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Sambarani v.

COMELEC | ema
September 15, 2004
POLALA SAMBARANI, JAMAL MIRAATO, SAMERA ABUBACAR and MACABIGUNG MASCARA, petitioners, vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and EO ESMAEL MAULAY, ACTING ELECTION OFFICER, TAMPARAN, LANAO
DEL SUR or WHOEVER IS ACTING ON HIS BEHALF, respondents.
Carpio, J.:
SUMMARY: Sambarani et al. are incumbent punong barangays of 5 barangays in Tamparan, Lanao del Sur. They
ran for new terms in the 2002 elections. However, COMELEC declared failure of elections in the 5 barangays and set
a date for special elections, which were not held because of the local election officers failure to use the proper voting
lists and records. The COMELEC did not assail this fact. Sambarani et al. thus filed a petition for declaration of failure
of special election. They also asked COMELEC in their petition to set a new date for another special election.
COMELEC did declare a failure of election, but did not call a special election, citing logistical and financial problems,
as well as Sec. 6 of the Omnibus Election Code, which provided that special elections should be held not later than
thirty days after the cessation of the cause of such postponement or suspension of the election or failure to elect.
COMELEC also ordered DILG to appoint replacement barangay officials. Sambarani et al. assailed this resolution
before the SC, which reversed the COMELEC. SC held that COMELEC erred in not calling a special election
because it erroneously relied on OEC 6, because the prohibition in that provision is only directory. The applicable
provision is OEC 45, which provides that special elections should be held within 30 days from the cessation of the
causes of postponement. Following such provision, the election may be held anytime, as long as is within 30 days
from the cessation of the cause of postponement. SC also cited Basher v. COMELEC wherein a special election was
ordered held in 2000 even if the original elections were for 1997. On the issue of the propriety of the ordering DILG to
appoint replacement officials, SC held that the hold-over provision in RA 9164 must govern, it being the new law
which prescribes the term of office of barangay and SK officials. Under that law, the clear mandate is for the
incumbent officials to remain in a holdover capacity until their successors are elected and qualified.
DOCTRINE: RA 9164 is now the law that fixes the date of barangay and SK elections, prescribes the term of office of
barangay and SK officials, and provides for the qualifications of candidates and voters for the SK elections.
LGC 43(c) limits the term of elective barangay officials to three years. However, RA 91645 explicitly provides that
incumbent barangay officials may continue in office in a hold over capacity until their successors are elected and
qualified. The application of the holdover principle preserves continuity in the transaction of official business and
prevents a hiatus in government pending the assumption of a successor into office. Cases of extreme necessity
justify the application of the holdover principle.
The prohibition on conducting special elections after thirty days from the cessation of the cause of the failure of
elections is not absolute. It is directory and not mandatory. COMELEC possesses residual power to conduct special
elections even beyond the deadline prescribed by law in OEC 6, which cannot prevail against the right of suffrage of
the people as guaranteed by the Constitution. The period under OEC 45 was applied.
NATURE: Certiorari petition under Rule 65. Original petition before the COMELEC for declaration of failure of
elections and holding of special election.
FACTS:

The following individuals [THE CANDIDATES] ran for Punong Barangay of 5 BARANGAYS in Tamparan,
Lanao del Sur in the 2002 Barangay and SK Elections.
o Polala SAMBARANI Brgy. Occidental Linuk
o Jamal MIRAATO Brgy. Pindolonan Moriatao Sarip
o Samera ABUBACAR Brgy. Talub
o Macabigung MASCARA New Lumbacaingud
o Aliasgar DAYONDONG Tatayawan South

Due to a previously declared failure of elections, COMELEC issued Resolution No. 5479, setting special
elections in 11 barangays in Tamparan (including the 5 barangays) for Aug. 13, 2002.

Aug. 14, 2002 Acting Election Officer Esmael MAULAY issued a certification that no special elections were
held on Aug. 13, 2002

The candidates filed a Joint Petition for the declaration of failure of elections in the 5 barangays and for the
holding of another special election.
o The candidates blamed Maulay for the failure, claiming that he did not comply with COMELEC
Commissioner Mehol Sadains directive to use the 2001 ARMM Computerized Voters List and the
Voters Registration Records of the Lanao Sur Provnicial Election Officer during the December
2001 registration of new voters.

The COMELEC ordered Maulay and the candidates to submit their written memoranda. Maulay was also
directed to explain in writing why he should not be administratively charged for failing to comply with Comm.

Sadains directive. Only the candidates filed a memorandum; and the COMELEC considered the case
submitted the case for resolution.
Oct. 8, 2003 ASSAILED COMELEC RESOLUTION
o directed the appointment of barangay officials in the 5 barangays in accordance with the LGC
o COMELEC agreed that the Aug. 13, 2002 special elections failed, but ruled that it was untenable to
hold another special election, because Sec. 6 of the Omnibus Election Code provides that special
elections shall be held on a date reasonably close to the date of the election not held, but not later
than thirty days after cessation of the cause of such postponement.
o The COMELEC noted that more than thirty days had elapsed since the failed election.
Furthermore, it would be wasteful and cumbersome for the COMELEC to hold the special elections.
Hence, it allowed DILG to implement the provisions of the LGC and other laws on the appointment
of the Punong Barangay, Kagawad, SK Chair, and SK Kagawad.
o Ordered the furnishing of a copy of the resolution to the Law Department for investigation into
possible election offenses committed by Maulay
Sambarani, Miraato, Abubacar, and Mascara (SAMBARANI ET AL.) filed the present recourse to the SC

ISSUE (HELD)
1) W/N another special election may be held (YES)
2) W/N the DILG may appoint replacement barangay and SK officials in case of a failure of elections (NO)
RATIO
1) COMELECS REASONS FOR REFUSING TO HOLD SPECIAL ELECTIONS ARE VOID; DELAY WAS DUE TO
COMELECS FAULT; ERRONEOUS INTERPRETATION OF OEC 6 & 45

Sambarani et al.: The failure of elections was due to Maulays failure to use the ARMM 2001 computerized
voters list and to clean up the voters and candidates list for Tamparan. The refusal to call another special
election conflicts with the decision in Basher v. COMELEC.

COMELEC/SolGen: A special election can only be held within 30 days after the cause of postponement of
failure of election has ceased. DILG has the power to appoint and fill vacancies in the concerned barangay
and SK offices

SC: COMELEC must hold a special election. Its reasons for refusing to do so are void.
COMELEC GRANTED BROAD POWERS TO DISCHARGE ITS CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATE
The text and intent of the provision gives the COMELEC all the necessary and incidental powers necessary
for the achievement of its fundamental objective of holding free, fair, honest, and peaceful elections.

The functions of the COMELEC under the Constitution are essentially executive and administrative in
nature.
o The declaration of a failure of elections falls under the administrative functions of the COMELEC
(Ampatuan v. COMELEC); and the courts will usually respect such declaration following the
administrative law principle according great weight and even conclusiveness to administrative
actions; but in this case the COMELEC cited operational, logistical, and financial problems in
refusing to hold the election.

Neither the candidates nor the voters of the 5 barangays caused the failure of the special elections.

EO Maulay admitted that no elections were held; and neither the provincial nor the regional COMELEC
supervisors contested such fact.

An election is the embodiment of the popular will and the sovereign power of the electorate. It involves the
choice or selection of candidates to public office by popular vote.

The right of suffrage is enshrined in the Constitution because it is through exercising such right that the
people exercise their sovereign authority to choose their representatives. The fact that the elections are
involved are in the lowest level of political organization does not justify the disenfranchisement of voters.
PROHIBITION ON SPECIAL ELECTIONS UNDER OEC 6 IS MERELY DIRECTORY

COMELECs argument is based on Section 6 of the Omnibus Election Code1.

Construing this provision, the SC in Pangandaman v. COMELEC held that the holding of elections within
the next few months from the cessation of the cause of the postponement, suspension or failure to elect
may still be considered reasonably close to the date of the election not held, considering the second
1

SEC. 6. Failure of election. If, on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or other analogous cases 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 or 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
days after the cessation of the cause of such postponement or suspension of the election or failure to elect.

guideline laid down in that case, that the election must be reasonably close to the date of the election not
held, which is to be determined in light of the peculiar circumstances of the case.

The prohibition on conducting special elections after thirty days from the cessation of the cause of the failure
of elections is not absolute. It is directory and not mandatory.

COMELEC possesses residual power to conduct special elections even beyond the deadline prescribed by
law. The deadline in OEC 6 cannot defeat the right of suffrage of the people as guaranteed by the
Constitution.

COMELEC erred in asserting that the deadline in OEC 6 is absolute. COMELEC has broad power or
authority to fix other dates for special elections to enable the people to exercise their right of suffrage. It may
fix other dates for the conduct of special elections when the same cannot be reasonably held within the
period prescribed by law.
OEC 452 MORE ON POINT AS IT DEALS SPECIFICALLY WITH ELECTION OF BARANGAY OFFICIALS

OEC 6: special elections should be held on a date reasonably close to the date of the election not held.

OEC 45: special elections should be held within 30 days from the cessation of the causes of postponement.

Special elections could thus be held anytime within the period under OEC 45. Thus in Basher v. COMELEC
the election was ultimately ordered to be held as soon as possible from April 12, 2000, even if the original
election, failed special election and invalidated 2nd special elections all occurred in 1997; despite the
requirement in RA 667932 that the special barangay election should be held not later than 90 days from the
date of the original election.

Had the COMELEC called for a special election in the assailed 2003 resolution, di sana sila nagahol sa
oras. The operational, financial, and logistical problems feared by COMELEC can be solved with proper
planning, coordination, and cooperation within and without COMELEC. It would be difficult but not
impossible. In applying election laws it would be better to err in favor of popular sovereignty than to be right
in complex but little-understood legalisms. Conducting the election would not be that expensive since it
would only cover the precincts in the affected barangays.
2) INCUMBENT OFFICIALS TO REMAIN IN HOLD-OVER CAPACITY UNDER RAs 6679 & 9164 [***important***]

Sambarani et al.: COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in directing DILG to appoint Punong
Barangay, Kagawad, SK Chairs, and SK Kagawad in the affected barangays. The incumbent officials in
these posts should remain in a hold-over capacity until their successors are elected and qualified, as
provided in RA 91645

SC: Upheld Sambarani et al.s contention.

RA 9164 is now the law that fixes the date of barangay and SK elections, prescribes the term of office of
barangay and SK officials, and provides for the qualifications of candidates and voters for the SK elections.

The language of RA 916454 is clear. It is the duty of the SC to apply the plain meaning of the language of
5.

Since there was a failure of elections in the 15 July 2002 regular elections and in the 13 August 2002 special
elections, Sambarani et al. can legally remain in office as barangay chairmen of their respective barangays
in a holdover capacity. They shall continue to discharge their powers and duties as punong barangay, and
enjoy the rights and privileges pertaining to the office.

LGC 43(c) limits the term of elective barangay officials to three years. However, RA 91645 explicitly
provides that incumbent barangay officials may continue in office in a hold over capacity until their
successors are elected and qualified.

RA 91645 reiterates RA 66794 which provides that [A]ll incumbent barangay officials xxx shall remain in
office unless sooner removed or suspended for cause xxx until their successors shall have been elected and
2

SEC. 45. Postponement or failure of election. When for any serious cause such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia
or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes of such nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible
in any barangay, the Commission, upon a verified petition of an interested party and after due notice and hearing at which the interested parties are
given equal opportunity to be heard, shall postpone the election therein for such time as it may deem necessary.
If, on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud or other analogous causes, the election in any barangay has not been held on the date
herein fixed or has been suspended before the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting therein and such failure or suspension of election would
affect the result of the election, the Commission, on the basis of a verified petition of an interested party, and after due notice and hearing, at
which the interested parties are given equal opportunity to be heard shall call for the holding or continuation of the election within thirty
days after it shall have verified and found that the cause or causes for which the election has been postponed or suspended have ceased to
exist or upon petition of at least thirty percent of the registered voters in the barangay concerned.
When the conditions in these areas warrant, upon verification by the Commission, or upon petition of at least thirty percent of the registered voters in
the barangay concerned, it shall order the holding of the barangay election which was postponed or suspended.
3

AN ACT TO AMEND REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6653 TO POSTPONE THE BARANGAY ELECTIONS TO MARCH 28, 1989, PRESCRIBING ADDITIONAL
RULES GOVERNING THE CONDUCT OF BARANGAY ELECTIONS AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
4

Sec. 5. Hold Over. All incumbent barangay officials and sangguniang kabataan officials shall remain in office unless sooner removed or suspended
for cause until their successors shall have been elected and qualified. The provisions of the Omnibus Election Code relative to failure of elections and
special elections are hereby reiterated in this Act.

qualified. Section 8 of the same RA 6679 also states that incumbent elective barangay officials running for
the same office shall continue to hold office until their successors shall have been elected and qualified.
The application of the holdover principle preserves continuity in the transaction of official business and
prevents a hiatus in government pending the assumption of a successor into office. As held in Topacio
Nueno v. Angeles, cases of extreme necessity justify the application of the holdover principle.

DISPOSITION: Petition granted. Resolution declared void except insofar as it orders investigation of Maulay.
Sambarani et al. allowed to remain in office in hold-over capacity until election and qualification of their successors.
COMELEC ordered to conduct special elections within 30 days from finality of decision