prcd
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 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 . . .
5. On July 17, 1998, an order was issued by this Honorable Commission, (First Division) granting the private respondent's motion to
withdraw petition in SPC No. 98-228 and considered the same withdrawn. 6 . . .
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 . . .

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 onRevision and appointment of the
Chairman and Members thereof; (b) making of the cash deposit and payment of the revisor's compensation; (c) partial determination of
the case, etc. on September 1, 1998, at 8:30 o'clock 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 respondent court to finish the revision of ballots, if possible, within 20 days
from the commencement of the revision. 9 . . .
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 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 his Honorable Commission. dctai
11. After the oral arguments of both parties, the petitioner's 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 petitioner's 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 petitioner's motion dismiss for lack of merit and ordering the Revision Committee to report to the court on November 19,
1998, at 8:30 o'clock 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 protestee's 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 . . .
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 notion 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. . . . 20

Petitioner alleges that in dismissing the petition the COMELEC acted in excess of, or with garve abuse of discretion, amounting to lack
of jurisdiction in
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 onElections, 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 COMELEC's powers in conducting
election 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. . . . 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 . . . we must
not by any excessive zeal take away from the Commission onElections that initiative which by constitutional and legal mandates
properly belongs to it." cda
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 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. cdtai
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 counterprotest 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; prLL
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 petitioner's 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 petitioner's 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 petitioner's 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 would frustrate the ends of
justice, the court held in abeyance its ruling on the withdrawal of appearance of and directed petitioner's 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. cdll
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. . . . 37 (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 reappreciation 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 a peremptory resolution of the motion to dismiss on the basis of the bare and
one-sided averments made therein. prLL
Petitioner's 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 COMELECfrom 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 powers
of COMELEC in the conduct of our elections . . .. In the case a 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 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. LLjur
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 petitioner's counter-protest and private respondent's 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 petitioner's procedural objection that private respondent should be faulted for forum-shopping vis-a-vis this Court's
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 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 proceedings. This procedure will prevent confusion and conflict of authority. 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.Cdpr
Petitioner's argument that the filing of a motion to dismiss in an election contest filed with a regular court is not 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 inAruelo 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 petitioner's 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 can not 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. cdtai
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 voter's 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.
||| (Maruhom v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 139357, [May 5, 2000], 387 PHIL 491-516)
EN BANC
[G.R. No. 123037. March 21, 1997.]
TEODORO Q. PEA, petitioner, vs. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL and ALFREDO E. ABUEG,
JR., respondents.
Villaraza & Cruz for petitioner.
Pablo S. Ebol and Pedro J Callero, Jr. for private respondent.
SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT; HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL; REVISED RULES OF
PROCEDURE; INSUFFICIENCY IN FORM AND SUBSTANCE OF THE PETITION CONSTITUTE A GROUND FOR IMMEDIATE
DISMISSAL; REASON FOR THE RULE. A perusal of the Petition Ad Cautelam, reveals that Petitioner makes no specific mention of

the precincts where widespread election, fraud and irregularities occurred. 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 assumption of an elected public
official may, and will always be held up by petitions of this sort by the losing candidate.
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; THE DEFECT IN THE INSTANT CASE ARISES FROM THE FAILURE TO ALLEGE THE CONTESTED
PRECINCTS. 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 occurrences 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 disembark from the water.
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; THE COURT'S 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. 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. 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. . . . This is as it should be, for the democratic system is good for the many although abhorred by a
few. In sums, this Court's 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 grave abuse of discretion is clearly shown shall the Court interfere with the
electoral tribunal's judgment. There is no such showing in the present petition.
DECISION
TORRES, JR., J p:
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,
1995, 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 petitioner's 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 protestant's 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 of 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, Brooke's Point, Narra, Quezon, and Marcos (Ordinance appended to the1973
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. cdtai
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 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. . . . 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. . . .'
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 the time, place and manner of the commission of the alleged irregularities.' . . .
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
Petitioner's 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 Pea through registered mail and was received by him on 28 June 1995. Since Petitioner did not appeal from the
Resolution, it became final on 3 July 1995 pursuant to Section 13 (b), Rule 18 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure. Even assuming
that SPA Case No. 95-258 had tolled the running of the period to file a protest and Protestant Pea's 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 Protestee's 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 Protestant's 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 Protestee's 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, Protestee's Counter-Protest is DISMISSED.
No pronouncements as to costs.

SO ORDERED." 6
Petitioner's 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 Petitioner's 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 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 respondent's 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 occurred. 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 assumption 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 occurrences 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 disembark 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 the 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 This is as it should be, for the democratic system is good for the many although abhorred by a few.
In sum, this Court's 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 grave abuse of discretion is clearly shown shall the Court interfere with the
electoral tribunal's judgment. There is no 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.
Padilla, J ., took no part; was Chairman of HRET when assailed resolution was issued.
Regalado, J ., took no part; Chairman of HRET.
Davide, Jr., J ., took no part; was a member of HRET when challenged resolution was passed.
Romero, J ., took no part; Member of HRET.
Bellosillo, J ., took no part due to relation to party.
Melo, J ., took no part; Member of HRET.

||| (Pea v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 123037, [March 21, 1997], 337 PHIL 70-79)
EN BANC
[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.
Pimentel Apostol Layosa & Sibayan Law Office for petitioner.
The Solicitor General for respondents.
SYLLABUS
1. REMEDIAL LAW; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION; CERTIORARI; GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION; ABSENCE THEREOF
WHERE COMELEC ANNULLED PROCLAMATION NULLIFIED BY THE HIGH TRIBUNAL AND ORDERED MUNICIPAL BOARDS OF
CANVASSERS TO MAKE NECESSARY CORRECTIONS ON THE SOVS AND COCS AND PROCLAIM THE WINNER; CASE AT BAR.
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 onaccount 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 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. The rule is plain and simple. It needs no other interpretation contrary to petitioner's
protestation.
2. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTIONS; ELECTION CONTESTS; ADHERENCE TO TECHNICALITY WHICH WILL INEVITABLY RESULT IN
FRUSTRATING THE PEOPLE'S WILL, NOT COUNTENANCED. 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 countenanced. (Benito v. COMELEC , G.R. No. 106053, August 17, 1994; Rodriguez v. Commission on Elections, 119 SCRA
465) 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.
3. ID.; ID.; LOCAL ELECTIONS; SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN; CORRECTIONS OF SOVS (STATEMENTS OF VOTES) AND
COCS (CERTIFICATES OF CANVASS); ALLOWANCE OF CORRECTION ON PURELY MATHEMATICAL ERRORS; ACCOMPLISHED
BY MERE CLERICAL ACT OF REFLECTING THE TRUE AND CORRECT VOTES RECEIVED BY CANDIDATES BY THE MBC
(MUNICIPAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS); CASE AT BAR. 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 mistakes in
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. Consequently, by margin of 72 votes, private respondent indisputably won the
challenged seat in the Sangguniang 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.
4. REMEDIAL LAW; ACTIONS; INSIGNIFICANT DISPUTES WHICH CAN BE SETTLED BELOW SHOULD NOT REACH THE
SUPREME COURT AND CLOG ITS DOCKET. 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.
DECISION
KAPUNAN, J p:
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 Sangguniang 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 (COCs) for these ten (10) municipalities be 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 ruled against the objection of private respondent. 1From 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 alleged 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, ruled "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 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 COMELECResolution 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 a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). LLpr
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 Micu 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 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 guidelines oncanvassing 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 to 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 secretary, respectively, of the Provincial Board
of Canvassers of Pangasinan, to show cause why they should not be declared in contempt for defying and disobeying the Resolution of
this Commission dated 09 July 1992, directing them to RECONVENE 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 Certificates 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 reconvene 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.
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 annulment of the petitioner's proclamation. prLL
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 regularity 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 RECONVENE 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 guidelines 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 (9) COCs for
the nine municipalities, the 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 not property 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)
and Gallardo 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 theCOMELEC RULES OF
PROCEDURE involve the pre-proclamation controversies (Rule 27 in relation to Section 4(h), 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. prcd

Hence, the COMELEC en banc had no jurisdiction to decide on the aforesaid motion to annul the proclamation; consequently, its 29
July 1992 Resolution is null and void. For this reason too, the COMELEC en banc Resolution of 6 June 1992 in SPC No. 92-208
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 the members of the
said Boards convened to 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-1" of Comment of private respondent; Annex "A" of Consolidated Reply of petitioner) and San Manuel (Annex "F2", Id.; Annex "B", Id.). These are not valid corrections because the Election Registrars, as Chairmen of the MBCs cannot, by
themselves, act for their respective Boards. 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 theCommission, 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 the 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 respondent COMELEC referring to 'the corrected
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 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,
respondent COMELEC should not have been misled. prLL
Even if We are to assume for the sake of argument that these sheets of paper constitute sufficient corrections, they are, nevertheless,
void and no effect. At the time the Election Registrars prepared them on 6 July 1992, respondentCOMELEC 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 Comelec en 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, theCOMELEC 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. cdll

For being clearly inconsistent with the intention and official stand of 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 the second Member of theSangguniang Panlalawigan of the
Province of Pangasinan, representing its Sixth Legislative District, are hereby 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. 92384, 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. LibLex
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 respondent's 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.

Respondent COMELEC did not act without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion in annulling the proclamation of petitioner
Alfonso Bince, Jr. 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. LLpr

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 the MBC of Tayug was filed onJune 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 theCOMELEC 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 proprio, 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. cdll
(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 and decided by the 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 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 by 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 mistakes in 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. prLL
Consequently, by margin of 72 votes, private respondent indisputably won the challenged seat in the Sangguniang 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, Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza and Francisco,
JJ ., concur.
Davide, Jr., J ., in the result.
||| (Bince, Jr. v. Commission on Elections, G.R. Nos. 111624-25, [March 9, 1995], 312 PHIL 316-337)
EN BANC
[G.R. No. 125629. March 25, 1998.]
MANUEL C. SUNGA, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and FERDINAND B. TRINIDAD, respondents.
Antonio A. Ante and Romeo N. Bartolome for petitioner.
Pete Quirino-Quadra for private respondent.
SYNOPSIS
Petitioner Manuel Sunga was one of the candidates for Mayor in Iguig, Cagayan in the 8 May 1995 elections. Private respondent
Ferdinand Trinidad, then incumbent mayor, was also 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. On 7 May 1995, Sunga filed another letter-complaint with the
COMELEC. This was followed by an amended petition for disqualification consolidating the charges in the two (2) letters-complaint and
providing more specific details of the violations committed by Trinidad. Meanwhile, the election results showed that Trinidad garnered

the highest number of votes, whileSunga 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 Omnibus Election Code. Accordingly, four informations for various election offenses were filed in the Regional Trial
Court. 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. However, in its 17 May 1996 Resolution, the COMELEC 2nd Division dismissed the petition for disqualification. His
motion for reconsideration having been denied by the COMELEC En Banc, Sunga filed the instant petition. The issue in this case is
whether the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion when it dismissed the disqualification case against private
respondent Trinidad. SEIaHT
This petition was partially granted by the Supreme Court. The subject resolutions of the COMELEC were annulled and set aside. The
COMELEC was ordered to reinstate the action for disqualification filed against Trinidad. According to the Court, the Amended Petition
filed several days after the elections was merely a reiteration of the charges filed by petitioner against private respondent before the
elections. Consequently, the Amended Petition retroacted to such earlier dates. An amendment which merely supplements and
amplifies facts originally alleged in the complaint relates back to the date of the commencement of the action and should not be barred
by the statute of limitations which expired after the service of the original complaint.
SYLLABUS
1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; ELECTION CASES; NON-PAYMENT OF DOCKET FEE, WHEN NOT
FATAL PROCEDURAL LAPSE. That the Amended petition was filed only on 11 May 1995, or after the elections, is of no
consequence. It was merely a reiteration of the charges filed by petitioner against private respondent on 26 April 1995 and 7 May 1995
or before the elections. Consequently, the Amended Petition retroacted to such earlier dates. An amendment which merely supplements
and amplifies facts originally alleged in the complaint relates back to the date of the commencement of the action and is not barred by
the statute of limitations which expired after the service of the original complaint. The fact that no docket fee was paid therefor was not
a fatal procedural lapse on the part of petitioner. Sec. 18, Rule 42, of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure provides, "If the fees above
described are not paid, the Commission may refuse to take action thereon until they are paid and may dismiss the action or
proceeding." The use of the word "may" indicates that it is permissive only and operates to confer a discretion on the COMELEC
whether to entertain the petition or not in case of non-payment of legal fees. That the COMELEC acted on and did not dismiss the
petition outright shows that the non-payment of fees was not considered by it as a legal obstacle to entertaining the same. Be that as it
may, the procedural defects have been cured by the subsequent payment of docket fees, and private respondent was served with
summons, albeit belatedly, and he submitted his answer to the complaint. Hence, private respondent has no cause to complain that no
docket fee was paid, no summons served upon him, or that he was not required to answer.
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; INTERPRETATIVE RULING OF QUASI-JUDICIAL BODIES OR ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES MUST ALWAYS BE IN
PERFECT HARMONY WITH STATUTES. The legislative intent is that the COMELEC should continue the trial and hearing of the
disqualification case to its conclusion, i.e., until judgment is rendered thereon. The word "shall" signifies that this requirement of the law
is mandatory, operating to impose a positive duty which must be enforced. The implication is that the COMELEC is left with no
discretion but to proceed with the disqualification case even after election. Thus, in providing for the outright dismissal of the
disqualification case which remains unresolved after the election, Silvestre vs. Duavit in effect disallows what RA No. 6646 imperatively
requires. This amounts to a quasi-judicial legislation by the COMELEC which cannot be countenanced and is invalid for having been
issued beyond the scope of its authority. Interpretative rulings of quasi-judicial bodies or administrative agencies must always be in
perfect harmony with statutes and should be for the sole purpose of carrying their general provisions into effect. By such interpretative
or administrative rulings, of course, the scope of the law itself cannot be limited. Indeed, a quasi-judicial body or an administrative
agency for that matter cannot amend an act of Congress. Hence, in case of a discrepancy between the basic law and an interpretative
or administrative ruling, the basic law prevails. THAICD
3. ID.; ID.; JURISDICTION; NOT AFFECTED BY THE PROCLAMATION OF THE CANDIDATE. The fact that Trinidad was already
proclaimed and had assumed the position of mayor did not divest the COMELEC of authority and jurisdiction to continue the hearing
and eventually decide the disqualification case. In Aguam v. COMELEC (No. L-28955, 28 May 1968, 23 SCRA 883, 887) this Court
held: Time and again this Court has given its imprimatur on the principle that COMELEC is with authority to annul any canvass and
proclamation which was illegally made. The fact that a candidate proclaimed has assumed office, we have said, is no bar to the
exercise of such power. It of course may not be availed of where there has been a valid proclamation. Since private respondent's
petition before the COMELEC is precisely directed at the annulment of the canvass and proclamation, we perceive that inquiry into this
is issue is within the area allocated by the Constitution and law to COMELEC . . . Really, were a victim of a proclamation to be
precluded from challenging the validity thereof after that proclamation and the assumption of office thereunder, baneful effects may
easily supervene. It must be emphasized that the purpose of a disqualification proceeding is to prevent the candidate from running or, if
elected, from serving, or to prosecute him for violation of the election laws. Obviously, the fact that a candidate has been proclaimed
elected does not signify that his disqualification is deemed condoned and may no longer be the subject of a separate investigation.

4. ID.; ID.; ELECTION; NATURE OF ELECTION OFFENSES. It is worth to note that an election offense has criminal as well as
electoral aspects. Its criminal aspect involves the ascertainment of the guilt or innocence of the accused candidate. Like in any other
criminal case, it usually entails a full-blown hearing and the quantum of proof required to secure a conviction is beyond reasonable
doubt. Its electoral aspect, on the other hand, is a determination of whether the offender should be disqualified from office. This is done
through an administrative proceeding which is summary in character and requires only a clear preponderance of evidence. Thus, under
Sec. 4 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, petitions for disqualification "shall be heard summarily after due notice." It is the electoral
aspect that we are more concerned with, under which an erring candidate may be disqualified even without prior criminal conviction.
5. ID.; ID.; ID.; CANDIDATE WHO OBTAINED THE SECOND HIGHEST NUMBER OF VOTES, NOT ENTITLED TO BE DECLARED
WINNER. Sunga's contention that he is entitled to be proclaimed as the duly elected Mayor of the Municipality of Iguig, Province of
Cagayan, in the event that Trinidad is disqualified finds no support in law and jurisprudence. the fact that the candidate who obtained
the highest number of votes is later disqualified for the office to which he was elected does not entitle the candidate who obtained the
second highest number of votes to be declared the winner of the elective office. The votes cast for a disqualified person may not be
valid to install the winner into office or maintain him there. But in the absence of a statute which clearly asserts a contrary political and
legislative policy on the matter, if the votes were cast in the sincere belief that the candidate was qualified, they should not be treated as
stray, void or meaningless. Sunga totally misconstrued the nature of our democratic electoral process as well as the sociological and
psychological elements behind voters' preferences. Election is the process of complete ascertainment of the expression of the popular
will. Its ultimate purpose is to give effect to the will of the electorate by giving them direct participation in choosing the men and women
who will run their government. Thus, it would be extremely repugnant to the basic concept of the constitutionally guaranteed right to
suffrage if a candidate who has not acquired the majority or plurality of votes is proclaimed winner and imposed as the representative of
a constituency, the majority of whom have positively declared through their ballots that they do not choose him. DCHaTc

6. POLITICAL LAW; LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991; RULE ON SUCCESSION IN PUBLIC OFFICE. What Sunga wants us
to do is to disregard the express mandate of Sec. 44, RA No. 7160, (An Act Providing For A Local Government Code of 1991," which
took effect 1 January 1992) which provides in part Sec. 44. Permanent vacancies in the office of the Governor, Vice-Governor,
Mayor, Vice-Mayor, (a) if a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the Governor orMayor, the Vice-Governor or ViceMayor concerned shall become the Governor or Mayor. . . For purposes of this chapter, a permanent vacancy arises when an elective
local official fills a higher vacant office, refuses to assume office, fails to qualify, dies, is removed from office, voluntarily resigns or is
otherwise permanently incapacitated to discharge the functions of his office . . . This provision is echoed in Art. 83 of the Implementing
Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code of 1991. The language of the law is clear, explicit and unequivocal, thus admits
no room for interpretation but merely application. This is the basic legal precept. Accordingly, in the event that Trinidad is adjudged to be
disqualified, a permanent vacancy will be created for failure of the elected mayor to qualify for the said office. In such eventuality, the
duly elected vice-mayor shall succeed as provided by law.
DECISION
BELLOSILLO, J p:
This petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure seeks to annul and set aside, for having been rendered
with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, the 17 May 1996 Resolution of the COMELEC 2nd Division
in Sunga v. Trinidad, SPA No. 95-213, 1 dismissing the petition for disqualification against private respondent Ferdinand
B. Trinidad pursuant to COMELEC Resolution No. 2050 promulgated 3 November 1988, as amended by COMELEC Resolution No.
2050-A promulgated 8 August 1990, and 30 July 1996 Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc affirming the 17 May 1996 Resolution of
the COMELEC 2nd Division.
Petitioner Manuel C. Sunga was one of the candidates for the position of Mayor in the Municipality of Iguig, Province of Cagayan, in the
8 May 1995 elections. Private respondent Ferdinand B. Trinidad, then incumbent mayor, was a candidate for re-election in the same
municipality. LLjur
On 22 April 1995 Sunga filed with the COMELEC a letter-complaint 2 for disqualification against Trinidad, accusing him of using three
(3) local government vehicles in his campaign in violation of Sec. 261, par. (o), Art. XXII, of BP Blg. 881 (Omnibus Election Code, as
amended). On 7 May 1995, Sunga filed another letter-complaint 3 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 4 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, 5 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 6 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 B. 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 7 for various elections 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,
holding in its Resolution No. 2050 that
1. Any complaint for disqualification of a duly registered candidate based upon any of the grounds specifically enumerated under Sec.
68 of the Omnibus Election Code, filed directly, with the Commission before an election in which respondent is a candidate, shall be
inquired into by the Commission for the purpose of determining whether the acts complained of have in fact been committed . . .
In case such complaint was not resolved before the election, the Commission may motu propio, or on motion of any of the parties, refer
the complaint to the Law Department of the Commission as the instrument of the latter in the exercise of its exclusive power to conduct
a preliminary investigation of all cases involving criminal infractions of the election laws . . .
2. Any complaint for disqualification based on Sec. 68 of the Omnibus Election Code in relation to Sec. 6 of Republic Act No. 6646 filed
after the election against a candidate who has already been proclaimed as a winner shall be dismissed as a disqualification case.
However, the complaint shall be referred for preliminary investigation to the Law Department of this Commission.
Where a similar complaint is filed after election but before proclamation of the respondent candidate, the complaint shall, nevertheless,
be dismissed as a disqualification case. However, the complaint shall be referred for preliminary investigation to the Law Department. If,
before proclamation, the Law Department makes a prima facie finding of guilt and the corresponding information has been filed with the
appropriate trial court, the complainant may file a petition for suspension of the proclamation of the respondent with the court before
which the criminal case is pending and said court may order the suspension of the proclamation if the evidence of guilt is strong.
As interpreted in the case of Silvestre v. Duavit, SPA 94-003, Resolution No. 2050 provides for the outright dismissal of the
disqualification case in three cases: (1) The disqualification case was filed before the election but remains unresolved until after the
election; (2) The disqualification case was filed after the election and before the proclamation of winners; and (3) The disqualification
case was filed after election and after proclamation.
If the instant case is deemed to have been filed upon receipt by the COMELEC of the letter-complaint on April 26 1995, it nevertheless
remained pending until after the election. If it is deemed to have been filed upon filing of the amended petition on 11 May 1995, it was
clearly filed after the election. In either case, Resolution No. 2050 mandates the dismissal of the disqualification case.
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 in that: firstSec. 6 of RA No. 6646 requires
the COMELEC to resolve the disqualification case even after the election and proclamation, and the proclamation and assumption of
office by Trinidad did not deprive the COMELEC of its jurisdiction; second, COMELEC Resolution No. 2050 is null and void as it
contravenes Sec. 6 of R.A. No. 6646; third the fact that COMELEC authorized the filing of four (4) informations against private
respondent for violation of the penal provisions of the Omnibus Code shows more than sufficient and substantial evidence to
disqualify Trinidad, and he should have been so disqualified; and fourth since Trinidad was a disqualified candidate, it is as if petitioner
was the only candidate entitled to be proclaimed as the duly elected mayor.
In his 17-page Comment and Manifestation dated 3 December 1996, the Solicitor General concurred with petitioner's arguments.
Private respondent, on the other hand, postulates inter alia that Sunga's letters-complaint of 22 April 1995 and 7 May 1995 were not
petitions for disqualification because no filing fee was paid by Sunga; the letters-complaint were never docketed by the COMELEC;
and, no summons was ever issued by the COMELEC and private respondent was not required to answer the letters-complaint. It was
only on 13 May 1995 when petitioner filed the so-called Amended Petition,docketed for the first time as SPA No. 95-213. Thus, the

COMELEC correctly dismissed the disqualification case for having been filed only after the 8 May 1995 elections and the proclamation
of private respondent on 10 May 1995, pursuant to COMELEC Resolution No. 2050.
COMELEC filed its Comment on 21 April 1997 relying heavily on Resolution No. 2050 and the Silvestre v. Duavit 8 ruling in support of
the dismissal of the disqualification case. The COMELEC insisted that the outright dismissal of a disqualification case was warranted
under any of the following circumstances: (a) the disqualification case was filed before the election but was still pending (unresolved)
after the election; (b) the disqualification case was filed after the election but before the proclamation of the winner; and, (c) the
disqualification case was filed after the election and after the proclamation of the winner.

The issue in this case is whether the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion when it dismissed the disqualification case
against private respondent Trinidad.
The petition is partly meritorious.
We find private respondent's arguments on the propriety of the letters-complaint puerile. COMELEC itself impliedly recognized in its
Resolution that the petition was filed before the 8 May 1995 election in the form of letters-complaint, thus
This case originally came to the attention of this Commission on 26 April 1995 in a form of letter from petitioner accusing respondent of
utilizing government properties in his campaign and praying for the latter's immediate disqualification. Another letter dated 7 May 1995
and addressed to the COMELEC Regional Director of Region II reiterated petitioner's prayer while alleging that respondent and his men
committed acts of terrorism and violated the gun ban. Finally, on 11 May 1995, an Amended Petition was filed the Clerk of Court of the
Commission containing substantially the same allegations as the previous letters but supported by affidavits and other documentary
evidence.
That the Amended Petition was filed only on 11 May 1995, or after the elections, is of no consequence. It was merely a reiteration of the
charges filed by petitioner against private respondent on 26 April 1995 and 7 May 1995 or before the elections. Consequently, the
Amended Petition retroacted to such earlier dates. An amendment which merely supplements and amplifies facts originally alleged in
the complaint relates back to the date of the commencement of the action and is not barred by the statute of limitations which expired
after the service of the original complaint. 9
The fact that no docket fee was paid therefor was not a fatal procedural lapse on the part of petitioner. Sec. 18, Rule 42, of the
COMELEC Rules of Procedure provides, "If the fees above described are not paid, the Commission may refuse to take action thereon
until they are paid and may dismiss the action or proceeding." The use of the word "may" indicates that it is permissive only and
operates to confer a discretion on the COMELEC whether to entertain the petition or not in case of non-payment of legal fees. That the
COMELEC acted on and did not dismiss the petition outright shows that the non-payment of fees was not considered by it as a legal
obstacle to entertaining the same. Be that as it may, the procedural defects have been cured by the subsequent payment of docket
fees, and private respondent was served with summons, albeit belatedly, and he submitted his answer to the complaint. Hence, private
respondent has no cause to complain that no docket fee was paid, no summons served upon him, or that he was not required to
answer.
Neither do we agree with the conclusions of the COMELEC. We discern nothing in COMELEC Resolution No. 2050 declaring, ordering,
or directing the dismissal of a disqualification case filed before the election but which remained unresolved after the election. What the
Resolution mandates in such a case is for the Commission to refer the complaint to its Law Department for investigation to determine
whether the acts complained of have in fact been committed by the candidate sought to be disqualified. The findings of the Law
Department then become the basis for disqualifying the erring candidate. This is totally different from the other two situations
contemplated by Resolution No. 2050, i.e., a disqualification case filed after the election but before the proclamation of winners and that
filed after the election and the proclamation of winners, wherein it was specifically directed by the same Resolution to be dismissed as a
disqualification case.
Moreover, Resolution No. 2050 as interpreted in Silvestre v. Duavit infringes on Sec. 6 of RA No. 6646, 10 which provides:
SEC. 6. Effects of Disqualification Case. Any candidate who has been declared by final judgment to be disqualified shall not be voted
for, and the votes cast for him shall not be counted. If for any reason a candidate is not declared by final judgment before an election to
be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the winning number of votes in such election, the Court or Commission shall continue
with the trial and hearing of the action, inquiry or protest and, upon motion of the complainant or any intervenor, may during the
pendency thereof order the suspension of the proclamation of such candidate whenever the evidence of his guilt is strong (emphasis
supplied).
Clearly, the legislative intent is that the COMELEC should continue the trial and hearing of the disqualification case to its conclusion,
i.e., until judgment is rendered thereon. The word "shall" signifies that this requirement of the law is mandatory, operating to impose a
positive duty which must be enforced. 11 The implication is that the COMELEC is left with no discretion but to proceed with the
disqualification case even after the election. Thus, in providing for the outright dismissal of the disqualification case which remains

unresolved after the election, Silvestre v. Duavit in effect disallows RA No. 6646 imperatively requires. This amounts to a quasi-judicial
legislation by the COMELEC which cannot be countenanced and is invalid for having been issued beyond the scope of its authority.
Interpretative rulings of quasi-judicial bodies or administrative agencies must always be in perfect harmony with statutes and should be
for the sole purpose of carrying their general provisions into effect. By such interpretative or administrative rulings, of course, the scope
of the law itself cannot be limited. Indeed, a quasi-judicial body or an administrative agency for that matter cannot amend an act of
Congress. Hence, in case of a discrepancy between the basic law and an interpretative or administrative ruling, the basic law prevails.
Besides, the deleterious effect of the Silvestre ruling is not difficult to foresee. A candidate guilty of election offenses would be
undeservedly rewarded, instead of punished, by the dismissal of the disqualification case against him simply because the investigating
body was unable, for any reason caused upon it, to determine before the election if the offenses were indeed committed by the
candidate sought to be disqualified. All that the erring aspirant would need to do is to employ delaying tactics so that the disqualification
case based on the commission of election offenses would not be decided before the election. This scenario is productive of more fraud
which certainly is not the main intent and purpose of the law.
The fact that Trinidad was already proclaimed and had assumed the position of mayor did not divest the COMELEC of authority and
jurisdiction to continue the hearing and eventually decide the disqualification case. In Aguam v.COMELEC 12 this Court held
Time and again this Court has given its imprimatur on the principle that COMELEC is with authority to annul any canvass and
proclamation which was illegally made. The fact that a candidate proclaimed has assumed office, we have said, is no bar to the
exercise of such power. It of course may not be availed of where there has been a valid proclamation. Since private respondent's
petition before the COMELEC is precisely directed at the annulment of the canvass and proclamation, we perceive that inquiry into this
issue is within the area allocated by the Constitution and law to COMELEC . . . . Really, were a victim of a proclamation to be precluded
from challenging the validity thereof after that proclamation and the assumption of office thereunder, baneful effects may easily
supervene.
It must be emphasized that the purpose of a disqualification proceeding is to prevent the candidate from running or, if elected, from
serving or to prosecute him for violation of the election laws. Obviously, the fact that a candidate has been proclaimed elected does not
signify that his disqualification is deemed condoned and may no longer be the subject of a separate investigation.
It is worth to note that an election offense has criminal as well as electoral aspects. Its criminal aspect involves the ascertainment of the
guilt or innocence of the accused candidate. Like in any other criminal case, it usually entails a full-blown hearing and the quantum of
proof required to secure a conviction is beyond reasonable doubt. Its electoral aspect, on the other hand, is a determination of whether
the offender should be disqualified from office. This is done through an administrative proceeding which is summary in character and
requires only a clear preponderance of evidence. Thus, under Sec. 4 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, petitions for disqualification
"shall be heard summarily after due notice." It is the electoral aspect that we are more concerned with, under which an erring candidate
may be disqualified even without prior criminal conviction. 13
It is quite puzzling that the COMELEC never acted on Sunga's motion to suspend the proclamation of Trinidad. The last sentence of
Sec. 6 of RA No. 6646 categorically declares that the Commission may order the suspension of the proclamation of a candidate sought
to be disqualified whenever the evidence of his guilt is strong. And there is not a scintilla of doubt that the evidence of Trinidad's guilt
was strong as shown in the Report and Recommendation of the COMELEC Law Department LLjur
Parenthetically, there is merit to petitioner's petition against the respondent for disqualification for the alleged commission of election
offenses under Sec. 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, such as use of armed men and act of terrorism, intimidation and coercion of
voters, massive vote-buying and others, duly supported by affidavits of witnesses and other documents. Consequently, the petitioner's
evidence supporting the disqualification of respondent remain unrebutted simply because respondent has expressly waived his right to
present evidence in SPA No. 95-213 in his Manifestation and objection to the presentation of evidence in SPA No. 95-213 dated 16
June 1995, thus the waiver is the intentional relinquishing of a known right of respondent TRINIDAD.

In fact, on the basis of this Report and Recommendation the COMELEC directed the filing of four (4) criminal informations
against Trinidad before the Regional Trial Court, an indication that there was indeed prima facie evidence of violation of election laws.
However, Sunga's contention that he is entitled to be proclaimed as the duly elected Mayor of the Municipality of Iguig, Province of
Cagayan, in the event that Trinidad is disqualified finds no support in law and jurisprudence. The fact that the candidate who obtained
the highest number of votes is later disqualified for the office to which he was elected does not entitle the candidate who obtained the
second highest number of votes to be declared the winner of the elective office. The votes cast for a disqualified person may not be
valid to install the winner into office or maintain him there. But in the absence of a statute which clearly asserts a contrary political and
legislative policy on the matter, if the votes were cast in the sincere belief that the candidate was qualified, they should not be treated as
stray, void or meaningless. 14
Sunga totally misconstrued the nature of our democratic electoral process as well as the sociological and psychological elements
behind voters' preferences. Election is the process of complete ascertainment of the expression of the popular will. Its ultimate purpose

is to give effect to the will of the electorate by giving them direct participation in choosing the men and women who will run their
government. Thus, it would be extremely repugnant to the basic concept of the constitutionally guaranteed right to suffrage if a
candidate who has not acquired the majority or plurality of votes is proclaimed winner and imposed as the representative of a
constituency, the majority of whom have positively declared through their ballots that they do not choose him. 15
While Sunga may have garnered the second highest number of votes, the fact remains that he was not the choice of the people of
Iguig, Cagayan. "The wreath of victory cannot be transferred from the disqualified winner to the repudiated loser because the law then
as now only authorizes a declaration of election in favor of the person who has obtained a plurality of votes and does not entitle a
candidate receiving the next highest number of votes to be declared elected." 16 In Aquino v. COMELEC, 17 this Court made the
following pronouncement:
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 such circumstances.
Also, what Sunga wants us to do is to disregard the express mandate of Sec. 44, RA No. 7160, 18 which provides in part
Sec. 44. Permanent vacancies in the office of the Governor, Vice-Governor, Mayor, Vice-Mayor. (a) If a permanent vacancy occurs
in the office of the Governor or Mayor, the Vice-Governor or Vice-Mayor concerned shall become the Governor or Mayor . . . .
For purposes of this chapter, a permanent vacancy arises when an elective local official fills a higher vacant office, refuses to assume
office, fails to qualify, dies, is removed from office, voluntarily resigns or is otherwise permanently incapacitated to discharge the
functions of his office . . .
This provision is echoed in Art. 83 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code of 1991.
The language of the law is clear, explicit and unequivocal, thus admits no room for interpretation but merely application. This is the
basic legal precept. Accordingly, in the event that Trinidad is adjudged to be disqualified, a permanent vacancy will be created for failure
of the elected mayor to qualify for the said office. In such eventuality, the duly elected vice-mayor shall succeed as provided by law. 19
WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The 17 May 1996 and 30 July 1996 Resolutions of the COMELEC are
ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. COMELEC is ordered to REINSTATE SPA No. 93-213, "Manuel C. Sunga v. Ferdinand B.Trinidad," for
disqualification, and ACT on the case taking its bearings from the opinion herein expressed. No costs. LLjur
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C .J ., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Martinez,
Quisumbing and Purisima, concurs.

||| (Sunga v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 125629, [March 25, 1998], 351 PHIL 310-327)
EN BANC
[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.
Punzalan Tiongson & Lising and Romulo C. Felizmena for Ernesto Punzalan.
Pete Quirino Cuadra for Ferdinand Meneses.
SYNOPSIS

Danilo Manalastas, Ferdinand Meneses and Ernesto Punzalan were among the four candidates for mayor of Mexico, Pampanga during
the May 8, 1995 elections. The Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBC) proclaimed Meneses as the duly elected mayor. Manalastas
and Punzalan each filed their own election protests that were consolidated and were jointly tried by the RTC of San Fernando,
Pampanga. After hearing the election protests, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Punzalan, who was declared winner of
the elections. Meneses filed a notice of appeal with the COMELEC while Manalastas did not appeal. Punzalan filed a motion for
execution pending appeal with the trial court and was granted by the latter. After several petitions, some of which even reached the
Supreme Court, the COMELEC finally issued a resolution setting aside the trial court's decision and affirming the proclamation of
Meneses by the MBC as the duly elected mayor of Mexico, Pampanga. Punzalan filed a motion for reconsideration of the aforesaid
resolution, which was denied. Hence, this petition for certiorari with preliminary injunction and a prayer for the issuance of a temporary
restraining order to set aside the COMELEC's resolution. TCaEAD
The Supreme Court dismissed the petition. The Court upheld the findings of the COMELEC, stressing the well-founded rule that laws
and election 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. 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.
SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTION LAW; REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7166; FAILURE BY THE BOARD OF ELECTION INSPECTORS
CHAIRMAN TO AFFIX HIS SIGNATURE AT THE BACK OF THE BALLOT DOES NOT INVALIDATE THE BALLOT ITSELF;
RATIONALE. While Section 24 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. In the recent
case of Marcelino C. Libanan vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and Jose T. Ramirez, this Court affirmed the ruling of the
Tribunal in Libanan vs. Ramirez to the effect that a ballot without BEI chairman's signature at the back is valid and not spurious,
provided that it bears any one of the 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.
2. ID.; ID.; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS (COMELEC); MATTERS FALLING WITHIN ITS JURISDICTION SHOULD NOT BE
INTERFERED WITH BY THE COURT. 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 jurisdiction 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. cIHCST
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; NEED NOT CONDUCT AN ADVERSARIAL PROCEEDING OR A HEARING TO DETERMINE THE AUTHENTICITY OF
BALLOTS OR THE HANDWRITING FOUND THEREON; RATIONALE. 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. 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. 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." 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.

4. ID.; ID.; LAWS AND STATUTES GOVERNING ELECTION CONTESTS MUST BE LIBERALLY CONSTRUED; RATIONALE. This
Court as 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. 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. EIcSTD
DECISION
KAPUNAN, J p:
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. cdrep
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 Punzalan's 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 municipality's 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;
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;
c) Switching of ballots in favor 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. cdrep
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 Punzalan's motion for execution pending appeal. On the same date,
Meneses filed before the COMELEC a petition for certiorari 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 RTC's 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 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 COMELEC's 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 RTC's 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 COMELEC's
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 Court's temporary restraining order, theCommission 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 theCOMELEC 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 RTC's 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 RTC's 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 COMELEC's Resolution dated April 24, 1997.
On December 8, 1997, the COMELEC promulgated a resolution in EAC No. 48-96 setting aside the trial court's 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 protestantappellee 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 COMELEC's 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 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 chairman's 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 severalCOMELEC 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
court's 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 Punzalan's assertion that the trial court's 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:
. . . 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 persons, or in groups written by only one hand, we hold that theCommission en banc did not commit an
abuse of its discretion in denying petitioner-protestee's 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. . . 20
In Bocobo v. COMELEC, 21 we likewise ruled that:
. . . 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). . . 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 former's
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 one's writing. Because of these, it is an accepted fact that it is very rare that two (2) specimens of a
person's 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
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. cdrep
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.
||| (Punzalan v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 126669, 127900, 128800, 132435, [April 27, 1998], 352 PHIL 538-557)
FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 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.
SYLLABUS
1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; ELECTION PROTEST; DECISION OF CITY COURT MAY BE APPEALED TO COURT OF FIRST
INSTANCE UNDER BP 222 AS ALLOWED BY THE 1973 CONSTITUTION; APPEAL SHOULD BE MADE DIRECTLY TO THE
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS UNDER THE 1987 CONSTITUTION. From the decision of the city court, protestant Roberto Miguel
filed an appeal to the Court of First Instance of Rizal. [This was the correct procedure under BP 222 as allowed by the 1973
Constitution. Art. IX Sec. IX, Sec. 1(2) of the 1987 Constitution now requires the appeal to be made directly to the Commission on
elections (Flores v. Commission on Elections, 184 SCRA 484).]
2. ID.; ID.; APPRECIATION OF BALLOTS; RESORT TO HANDWRITING EXPERTS, NOT MANDATORY. 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).
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; MANDATORY REQUIREMENT FOR THE VALIDITY OF BALLOT. 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.
4. ID.; ID.; ID.; VOTERS MUST WRITE ONLY THE NAMES OF CANDIDATES VOTED FOR THE OFFICES APPEARING ON THE
BALLOT; EXCEPTIONS. 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, were 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.
5. ID.; ID.; ID.; IRRELEVANT EXPRESSIONS NULLIFY BALLOTS. 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).
6. ID.; ID.; ID.; USE OF NICKNAMES AND APPELLATIONS OF AFFECTIONS AND FRIENDSHIPS UNDER SEC. 155 (11) OF 1978
ELECTION CODE. Petitioner objects to respondent court's ruling rejecting Exh. "5." The word "BLBIOY" was written in the space 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 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.
7. ID.; ID.; ID.; RULE WHEN THE NAME OF CANDIDATE IS NOT WRITTEN IN THE PROPER SPACE IN THE BALLOT. 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.
8. ID.; ID.; ID.; EFFECT WHEN NAME OF CANDIDATE WAS WRITTEN MORE THAN TWICE ON THE BALLOT. 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).
DECISION
MEDIALDEA, J p:
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 SergioBautista.
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 each 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 contested 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:

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. 1566, 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 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-1," "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 one Desiderio 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. llcd
The ballots involved in this objection of petitioner are exhibits "B" to "O" which all pertained to voting center No. 519 and Exhibits "T," "T1," "U," "U-1," "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 protestantappellant that these ballots were written by a single hand. These ballots and the writings therein contained were the subject of
QUESTIONED HANDWRITINGS EXAMINATIONS and 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-1,' 'V' and 'V-1', reveal the existence of significant identifying handwriting
characteristics, more particularly in
'1. general style of writings;
'2. size and proportion (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', 'U-1', 'V' and 'V-1', were WRITTEN BY ONE AND THE
SAME PERSON.'
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). cdphil
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 voter. 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 contents 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 valid ballot and the coupon in the compartment for spoiled ballots. (5) The
voter shall then leave the voting center.
"(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-1 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-1," 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, were provided inSection 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-1."
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 space 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 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. llcd
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. L36893, 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 is
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 by this Court on December 2, 1982 is hereby LIFTED.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C .J ., Cruz and Grio-Aquino, JJ ., concur.
||| (Bautista v. Castro, G.R. No. 61260, [February 17, 1992])
EN BANC
[G.R. No. 142907. November 29, 2000.]
JOSE EMMANUEL L. CARLOS, petitioner, vs. HON. ADORACION G. ANGELES, IN HER CAPACITY AS THE ACTING PRESIDING
JUDGE OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IN CALOOCAN CITY (BRANCH 125) and ANTONIO M. SERAPIO, respondents.
Pimentel Yusingco Pimentel & Garcia Law Offices for petitioner.
Pete Quirino-Quadra for private respondent.
SYNOPSIS
On May 21, 1998, the Municipal Board of Canvassers, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, proclaimed petitioner Jose Emmanuel L. Carlos as
the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela having obtained 102,688 votes, the highest number of votes, over that of respondent Antonio M.
Serapio who obtained 77,270 votes. On June 1, 1998, respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, an
election protest challenging the election results. The RTC of Caloocan City, Branch 125, rendered its decision and set aside the final
tally of valid votes because of its finding of "significant badges of fraud." Despite the plurality of valid votes in favor of protestee Carlos,
the trial court set aside his proclamation and declared protestant Serapio as duly elected mayor of Valenzuela City. On May 4, 2000,
petitioner appealed to the Comelec, but on May 8, 2000, petitioner filed the instant petition for certiorari and prohibition.
The Supreme Court found the petition meritorious. Both the Supreme Court and Comelec have concurrent jurisdiction to issue writs
of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus over decisions of regional trial courts in election cases involving elective municipal officials. The

court that takes jurisdiction first shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the case, which in this case is the Supreme Court. Petitioner's
appeal to the Comelec would not bar the present action for certioraribecause appeal is not a speedy and adequate remedy. The proper
remedy is an action before the Comelec en banc to declare a failure of election or to annul the election. However, the case below was
an election protest case involving an elective municipal position which falls within the jurisdiction of the regional trial court. Petitioner
admittedly received 17,007 valid votes more than the respondent and, therefore, the nullification of the election would not lie. Elections
are won on the basis of a majority or plurality of votes cast and received by the candidates. The trial court gravely abused its discretion
in rendering the decision proclaiming respondent Serapio the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, on the basis of its
perception of the voice of the people of Valenzuela, even without a majority or plurality votes cast in his favor. Contrary to its own
finding that petitioner obtained 83,600 valid votes against 66,602 valid votes for the respondent as second placer, or a plurality of
17,007 votes, the trial court declared the second placer as the winner, a blatant abuse of judicial discretion.
SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; SUPREME COURT AND COMELEC HAVE CONCURRENT JURISDICTION TO
ISSUE WRITS OF CERTIORARI, PROHIBITION AND MANDAMUS OVER DECISIONS OF TRIAL COURT OF GENERAL
JURISDICTION IN ELECTION CASES INVOLVING ELECTIVE MUNICIPAL OFFICIALS. The Comelec has original jurisdiction to
issue writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus involving election cases in aid of its appellate jurisdiction. This point has been settled
in the case of Relampagos vs. Cumba, where we held: "In the face of the foregoing disquisitions, the court must, as it now does,
abandon the ruling in the Garcia and Uy and Veloria cases. We now hold that the last paragraph of Section 50 of B.P. Blg.
697 providing as follows: The Commission is vested with exclusive authority to hear and decide petitions for certiorari, prohibition
and mandamus involving election cases. remains in full force and effect but only in such cases where, under paragraph (2), Section 1,
Article IX-C of the Constitution, it has exclusive appellate jurisdiction. Simply put, the COMELEC has the authority to issue the
extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus only in aid of its appellate jurisdiction." Consequently, both the Supreme
Court and Comelec have concurrent jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus over decisions of trial courts of
general jurisdiction (regional trial courts) in election cases involving elective municipal officials. The Court that takes
jurisdiction first shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the case. Ergo, this Court has jurisdiction over the present petition
of certiorari as a special civil action expressly conferred on it and provided for in the Constitution.
2. ID.; ID.; ELECTION; EXPLAINED; A DEFEATED CANDIDATE CANNOT BE DEEMED ELECTED TO THE OFFICE. In this
jurisdiction, an election means "the choice or selection of candidates to public office by popular vote" through the use of the ballot, and
the elected officials of which are determined through the will of the electorate. "An election is the embodiment of the popular will, the
expression of the sovereign power of the people." "Specifically, the term 'election,' in the context of the Constitution, may refer to the
conduct of the polls, including the listing of voters, the holding of the electoral campaign, and the casting and counting of votes." The
winner is the candidate who has obtained a majority or plurality of valid votes cast in the election. "Sound policy dictates that public
elective offices are filled by those who receive the highest number of votes cast in the election for that office. For, in all republican forms
of government the basic idea is that no one can be declared elected and no measure can be declared carried unless he or it receives a
majority or plurality of the legal votes cast in the election." In case of protest, a revision or recount of the ballots cast for the candidates
decides the election protest case. The candidate receiving the highest number or plurality of votes shall be proclaimed the winner. Even
if the candidate receiving the majority votes is ineligible or disqualified, the candidate receiving the next highest number of votes or the
second placer, can not be declared elected. "The wreath of victory cannot be transferred from the disqualified winner to the repudiated
loser because the law then as now only authorizes a declaration of election in favor of the person who has obtained a plurality of votes
and does not entitle a candidate receiving the next highest number of votes to be declared elected." In other words, "a defeated
candidate cannot be deemed elected to the office."
3. ID.; ID.; ELECTION; ELECTIONS ARE WON ON THE BASIS OF THE MAJORITY OR PLURALITY OF VOTES CAST AND
RECEIVED BY THE CANDIDATES. The annulment of an election on the ground of fraud, irregularities and violations of election laws
may be raised as an incident to an election contest. Such grounds for annulment of an election may be invoked in an election protest
case. However, an election must not be nullified and the voters disenfranchised whenever it is possible to determine a winner on the
basis of valid votes cast, and discard the illegally cast ballots. In this case, the petitioner admittedly received 17,007 valid votes more
than the protestee, and therefore the nullification of the election would not lie. The power to nullify an election must be exercised with
the greatest care with a view not to disenfranchise the voters, and only under circumstances that clearly call for such drastic remedial
measure. As heretofore stated, in this jurisdiction, elections are won on the basis of a majority or plurality of votes cast and received by
the candidates. "The right to hold an elective office is rooted on electoral mandate, not perceived entitlement to the office."
4. ID.; ID.; FAILURE OF ELECTIONS; INSTANCES WHERE A FAILURE OF ELECTIONS MAY BE DECLARED. In a petition to
annul an election under Section 6, Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, two conditions must be averred in order to support a sufficient cause of
action. These are: (1) the illegality must affect more than 50% of the votes cast and (2) the good votes can be distinguished from the
bad ones. It is only when these two conditions are established that the annulment of the election can be justified because the remaining
votes do not constitute a valid constituency. We have held that: "To declare a failure of election, two (2) conditions must occur: first, no
voting has taken place in the precincts concerned on the date fixed by law or, even if there were voting, the election nevertheless
resulted in a failure to elect; and, second, the votes not cast would affect the result of the election." Neither of these conditions was
present in the case at bar. More recently, we clarified that, "Under the pertinent codal provision of the Omnibus Election Code, there are

only three (3) instances where a failure of elections may be declared, namely: (a) the election in any polling place has not been held on
the date fixed on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or other analogous causes; (b) the election in any polling place
had been suspended before the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting on account offorce majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or
other analogous causes; or (c) after the voting and during the preparation and transmission of the election returns or in the custody or
canvass thereof, such election results in a failure to electon account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or other analogous
causes."
5. ID.; ID.; PROCLAIMING A MAYORIAL CANDIDATE WINNER IN THE ELECTION ON THE BASIS OF PERCEPTION OF THE
VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, EVEN WITHOUT A MAJORITY OR PLURALITY VOTES CAST IN HIS FAVOR IS VOID. We find that the
trial court committed a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in rendering its decision proclaiming
respondent Serapio the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, on the basis of its perception of the voice of the people of
Valenzuela, even without a majority or plurality votes cast in his favor. In fact, without a single vote in his favor as the trial court
discarded all the votes. Thus, the decision is not supported by the highest number of valid votes cast in his favor. This violated the right
to due process of law of petitioner who was not heard on the issue of failure of election, an issue that was not raised by the protestant.
"A decision is void for lack of due process if, as a result, a party is deprived of the opportunity of being heard." The trial court can not
decide the election protest case outside the issues raised. If it does, as in this case, the trial court is ousted of its jurisdiction. Likewise,
it is a basic principle that a decision with absolutely nothing to support it is void. "A void decision may be assailed or impugned at any
time either directly or collaterally, by means of a petition filed in the same case or by means of a separate action, or by resisting such
decision in any action or proceeding where it is invoked." Here, the trial court indulged in speculations on its view of the voice of the
people, and decided the case disregarding the evidence, but on its own intuition, ipse dixit. How was this voice communicated to the
trial court? Certainly not by competent evidence adduced before the court as it should be, but by extra-sensory perception. This is
invalid in law. Contrary to its own finding that petitioner obtained 83,600 valid votes against 66,602 valid votes for the respondent as
second placer, or a plurality of 17,007 votes, the trial court declared the second placer as the winner. This is a blatant abuse of judicial
discretion by any account. It is a raw exercise of judicial function in an arbitrary or despotic manner, amounting to evasion of the
positive duty to act in accord with law. HSCATc

6. REMEDIAL LAW; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTIONS; CERTIORARI; EXPLAINED. In a special civil action for certiorari, the burden is on
petitioner to prove not merely reversible error, but grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the
public respondent Judge. "By grave abuse of discretion is meant capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack
of jurisdiction. Mere abuse of discretion is not enough. It must be grave abuse of discretion as when the power is exercised in an
arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and must be so patent and so gross as to amount to an evasion
of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law." We must emphasize that
election to office is determined by the highest number of votes obtained by a candidate in the election.
DECISION
PARDO, J p:
The Case
The case before the Court is an original special civil action for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction or temporary
restraining order seeking to annul the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Caloocan City, Branch 125, the dispositive portion of which
reads as follows:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the proclamation of the Protestee, Jose Emmanuel Carlos, by the Board of Canvassers is
accordingly SET ASIDE. EcDTIH
"The Court hereby FINDS the Protestant, ANTONIO SERAPIO, as the DULY ELECTED MAYOR OF VALENZUELA CITY.
"SO ORDERED." 1
The Facts
Petitioner Jose Emmanuel L. Carlos and respondent Antonio M. Serapio were candidates for the position of mayor of the municipality of
Valenzuela, Metro Manila (later converted into a City) during the May 11, 1998 elections.
On May 21, 1998, the Municipal Board of Canvassers, Valenzuela, Metro Manila proclaimed petitioner as the duly elected mayor of
Valenzuela having obtained 102,688 votes, the highest number of votes in the election returns.
On June 1, 1998, respondent Antonio M. Serapio who obtained 77,270 votes, the second highest number of votes, filed with the
Regional Trial Court, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, an election protest challenging the results. Due to the inhibition of all judges of the
Regional Trial Court in Valenzuela, the case was ultimately assigned to the Regional Trial Court, Caloocan City, Branch 125, presided
over by respondent Judge Adoracion G. Angeles.

On June 26, 1998, petitioner filed with the trial court an answer with affirmative defenses and motion to dismiss. The court denied the
motion to dismiss by order dated January 14, 1999. Petitioner elevated the order to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on petition
for certiorari and prohibition, 2 which, however, has remained unresolved up to this moment.
In the course of the protest, the municipal treasurer of Valenzuela, who by law has custody of the ballot boxes, collected the ballot
boxes and delivered them to the Regional Trial Court, Caloocan City. The trial court conducted a pre-trial conference of the parties but it
did not produce a substantial result as the parties merely paid superficial service and only agreed on the following:
1. Both parties admit their capacity to sue and be sued;
2. Both parties admit that the protestant was a candidate during the May 11, 1998 election;
3. Both parties admit that the protestee has been proclaimed as the elected mayor of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, on May 21, 1998;
4. Both parties admit that the protestee allegedly obtained 102,688 votes while the protestant obtained 77,270 votes per canvass of
election returns of the Board of Canvassers.
The pre-trial was then concluded and the parties agreed to the creation of seven (7) revision committees consisting of a chairman
designated by the court and two members representing the protestant and the protestee.
Meantime, on May 12, 1999, petitioner filed a consolidated motion that included a prayer for authority to photocopy all the official copies
of the revision reports in the custody of the trial court. However, the trial court denied the issuance of such authorization. 3 The court
likewise denied a motion for reconsideration of the denial. 4 Then petitioner raised the denial to the COMELEC on petition
for certiorari and mandamus, 5 which also remains unresolved until this date. HEcaIC
The Revision Results
The revision of the ballots showed the following results:
(1) Per physical count of the ballots:
(a) protestant Serapio 76,246 votes.
(b) protestee Carlos 103,551 votes.
(2) Per revision, the court invalidated 9,697 votes of the protestant but validated 53 stray votes in his favor.
The court invalidated 19,975 votes of the protestee and validated 33 stray votes in his favor.
The final tally showed:
(a) protestant Serapio 66,602 votes.
(b) protestee Carlos 83,609 votes, giving the latter a winning margin of 17,007votes.
The Trial Court's Ruling
Nevertheless, in its decision, the trial court set aside the final tally of valid votes because of its finding of "significant badges of fraud,"
namely:
1. The keys turned over by the City Treasurer to the court did not fit into the padlocks of the ballot boxes that had to be forcibly opened;
2. Seven (7) ballot boxes did not contain any ballot and two (2) ballot boxes out of the seven (7) ballot boxes did not contain any
election returns;
3. Some schools where various precincts were located experienced brownouts during the counting of votes causing delay in the
counting although there was no undue commotion or violence that occurred;
4. Some of the assigned watchers of protestant were not in their posts during the counting of votes.
On the basis of the foregoing badges of fraud, the trial court declared that there was enough pattern of fraud in the conduct of the
election for mayor in Valenzuela. The court held that the fraud was attributable to the protestee who had control over the election
paraphernalia and the basic services in the community such as the supply of electricity.
On April 24, 2000, the trial court rendered a judgment ruling that the perpetuation of fraud had undoubtedly suppressed the true will of
the electorate of Valenzuela and substituted it with the will of the protestee. Notwithstanding the plurality of valid votes in favor of the
protestee, the trial court set aside the proclamation of protestee Jose Emmanuel Carlos by the Municipal Board of Canvassers and
declared protestant Antonio M. Serapio as the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela City. 6

Hearing news that the protestant had won the election protest, protestee secured a copy of the decision from the trial court on May 4,
2000. On the other hand, notice of the decision was received by the protestant on May 03, 2000. CSTEHI
On May 4, 2000, protestant filed with the trial court a motion for execution pending appeal. 7 On May 4, 2000, the trial court gave
protestee five (5) days within which to submit his comment or opposition to the motion. 8
Petitioner's Appeal to Comelec
Meantime, on May 04, 2000, petitioner filed a notice of appeal from the decision of the trial court to the Commission on Elections. 9
The Petition at bar
On May 8, 2000, petitioner filed the present recourse. 10
Petitioner raised the following legal basis:
(1) The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to entertain special civil actions of certiorari and prohibition;
(2) There are important reasons and compelling circumstances which justify petitioner's direct recourse to the Supreme Court;
(3) Respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion when she declared respondent Serapio as the duly elected mayor of
Valenzuela despite the fact that she found that petitioner obtained 17,007 valid votes higher than the valid votes of respondent Serapio;
(4) The assailed decision is contrary to law, based on speculations and not supported by the evidence as shown in the decision
itself. 11
The Issues
The issues raised are the following:
1. Whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review, by petition for certiorari as a special civil action, the decision of the regional
trial court in an election protest case involving an elective municipal official considering that it has no appellate jurisdiction over such
decision.
2. Whether the trial court acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion when the court set aside the proclamation of
petitioner and declared respondent Serapio as the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela City despite its finding that petitioner garnered
83,609 valid votes while respondent obtained 66,602 valid votes, or a winning margin of 17,007 votes.
TRO Issued
On May 8, 2000, we issued a temporary restraining order ordering respondent court to cease and desist from further taking cognizance
of Election Protest No. 14-V-98 more specifically from taking cognizance of and acting on the Motion for Execution Pending Appeal filed
by respondent Serapio on May 4, 2000. 12
Respondent's Position
On May 15, 2000, respondent Serapio filed his comment with omnibus motion to lift the temporary restraining order and to declare
petitioner in contempt of court for violating the rule against forum shopping. 13 He submitted that Comelec and not the Supreme Court
has jurisdiction over the present petition for certiorari assailing the decision dated April 24, 2000 of the regional trial court. Assuming
that this Court and Comelec have concurrent jurisdiction and applying the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, the Comelec has jurisdiction
since petitioner has perfected his appeal therewith before the filing of the instant petition. Certiorari cannot be a substitute for an
appeal; the present petition is violative of Revised Circular No. 28-91 on forum-shopping; issues raised are factual, not correctable
by certiorari; and that the temporary restraining order should be lifted, the petition dismissed, and petitioner and counsel should be
made to explain why they should not be punished for contempt of court. CaSHAc

The Court's Ruling


We find the petition impressed with merit. 14
I. The Supreme Court is vested with original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus against the decision of
the regional trial court in the election protest case before it, regardless of whether it has appellate jurisdiction over such decision.
Article VIII, Section 5 (1) of the 1987 Constitution provides that:
"SECTION 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

"(1) Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and over petitions for certiorari,
prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus."
xxx xxx xxx
Rule 65, Section 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, provides that:
"SECTION 1. Petition for certiorari. When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without
or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal,
or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper
court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such tribunal,
board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require.
The petition shall be accompanied by a certified true copy of the judgment, order or resolution subject thereof, copies of all pleadings
and documents relevant and pertinent thereto, and a sworn certification of non-forum shopping as provided in the third paragraph of
Section 3, Rule 46."
By Constitutional fiat, the Commission on Election (Comelec) has appellate jurisdiction over election protest cases involving elective
municipal officials decided by courts of general jurisdiction, as provided for in Article IX (C), Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution:
"SECTION 2. The Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and functions:
"(1) . . . .
"(2) Exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over all contests relating to the elections, returns and qualifications of all elective regional,
provincial, and city officials, and appellate jurisdiction over all contests involving elective municipal officials decided by trial courts of
general jurisdiction, or involving elective barangay officials decided by trial courts of limited jurisdiction." DHATcE
In like manner, the Comelec has original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus involving election cases in aid
of its appellate jurisdiction. 15 This point has been settled in the case of Relampagos vs. Cumba, 16where we held:
"In the face of the foregoing disquisitions, the court must, as it now does, abandon the ruling in the Garcia and Uy and Veloria cases.
We now hold that the last paragraph of Section 50 of B.P. Blg. 697 providing as follows:
The Commission is vested with exclusive authority to hear and decide petitions for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus involving
election cases.
remains in full force and effect but only in such cases where, under paragraph (2), Section 1, Article IX-C of the Constitution, it has
exclusive appellate jurisdiction. Simply put, the COMELEC has the authority to issue the extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition,
and mandamus only in aid of its appellate jurisdiction." (Italics supplied).
Consequently, both the Supreme Court and Comelec have concurrent jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition,
and mandamus over decisions of trial courts of general jurisdiction (regional trial courts) in election cases involving elective municipal
officials. The Court that takes jurisdiction first shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the case. 17
Ergo, this Court has jurisdiction over the present petition of certiorari as a special civil action expressly conferred on it and provided for
in the Constitution.
Relative to the appeal that petitioner filed with the COMELEC, the same would not bar the present action as an exception to the rule
because under the circumstances, appeal would not be a speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. 18 The exception
is sparingly allowed in situations where the abuse of discretion is not only grave and whimsical but also palpable and patent, and
the invalidity of the assailed act is shown on its face.
II. Certiorari lies. The trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Its decision is void.
The next question that arises is whether certiorari lies because the trial court committed a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack
or excess of jurisdiction in deciding the way it did Election Protest Case No. 14-V-98, declaring respondent Serapio as the duly
"elected" mayor of Valenzuela, Metro Manila.
In this jurisdiction, an election means "the choice or selection of candidates to public office by popular vote" 19 through the use of the
ballot, and the elected officials of which are determined through the will of the electorate. 20 "An election is the embodiment of the
popular will, the expression of the sovereign power of the people." 21 "Specifically, the term 'election,' in the context of the Constitution,
may refer to the conduct of the polls, including the listing of voters, the holding of the electoral campaign, and the casting and counting
of votes." 22 The winner is the candidate who has obtained a majority or plurality of valid votes cast in the election. 23 "Sound policy
dictates that public elective offices are filled by those who receive the highest number of votes cast in the election for that office. For, in
all republican forms of government the basic idea is that no one can be declared elected and no measure can be declared carried

unless he or it receives a majority or plurality of the legal votes cast in the election." 24 In case of protest, a revision or recount of the
ballots cast for the candidates decides the election protest case. The candidate receiving the highest number or plurality of votes shall
be proclaimed the winner. Even if the candidate receiving the majority votes is ineligible or disqualified, the candidate receiving the next
highest number of votes or the second placer, can not be declared elected. 25"The wreath of victory cannot be transferred from the
disqualified winner to the repudiated loser because the law then as now only authorizes a declaration of election in favor of the person
who has obtained a plurality of votes and does not entitle a candidate receiving the next highest number of votes to be declared
elected." 26 In other words, "a defeated candidate cannot be deemed elected to the office." 27
"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. 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. In an election case, the court has an imperative duty to ascertain by all means within its command who is the real candidate
elected by the electorate. The Supreme Court 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." 28 CDTHSI
In this case, based on the revision of ballots, the trial court found that:
First, by canvass of the Municipal Board of Canvassers the results were:
Carlos 102,668 votes
Serapio 77,270 votes, or a winning margin of
25,418 votes
Ramon Ignacio 20 votes.
and consequently, the Board of Canvassers proclaimed petitioner Carlos the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela, Metro Manila.
Second, by physical count of the ballots, the results were:
Carlos 103,551 votes
Serapio 76,246 votes, or a winning margin of
27,305 votes.
Third, by revision of the ballots, the trial court found in a final tally that the "valid" votes obtained by the candidates were as follows:
Carlos 83,609 votes
Serapio 66,602 votes, or a winning margin
of 17,007 votes.
Consequently, the final tally clearly showed petitioner Carlos as the overwhelming winner in the May 11, 1998 elections.
However, the trial court set aside the final tally of votes because of what the trial court perceived to be "significant badges of fraud"
attributable to the protestee. 29 These are:
First: The failure of the keys turned over by the City Treasurer to the trial court to fit the padlocks on the ballot boxes that compelled the
court to forcibly open the padlocks. The trial court concluded that the real keys were lost or the padlocks substituted pointing to possible
tampering of the contents of the ballot boxes.
Procedurally, the keys to the ballot boxes were turned over by the Board of Election Inspectors from the precinct level to the Municipal
Board of Canvassers and finally to the municipal treasurer for safekeeping. The three-level turn-over of the keys will not prevent the
possibility of these keys being mixed up. This is an ordinary occurrence during elections. The mere inability of the keys to fit into the
padlocks attached to the ballot boxes does not affect the integrity of the ballots. At any rate, the trial court easily forced open the
padlocks and found valid votes cast therein;
Second: Seven (7) ballot boxes were found empty. Thus, the trial court concluded that there were "missing ballots" and "missing
election returns." This is pure speculation without factual basis. "The sea of suspicion has no shore, and the court that embarks upon it
is without rudder or compass." 30 On the other hand, the Summary of Votes as revised does not show any unaccounted precinct or
whether there was any precinct without any ballot or election returns. It is a standard procedure of the Commission on Elections
(Comelec) to provide extra empty ballot boxes for the use of the Board of Election Inspectors or the Board of Canvassers, in case of
necessity. ESHcTD

The empty ballot boxes found could be the empty reserve ballot boxes that were not used by the Board of Election Inspectors or the
Board of Canvassers since there was neither proof nor even a claim of missing ballots or missing election returns.
Third: Some schoolhouses experienced brownout during the counting of votes. There was nothing extraordinary that would invite
serious doubts or suspicion that fraud was committed during the brownout that occurred. Indeed, one witness stated that it was the first
time that he observed brownout in Dalandanan Elementary School and another stated that the brownout was localized in Coloong
Elementary School. Since counting of votes lasted until midnight, the brownouts had caused only slight delay in the canvassing of votes
because the election officials availed themselves of candles, flashlights and emergency lights. There were no reports of cheating or
tampering of the election returns. In fact, witnesses testified that the counting of votes proceeded smoothly and no commotion or
violence occurred. So, the brownouts had no effect on the integrity of the canvass.
Fourth: The absence of watchers for candidate Serapio from their posts during the counting of votes. This cannot be taken against
candidate Carlos since it is the candidate's own look-out to protect his interest during the counting of votes and canvassing of election
returns. As long as notices were duly served to the parties, the counting and canvassing of votes may validly proceed in the absence of
watchers. Otherwise, candidates may easily delay the counting of votes or canvassing of returns by simply not sending their watchers.
There was no incomplete canvass of returns, contrary to what the trial court declared. The evidence showed complete canvass in
Valenzuela, Metro Manila. 31
"We cannot allow an election protest 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." 32
Assuming for the nonce that the trial court was correct in holding that the final tally of valid votes as per revision report may be set aside
because of the "significant badges of fraud," the same would be tantamount to a ruling that there were no valid votes cast at all for the
candidates, and, thus, no winner could be declared in the election protest case. In short, there was failure of election.
In such case, the proper remedy is an action before the Commission on Elections en banc to declare a failure of election or to annul the
election. 33 However, the case below was an election protest case involving an elective municipal position which, under Section 251 of
the Election Code, falls within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the appropriate regional trial court. 34
Nonetheless, the annulment of an election on the ground of fraud, irregularities and violations of election laws may be raised as an
incident to an election contest. Such grounds for annulment of an election may be invoked in an election protest case. However, an
election must not be nullified and the voters disenfranchised whenever it is possible to determine a winner on the basis of valid votes
cast, and discard the illegally cast ballots. In this case, the petitioner admittedly received 17,007 valid votes more than the protestee,
and therefore the nullification of the election would not lie. The power to nullify an election must be exercised with the greatest care with
a view not to disenfranchise the voters, and only under circumstances that clearly call for such drastic remedial measure. 35
As heretofore stated, in this jurisdiction, elections are won on the basis of a majority or plurality of votes cast and received by the
candidates. "The right to hold an elective office is rooted on electoral mandate, not perceived entitlement to the office." 36
More importantly, the trial court has no jurisdiction to declare a failure of election. 37
Section 6 of the Omnibus Election Code provides that:
"SECTION 6. Failure of Election. If, on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud or other analogous causes the election in
any polling place has not been held on the date fixed, or had been suspended before the hour fixed by law 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 would affect the result of the election,
the Commission 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 which resulted in a failure to elect on a date reasonably close to the date of the
election not held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect but not later than thirty (30) days after the cessation of the cause of
such postponement or suspension of the election or failure to elect." (Italics supplied) aIcHSC
Likewise, RA 7166 provides that:
"SECTION 4. Postponement, Failure of Election and Special Elections. The postponement, declaration of failure of election and the
calling of special elections as provided in Sections 5, 6 and 7 of the Omnibus Election Code shall be decided by the Commission sitting
en banc by a majority vote of its members. The causes for the declaration of a failure of election may occur before or after the casting of
votes or on the day of the election." (Italics supplied)
It is the Commission (Comelec) sitting en banc that is vested with exclusive jurisdiction to declare a failure of election. 38
"In a petition to annul an election under Section 6, Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, two conditions must be averred in order to support a
sufficient cause of action. These are: (1) the illegality must affect more than 50% of the votes cast and (2) the good votes can be
distinguished from the bad ones. It is only when these two conditions are established that the annulment of the election can be justified
because the remaining votes do not constitute a valid constituency." 39

We have held that: "To declare a failure of election, two (2) conditions must occur: first, no voting has taken place in the precincts
concerned on the date fixed by law or, even if there were voting, the election nevertheless resulted in a failure to elect; and, second, the
votes not cast would affect the result of the election." 40 Neither of these conditions was present in the case at bar.
More recently, we clarified that, "Under the pertinent codal provision of the Omnibus Election Code, there are only three (3) instances
where a failure of elections may be declared, namely: (a) the election in any polling place has not been held on the date fixed on
account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or other analogous causes; (b) the election in any polling place had been
suspended before the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting on account offorce majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or other
analogous causes; or (c) after the voting and during the preparation and transmission of the election returns or in the custody or
canvass thereof, such election results in a failure to electon account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or other analogous
causes." 41
Thus, the trial court in its decision actually pronounced a failure of election by disregarding and setting aside the results of the election.
Nonetheless, as herein-above stated, the trial court erred to the extent of ousting itself of jurisdiction because the grounds for failure of
election were not significant and even non-existent. More importantly, the commission of fraud can not be attributed to the protestee.
There was no evidence on record that protestee had a hand in any of the irregularities that protestant averred. It is wrong for the trial
court to state that the protestee had control over the "election paraphernalia" or over electric services. The Commission on Elections
has control over election paraphernalia, through its officials and deputies. 42 The Comelec can deputize with the concurrence of the
President, law enforcement agencies and instrumentalities of the government, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, for the
exclusive purpose of ensuring free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections. 43 On the other hand, electric utility services in
Metro Manila, including Valenzuela are under the control of its franchise holder, particularly the Manila Electric Company, a public
service company, certainly not owned or controlled by the protestee. In fact, during election period, Comelec has control over such
utilities as electric and even telephone service. 44 What is important, however, is that the voters of Valenzuela were able to cast their
votes freely and fairly. And in the election protest case, the trial court was able to recount and determine the valid votes cast. DaEcTC
Assuming that the trial court has jurisdiction to declare a failure of election, the extent of that power is limited to the annulment of the
election and the calling of special elections. 45 The result is a failure of election for that particular office. In such case, the court can not
declare a winner. 46 A permanent vacancy is thus created. In such eventuality, the duly elected vice-mayor shall succeed as provided
by law. 47
We find that the trial court committed a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in rendering its decision
proclaiming respondent Serapio the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, on the basis of its perception of the voice of the
people of Valenzuela, even without a majority or plurality votes cast in his favor. In fact, without a single vote in his favor as the trial
court discarded all the votes. Thus, the decision is not supported by the highest number of valid votes cast in his favor. This violated the
right to due process of law of petitioner who was not heard on the issue of failure of election, an issue that was not raised by the
protestant. "A decision is void for lack of due process if, as a result, a party is deprived of the opportunity of being heard." 48 The trial
court can not decide the election protest case outside the issues raised. If it does, as in this case, the trial court is ousted of its
jurisdiction. Likewise, it is a basic principle that a decision with absolutely nothing to support it is void. 49 "A void decision may be
assailed or impugned at any time either directly or collaterally, by means of a petition filed in the same case or by means of a separate
action, or by resisting such decision in any action or proceeding where it is invoked." 50 Here, the trial court indulged in speculations on
its view of the voice of the people, and decided the case disregarding the evidence, but on its own intuition, ipse dixit. 51 How was this
voice communicated to the trial court? Certainly not by competent evidence adduced before the court as it should be, but by extrasensory perception. This is invalid in law. Contrary to its own finding that petitioner obtained 83,600 valid votes against 66,602 valid
votes for the respondent as second placer, or a plurality of 17,007 votes, the trial court declared the second placer as the winner. This is
a blatant abuse of judicial discretion by any account. It is a raw exercise of judicial function in an arbitrary or despotic manner,
amounting to evasion of the positive duty to act in accord with law. 52

In a special civil action for certiorari, the burden is on petitioner to prove not merely reversible error, but grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the public respondent Judge. "By grave abuse of discretion is meant capricious
and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Mere abuse of discretion is not enough. It must be grave
abuse of discretion as when the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and
must be so patent and so gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to
act at all in contemplation of law." 53We must emphasize that election to office is determined by the highest number of votes obtained
by a candidate in the election. DIETHS
The Judgment
WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition. The Court ANNULS and DECLARES VOID the decision dated April 24, 2000 of the trial
court in Election Protest Case No. V-14-98.
The temporary restraining order we issued on May 8, 2000, is made permanent.

Let Election Protest Case No. V-14-98 be remanded to the trial court for decision within a non-extendible period of fifteen (15) days
from notice of this decision. The judge shall report to this Court on the decision rendered within five (5) days from rendition submitting a
copy thereof to the Office of the Clerk of Court en banc.
This decision is immediately executory.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, YnaresSantiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Melo, J., in the result.

||| (Carlos v. Angeles, G.R. No. 142907, [November 29, 2000], 400 PHIL 405-430)
EN BANC
[G.R. Nos. 106270-73. February 10, 1994.]
SULTAN MOHAMAD L. MITMUG, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, MUNICIPAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF
LUMBA-BAYABAO, LANAO DEL SUR, and DATU GAMBAI DAGALANGIT, respondents.
DECISION
BELLOSILLO, J p:
The turnout of voters during the 11 May 1992 election in Lumba-Bayabao, Lanao del Sur, was abnormally low. As a result, several
petitions were filed seeking the declaration of failure of election in precincts where less than 25% of the electorate managed to cast
their votes. But a special election was ordered in precincts where no voting actually took place.
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) ruled that for as long as the precincts functioned and conducted actual voting during
election day, low voter turnout would not justify a declaration of failure of election. We are now called upon to review this ruling. LLphil
Petitioner SULTAN MOHAMAD L. MITMUG and private respondent DATU GAMBAI DAGALANGIT were among the candidates for the
mayoralty position of Lumba-Bayabao during the 11 May 1992 election. There were sixty-seven (67) precincts in the municipality. cdphil
As was heretofore stated, voter turnout was rather low, particularly in forty-nine (49) precincts where the average voter turnout was
22.26%, i.e., only 2,330 out of 9,830 registered voters therein cast their votes. Five (5) of these precincts did not conduct actual voting
at all. 1
Consequently, COMELEC ordered the holding of a special election on 30 May 1992 in the five (5) precincts which failed to function
during election day. On 30 July 1992 another special election was held for a sixth precinct. 2
In the interim, petitioner filed a petition seeking the annulment of the special election conducted on 30 May 1992 alleging various
irregularities such as the alteration, tampering and substitution of ballots. But on 13 July 1992, COMELECconsidered the petition moot
since the votes in the subject precincts were already counted. 3
Other petitions seeking the declaration of failure of election in some or all precincts of Lumba-Bayabao were also filed
with COMELEC by other mayoralty candidates, to wit:
1. SPA No. 92-324: On 6 June 1992, private respondent Datu Gamba Dagalangit filed an urgent petition praying for the holding of a
special election in Precinct No. 22-A alleging therein that when the ballot box was opened, ballots were already torn to pieces. On 14
July 1992, the petition was granted and a special election for precinct No. 22-A was set for 25 July 1992. 4
2. SPA No. 92-336: On 16 June 1992, Datu Elias Abdusalam, another mayoralty candidate, filed a petition to declare failure of election
in twenty-nine (29) more precincts as a result of alleged tampering of ballots 5 and clustering of precincts. 6 On 16 July 1992, the
petition was dismissed. COMELEC ruled that there must be a situation where there is absolute inability to vote before a failure of
election can be declared. 7 Since voting was actually conducted in the contested precincts, there was no basis for the petition. prcd
3. SPC No. 92-368: On 20 June 1992, private respondent filed another petition, this time seeking to exclude from the counting the
ballots cast in six (6) precincts on the ground that the integrity of the ballot boxes therein was violated. 8Again, on 14 July
1992, COMELEC considered the petition moot, as the issue raised therein was related to that of SPA No. 92-311 which on 9 July 1992
was already set aside as moot. 9

4. SPA No. 92-347: On 1 July 1992, Datu Bagtao Khalid Lonta, a fourth mayoralty candidate, filed a petition which in the main sought
the declaration of failure of election in all sixty-seven (67) precincts of Lumba-Bayabao, Lanao del Sur,on the ground of Massive
disenfranchisement of voters. 10 On 9 July 1992, COMELEC dismissed the petition, ruling that the allegations therein did not support a
case of failure of election. 11
On 8 July 1992, petitioner filed a motion to intervene in these four (4) petitions. 12 But COMELEC treated the same as a motion for
reconsideration and promptly denied it considering that under the COMELEC Rules of Procedure such motion was prohibited
pleading. 13
Thereafter, a new board of Election Inspectors was formed to conduct the special election set for 25 July 1992. Petitioner impugned the
creation of this Board. Nevertheless, on 30 July 1992, the new Board convened and began the canvassing of votes. Finally, on 31 July
1992, private respondent was proclaimed the duly elected Mayor of Lumba-Bayabao, Lanao del Sur.
On 3 August 1992, petitioner instituted the instant proceedings seeking the declaration of failure of election in forty-nine (49) precincts
where less than a quarter of the electorate were able to cast their votes. He also prayed for the issuance of a temporary restraining
order to enjoin private respondent from assuming office.
On 10 August 1992, petitioner lodged an election protest with the Regional Trial Court of Lanao del Sur disputing the result not only of
some but all the precincts of Lumba-Bayabao, del Sur. 14
Respondents, on the other hand, assert that with the filing of an election protest, petitioner is already deemed to have abandoned the
instant petition.
It may be noted that when petitioner filed his election protest with the Regional Trial Court of Lanao del Sur, he informed the trial court
of the pendency of these proceedings. Paragraph 3 of his protest states "[T]hat on August 3, 1992, your protestant filed a Petition for
Certiorari with the Supreme Court . . . docketed as G.R. No. 106270 assailing the validity of the proclamation of the herein
protestee. . . ." 15 Evidently, petitioner did not intend to abandon his recourse with this Court. On the contrary, he intended to pursue it.
Where only an election protest ex abundante ad cautela is filed, the Court retains jurisdiction to hear the petition seeking to annul an
election. 16
The main issue is whether respondent COMELEC acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in
denying motu proprio and without due notice and hearing the petitions seeking to declare a failure of election in some or all of the
precincts in Lumba-Bayabao, Lanao del Sur. After all, petitioner argues, he has meritorious grounds in support thereto, viz., the
massive disenfranchisement of voters due to alleged terrorism and unlawful clustering of precincts, which COMELEC should have at
least heard before rendering its judgment. LLphil
Incidentally, a petition to annul an election is not a pre-proclamation controversy. Consequently, the proclamation of a winning candidate
together with his subsequent assumption of office is not an impediment to the prosecution of the case to its logical conclusion. 17
Under the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, within twenty-four (24) 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. 18 The
hearing of the case will also be summary in nature. 19
Based on the foregoing, the clear intent of the law is that a petition of this nature must be acted upon with dispatch only after hearing
thereon shall have been conducted. Since COMELEC denied the other petitions 20 which sought to include forty-three (43) more
precincts in a special election without conducting any hearing, it would appear then that there indeed might have been grave abuse of
discretion in denying the petitions. Cdpr
However, a closer examination of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, particularly Sec. 2, Rule 26, thereof which was lifted from Sec.
6, B.P. 881, otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, indicates otherwise. It reads
Sec. 2. Failure of election. If, on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud or other analogous causes the election in any
precinct has not been held on the date fixed, or had been suspended before the hour fixed by law 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 would affect the result of the election,
the Commission 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 which resulted in a failure to elect on a date reasonably close to the date of the
election not held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect but not later than thirty (30) days after the cessation of the cause of
such postponement or suspension of the election or failure to elect.
Before COMELEC can act on a verified petition seeking to declare a failure of election, two (2) conditions must concur: first, no voting
has taken place in the precinct or precincts on the date fixed by law or, even if there was voting, the election nevertheless results in
failure to elect; and, second, the votes not cast would affect the result of the election. 21

In the case before us, it is indubitable that the votes not cast will definitely affect the outcome of the election. But, the first requisite is
missing, i.e., that no actual voting took place, or even if there is, the results thereon will be tantamount to a failure to elect. Since actual
voting and election by the registered voters in the questioned precincts have taken place, the results thereof cannot be disregarded and
excluded. 22 COMELEC therefore did not commit any abuse of discretion, much less grave, in denying the petitions outright. There was
no basis for the petitions since the facts alleged therein did not constitute sufficient grounds to warrant the relief sought. For, the
language of the law expressly requires the concurrence of these conditions to justify the calling of a special election. 23

Indeed, the fact that a verified petition is filed does not automatically mean that a hearing on the case will be held before COMELEC will
act on it. The verified petition must still show on its face that the conditions to declare a failure to elect are present. In the absence
thereof, the petition must be denied outright. llcd
Considering that there is no concurrence of the two (2) conditions in the petitions seeking to declare failure of election in forty-three (43)
more, precincts, there is no more need to receive evidence on alleged election irregularities.
Instead, the question of whether there have been terrorism and other irregularities is better ventilated in an election contest. These
irregularities may not as a rule be invoked to declare a failure of election and to disenfranchisement the electorate through the
misdeeds of a relative few. 24 Otherwise, elections will never be carried out with the resultant disenfranchisement of innocent voters as
losers will always cry fraud and terrorism.
There can be failure of election in a political unit if the will of the majority has been defiled and cannot be ascertained. But, if it can be
determined, it must be accorded respect. After all, there is no provision in our election laws which requires that a majority of registered
voters must cast their votes. All the law requires is that a winning candidate must be elected by a plurality of valid votes, regardless of
the actual number of ballots cast. 25 Thus, even if less than 25% of the electorate in the questioned precincts cast their votes, the same
must still be respected. There is prima facie showing that private respondent was elected through a plurality of valid votes of a valid
constituency. Cdpr
WHEREFORE, there being no grave abuse of discretion, the Petition for Certiorari is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C . J ., Cruz, Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Vitug and Kapunan, JJ ., concur.
Nocon, J ., is on leave.
||| (Mitmug v. Commission on Elections, G.R. Nos. 106270-73, [February 10, 1994])
EN BANC
[G.R. No. 154198. January 20, 2003.]
PETRONILA S. RULLODA, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS (COMELEC), ELECTION OFFICER LUDIVICO L.
ASUNCION OF SAN JACINTO, PANGASINAN; BARANGAY BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF BRGY. STO. TOMAS, SAN JACINTO,
PANGASINAN, Board of Election Tellers of Prec. Nos. 30A/30A1, 31A, 31A1, and 32A1, and REMEGIO PLACIDO, respondents.
Pimentel Apostol Sibayan Law Office for petitioner.
The Solicitor General for public respondent.
Mario L. Cera for private respondent R. Placido.
SYNOPSIS
In the barangay elections of July, 2002, Romeo Rulloda and Remegio Placido were the contending candidates for Barangay Chairman
of Sto. Tomas, San Jacinto, Pangasinan. Before elections were held, however, Romeo died and petitioner Petronila Rulloda sought to
run as candidate in lieu of her late husband. Petronila won the election, but the Board of Canvassers proclaimed Placido as the winner.
Hence, this petition.
Private respondent contended that under Sec. 77 of the Omnibus Elections Code, substitution of candidates is not allowed; that
inasmuch as the barangay election is non-partisan, there can be no substitution because there is no political party from which to
designate the substitute. The Court ruled that such interpretation, aside from being non sequitur, ignored the purpose of election laws
which is to give effect to the will of the voters. The absence of a specific provision governing substitution of candidates
in barangay elections can not be inferred as a prohibition against said substitution. Further, technicalities and procedural niceties in
election cases should not be made to stand in the way of the true will of the electorate. Petitioner should be proclaimed as the duly
elected Barangay Chairman.

SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTION; ELUCIDATED. In our jurisdiction, an election means the choice or selection of candidates to public
office by popular vote through the use of the ballot, and the elected officials which are determined through the will of the electorate. An
election is the embodiment of the popular will, the expression of the sovereign power of the people. The winner is the candidate who
has obtained a majority or plurality of valid votes cast in the election. Sound policy dictates that public elective offices are filled by those
who receive the highest number of votes cast in the election for that office. For, in all republican forms of government the basic idea is
that no one can be declared elected and no measure can be declared carried unless he or it receives a majority or plurality of the legal
votes cast in the election.
2. ID.; ELECTIONS; SUBSTITUTION OF CANDIDATE IN BARANGAY ELECTIONS; NOT PROHIBITED. Respondents base their
argument that the substitution of candidates is not allowed in barangay elections on Section 77 of the Omnibus Elections Code. Private
respondent argues that inasmuch as the barangay election is non-partisan, there can be no substitution because there is no political
party from which to designate the substitute. Such an interpretation, aside from being non sequitur, ignores the purpose of election laws
which is to give effect to, rather than frustrate, the will of the voters. It is a solemn duty to uphold the clear and unmistakable mandate of
the people. It is well-settled that in case of doubt, political laws must be so construed as to give life and spirit to the popular mandate
freely expressed through the ballot. Contrary to respondent's claim, the absence of a specific provision governing substitution of
candidates in barangay elections can not be inferred as a prohibition against said substitution. Such a restrictive construction cannot be
read into the law where the same is not written. Indeed, there is more reason to allow the substitution of candidates where no political
parties are involved than when political considerations or party affiliations reign, a fact that must have been subsumed by law.
Technicalities and procedural niceties in election cases should not be made to stand in the way of the true will of the electorate. 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. cDTaSH
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J p:
In the barangay elections of July 15, 2002, Romeo N. Rulloda and Remegio L. Placido were the contending candidates
for Barangay Chairman of Sto. Tomas, San Jacinto, Pangasinan. On June 22, 2002, Romeo suffered a heart attack and passed away
at the Mandaluyong City Medical Center. 1
His widow, petitioner Petronila "Betty" Rulloda, wrote a letter to the Commission on Elections on June 25, 2002 seeking permission to
run as candidate for Barangay Chairman of Sto. Tomas in lieu of her late husband. 2 Petitioner's request was supported by the AppealPetition containing several signatures of people purporting to be members of the electorate of Barangay Sto. Tomas. 3
On July 14, 2002, Election Officer Ludivico L. Asuncion issued a directive to the Chairman and Members of the Barangay Board of
Canvassers of Sto. Tomas as follows:
Just in case the names "BETTY" or "PETRONILA" or the surname "RULLODA" is written on the ballot, read the same as it is written but
add the words "NOT COUNTED" like "BETTY NOT COUNTED" or "RULLODA NOT COUNTED." 4
Based on the tally of petitioner's watchers who were allowed to witness the canvass of votes during the July 15, 2002 elections,
petitioner garnered 516 votes while respondent Remegio Placido received 290 votes. 5 Despite this, the Board of Canvassers
proclaimed Placido as the Barangay Chairman of Sto. Tomas. 6
After the elections, petitioner learned that the COMELEC, acting on the separate requests of Andres Perez Manalaysay and
Petronila Rulloda to be substituted as candidates for Barangay Chairman of Barangay La Fuente, Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija and
Barangay Sto. Tomas, San Jacinto, Pangasinan, respectively, issued Resolution No. 5217 dated July 13, 2002 which states:
PREMISES CONSIDERED, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to ADOPT the recommendation of the Law
Department as follows:
1. To deny due course the Certificates of Candidacy of ANDRES PEREZ MANALAYSAY and PETRONILA S. RULLODA; and
2. To direct the Election Officer of Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija and San Jacinto, Pangasinan to delete the name of ANDRES PEREZ
MANALAYSAY, candidate for Barangay Chairman in Barangay La Fuente, Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija; and the name of PETRONILA
S. RULLODA, candidate for Barangay Captain in Barangay Sto. Tomas, San Jacinto, Pangasinan.
Let the Law Department implement this resolution.
SO ORDERED. 7

The above-quoted Resolution cited as authority the COMELEC's Resolution No. 4801 dated May 23, 2002, setting forth the
guidelines on the filing of certificates of candidacy in connection with the July 15, 2002 synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang
Kabataan elections, more particularly Section 9 thereof which reads:
Sec. 9. Substitution of candidates. There shall be no substitution of candidates for barangay and sangguniang kabataan officials. 8
Hence, petitioner filed the instant petition for certiorari, seeking to annul Section 9 of Resolution No. 4801 and Resolution No. 5217,
both of the COMELEC, insofar as they prohibited petitioner from running as substitute candidate in lieu of her deceased husband; to
nullify the proclamation of respondent; and to proclaim her as the duly elected Barangay Chairman of Sto. Tomas, San Jacinto,
Pangasinan.
Private respondent Remegio Placido filed his Comment, arguing that since the barangay election is non-partisan, substitution of
candidates is not allowed. Moreover, petitioner did not file any certificate of candidacy; hence, there was only one candidate
for Barangay Chairman of Sto. Tomas, namely, respondent Placido. 9
Public respondent COMELEC also filed its Comment. It contends that its Resolution No. 4801 was issued not pursuant to its quasijudicial functions but as an incident of its inherent administrative functions over the conduct of the barangay elections. Therefore, the
same may not be the subject of review in a petition for certiorari. Further, the COMELEC alleges that it did not commit grave abuse of
discretion in denying due course to petitioner's certificate of candidacy and in proclaiming respondent considering that he was the only
candidate for Barangay Chairman of Sto. Tomas. 10
We find merit in the petition.
At the outset, there is no dispute that petitioner garnered 516 votes while respondent got only 290 votes. Respondents did not deny this
in their respective Comments.
In our jurisdiction, an election means the choice or selection of candidates to public office by popular vote through the use of the ballot,
and the elected officials which are determined through the will of the electorate. An election is the embodiment of the popular will, the
expression of the sovereign power of the people. The winner is the candidate who has obtained a majority or plurality of valid votes cast
in the election. Sound policy dictates that public elective offices are filled by those who receive the highest number of votes cast in the
election for that office. For, in all republican forms of government the basic idea is that no one can be declared elected and no measure
can be declared carried unless he or it receives a majority or plurality of the legal votes cast in the election. 11
Respondents base their argument that the substitution of candidates is not allowed in barangay elections on Section 77 of the
Omnibus Elections Code, which states:
Section 77. Candidates in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal of another. If after the last day of the filing of certificates of
candidacy, an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a
person belonging to, and certified by the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died,
withdrew or was disqualified. The substitute candidate nominated by the political party concerned may file his certificate of candidacy
for the office affected in accordance with the preceding sections not later than mid-day of the election. If the death, withdrawal or
disqualification should occur between the day before the election and mid-day of election day, said certificate may be filed with any
board of election inspectors in the political subdivision where he is a candidate or, in the case of candidates to be voted by the entire
electorate of the country, with the Commission.

Private respondent argues that inasmuch as the barangay election is non-partisan, there can be no substitution because there is no
political party from which to designate the substitute. Such an interpretation, aside from being non sequitur, ignores the purpose of
election laws which is to give effect to, rather than frustrate, the will of the voters. 12 It is a solemn duty to uphold the clear and
unmistakable mandate of the people. It is well-settled that in case of doubt, political laws must be so construed as to give life and spirit
to the popular mandate freely expressed through the ballot. 13
Contrary to respondent's claim, the absence of a specific provision governing substitution of candidates in barangay elections can not
be inferred as a prohibition against said substitution. Such a restrictive construction cannot be read into the law where the same is not
written. Indeed, there is more reason to allow the substitution of candidates where no political parties are involved than when political
considerations or party affiliations reign, a fact that must have been subsumed by law.
Private respondent likewise contends that the votes in petitioner's favor can not be counted because she did not file any certificate of
candidacy. In other words, he was the only candidate for Barangay Chairman. His claim is refuted by the Memorandum of
the COMELEC Law Department as well as the assailed Resolution No. 5217, wherein it indubitably appears that petitioner's letterrequest to be allowed to run as Barangay Chairman of Sto. Tomas in lieu of her late husband was treated as a certificate of
candidacy. 14

To reiterate, it was petitioner who obtained the plurality of votes in the contested election. Technicalities and procedural niceties in
election cases should not be made to stand in the way of the true will of the electorate. 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. 15
Election contests involve public interest, and technicalities and procedural barriers must yield if they constitute an obstacle to the
determination of the true will of the electorate in the choice of their elective officials. The Court frowns upon any interpretation of the law
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. 16
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed Resolution No. 5217 of
the Commission on Elections, insofar as it denied due course to petitioner's certificate of candidacy, is declared NULL and VOID. The
proclamation of respondent Remegio L. Placido as Barangay Chairman of Sto. Tomas, San Jacinto, Pangasinan is SET ASIDE, and the
Board of Canvassers of the said Barangay is ORDERED to proclaim petitioner as the duly electedBarangay Chairman
thereof. CTDAaE
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., and Azcuna,
JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J. and Quisumbing, JJ., concur in the result and pro hac vice only.
Panganiban, J., in the result.
||| (Rulloda v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 154198, [January 20, 2003], 443 PHIL 649-656)
EN BANC
[G.R. Nos. 86362-63. October 27, 1989.]
RAMON D. DUREMDES, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, PROVINCIAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF ILOILO,
LAKAS NG BANSA and CIPRIANO B. PENAFLORIDA, respondents.
Panganiban, Benitez, Barinaga & Bautista Law Offices, Lead Counsel for petitioner.
Nery D. Duremdes Co-counsel for petitioner.
Brillantes, Nachura, Navarro & Arcilla Law Offices for private respondent.
SYLLABUS
1. ELECTION LAW; PRE-PROCLAMATION CONTROVERSY; ERRORS IN THE STATEMENTS OF VOTES; PREPARATION
THEREOF; BEING AN ADMINISTRATIVE FUNCTION OF THE BOARD OF CANVASSERS, A QUESTION RELATING TO THE
PROCEEDINGS OF SAID BOARD MAY BE RAISED DIRECTLY WITH THE COMELEC AS A PRE-PROCLAMATION
CONTROVERSY. The Statement of Votes is a tabulation per precinct of the votes garnered by the candidates as reflected in the
election returns. Its preparation is an administrative function of the Board of Canvassers. As pointed out by the Solicitor General, "it is a
purely mechanical act of the Board of Canvassers in the performance of which the Commission has direct control and supervision,"
pursuant to Section 227 of the Omnibus Election Code. By virtue of that power, added to its overall function to "decide all questions
affecting elections" (Article IX[C] Section 2[3], 1987 Constitution), a question pertaining to the proceedings of said Board may be raised
directly with the COMELEC as a pre-proclamation controversy pursuant to Sec. 241 of the Omnibus Election Code.
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ACTION OF THE COMELEC IN THE PREMISES, AN EXERCISE OF ITS ORIGINAL JURISDICTION. When so
elevated, the COMELEC acts in the exercise of its original jurisdiction for which reason it is not indispensable that the issue be raised
before the Board of Canvassers during the canvassing. The COMELEC is not discharging its appellate jurisdiction under Section 245 of
the Omnibus Election Code, which has to do with contests regarding the inclusion or exclusion in the canvass of any election returns,
with a prescribed appellate procedure to follow.
3. CIVIL PROCEDURE; LAWS OF PROCEDURE; RETROACTIVE APPLICATION, IF NO SUBSTANTIAL RIGHTS ARE IMPAIRED,
ALLOWED. Laws of procedure may be retroactively applied provided no substantial rights are impaired (Bernardo vs. Court of
Appeals, G.R. No. 30821, December 14, 1988).
4. ELECTION LAW; PRE-PROCLAMATION CONTROVERSY; DISCREPANCIES BETWEEN THE ENTRIES IN THE STATEMENT OF
VOTES AND THAT OF THE ELECTION RETURNS; ORDER OF COMELEC TO BOARD OF CANVASSERS TO RECONVENE AND
PREPARE A NEW STATEMENT OF VOTES AND CERTIFICATE OF CANVASS, PROPER. That discrepancies exist between the
entries in the Statement of Votes and that reflected in the questioned election returns, was openly admitted by the Chairman of the

Board of Canvassers at the scheduled promulgation on 15 December 1988 of the 9th and 10th placers of the Sangguniang
Panlalawigan (p. 6, COMELEC Decision). Under the circumstances, therefore, and considering that any error in the Statement of Votes
would affect the proclamation made on the basis thereof, and primordially, in order to determine the true will of the electorate,
the COMELEC Decision ordering the Board of Canvassers to reconvene and prepare a new Statement of Votes and Certificate of
Canvass should be upheld: The Commission on Elections has ample power to see to it that elections are held in a clean and orderly
manner and it may decide all questions affecting the elections. It has original jurisdiction on all matters relating to election returns,
including the verification of the number of votes received by opposing candidates in the election returns as compared to the statement
of votes in order to insure that the true will of the people is known. Such clerical error in the statement of votes can be ordered
corrected by the COMELEC" (Villaroya vs. Comelec, L-79646-47, 13 November 1987, 155 SCRA 633).
5. ID.; INVALID PROCLAMATION; PROCLAIMED CANDIDATE'S ASSUMPTION OF OFFICE: COMELEC NOT DEPRIVED OF
POWER TO DECLARE THE NULLITY AND ANNULMENT OF THE PROCLAMATION. Where a proclamation is null and void, the
proclamation is no proclamation at all and the proclaimed candidate's assumption of office cannot deprive the COMELEC of the power
to declare such nullity and annul the proclamation (Aguam vs. COMELEC, L-28955, 28 May 1968, 23 SCRA 883).
6. ID.; ID.; PROCLAMATION MADE BY THE BOARD OF CANVASSERS PENDING RESOLUTION OF TWO [2] PETITIONS BEFORE
THE COMELEC; VOID AB INITIO. DUREMDES' proclamation must be deemed to have been null and void. It was made on 31
January 1988 after PENAFLORIDA had filed with the COMELEC on 29 January 1988 an "Appeal by Way of a Petition for Review" from
the rulings of the Board, and on 30 January 1988, a Petition for the annulment of election returns and the suspension of the
proclamation of any candidate (SPC Case No. 88-448). The COMELEC had not resolved either Petition at the time the proclamation
was made. Pursuant to Sections 245, supra, and 238 of the Omnibus Election Code, therefore, the Board of Canvassers should not
have proclaimed any candidate without waiting for the authorization by the COMELEC. Any proclamation thus made is void ab initio.
7. ID.; CANVASS OF VOTES; ALL VOTES TO BE CONSIDERED, NONE TO BE OMITTED. All the votes cast in an election must be
considered because to disregard returns is in effect to disenfranchise the voters (Mutuc vs. COMELEC, L-28517, February 21, 1968, 22
SCRA 662). A canvass can not be reflective of the true vote of the electorate unless all returns are considered and none is omitted
(Datu Sinsuat vs. Pendatun, L-31501, June 30, 1970, 33 SCRA 630).
8. ID.; ID.; ID.; TRUE WILL OF THE ELECTORATE, THE PARAMOUNT CONSIDERATION. "Election contests involve public
interest. 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 .. 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. In an election case the
court has an imperative duty to ascertain by all means within its command who is the real candidate elected by the electorate"
(Juliano vs. CA and Sinsuat, 20 SCRA 808, 818-19, July 28, 1967).
DECISION
MELENCIO-HERRERA, J p:
At stake in this election controversy is the Vice-gubernatorial position of the Province of Iloilo.
The chronology of the facts and of the case follows:
1. In the 18 January 1988 elections, petitioner Ramon D. DUREMDES, private respondent Cipriano B. PENAFLORIDA, and Rufino
Palabrica ran for the office of Vice-Governor of the Province of Iloilo.
DUREMDES was the official candidate of the Liberal Party (LP) and PDP-Laban coalition, while PENAFLORIDA was the official
candidate of the Lakas ng Bansa (Lakas).
2. During the canvass of votes by the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Iloilo, which lasted from 20 January to 31 January 1988,
PENAFLORIDA objected verbally to some 110 election returns from various precincts, which he followed up with written objections. The
Board overruled the same in separate Orders either because they were not timely filed or that the formal defects did not affect the
genuineness of the returns, or that in case of allegations of tampering, no evidence was presented to support the charge. The Board
thus ordered the inclusion of the questioned election returns. This was reflected in a separate column under the heading
"Contested/Deferred Votes" in the "Certificate of Votes of Candidates" (Form No. 13-A, Annex "K," Petition, p. 60 Rollo).
3. Under date of 29 January 1988, PENAFLORIDA and the Lakas filed with the COMELEC an "Appeal by Way of a Petition for Review,"
from the aforesaid rulings of the Board pleading, among others, for the exclusion of the questioned election returns and for
PENAFLORIDA's proclamation as the elected Vice-Governor of Iloilo (Annex "L," ibid., p. 62, Rollo).
4. On 30 January 1988, PENAFLORIDA filed, also with the COMELEC, a Petition seeking the annulment of election returns and the
suspension of the proclamation of any candidate, docketed as SPC Case No. 88-448 (Annex "Q," ibid., p. 96, Rollo).
5. On 31 January 1988, in a "Certification of Canvass of Votes and Proclamation of the Winning Candidates for Provincial Offices"
(Form No. 26, Annex "N," ibid., p. 84, Rollo), the Board proclaimed DUREMDES as the duly elected Vice-Governor, together with the

duly elected Governor and only eight (8) members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo. Certified to was that DUREMDES had
garnered 157, 361 votes (the number of his uncontested votes) in 2,377precincts.
Apparently, the Board had made the proclamation upon DUREMDES' "Manifestation and Motion," dated the same day, 31 January
1988, that "the contested returns will not adversely affect the uncontested results of the election (See Section 245, Omnibus Election
Code) . . . because of the absolute certainty that candidate Ramon Duremdes has obtained the highest number of votes, whether or not
the contested votes were excluded."
6. The tabulated data in the Certificate of Votes of Candidates (Annex "K," Petition) is reproduced below in so far as the protagonists
herein are concerned, with the totals and/or remainders supplied by us:
"Non-Contested" "Contested/ "Grand
Deferred Total"
Votes"
DUREMDES 157,361 13,373 171,734
PENAFLORIDA -150,075 + 4,427 -154,502

7,286 17,800 17,232


6. On 2 February 1988, DUREMDES took his oath and assumed office (Annex "O," ibid.).
7. Also on 2 February 1988, an "Intervention with Motion to Dismiss" was filed by DUREMDES and two other candidates for the
Sangguniang Panlalawigan, seeking the denial of PENAFLORIDA's Petition for Annulment before theCOMELEC, for lack of merit.
8. On 12 February 1988, Perla S. Zulueta (also an Intervenor in SPC Case No. 88-448), filed SPC Case No. 88-653 pleading that she
be proclaimed as one of the winning candidates in the 10-member Iloilo Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

9. On 8 March 1988, PENAFLORIDA filed an Amended Petition challenging, in addition, the legality of the composition of the Provincial
Board of Canvassers, "a ground just known lately," and praying for a recanvassing of the objected election returns.
10. On 4 April 1988, the COMELEC granted a Motion for the consolidation of SPC Case No. 88-653 with SPC Case No. 88-448.
11. On 20 June 1988, PENAFLORIDA filed with the COMELEC a Supplemental Petition ("in amplification of the Amended petition for
verification and correction") charging, among others, that DUREMDES was proclaimed "on the basis of increased votes in the unofficial
and separately tallied Statement of Votes, more than what was actually reflected in the Election Returns."
12. On 20 September 1988, the COMELEC (Second Division), after hearing, issued a Per Curiam Resolution, sustaining the rulings of
the Board of Canvassers on PENAFLORIDA's objections, as well as DUREMDES' proclamation. The decretal portion of that Resolution
reads:
"WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered:
"1. Sustaining and affirming the rulings of the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Iloilo on the objections interposed by petitioner on the
inclusion in the canvass of the questioned returns;
"2. Sustaining the proclamation of the winning candidate for Vice-Governor;
"3. Directing the Provincial Board of Canvassers to immediately reconvene end to include in the canvass the questioned election
returns; and thereafter to proclaim the winning candidates for the Ninth (9th) and Tenth (10th) slots for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan
of the Province of Iloilo; and
"4. Directing the Law Department of the Commission to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter of the reported falsification of
the transcripts of the stenographic notes of Stenographer Nelly C. Escana to determine the parties responsible therefor and to cause
the filing of the necessary criminal complaint against those probably guilty thereof as the evidence may warrant, and if the assistance of
the National Bureau of Investigation or any other investigative arm of the Government for that purpose is necessary, to request for such
assistance.
"No pronouncement as to costs." (pp. 137-138, Rollo) (Emphasis ours).

13. On 27 September 1988, PENAFLORIDA moved for reconsideration, whereupon, the Second Division certified and elevated the
case to the COMELEC en banc.
14. On 4 October 1988, PENAFLORIDA filed a Motion to Suspend Implementation of the Second Division Resolution of 20 September
1988 pending resolution of his Motion for Reconsideration, which suspension was granted by theCOMELEC on 5 October 1988.
15. In the meantime, on 10 December 1988, the Board reconvened for the purpose of proclaiming the 9th and 10th placers for the
Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo. It was at the scheduled promulgation of 15 December 1988 that the Chairman of the Board openly
admitted the existence of discrepancies between the entries of votes in the Statement of Votes and the votes reflected in the
questioned election returns (p. 6, COMELEC en banc Decision).
16. On 12 January 1989, the COMELEC en banc rendered the assailed Per Curiam Decision with the following disposition:
WHEREFORE, IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered:
"1. Affirming the following parts of the dispositive portion of the Resolution of the Second Division promulgated on 20 September 1988:
'1. Sustaining and affirming the rulings of the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Iloilo on the objections interposed by petitioner on the
inclusion in the canvass of the questioned returns.
'2. Directing the Provincial Board of Canvassers to immediately reconvene and to include in the canvass the questioned election
returns; and thereafter to proclaim the winning candidates for the Ninth (9th) and Tenth (10th) slots for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan
of the Province of Iloilo; and
'3. Directing the Law Department of the Commission to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter of the reported falsification of
the transcripts of the stenographic notes of Stenographer Nelly Escana to determine the parties responsible therefor and to cause the
filing of the necessary criminal complaint against those probably guilty thereof as the evidence may warrant, and if the assistance of the
National Bureau of Investigation or any other investigative arm of the Government for that purpose is necessary, to request for such
assistance.'
"2. Reversing that part of the dispositive portion which reads:
'2. Sustaining the proclamation of the winning candidate for Vice-Governor and setting aside the proclamation of Intervenor
Ramon Duremdes as Vice-Governor of Iloilo.'
"3. Declaring as null and void the proclamation of Intervenor Ramon Duremdes;
"4. Directing the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Iloilo to immediately reconvene and to include in the canvass of votes for ViceGovernor the questioned contested returns. For that purpose, the Board shall make a formal tabulation of the results of the contested
returns and shall prepare a new Statement of Votes and Certificate of Canvass; and
"5. Directing the Provincial Board of Canvassers to thereafter proclaim the winning candidate for Vice-Governor of Iloilo" (pp. 38-40,
Rollo). (Emphasis ours)
His proclamation having been nullified by the COMELEC, DUREMDES avails of this recourse.
On 17 January 1989, the Court ordered that the status quo existing prior to the promulgation of the above COMELEC en banc Decision
be maintained until further orders.
DUREMDES faults the COMELEC with grave abuse of discretion for having disregarded the well-settled doctrines (1) that matters of
protest, objections or issues not originally raised before the Board of Canvassers upon the opening of the returns, cannot be raised for
the first time before the COMELEC; and (2) that after a proclamation has been made, a pre-proclamation controversy is no longer
viable, the proper recourse being an election protest.
It is true that, before the Board of Canvassers, PENAFLORIDA did not raise in issue the matter of the discrepancies between the
number of votes appearing in the Statement of Votes and that in the Election Returns. As a matter of fact that matter is not even listed
as one of the issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversies under Section 243 of the Omnibus Election Code. 1
Nonetheless, as aptly stated in the assailed COMELEC en banc Decision:
"Indeed, errors in the Statement of Votes do not indubitably appear to be issues that may be raised in a pre-proclamation controversy
under Section 243 of the Omnibus Election Code. In this respect, the law is silent as to when the same may be raised. We are,
however, not unmindful of the fact that the statement of votes supports the certificate of canvass and shall be the basis of proclamation
(Sec. 231, paragraph 2). Consequently, any error in the Statement of Votes would affect the proclamation made on the basis thereof.
The true will of the electorate may thus be not fully and faithfully reflected by the proclamation" (at pp. 7-8).

We find no grave abuse of discretion in the foregoing COMELEC pronouncement. The Statement of Votes is a tabulation per precinct of
the votes garnered by the candidates as reflected in the election returns. Its preparation is an administrative function of the Board of
Canvassers. As pointed out by the Solicitor General, "it is a purely mechanical act of the Board of Canvassers in the performance of
which the Commission has direct control and supervision," pursuant to Section 227 of the Omnibus Election Code.
"Sec. 227. Supervision and control over board of canvassers. The Commission shall have direct control and supervision over the
board of canvassers.
xxx xxx xxx
By virtue of that power, added to its overall function to "decide all questions affecting elections" (Article IX[C] Section 2[3], 1987
Constitution), a question pertaining to the proceedings of said Board may be raised directly with theCOMELEC as a pre-proclamation
controversy.
"Sec. 241. Definition. A pre-proclamation controversy refers to any question pertaining to or affecting the proceedings of the board of
canvassers which may be raised by any candidate or by any registered political party or coalition of political parties before the board or
directly with the Commission, or any matter raised under Sections 233, 234, 235 and 236 in relation to the exploration, transmission,
receipt, custody and appreciation of the election returns" (Omnibus Election Code). (Emphasis supplied).
When so elevated, the COMELEC acts in the exercise of its original jurisdiction for which reason it is not indispensable that the issue be
raised before the Board of Canvassers during the canvassing. The COMELEC is not discharging its appellate jurisdiction under Section
245 of the Omnibus Election Code, which has to do with contests regarding the inclusion or exclusion in the canvass of any election
returns, with a prescribed appellate procedure to follow. 2
Cognizance may also be taken of the fact that at the time PENAFLORIDA filed the Supplemental Petition on 20 June 1988, there was
no clear-cut rule on the matter. It was only in the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, which took effect on 15 November 1988, wherein it
was provided under subparagraph (2), paragraph (a), Section 4 of Rule 27, that the matter of correction of the statement of votes may
be the subject of a pre-proclamation case which may be filed directly with the Commission. Nonetheless, there should be no question,
considering the aforequoted Section 241 in relation to Section 227 of the Omnibus Election Code, that the issue is one that can be
raised directly with the COMELEC. It is a procedure that best recommends itself specially considering that the Statement of Votes is a
vital component in the electoral process. It supports the Certificate of Canvass and is the basis for proclamation.

"SEC. 231. Canvass by the board.


"xxx xxx xxx
"The respective board of canvassers shall prepare a certificate of canvass duly signed and affixed with the imprint of the thumb of the
right hand of each member, supported by a statement of the votes received by each candidate in each polling place and, on the basis
thereof, shall proclaim as elected the candidates who obtained the highest number of votes cast in the province, city, municipality or
barangay. Failure to comply with this requirement shall constitute an election offense.
"xxx xxx xxx"
DUREMDES also calls attention to Rule 13, Section 1 (g) of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, which does not allow the filing of
supplemental pleadings. As stated heretofore, however, these Rules took effect only on 15 November 1988, or five months after the
Supplemental Petition was filed. Said rule, therefore, cannot be given retroactive effect the legal truth being that laws of procedure may
be retroactively applied provided no substantial rights are impaired (Bernardovs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 30821, December 14,
1988).
That discrepancies exist between the entries in the Statement of Votes and that reflected in the questioned election returns, was openly
admitted by the Chairman of the Board of Canvassers at the scheduled promulgation on 15 December 1988 of the 9th and 10th placers
of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (p. 6, COMELEC Decision). What is more, it is also admitted by the parties except that
PENAFLORIDA assails the correctness of the Statement of Votes, whileDUREMDES maintains its correctness but avers the possibility
of the tampering of the questioned election returns (p. 7, ibid.)
Under the circumstances, therefore, and considering that any error in the Statement of Votes would affect the proclamation
made on the basis thereof, and primordially, in order to determine the true will of the electorate, the COMELECDecision ordering the
Board of Canvassers to reconvene and prepare a new Statement of Votes and Certificate of Canvass should be upheld.
"The Commission on Elections has ample power to see to it that elections are held in a clean and orderly manner and it may decide all
questions affecting the elections. It has original jurisdiction on all matters relating to election returns, including the verification of the
number of votes received by opposing candidates in the election returns as compared to the statement of votes in order to insure that

the true will of the people is known. Such clerical error in the statement of votes can be ordered corrected by the COMELEC"
(Villaroya vs. Comelec, L-79646-47, 13 November 1987, 155 SCRA 633).
It is DUREMDES' further submission that his proclamation could not be declared null and void because a pre-proclamation controversy
is not proper after a proclamation has been made, the proper recourse being an election protest. This is on the assumption, however,
that there has been a valid proclamation. Where a proclamation is null and void, the proclamation is no proclamation at all and the
proclaimed candidate's assumption of office cannot deprive theCOMELEC of the power to declare such nullity and annul the
proclamation (Aguam vs. COMELEC, L-28955, 28 May 1968, 23 SCRA 883).
DUREMDES' proclamation must be deemed to have been null and void. It was made on 31 January 1988 after PENAFLORIDA had
filed with the COMELEC on 29 January 1988 an "Appeal by Way of a Petition for Review" from the rulings of the Board, and on 30
January 1988, a Petition for the annulment of election returns and the suspension of the proclamation of any candidate (SPC Case No.
88-448). The COMELEC had not resolved either Petition at the time the proclamation was made. Pursuant to Sections 245, supra, and
238 of the Omnibus Election Code, therefore, the Board of Canvassers should not have proclaimed any candidate without waiting for
the authorization by the COMELEC. Any proclamation thus made is void ab initio.
"SEC. 238. Canvass of remaining or unquestioned returns to continue. In cases under Sections 233, 234, 235 and 236 hereof, the
board of canvassers shall continue the canvass of the remaining or unquestioned election returns. If, after the canvass of all the said
returns, it should be determined that the returns which have been set aside will affect the result of the election, no proclamation shall be
made except upon orders of the Commission after due notice and hearing. Any proclamation made in violation hereof shall be null and
void."
In this case, with 110 contested election returns and 25,930 ballots questioned (COMELEC Resolution, September 20, 1988, p. 4, p.
115, Rollo), DUREMDES' margin of 7,286 non-contested votes could very well be offset.
Moreover, DUREMDES' proclamation was made on the basis of an official canvass of the votes cast in 2,377 precincts only (Annex "N,"
Petition), when there were actually 2,487 precincts. The votes in 110 precincts, therefore, were not included, which is exactly the
number of 110 election returns questioned by PENAFLORIDA. Further, DUREMDES was certified to have garnered 157, 361 votes
(ibid.), which number represents the non-contested votes only, and clearly excludes the totality of the "contested/deferred votes" of the
candidates concerned.
DUREMDES' proclamation having been based on an incomplete canvass, no grave abuse of discretion can be ascribed to
the COMELEC for directing the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Iloilo "to immediately reconvene and to include in the canvass of
votes for Vice-Governor the questioned contested returns." All the votes cast in an election must be considered because to disregard
returns is in effect to disenfranchise the voters (Mutuc vs. COMELEC, L-28517, February 21, 1968, 22 SCRA 662). A canvass can not
be reflective of the true vote of the electorate unless all returns are considered and none is omitted (Datu Sinsuat vs. Pendatun, L31501, June 30, 1970, 33 SCRA 630).
Over and above all else, the determination of the true will of the electorate should be the paramount consideration.
"Election contests involve public interest. 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 .. 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. In an election case the court has an imperative duty to ascertain by all means within its command who is the real candidate
elected by the electorate" (Juliano vs. CA and Sinsuat, 20 SCRA 808, 818-19, July 28, 1967).
WHEREFORE, absent any grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondent Commission on Elections, this Petition for Certiorari is
hereby DISMISSED. The status quo Order heretofore issued is hereby ordered LIFTED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Fernan, C .J ., Narvasa, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, Grio-Aquino,
Medialdea and Regalado, JJ ., concur.

Footnotes
||| (Duremdes v. Commission on Elections, G.R. Nos. 86362-63, [October 27, 1989], 258-A PHIL 532-546)

EN BANC
[G.R. No. 106053. August 17, 1994.]
OTTOMAMA BENITO, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ABDALAWE M. PAGRANGAN, and the Heirs of the
Deceased Mayoralty Candidate MURAD KISMEN SAMPIANO OGCA, represented by CABILI SAMPIANO, respondents.
Pedro Q. Quadra and Macarupung B. Dimaratun for petitioner.
Mangurun B. Batuampar and Romaraban D. Macabantog for private respondents.
SYLLABUS
1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; ELECTIONS; THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE IS THE PARAMOUNT CONSIDERATION; CASE AT BAR. The
proclamation of petitioner Ottomama Benito as mayor-elect of Balabagan, Lanao del Sur, by the Municipal Board of Canvassers was
not a valid proclamation. It appears from the record that during the May 11, 1992 election, the deceased mayoralty candidate Murad
Sampiano Ogca obtained a total of 3,699 votes as against petitioner's 2,644. Thereupon, it was the duty of the Municipal Board of
Canvassers to proclaim as winner the candidate who obtained the highest number of votes. However, the Municipal Board of
Canvassers, instead of performing what was incumbent upon it, that is, to proclaim Ogca as the winner but with the information that he
died, to give way to legal succession to office, went on the proclaim herein petitioner, the candidate who obtained the second highest
number of votes as winner, believing that the death of Ogca rendered his victory and proclamation moot and academic. This cannot be
countenanced. In every election, the people's choice is the paramount consideration and their expressed will must, at all times, be
given effect. When the majority speaks and elects into office a candidate by giving him the highest number of votes cast in the election
for that office, no one can be declared elected in his place. The fact that the candidate who obtained the highest number of votes dies,
or is later declared to be disqualified or not eligible for the office to which he was elected does not necessarily entitle the candidate who
obtained the second highest number of votes to be declared the winner of the elective office. For to allow the 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 people's right to elect officials of their choice.
2. ID.; ID.; ELECTION CONTESTS; RULES ON TECHNICALITIES AND PROCEDURES; WHEN LIBERALLY CONSTRUED.
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. Macalaang, G.R. No. L22779, 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 by 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). . . . 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. 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.
3. ID.; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; JURISDICTION; CASE AT BAR. It is petitioner's further submission that the appeal filed by
the heirs of the deceased mayoralty candidate from the May 30, 1992 ruling of the Balabagan Municipal Board of Canvassers was filed
out of time, the same having been submitted a day late. Records bear out that herein private respondents filed their appeal from the
May 30, 1992 ruling only on June 4, 1992, in violation of Section 19 ofRepublic Act No. 7166, which provides that a party adversely
affected by a ruling of the Board of Canvassers must appeal the same to the Commission within three (3) days from the said ruling.
However, adherence to a technicality here would put a stamp of validity on petitioner's palpably void proclamation, with the inevitable
result of frustrating the popular will. Where, as in this case, the proclamation is null and void, the same is no proclamation at all and the
proclaimed candidate's assumption of office does not deprive the COMELEC of the power to declare such nullity and annul the
proclamation. Consequently, petitioner's contention that the Commission on Elections had no jurisdiction to resolve the appeal filed by
herein private respondents turns to naught. The said appeal, though filed a day too late, was not frivolous. Neither was it interposed for
dilatory purposes. It sought to give effect, not to frustrate, the will of the people. Therefore, the court declared the questioned
resolutions dated June 29, 1992 and July 6, 1992 of the public respondent valid and effective.
DECISION
KAPUNAN, J p:

This special civil action for certiorari seeks to set aside the following resolutions of respondent Commission on Elections (COMELEC),
viz: (a) Resolution dated June 11, 1992 in SPA No. 92-147 and SPA No. 92-145 denying the Motion to Suspend the Proclamation of
Murad Kismen Sampiano Ogca in the event that he is elected mayor of Balabagan, Lanao del Sur; (b) Resolution dated June 29, 1992
in SPC No. 92-303 directing the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Balabagan, Lanao del Sur to proclaim the candidate who obtained
the highest number of votes during the May 11, 1992 election as the winner for the contested office; and (c) Resolution dated July 6,
1992 in SPC No. 92-163, SPC No. 92-303, and SPC No. 92-357 declaring the proclamation of Ottomama Benito as winning candidate
for mayor of Balabagan, Lanao del Sur null and void and of no force and effect. In the last resolution, the Municipal Board of
Canvassers was likewise directed to set aside the certificate of canvass and proclamation and to prepare a new certificate of canvass
indicating therein that the winning candidate for mayor is Hadji Murad Ogca but placing the information that he died onMay 20, 1992 for
the purpose of applying the rule on legal succession to office pursuant to Section 44 of R.A. 7160. prcd
Petitioner assails the above-mentioned resolutions on the ground that they were issued without jurisdiction and/or with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.
The facts of the case are as follows:
Petitioner Ottomama Benito and the deceased Hadji Murad Kismen Sampiano Ogca were candidates for mayor in the municipality of
Balabagan, Lanao del Sur in the May 11, 1992 election.
On May 1, 1992, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Deputy for Balabagan, Lanao del Sur, Sultan Kisa D. Mikunug filed a petition
for disqualification against Murad Kismen Sampiano Ogca. Mikunug alleged that at around five o'clock in the afternoon of April 28,
1992, while inside a billiard hall, Ogca asked him to work for the former's re-election. However, when Mikunug refused, Ogca struck
him on the head with a billiard cue. 1
On May 6, 1992, the COMELEC referred the disqualification petition to its Law Department for investigation. 2 In turn, the Law
Department referred the same to the Director of the Office of the Regional Election Director of Cotabato City for investigation. 3
On June 10, 1992, the Regional Election Director of Cotabato City issued a resolution stating that there was a prima facie case against
Ogca and that the latter was probably guilty of the charges in the petition for disqualification. 4
Thereafter, nothing more was heard of the petition for disqualification.
In the meantime, on May 20, 1992, candidate Ogca was killed in an ambush while returning home from the residence of Lanao del Sur
Governor Saidamen Pangarungan in Marawi City. cdll
On the same date, petitioner, probably not aware of the death of his opponent, filed a motion to suspend the proclamation of Ogca as
elected mayor of Balabagan, Lanao del Sur, contending that there was strong evidence of guilt against him in the disqualification
case. 5
Resolving the motion to suspend proclamation, the COMELEC, on June 11, 1992, denied the same stating that Murad Kismen
Sampiano Ogca was dead, hence, his proclamation as winner was essential to pave the way for succession by the Vice-Mayor-elect as
provided for in Section 44 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. 7160). 6
Meanwhile, the Municipal Board of Canvassers when asked to exclude from tallying, counting and canvassing all votes for and in the
name of deceased mayoralty candidate Ogca, ruled, on May 30, 1992, that:
1. The Board shall continue counting/tabulating all the votes cast for deceased Mayoralty Candidate Murad K.S. Ogca and Vice
Mayoralty Candidate Cadal Luks in the Statement of Votes by Municipality/Precinct (CE Form No. 20-A) for purposes of records only
and for the reference and guidance of the Commission on Elections, but it shall not include them (Deceased Candates) in the
Certificate of Canvass and Proclamation of winning candidates (CE Form No. 25) in case they won (sic), it being moot and academic.

2. The Board shall exclude the names of the deceased Mayoralty candidate Murad K.S. Ogca and Vice Mayoralty candidate Cadal
Luks from the list of the LIVING candidates including the votes obtained by them (Deceased Candidates), considering that their deaths
are of public knowledge and admitted by both parties, and thereafter proclaim the winning candidates for Municipal Officials, subject to
the confirmation of the Commission on Elections. 7
On June 4, 1992, herein private respondents appealed the above ruling to the COMELEC praying that the Municipal Board of
Canvassers be enjoined from implementing its ruling and that it be directed to ascertain the results of theelections and to proclaim the
candidate obtaining the highest number of votes as the winner. 8
On June 29, 1992, the COMELEC resolved to direct the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Balabagan, Lanao del Sur to proclaim as
winner for the contested office the candidate who obtained the highest number of votes during the May 11, 1992 election. 9

On June 30, 1992 at two o'clock in the afternoon, the Municipal Board of Canvassers proclaimed petitioner Ottomama Benito as the
duly elected mayor of the municipality of Balabagan, Lanao del Sur. 10
On July 1, 1992, the Election Registrar and Chairman of the Board of Canvassers of Balabagan, Lanao del Sur submitted a
memorandum to the COMELEC informing it that the Board of Canvassers of Balabagan had proclaimed OttomamaBenito as mayorelect of the said town. Cdpr
On July 2, 1992, petitioner took his oath of office before Secretary of Interior and Local Government Rafael Alunan III. 11
On July 6, 1992, the COMELEC issued a resolution declaring the proclamation of petitioner an absolute nullity and of no force and
effect. The certificate of canvass and proclamation was set aside. The Municipal Board of Canvassers was likewise directed to prepare
a new certificate of canvass indicating therein that the winning candidate for mayor was Hadji Murad Ogca but with the information, in
parenthesis, that he died on May 20, 1992, for the purpose of applying the rule on legal succession to office pursuant to Section 44
of R.A. No. 7160. 12
Hence, the instant petition.
Petitioner faults the COMELEC with lack of jurisdiction and/or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction for the
following reasons, viz:
xxx xxx xxx
COMELEC HAS NO JURISDICTION OVER SPC NO. 92-303. THE JUNE 29, 1992 RESOLUTION IS NULL AND VOID AB INITIO
xxx xxx xxx
THE COMELEC RESOLUTION OF JULY 6, 1992 [ANNEX A] IS ALSO NULL AND VOID BECAUSE THE COMELEC HAS NO
JURISDICTION. IT WAS ALSO ISSUED IN VIOLATION OF DUE PROCESS OF LAW
xxx xxx xxx
THE INTERLOCUTORY ORDER OF JUNE 11, 1992 ISSUED IN SPA NOS. 92-147 AND 92-146 (sic) DENYING THE MOTION TO
SUSPEND PROCLAMATION WAS ISSUED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION. 13
The petition must fail.
The proclamation of petitioner Ottomama Benito as mayor-elect of Balabagan, Lanao del Sur, by the Municipal Board of Canvassers
was not a valid proclamation. It appears from the record that during the May 11, 1992 election, the deceased mayoralty candidate
Murad Sampiano Ogca obtained a total of 3,699 votes as against petitioner's 2,644. Thereupon, it was the duty of the Municipal Board
of Canvassers to proclaim as winner the candidate who obtained the highest number of votes. However, the Municipal Board of
Canvassers, instead of performing what was incumbent upon it, that is, to proclaim Ogca as the winner but with the information that he
died, to give way to legal succession to office, went on the proclaim herein petitioner, the candidate who obtained the second highest
number of votes as winner, believing that the death of Ogca rendered his victory and proclamation moot and academic. 14 This cannot
be countenanced. prLL
In every election, the people's choice is the paramount consideration and their expressed will must, at all times, be given effect. When
the majority speaks and elects into office a candidate by giving him the highest number of votes cast in the election for that office, no
one can be declared elected in his place.
The fact that the candidate who obtained the highest number of votes dies, or is later declared to be disqualified or not eligible for the
office to which he was elected does not necessarily entitle the candidate who obtained the second highest number of votes to be
declared the winner of the elective office. 15 For to allow the 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 people's right to elect officials of their choice. 16
It is petitioner's further submission that the appeal filed by the heirs of the deceased mayoralty candidate from the May 30, 1992 ruling
of the Balabagan Municipal Board of Canvassers was filed out of time, the same having been submitted a day late. Records bear out
that herein private respondents filed their appeal from the May 30, 1992 ruling only on June 4, 1992, in violation of Section 19
of Republic Act No. 7166, which provides that a party adversely affected by a ruling of the Board of Canvassers must appeal the same
to the Commission within three (3) days from the said ruling. However, adherence to a technicality here would put a stamp of
validity on petitioner's palpably void proclamation, with the inevitable result of frustrating the popular will. 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 17 cited inDuremdes vs. Commission on Elections, 18 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. Macalagan, 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
by 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). . . . 19
In the later case of Rodriguez vs. Commission on Elections, 20 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. 21
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. cdrep
Where, as in this case, the proclamation is null and void, the same is no proclamation at all and the proclaimed candidate's assumption
of office does not deprive the COMELEC of the power to declare such nullity and annul the proclamation. 22
Consequently, petitioner's contention that the Commission on Elections had no jurisdiction to resolve the appeal filed by herein private
respondents turns to naught. The said appeal, though filed a day too late, was not frivolous. Neither was it interposed for dilatory
purposes. It sought to give effect, not to frustrate, the will of the people. Therefore, we declare the questioned resolutions dated June
29, 1992 and July 6, 1992 of the public respondent valid and effective.
Finally, the resolution of the COMELEC dated June 11, 1992 denying the petitioner's motion to suspend proclamation of deceased
candidate Ogca is likewise assailed. Petitioner argues that the votes for deceased Ogca should not have been counted
based on Section 6 of R.A. No. 6640. This provision, however, applies only to candidates who have been declared by final judgment to
be disqualified. In the present case, there is no final judgment declaring the deceased Ogca disqualified, hence, the provision does not
cover him. Cdpr
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Vitug and Mendoza, JJ., concur.
Cruz and Bellosillo, JJ., are on leave.

||| (Benito v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 106053, [August 17, 1994])
EN BANC
[G.R. No. 129783. December 22, 1997.]
MARCELINO C. LIBANAN, petitioner, vs. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL and JOSE T.
RAMIREZ, respondents.
Cesar A. Sevilla & Associates for petitioner.
The Solicitor General for public respondent.
SYNOPSIS
Petitioner Marcelino Libanan and private respondent Jose Ramirez were among the candidates for the lone congressional of Eastern
Samar in the May 1995 elections. After the canvass of the returns, the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Eastern Samar proclaimed
respondent Ramirez. Petitioner Libanan seasonably filed an election protest before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal
(HRET). The evidence and the issues submitted by the parties for consideration by the HRET related mainly to the proper appreciation
of the ballots objected to, or claimed by, the parties during the revision. The HRET affirmed the proclamation of private respondent Jose
Tan Ramirez. Petitioner Libananmoved for reconsideration of the decision of the HRET arguing, among other grounds, that the absence
of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) Chairman's signature at the back of the ballots could not but indicate that the ballots were
spurious and not those issued to the voters during the elections. The HRET denied with finality petitioner's motion for reconsideration.
Hence, the present petition.

The Supreme Court dismissed-the petition. The Court ruled that Section 24 of R.A. No. 7166, the applicable law, does not provide that
a ballot not so authenticated shall thereby deemed spurious. The law merely renders the BEI Chairman accountable for such failure.
What should, instead be given weight is the consistent rule laid down by HRET that a ballot is considered valid and genuine for as long
as it bears any of the following authenticated 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 and blue fibers in the ballot. It is only when none of these marks appears extant that the ballot can be
considered spurious and subject to rejection.
SYLLABUS
STATUTES; STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION; SECTION 24 OF R.A. 7166 CONSTRUED; SAID PROVISION DOES NOT .PROVIDE
THAT A BALLOT WHICH IS NOT SO AUTHENTICATED SHALL THEREBY BE :DEEMED SPURIOUS; IT MERELY RENDERS THE
BOARD OF ELECTION INSPECTORS (BEI) ACCOUNTABLE FOR SUCH FAILURE; APPLICABLE PRINCIPLES. Section 24
of R.A. 7166 does not provide that a ballot which is not so; authenticated shall thereby be deemed spurious. The law merely renders
the BEI Chairman accountable for such failure. The courts may not, in the guise of interpretation, enlarge the scope of a statute and
embrace situations neither provided nor intended by the lawmakers. Where the words and phrases of a statute are not obscure and
ambiguous, the meaning and intention of the legislature should be determined from the language employed, and where there is no
ambiguity in the words, there should be no room for construction.
DECISION
VITUG, J p:
The 28th May 1997 decision of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal ("HRET"), which affirmed the proclamation of herein
private respondent Jose Tan Ramirez declaring him to be the duly elected Representative of Eastern Samar for having obtained the
plurality of votes over petitioner Marcelino Libanan, and the 20th June 1997 resolution of the HRET, which denied with finality
petitioner's motion for reconsideration, are sought to be annulled in this special civil action for certiorari. LLpr
Petitioner Marcelino Libanan and private respondent Jose Ramirez were among the candidates for the lone congressional seat of
Eastern Samar in the May 1995 elections. After the canvass of the returns was made on 13 May 1995, the Provincial Board of
Canvassers of Eastern Samar proclaimed respondent Ramirez to have been duly elected Representative of the District with a total of
forty-one thousand five hundred twenty-three (41,523) votes, compared to petitioner's forty thousand eight hundred sixty-nine (40,869)
votes, or a margin of six hundred fifty-four (654) votes over those of petitioner.
Petitioner Libanan seasonably filed an election protest before the HRET claiming, among other things, that the 08th May 1995 elections
in Eastern Samar were marred by massive electoral irregularities perpetrated or instigated by respondent Ramirez, as well as his
leaders and followers, in the twenty-three (23) municipalities of the lone district of Eastern Samar with the aid, in various instances, of
peace officers supposedly charged with maintaining an orderly and honest election. Petitioner contested seventy-nine (79) precincts in
five (5) municipalities. He also maintained that the election returns and/or ballots in certain precincts were tampered with, substituted, or
systematically marked in favor of respondent Ramirez. Libanan prayed that, after due proceedings, the HRET should issue an order to
annul the election and proclamation of Ramirez and to thereafter so proclaim petitioner as the duly elected Representative of the Lone
District of Eastern Samar.
In his answer and counter-protest, with a petition for preliminary hearing on the special and affirmative defenses, respondent Ramirez
denied the charges. He counter-protested the results of the elections in certain precincts where, he claimed, Libanan engaged in
massive vote buying, lansadera, terrorism and tearing of the list of voters to disenfranchise voters therein listed. Accordingly, he
prayed, inter alia, for the dismissal of the protest and the confirmation of his election as the duly elected representative of the Lone
District of Eastern Samar.
After some peripheral issues were settled by the HRET, the revision of ballots in the protested precincts commenced on 20 February
1996. The HRET noted that Libanan contested a total of seventy-nine (79) precincts. It was noted during the revision, however, that six
(6) of the contested precincts, namely, Precincts Nos. 14, 15, 16, 18, 19 and 20 of Arteche, were found to have been merged during the
08 May 1995 elections into three (3) precincts, i.e., Precincts Nos. 14 and 19, Precincts Nos. 15 and 16 and Precincts Nos. 18 and 20.
Thus, only seventy-six (76) ballot boxes were actually opened for revision, one of which, Precinct No. 4-1 of Guiuan, did not contain any
ballot.
On 22 February 1996, while the revision of the counter-protested precincts was being held, Ramirez filed an "Urgent Motion to
Withdraw/Abandon Counter-Protest in Specific Municipalities/Precincts" praying that he be granted leave to withdraw and abandon
partially his counter-protest in certain precincts. 1 Libanan filed an opposition thereto but the motion was eventually granted by the
Chairman of the HRET and subsequently confirmed in a resolution by the tribunal.
On 21 March 1996, the HRET designated a Hearing Commissioner and a Deputy Hearing Commissioner for the reception of evidence.
Following that reception, the respective memoranda of Libanan and Ramirez were filed.

The evidence and the issues submitted by the parties for consideration by the HRET related mainly to the proper appreciation of the
ballots objected to, or claimed by, the parties during the revision. No evidence was presented in support of the other allegations of the
protest (like the alleged tampering of election returns) and of the counter-protest (such as the alleged tearing of some of the pages of
the computerized list of voters to disenfranchise legitimate voters and the use of goons to terrorize and compel voters to vote
for Libanan), nor were these issues discussed in the memoranda of the parties. The HRET thus concentrated, such as can be rightly
expected, its attention to the basic appreciation of ballots. 2
The particular matter focused in this petition deals with what petitioner claims to be spurious ballots; on this score, the HRET has
explained:
"No spurious ballot was found in this case. For a ballot to be rejected for being spurious, the ballot must not have any of the following
authenticating marks: a) the COMELEC watermark; b) the signatures or initial of the BEI Chairman at the back of the ballot; and c) red
and blue fibers. In the present case, all the ballots examined by the Tribunal had COMELEC watermarks.
"The Tribunal did not adopt protestant's submission in his Memorandum that the absence of thumbmark or BEI Chairman's signature at
the back of the ballot rendered the ballot spurious. The applicable law on this issue is Sec. 24, R.A. 7166. It reads:
"'In every case before delivering an official ballot to the voter, the Chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors shall, in the presence of
the voter, affix his signature at the back thereof. Failure to so authenticate shall be noted in the minutes of the board of election
inspectors and shall constitute an election offense punishable under Section 263 and 264 of the Omnibus Election Code.'
"As may be gleaned above, unlike the provision of Section 210 of the Omnibus Election Code where the BEI Chairman was required to
affix his right thumbmark at the back of the ballot immediately after it was counted, the present law no longer requires the same.
"Anent the BEI Chairman's signature, while Section 24 of R.A. 7166 provides that failure to authenticate the ballot shall constitute an
election offense, there is nothing in the said law which provides that ballots not so authenticated shall be considered invalid. In fact, the
members of the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms agreed during their deliberation on the subject that the absence of the
BEI Chairman's signature at the back of the ballot will not per se make a ballot spurious.
"Moreover, while Rep. Palacol, then Chairman of the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, mentioned during his sponsorship
speech that one of the salient features of the bill filed was 'to require the chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors to authenticate a
ballot given to a voter by affixing his signature on (sic) the back thereof and to consider any ballot as spurious,' R.A. 7166, as approved,
does not contain any provision to that effect. Clearly, therefore, the Congress as a whole (House of Representatives and Senate) failed
to adopt the proposal of Rep. Palacol that ballots without the BEI Chairman's signature at the back will be declared spurious. What is
clearly provided under the said law is the sanction imposable upon an erring Chairman of the BEI, and not the disenfranchisement of
the voter." 3

In its assailed decision, the HRET ruled in favor of respondent Ramirez; it concluded:
"WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing, the Tribunal Resolved to DISMISS the instant election protest, including the parties' mutual
claims for damages and attorney's fee; AFFIRM the proclamation of Protestee Jose Tan Ramirez; and DECLARE him to be the duly
elected Representative of the Lone District of Eastern Samar, for having obtained a plurality of 143 votes over second placer Protestant
Marcelino Libanan." 4
Petitioner Libanan moved for a reconsideration of the decision of the HRET arguing, among other grounds, 5 that the absence of the
BEI Chairman's signature at the back of the ballots could not but indicate that the ballots were not those issued to the voters during the
elections. He averred that the law would require the Chairman of the BEI to authenticate or sign the ballot before issuing it to the voter.
Acting on petitioner's motion for reconsideration, the HRET credited petitioner Libanan with thirty (30) votes because of the error in the
computation of the base figure and rejected twelve (12) ballots for respondent Ramirez. Respondent Ramirez, nevertheless, remained
to be the winner with a lead of ninety-nine (99) votes in his favor. As regards the absence of BEI Chairman's signature at the back of the
ballots, the HRET stressed:
"Fraud is not presumed. It must be sufficiently established. Moreover, Section 211 of the Omnibus Election Code provides in part that 'in
the reading and appreciation of ballots, every ballot shall be presumed to be valid unless there is clear and good reason to justify its
rejection.' In the instant case, there is no evidence to support protestant's allegation that the ballots he enumerated in his Motion for
Reconsideration are substitute ballots. The absence of the BEI Chairman's signature at the back of the ballot cannot be an indication of
ballot switching or substitution. At best, such absence of BEI Chairman's signature is a prima facie evidence that the BEI Chairmen
concerned were derelict in their duty of authenticating the ballots. Such omission, as stated in the Decision, is not fatal to the validity of
the ballots. 6
Thus, the present recourse.

A perusal of the grounds raised by petitioner to annul the HRET decision and resolution boils down to the issue of whether or not
the HRET committed grave abuse of discretion in ruling that the absence of the signature of the Chairman of the BEI in the ballots did
not render the ballots spurious.
Petitioner Libanan contends that the three hundred eleven (311) ballots (265 of which have been for private respondent Ramirez)
without the signature of the Chairman of the BEI, but which had the COMELEC watermarks and/or colored fibers, should be invalidated.
It is the position of petitioner that the purpose of the law in requiring the BEI Chairman to affix his signature at the back of the ballot
when he issues it to the voter is "to authenticate" the ballot and, absent that signature, the ballot must be considered spurious.
Prefatorily, the Court touches base on its jurisdiction to review and pass upon decisions or resolutions of the electoral tribunals.
The Constitution mandates that the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and the Senate Electoral Tribunal shall each,
respectively, be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of their respective
members. 7 In Lazatin vs. HRET , 8 the Court has observed that
"The use of the word 'sole' emphasizes the exclusive character of the jurisdiction conferred. The exercise of the power by the Electoral
Commission under the 1935 Constitution has been described as 'intended to be as complete and unimpaired as if it had remained
originally in the legislature.' Earlier this grant of power to the legislature was characterized by Justice Malcolm as ''full, clear and
complete.' Under the amended 1935 Constitution, the power was unqualifiedly reposed upon the Electoral Tribunal and it remained as
full, clear and complete as that previously granted the Legislature and the Electoral Commission. The same may be said with regard to
the jurisdiction of the Electoral Tribunals under the1987 Constitution." 9
The Court has stressed that ". . . so long as the Constitution grants the HRET the power to be the sole judge of all contests relating to
the election, returns and qualifications of members of the House of Representatives, any final action taken by the HRET on a matter
within its jurisdiction shall, as a rule, not be reviewed by this Court . . . the power granted to the Electoral Tribunal . . . excludes the
exercise of any authority on the part of this Court that would in any wise restrict it or curtail it or even affect the same."
The Court did recognize, of course, its power of judicial review in exceptional cases. In Robles vs. HRET , 10 the Court has explained
that while the judgments of the Tribunal are beyond judicial interference, the Court may do so, however, but only "in the exercise of this
Court's so-called extraordinary jurisdiction, . . . upon a determination that the Tribunal's decision or resolution was rendered without or
in excess of its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion or paraphrasing Morrero, upon a clear showing of such arbitrary and
improvident use by the Tribunal of its power as constitutes a denial of due process of law, or upon a demonstration of a very clear
unmitigated error, manifestly constituting such grave abuse of discretion that there has to be a remedy for such abuse."
In the old, but still relevant, case of Morrero vs. Bocar, 11 the Court has ruled that the power of the Electoral Commission "is beyond
judicial interference except, in any event, upon a clear showing of such arbitrary and improvident use of power as will constitute a denial
of due process." The Court does not, to paraphrase it in Co vs. HRET , 12 venture into the perilous area of correcting perceived errors
of independent branches of the Government; it comes in only when it has to vindicate a denial of due process or correct an abuse of
discretion so grave or glaring that no less than the Constitution itself calls for remedial action.
In the instant controversy, it would appear that the HRET "reviewed and passed upon the validity of all the ballots in the protested and
counter-protested precincts, including those not contested and claimed by the parties." 13 The Tribunal, added, that (t)his course of
action was adopted not only to give effect to the intent of each and every voter, but also to rectify any mistake in appreciation, deliberate
or otherwise, committed at the precinct level and overlooked during the revision stage of this case." 14 In holding that the absence of
the signature of the Chairman of the BEI at the back of the ballot does not invalidate it, the HRET has ratiocinated in this wise: LLphil
"No spurious ballot was found in this case. For a ballot to be rejected for being spurious, the ballot must not have any of the following
authenticating marks: a) the COMELEC watermark; b) the signatures or initial of the BEI Chairman at the back of the ballot; and c) red
and blue fibers. In the present case, all the ballots examined by the Tribunal had COMELEC watermarks.
"xxx xxx xxx
"Anent the BEI Chairman's signature, while Section 24 of R.A. 7166 provides that failure to authenticate the ballot shall constitute an
election offense, there is nothing in the said law which provides that ballots not so authenticated shall be considered invalid. In fact, the
members of the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms agreed during their deliberation on the subject that the absence of the
BEI Chairman's signature at the back of the ballot will not per se make a ballot spurious.
"Moreover, while Rep. Palacol, then Chairman of the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, mentioned during his sponsorship
speech that one of the salient features of the bill filed was to require the chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors to authenticate a
ballot given to a voter by affixing his signature on (sic) the back thereof and to consider any ballot as spurious,' R.A. 7166, as approved,
does not contain any provision to that effect. Clearly, therefore, the Congress as a whole (House of Representatives and Senate) failed
to adopt the proposal of Rep. Palacol that ballots without the BEI Chairman's signature at the back will be declared spurious. What is
clearly provided under the said law is the sanction imposable upon an erring Chairman of the BEI, and not the disenfranchisement of
the voter." 15

The pertinent provision of the law, Section 24 of R.A.. No. 7166,provides:


"SEC. 24. Signature of Chairman at the back of Every Ballot. In every case before delivering an official ballot to the voter, the
Chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors shall, in the presence of the voter, affix his signature at the back thereof. Failure to
authenticate shall be noted in the minutes of the Board of Election Inspectors and shall constitute an election offense punishable under
Section 263 and 264 of the Omnibus Election Code."
There is really nothing in the above law to the effect that a ballot which is not so authenticated shall thereby be deemed spurious. The
law merely renders the BEI Chairman accountable for such failure. The courts may not, in the guise of interpretation, enlarge the scope
of a statute and embrace situations neither provided nor intended by the lawmakers. Where the words and phrases of a statute are not
obscure and ambiguous, the meaning and intention of the legislature should be determined from the language employed, and where
there is no ambiguity in the words, there should be no room for construction. 16
As so aptly observed by the Solicitor-General, House Bill ("HB") No. 34811 (which later became R.A. No. 7166), approved by the House
of Representatives on third reading, was a consolidation of different bills. Two of the bills consolidated and considered in drafting H.B.
No. 34811 were H.B. 34639 and H.B. No. 34660. Section 22 of the two latter bills provided that:

"In every case before delivering an official ballot to the voter, the chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors shall, in the presence of
the voter, affix his signature at the back thereof. Any ballot which is not so authenticated shall be deemed spurious. Failure to so
authenticate shall constitute an election offense." 17
During the deliberation of the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, held on 08 August 1991, the members agreed to delete
the phrase "Any ballot which is not so authenticated shall be deemed spurious." Pertinent portions of the transcript of stenographic
notes ("TSN") taken during the Meeting of the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms read:
"THE CHAIRMAN. Yes, Congressman Mercado.
"HON. MERCADO. I think, Section 22, we go to the intent of the provision. I think the intent here is to sanction the inspector so I would
propose a compromise. The ballot should not be deemed as spurious. However, it would rather be failure of the inspector to, or the
chairman to affix his signature would rather be a circumstance which would aggravate the crime, which would aggravate the election
offense, on the part of the inspector, but not to disenfranchise the voter. Because the intention here is to punish the election inspector
for not affixing the signature. Why should we punish the voter? So I think the compromise here . . .
"THE CHAIRMAN. A serious election offense.
"HON. MERCADO. Yes, it should be a serious election offense on the part of the chairman for not affixing the signature, but not to make
the ballot spurious.
"HON. RONO. Mr. Chairman.
"THE CHAIRMAN. Yes, Congressman Rono.
"HON. RONO. One thing that we have to guard against is when we deal with the ballot and the right to suffrage, we should not really
make law that would prevent the flexibility of the Commission on Elections, and the Supreme Court from getting other extraneous
efforts to confirm authenticity or the spuriousness of the ballot, by making a provision that by that single mistake or inadvertence of the
chairman we make the ballot automatically spurious is dangerous. It should be. . . what I'm saying is that the Commission or the proper
bodies by which this matter will be taken up may consider it as one of the evidences of spuriousness but not per se or ipso facto it
becomes; it should look for other extraneous evidence. So what I am suggesting is let us give them this kind of flexibility before we
determine or before we say that this ballot is spurious, we give the COMELEC some flexibility in the determination of other extraneous
evidence.
"HON. GARCIA. May I offer a suggestion?
"THE CHAIRMAN. Yes, Congressman Garcia.
"HON. GARCIA. That the fact that a ballot does not contain the signature, I think, initial will not be sufficient, the signature of the
Chairman should be noted in the minutes. Noted in the minutes. So that in case of protest, there is basis.
"HON. RONO. Oo may basis na. lyon lang. I think that would solve our problem.
"THE CHAIRMAN. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
"MR. MONSOD. Your honor, we're willing to accept that amendment. Take out that sentence spurious, with the introduction of the
proposed measure . . ." 18

The TSN of the proceedings of the Bicameral Conference Committee on Election Law, held on 29 October 1991, in turn, would show
these exchanges:
"CHAIRMAN GONZALEZ. Are there anything more?
"HON. ROCO. There is a section in the Senate version about the ballot being signed at the back.
"CHAIRMAN GONZALEZ. Counter side.
"HON. ROCO. If it is not signed then it is being spurious which is a very dangerous, I (think) (it) is a very dangerous provision and so. . .
"MR MONSOD. We agree with the House version that anyway when chairman of BEI doesn't sign subject to an election offense. But it
should not be a basis for disenfranchisement of the voter. So, we believe we set this in the hearings in the House that we should strike
out that sentence that says that this ballot is automatically spurious." 19
Thus, the final draft, which was later to become R.A. No. 7166, no longer included the provision "Any ballot not so authenticated shall
be deemed spurious." The intention of the legislature even then was quite evident.
The reliance on Bautista vs. Castro 20 by petitioner, is misdirected. It must be stressed that B.P. Blg. 222, 21 otherwise known as the
"Barangay Election Act of 1982," approved on 25 March 1982, itself categorically expresses that it shall only be "applicable to the
election of barangay officials." Section 14 of B.P. Blg. 222 and its implementing rule in Section 36 of COMELEC Resolution No. 1539
have both provided:
Section 14 of B.P. 222:
"Sec. 14. Official barangay ballots. The official barangay ballots shall be provided by the city or municipality concerned of a size and
color to be prescribed by the Commission on Elections.
"Such official ballot shall, before it is handed to the voter at the voting center, be authenticated in the presence of the voter, the other
Tellers, and the watchers present by the Chairman of the Board of Election Tellers who shall affix his signature at the back thereof."
Section 36 of COMELEC Resolution No. 1539:
"Sec. 36. Procedure in the casting of votes. . . .
"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.
"xxx xxx xxx
"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 valid ballot and the coupon in the compartment for spoiled ballots. (5) The
voter shall then leave the voting center.
"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." 22
The difference in the rules may not be too difficult to discern. The stringent requirements in B.P. Blg. 222 should be justifiable
considering that the official barangay ballots would be provided by the city or municipality concerned with the COMELEC merely
prescribing their size and color. Thus, the official ballots in B.P. Blg. 222, being supplied and furnished by the local government
themselves, the possibility of the ballots being easily counterfeited might not have been discounted. The absence of authenticating
marks prescribed by law i.e., the signature of the chairman of the Board of Election Tellers at the back of the ballot, could have well
been really thought of to be fatal to the validity of the ballot.
Section 24 of R.A. No. 7166, upon the other hand, contains no similar stringent provisions such as that seen in Section 36(f) of
COMELEC Resolution No. 1539. The pertinent part in Resolution No. 2676 on the requirement of the signature of the chairman is found
in Section 73 thereof which merely provides:

"Sec. 73. Signature of chairman at the back of every ballot. In every case, the chairman of the board shall, in the presence of the
voter, authenticate every ballot by affixing his signature at the back thereof before delivering it to the voter. FAILURE TO SO
AUTHENTICATE SHALL BE NOTED IN THE MINUTES OF THE BOARD AND SHALL CONSTITUTE AN ELECTION OFFENSE."
Again, in Resolution No. 2738, 23 promulgated by the COMELEC on 03 January 1995, 24 which implemented, among other election
laws, R.A. No. 7166 (that governed the election for Members of the House of Representatives held on 08 May 1995), the relevant
provision is in Section 13 which itself has only stated:
"Sec. 13. Authentication of the ballot. Before delivering a ballot to the voter, the chairman of the board shall, in the presence of the
voter, affix his signature at the back thereof."
It would appear evident that the ruling in Bautista vs. Castro was prompted because of the express declaration in Section 36(f) of
COMELEC Resolution No. 1539, implementing Section 14 of B.P. Blg. 222, that: "Any ballot returned to the chairman . . . which does
not bear the signature of the chairman . . . shall be considered as spoiled . . . and shall not be counted." This Court thus stated
in Bautista: cda
"The law (Sec. 14 of B.P. Blg. 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."
It should be noteworthy that in an unsigned 03rd April 1990 resolution, in "Jolly Fernandez vs. COMELEC," 25 the Court en banc had
the opportunity to debunk the argument that all ballots not signed at the back thereof by the Chairman and the Poll Clerk were to be
considered spurious for non-compliance with Section 15 of R.A. No. 6646, 26 i.e., "The Electoral Reforms Law of 1987," reading as
follows:

"Sec. 15. Signature of Chairman and Poll Clerk at the Back of Every Ballot. In addition to the preliminary acts before the voting as
enumerated in Section 191 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, the chairman and the poll clerk of the board of election inspectors shall affix
their signatures at the back of each and every official ballot to be used during the voting. A certification to that effect must be entered in
the minutes of the voting."
The Court declared:
"The cardinal objective in the appreciation of the ballots is to discover and give effect to the intention of the voter. That intention would
be nullified by the strict interpretation of the said section as suggested by the petitioner for it would result in the invalidation of the ballot
even if duly accomplished by the voter, and simply because of an omission not imputable to him but to the election officials. The citizen
cannot be deprived of his constitutional right of suffrage on the specious ground that other persons were negligent in performing their
own duty, which in the case at bar was purely ministerial and technical, by no means mandatory but a mere antecedent measure
intended to authenticate the ballot. A contrary ruling would place a premium on official ineptness and make it possible for a small group
of functionaries, by their negligence or, worse, their deliberate inaction to frustrate the will of the electorate." 27
Petitioner Libanan suggests that the Court might apply the "ruling" of respondent HRET in the case of Yap vs. Calalay (HRET Case No.
95-026). He states that it is the HRET itself, ironically, that deals the coup de grace to its ruling in HRETCase No. 95-020." The "ruling"
cited by petitioner is actually a "Confidential Memorandum," 28 dated 28 April 1997, from a certain Atty. Emmanuel Mapili addressed to
"PA Committees in HRET Case No. 95-026 (Yap vs. Calalay)" which has for its subject "(n)ew rulings to be followed in the appreciation
of ballots in HRET Case No. 95-026 (Yap vs. Calalay) and other concerns." Petitioner Libanan quotes the pertinent portion of the said
Memorandum, viz.:
"WHEREFORE, the Tribunal Resolved that the following rules and guidelines on the appreciation of ballots shall be given effect in the
resolution of this case and shall be applied prospectively to other pending cases:
"1. The absence of the signature of the BEI Chairman at the back of the ballot shall nullify the same and all the votes therein shall not
be counted in favor of any candidate." 29
Reliance by petitioner on this alleged "ruling," obviously deserves scant consideration. 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 and blue
fibers in the ballots. 30 It is only when none of these marks appears extant that the ballot can be considered spurious and subject to
rejection.
It is quite clear, in the opinion of the Court, that no grave abuse of discretion has been committed by respondent House of
Representatives Electoral Tribunal in its issuance of the assailed decision and resolution.

One other important point. Regarding the membership of certain Justices of this Court in the HRET and their participation in the
resolution of the instant petition, the Court sees no conflict at all, and it, therefore, rejects the offer of inhibition by each of the concerned
justices. As early as Vera vs. Avelino, 31 this Court, confronted with a like situation, has said unequivocally:
". . . Mulling over this, we experience no qualmish feelings about the coincidence. Their designation to the electoral tribunals deducted
not a whit from their functions as members of this Supreme Court, and did not disqualify them in this litigation. Nor will their
deliverances hereat on a given question operate to prevent them from voting in the electoral forum on identical questions; because the
Constitution, establishing no incompatibility between the two roles, naturally did not contemplate, nor want, justices opining one way
here, and thereafter holding otherwise, pari materia, in the electoral tribunal, or vice-versa." 32
Such has thus been, and so it is to be in this petition, as well as in the cases that may yet come before the Court.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED. prLL
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C .J ., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Melo, Puno, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco and Panganiban, Martinez, JJ ., concur.
Bellosillo, J ., concurs, without prejudice to filing separate opinion to qualify doctrine.
||| (Libanan v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 129783, [December 22, 1997], 347 PHIL 797-814)