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EN BANC

[G.R. No. 124521. January 29, 1998]


MICHAEL O. MASTURA, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS (Second Division), THE NEW MUNICIPAL
BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF MATANOG, MAGUINDANAO,
THE NEW PROVINCIAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF
MAGUINDANAO
and
DIDAGEN
P.
DILANGALEN, respondents.
DECISION
BELLOSILLO, J.:
This Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus with prayer for
preliminary injunction and/or restraining order seeks to reverse, annul or set
aside: (a) the 29 February 1996 Order of public respondent Commission on
Elections (COMELEC) which annulled and set aside the canvass made by
the
original
Municipal
Board
of
Canvassers
of Matanog, Maguindanao, created a new set of municipal and provincial
boards of canvassers and directing them torecanvass the votes using the
COMELEC copy of the election returns and to proclaim the duly elected
Member of the House of Representatives, First District of Maguindanao;
(b) the 5 March 1996 Order of the COMELEC Second Division which
merely noted the Urgent Motion to Examine and Verify the Canvassed
MBC Copies of Election Returns, COMELEC Copy of the Certificate of
Canvass and the accompanying Statement of Votes; (c) the 14 March 1996
Order denying the Urgent Motion to Defer Implementation of the 29
February 1996 Order; and, (d) the 20 March 1996 order denying Masturas
Motion for Reconsideration of the 29 February 1996 Order.
Petitioner Michael O. Mastura and private respondent Didagen P.
Dilangalen were congressional candidates for the first district of
Maguindanao during the 8 May 1995 elections. In the canvassing of votes,
Dilangalen objected to the inclusion of the Certificate of Canvass of the
Municipality of Matanog on the ground that the same was allegedly
tampered. Acting on the objection, the COMELEC Second Division ordered
the production and examination of the election returns of the Municipality
1

of Matanog. In the course of the examination four (4) ballot boxes were
produced and opened. Ballot Box No. 1 contained the MTC Judge copy of
the election returns, Ballot Box No. 2 the Provincial Board of Canvassers
copy of the election returns, Ballot Box No. 3 the COMELEC copy of the
election returns, and Ballot Box No. 4 the Provincial Board of Canvassers
copy of the municipal Certificate of Canvass of Matanog with its supporting
Statement of Votes.
Upon examination and comparison of the copies of the election returns
of the MTC Judge and the COMELEC, the COMELEC Second Division
found that, indeed, the Certificate of Canvass of the Municipality of
Matanog had been tampered with. Consequently, the COMELEC Second
Division issued the herein assailed Order of 29 February 1996 annulling the
Certificate of Canvass of Matanog thus After comparing the fifty-seven (57) election returns, Municipal Trial
Court copy (Judge copy) with the Comelec copy as to the number of
votes obtained by candidates Didagen P. Dilangalen and Michael O.
Mastura, both in words and figures and the taras x x x the Second
Division, finding that no inconsistencies exist between the two (2)
copies of the election returns, and finding further that the Statement
of Votes submitted by the Municipal Board of Canvassers of
Matanog, Maguindanao is not reflective of the true votes obtained in
the election returns per verification, hereby annuls the canvass made
by the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Matanog, Maguindanao.
WHEREFORE, the canvass conducted by the Municipal Board of
Canvassers for the position of Member, House of Representatives
(First District) is hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE.
A new Municipal Board of Canvassers for the Municipality of
Matanog, Maguindanao is hereby constituted x x x to conduct a new
recanvassing at the Comelec Session Hall at Intramuros, Manila,
prepare a new Certificate of Canvass using the Comelec copy of the
election returns and, thereafter, to immediately submit the new
Certificate of Canvass to the new Provincial Board of Canvassers as
herein constituted x x x x[1]
The following day, Mastura filed an Urgent Motion to Examine and
Verify the Canvassed MBC Copies of the Election Returns and the
COMELEC Copy of the Certificate of Canvass and Accompanying
Statement of Votes. The COMELEC Second Division merely noted the
motion in view of the 29 February 1996 Order.[2]
2

Thereafter Mastura filed an Urgent Motion to Defer Implementation of


the 29 February 1996 Order. Mastura argued that the 29 February 1996
Order was issued precipitately and prematurely considering that some other
documents, particularly the Certificate of Canvass of Matanog which he
considered necessary for the resolution of the issue, was yet to be produced
and examined. The COMELEC Second Division denied the motion x x x (I)t appearing that when the Commission opened the election
returns for Matanog, Maguindanao, particularly the Judge copy and
the Comelec copy and made comparison thereof to ascertain the
actual votes of candidates Didagen P. Dilangalen and Michael O.
Mastura per precinct which consists of fifty-seven (57) precincts, in
compliance with the Supreme Court resolution, the results thereof,
fully convinced the Commission of the manifest irregularity
committed in the Statement of Votes by precincts. Thus, it annuls the
canvass made by the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Matanog,
Maguindanao.
Clearly, on the basis of the results of the primary documents, there is
no need for the examination and opening of other documents
mentioned in the motion of private respondent. Besides, the opening
of other documents will entail more delay in the proclamation of the
rightful winner for the position of Member, House of Representatives,
First District of Maguindanao.[3]
Meanwhile, the new Municipal Board of Canvassers convened and
recanvassed the votes. During the proceedings Mastura objected to the
inclusion of fifty (50) out of the fifty-seven (57) election returns on the
ground that the COMELEC copy of the election returns was not reflective
of the true results unless compared with the copy of the original Municipal
Board of Canvassers. But the new Municipal Board of Canvassers believed
otherwise; hence, it included in the canvass the fifty (50) election returns
objected to by Mastura who thereafter walked out while the new Municipal
Board of Canvassers continued with the canvassing.
After the proceedings in the Municipal Board of Canvassers, the
Provincial Board of Canvassers convened and prepared the Certificate of
Canvass and Statement of Votes of the Municipality of Matanog. As a result,
private respondent Dilangalen was proclaimed the duly elected member of
the House of Representatives, First District of Maguindanao.
Mastura now comes to us imputing to public respondent COMELEC
Second Division grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction
3

in issuing its Orders of 29 February 1996, 5 March 1996, 14 March 1996,


and 20 March 1996.
We find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondent
COMELEC. It is settled jurisprudence that COMELEC can suspend the
canvass of votes pending its inquiry whether there exists a discrepancy
between the various copies of election returns from the disputed voting
centers. Corollarily, once the election returns were found to be falsified or
tampered with, the COMELEC can annul the illegal canvass and order the
Board of Canvassers to reconvene and proclaim the winners on the basis of
the genuine returns or, if it should refuse, replace the members of the board
or proclaim the winners itself.[4]
This was exactly what happened in the instant petition. Dilangalen
objected to the inclusion of the Certificate of Canvass of the Municipality of
Matanog and, acting on the objection, COMELEC ordered
the production andexamination of the MTC Judge copy and the COMELEC
copy of the election returns. Based on the comparison, the COMELEC
Second Division found and concluded that indeed the Certificate of Canvass
of the Municipality of Matanog was tampered with. Consequently, it
ordered its annulment and created a new set of Municipal and Provincial
Boards of Canvassers to recanvass the votes. After the recanvassing,
Dilangalen emerged as the winner and was thereafter proclaimed the duly
elected member of the House of Representatives, First District of
Maguindanao.
That the Certificate of Canvass of the Municipality of Matanog was
tampered with is a factual finding of the COMELEC. Absent any showing
of abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction, this Court should
refrain from reviewing the same, and must accord it instead the respect it
deserves. The rule that factual findings of administrative bodies will not be
disturbed by courts of justice except when there is absolutely no evidence or
no substantial evidence in support of such findings should be applied with
greater force when it concerns the COMELEC, as the framers of the
Constitution intended to place the COMELEC - created and explicitly made
independent by the Constitution itself - on a level higher than statutory
administrative organs. The COMELEC has broad powers to ascertain the
true results of the election by means available to it. For the attainment of
that end, it is not strictly bound by the rules of evidence.[5]
Pursuant to its administrative functions, the COMELEC exercises direct
supervision and control over the proceedings before the Board of
Canvassers. In Aratuc v. Commission on Elections[6] we held 4

While nominally, the procedure of bringing to the Commission


objections to the actuations of boards of canvassers has been quite
loosely referred to in certain quarters, even by the Commission and
by this Court x x x as an appeal, the fact of the matter is that the
authority of the Commission in reviewing such actuations does not
spring from any appellant jurisdiction conferred by any specific
provision of law, for there is none such provision anywhere in the
Election Code, but from the plenary prerogative of direct control and
supervision endowed to it by the above-quoted provisions of Section
168. And in administrative law, it is a too well settled postulate to
need any supporting citation here, that a superior body or office
having supervision and control over another may do directly what the
latter is supposed to do or ought to have done x x x x
Also in Lucman v. Dimaporo[7] we ruled The function of a canvassing board in the canvass of the returns is
purely ministerial in nature. Equally ministerial, therefore, is the
function of the Commission on Elections, in the exercise of its
supervisory power over said Board, pursuant to our Constitution and
laws. So long as the election returns have been accomplished in due
form, the Board, and on appeal therefrom, the Commission on
Elections must include said returns in the canvass.
In Abes v. Commission on Elections[8] we emphasized x x x (T)he board of canvassers is a ministerial body. It is enjoined by
law to canvass all votes on election returns submitted to it in due
form. It has been said, and properly, that its powers are limited
generally to the mechanical or mathematical function of ascertaining
and declaring the apparent result of the election by adding or
compiling the votes cast for each candidate as shown on the face of
the returns before them, and then declaring or certifying the result so
ascertained. Comelec is the constitutional body charged with the duty
to enforce all laws relative to elections, duty bound to see to it that
the board of canvassers perform its proper function.
Pertinent rulings of this Court have since defined Comelec's powers
in pursuance of its supervisory or administrative authority over
officials charged with specific duties under the election code. It is
within the legitimate concerns of Comelec to annul a canvass or
proclamation based on incomplete returns, or on incorrect or
tampered returns; annul a canvass or proclamation made in an
5

unauthorized meeting of the board of canvassers either because it


lacked a quorum or because the board did not meet at all. Neither
Constitution nor statute has granted Comelec or board of canvassers
the power, in the canvass of election returns, to look beyond the face
thereof, once satisfied of their authenticity.
The assailed Orders having been issued pursuant to COMELEC's
administrative powers and in the absence of any finding of grave abuse of
discretion, judicial interference is therefore unnecessary and uncalled
for. Consequently, the questioned Orders must perforce be upheld.
Additionally, Secs. 27, 28 and 29 of R.A. No. 7166[9] provide Sec. 27. Number of Copies of Election Returns and Their Distribution.
- The board of election inspectors shall prepare in handwriting the
election returns in their respective polling places, in the number of
copies herein provided and in the form to be prescribed and provided
by the Commission.
The copies of the election returns shall be distributed as
follows: (a) In the election of x x x members of the House of
Representatives: 1) The first copy shall be delivered to the city or
municipal board of canvassers; 2) The second copy, to the Congress,
directed to the President of the Senate; 3) The third copy, to the
Commission; 4) The fourth copy, to the provincial board of
canvassers; 5) The fifth copy, to x x x the city or municipal treasurer;
6)The sixth copy shall be given to the city or municipal trial court
judge or in his absence to any official who may be designated by the
Commission. The city or municipal trial court judge or the official
designated by the Commission shall keep his copies of the election
returns sealed and unopened. Said copy may be opened only during
the canvass upon order of the board of canvassers for purposes of
comparison with other copies of the returns whose authenticity is in
question; and, 7) The seventh copy shall be deposited inside the
compartment of the ballot box for valid ballots x x x x
Sec. 28. Canvassing by Provincial, City, District and Municipal
Boards of Canvassers. - (a) The city or municipal board of canvassers
shall canvass the election returns for x x x members of the House of
Representatives and/or elective provincial and city or municipal
officials. Upon completion of the canvass, it shall prepare the
certificate of canvass for x x x Members of the House of
Representatives x x x x
6

Sec. 29. Number of Copies of Certificate of Canvass and their


Distribution. - (a) The certificate of canvass for x x x Members of the
House of Representatives x x x shall be prepared in seven (7) copies
by the city or municipal board of canvassers and distributed as
follows: 1) The first copy shall be delivered to the provincial board of
canvassers x x x x; 2) The second copy shall be sent to the
Commission; 3) The third copy shall be kept by thechairman of the
board; 4) The fourth copy shall be given to the citizens arm
designated by the Commission to conduct a media-based unofficial
count; and, 5) The fifth, sixth and seventh copies shall be given to the
representatives of any three (3) of the six (6) major political parties in
accordance with the voluntary agreement of the parties x x x x
In the instant petition, petitioner Mastura argues that the COMELEC
Second Division should have made use of the Municipal Board of
Canvassers copy of the election returns for the simple reason that it is the
original copy. This is a misconception. All the seven (7) copies of the
election returns are all original copies, although the copy for the Municipal
Board of Canvassers is designated as the first copy. This designation is only
for the purpose of distribution and does not in any way accord said copy
the status of being the only original copy. Consequently, it was properly
within the exercise of its discretion when COMELEC ordered the
production and examination of the MTC Judge copy and the COMELEC
copy of the election returns. COMELEC is not required to retrieve and
examine all the seven (7) copies of the election returns.
Additionally, Sec. 15 of R.A. No. 7166 does not in any way specify that
the COMELEC should use the Municipal Board of Canvassers copy in
correcting manifest error. COMELEC is in fact given enough leeway in this
regard Sec. 15. Pre-Proclamation Cases Not Allowed in Elections for
President, Vice-President, Senator and Member of the House of
Representatives. - For purposes of the elections for President,
Vice-President, Senator and Member of the House of Representatives,
no pre-proclamation cases shall be allowed on matters relating to the
preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of the
election returns or the certificate of canvass, as the case may
be. However, this does not preclude the authority of the appropriate
canvassing body motu proprio or upon written complaint of an
interested person to correct manifest errors in the certificate of
canvass or election returns before it x x x x
7

There is another reason for denying the instant petition. When


petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the 29 February 1996 Order was
denied for being interlocutory in nature, petitioner should have sought prior
recourse from the COMELEC en banc before coming to this Court,
pursuant to Sec. 3, Art. IX-C, of the Constitution.
WHEREFORE, finding no grave abuse of discretion committed by
public respondent COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS Second Division, the
instant petition is DISMISSED. The assailed Orders of 29 February 1996, 5
March 1996, 14 March 1996 and 20 March 1996 of the COMELEC Second
Division are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

.R. No. 135423. November 29, 1999]


JESUS L. CHU, petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
THE MUNICIPAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF USON,
MASBATE and SALVADORA O. SANCHEZ, respondents.
DECISION
GONZAGA_REYES, J.:
Assailed in this petition for certiorari under Rule 65 is the September 1,
1998 resolution of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc in SPC
No. 98-109, denying petitioners motion for reconsideration and affirming
the June 8, 1998 order of its Second Division.[1] The aforesaid order upheld
the ruling of the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Uson, Masbate to
include in its canvassing the 37 election returns objected to by petitioner.
Petitioner Jesus L. Chu and private respondent Salvadora O. Sanchez
(Sanchez) were candidates for municipal mayor of Uson, Masbate in the
May 11, 1998 elections. While the election returns were being canvassed by
the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Uson, Masbate (MBC), petitioner
objected to the inclusion in the canvass of some of the election
returns.[2] Petitioner alleged that Sanchez, with the aid of armed men,
entered into the polling places where the centralized counting was being
conducted, and exerted undue influence and intimidation upon the board of
8

election inspectors (BEI) who were then counting the votes and preparing
the election returns.[3] Thus, according to petitioner, the votes reflected in
these returns are no longer reflective of the will of the electorate and should
not be included in the canvass.[4]
Petitioner claims that he orally objected to the inclusion of seventy-four
(74) election returns. Yet, he was only able to file written objections within
24 hours from the time the oral objections were made as required under
section 245 of the Omnibus Election Code (the Code)[5] for thirty-seven
(37)[6] election returns. Petitioner attributed this shortcoming to the MBCs
refusal to give him the prescribed form when it convened on the evening of
May 11, 1998. It was only on May 12, 1998, at 5 p.m., after the MBC had
already finished canvassing forty (40) election returns, that the MBC
furnished petitioner with a single copy of the required forms, which
petitioner had to photocopy in another municipality.[7]
On May 15, 1998, the MBC rejected petitioners objections, finding that
the affidavits submitted by petitioner were not sufficient to support his
allegations that they were prepared under duress and giving more weight to
the affidavits executed by the BEI.[8]Petitioner appealed to the Comelec and
on June 8, 1998, public respondents Second Division denied petitioners
appeal and directed the MBC to reconvene and include in the canvass the 37
election returns and, thereafter, proclaim the winning candidate. Its
disquisition was as follows
While the appeal interposed by the appellant show [sic] that the ground
adduced fall [sic] under paragraph (c) of Section 243 of the Omnibus
Election Code, there is, however nothing in the statements of the witnesses
that would remotely evinced [sic] the alleged intimidation, duress, coercion
or undue influence supposedly exerted by the private respondent and the
armed men during the counting of votes and the preparation of the election
returns....
The question to be resolved is whether or not the objections are valid and
sufficient to cause the exclusion of these 37 election returns of the
enumerated precincts from the canvass. The evidence presented by the
petitioner are insubstantial and lacks the specifics required to prove that
respondent indeed committed the acts imputed to her which, as a
consequence, would suffice to render the subject election returns defective
or invalid. Unless palpable errors and/or material defects are clearly
discernible on the faces of these returns, the Board of Canvassers is duty
9

bound to canvass the same. The Board cannot look beyond or behind these
election returns because its function is purely ministerial.
Apropos thereto, the Supreme Court in Casimiro vs. Commission on
Elections, March 29, 1989, 171 SCRA 468, said:
Obviously the evidence relied upon by petitioner to support their charges of
fraud and irregularities in the election returns and in the canvassing
consisted of Affidavits prepared by their own representatives. The
self-serving nature of said Affidavits cannot be discounted. As this Court
has pronounced, reliance should not be placed on mere affidavits.
Aside from said sworn statements, the records do not indicate any other
substantial evidence that would justify the exclusion of election returns in
the canvassing for being fraudulent in character or a declaration that the
proceedings wherein the returns were canvassed were null and void. The
evidence presented by petitioners is not enough to overturn the presumption
that official duty had been regularly performed (Section 5[m], Rule 131). In
the absence of clearly convincing evidence, the election returns and the
canvassing proceedings must be upheld. A conclusion that an election
return is obviously manufactured or false and consequently should be
disregarded in the canvass must be approached with extreme caution, and
only upon the most convincing proof.
Perforce, for insufficiency of evidence, the ruling of the Municipal Board of
Canvassers of Uson, Masbate, dated May 15, 1998, to include in the
canvass these 37 election returns is AFFIRMED.[9]
Petitioner received the Comelecs order on June 17, 1998. The following
day, on June 18, 1998, upon the receipt of a telegram sent by the Comelec,
the MBC proclaimed Sanchez as the winning candidate. On June 22, 1998,
petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the Second Divisions order,
with an additional prayer for the annulment of the proclamation of
Sanchez. However, on September 1, 1998 the Comelec en banc denied
petitioners motion. Hence, this special civil action, wherein petitioner raises
the following issues
1. Whether or not the proclamation of Salvadora Sanchez as the winning
mayoralty candidate of Uson, Masbate before the lapse of the five-day
reglementary period within which the losing party [herein petitioner] may
file his motion for reconsideration is valid?
10

2. Whether or not the September 1, 1998 resolution of the Comelec en


banc affirming the June 8, 1998 order of its second division is valid albeit
the fact that if failed to rule on the remaining 37 election returns which were
likewise objected to by petitioner and the results thereof will materially
affect the outcome of the election?
3. Whether or not public respondent Comelec gravely abused its discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it rendered the September
1, 1998 resolution in SPC Case No. 98-109?[10]
The petition is without merit.
The Code provides that 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 preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and
appreciation of the election returns.[11]
Section 243 of the Code enumerates the specific issues that may be
raised in a pre-proclamation controversy as follows:
(a) Illegal composition or proceedings of the board of canvassers;
(b) The canvassed election returns are incomplete, contain material defects,
appear to be tampered with or falsified, or contain discrepancies in the same
returns or in other authentic copies thereof as mentioned in Sections 233,
234, 235 and 236 of the Code;
(c) The election returns were prepared under duress, threats, coercion, or
intimidation, or they are obviously manufactured or not authentic; and
(d) When substitute or fraudulent returns in controverted polling places
were canvassed, the results of which materially affected the standing of the
aggrieved candidate or candidates.
In addition to the restrictive and exclusive scope of its subject matter, all
pre-proclamation controversies on election returns or certificates of canvass
shall be disposed of summarily - first, by the board of canvassers, and then,
by the Comelec.[12] It is a well-entrenched rule in jurisprudence that, in a
pre-proclamation controversy, the board of canvassers and the Comelec are
not to look beyond or behind election returns which are on their face regular
11

and authentic returns. In such summary proceedings, there is no room for


the presentation of evidence aliunde, the inspection of voluminous
documents, and for meticulous technical examinations which take up
considerable time. A party seeking to raise issues the resolution of which
would compel or necessitate the Comelec to pierce the veil of election
returns which are prima facie regular on their face, has his proper remedy in
a regular election protest.[13]
The legislative intent behind the summary disposition of
pre-proclamation controversies is to give life to the policy that the canvass
and proclamation be delayed as little as possible for it is in the public
interest that the position for which the election was held should be filled
promptly, even though the proclamation of the winning candidates be
provisional in nature, in that the same may still be subject to the results of
the election protests that may be subsequently filed.[14] Also, the boards of
canvassers, particularly municipal, city and provincial, before whom such
pre-proclamation controversies are initiated, are merely ad hoc bodies,
existing only for the interim task of canvassing election returns and thus, do
not have the facilities, the time, nor the competence to hear, examine and
decide on alleged election irregularities, unlike regular courts, the Comelec
or the electoral tribunals (Presidential, Senate, and House) which are regular
agencies of the government tasked and equipped for the purpose.[15]
In order to justify his objection to the inclusion of the 74 election returns
in the canvassing, petitioner alleged the following election irregularities - (1)
Sanchez replaced some members of the BEI with her relatives and
sympathizers; (2) the respective assignments of the other BEI members
were changed without prior approval by the Comelec; (3) after the voting,
the members of the BEI were instructed to bring to Uson Central School the
ballot boxes for a centralized counting despite the fact that the elections
were peaceful and orderly and hence, there was no need to transfer the
venue of the counting of the ballots; (4) that, considering the distance of
some barangays from Uson, it took several hours for the ballot boxes to
reach the school, during which time many irregularities could have
transpired, destroying the sanctity of the ballot boxes; (5) during the
counting of the ballots and the preparation of the returns, Sanchez and her
fully armed bodyguards entered the polling places and spoke with the
members of the BEI who, due to very strong fear for their lives, were forced
to disregard the ballots and instead to favor Sanchez, giving her a wide
margin over petitioner; (6) Sanchez, together with her relatives and
supporters, observed the proceedings before the BEI, resulting in the
12

intimidation of the members thereof; (7) Sanchez bodyguards threatened


petitioners watchers in order to prevent them from performing their
functions; and (8) some members of the MBC were forced by Sanchez
bodyguards to immediately proclaim Sanchez. In support of his allegations,
petitioner submitted the affidavits of members of the BEI and of his own
supporters[16] and a certified true copy of an excerpt from the blotter of the
Uson Police Department.[17]
The only issue raised by petitioner which may possibly be the subject of
a pre-proclamation controversy is the entry of Sanchez and her armed
bodyguards in the polling places during the counting of ballots and the
preparation of the election returns, which allegedly caused the intimidation
and undue influence of the members of the BEI, resulting in the sudden and
radical change in the election returns.[18] This would appear to fall
under section 243 (c) of the Code, which provides that one of the issues
properly pertaining to a pre-proclamation controversy is that [t]he election returns were prepared under duress, threats, coercion, or
intimidation, or they are obviously manufactured or not authentic.
However, petitioner does not claim that there are any defects or
irregularities apparent from a physical inspection of the election
returns. Neither did the MBC nor the Comelec make any finding that the
returns contained any palpable errors or material defects. To prove the
intimidation which petitioner asserts was exerted upon the members of the
BEI by Sanchez and her supporters would require the reception of
evidence aliunde in a full-blown proceeding, wherein the parties are
permitted to file pleadings and to introduce the testimonies of their
witnesses and other documentary evidence to substantiate their allegations
before the proper tribunal. Such election irregularities cannot be proven in a
summary proceeding like a pre-proclamation controversy, but rather should
be properly raised in an election protest.
In the recent case of Salih vs. Comelec,[19] we held that returns will not
be excluded on the mere allegations that the returns are manufactured or
fictitious when the returns, on their face, appear regular and wanting of any
physical signs of tampering, alteration, or other similar vice. Thus, if there
had been sham voting or minimal voting which was made to appear as
normal through the falsification of the election returns, such grounds are
properly cognizable in an election protest and not in a pre-proclamation
controversy.
13

And in Matalam vs. Comelec,[20] the Court, in rejecting petitioners


claims that the election returns were spurious, obviously manufactured and
prepared under irregular circumstances, explained that
[the] petition must fail because it effectively implores the Court to disregard
the statutory norm that pre-proclamation controversies are to be resolved in
a summary proceeding. He [petitioner] asks the Court to ignore the fact that
the election returns appear regular on their face, and instead to determine
whether fraud or irregularities attended the election process. Because what
he is asking for necessarily postulates a full reception of
evidence aliunde and the meticulous examination of voluminous election
documents, it is clearly anathema to a pre-proclamation controversy which,
by its very nature, is to be heard summarily and decided as promptly as
possible.
Petitioner claims that the proclamation of Sanchez was premature since,
at the time of such proclamation, the Comelecs June 8, 1998 order was not
yet final and executory pursuant to paragraphs (h) and (i) of section 20 of
RA 7166 which provides
SEC. 20. Procedure in Disposition of Contested Election Returns. xxx xxx xxx
(h) On the basis of the records and evidence elevated to it by the board, the
Commission shall decide summarily the appeal within seven (7) days from
receipt of said records and evidence. Any appeal brought before the
Commission on the ruling of the board, without the accomplished forms and
the evidence appended thereto, shall be summarily dismissed.
The decision of the Commission shall be executory after the lapse of seven
(7) days from receipt thereof by the losing party.
(i) The board of canvassers shall not proclaim any candidate as winner
unless authorized by the Commission after the latter has ruled on the
objections brought to it on appeal by the losing party. Any proclamation
made in violation hereof shall be void ab initio, unless the contested returns
will not adversely affect the results of the election.
Petitioner also cites sections 13, Rule 18 and section 2, Rule 19 of the
Comelec Rules of Procedure which states as follows14

Rule 18 - Decisions
Sec. 13. Finality of Decisions or Resolutions.
xxx xxx xxx
(b) In Special Actions and Special Cases a decision or resolutions of the
Commission en banc shall become final and executory after five (5) days
from its promulgation unless restrained by the Supreme Court.
xxx xxx xxx
Rule 19 - Motions for Reconsideration
Sec. 2. Period for Filing Motions for Reconsideration. - A motion to
reconsider a decision, resolution, order, or ruling of a Division shall be filed
within five (5) days from the promulgation thereof. Such motion, if not pro
forma, suspends the execution or implementation of the decision, resolution,
order or ruling.
According to petitioner, since he received the Comelecs June 8, 1998 order
only on June 17, 1998, the same attained finality and may be fully executed
only on June 24, 1998; that he had five days from receipt of the assailed
order to file a motion for reconsideration or until June 22, 1998; and that the
proclamation of Sanchez as the winning candidate by the MBC on June 18,
1998 is void ab initio for at the time there was no final judgment which the
board could lawfully implement.[21]
Petitioner also asks this Court to declare that the Comelec committed a
reversible error in failing to pass upon his objections to the inclusion of the
thirty-seven (37) election returns which he was unable to embody in the
prescribed form, as required by section 20 (c) of RA 7166, reasoning that
such failure was attributable to the MBC. [22]
In light of our ruling that the electoral irregularities enumerated by
petitioner are not proper to a pre-proclamation controversy for so long as
the election returns appear to be authentic and duly accomplished on their
face, the other issues raised by petitioner have necessarily become moot and
academic.[23] The MBC, in rejecting petitioners objections and proclamaing
Sanchez, and the Comelec, in upholding the MBC, are entitled to the legal
presumption of regularity in the performance of their official
functions,[24] which petitioner has failed to rebut.
15

Even assuming that petitioner had availed of the proper remedy, still the
proclamation of Sanchez by the MBC did not have to await the resolution of
his motion for reconsideration by the Comelec en banc since it was validly
made upon the authority of the order issued by the Comelecs Second
Division, ordering the MBC to reconvene and include the 37 election
returns in the canvass and thereafter, proclaim the winning candidate. In this
respect, our ruling in Casimiro vs. Comelec[25] is squarely in point. We held
in this case that the proclamation of the winning candidate by the board of
canvassers was authorized by the ruling of the Comelecs Second Division
ordering the board to reconvene, complete the canvass if not yet completed,
and proclaim the winning candidates even though such proclamation was
made before the filing of the motion for reconsideration with the
Comelec en banc.
We wish to stress that our ruling in this case merely sustains the
Comelecs position that, in the absence of palpable errors and/or material
defects [which] are clearly discernible on the faces of these returns, the
board of canvassers should include in the canvass the 37 election
returns[26] and that, by ruling thus, we have no intention of passing upon the
verity of petitioners imputations of electoral irregularities and acts of
terrorism, which we reiterate is not in issue in a pre-proclamation
controversy, but should be resolved in a proper electoral protest.[27]
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED for petitioners
failure to demonstrate that public respondent Comelec committed grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing its
resolution dated September 1, 1998.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
[G.R. No. 145802. April 4, 2001]
DOMINADOR T. BELAC, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION
ELECTIONS and ROMMEL DIASEN, respondents.

ON

DECISION
16

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:
This is a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for a
temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, assailing the
Resolutions dated February 22, 2000 and November 16, 2000 of the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) en banc in SPCNo. 98-170.
The facts as shown by the records are:
Rommel Diasen of the LAMMP and Dominador Belac of the
LAKAS-NUCD were candidates for governor in the province of Kalinga
during the May 11, 1998 national and local elections.
On May 14, 1998, the Provincial Board of Canvassers started to canvass
the results of the election.
On May 15, 1998, when the Certificate of Canvass and Statement of
Votes for the municipality of Pinukpuk were scheduled for canvassing,
Diasen objected to the inclusion of the election returns of 42 precincts in the
said municipality.
On May 19, 1998, Diasen also questioned the inclusion of the election
returns of 28 precincts of the town of Tinglayan.
Within twenty-four (24) hours therefrom, Diasen filed with the Kalinga
Provincial Board of Canvassers a petition for exclusion of the Certificates
of Canvass and Statements of Votes for Pinukpuk and Tinglayan, alleging
in the main that:
1. The Certificates of Canvass and Statements of Votes were not
prepared by the Board of Election Inspectors as the same were not signed
by the respective watchers for the candidates political parties.
2. There were discrepancies in the tally of votes. The official LAMMP
copies of the official returns have a lesser number of votes than those
appearing in the Statements of Votes for the said municipalities.
However, the Provincial Board of Canvassers proceeded to include in its
canvass the results as stated in the election returns for Pinukpuk. On
Diasens objection to the inclusion of the election returns for Tinglayan, the
Board ruled that it will only issue a certificate of correction since the
discrepancies were caused by mere error in indicating the entries.
On May 19, 1998, the Provincial Board of Canvassers proclaimed Belac
as the duly elected governor for the province of Kalinga.
17

On May 21, 1998, Diasen appealed to the COMELEC (First Division)


from the rulings of the Provincial Board of Canvassers.
On June 4, 1998, the COMELEC (First Division) issued a Resolution
dismissing Diasens appeal for lack of merit, thus:
Wherefore, premises considered, the appeal is hereby dismissed for lack of
merit. The rulings of the Provincial Board of Canvassers on the petition for
exclusion of Certificate of Canvass and Statement of Votes are hereby
affirmed. The Provincial Board of Canvassers for Kalinga is hereby directed
to reconvene and continue with the canvassing with reasonable dispatch and
proclaim the winning candidate if the votes from the four precincts of
Tinglayan, Kalinga where there was failure of elections would not
materially affect the results of the election.
Considering that the records of the case show that additions in the COCs
and SOVs of Pinukpuk for the votes of gubernatorial candidate Dominador
Belac were made, the Law Department is directed to conduct a preliminary
investigation for the commission of an election offense against the members
of the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Pinukpuk, Kalinga.
The Law Department is similarly directed to conduct an immediate
investigation on the possible commission of electoral fraud as alluded to in
the ultimate paragraph before the herein dispositive portion. The Election
Officer of Pinukpuk is directed immediately to cause the transfer of the
Book of Voters for the 69 precincts of Pinukpuk to the Comelec Main
Office [c/o Law Department] for this purpose.
On June 19, 1998, Diasen filed a motion for reconsideration of the above
Resolution which was elevated to the COMELEC en banc.
While the said motion was pending resolution in the COMELEC en
banc, the Chairman of the Provincial Board of Canvassers, Atty. Nicasio
Aliping, convened the Board by calling the two other members in order to
proclaim Belac as the new governor. But the two members declined, so only
Atty. Aliping proceeded with Belacs proclamation.
On June 28, 1998, Diasen filed with the COMELEC a separate petition
(SPC No. 98-291) to dispute the proclamation of Belac.
Meanwhile, on February 22, 2000, or almost two years after the filing of
Diasens motion for reconsideration on June 19, 1998, the COMELEC en
banc promulgated the first assailed Resolution modifying the ruling of the
First Division, thus:
18

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the resolution of the Commission


(First Division) subject of the instant Motion for Reconsideration is hereby
modified as follows:
1) The Provincial Board of Canvassers for Kalinga is hereby directed to
proceed with the canvassing of votes for the office of the provincial
governor deducting from the Certificates of Canvass of the Municipalities
of Tinglayan and Pinukpuk the votes reflected on the election returns from
the above-excluded precincts and thereafter proclaim the winning candidate
for governor;
2) The directive to the Law Department to conduct appropriate
investigations is affirmed with the modification, however, that the Board of
Election Inspectors concerned for the municipalities of Pinukpuk and
Tinglayan, as well as John Does, be likewise investigated for possible
collusion in the commission of the election offense and election anomaly,
subject of petitioners case.
The above Resolution was penned by Commissioner Manolo Gorospe,
concurred in by Commissioners Japal Guiani and Luzviminda Tancangco.
Chairman Harriet Demetriou and Commissioner Julio Desamito joined
Commissioner Teresita Dy-liacco Flores in her dissent. In short, the voting
was 3-3.
In view of the results of the voting, Belac filed a motion praying that the
COMELEC en banc desist from implementing the February 22, 2000
Resolution in favor of Diasen, citing Section 6, Rule 18 of the COMELEC
Rules of Procedure.[1] The COMELEC granted the motion in its February
24, 2000 order and set the re-hearing on March 9, 2000.
On February 28, 2000, pursuant to the COMELEC en bancs February 22,
2000 Resolution, the Provincial Board of Canvassers proclaimed Diasen as
the duly elected governor. On the same date, Diasen took his oath of office
as governor of Kalinga Province.
On March 9, 2000, after receiving Atty. Alipings Report on March 3,
2000 on Diasens proclamation, the COMELEC en banc issued an order:
1. To direct Rommel Diasen to cease and desist from discharging the duties
and functions of the Office of the Governor of Kalinga Province until
further orders of this Commission during the pendency of this case;

19

2. To require both parties to comment on the report of Atty. Nicasio M.


Aliping, Jr., Regional Election Attorney and Chairman of the Provincial
Board of Canvassers of Kalinga, x x x, and to include in said comment why
the proceedings of the Provincial Board of Canvassers on February 25, 2000
and the subsequent proclamation of Atty. Rommel Diasen on 28 February
2000 be declared null and void.
Thereafter, the COMELEC en banc re-scheduled the re-hearing of
Diasens motion for reconsideration (in view of the 3-3 voting) set on March
9 to March 23, 2000. The parties agreed to file their respective memoranda.
Meanwhile, on October 3, 2000, the COMELEC (Second Division)
issued a Resolution in SPC Case No. 98-291 declaring null and void the
proclamation of Belac as governor, holding that:
The proclamation of respondent Belac by the PBC Chairman alone against
the votes of the other two members of the PBC is illegal because the
Omnibus Election Code (Section 255) provides that a majority vote of all
the members of the Board of Canvassers shall be necessary to render a
decision.
On November 16, 2000, Belac filed his Manifestation with Formal
Motion claiming that the votes of Commissioners Gorospe and Guiani in
the assailed Resolution dated February 22, 2000 should not be considered
since they retired on February 15, 2000, or before the promulgation, citing
the recently decided case of Ambil vs. COMELEC.[2] In this case, the
Supreme Court held that one who is no longer a member of the Commission
at the time the final decision or resolution is promulgated cannot validly
take part in that resolution or decision.
Chairman Demetriou denied Belacs motion.
On November 16, 2000, the Commission en banc, now with new
members in view of the retirement of Commissioners Manolo Gorospe and
Japal Guiani, promulgated the second challenged Resolution, the dispositive
portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the motion for reconsideration is
hereby GRANTED. Accordingly, We hereby:
1. AFFIRM the proclamation of Petitioner-Appellant ROMMEL W.
DIASEN as the duly elected Governor of Kalinga by Public Respondent
Provincial Board of Canvassers of Kalinga;
20

2. RECALL and LIFT the Order promulgated on March 9, 2000 directing


Petitioner-Appellant to cease and desist from performing the duties and
functions of the Office of Governor for the province of Kalinga;
3. AFFIRM the directive to the LAW DEPARTMENT to conduct
appropriate investigations of the Board of Election Inspectors for the
municipalities of Pinukpuk and Tinglayan, as well as John Does, for
possible collusion in the commission of election offenses and irregularities,
subject in the above-entitled case; and
4. FURNISH a copy of this Resolution to the Office of the President, the
Secretary of Interior and Local Government, the Chairman of the
Commission on Audit, and the Secretary of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan
of Kalinga Province, for their guidance and information.
The above Resolution was concurred in by Commissioners Julio
Desamito, Luzviminda Tancangco, Ralph Lantion and Rufino
Javier. Commissioner Teresita Dy-Liaco-Flores again wrote a dissenting
opinion, joined by Chairman Demetriou.
Hence, this petition by Dominador Belac on the following grounds:
First Ground
Respondent COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to
lack and/or excess of jurisdiction and in fact implicitly deprived petitioner
of DUE PROCESS, when it manifestly, deliberately and utterly FAILED
AND REFUSED to act WITH DISPATCH on private respondents
SUMMARY Petition on Pre-Proclamation Controversy; the Supposed Final
Resolution on Mere REHEARING promulgated only on November 16,
2000, AFTER MORE THAN 30 MONTHS from the filing of the Petition,
clearly violated petitioners right to due process, to a speedy disposition of
cases and an (sic) clearly an act of grave abuse of discretion.
Second Ground
The November 16 Questioned Resolution (Annex A) was absolutely useless
and was indeed superflous (sic) and totally NULL AND VOID, considering
that the same was supposed to be a Final Resolution on a supposed
REHEARING under Rule 18, Section 6 of the COMELEC Rules,
wrongfully premised on a supposed previous EQUALLY DIVIDED VOTE
in the February 22, 2000 Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc, However,
21

legally, procedurally and truthfully there was no such prior Equally Divided
Resolution/Vote that would have required a Rehearing, as the COMELEC
En Banc patently erred in counting and accepting even the null and void
VOTES/signatures of two (2) Commissioners who retired on February 15,
2000 - prior to the February 22, 2000 promulgation.
Third Ground
RESPONDENT COMELEC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF
DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND/OR EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION WHEN IT EXCLUDED FROM CANVASS FORTY
TWO (42) ELECTION RETURNS FOR PINUKPUK AND TWENTY
EIGHT (28) ELECTION RETURNS FOR TINGLAYAN, DESPITE
UTTER LACK OF LEGAL AND FACTUAL BASES THEREFOR AND
IN GROSS AND WANTON DISREGARD OF LAW AND
WELL-SETTLED JURISPRUDENCE.
Public respondent COMELEC en banc and private respondent Rommel
Diasen filed their respective comments on the petition.
Respondent COMELEC, in its comment, states that based on evidence
on record, there were serious irregularities, tampering and falsification of
the questioned election returns in the contested precincts at Pinukpuk and
Tinglayan. On this ground, although an exception, the COMELEC can rule
on the exclusion of the questioned election returns.
In his comment, respondent Diasen maintains that petitioner Belac can
not be considered the duly elected governor of Kalinga because the
respondent COMELEC (Second Division) unanimously declared null and
void his proclamation in its resolution promulgated on October 3,
2000. Likewise, petitioner was not deprived of due process considering that
he was given the opportunity to be heard and that he actively participated in
the proceedings before the COMELEC. And by such active participation, he
is estopped from questioning the validity of the votes cast by
Commissioners Gorospe and Guiani who retired.
The basic issue for our resolution is whether or not respondent
COMELEC in a pre-proclamation case can go beyond the face of the
election returns.
It may be recalled that when the Provincial Board of Canvassers
commenced the canvassing of the Certificates of Canvass and Statements of
Votes for Pinukpuk and Tinglayan, respondent Diasen objected to the
22

inclusion of the election returns of several precincts in both municipalities;


and that within twenty-four hours therefrom, he filed a formal petition with
the Provincial Board of Canvassers for the exclusion of the Certificates of
Canvass and Statements of Votes for the said municipalities.
Section 241 of the Omnibus Election Code provides that 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, on any matter
raised under Sections 233, 234, 235 and 236 in relation to the preparation,
transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of the election returns.
Section 243 of the Code enumerates the specific issues that may be
raised in a pre-proclamation controversy as follows:
(a) Illegal composition or proceedings of the board of canvassers;
(b) The canvassed election returns are incomplete, contain material defects,
appear to be tampered with or falsified, or contain discrepancies in the same
returns or in other authentic copies thereof as mentioned in Sections 233,
234, 235 and 236 of this Code;
(c) The election returns were prepared under duress, threats, coercion, or
intimidation, or they are obviously manufactured or not authentic; and
(d) When substitute or fraudulent returns in controverted polling places
were canvassed, the results of which materially affected the standing of the
aggrieved candidate or candidates.
The above enumeration is restrictive and exclusive. Thus, in Sanchez vs.
COMELEC,[3] this Court held:
3. The scope of pre-proclamation controversy is limited to the issues
enumerated under sec. 243 of the Omnibus Election Code. The enumeration
therein of the issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversy, is
restrictive and exclusive. In the absence of any clear showing or proof that
the election returns canvassed are incomplete or contain material defects
(sec. 234), appear to have been tampered with, falsified or prepared under
duress (sec. 235) and/or contain discrepancies in the votes credited to any
candidate, the difference of which affects the result of the election (sec.
236), which are the only instances where a pre-proclamation recount may be
23

resorted to, granted the preservation of the integrity of the ballot box and its
contents, Sanchez petition must fail.
In his petition with the Provincial Board of Canvassers, respondent
Diasen raised the following grounds:
1. The Certificate of Canvass of Votes is falsified.
2. The Certificate of Votes were prepared under duress, threats,
coercion or intimidation.
3. The certificate of Canvass of votes is obviously manufactured as
the Statement of Votes supporting it is likewise manufactured and
falsified.
4. There was a deliberate and massive operation DAGDAG-BAWAS
in the Certificate of Canvass and Statement of Votes in Pinukpuk,
Kalinga.
1. The votes of Candidate for Governor, Dominador Belac, in Precincts
1A, 2A, 3A, x x x were all padded (OPERATION DAGDAG) or
increased in the Statement of Votes per precinct as well as in the
Election Returns.
2. The Election Returns in the above-stated precincts cannot be the basis
of a proper correction of the votes garnered by Belac because said
election returns were likewise tampered with, falsified and manufactured
as can be determined from the documents (ELECTION RETURNS)
themselves due to the following:
A. The aforesaid election returns were already prepared even before the
actual counting of votes as shown by the fact that they were prepared by
persons other than the BEIs; (Board of Inspectors)
B. The PENCRAFT of the BEIs in the aforesaid precincts differ from
the pencraft of those who prepared the election returns;
C. In the aforesaid election returns, the votes of Belac were drastically
and obviously increased as can be gleaned from the fact that Belac
garnered almost 100% of the registered voters in said precincts;
D. That in order to determine the true will of the electorate[s], a
RECOUNT of the votes must be ordered.
24

Respondent Diasens petition pertains to a pre-proclamation


controversy. Specifically, it alleges that the votes for petitioner Belac were
all padded through Operation Dagdag; the election returns for him (Diasen)
was tampered, falsified and manufactured; and that the election returns were
already prepared even before the counting of votes. He thus prays that the
votes must be recounted.
Diasen did not say that the alleged irregularities appear on the face of the
election returns. Obviously, they came from external sources and, therefore,
not manifest on the election returns.
In fact, even the Certificates of Canvass and Statements of Votes for
Pinukpuk and Tinglayan were in order.
The Provincial Board of Canvassers explained that it refused to exclude
the Certificate of Canvass of Tinglayan because it was regular on its face
and the grounds raised by respondent Diasen are not among those in the list
enumerated by law. Nothing therein shows it was manufactured or prepared
under duress, threat or intimidation or that it was tampered or falsified.
As to the Statement of Votes for Tinglayan, the reason why some
election returns were not canvassed was because of ballot snatching in some
areas. The incompleteness of the Statement of Votes, therefore, did not
vitiate the Certificate of Canvass.
With respect to the Certificate of Canvass and Statement of Votes for
Pinukpuk, the Board checked the entries therein of the election returns in
the presence of the parties representatives. Having found there were some
Dagdag for Belac, the Board required the correction of the Statement of
Votes and the Certificate of Canvass basing the correction on the figures in
the election returns, pursuant to the General Instructions for Boards of
Canvassers. It was only after the proper correction was made that the Board
included the Certificate of Canvass in the provincial canvass.
In Matalam vs. COMELEC,[4] this Court held that in a pre-proclamation
controversy, the COMELEC, as a rule, is restricted to an examination of the
election returns and is without jurisdiction to go beyond or behind them and
investigate election irregularities. Indeed, in the case of Loong vs.
COMELEC,[5] the Court, through Mr. Justice Regino Hermosisima, Jr.,
declared that the prevailing doctrine in this jurisdiction xxx is that as long as
the returns appear to be authentic and duly accomplished on their face, the
Board of Canvassers cannot look beyond or behind them to verify
allegations of irregularities in the casting or the counting of the votes.
25

Loong cited the earlier ruling of the Court in Dipatuan


vs. COMELEC[6] and held: The policy consideration underlying the
delimitation both of substantive ground and procedure is the policy to
determine as quickly as possible the result of the election on the basis of the
canvass. Thus, in the case of Dipatuan vs. Commission on Elections, we
categorically ruled that in a pre-proclamation controversy, COMELEC is
not to look beyond or behind election returns which are on their face regular
and authentic returns. A party seeking to raise issues resolution of which
would, compel or necessitate COMELEC to pierce the veil of election
returns which appear prima facie regular on their face, has his proper
remedy in a regular election protest. By their very nature, and given the
obvious public interest in the speedy determination of the results of
elections, pre-proclamation controversies are to be resolved in summary
proceedings without the need to present evidence aliunde and certainly
without having to go through voluminous documents and subjecting them to
meticulous technical examinations which take up considerable time.
The above ruling was reiterated in the more recent case of June
Genevieve R. Sebastian, et al. vs. COMELEC, et al.,[7] this Court stressing
that it sees no reason to depart from this rule.
In granting respondent Diasens motion for reconsideration of the
Resolution of its First Division, the COMELEC ruled:
Based on evidence on record, there were serious irregularities, tampering,
and falsification of the questioned returns in the said contested precincts in
the municipalities of Tingalayan and Pinukpuk, Kalinga province. On these
factual findings, We find for their exclusion from canvass, albeit in a
pre-proclamation proceedings.
xxx
Upon a re-examination and comparison of the copies for this Commission
and for the LAMMP, We find that the same were prepared by a few select
persons, assembled in a particular place, and pressured by circumstances
attendant during elections. There is a striking likeness and uniformity of the
handwriting found in the questioned election returns from the different
precincts in the two aforementioned municipalities. We are in awe on the
evident likeness of strokes in the handwriting in the entries in the election
returns, despite the geographic distance of the two municipalities. There is
no inescapable conclusionary finding that could be made other than to
declare that the contested election returns as manufactured, and therefore,
26

could not be a basis for a valid Certificates of Canvass and Statement of


Votes. (Italics supplied).
In concluding that there were serious irregularities, tampering and
falsification of the questioned election returns; and that they were
manufactured, respondent COMELEC looked beyond the face of the
documents, hence, exceeding its authority, contrary to the mandate
of Loong, reiterated in Matalam and Sebastian.
We thus hold that respondent COMELEC committed grave abuse of
discretion when it granted respondent Diasens motion for reconsideration.
At this point, counsel for respondent Diasen must remember that he
should have determined carefully the proper legal remedy or recourse for
his client, such as an election protest. Needless to state, a procedural flaw,
as in this case, causes prejudice to the litigants and impairs the proper
administration of justice.
We now come on the peripheral issue regarding the votes of
Commissioners Gorospe and Guiani in the February 22, 2000
Resolution. They had retired when they participated in the promulgation of
the said Resolution.
In Jamil vs. COMELEC,[8] this Court ruled:
x x x A decision becomes binding only after it is validly
promulgated. Consequently, if at the time of the promulgation of a decision
or resolution, a judge or a member of the collegiate court who had earlier
signed or registered his vote, has vacated his office, his vote is
automatically withdrawn or cancelled.
The reason for the rule, which is logically applicable to decisions of
constitutional commissions and administrative bodies or agencies, is
cogently expressed in the case of Consolidated Bank and Trust Corporation
v. Intermediate Appellate Court:
xxx
'A decision becomes binding only after it is validly promulgated and not
before. As we said only recently in In re Emiliano Jurado, a decision or
resolution of the Court becomes such, for all legal intents and purposes,
only from the moment of its promulgation.According to Chief Justice
Moran in the landmark case of Araneta v. Dinglasan:
27

Accordingly, one who is no longer a member of this court at the time a


decision is signed and promulgated, cannot validly take part in that
decision. As above indicated, the true decision of the Court is the decision
signed by the Justices and duly promulgated.Before that decision is so
signed and promulgated, there is no decision of the Court to speak of. The
vote cast by a member of the Court after the deliberation is always
understood to be subject to confirmation at the time he has to sign the
decision that is to be promulgated. The vote is of no value if it is not thus
confirmed by the Justice casting it. The purpose of this practice is
apparent. Members of this Court, even after they have cast their votes, wish
to preserve their freedom of action till the last moment when they have to
sign the decision, so that they may take full advantage of what they may
believe to be the best fruit of their most mature reflection and
deliberation. In consonance with this practice, before a decision is signed
and promulgated, all opinions and conclusions stated during and after the
deliberation of the Court, remain in the breasts of the Justices, binding upon
no one, not even upon the Justices themselves. Of course, they may serve
for determining what the opinion of the majority provisionally is and for
designating a member to prepare the decision of the Court, but in no way is
that decision binding unless and until signed and promulgated.
We add that at any time before promulgation, the ponencia may be changed
by the ponente. Indeed, if any member of the court who may have already
signed it so desires, he may still withdraw his concurrence and register a
qualification or dissent as long as the decision has not yet been
promulgated. A promulgation signifies that on the date it was made the
judge or judges who signed the decision continued to support it.
If at the time of the promulgation, a judge or a member of a collegiate court
has already vacated his office, his vote is automatically withdrawn. x x x
The rule has not been modified. In fact in the recently decided case
of Ruperto A. Ambil, Jr. vs. COMELEC,[9] this Court passed upon a
resolution written by Commissioner Guiani himself, holding that the said
resolution is null and void ab initio because:
A final decision or resolution becomes binding only after it is promulgated
and not before. Accordingly, one who is no longer a member of the
Commission at the time the final decision or resolution is promulgated
cannot validly take part in that resolution or decision. Much more could he
be the ponente of the resolution or decision. The resolution or decision [of
28

the Division] must be signed by a majority of its members and duly


promulgated.
Upon their retirement, Commissioners Gorospe and Guiani had been
stripped of all authority to participate in the promulgation of the February
22, 2000 Resolution. Pursuant to Section 6 of the COMELEC Rules of
Procedure, earlier quoted, the Resolution dated June 4, 1998 of the First
Division is therefore deemed affirmed as the votes of Commissioners
Gorospe and Guiani are considered cancelled.
Indeed, there was initially no evenly divided vote in the February 22,
2000 Resolution that should have merited a rehearing or the issuance of the
challenged Resolution dated November 16, 2000 by the new members of
respondent COMELEC.
On petitioners contention that there was a long and deliberate delay on
the part of public respondent COMELEC as previously stated, respondent
Diasens motion for reconsideration of the Resolution of the COMELEC
First Division was filed with respondent COMELEC en banc on June 19,
1998. However, it was only on February 22, 2000, or after almost two (2)
years, when the motion was resolved. In view of the equally divided voting,
a rehearing was ordered. The parties merely submitted memoranda.Yet, it
was only on November 16, 2000, or after almost nine (9) months from
February 22, 2000, when respondent COMELEC finally promulgated the
other challenged Resolution dated November 16, 2000.
Pre-proclamation controversies are mandated by law to be summarily
disposed of.[10]
Here, the COMELEC failed to comply with this mandate. Let it be
reminded that pre-proclamation controversies, by their very nature, are to be
resolved in summary proceedings which obviously should be disposed of
without any unnecessary delay.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby given due course and is
GRANTED. The challenged Resolutions dated February 22, 2000 and
November 16, 2000 of respondent COMELEC en banc are SET
ASIDE, while the Resolution of the COMELEC (First Division) dated June
4, 1998 is AFFIRMED. Respondent COMELEC is directed to forthwith
conduct the proclamation of petitioner Dominador Belac in accordance with
law.
SO ORDERED.
29

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

G.R. No. 105323 July 3, 1992


FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ, petitioner,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent.
RESOLUTION

BIDIN, J.:
This case was originally an urgent petition ad cautelam praying, among
others, for the issuance of a temporary restraining order enjoining
respondent Commission on Elections (Comelec) from proclaiming the 24th
highest senatorial candidate.
The antecedents facts are as follows:
On May 5, 1992, this Court issued a Resolution in G.R. No. 104704,
entitled "Francisco Chavez v. Comelec, et al.," disqualifying Melchor
Chavez, private respondent therein, from running for the Office of Senator
in the May 11, 1992 elections.
The above-mentioned resolution was received by respondent Comelec on
May 6, 1992. On the same day, petitioner filed an urgent motion with the
Comelec praying that it (1) disseminate through the fastest available means
this Court's Resolution dated May 5, 1992 to all regional election directors,
provincial election supervisors, city and municipal election registrars,
boards of election inspectors, the six (6) accredited political parties and the
general public; and (2) order said election officials to delete the name of
Melchor Chavez as printed in the certified list of candidates tally sheets,
30

election returns and "to count all votes cast for the disqualified Melchor
Chavez in favor of Francisco I. Chavez . . . ."
On May 8, 1992, the Comelec issued Res. No. 92-1322 which resolved to
delete the name of Melchor Chavez from the list of qualified candidates.
However, it failed to order the crediting of all "Chavez" votes in favor of
petitioner as well as the cancellation of Melchor Chavez' name in the list of
qualified candidates.
According to petitioner, the Comelec failed to perform its mandatory
function under Sec. 7, RA 7166 which states that if a candidate has been
disqualified, it shall be the duty of the Commission to instruct without delay
the deletion of the name of said candidate.
Thus, the name of Melchor Chavez remained undeleted in the list of
qualified candidates on election day.
Confusion arose, allegedly nationwide, as the "Chavez" votes were either
declared stray or invalidated by the Boards of Election Inspectors (BEIs).
On May 11, 1992, Commissioner Rama of respondent Comelec issued a
directive over radio and TV ordering all "Chavez" votes to be credited in
favor of petitioner. Petitioner contends that the radio and TV
announcements did not reach the BEI at the 170,354 precincts nationwide.
As a result, "Chavez" votes were not credited in favor of petitioner.
On May 12, 1992, Comelec issued another Resolution directing all
municipal and city election registrars throughout the country to examine the
minutes of voting submitted by the BEIs and to credit all the "Chavez" votes,
which have been declared stray or invalidated by the BEIs, in favor of
petitioner.
Petitioner maintains that the said resolution proved futile because it did not
reach all the various BEIs of the 170,354 election precincts throughout the
country on time for implementation and that the minutes of voting did not
indicate the number of "Chavez" votes which were declared stray or
invalidated.
On May 14, 1992, petitioner sent a letter to the Comelec requesting the
latter to devise ways and means in crediting "Chavez" votes in his favor but
the respondent Commission failed to act on said letter/complaint.
31

On May 23, 1992, petitioner filed an urgent petition before the respondent
Comelec praying the latter to (1) implement its May 12, 1992 resolution
with costs de officio; (2) to re-open the ballot boxes in 13 provinces
including the National Capital Region involving some 80,348 precincts (p. 9
of petition) and to scan for the "Chavez" votes for purposes of crediting the
same in his favor; (3) make the appropriate entries in the election
returns/certificates of canvass; and (4) to suspend the proclamation of the 24
winning candidates.
Dissatisfied with the failure of respondent Comelec to act on his petition,
petitioner filed, as aforesaid, this urgent petition for prohibition
and mandamus, with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining
order, enjoining the Comelec from proclaiming the 24th highest senatorial
candidate, without first implementing respondent Comelec's resolution of
May 12, 1992 and acting upon petitioner's letter/complaint dated May 14,
1992 and urgent petition dated May 22, 1992.
It is the submission of petitioner that assuming only ten (10) "Chavez" votes
were invalidated per precinct, he would have lost at least 1.7 million votes
(considering that there are more than 170,000 precincts nationwide); the
result of which will affect the 24 ranking senatorial candidates.
Petitioner alleges that respondent Comelec acted capriciously and
whimsically and with grave abuse of discretion and therefore prays that the
Comelec be enjoined from proclaiming the 24th winning senatorial
candidate until after his petition before the Commission is resolved.
On June 4, 1992, the Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining
respondent Comelec from proclaiming the 24th winning senatorial
candidate and set the case for hearing on June 9, 1992.
On the same day (June 4, 1992), petitioner filed a manifestation stating that
on May 30, 1992, his urgent petition dated May 22, 1992 was dismissed by
respondent Comelec and prayed that the petition ad cautelam at bar be
considered a regular petition.
On June 8, 1992, Senator Agapito Aquino ** filed a Motion for Leave to
Intervene with Comment in Intervention praying for the dismissal of the
instant petition on the ground that the law does not allow pre-proclamation
controversy involving the election of members of the Senate.
32

After hearing the arguments of the parties on June 9, 1992, the Court
resolved to lift the temporary restraining order in the afternoon of the same
day (June 9, 1992).
Coming now to the merits, We find the petition devoid of any.
As stated earlier, petitioner's urgent petition dated May 22, 1992 was
dismissed by respondent Comelec on May 30, 1992. Had it not been prayed
that the proclamation of the 24th winning senatorial candidate be suspended,
which this Court granted on June 4, 1992, the instant petition would have
been dismissed outright for having become moot and academic. But even
then, this Court could not have acted favorably on petitioner's plaint.
The alleged inaction of respondent Comelec in ordering the deletion of
Melchor Chavez's name in the list of qualified candidates does not call for
the exercise of the Court's function of judicial review. This Court can
review the decisions or orders of the Comelec only in cases of grave abuse
of discretion committed by it in the discharge of its quasi-judicial powers
and not those arising from the exercise of its administrative functions.
Respondent Commission's alleged failure to implement its own resolution is
undoubtedly administrative in nature, hence, beyond judicial interference
(See Filipinas Engineering Co. v. Ferrer, 135 SCRA 25 [1985]; Aratuc v.
Commission on Elections, 88 SCRA 251 [1979]; see also Pungutan v.
Abubakar, 43 SCRA 1 [1972]). As aptly observed by the Solicitor
General, respondent Comelec can administratively undo what it has
administratively left undone (Manifestation, p. 2). Moreover, respondent
Comelec has in fact, on May 6, 1992 to be exact, ordered the deletion of
Melchor Chavez's name not only on the official list of candidates, but also
on the election returns, tally sheet and certificate of canvass (Comment, p.
7). Hence, petitioner's allegation that respondent Comelec failed to
implement Res. No. 92-132 does not hold water.
Be that as it may, there are other compelling reasons why the instant
petition is bound to fail.
A simple reading of the petition would readily show that petitioner has no
cause of action, the controversy presented being one in the nature of a
pre-proclamation. **
While the Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over pre-proclamation
controversies involving local elective officials (Sec. 242, Omnibus Election
Code), nevertheless, pre-proclamation cases are not allowed in elections for
33

President, Vice-President, Senator and Member of the House of


Representatives.
Sec. 15 of Republic Act 7166 provides:
Sec. 15. Pre-proclamation Cases Not Allowed in Elections for President,
Vice-President, Senator, and Member of the House of Representatives.
For purposes of the elections for President,
Vice-President, Senator and Member of the House of Representatives, no
pre-proclamation cases shall be allowed on matters relating to the
preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of the election
returns or the certificate of canvass, as the case may be. However, this does
not preclude the authority of the appropriate canvassing body motu
proprio or upon written complaint of an interested person to correct
manifest errors in the certificate of canvass or election returns before it.
(emphasis supplied)
xxx xxx xxx
Any objection on the election returns before the city or municipal board of
canvassers, or on the municipal certificates of canvass before the provincial
boards of canvassers or district board of canvassers in Metro Manila Area,
shall be specifically noted in the minutes of their respective proceedings.
It is clear from the above-quoted provision of the law that
"pre-proclamation cases (are) not allowed in elections for President,
Vice-President, Senator and Member of the House of Representatives.''
What is allowed is the correction of "manifest errors in the certificate of
canvass or election returns." To be manifest, the errors must appear on the
face of the certificates of canvass or election returns sought to be corrected
and/or objections thereto must have been made before the board of
canvassers and specifically noted in the minutes of their respective
proceedings.
In the case at bar, however, petitioner prays not only for a restraining order
enjoining "the proclamation of the 24th highest ranking senatorial candidate
without first acting upon petitioner's letter/complaint dated May 14, 1992
and urgent petition dated May 22, 1992" but also prays that judgment be
rendered requiring the Comelec to re-open the ballot boxes in 80,348
precincts in 13 provinces therein enumerated (Petition, p. 9) including
Metro Manila, scan the ballots for "Chavez" votes which were invalidated
34

or declared stray and credit said scanned "Chavez" votes in favor of


petitioner.
It is quite obvious that petitioner's prayer does not call for the correction of
"manifest errors in the certificates of canvass or election returns" before the
Comelec but for the re-opening of the ballot boxes and appreciation of the
ballots contained therein. Indeed, petitioner has not even pointed to any
"manifest error" in the certificates of canvass or election returns he desires
to be rectified. There being none, petitioner's proper recourse is to file a
regular election protest which, under the Constitution and the Omnibus
Election Code, exclusively pertains to the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
Thus, Sec. 17, Art. VI of the Constitution provides that "(t)he Senate and
the House of Representatives shall each have an Electoral Tribunal which
shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and
qualifications of their respective Members. . . ." (emphasis supplied). The
word "sole" underscores the exclusivity of the Tribunals' jurisdiction over
election contests relating to their respective Members (Co v. Electoral
Tribunal of the House of Representatives, 199 SCRA 692 [1991]; Lazatin v.
House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, 168 SCRA 391 [1988];
Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil. 139 [1936]). It is therefore crystal
clear that this Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the instant petition. It is
the Senate Electoral Tribunal which has exclusive jurisdiction to act on the
complaint of petitioner involving, as it does, contest relating to the election
of a member of the Senate. As aforesaid, petitioner's proper recourse is to
file a regular election protest before the Senate Electoral Tribunal after the
winning senatorial candidates have been proclaimed.
Petitioner argues, on the other hand, that a recount before the Senate
Electoral Tribunal where he would be forced to shell out the expenses
imposes not only a property requirement for the enjoyment of the right to be
voted upon but also a price on the right of suffrage which would ultimately
stifle the sovereign will.
The argument, however, is beside the point. The law is very clear on the
matter and it is not right for petitioner to ask this Court to abandon settled
jurisprudence, engage in judicial legislation, amend the Constitution and
alter the Omnibus Election Code. The mandatory procedures laid down by
the existing law in cases like the one at bar must be faithfully followed lest
we allow anarchy to reign. The proper recourse is for petitioner to ask not
this Court but the Legislature to enact remedial measures.
35

Finally, the instant petition falls squarely with the case of Sanchez v.
Commission on Elections (153 SCRA 67 [1987]) and the disposition arrived
therein finds application in the case at bar, mutatis mutandis:
Sanchez anchors his petition for recount and/or reappreciation on Section
243, paragraph (b) of the Omnibus Election Code in relation to Section 234
thereof with regard to material defects in canvassed election returns. He
contends that the canvassed returns discarding "Sanchez" votes as stray
were "incomplete" and therefore warrant a recount or reappreciation of the
ballots under Section 234.
xxx xxx xxx
. . . The fact that some votes written solely as "Sanchez" were declared stray
votes because of the inspectors' erroneous belief that Gil Sanchez had not
been disqualified as a candidate, involves an erroneous appreciation of the
ballots. It is established by the law as well as jurisprudence . . . that errors
in the appreciation of ballots by the board of inspectors are proper subject
for election protest and not for recount or reappreciation of ballots.
2. The appreciation of the ballots cast in the precincts is not a "proceeding
of the board of canvassers" for purposes of
pre-proclamation proceedings under Section 241, Omnibus Election Code,
but of the boards of election inspectors who are called upon to count and
appreciate the votes in accordance with the rules of appreciation provided
in Section 211, Omnibus Election Code. Otherwise stated, the appreciation
of ballots is not part of the proceedings of the board of canvassers. The
function of ballots appreciation is performed by the boards of election
inspectors at the precinct level. (Emphasis supplied)
3. The scope of pre-proclamation controversy is limited to the issues
enumerated under Sec. 243 of the Omnibus Election Code. The enumeration
therein of the issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversy is
restrictive and exclusive. In the absence of any clear showing or proof that
the election returns canvassed are incomplete or contain material defects
(sec. 234), appear to have been tampered with, falsified or prepared under
duress (sec. 235) and/or contain discrepancies in the votes credited to any
candidate, the difference of which affects the result of the election (sec.
236), which are the only instances where a
pre-proclamation recount may be resorted to, granted the preservation of the
integrity of the ballot box and its contents, Sanchez' petition must fail. The
36

complete election returns whose authenticity is not in question, must


be prima facie considered valid for the purpose of canvassing the same and
proclamation of the winning candidates.
xxx xxx xxx
7. The ground for recount relied upon by Sanchez is clearly not among the
issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversy. His allegation of
invalidation of "Sanchez" votes intended for him bear no relation to the
correctness and authenticity of the election returns canvassed. Neither the
Constitution nor statute has granted the Comelec or the board of canvassers
the power in the canvass of election returns to look beyond the face thereof,
once satisfied of their authenticity (Abes v. Comelec, 21 SCRA 1252,
1256).
In the case at bar, petitioner's allegation that "Chavez" votes were either
invalidated or declared stray has no relation to the correctness or
authenticity of the election returns canvassed. Otherwise stated, petitioner
has not demonstrated any manifest error in the certificates of canvass or
election returns before the Comelec which would warrant their correction.
As the authenticity of the certificates of canvass or election returns are not
questioned, they must be prima facie considered valid for purposes of
canvassing the same and proclamation of the winning candidates (Sanchez v.
Comelec, supra).
Premises considered, the Court Resolved to DISMISS the instant petition
for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., Gut

[G.R. Nos. 148941-42. March 12, 2002]


TEODORO O. OHARA, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS, MUNICIPAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF
BINANGONAN,
RIZAL,
PROVINCIAL
BOARD
OF
37

CANVASSERS
OF
RODRIGUEZ, respondents.

RIZAL

and

JOVITA

DECISION
KAPUNAN, J.:
In this petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, petitioner
seeks to set aside the Resolution[1] of the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) En Banc that annulled the proclamation of petitioner Teodoro
O. OHara as elected Vice-Governor, province of Rizal and to proclaim
respondent Jovita Rodriguez as the duly elected Vice-Governor of Rizal.
Petitioner and respondent Jovita Rodriguez were candidates for the
position of vice-governor, province of Rizal during the May 14, 2001
elections.
On May 19, 2001, upon conclusion of the canvassing of the certificate of
canvass coming from the thirteen municipalities and one component city of
Rizal, the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBC) proclaimed petitioner as
the duly elected vice-governor with 216,798 votes over respondent
Rodriguezs 215,443 votes.
On May 23, 2001, the Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBC) of
Binangonan, Rizal filed with the COMELEC en banc, a petition to correct
entries in the certificate of canvass of votes, entitled In the Matter of
Correction of Entries In the Certificate of Canvass for the Position of
Vice-Governor in the Province of Rizal in the Municipality of
Binangonan.[2] It was alleged that there were typographical errors in the
number of votes garnered by petitioner and respondent resulting in the
addition of 7,000 votes topetitioner. More specifically, the MBC of
Binangonan claimed:
7. That after the submission of the final copy to the Provincial Board of
Canvassers and furnishing copies to all concerned we were surprised when
we heard over the radio about the complaint of Mr. Jose Concepcion of
NAMFREL, about the dagdag-bawas on the votes obtained by the two (2)
candidates for Vice-Governor and we tried to review and check all the
entries in the Statement of Votes (SOV) and we did not notice any error; it
was only in Certificate of Canvass wherein the number of votes of the two
(2) candidates for Vice-Governor were erroneously typed, indicating 35,754
votes for Teodoro OHara instead of the actual total of 28,754 and 18, 871
for Jovita Rodriguez instead of the actual 18,870 votes;
38

8. That the error was due to the fact that the votes of 7,000 which is the
sub-total of one hundred precincts was brought forwarded thereby including
the same in the total which is indicated in the last page of the tabulation
which is 28,754; hence the grand total, instead of 28,754 became 35,754.[3]
The MBC of Binangonan submitted the affidavit of Evelyn Ramirez, the
Municipal Accountant of Binangonan, Rizal, admitting that she committed
the mathematical error.[4]
On May 25, 2001, respondent Rodriguez filed with the COMELEC a
petition to annul the proclamation of the winning candidate for
vice-governor of the province of Rizal, and to correct an alleged manifest
mathematical error.[5] Respondent Rodriguez asserted that after the
mathematical error would have been corrected, she would obtain a plurality
of 215,422 votes as against petitioners 209,798.
Petitioner filed his answer to the petition, arguing that there was no
manifest error apparent in the certificate of canvass which respondent
Rodriguez and the MBC of Binangonan sought to correct, and
that respondent Rodriguezs petition was filed out of time.
On July 25, 2001, the COMELEC en banc issued a resolution in the
cases, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE,
premises
considered,
the
Petitions
are
GRANTED. Accordingly, the proclamation of Respondent Teodoro O.
OHara as elected Vice-Governor of Rizal is hereby annulled. The Provincial
Board of Canvassers of Rizal is hereby ordered as follows:
(a) To reconvene and correct the manifest mathematical error in the
votes obtained by respondent OHara from 216,798 to 209,798 and
as well as the votes for Petitioner Rodriguez from 215,423 to
215,422 as appearing in the Statement of Votes by Municipality.
b) To proclaim Jovita Rodriguez as the duly elected Vice-Governor
of Rizal.
SO ORDERED.
Accordingly, on July 27, 2001, the PBC of Rizal reconvened. However,
petitioner was not notified of the proceedings of the PBC of Rizal.
On the same day, the PBC of Rizal issued another certificate of canvass
of votes and proclamation of the winning candidates for provincial officers,
39

and on the basis thereof proclaimed private respondent as the duly elected
Vice-Governor of Rizal. Immediately, respondent Rodriguez took her oath
of office before Judge Leila Suarez Acebo, Regional Trial Court, Pasig
City.
Hence, this petition.[6]
On July 31, 2001, the Court issued a temporary restraining
order directing respondents to CEASE and DESIST from implementing
COMELEC Resolution dated 25 July 2001 issued in SPC Case Nos. 01-165
and SPC Case No. 01-129.[7]
On August 2, 2001, respondent Rodriguez filed a manifestation alleging
that the temporary restraining order issued by this Court has been rendered
moot and academic since she had assumed the office of Vice-Governor of
Rizal.[8]
Thus, on August 14, 2001, the Court issued a resolution to the effect that
the temporary restraining order remains effective and is extended to restrain
respondent from assuming the office of the vice-governor.[9]
Petitioner raises the following issues before the Court:
(1) Whether or not the Comelec gravely abused its discretion when it
annulled the proclamation of petitioner as vice-governor of Rizal.
(2) Whether or not the Comelec gravely abused its discretion when it
ordered the provincial board of canvassers of Rizal to reconvene and
correct the alleged manifest mathematical error supposedly
committed by the municipal board of canvassers of Binangonan,
Rizal.
(3) Whether or not the Comelec gravely abused its discretion when it
allowed the provincial board of canvassers of Rizal to proclaim
respondent Rodriguez as the duly elected vice-governor of Rizal,
despite the fact that the resolution dated 25 July 2001 had not yet
attained finality.
We find the petition impressed with merit.
In any election contest, the ultimate issue is to determine the electoral
will. In other words, who among the candidates was the voters choice.
In this jurisdiction, an election means the choice or selection of
candidates to public office by popular vote, through the use of the ballot,
40

and the elected officials of which are determined through the will of the
electorate.[10] 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.[11]
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.[12]
The petition of the MBC of Binangonan, Rizal, before the COMELEC
alleges in pertinent part:
6. That after finalizing the Certificate of Canvass, same was reviewed
by all of us and being confident that it was prepared by an accountant
whom the community regards as an honest person, we, Chairman and
Members of the Municipal Board of Canvassers signed the same
without noticing any mistake;
7. That after the submission of the final copy to the Provincial Board
of Canvassers and furnishing copies to all concerned we were
surprised when we heard over the radio about the complaint of Mr.
Jose Concepcion of NAMFREL, about the dagdag-bawas on the
votes obtained by the two (2) candidates for Vice Governor and we
tried to review and check all the entries in the Statement of Votes
(SOV) and we did not notice any error; it was only in the Certificate
of Canvass wherein the number of votes of the two (2) candidates
for vice-governor were erroneously typed, indicating 35,754 votes for
Teodoro OHara instead of the actual total 28,754 and 18,871 for
Jovita Rodriguez instead of the actual 18,870 votes;
8. That the error was due to the fact that the votes of 7,000 which was
the sub-total of one hundred precincts was brought forwarded thereby
including the same in the total which is indicated in the last page of
the tabulation which is 28,754; hence the grand total instead of
28,754 became 35,754.

41

It is apparent that the errors do not appear on the face of the certificate of
canvass that respondent Rodriguez sought to be corrected. There is nothing
on the certificate of canvass that shows the addition of 7,000 votes in favor
of petitioner. Likewise, the MBC of Binangonan failed to specify the one
hundred precincts whence the 7,000 votes came. Clearly then, the petition
filed by the municipal board of canvassers of Binangonan does not merely
seek the correction of a manifest error but calls for the examination of the
election returns from the 100 precincts and the recount of the votes
therefrom.
As previously stated, the MBC of Binangonan, Rizal explains the
discrepancy or error as follows:
8. That the error was due to the fact that the votes of 7,000 which is the
sub-total of one hundred precincts was brought forwarded (sic) thereby
including the same in the total which is indicated in the last page of the
tabulation which is 28,754; hence the grand tabulation which is 28,754
became 35,754; x x x[13]
This was affirmed by Evelyn Ramirez, the Municipal Accountant of
Binangonan, Rizal and tabulator who stated:
6. That due to fatigue, sleepless nights and physical exhaustion, I did not
notice that the sub-total of 7,000 from the preceding page was carried
forward in the addition of the votes of the last remaining precincts and
reflected in the grand total 35,754 instead of 28,754 which is the actual
count.[14]
Clearly, the MBC of Binangonan and Evelyn Ramirez tried to explain
the alleged error by referring to a preceding page of a certain document
which, however, was neither identified nor presented in evidence. They also
mentioned 100 remaining precincts but neither the COMELEC nor the
MBC of Binangonan or PBC of Rizal either the respondents were able to
identify the said precincts. In fine, there is nothing on record to show where
the sub-total of 7,000 from the preceding page was carried forward in the
addition of the votes of the last remaining precincts (according to Evelyn
Ramirez who attempted to rationalize her mistake) can be located. These
circumstances render their statement suspect.
Despite the confusing explanation of the MBC of Binangonan, the
COMELEC relied heavily thereon when it issued the assailed
resolution. The correction of the certificate of canvass necessitates the
42

examination of several documents which the MBC of Binangonan and


Evelyn Ramirez mentioned in their petition and affidavit,
respectively. Specifically, the correction of the MBC of Binangonan's
mistake, if any, requires the examination of the election returns of the
alleged 100 precincts and the supposedpreceding page. The COMELEC
cannot simply rely on the Statement of Votes per precinct submitted by
respondents to determine the true mandate of the electorate of Rizal
considering that these Statements of Votes were prepared by the very same
members of the MBC of Binangonan, Rizal who claimed to have made a
mistake due to fatigue, sleepless nights and physical exhaustion. Reliance
on the Statement of Votes per precinct would have been proper had the
COMELEC determined if these individuals did not commit any other
mistake in the tabulation or preparation of the Statements of Votes.
Indeed, the alleged error which the COMELEC perceived to be manifest
from the certificate of canvass does not fall under the definition of manifest
error which we laid down in the case of Trinidad vs. Commission on
Elections:[15]
Some of the definitions given for the word manifest are that it is evident to
the eye and understanding; visible to the eye; that which is open, palpable,
uncontrovertible; needing no evidence to make it more clear; not obscure or
hidden. xxx.
A manifest clerical error is
. one that is visible to the eye or obvious to the understanding, and is
apparent from the papers to the eye of the appraiser and collector, and does
not include an error which may, by evidence dehors the record be shown to
have committed xxx.
In the case of Chavez vs. Comelec,[16] this Court explained that:
x x x To be manifest, the errors must appear on the face of the certificates of
canvass or election returns sought to be corrected and/or objections thereto
must have been made before the board of canvassers and specifically noted
in the minutes of their respective proceedings.
The alleged error which the MBC of Binangonan committed and which
it attributes to physical exhaustion and sleepless nights, is obviously not a
plain error apparent from the Certificate of Canvass. It would have been
more prudent to order at least the examination of the election returns to
43

verify the existence of the alleged error instead of concluding outright that
the Statements of Votes submitted by respondents were accurate and
correctly prepared. A more thorough study of the matter would have been
more appropriate under the circumstances specially considering that what is
at stake is the sanctity of the right of suffrage which we are bound to
uphold.
Equally important to note is the fact that the COMELEC relied heavily
on the self-serving affidavits of the members of the MBC of Binangonan,
Rizal, in order to justify its ruling, completely forgetting that reliance
thereon has long been frowned upon because:
It should be emphasized that in arriving at the conclusion that there was a
serious common irregularity in the preparation of 87 election returns,
respondent Comelec relied mainly on the joint affidavit of seven (7)
members of Pimentels so-callled Vigilantes 84 and on the affidavits of some
KBL inspectors/watchers and registered voters. Respondent Comelec, based
solely on the aforesaid affidavits presented before it, made the sweeping
conclusion that the 87 election returns have lost their authenticity and
genuineness and must be considered as falsified returns which would
necessitate their exclusion from the canvass. This conclusion reached by the
respondent Comelec runs counter to the settled doctrine that the Comelec
must exercise extreme caution in rejecting or excluding election returns and
may do so only upon conclusive proof that the returns are obviously
manufactured. (Anni vs. Isquierdo, et al., L-35918, June 28, 1974,
reaffirmed and reiterated in Aratuc vs. Comelec, 88 SCRA 251,
282-283). The respondent Comelec should have compared its own copies of
the election returns with the copies of the election returns of both parties
pertaining to the 225 voting centers, which copies were furnished them
separately from the copies submitted to the Board of Canvassers. (Sec. 42,
Batas Pambansa No. 637.[17]
The aforequoted case was later on cited in Casimiro vs. Comelec:[18]
Petitioners likewise submitted the Affidavit of Atty. Paterno Lubaton, one
of petitioners lawyers, which they claim showed in detail all the fraud,
irregularities and anomalies concerning the election returns before and
during the canvassing of the election returns first in Las Pias and later at the
COMELEC main office. Petitioners claim that the latter part of the
Affidavit also detailed the patently partial and biased actuations of the
Board of Canvassers, especially its Chairman. Petitioners further decry the
44

fact that no hearing was conducted by the Second Division of the


COMELEC where petitioners could have presented the affiants as their
witnesses.
Obviously, the evidence relied upon mainly by petitioners to support their
charges of fraud and irregularities in the election returns and in the
canvassing consisted of Affidavits prepared by their own
representatives. The self-serving nature of the said Affidavits cannot be
discounted. As this Court has pronounced, reliance should not be placed on
mere affidavits. (Underscoring ours.)
As correctly pointed out by the petitioner, the affidavits and supposed
admissions of the members of the MBC of Binangonan have no probative
value and cannot, therefore, be the basis of the nullification of his
proclamation.
In this connection, it must be noted that in its petition, the MBC of
Binangonan stated that Evelyn Ramirez had her tabulation typed by her
typist purposely to finalize the subject Certificate of Canvass for signatures
of the chairman and members of the municipal board of canvassers before
submitting the same to the provincial board of canvassers for canvassing
and proclamation of the winners.[19] Otherwise stated, the MBC of
Binangonan alleged that the Certificate of Canvass which the COMELEC
ordered corrected was prepared by another person who neither testified nor
executed a sworn statement. On this score, it is more justifiable to disregard
the claims of the MBC and the affidavit of Evelyn Ramirez.
Significantly, the careful process observed by the COMELEC in
resolving the instant case consisted of only two (2) hearings:
June 15, 2001. Considering that petitioner received Summons and copies of
the Petition and Notice of Hearing in SPC No. 01-129 only that morning,
petitioners counsel prayed for five (5) days to file his Answer thereto.
COMELEC reset the hearing, including the hearing for SPC No. 01-165, to
25 June 2001
June 25, 2001. Parties were directed to file their Memoranda. Thereafter,
case was submitted for resolution.
Considering the factual issues involved, the COMELEC should have
conducted further investigation or at least a technical inspection or
examination of election returns to verify the existence of the alleged error
before it gave credence to the statements of the MBC of Binangonan and
45

concluding outright that the Statement of Votes submitted by respondents


were accurate. The COMELEC cannot simply rely on these Statement of
Votes because they were prepared by the same members of the MBC who
claimed to have made a mistake due to fatigue, sleepless nights and physical
exhaustion. It would have been more prudent to make a determination
whether these same individuals committed any other mistake in the
tabulation or statement of votes.
Even based on the statements/affidavits of the MBC of Binangonan, it is
apparent that the errors sought to be corrected do not appear on the face of
the certificate of canvass. As above-stated, the alleged error which the
COMELEC perceived to be manifest does not fall under the definition of
manifest error which was laid down in Trinidad vs. COMELEC and Chavez
vs. COMELEC.
Section 7, Rule 27 of the Revised Rules of Procedure of the COMELEC
does not apply to the case at bar because it refers to correction of errors by
the board of canvassers before a candidate can be proclaimed. Thus, had the
alleged error really been manifest, respondent surely would have sought the
correction before the Board of Canvassers even before petitioner was
proclaimed as the winning candidate.
Considering, however, that petitioner had already been proclaimed as the
Vice-Governor of Rizal, respondents filed their petitions with the
COMELEC. The applicable provision, therefore, is Section 5 of Rule 27
which states:
Sec. 5. Pre-Proclamation Controversies Which May be Filed Directly with
the Commission. - (a) The following pre-proclamation controversies may be
filed directly with the Commission:
xxx
(2) When the issue involves the correction of manifest errors in the
tabulation or tallying of the results during the canvassing as where xxx (3)
there had been a mistake in the copying of the figures into the statement of
votes or into the certificate of canvass, or xxx and such errors could not
have been discovered during the canvassing despite the exercise of due
diligence and proclamation of the winning candidate had already been
made.
(b) xxx
46

If the Petition is for correction, it must be filed not later than five (5) days
following the date of proclamation and must implead all candidates who
may be adversely affected thereby.
The above-quoted provision requires that the correction be one involving
a manifest error such as a mistake in the copying of the figures into the
Statement of Votes or into the Certificate of Canvass. The provision,
however, also requires that such errors could not have been discovered
during the canvassing despite the exercise of due diligence.
The rationale for the provision is obvious. If the error sought to be
corrected is truly a manifest error, then the matter should have already been
raised before the board of canvassers. The exception is if the error is one
that could not have been discovered during the canvassing despite the
exercise of due diligence. In the case at bar, the error allegedly committed
by the MBC of Binangonan, which it attempted to describe and rationalize
in their affidavits, is one that should have been discovered even with
ordinary diligence. The truth of the matter, however, is that the error, even
assuming it to be true, is not manifest and was not apparent from the
Certificate of Canvass and, therefore, cannot be corrected simply by
correction of alleged tabulation error.
Certainly, the present controversy does not merely involve a mistake in
the addition of the votes appearing on the Statement of Votes per precinct or
an erroneous copying of figures in the Certificate of Canvass. We are called
upon to protect the sovereign will of the people of Rizal and not to stifle or
frustrate it. Thus, we must employ all means bestowed upon us to safeguard
the rule of the majority.
In Aguam vs. Commission on Elections,[20] we ruled that:
The great breadth of the constitutional and statutory powers granted
Comelec has brought to the fore judicial pronouncements which have long
become guidelines. 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. x x x
The Court once more reiterates that the Constitution gives the
Commission on Elections the broad power to enforce and administer all
laws and regulations to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative,
referendum and recall.[21] The Commission indisputably exercises the power
of supervision and control over boards of election inspectors and boards of
canvassers. The Commission must do everything in its power to secure a
47

fair and honest canvass of the votes cast in the elections.[22] The
Constitution upgraded to a constitutional status the statutory authority under
Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 to grant the Commission broad and more flexible
powers to effectively perform its duties and to ensure free, orderly, honest,
peaceful and credible elections, and to serve as the guardian of the peoples
sacred right of suffrage.[23]
In the absence of any manifest error in the certificate of canvass sought
to be corrected, the Commission should have ordered the re-canvass of the
election returns or the re-counting of the ballots in the municipality of
Binangonan in order to validate the claim of the MBC.
If after the re-canvass of the election returns or the re-counting of the
official ballots, the clerical error or mathematical mistake in the addition of
the votes had been be established, the Commission should have annulled the
canvass and proclamation based on the erroneous certificate of canvass. If
the records had borne out that petitioners proclamation was the result of a
clerical error or simple mathematical mistake in the addition of votes and
did not reflect the true and legitimate will of the electorate, there could have
been no valid proclamation to speak of. The issue would involve a
pre-proclamation controversy not proper at this time.[24]
The wisdom of the order to examine the election returns is in
consonance with the Courts holding that:
x x x. Between another copy of the COC and the election returns, the latter
could provide a more accurate basis for the determination of the true and
genuine results of the votes cast. This is obvious because the former
constitutes a mere summary of the latter and errors, deliberate or otherwise,
may be committed in entering therein the figures obtained from the election
returns. Besides, among the copies of the election returns readily available
to the Commission, those intended specifically for it are the least likely to
be tampered with after leaving the hands of the board of election
inspectors. Thus, the wisdom of using such copies is beyond question.
xxx[25]
Should, however, the Commission finds discrepancies in the election
returns, Section 236 of the Omnibus Election Code provides the remedy, to
wit:
Sec. 236. Discrepancies in election returns. In case it appears to the board of
canvassers that there exists discrepancies in the other authentic copies of the
election returns from a polling place or discrepancies in the votes of any
48

candidate in words and figures in the same return, and in either case the
difference affects the results of the election, the Commission, upon motion
of the board of canvassers or any candidate affected and after due notice to
all candidates concerned, shall proceed summarily to determine whether the
integrity of the box had been preserved, and once satisfied thereof shall
order the opening of the ballot box to recount.
WHEREFORE, we SET ASIDE the Resolution dated July 25, 2001 of
the Commission on Elections, en banc.[26]
The Commission on Elections is hereby ordered:
1. Within five (5) days from notice hereof, to reconvene the
Municipal Board of Canvassers of Binangonan, Rizal, to recanvass
the election returns pertaining to the votes of petitioner and
respondent Rodriguez or position of vice-governor, which shall
within forty-eight (48) hours from reconvening, deliver to the
provincial board of canvassers the result of the recanvass;
2. Within five (5) days after receipt of the certificate of canvass of
the municipal board of canvassers, reconvene the provincial board
of canvassers which shall within seventy-two (72) hours therefrom:
(a) Re-tabulate the total number of votes for the petitioner and
respondent Rodriguez as prepared and submitted by the
municipal board of canvassers of Binangonan, and to enter
the same in the certificate of provincial canvass;
(b) After retabulation, to sum up anew the certificate of provincial
canvass the canvassed certificate of canvass of all the
municipalities pertaining to the position of vice-governor;
(c) Thereafter, pursuant to the Omnibus Election Code, pertinent
election laws, rules and regulations of the Commission,
proclaim the winning candidate for vice-governor,
province of Rizal.
In the meantime, the temporary restraining order we issued on July 31,
2001, as clarified in the resolution of August 14, 2001, shall remain in effect
until the provincial board of canvassers of Rizal shall have made its final
proclamation of the winning candidate for the position of Vice-Governor,
province of Rizal.
No pronouncement as to costs.
49

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
[G.R. No. 135716. September 23, 1999]
FERDINAND TRINIDAD, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION
ELECTIONS and MANUEL C. SUNGA, respondents.

ON

DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
The instant Petition for Certiorari questions the June 22, 1998
Resolution[1] of the Commission on Elections (hereinafter referred to as
COMELEC) in SPA No. 95-213, disqualifying petitioner as a candidate for
Mayor of Iguig, Cagayan, in the May 8, 1995 elections. It also questions the
October 13, 1998 COMELEC Resolution[2] which not only denied
petitioners Motion for Reconsideration, but also annulled his proclamation
as elected Mayor in the May 11, 1998 elections.
This case has been filed before this Court when the Petition for
Disqualification of private respondent (SPA No. 95-213) was dismissed by
the COMELEC. Acting on the Petition for Certiorari of private respondent,
this court, in Sunga v. Commission on Elections,[3] ordered the COMELEC
to reinstate SPA No. 95-213 and act thereon.
The facts of the case, as found in Sunga v. Commission on Elections,
supra, are as follows:
Petitioner (herein private respondent) Manuel C. Sunga was one of the
candidates for the position of Mayor in the Municipality of Iguig, Province
of Cagayan, in the May 8, 1995 elections. Private respondent (herein
petitioner) Ferdinand B. Trinidad, then incumbent mayor, was 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, accusing him of using three (3) local
50

government vehicles in his campaign, in violation of Section 261, par. (o),


Art. XXII, of BP Blg. 881 (Omnibus Election Code, as amended). On 7
May 1995, Sunga filed another letter-complaint 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 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, 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 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 D. 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 for various
51

election 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, x x x.
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 x x x.
As we have mentioned, above, private respondents Petition with this
Court was granted and COMELEC was ordered to reinstate SPA No.
95-213 and hear the same.[4]
Finally, on June 22, 1998, the COMELEC 1st Division (former 2nd
Division) promulgated the first questioned Resolution disqualifying
petitioner as a candidate in the May 8, 1995 elections.[5] Petitioner filed a
Motion for Reconsideration,[6] claiming denial of due process. Private
respondent filed his Opposition to the Motion,[7] at the same time moving
for the cancellation of petitioners proclamation as elected Mayor in the
1998 elections and praying that he be proclaimed Mayor instead.
On October 13, 1998, the COMELEC En Banc denied petitioners
Motion for Reconsideration and also annulled his proclamation as duly
elected Mayor of Iguig, Cagayan in the May 11, 1998 elections.[8] Private
respondents motion to be declared Mayor was, however,
denied. Commissioner Teresita Dy-Liacco Flores rendered a dissenting
opinion insofar as the Resolution annulled the proclamation of petitioner as
Mayor in the May 11, 1998 elections, which she found to be bereft of any
legal basis.
Petitioner alleges that the questioned Resolutions were promulgated
without any hearing conducted and without his evidence having been
considered by the COMELEC, in violation of his right to due process. He
also contends that the portion of the October 13, 1998 Resolution annulling
his proclamation as Mayor in the May 11, 1998 elections was rendered
without prior notice and hearing and that he was once more effectively
denied due process. Petitioner also adopts the stand of Commissioner
Dy-Liacco Flores that his disqualification, if any, under SPA No. 95-213
52

cannot extend beyond the three-year term to which he was elected on May 8,
1995, in relation to which the corresponding Petition for his disqualification
was lodged.
In his Comment,[9] private respondent assails the arguments raised in the
Petition and prays that he be proclaimed as the elected Mayor in the 1998
elections. Petitioner filed a Reply[10] to private respondents Comment on
February 24, 1999. Meanwhile, on February 25, 1999, the criminal cases
filed against the petitioner with the Regional Trial Court of Tuguegarao,
Cagayan were dismissed.[11] On March 8, 1999, the Solicitor General filed a
Comment for the COMELEC,[12] reiterating the argument that the
COMELEC is empowered to disqualify petitioner from continuing to hold
public office and at the same time, barring private respondents moves to be
proclaimed elected in the 1998 elections. Respective Memoranda were filed
by both parties.
The issues before us may be summarized as follows:
1. Was petitioner deprived of due process in the proceedings before
the COMELEC insofar as his disqualification under the May 8,
1995 elections was concerned?
2. Was petitioner deprived of due process in the proceedings before
the COMELEC insofar as his disqualification under the May 11,
1998 elections was concerned?
3. May petitioners proclamation as Mayor under the May 11, 1998
elections be cancelled on account of the disqualification case filed
against him during the May 8, 1995 elections?
4. May private respondent, as the candidate receiving the second
highest number of votes, be proclaimed as Mayor in the event of
petitioners disqualification?
The Commission on Elections is the agency vested with exclusive
jurisdiction over election contests involving regional, provincial and city
officials, as well as appellate jurisdiction over election contests involving
elective municipal and barangay officials. Unless the Commission is shown
to have committed a grave abuse of discretion, its decision and rulings will
not be interfered with by this Court.[13]
Guided by this doctrine, we find that no violation of due process has
attached to the COMELECs June 22, 1998 Resolution.
Petitioner complains that while the COMELEC reinstated SPA No.
95-213, it conducted no hearing and private respondent presented no
53

evidence.[14] Yet, this does not equate to a denial of due process. As


explained in Paat v. Court of Appeals[15]-x x x. Due process does not necessarily mean or require a hearing, but
simply an opportunity or right to be heard (Pepsi Cola Distributors of the
Phil. V. NLRC, G.R. No. 100686, August 15, 1995). One may be heard, not
solely by verbal presentation but also, and perhaps many times more
creditably and predictable than oral argument, through pleadings
(Concerned Officials of MWSS v. Vasquez, G.R. No. 109113, January 25,
1995). In administrative proceedings moreover, technical rules of procedure
and evidence are not strictly applied; administrative process cannot be fully
equated with due process in its strict judicial sense (Ibid.) Indeed,
deprivation of due process cannot be successfully invoked where a party
was given a chance to be heard on his motion for reconsideration
(Rodriguez v. Project 6 Market Service Cooperative, G.R. No. 79968,
August 23, 1995), as in the instant case, when private respondents were
undisputedly given the opportunity to present their side when they filed a
letter of reconsideration dated June 28, 1989 which was, however, denied in
an order of July 12, 1989 of Executive Director Baggayan. In Navarro III vs.
Damasco (G.R. No. 101875, July 14, 1995), we ruled that:
The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard, or as
applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain ones side
or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling
complained of. A formal or trial type hearing is not at all times and in all
instances essential. The requirements are satisfied when the parties are
afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the
controversy at hand. What is frowned upon is the absolute lack of notice or
hearing.
In the case at bar, petitioner was able to file an Answer with Counter
Petition and Motion to Dismiss.[16] He was also able to submit his
counter-affidavit and sworn statements of forty-eight (48) witnesses. While
he complains that these were not considered by the Hearing Officer, he,
himself, admits that the COMELEC did not rely on the findings of the
Hearing Officer but referred the case to its Second Division. Thus, by the
time the Second Division reviewed his case, petitioners evidence were
already in place.Moreover, petitioner was also given a chance to explain his
arguments further in the Motion for Reconsideration which he filed before
the COMELEC. Clearly, in the light of the ruling in Paat, no deprivation of
due process was committed. Considering that petitioner was afforded an
54

opportunity to be heard, through his pleadings, there is really no denial of


procedural due process.[17]
Being interrelated, we shall discuss the second and third issues together.
We note that petitioners term as Mayor under the May 8, 1995 elections
expired on June 30, 1998.[18] Thus, when the first questioned Resolution
was issued by COMELEC on June 22, 1998, petitioner was still serving his
term. However, by the time the Motion for Reconsideration of petitioner
was filed on July 3, 1998, the case had already become moot and academic
as his term had already expired. So, too, the second questioned Resolution
which was issued on October 13, 1998, came at a time when the issue of the
case had already been rendered moot and academic by the expiration of
petitioners challenged term of office.
In Malaluan v. Commission on Elections,[19] this Court clearly
pronounced that expiration of the challenged term of office renders the
corresponding petition moot and academic. Thus:
It is significant to note that the term of office of the local officials elected in
the May, 1992 elections expired on June 30, 1995. This petition, thus, has
become moot and academic insofar as it concerns petitioners right to the
mayoralty seat in his municipality (Amatong v. COMELEC, G.R. No.
71003, April 28, 1988, En Banc, Minute Resolution; Artano v. Arcillas, G.R.
No. 76823, April 26, 1988, En Banc, Minute Resolution) because expiration
of the term of office contested in the election protest has the effect of
rendering the same moot and academic (Atienza v. Commission on
Elections, 239 SCRA 298; Abeja v. Tanada, 236 SCRA 60; Yorac v.
Magalona, 3 SCRA 76).
When the appeal from a decision in an election case has already become
moot, the case being an election protest involving the office of the mayor
the term of which had expired, the appeal is dismissible on that ground,
unless the rendering of a decision on the merits would be of practical value
(Yorac v. Magalona, supra). This rule we established in the case of Yorac v.
Magalona which was dismissed because it had been mooted by the
expiration of the term of office of the Municipal Mayor of Saravia, Negros
Occidental. x x x.
(underscoring, ours)
With the complaint for disqualification of private respondent rendered
moot and academic by the expiration of petitioners term of office therein
contested, COMELEC acted with grave abuse of discretion in proceeding to
55

disqualify petitioner from his reelected term of office in its second


questioned Resolution on the ground that it comes as a matter of course
after his disqualification in SPA No. 95-213 promulgated after the 1998
election. While it is true that the first questioned Resolution was issued
eight (8) days before the term of petitioner as Mayor expired, said
Resolution had not yet attained finality and could not effectively be held to
have removed petitioner from his office.[20] Indeed, removal cannot extend
beyond the term during which the alleged misconduct was committed. If a
public official is not removed before his term of office expires, he can no
longer be removed if he is thereafter reelected for another term.[21]
In this regard, therefore, we agree with the dissenting opinion of
Commissioner Teresita Dy-Liacco Flores in the second questioned
Resolution that petitioners disqualification under SPA No. 95-213 cannot
extend beyond the term to which he was elected in 1995.[22]
Yet another ground to reverse the COMELECs annulment of petitioners
proclamation under the 1998 elections is the undeniable fact that petitioner
was not accorded due process insofar as this issue is concerned. To be sure,
this was not part of the first questioned Resolution which only touched on
the matter raised in the complaint the May 8, 1995 elections. Private
respondent merely prayed for the annulment of petitioners proclamation as
winner in the 1998 elections in his Opposition to the Motion for
Reconsideration. It was with grave abuse of discretion, then, that the
COMELEC went on to annul petitioners proclamation as winner of the
1998 elections without any prior notice or hearing on the matter.[23]
As per the Certificate of Canvass,[24] petitioner obtained 5,920 votes as
against the 1,727 votes obtained by private respondent and 15 votes
garnered by the third mayoral candidate, Johnny R. Banatao. This gives
petitioner a high 77.26% of the votes cast.There is no doubt, therefore, that
petitioner received his municipalitys clear mandate. This, despite the
disqualification case filed against him by private respondent.
This further lends support to our decision to bar his disqualification
insofar as the May 11, 1998 elections is concerned. Indeed, in election cases,
it is fundamental that the peoples will be at all times upheld. As eloquently
stressed in Frivaldo v. Commission on Elections[25]-This Court has time and again liberally and equitably construed the electoral
laws of our country to give fullest effect to the manifest will of our people,
for in case of doubt, political laws must be interpreted to give life and spirit
to the popular mandate freely expressed through the ballot. Otherwise stated,
56

legal niceties and technicalities cannot stand in the way of the sovereign
will. Consistently, we have held:
x x x (L)aws 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 (Benito v. Commission on Elections,
235 SCRA 436, 442 [August 17, 1994]).
Finally, we see no error in the COMELECs rejection of private
respondents move to be declared as Mayor on account of petitioners
disqualification. To begin with, the issue had been rendered moot and
academic by the expiration of petitioners challenged term of office. Second,
even in law and jurisprudence, private respondent cannot claim any right to
the office. As held by the COMELEC, the succession to the office of the
mayor shall be in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government
Code which, in turn, provides that the vice mayor concerned shall become
the mayor.[26] Also, in Nolasco v. Commission on Elections,[27] citing Reyes
v. Commission on Elections,[28] we already rejected, once and for all, the
position that the candidate who obtains the second highest number of votes
may be proclaimed the winner in the event of disqualification or failure of
the candidate with the highest number of votes to hold office. This court
ratiocinated thus
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 (Frivaldo v. COMELEC, 174 SCRA 245 [1989]; Labo, Jr. v.
COMELEC, 176 SCRA 1 [1989]; Abella v. COMELEC, 201 SCRA 253
[1991]; Labo, Jr. v. COMELEC, 211 SCRA 297 [1992]; Benito v.
COMELEC, 235 SCRA 436 [1994]). The doctrinal instability caused by
see-sawing rulings (Compare Topacio v. Paredes, 23 Phil. 238
[1912] with Ticson v. COMELEC, 103 SCRA 687 [1981]; Geronimo v.
Ramos, 136 SCRA 435 [1985] with Santos v. COMELEC, 137 SCRA 740
[1985]) has since been removed. In the latest ruling (Aquino v. COMELEC,
G.R. No. 120265, September 18, 1995) 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
57

substantially changed. We are not prepared to extrapolate the results under


the circumstances.
Private respondent claims that there are compelling reasons to depart
from this doctrine. He argues that since the disqualification case filed
against the petitioner for the 1995 elections has been rendered moot and
academic, it is with the 1998 elections that its impact must be felt. He also
claims that justice should be given him as victim of petitioners dilatory
tactics.
We are not persuaded. On the other hand, the fact that despite the
disqualification case filed against petitioner relating to the 1995 elections,
he still won the mandate of the people for the 1998 elections, leads us to
believe that the electorate truly chose petitioner and repudiated private
respondent. To allow private respondent, a 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 peoples right
to elect officials of their choice.[29]
Therefore, the Resolution of the COMELEC dated October 13, 1998
which annulled petitioners proclamation as Mayor of Iguig, Cagayan in the
May 11, 1998 elections should be set aside. On the other hand, the petition
filed before the COMELEC against petitioner for election offenses
committed during the May 1995 elections should be dismissed for being
moot and academic, the term of office to which petitioner was elected
having already expired.
WHEREFORE, the petition is partly GRANTED. The Resolution of
the COMELEC, dated October 13, 1998 is SET ASIDE insofar as it annuls
the proclamation of petitioner as winner in the May 11, 1998
elections. Insofar as the May 8, 1995 elections is concerned, we find the
issues related thereto rendered moot and academic by expiration of the term
of office challenged and, accordingly, DISMISS the petition lodged in
connection therewith. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
58

[G. R. No. 144197. December 13, 2000]


WILLIAM P. ONG, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS
and ISAGANI B. RIZON, respondents.
DECISION
PARDO, J.:
The case before us is a petition for certiorari and prohibition with
preliminary injunction, temporary restraining order or status quo
ante order[1] assailing the resolution of the Commission on Elections
(Comelec) en banc promulgated on August 15, 2000, reversing the decision
of the Regional Trial Court, Lanao del Norte,[2] declaring protestee (herein
petitioner) as the duly elected mayor of the municipality of Baroy, Lanao
del Norte.[3]
The facts are as follows:
Petitioner William P. Ong and respondent Isagani B. Rizon were
candidates for the position of mayor of the municipality of Baroy, Lanao del
Norte during the May 11, 1998 local elections. On May 13, 1998, the
municipal board of canvassers proclaimed William P. Ong as the winner
with a margin of fifty-one (51) votes, as follows:
WILLIAM P. ONG - 4,472 votes
ISAGANI B. RIZON - 4,421 votes
On May 22, 1998, respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court, Lanao
del Norte an election protest[4] contesting petitioners votes in five (5)
clustered precincts.[5] Only the ballot boxes for two (2) precincts,
namely: Precincts 8A and 28A/28A1 were opened since respondent waived
the revision of the ballots in the other precincts.
On March 25, 1999, the trial court rendered a decision annulling
forty-five (45) votes for petitioner while invalidating two (2) votes for
respondent. Petitioners lead was reduced to eight (8) votes over that of
respondent, to wit:
WILLIAM P. ONG - 4,427 votes
ISAGANI B. RIZON - 4,419 votes[6]
59

In time, respondent appealed the trial courts decision to the


Comelec.[7] On February 1, 2000, the Comelec, Second Division[8],
promulgated a resolution declaring that the trial court committed serious
reversible errors in its appreciation of the contested ballots and invalidated
sixty-three (63) votes for petitioner and eight (8) votes for respondent. The
final result of its examination of the ballots showed that respondent led by a
margin of four (4) votes, as follows:
WILLIAM P. ONG - 4,409 votes
ISAGANI B. RIZON - 4,413 votes[9]
On February 7, 2000, petitioner moved for reconsideration of the above
resolution.[10]
On August 15, 2000, the Comelec en banc[11] promulgated a resolution
affirming the Second Divisions resolution but reduced by one (1) vote the
lead of respondent over petitioner. The final result showed that:
WILLIAM P. ONG - 4,411 votes
ISAGANI B. RIZON - 4,414 votes[12]
Hence, this petition.[13]
Petitioner contends that the Comelec en banc resolution, aside from
being patently illegal, was issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting
to lack or excess of jurisdiction. On the whole, the petition disputed the
sixty one (61) invalidated ballots of petitioner and seven (7) ballots of
respondent.
A thorough evaluation and visual examination of the contested ballots
reveal the following findings:
In Exhibits A, C, N and OO of Precinct 8A, slot No. 1 for senators
contained the name NIKKI and all the other spaces for senators were left
blank. The name NIKKI was written in print and the rest were written in
script.
In the same manner, in Exhibit C and II, the name NORMAN was
written on slot No. 1 for senators. In Exhibit UU of Precinct 28A/28A1
contained the name SINA was written on the slot No. 1 for senators. In
Exhibit B, the vote for Ong was in bold letters while the rests were written
in different strokes.
60

Comelec invalidated all the above described ballots for being marked
and written by two persons.
We find that Comelec grievously erred ousting itself of jurisdiction for
grave abuse of discretion in invalidating the ballots, including the votes for
Ong.
The law is clear:
Unless it should clearly appear that they have been deliberately put by the
voter to serve as identification marks, comma, dots, lines, or hyphens
between the first name and surname of a candidate, or in other parts of the
ballot, traces of the letter T, J, and other similar ones, the first letters or
syllables of names which the voter does not continue, the use of two or
more kinds of writing and unintentional or accidental flourishes, strokes or
strains, shall not invalidate the ballot.[14]
The rule is in favor of the validity of the ballot, not otherwise. The
term unless imports an exception rather than the general rule. This was
enunciated in Tajanlangit vs. Cazenas,[15] where we ruled that:
x x x. The use of two kinds of writing appearing in this ballot is a good
example of the exception provided for in paragraph 18, section 149 of the
Revised Election Code, which provides that unless it should clearly appear
that it has been deliberately put by the voter to serve as identification mark,
the use of two or more kinds of writing shall be considered innocent and
shall not invalidate the ballot. (Underlining ours)
The printed name NIKKI does not show any intention on the part of the
voters to identify or distinguish themselves. Therefore, the ballots are not
considered marked. The name NIKKI only showed that it was the voters
intention to emphasize and stress their adulation for a senator with the name
NIKKI, rather than to identify themselves. The votes are stray for the
senatorial candidates but will not invalidate the entire ballot.
In the same manner, the appearance of print and script writings in a
single ballot does not necessarily imply that two persons wrote the
ballot. The strokes of print and script handwriting would naturally differ but
would not automatically mean that two persons prepared the same. A visual
examination of the ballots belies the claim that these ballots were prepared
by two persons. In the absence of any deliberate intention to put an
identification mark, the ballots must not be rejected. We held that:
61

Ballot Exhibit N.This ballot was rejected by the Court of Appeals as marked
because the names of the candidates from the second space for members of
the provincial board down to the 7th place for councilors were written in
capital letters while those of other candidates were written in small letters,
the court concluding that the use of two forms of writing can only mean an
intent to identify the voter. We disagree with this conclusion. Under Section
149, paragraph 18, of the Revised Election Code, the use of two or more
kinds of writing cannot have the effect of invalidating the ballot unless it
clearly appears that they had been deliberately put by the voter to serve as
identification mark. Here such intent does not appear. The case in point in
Hilao vs. Bernardo, G. R. No. L-7704, December 14, 1954, wherein it was
held that the use of ordinary and printed forms of writing in a ballot is but a
mere variation which does not invalidate the ballot. This ballot should,
therefore, be counted for Ferrer.[16]
In Exhibits B, P, Z, JJ and KK of Precinct 8A, Big J was written before
the names of senatorial candidates Legarda, Cayetano, Barbers and before
the name of William Ong in the space for mayor.
In Exhibits M, R, T, X, AA and EE of Precinct 8A, letters FPJ were
written.
In Exhibits JJJ and SSS of Precinct 28A/28A1, the letters RJ were
written on the first slot for senators.
In Exhibit TTT of Precinct 28A/28A1, the word SENATORS was
written on the first slot for senators.
In Exhibit WWWW of Precinct 28A/28A1, the name KRIS was written
on the senatorial slot.
The above ballots must be appreciated in favor of Ong. There is no
showing that the words/letters/names written therein have been intentionally
placed to identify the voters. Notice that these markings are appellations or
nicknames of famous showbiz personalities who might have been mistaken
as candidates. At most, these may be considered as stray votes for the
position where they were written, as provided in Sec. 211 (19), Omnibus
Election Code, to wit:
19. Any vote in favor of a person who has not filed a certificate of
candidacy or in favor of a candidate for an office for which he did not
present himself shall be considered as a stray vote but it shall not invalidate
the whole ballot.
62

The primordial principle in the appreciation of the ballots is to respect,


not to frustrate the will of the electorate.
With regard to Exhibits D to L, O, Q, S, Y, U, V, W, BB, CC, DD, GG,
HH, II, LL, MM and NN of Precinct 8A and Exhibits A, E to I, L, N, O,
EEEE, P, Z, DD, KK, LL, QQ, VV, YY, AAA, BBB, EEE, HHH, III, KKK,
LLL, QQQ, WWW, BBBB, DDDD, GGGG, HHHH, KKKK, MMMM,
NNNN, RRRR and UUUU of Precinct 28A/28A1 the ballots have no defect
and are hereby declared valid. A close examination of the ballots reveals
that the ballots are clean and valid in favor of candidate Ong.
Findings of the Comelec in Exhibits FF of Precinct 8A and Exhibits D,
GG, HH, IIII, J, XXX, K, U, FFF, M, W, AA, AAAA, CC, MM, RR, NNN,
EE, TT, FF JJ, SSSS, NN, SS, ZZ, PPPP, CCC, DDD, PPP, UUU, CCCC,
XXXX, YYYY, QQQQ and VVVV of Precinct 28A/28A1 are correct and
the ballots are invalidated for being marked.
There are in the above ballots distinct initials and words such as DLR,
DOLLIN, DOLLINS, GINA, EVA, SOSANG TORIS, SABANG BULAC,
CORY, GREECE, GRACES, LOS, LUZ, BONG, ELIN, ROSE, ALONG
RARO, BONOO, ALONG PONBI, ROVEN GATA, NORMAN, RIC, VIA,
AMEN, NANIG, SABAS, MIMIG and LOLOY TORRES written on
spaces for different positions. These writings can only be construed as an
intention to mark and identify the ballots since these words were repeatedly
written and in other instances, two or three of these words were written on a
single ballot.[17] These words are impertinent, irrelevant, unnecessary and
clearly show the voters purpose to identify the ballots or voters. As held
in Gadon vs. Gadon[18], the unexplained presence of prominent letters and
words written with remarkably good hand marked the ballots and must be
considered invalid.
Comelec also correctly ruled that Exhibits Q, GGG, OO, PP and WW of
Precinct 28A, 28A1 are valid votes for Ong. LIM, APEC and DAYO are
names of candidates which were written on spaces where they should not be
written as they were not candidates for said position. For instance, APEC is
a party list candidate but was written on the space intended for senatorial
candidates. As such, the same shall be considered as stray vote but shall not
invalidate the whole ballot.
Section 211 (19) of the Omnibus Election Code provides that:
19. Any vote in favor of a person who has not filed a certificate of
candidacy or in favor of a candidate for an office for which he did not
63

present himself shall be considered as a stray vote but it shall not invalidate
the whole ballot. (Underlining supplied)
Thus, the finding of the Comelec that these ballots are valid for Ong is
affirmed.
In the same manner, Exhibits R, S, T, V and X of Precinct 28A, 28A1
were correctly held to be valid votes for Ong under the Neighborhood Rule
since the space for mayor remained unaccomplished or not filled up.
However, the Court is constrained to reverse the Comelec finding that
Exhibits Y and XX of Precinct 28A, 28A1 were valid for Ong. Considering
that there was no candidate for senator with the name PACETE or PACITE,
such writings served to identify the ballots. The ballots are, therefore,
invalid for Ong.
In Exhibit BB of Precinct 28A, 28A1, the term None that I know written
on the space for party list does not render the ballot marked. The term
simply implies that the voter did not know any candidate or did not wish to
vote for any candidate to the position. Thus, the Comelec correctly ruled
that the ballot is valid for Ong.
Exhibits MMM and OOOO of Precinct 28A, 28A1 wherein the words
ANG TINGOG NG BARANGAY and PARE KO, respectively, were
written, are valid. The phrases were mere appellations of affection and
friendship that do not invalidate the whole ballot.
Exhibit OOO of Precinct 28A, 28A1 where the names of the candidates
for councilors were repeated in the first four lines for Senators do not render
the ballot marked. The Comelec was correct in upholding the validity of the
ballot since it was obviously shown by the penmanship that the voter was
unlettered and that there was no intention to identify the ballot.
Under the rule of IDEM SONANS, Exhibits RRR, TTTT and VVV of
Precinct 28A, 28A1 may not be invalidated. LORNA and RECADO sound
similar to the names of senatorial candidates such as Loren Legarda and
Ricardo Gloria.[19]
The erasures in Exhibits YYY and JJJJ of Precinct 28A, 28A1 would not
invalidate the ballot absent any showing that another person wrote the name
of Ong after the erasure was made. In fact, the rules on appreciation of
ballots provide that:
When in a space in the ballot there appears a name of candidate that is
erased and another clearly written, the vote is valid for the latter.[20]
64

Incorrect spelling of a candidates name does not invalidate the


ballot. The Comelec was not correct when it ruled that Exhibit ZZZ of
Precinct 28A, 28A1 was invalid considering that the voter "appeared to be
literate." Even the most literate person is bound to commit a mistake in
spelling.
Exhibit FFFF of Precinct 28A, 28A1 where X-MEN was written on the
space for party-list representative would not invalidate the whole ballot. The
word X-MEN invalidates the vote for the party list representative but the
ballot itself is valid. Hence, the vote for Ong on the ballot must be credited
in his favor.
The Comelec found no defect in Exhibits 1 to 11, 13 to 19, 21, 22, 23,
25, 26, 27, 29 and 31 to 37 of Precinct 8A and Exhibits 1, 2, 4 to 11, 13 to
26, 28 to 31 and 33 to 40 of Precinct 28A, 28A1. A careful examination of
the ballots confirms the finding that they have no defects. Therefore, the
finding is hereby affirmed and the ballots are declared valid for Rizon.
Contrary to the finding that Exhibits 12, 24 and 28 of Precinct 8A were
marked with the appearance of the letters D", "L", "R, a physical
examination of the same belies the finding. The same do not contain the
letters "D", "L", "R" and are without defect and should be adjudicated in
favor of Rizon.
The same is true with Exhibit 20 of Precinct 8A. There is no sticker VFP
pasted on the ballot. The same should be credited in favor of candidate
Rizon.
Exhibit 30 of Precinct 8A, where the name LITO in big bold letters
occupies all the spaces for councilor should be invalidated inasmuch as
there is evident intent to mark the ballot.
Exhibit 3 of Precinct 28A, 28A1 where TIRBOG is written on the space
for governor is not a marked ballot. Absent any showing that the word/name
TIRBOG meant to identify the ballot or the voter, the ballot remains
valid. The same can be said for Exhibits 27 and 32 of Precinct 28A, 28A1
where numbers were written after the names of some candidates and the
word CRIS appears on the first slot for senators, respectively. The voter
obviously did not have the intention to mark the ballot. These ballots should
be counted in favor of candidate Rizon.
Exhibit 12 of Precinct 28A, 28A1 with initial DLR on it is invalid. The
initial DLR serves no other purpose than to mark the ballot as it is
65

unnecessary, impertinent and irrelevant. This is different from Exhibits "12",


"24" and "28" of P-8A.
Hereunder is a summary of the findings.
Prec. 8A SUMMARY OF F I N D I N G S ONG
1. Exhibits A, C, N and OO (4 ballots) 4
Writings partly in script and in
print do not invalidate the ballot.
Printed name NIKKI was used to
emphasize the voters adulation
for a senator with that
name. VALID FOR ONG
2. Exhibits B, P, Z, JJ and KK
(5 ballots) 5
Big J appearing before the names
of senatorial candidates Legarda,
Cayetano and Barbers and before
the name of Ong does not
invalidate the ballot. It was not
used
to
identify
the
voter. VALID FOR ONG
3. Exhibits D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K
and L (9 ballots) 9*
Comelec finding that the ballots have
no defect and thus valid for Ong is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
4. Exhibits M, R, T, X, AA and EE (6 ballots)
Ballots which contain the three
letters 6
F.P.J. are not marked ballots. VALID
FOR ONG
5. Exhibits O and Q (2 ballots)Comelec
finding that the ballots have no defect and
thus (2)*
valid for Ong is affirmed. VALID
FOR ONG
66

6. Exhibits S and Y (2 ballots)Comelec (2)*


finding that the ballots have no Defect
and thus valid for Ong is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
7. Exhibits U, V, W, BB, CC and (6)*
DD (6 ballots)Comelec finding that
the ballots have no defect and thus
valid for Ong is affirmed. VALID
FOR ONG
8. Exhibit FF(1 ballot)Comelec finding that the (-1)*
ballot was defective and thus invalid
for Ong is affirmed. INVALID FOR
ONG
9. Exhibit GG, HH, II, LL, MM
And NN (6)*
(6 ballots)
Comelec finding that the ballots have
no defect and thus valid for Ong is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
Prec.28A28A-1 SUMMARY OF F I N D I N G S ONG
1. Exhibit A (1 ballot)Comelec finding that the (1)*
ballot has no defect and thus valid for
Ong is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
2. Exhibit B(1 ballot)The ballot is not a marked 1
ballot and not written by two persons.
VALID FOR ONG
3. Exhibits C and II(2 ballots)Comelec finding (-2)*
that the ballots were marked ballots and
written by two persons is affirmed.
INVALID FOR ONG
4. Exhibits D, GG, HH and IIII (-4)
(4 ballots)Words DOLLIN and
DOLLINS written on the first senatorial
slot are irrelevant, unnecessary and
impertinent words meant to identify the
voters. Comelec finding that the same
67

were
invalid
for
Ong
affirmed. INVALID FOR ONG

is

5. Exhibits E, F, G, H and I
(5 ballots) (5)*
Comelec finding that the ballots have
no defect and thus valid for Ong is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
6. Exhibits J and XXX(2 ballots)The word (-2)*
GINA written on the senatorial slot is
unnecessary, irrelevant and impertinent.
Comelec finding is affirmed. INVALID FOR ONG
7. Exhibits K, U and FF(3 ballots)The words
EVA. SOSANG TORIS and SABANG
BULAC served to identify the
voter. Comelec finding that the ballots
were marked is affirmed. INVALID FOR
ONG
8. Exhibits L, N, O and EEEE (4)*
(4 ballots)Comelec finding that the ballots
have no defects and thus valid for Ong is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
9. Exhibits M and W(2 ballots)Comelec finding (-2)*
that the ballots have defects and thus
invalid for Ong is affirmed. INVALID
FOR ONG
10. Exhibit P(1 ballot)Comelec finding that the ballot (1)*
has no defect is affirmed. VALID FOR
ONG.
11. Exhibits Q and GGG(2 ballots)Comelec
findingthat the word LIM written on the
senatorial (2)*
slot should be treated merely as a stray
vote is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
12. Exhibits R, S, T, V and X (5)*
(5 ballots)Applying the Neighborhood
Rule, Comelec finding that the ballots
68

were without defects is affirmed. VALID


FOR ONG
13. Exhibits Y and XX(2 ballots)The words -2
PACITE and PACETE written on the
first senatorial slot are markings that
invalidated the ballot. Comelec finding is
reversed. INVALID FOR ONG
14 Exhibit Z( 1 ballot)Comelec finding that the ballot (1)*
has no defect is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
15. Exhibits AA and AAAA(2 ballots)Comelec (-2)*
finding that the ballots were defective is
affirmed. INVALID FOR ONG
16. Exhibit BB(1 ballot)Comelec finding that the (1)*
words None that I know on the space for
party list did not mark the ballot is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
17. Exhibits CC, MM, RR and NNN (-4)*
(4 ballots)The words LOS and LUZ
written on different slots marked the
ballots. Comelec finding that the ballots
were marked is affirmed. INVALID FOR
ONG
18. Exhibit DD(1 ballot)Comelec finding that the ballot (1)*
has no defect is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
19. Exhibits EE and TT(2 ballots) (-2)*
The name BONG written on the no. 1
space for senators served to identify the
voters. Comelec finding that the ballots
were marked is affirmed. INVALID FOR
ONG
20. Exhibit FF(1 ballot)The words ELIN and two
names of vice-presidential candidates written on
the (-2)*
senatorial
slots
marked
the
ballots. Comelec finding that the ballots
were marked is affirmed. INVALID FOR
ONG
69

21. Exhibits KK and LL(2 ballots)Comelec (2)*


finding that the ballots have no defect is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
22. Exhibits JJ and SSSS(2 ballots)The name
ROSE on the first line intended for senators (-2)*
marked the ballots. Comelec finding is
affirmed. INVALID FOR ONG
24. Exhibit NN(1 ballot)The names of non-candidates (-1)*
written on the ballot marked the ballot. Comelec
finding is affirmed. INVALID FOR ONG
25. Exhibits OO and PP(2 ballots)The word APEC
is a stray vote but does not invalidate the vote
for (2)*
Ong. Comelec finding is affirmed. VALID FOR
ONG
26. Exhibit QQ(1 ballot)Comelec finding that the (1)*
ballot has no defect is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
27. Exhibit SS
(1 ballot) (-1)*
Comelec finding that the ballot is
defective because of the name NORMAN
which was written twice on the same slot
is affirmed. INVALID FOR ONG
28. Exhibit UU 1
(1 ballot)The ballot is not marked and not
written by two persons. VALID FOR
ONG
29. Exhibit VV(1 ballot)Comelec finding that the (1)*
ballot has no defect is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
30. Exhibit WW(1 ballot)Comelec finding that (1)*
the name DAYO is a stray vote is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
31. Exhibit YY(1 ballot)Comelec finding that the (1)*
ballot has no defect is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
32.

Exhibits ZZ and PPPP(2


ballots)Comelec (-2)*
70

33.

finding that the name RIC


written after the name William Ong and
after the name of candidate Ruben
Gayta marked the ballot is affirmed.
INVALID FOR ONG

33. Exhibits AAA AND BBB(2 ballots)Comelec (2)*


finding that the ballots have no defect is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
34. Exhibits CCC, DDD and PPP(3 ballots) (-3)*
The word or name VIA is irrelevant,
unnecessary and impertinent. Comelec
finding that the ballots were marked is
affirmed. INVALID FOR ONG
35. Exhibits EEE, HHH and III
(3 ballots) (3)*
Comelec finding that the ballots have no
defect is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
36. Exhibits JJJ and SSS
(2 ballots)The letters RJ on the first slot for (2)*
senators did not render the ballots as
marked ballots. Comelec finding is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
37. Exhibits KKK and LLL(2 ballots)Comelec (2)*
finding that the ballots are not defective
is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
38. Exhibit MMM(1 ballot)The statement (1)*
ANG TINGOG NG BARANGAY written
below the name of Ong is merely an
appellation of affection. Comelec findings
is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
39. Exhibit OOO(1 ballot)The repetition of the (1)*
name of a candidate for councilor in the
first four lines for senators does not
invalidate the ballot. Comelec findings is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG
40. Exhibit QQQ(1 ballot)Comelec finding that the
71

ballot has no defect is affirmed. VALID FOR


ONG (1)*
41. Exhibits RRR and TTTT(2 ballots)Under the
rule of IDEM SONANS, the name
LORNA written on the senatorial slot
does not invalidate the ballots. Comelec
finding is affirmed. VALID FOR
ONG (2)*
42. Exhibit TTT(1 ballot)
The word SENATORS written on the first
slot of senator does not mark the
ballot. VALID FOR
ONG (1)
43. Exhibit UUU(1 ballot)The words or names
NOEL,
ALONG
RARO,
ENCARNACION
JUP,
NARDO
HOYOHOY AND LANE LARGO are
impertinent,
unnecessary
and
irrelevant.
Comelec
finding
is
affirmed. INVALID
FOR ONG (-1)*
44. Exhibit VVV(1 ballot)Comelec finding that
RECADO under the rule IDEM
SONANS does not invalidate the vote is
affirmed. VALID FOR
ONG (1)*
45. Exhibit WWW(1 ballot)Comelec finding that
the
ballot
has
no
defect
is
affirmed. VALID FOR
ONG (1)*
46. Exhibit YYY(1 ballot)There is no clear
evidence that another person wrote the
name of Ong. Erasures do not invalidate
the ballot. VALID
FOR ONG 1

72

47. Exhibit ZZZ(1 ballot)The name VECINTE


was merely a wrong spelling which does
not
invalidate the ballot. VALID FOR ONG 1
48. Exhibit BBBB(1 ballot)
Comelec finding that the ballot has no
defect is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG (1)*
49. Exhibits CCCC, XXXX and YYYY (-3)*
(3 ballots)The writing AMEN on the
first slot for senators is impertinent,
irrelevant and unnecessary. Comelec
finding is affirmed. INVALID FOR
ONG
50. Exhibit DDDD(1 ballot)Comelec finding
that the ballot has no defect is
affirmed. VALID
FOR ONG (1)*
51. Exhibit FFFF(1 ballot)X-MEN written on 1
the space for party list representative
does not invalidate the ballot. VALID
FOR ONG
52.

Exhibits GGGG and


HHHH(2 ballots)Comelec finding that
the ballots have no
defect is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG (2)*

53. Exhibit JJJJ


(1 ballot)
Comelec finding that erasures must not
be
taken
as
identification
is
affirmed. VALID FOR
ONG (1)*
54. Exhibit KKKK(1 ballot)Comelec finding
that the ballot has no defect is
affirmed.
VALID FOR ONG (1)*
55. Exhibit LLLL
73

(1 ballot)
Comelec finding that the ballot was
written
by
two
persons
is
affirmed. INVALID FOR
ONG (-1)*
56. Exhibits MMMM and NNNN (2)*
(2 ballots)Comelec finding that the ballots
have no defect is affirmed. VALID FOR
ONG
57. Exhibit OOOO(1 ballot)Comelec finding that
the words PARE KO are words of
appellation is
affirmed. VALID FOR ONG (1)*
58. Exhibit QQQQ(1 ballot)Comelec finding that
the words or names NANIG, SABAS
and MIMIG which are non-candidates
marked the
ballot is affirmed. INVALID FOR ONG (-1)*
59.

Exhibits
RRRR
and
UUUU(2
ballots)Comelec finding that the ballots
have no
defect is affirmed. VALID FOR ONG (2)*

60. Exhibit VVVV


(1 ballot) (-1)*
Comelec finding that the names ALONG
and LOLOY TORRES" who were
non-candidates marked the ballot is
affirmed. INVALID FOR ONG
61. Exhibit WWWW(1 ballot)The name KRISin
the senatorial does not mark the
ballot. VALID
FOR ONG 1
Number of votes to be credited to ONG = 22
Number of votes to be deducted from ONG = 2
Prec.8A SUMMARY OF F I N D I N G S RIZON
1. Exhibits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11
74

(11 ballots) (11)*


Comelec finding that the
ballots have no defect and
thus valid for Rizon is
affirmed.
VALID
FOR
RIZON
2. Exhibits 12, 24 and 28(3 ballots)The 3
ballots do not contain the
letters DLR. VALID FOR
RIZON
3. Exhibits 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 (7)*
(7 ballots)Comelec finding
that the ballots have no defect
and thus valid for Rizon is
affirmed.
VALID
FOR
RIZON
4. Exhibit 20(1 ballot)There is no marking on the 1
ballot. VALID FOR RIZON
5. Exhibits 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33,
34, 35, 36 and
37 (14 ballots)Comelec findings that
the (14)*
ballots have no defect and
thus valid is affirmed. VALID
FOR RIZON
6. Exhibit 30(1 ballot)The name LITO written
in big bold letters occupying all the
spaces for -1
councilor
marked
the
ballot.
INVALID
FOR
RIZON
Prec.28A28A-1 SUMMARY OF F I N D I N G S RIZON
1. Exhibits 1 and 2(2 ballots)Comelec finding (2)*
that the ballots have no defect
and
thus
valid
is
affirmed.
VALID
FOR
RIZON
75

2. Exhibit 3(1 ballot)The ballot has no marking. -1


VALID FOR RIZON
3. Exhibits "4" to "11"(8 ballots)Comelec
finding that the ballots have
no defect and thus valid is
affirmed. VALID FOR RIZON (11)*
4. Exhibit 12(1 ballot) The ballot contains
initials
DLR.
Comelec
finding that the ballot has no
defect is reversed. INVALID FOR
RIZON -1
5. Exhibit "12" to "26"(15 ballots)Comelec
finding that the ballots have
no Defect is affirmed.
VALID FOR RIZON (14)*
6. Exhibit 27

(1 ballot) 1
There are no markings found
in the ballot. VALID FOR
RIZON

7. Exhibits 28 to 31(4 ballots)Comelec finding (4)*


that the ballots have no defect
and thus valid for Rizon is
affirmed.
VALID
FOR
RIZON
8. Exhibit 32(1 ballot)There are no markings in 1
the ballot. No name Cris
appearing
in
the
ballot. VALID FOR RIZON
9. Exhibits 33 to 40(8 ballots)Comelec finding (8)*
that the ballots have no defect
and thus valid for Rizon is
affirmed.
VALID
FOR
RIZON
Number of votes to be credited to RIZON = 7
Number of votes to be deducted from RIZON = 2
76

From a total of 4,411 votes of Ong per Comelec findings, a total of


another twenty (20) shall be added23 as per above findings which gives him
a total of 4,431 votes.
From a total of 4,414 votes of Rizon per Comelec findings, a total of five
(5) votes shall be added24 as per above findings which gives him a total of
4,419.
Consequently, candidate William P. Ong won by a margin of twelve (12)
votes.
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the
Resolution dated August 15, 2000 of the Commission on Elections en banc
declaring respondent Isagani B. Rizon as the winner in the May 11, 1998
elections.
In lieu thereof, Court hereby PROCLAIMS petitioner William P. Ong
as the duly elected mayor of the municipality of Baroy, Lanao del Norte in
the May 11, 1998 elections, with a margin of twelve (12) votes.
The status quo order issued on August 29, 2000, is made permanent.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
[G.R. No. 151216. July 18, 2003]
MANUEL
MILLA,
petitioner,
BALMORES-LAXA, respondent.

vs.

REGINA

DECISION
CARPIO-MORALES, J.:
The petition at bar involves the power of the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) to annul the proclamation, due to an alleged error in the
tabulation of the Statement of Votes, of a winning candidate for municipal
councilor who had taken his oath and assumed office as such.
77

Petitioner Manuel Milla and respondent Regina Balmores-Laxa were


candidates for councilor of Gerona, Tarlac in the May 14, 2001 elections.[1]
On May 18, 2001, petitioner was proclaimed as the eighth winning
candidate by the Municipal Board of Canvassers (BOC) based on the
Statement of Votes and the Certificate of Canvass[2] showing the votes
obtained by each candidate as follows:
Daisy Mamba 14,558
Edwin Yamoyam 12,424
Antonio Perez, Jr. 11,607
Orlando Ines 9,764
Raul Cruz 9,724
Francisco de Leon 9,390
Ricardo Parazo 8,781
Manuel Milla 8,052
Regina Balmores-Laxa 8,006
Pastora M. Cucuin 7,669[3]
One month after petitioners proclamation or on June 18, 2001,
respondent filed a petition[4] with the COMELEC against petitioner and the
BOC for correction of entries in [the] Statement of Votes . . . based on fraud
and irregularities in [the] canvassing of votes.[5] The petition, which was
docketed as SPC No. 01-311, alleged that the entries for four precincts in
the Statement of Votes did not correspond to the election returns for the
respective precincts, to wit:
[Manuel Milla and the Municipal Board of Canvassers], by confederating,
aiding and helping one another violating Sections 223, 230 and 231 of the
Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines (B.P. 881) and Section 27(b) of
R.A. 6646 (Electoral Reforms Law of 1987[)], padded respondent Manuel
Millas votes by THREE HUNDRED FIFTY (350) VOTES by inserting the
number 1 figure before the actual votes in three precincts and converting 1
into 6 in one precinct illustrated as follows:
Precinct No. Actual votes (ER)[6] Padded votes (SOV)[7]
71A 32 132
30[A] 29 129
21A2 14 64
78

41A 31 131.[8]
Attached to respondents petition were photocopies of the election returns
from precincts 71A,[9] 30A[10] and 21A2[11] and photocopies of certified true
copies of the Statement of Votes.[12]
Respondent likewise alleged that the said entries for the four precincts
were statistically improbable because petitioner garnered so much higher
votes than the other candidates.[13]
As, by the Certificate of Canvass, petitioner led respondent by 46 votes
whereas the discrepancy between the Statement of Votes and the election
returns was 350, respondent prayed before the COMELEC for the
correction of errors in the Statement of Votes and Certificate of Canvass,
the declaration as null and void of the proclamation of petitioner, and her
proclamation as one of the duly elected municipal councilors.[14]
Petitioner, who in the meantime took his oath of office on June 29, 2001
and thereafter assumed the position of municipal councilor,[15] prayed in his
Answer to respondents petition before the COMELEC for the dismissal of
the petition on the following grounds: (1) the petition was filed beyond the
reglementary period of five (5) days from date of proclamation,[16] (2)
pre-proclamation cases should be terminated after proclamation and
assumption of office,[17]and (3) padding of statement of votes is not a proper
subject of a pre-proclamation case.[18]
The BOC, on the other hand, in its Answer[19] with motion for the
reconvening of the BOC to effect the correction of entries in the Statement
of Votes, proffered unawareness of, and disclaimed any hand in, any
irregularity in the copying of the number of votes from the election returns
to the Statement of Votes, as its role during the canvassing was limited to
appreciating election returns, the canvassing having been done by two
sub-canvassing committees.[20]
In its Resolution[21] of December 18, 2001, the COMELEC En
Banc, found as follows:
. . . Milla, on the other hand, does not denythe padding of his votes by three
hundred fifty (350) votes; but instead moved for the dismissal of the petition
on the petty ground of a technicality that the petition was filed beyond
the five (5) day reglementary period for filing petitions of its sort.
xxx
79

Given the attendant evidence at hand, specifically the unexplained


mismatched inscriptions in the entries for the questioned precincts in the
Statement of Votes, we conclude that the padding of three hundred fifty
(350) votes committed by respondent Board in order to favor
respondent Milla is beyond the realm of an honest mistake. As to the
correct number of votes, it is without question that what appears in the
election returns is the actual number of votes garnered by private
respondent.
xxx
In addition, not a single item in the material averments of the Petition was
specifically denied by either respondent, thus lending credence to the
complete truthfulness of petitioners account of the dagdag-bawas scheme
which she has already proven by clear and convincing evidence.
As such, we cannot leave the correction of the error in canvassing to the
same body [which] perpetrated such error, as they so pray for in their
answer.[22] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied),
and denied the BOCs motion to reconvene, declared herein petitioners
proclamation null and void, and proclaimed respondent as the eighth
winning candidate.
Hence, the present recourse anchored on the following grounds:
I
THE COMMISSION ON ELECTION[S] HAS NO JURISDICTION TO
PROCLAIM RESPONDENT AS THE EIGHT[H] WINNING
CANDIDATE FOR COUNCILOR AND TO DECLARE PETITIONERS
PROCLAMATION NULL AND VOID.[23]
II
THE RESOLUTION IN QUESTION IS NOT SUPPORTED BY THE
EVIDENCE.[24]
Petitioner maintains that the COMELEC has no jurisdiction over the
petition as it was filed beyond the reglementary period. For, so petitioner
contends, since the proclamation was made on May 18, 2001, the petition to
correct the Statement of Votes should have been filed within 5 days
80

thereafter conformably with Section 5, Rule 27 of the COMELEC Rules of


Procedure[25] which reads:
Sec. 5. Pre-proclamation Controversies Which May Be Filed Directly With
the Commission. (a) The following pre-proclamation controversies may be
filed directly with the Commission:
1) x x x
2) When the issue involves the correction of manifest errors in the
tabulation or tallying of the results during the canvassing as where (1) a
copy of the election returns or certificate of canvass was tabulated more
than once, (2) two or more copies of the election returns of one precinct, or
two or more copies of certificate of canvass were tabulated separately,
(3) there has been a mistake in the copying of the figures into the statement
of votes or into the certificate of canvass, or (4) so-called returns from
non-existent precincts were included in the canvass, and such errors could
not have been discovered during the canvassing despite the exercise of due
diligence and proclamation of the winning candidates had already been
made.
b) x x x
If the petition is for correction, it must be filed not later than five (5) days
following the date of proclamation and must implead all candidates who
may be adversely affected thereby.
x x x (Underscoring supplied)
In holding that it validly assumed jurisdiction over the petition, the
COMELEC asserts that [a] proclamation that is based on a clerical or
mathematical mistake (or a blatant padding of votes) is not a valid
proclamation [h]ence, the same can be challenged even after the proclaimed
candidate has assumed office. [26]
The Statement of Votes forms the basis of the Certificate of Canvass and
of the proclamation. Any error in the statement ultimately affects the
validity of the proclamation.[27]
If a candidates proclamation is based on a Statement of Votes which
contains erroneous entries, it is null and void. It is no proclamation at all
and the proclaimed candidates assumption of office cannot deprive the
COMELEC of the power to annul the proclamation.[28]
81

In the case at bar, as the Statement of Votes contained erroneous entries,


the COMELEC rightfully assumed jurisdiction over respondents petition for
the correction thereof and declaration of nullity of petitioners
proclamation. While our election laws are silent when such and similar
petitions may be filed directly with the COMELEC,[29] the above-quoted
Section 5, Rule 27 of the Rules of Procedure sets a prescriptive period of
five (5) days following the date of proclamation. The COMELEC, however,
could suspend its own Rules of Procedure so as not to defeat the will of the
electorate.[30] For adherence to technicality that would put a stamp on a
palpably void proclamation, with the inevitable result of frustrating the
peoples will, cannot be countenanced.[31]
Petitioner nevertheless posits that even assuming that the COMELEC
may suspend the application of Section 5, Rule 27 of its Rules of Procedure,
it can no longer exercise jurisdiction after his proclamation, oath and
assumption of office[32] in view of Section 16 of Republic Act
7166[33] which states:
Sec. 16. Pre-Proclamation Cases Involving Provincial, City and Municipal
Offices. Pre-proclamation cases involving provincial, city and municipal
offices shall be allowed and shall be governed by Sections 17, 18, 19, 20, 21
and 22 hereof. All pre-proclamation cases pending before the
Commission shall be deemed terminated at the beginning of the term of
the office involved and the rulings of the boards of canvassers concerned
shall be deemed affirmed, without prejudice to the filing of a regular
election protest by the aggrieved party. However, proceedings may
continue when on the basis of evidence thus far presented, the
Commission determined that the petition appears meritorious and
accordingly issues an order for the proceeding to continue or when an
appropriate order has been issued by the Supreme Court in a petition for
certiorari. (Emphasis supplied)
By petitioners claim, there is no showing that respondents petition falls
under the exception in the above-quoted provision as the petition has not
been determined by the COMELEC to be meritorious and no order has been
issued for the proceeding to continue.[34] The claim does not lie. The
COMELEC issued Resolution No. 4493 on June 29, 2001 declaring the
termination of all pre-proclamation cases except those included in the list
annexed thereto which list included SPC No. 01-311, respondents petition
before the COMELEC subject of the present petition.
82

Petitioner additionally claims that the COMELEC, in assuming original


jurisdiction over a case involving municipal officials, acted beyond the
limits of its power under the Constitution, particularly Section 2, paragraph
2 of Article IX-C[35] which provides:
Sec. 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.
Decisions, final orders, or rulings of the Commission on election contests
involving elective municipal and barangay offices shall be final, executory
and not appealable .
(3) (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Petitioners above-claim does not likewise lie. By his admission, the
petition filed by respondent before the COMELEC involves a
pre-proclamation controversy, not an election contest and indeed it is not,
for while the petition alleged fraud and statistical improbability, the remedy
sought was merely for correction of erroneous entries in the Statement of
Votes which were based on the election returns.
As the petition then of respondent involves a pre-proclamation
controversy, following Sec. 3 of Art. IX-C of the 1987 Constitution which
provides:
Sec. 3. The Commission on Elections may sit en banc or in two divisions,
and shall promulgate its rules of procedure in order to expedite disposition
of election cases, including pre-proclamation controversies. All such
election cases shall be heard and decided in division, provided that motions
for reconsideration of decisions shall be decided by the Commission en
banc. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

83

it should have first been heard and decided by a division of the


COMELEC,37 and then by the En Banc if a motion for reconsideration of
the decision of the division were filed.
Since, as reflected above, the COMELEC sitting en banc acted on
respondents petition which was not first passed upon by a division, it acted
without jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion.[36] The assailed
Resolution of the COMELEC dated December 18, 2001 is thus null and
void and it is in this light that the present petition is GRANTED. This
leaves it unnecessary to pass on petitioners second assigned error.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The Resolution of
the COMELEC En Banc dated December 18, 2001 in SPC No. 01-311 is
hereby SET ASIDE, and the COMELEC is ordered to assign the SPC No.
01-311 to a division, which is hereby directed to resolve the same with
reasonable dispatch.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo. Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago,
Carpio, Austria-Martinez, C

EN BANC
[G.R. Nos. 139573-75. March 7, 2000]
JUNE
GENEVIEVE
R.
SEBASTIAN,
and
DARIO
ROMANO, petitioners, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,
THE MUNICIPAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF STO. TOMAS,
DAVAO DEL NORTE (Jandelie B. Espaola, Liza D. Baco, and
Valentin
Gador),
SALVADOR
ROYO,
and
ERIC
ESTELA, respondents.
DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:
Before us is a petition for certiorari seeking the annulment of the
Resolution issued by respondent Commission on Elections, in SPC Nos.
98-129, 98-142, and 98-169, on August 24, 1999, allowing the inclusion in
84

the canvass of votes in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte, of 25 election returns
which petitioners claimed to have been prepared through threats and undue
influence. Said resolution reversed an earlier resolution of the COMELEC
Second Division excluding the questioned election returns from the canvass
of votes. Petitioners likewise seek the issuance of a temporary restraining
order to enjoin the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Sto. Tomas from
continuing with the canvassing of votes and including therein the contested
election returns.
The antecedent facts are as follows:
Petitioner June Genevieve Sebastian was the mayoralty candidate of the
Reporma Party in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte, during the May 11, 1998
elections. Petitioner Dario Romano was her running mate. Private
respondent Salvador Royo was the mayoralty candidate of the
Lakas-NUCD-UMDP, while private respondent Eric Estela was his
candidate for vice mayor.
On election day, as the Municipal Board of Canvassers was preparing to
canvass the election returns, petitioners sought the exclusion from the
canvass of several election returns from certain precincts in barangays
Kimamon, New Katipunan, Lunga-og, Balagunan, Pantaron, and
Tibal-og.[1] Petitioners claimed that the election returns from these areas
were prepared under "extreme duress, threat, intimidation and political
pressure and influence."[2] Petitioners also manifested that four election
returns were missing.
The Municipal Board of Canvassers denied the petition, prompting
petitioners to file three separate appeals with the COMELEC, docketed as
SPC No. 98-129, SPC No. 98-142, and SPC No. 98-169.
The COMELEC First Division dismissed the appeal docketed as SPC No.
98-129 on July 15, 1998. No motion for reconsideration was filed by
petitioners as appellants therein, thus, the dismissal became final and
executory on July 30, 1998.[3]
Meanwhile, the COMELEC Second Division, ruling on the remaining
consolidated appeals in a decision promulgated on August 14, 1998, ruled
in favor of petitioners and ordered the exclusion of 25 election returns from
the canvass of votes in Sto. Tomas.
85

On August 18, 1998, private respondent Royo filed a motion for


reconsideration of said resolution. The COMELEC en banc, as earlier stated,
reversed the ruling of the COMELEC Second Division.
Hence, this petition, in which petitioners assign the following errors:
THE HONORABLE COMMISSION COMMITTED GRAVE
ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR
EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT DISREGARDED
THE DOCTRINE ENUNCIATED BY THE HONORABLE
SUPREME COURT IN THE LEADING CASE OF ANTONIO
vs. COMELEC, G.R. NO. L-31604, APRIL 17, 1970 IN THE
DISPOSITION OF THE INSTANT CASE;
THE HONORABLE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS
COMMITTED A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION
AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION
WHEN IT UNILATERALLY DISREGARDED THE
OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE OF COERCION, UNDUE
INFLUENCE,
EXTREME
PRESSURE,
THREAT,
INTIMIDATION
AS
WELL
AS
ALL
THE
ENVIRONMENTAL CIRCUMSTANCES THAT ATTENDED
THE
PREPARATION,
TRANSMISSION,
RECEIPT,
CUSTODY AND APPRECIATION OF THE TWENTY-FIVE
CONTESTED RETURNS.[4]
Petitioners concede that, when the election returns appear to be regular,
authentic, and duly accomplished on their face, the COMELEC need not
inquire into allegations of irregularities in the casting or counting of
votes.[5] However, petitioners question the COMELECs alleged failure to
consider what they claim to be evidence of undue influence, extreme
pressure, threat, and coercion that attended the preparation, transmission,
custody and appreciation by the Board of Election Inspectors of the
contested election returns. These, according to petitioners, affected the
regularity, due execution, and authenticity of the election returns.[6]
Petitioners also fault the COMELEC for not taking into account the
atmosphere prevailing during the elections at Sto. Tomas, which they claim
to be similar to the circumstances obtaining in the case of Antonio v.
COMELEC, (32 SCRA 319 [1970]). In that case, returns prepared by
86

election inspectors under threats from armed men were excluded from the
canvass of votes in Batanes.
For its part, the COMELEC pointed out that it could not justifiably exclude
from the canvass of votes, in a pre-proclamation controversy, election
returns that on their face appear regular. A pre-proclamation controversy is
limited to the examination of incomplete, falsified, or materially defective
returns, which appear as such on their face. Where the issues raised would
require the COMELEC to look beyond the face of the return, the proper
remedy is a regular election protest.[7]
It is worth noting that petitioners do not claim that the returns themselves
are not regular, genuine or authentic. Petitioners admit that the alleged fraud,
deceit, and intimidation came from external sources, and, therefore, not
manifest on the face of the returns. The alleged fraudulent scheme was
designed, according to petitioners, precisely to avoid detection on the face
of the returns.[8]
What petitioners assert is that the preparation of the returns had been marred
by undue influence and intimidation, thus affecting their regularity, due
execution and authenticity. Petitioners argue that this justifies the
examination of circumstances beyond the face of the returns.
We find this argument untenable.
This petition stemmed from a pre-proclamation controversy. In a long line
of cases, we have consistently held that a pre-proclamation controversy is
limited to an examination of the election returns on their face.[9] The
COMELEC as a general rule need not go beyond the face of the returns and
investigate alleged election irregularities.[10] We see no reason to depart
from this rule in this petition. In our view, there is no exceptional
circumstance present in this controversy similar to that proved in
the Antonio case, aforecited, where the COMELEC as well as the Court
found "precipitate canvassing, terrorism, lack of sufficient notice to the
Board, and disregard of manifest irregularities in the face of the questioned
returns"[11] to justify the summary annulment of the canvass and the
annulment of petitioner Antonios proclamation. Rather, we are guided here
by the holding of the Court in the case of Matalam, in Maguindanao, where
it is said:
"...Because what [petitioner] is asking for necessarily postulates
a full reception of evidence aliunde and the meticulous
87

examination of voluminous election documents, it is clearly


anathema to a pre-proclamation controversy which, by its very
nature, is to be heard summarily and decided on as promptly as
possible."[12]
To require the COMELEC to examine the circumstances surrounding the
preparation of election returns would run counter to the rule that a
pre-proclamation controversy should be summarily decided.[13]
In Sison v. COMELEC,[14] we ruled that:
"The reason underlying the delimination both of substantive
ground and procedure is the policy of the election law that
pre-proclamation controversies should be summarily decided,
consistent with the laws desire that the canvass and proclamation
be delayed as little as possible. That is why such questions which
require more deliberate and necessarily longer consideration, are
left for examination in the corresponding election protest."
Where the resolution of the issues raised would require the COMELEC to
"pierce the veil" of election returns that appear prima facie regular, the
remedy is a regular election protest,[15]
"...wherein the parties may litigate all the legal and factual issues
raised by them in as much detail as they may deem necessary or
appropriate."[16]
Here, we note favorably the position taken by the Office of the Solicitor
General. Petitioners have not demonstrated precisely how the preparation
and appreciation of election returns were adversely affected by, as alleged
by petitioners, "harassments of petitioners supporters," "midnight convoys
of armed men riding in motorcycles," and "raids by the military in different
houses" in Sto. Tomas. We are constrained to agree with the OSGs
submission that on the basis of our holding in Salih v. COMELEC, 279
SCRA 19, respondent COMELEC herein "could not justifiably exclude said
returns on the occasion of a pre-proclamation controversy whose office is
limited to incomplete, falsified or materially defective returns which appear
as such on their face."[17]
Nor could we fault public respondents herein for grave abuse of discretion
in refusing petitioners call to exclude election returns they claim as the
product of coercion and falsification, even if they appear clean on their face.
88

For respondent COMELEC had conducted hearings on the matter, where


petitioners and other parties concerned had submitted affidavits and
presented witnesses. The COMELEC found, however, that the evidence
presented by petitioners failed to prove convincingly that the assailed
returns were tainted by duress. Contrary to petitioners claim, NAMFREL
volunteers and the Poll Watchers in the area attested that the election
activities therein were generally peaceful. Even the Board of Election
Inspectors themselves swore nobody threatened or coerced them in the
performance of their duties, and that the elections in their area were
peaceful, honest and orderly. Given these factual circumstances, which
could not be deemed evidently self-serving on its part, respondent
COMELEC could not have prudently and fairly excluded the assailed
returns. The better part of discretion in so delicate a matter is to await the
filing of the appropriate action, like a regular election protest, if the
petitioners were so minded to pursue the proper remedy, rather than delay
the determination of the popular will.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED, and the resolution of the
COMELEC en banc in SPC No. 98-129, SPC No. 98-142, and SPC No.
98-169 is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
[G.R. No. 159369. March 3, 2004]
NANCY SORIANO BANDALA, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS, NEW BOARD OF CANVASSERS FOR
OROQUIETA
CITY
and
ALEJANDRO
G.
BERENGUEL, respondents.
DECISION
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:
Election cases involve not only the adjudication of the private interests of
rival candidates, but also the paramount need of dispelling the uncertainty
89

which beclouds the real choice of the electorate with respect to whom shall
discharge the prerogatives of the offices within their gift.[1]
Thus, election cases are imbued with public interest. 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.[2]
Before us is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of
Civil Procedure, as amended, assailing the Resolution[3] dated August 14,
2003 rendered by the Commission on Elections En Banc in SPC No. 01-277,
entitled Alejandro G. Berenguel, Candidate for City Mayor, Oroquieta City
vs. Board of Canvassers, Oroquieta City and Nancy Soriano Bandala,
Candidate for City Mayor, Oroquieta City.
The antecedents of the present petition are as follows:
Nancy Soriano Bandala, herein petitioner, and Alejandro G. Berenguel,
herein respondent, were mayoralty candidates in Oroquieta City, Misamis
Occidental during the May 14, 2001 national and local elections.
During the canvass of the election returns conducted by the City Board
of Canvassers of Oroquieta City, respondent objected to the inclusion
of eighty (80) election returns on the following grounds: (1) that
seventy-one (71) election returns were not secured with inner paper seals; (2)
that seven (7) election returns do not indicate the party affiliation of the
watchers-signatories; and (3) that two (2) election returns have missing
pages which contain the list of the local city candidates.
In an Omnibus Ruling dated May 19, 2001, the City Board of
Canvassers overturned the objection of respondent and included in its
canvass the contested election returns.
On June 30, 2001, petitioner was proclaimed the duly elected mayor of
Oroquieta City.
Upon appeal, the Second Division of the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) issued a Resolution dated September 5, 2002 affirming the
Omnibus Ruling of the City Board of Canvassers, holding that:
Lack of inner seal of an election return does not necessarily mean that the
same is spurious and/or was tampered with. Such tampering, or its being
spurious must appear on the face of the election return itself. It is the
ministerial function of the board of canvassers to count the results as they
90

appear in the returns which on their face do not reveal any irregularities or
falsities. [Cf. Balindong vs. Commission on Elections, 27 SCRA 567]
In the canvassing of election returns, the Board of Canvassers, which is
an ad hoc body, need not look beyond or behind the returns or do an act
which would necessitate the piercing of the returns and the presentation of
evidence aliunde. [Cf. Usman vs. Commission on Elections, 42 SCRA 667]
Significantly, we observe that what the petitioner has presented were just
affidavits mostly executed by his supporters, the nature of which has been
ruled by the Supreme Court as self-serving. [Casimiro vs. COMELEC, 170
SCRA 627] We cannot just rely on this kind of evidence because what is at
stake is the paramount interest of the electorate.
Finally, our General Instructions for the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI)
[COMELEC Resolution No. 3742] does not require the indication by the
poll watchers of their respective political party/candidate being represented.
What the rule instructs is this:
SEC. 45. Preparation of election returns and tally board. The boards shall
prepare in their own handwriting the election returns and tally board
simultaneously with the counting of votes in their respective polling places.
The election returns shall be prepared in seven (7) copies. x x x
After all the ballots have been read:
a) x x x
d) The watchers if any, shall affix their signatures and imprint their thumb
marks on the right hand portion of the election returns and the tally board;
and
xxx
Clearly, nothing in the afore-quoted rule requires the poll watcher to
indicate the party/candidate he represents.[4]
Respondent then filed with the COMELEC en banc a motion for
reconsideration.
On August 14, 2003, the COMELEC en banc promulgated a Resolution
reversing and setting aside the Second Divisions Resolution. The dispositive
portion of which reads:
91

ACCORDINGLY, the Commission en banc hereby renders judgment to:


1. EXCLUDE the one hundred one (101) election returns found without
the inner paper seals enumerated in the Canvassing Report of the
City Board of Canvassers of Oroquieta City dated 24 May 2001,
from the canvass;
2. NULLIFY the proclamation of Oppositor Nancy Soriano Bandala
made on 30 June 2001;
3. CONSTITUTE a New City Board of Canvassers for Oroquieta City
composed of Atty. Nelia Aureus as Chairman; Atty. Allen Francis
Abaya as Vice-Chairman; and, Atty. Norina Tangaro as
member-Secretary;
4. DIRECT the City Election Officer of Oroquieta City to BRING to
the Commission at Manila all the election returns and other election
documents subject of and pertaining to the canvass made by the
Board and TURN-OVER the same under receipt to the New City
Board of Canvassers for Oroquieta City; and,
5. DIRECT the New City Board of Canvassers for Oroquieta City to
CONVENE with notice to the parties, upon finality of this
Resolution, CANVASS the election returns and, thereafter,
PROCLAIM the winning candidate for Mayor of Oroquieta City.
6. The aforenamed BEIs, with the exception of the BEI of Precinct No.
134A of Barangay Dolipos Alto, composed of Catalina J. Bajade as
Chairman, Emma J. Aganos as Poll Clerk, and Rosenda P. Baloncio
as Third Member and the Chairperson, Margie B. Lamparas of the
BEI of Precinct No. 145A1 of Barangay Upper Lamac, are
recommended to be charged administratively before the Department
of Education.
7. Atty. Francisco G. Pobe is hereby suspended from Office with
forfeiture of salary from the promulgation of this resolution until
after the lections of 10 May 2004 with stern warning that repetition
of the same or similar offense will be dealt with more severely.
8. The Law Department, this Commission, is hereby DIRECTED to file
the appertaining information for violation of Section Z (15) and (21),
and Section 212, both of the Omnibus Election Code (Batas
92

Pambansa Blg. 881) against these BEIs and Mr. Filoteo C.


Alngohuro, Chairman of the City Board of Canvassers of Oroquieta
City, there being strong prima facie case against them.
SO ORDERED.
Hence, this petition for certiorari with prayer for issuance of a temporary
restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction. On August 27, 2003,
we issued a status quo ante order.
Petitioner contends that the COMELEC en banc acted with grave abuse
of discretion (1) in excluding 101 election returns based on a formal defect
of lack of inner paper seals in the election returns; and (2) in nullifying her
proclamation as the winning candidate for mayor of Oroquieta City.
The petition is impressed with merit.
I
May the ground of lack of inner paper seals in the election returns be
considered a proper issue in a pre-proclamation controversy?
There is a need to emphasize the definition of a pre-proclamation
controversy under Section 241 of the Omnibus Election Code, thus:
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 preparation, transmission, receipt, custody
and appreciation of the election returns.
The issues that may be raised in a pre-proclamation controversy are
enumerated in Section 243 of the same Code, thus:
SEC. 243. Issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversy. - The
following shall be proper issues that may be raised in a pre-proclamation
controversy:
(a) Illegal composition or proceedings of the board of canvassers;
(b) The canvassed election returns are incomplete, contain material defects,
appear to be tampered with or falsified, or contain discrepancies in the same
93

returns or in other authentic copies thereof as mentioned in Section 233, 234,


235 and 236 of this Code;
(c) The election returns were prepared under duress, threats, coercion, or
intimidation, or they are obviously manufactured or not authentic; and
(d) When substitute or fraudulent returns in controverted polling places
were canvassed, the results of which materially affected the standing of the
aggrieved candidate or candidates.
There being no inner paper seals pasted on 101 election returns coming
from numerous polling precincts, the COMELEC en banc then concluded
that the election returns in question appear to be obviously falsified and/or
manufactured, the results of which certainly affected the standing of
respondent. According to the COMELEC en banc, this is an issue (under
Sec. 243 (b) in the enumeration) that may be raised in a pre-proclamation
controversy.
The lack of inner paper seals in the election returns does not justify their
exclusion from the canvassing. Indeed, it is not a proper subject of a
pre-proclamation controversy.
In the Matter of the Petition to Exclude Election Returns contained in
Nine (9) Ballot Boxes, Amelita S. Navarro vs. Commission on Election,[5] we
held:
"While the aforesaid grounds (lack of inner and outer paper seals and
lack of signatures of watchers, among others) may, indeed, involve a
violation of the rules governing the preparation and delivery of election
returns for canvassing, they do not necessarily affect the authenticity and
genuineness of the subject election returns as to warrant their exclusion
from the canvassing. The grounds for objection to the election returns
made by petitioners are clearly defects in form insufficient to support a
conclusion that the election returns were tampered with or spurious."
Likewise, in Baterina vs. COMELEC,[6] we ruled:
The grounds raised by petitioners for the exclusion of the election returns
from the canvassing, as stated in their Appeal Memorandum before the
COMELEC x x x refer to the failure to close the entries with the signatures
of the election inspectors; lack of inner and out papers seals; canvassing
by the BOARD of copies not intended for it; lack of time and date of
94

petitioners watchers; and lack of authority of person receiving the election


returns.
While the aforesaid grounds may, indeed, involve a violation of the rules
governing the preparation and delivery of election returns for
canvassing, they do not necessarily affect the authenticity and
genuineness of the subject election returns as to warrant their exclusion
from canvassing. The grounds for objection to the election returns made by
petitioners are clearly defects in form insufficient to support a conclusion
that the election returns were tampered with or spurious. x x x. On the basis
of formal defects alone, such palpable irregularity cannot be said to have
been established herein.
II
May the COMELEC look beyond the election returns and receive
evidence aliunde in a pre-proclamation controversy?
Assuming that the ground of lack of inner paper seals in election returns
is a proper issue in a pre-proclamation controversy, the COMELEC cannot
investigate and receive evidence to determine why those inner paper seals
are missing.
A pre-proclamation controversy is limited to an examination of the
election returns on their face and the COMELEC as a general rule
need not go beyond the face of the returns and investigate the alleged
election irregularities.[7]
In Matalam vs. Commission on Elections,[8] we stressed that in a
pre-proclamation controversy, the COMELEC, as a rule, is restricted to
an examination of the election returns and is without jurisdiction to go
beyond or behind them and investigate election irregularities.
Thus, the COMELEC acted beyond its jurisdiction when it directed the
Provincial Election Supervisor of Misamis Occidental to investigate and
receive evidence to determine once and for all the mystery behind the
missing inner paper seal of the subject election returns or the failure of
the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) to paste the inner seals of the
election returns.
III
Did the COMELEC commit grave abuse in discretion in nullifying the
proclamation of petitioner as mayor of Oroquieta City?
95

In its assailed Resolution, the COMELEC en banc held that the City
Board of Canvassers acted without authority when it arbitrarily proclaimed
petitioner herein as the duly elected mayor of Oroquieta City, in gross
violation of Section 20 (i) of Republic Act 7166 which reads:
"Section 20. Procedure in Disposition of Contested Election Returns. xxx
(i) The board of canvassers shall not proclaim any candidate as winner
unless authorized by the Commission after the latter has ruled on the
objections brought to it on appeal by the losing party. Any proclamation in
violation hereof shall be void ab initio, unless the contested returns will
not adversely affect the results of the election."
Suffice it to state that the above provision applies only where the
objection deals with a pre-proclamation controversy, not where, as in the
present case, it raises or deals with no such controversy.[9] It bears
reiterating that the lack of inner paper seals in the election returns is not a
proper subject of a pre-proclamation controversy. Respondents recourse
should have been to file an election protest. Where a party raises issues, the
resolution of which would compel the COMELEC to pierce the veil of
election returns which appear prima facie regular on their face, his proper
remedy is an election protest. In this proceeding, the parties may litigate all
the legal and factual issues raised by them in as much detail as they may
deem necessary or appropriate.[10]
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The challenged Resolution
dated August 14, 2003 of the COMELEC en banc in SPC No. 01-277 is
REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Resolution dated September 5, 2002 of
the COMELEC Second Division is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
VIRGINIO VILLAMOR, G.R. No. 169865
Petitioner,
Present:
96

Panganiban, C.J.,
Puno,
Quisumbing,
Ynares-Santiago,
- versus - Carpio,

Sandoval-Gutierrez,
Austria-Martinez,
Corona,
Carpio-Morales,
Callejo, Sr.,
Azcuna,
Tinga,
Chico-Nazario,
Garcia, and
Velasco, Jr., JJ.

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS
and AMYTIS* DE DIOS-BATAO, Promulgated:
Respondents.
July 21, 2006
x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court seeks to
annul the April 11, 2005 Resolution[1] of the Second Division of the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in EAC No. A-11-2004 as well as
the Order of the COMELEC En Banc dated August 5, 2005. The assailed
resolution affirmed the Order[2] dated July 23, 2004 of
the Regional Trial Court of Danao City, Branch 25 in Case No. EP-2004-02
which reconsidered its Order[3] dated June 24, 2004 dismissing the election
protest filed by respondent Amytis De Dios-Batao.
The antecedent facts are as follows:
97

On May 13, 2004, petitioner Virginio Villamor was proclaimed as mayor of


Carmen, Cebu, by the Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBC) in the
elections held on May 10, 2004 over his opponent, respondent Amytis De
Dios-Batao. On May 17, 2004, respondent filed a petition to annul the
proclamation of petitioner alleging as grounds the illegal composition of the
MBC and its proceedings. The case was docketed as SPC No. 04-083 and
raffled to the COMELEC Second Division.[4]
Subsequently, or on May 24, 2004, respondent filed an election protest
with the Regional Trial Court of Danao City which was docketed as Case
No. EP-2004-02 and raffled to Branch 25 thereof. Petitioner filed
his Answer to the Petition with Counter Protest on June 7, 2004.[5] However,
in its Order[6] dated June 24, 2004, the trial court dismissed the election
protest for lack of jurisdiction because it was filed one-day late.
Under Section 3, Rule 35 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, an
election protest should be filed within 10 days from the date of
proclamation of the results of the election. Since petitioner was proclaimed
on May 13, 2004, respondent had until May 23, 2004 to file an election
protest. However, respondent filed the same only on May 24, 2004, thus, it
was dismissed by the trial court in an Order dated June 24, 2004.[7]
A Motion for Reconsideration was filed by the respondent which was
granted by the trial court in an Order dated July 23, 2004 because it found
that the election protest was actually filed on time. Since the last day to file
the protest fell on May 23, 2004 which was a Sunday, thus, under Section 1,
Rule 22 of the Rules of Court, the time should not run until the next
working day which was May 24, 2004. Section 5, Rule 135 of the Rules of
Court gives the courts inherent power to amend and control its processes
and orders to conform with law and justice.[8]
Petitioner appealed the Order granting respondents motion for
reconsideration to the COMELEC and was docketed as EAC No.
A-11-2004 and was raffled to its Second Division. In the assailed
Resolution dated April 11, 2005, the Second Division of the COMELEC
dismissed the appeal for lack of merit. On August 5, 2005, the
COMELEC En Banc denied petitioners motion for reconsideration.

98

In the meantime, the Second Division of the COMELEC issued


on May 9, 2005 a Resolution[9] in SPC No. 04-083 which is the petition to
annul the proclamation of petitioner, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Petition To Declare
Null And Void Proclamation dated 17 May 2004 filed by
petitioners Amythis De Dios Batao, et al., is hereby
DISMISSED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.[10]
Hence, this petition raising the following issues:
1. MAY A REGULAR COURT, IN AN ELECTION PROTEST,
ACT ON A MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION FROM AN
ORDER OF DISMISSAL OF THE ELECTION PROTEST
CONSIDERING
THAT
A
MOTION
FOR
RECONSIDERATION IS A PROHIBITED PLEADING?
2. MAY A REGULAR COURT ADMIT AN ELECTION
PROTEST PREMATURELY CONSIDERING THAT THE
PROTESTANT HAS STILL A PENDING PETITION FOR
PRE-PROCLAMATION
CONTROVERSY
IN
THE
ANNULMENT OF THE PROCLAMATION OF THE
PROTESTEE IN THE COMELEC AND IF IT DOES SO, MAY
THE
PERIOD
FOR
THE
FILING
OF
THE
COUNTER-PROTEST BE COUNTED FROM THE RECEIPT
OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE COMELEC DENYING THE
PETITION
FOR
THE
ANNULMENT
OF
THE
PROCLAMATION?[11]
The core issues for resolution are as follows: (1) whether the trial
court can act on a motion for reconsideration in an election protest; and (2)
whether the trial court prematurely admitted respondents election protest
pending a pre-proclamation controversy.
We shall first discuss the second issue. As a general rule, the proper
remedy after the proclamation of the winning candidate for the position
contested would be to file a regular election protest or a petition for quo
warranto.[12] The filing of an election protest or a petition for quo
99

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.[13] 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.[14]
Moreover, not all actions seeking the annulment of proclamation
suspend the running of the period for filing an election protest or a petition
for quo warranto.[15] For it is not the relief prayed for which distinguishes
actions under 248[16] from an election protest or quo warranto proceedings,
but the grounds on which they are based.[17]
In the case at bar, respondents petition to annul the proclamation
rested mainly on the alleged illegal composition of the municipal board of
canvassers[18] and its proceedings which is an issue that may be properly
raised in a pre-proclamation controversy.[19] Under paragraph (b) of Section
5 of Rule 27 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, if the petition involves
the illegal composition of the board of canvassers, it must be filed
immediately when the board begins to act as such, or at the time of the
appointment of the member whose capacity to sit as such is objected to if it
comes after the canvassing of the board, or immediately at the point where
the proceedings are or begin to be illegal. Thus, we held in Laodenio v.
Commission on Elections[20] that when the issue involves the illegal
composition of the Board, the same cannot be questioned after the
proclamation of the winner, to wit:
Although Sec. 17 of R.A. 7166 and Sec. 5 par. (a)(1) (not
Sec. 4 as erroneously cited by petitioner), of Rule 27 of the
COMELEC Rules of Procedure also allow filing of a petition
directly with respondent COMELEC when the issue involves the
illegal composition of the Board, Sec. 5, par. (b), of the same
Rule requires that it must be filed immediately when the Board
begins to act as such, or at the time of the appointment of the
member whose capacity to sit as such is objected to if it comes
after the canvassing of the Board, or immediately at the point
where the proceedings are or begin to be illegal. In the present
case, the petition was filed five (5) days after respondent
Longcop had been proclaimed by the Board. At any rate, the real
100

issue appears to be not what it appears to petitioner whether he


can still dispute the composition of the Board after having
actively participated in the proceedings therein. In this regard,
we sustain respondent COMELEC.[21]
In the instant case, respondents petition to annul petitioners
proclamation based on the alleged illegal composition of the board of
canvassers is a pre-proclamation controversy which should have been filed
prior to petitioners proclamation. However, respondent filed the petition
on May 17, 2004 only or four days after petitioners proclamation. As such,
the filing of the petition to annul the proclamation of petitioner did not
suspend the running of the reglementary period within which to file an
election protest and inevitably, it did not suspend the latters period to file
an Answer with Counter Protest. Accordingly, the subsequent filing of the
election protest on May 24, 2004 by respondent amounted to the
abandonment of the pre-proclamation controversy earlier filed.
Anent the first issue, petitioner asserts that a motion for reconsideration of
the election protest filed by respondent was a prohibited pleading thus its
filing did not toll the running of the period to appeal. Consequently, when
the latter failed to appeal within five days from the June 24, 2004 Order of
the trial court, the dismissal of the election protest became final.
On the other hand, respondent alleges that a motion for reconsideration is
not a prohibited pleading and claims that even if the motion was not filed,
the trial court could reinstate the petition motu proprio before the said order
became final.
We agree with petitioner.
Under Section 256 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC),[22] the trial
court cannot entertain a motion for reconsideration of its decision in an
election contest affecting municipal officers filed by the aggrieved party.
However, the latter may appeal to the Intermediate Appellate Court (now
COMELEC) within five days after the receipt of a copy of the
decision. Likewise, Section 19, Rule 35 of the COMELEC Rules of
Procedure implementing the abovementioned Section 256 provides:
Sec. 19. Promulgation and Finality of Decision. The decision of
the Court shall be promulgated on a date set by it of which due
101

notice must be given the parties. It shall become final five (5)
days after its promulgation. No motion for reconsideration
shall be entertained. (Emphasis supplied)
Respondent received a copy of the Order dismissing the election protest for
lack of jurisdiction on June 25, 2004. Thus, respondent had until June 30,
2004 within which to file an appeal with the COMELEC but failed to do
so. Instead, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration which is a
prohibited pleading. As such, it did not toll the running of the prescriptive
period.
In Veloria v. Commission on Elections,[23] a case involving candidates
for municipal mayor, vice-mayor, and members of the Sangguniang Bayan
of Manaoag, Pangasinan, where instead of perfecting an appeal within five
days as provided by law, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, we
held that:
The COMELEC, therefore, correctly ruled that the motion
for reconsideration filed by the petitioners in the trial court
on March 20, 1990 did not suspend the period to appeal since a
motion for reconsideration is prohibited under Section 256 of the
Omnibus Election Code.
Since the right to appeal is not a natural right nor is it a part
of due process, for it is merely a statutory privilege that must be
exercised in the manner and according to procedures laid down
by law, x x x and its timely perfection within the statutory period
is mandatory and jurisdictional x x x, Judge Abasolo gravely
abused his discretion when he gave due course to the petitioners
tardy appeal from his predecessors x x x resoluti(o)n x x x
dismissing the petitioners election protest.Said resolution had
become final and unappealable.[24]
The rules in ordinary civil procedure do not apply in election cases except
by analogy or in a suppletory character and whenever practicable and
convenient.[25] Section 256 of the Omnibus Election Code and Section 19,
Rule 35 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure clearly state that no motion
for reconsideration should be entertained. Thus, there is no room to apply
the rules of ordinary civil procedure suppletorily. Nor can resort be made by
the trial court to Section 5(g)[26] of Rule 135 of the Rules of Court to sustain
102

its actions. The trial court did not conform to law and justice when it
granted the motion for reconsideration which is a prohibited pleading.
WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing, the petition
is GRANTED. The Resolution dated April 11, 2005 of the COMELEC
Second Division and the Order dated August 5, 2005 of the COMELEC En
Banc in EAC No. A-11-2004 which affirmed the Order dated July 23,
2004 of the Regional Trial Court of Danao City, Branch 25 in Case No.
EP-2004-02 granting the motion for reconsideration of respondent Amytis
De Dios-Batao, areANNULLED and SET ASIDE. The Order dated June
24, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court dismissing respondents election protest
for lack of jurisdiction is REINSTATED.
SO ORDERED.

103