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EMILIO RAMON "E.R." P. EJERCITO vs. HON.

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and EDGAR


"EGAY" S. SAN LUIS

FACTS:

Three days prior to the May 13, 2013 Elections, a petition for disqualification was
filed by Edgar “Egay” San Luis before the COMELEC against Emilio Ramon “E.R.” P. Ejercito,
who was a fellow gubernatorial candidate and, at the time, the incumbent Governor of the
Province of Laguna.

Petition alleged Ejercito distributed orange card to influence voters in his favor; and
Ejercito exceeds the amount of expenditures necessary.

Ejercito proclaimed Governor.

The COMELEC First Division issued a Summons with Notice of Conference. Ejercito
prayed for the dismissal of the petition which was improperly filed because it is in reality a
complaint for election offenses, thus, the case should have been filed before the COMELEC Law
Department, and if with probable cause, file with proper court.
The COMELEC First Division resolved to grant the disqualification of Ejercito. The
COMELEC En Banc agreed with the findings of its First Division that San Luis’ petition is an action
to disqualify Ejercito.

Ejercito filed before the Court GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION against COMELEC and
contends It violated the right of petitioner due process when it ruled for disqualification of
petitioner even it was not prayed for disqualification. Worse, there is yet no finding of guilt by
competent court that he committed election offense.

ISSUE: WON COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion

RULING:

NO. A special civil action for certiorari under Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65, is an
independent action that is available only if there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy, and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.44 It is a legal remedy that is limited to the
resolution of jurisdictional issues and is not meant to correct simple errors of judgment. 45 More
importantly, it will only prosper if grave abuse of discretion is alleged and is actually proved to
exist.46

Grave abuse of discretion arises when a lower court or tribunal violates the Constitution,
the law or existing jurisprudence. It means such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment
as would amount to lack of jurisdiction; it contemplates a situation where the power is exercised
in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, so patent and gross
as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by
law. x x x.47

Ejercito failed to prove that the COMELEC rendered its assailed Resolution with grave
abuse of discretion.
The COMELEC First Division and COMELEC En Banc correctly ruled that the petition filed
by San Luis against Ejercito is not just for prosecution of election offense but for disqualification
as well. Ejercito cannot feign ignorance of the true nature and intent of San Luis’ petition. The title
of San Luis’ petition shows that the case was brought under Rule 25 of the COMELEC Rules of
Procedure, which is the specific rule governing the disqualification of candidates. Moreover, the
averments of San Luis’ petition rely on Section 68 (a) and (c) of the OEC as grounds for its causes
of action. Section 68 of the OEC precisely enumerates the grounds for the disqualification of a
candidate for elective position and provides, as penalty, that the candidate shall be disqualified
from continuing as such, or if he or she has been elected, from holding the office. A similar tenor
was expressed in the prayer in the petition filed by San Luis.

An election offense has both criminal and electoral aspects. The electoral aspect may
proceed independently of the criminal aspect, and vice-versa. The criminal aspect of a
disqualification case determines whether there is probable cause to charge a candidate for an
election offense. The prosecutor is the COMELEC, through its Law Department, which determines
whether probable cause exists. If there is probable cause, the COMELEC, through its Law
Department, files the criminal information before the proper court. Proceedings before the proper
court demand a full-blown hearing and require proof beyond reasonable doubt to convict. A
criminal conviction shall result in the disqualification of the offender, which may even include
disqualification from holding a future public office. The conduct of preliminary investigation is not
required in the resolution of the electoral aspect of a disqualification case.

The “exclusive power of the COMELEC to conduct a preliminary investigation of all


cases involving criminal infractions of the election laws” stated in Par. 1 of COMELEC Resolution
No. 2050 pertains to the criminal aspect of a disqualification case. Hence, an erring
candidate may be disqualified even without prior determination of probable cause in a preliminary
investigation