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144 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Ocampo vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal

*
G.R. No. 158466. June 15, 2004.

PABLO V. OCAMPO, petitioner, vs. HOUSE OF


REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL AND
MARIO B. CRESPO a.k.a. MARK JIMENEZ, respondents.

Election Law; Election Code; There must be a final judgment


before the election in order that the votes of a disqualified
candidate can be considered “stray”.—In Codilla, Sr. vs. De
Venecia, we expounded on the application of Section 6, R.A. No.
6646. There, we emphasized that there must be a final judgment
before the election in order that the votes of a disqualified
candidate can be considered “stray”.
Same; Same; The subsequent disqualification of a candidate
who obtained the highest number of votes does not entitle the
candidate who garnered the second highest number of votes to be
declared the winner.—Anent the second issue, we revert back to
the settled jurisprudence that the subsequent disqualification of a
candidate who obtained the highest number of votes does not
entitle the candidate who garnered the second highest number of
votes to be declared the winner. This principle has been reiterated
in a number our decisions, such as Labo, Jr. vs. COMELEC,
Abella vs. COMELEC, Benito vs. COMELEC and Domino vs.
COMELEC. As a matter of fact, even as early as 1912, it was held
that the candidate who lost in an election cannot be proclaimed
the winner in the event that the candidate who won is found to be
ineligible for the office for which he was elected.

SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION in the Supreme Court.


Certiorari.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.


     Pete Quirino-Quadra for petitioner.
     The Solicitor General for public respondent.
          Froilan Bacungan & Associates for private
respondent Mr. Jimenez.

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:
The wreath of victory cannot be transferred from the
disqualified winner to the repudiated loser because the law
then as now only authorizes a declaration of election in
favor of the person who

_______________

* EN BANC.

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VOL. 432, JUNE 15, 2004 145


Ocampo vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal

obtained a plurality of votes and does not entitle a


candidate receiving the next highest number of votes to be
1
declared elected.
This is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997
Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, filed by petitioner
Pablo V. Ocampo. He alleged that the House of
Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), herein public
respondent, committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing
in HRET Case No. 01-024, Pablo Ocampo vs. Mario “Mark
2
Jimenez” Crespo, the (a) Resolution dated March 27, 2003
holding that “protestant” (herein petitioner) cannot be
proclaimed the duly elected Representative of the 6th
District of Manila since being a second placer, he “cannot
be proclaimed the first among the remaining qualified
3
candidates”; and (b) Resolution dated June 2, 2003
denying his motion for reconsideration.
The facts are uncontroverted:
On May 23, 2001, the Manila City Board of Canvassers
proclaimed private respondent Mario B. Crespo, a.k.a.
Mark Jimenez, the duly elected Congressman of the 6th
District of Manila pursuant to the May 14, 2001 elections.
He was credited with 32,097 votes or a margin of 768 votes
over petitioner who obtained 31,329 votes.
On May 31, 2001, petitioner filed with the HRET an
4
electoral protest against private respondent, impugning
the election in 807 precincts in the 6th District of Manila
on the following grounds: (1) misreading of votes garnered
by petitioner; (2) falsification of election returns; (3)
substitution of election returns; (4) use of marked,
spurious, fake and stray ballots; and (5) presence of ballots
written by one person or two persons. The case was
docketed as HRET Case No. 01-024. Petitioner prayed that
a revision and appreciation of the ballots in the 807
contested precincts be conducted; and that, thereafter, he
be proclaimed the duly elected Congressman of the 6th
District of Manila.

_______________

1 Sunga vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 125629, March 25, 1998,
288 SCRA 76.
2 Petition, Annex “A”, Rollo at pp. 24-42.
3 Petition, Annex “B”, id. at pp. 43-44.
4 Petition, Annex “D”, id. at pp. 53-59.

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146 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Ocampo vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal

On June 18, 2001, private respondent filed his answer with


5
counter-protest vehemently denying that he engaged in
massive vote buying. He also opposed petitioner’s
allegation that there is a need for the revision and
appreciation of ballots.
After the preliminary conference between the parties on
6
July 12, 2001, the HRET issued a Resolution limiting the
issues to: first, whether massive vote-buying was
committed by private respondent; and second, whether
petitioner can be proclaimed the duly elected
Representative of the 6th District of Manila.
Meanwhile, on March 6, 2003, the HRET, in HRET
Cases Nos. 01-020, Bienvenido Abante & Prudencio
Jalandoni vs. Mario Crespo, and 01-023, Rosenda Ann M.
Ocampo vs. Mario Crespo, issued Resolutions declaring
that private respondent is “ineligible for the Office of
Representative of Sixth District of Manila for lack of
residence in the district” and ordering “him to vacate his
7
office.” Private respondent filed a motion for
8
reconsideration but was denied.
On March 12, 2003, petitioner filed a motion to
9
implement Section 6 of Republic Act No. 6646, which
reads:

“Section 6. Effects of Disqualification Case.—Any candidate who


has been declared by final judgment to be disqualified shall not be
voted for, and the votes cast for him shall not be counted. If for any
reason a candidate is not declared by final judgment before an
election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the
winning number of votes in such election, the Court or
Commission shall continue with the trial and hearing of the
action, inquiry or protest and, upon motion of the complain-ant or
any intervenor, may during the pendency thereof, order the
suspension of the proclamation of such candidate whenever the
evidence of guilt is strong.”

Petitioner averred that since private respondent was


declared disqualified in HRET Cases Nos. 01-020 and 01-
023, the votes cast for him should not be counted. And
having garnered the second highest number of votes, he
(petitioner) should be declared the winner in the May 14,
2001 elections and proclaimed the duly elected
Congressman of the 6th District of Manila.

_______________

5 Petition, Annex “E”, id. at pp. 60-69.


6 Petition, Annex “F”, id. at pp. 70-74.
7 Petition, id., at p. 27.
8 Petition, id., at p. 28.
9 The Electoral Reform Law of 1987, January 5, 1988.

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VOL. 432, JUNE 15, 2004 147


Ocampo vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal

On March 26, 2003, private respondent filed an opposition


to petitioner’s motion to implement the afore-quoted
provision.
On March 27, 2003, the HRET issued a Resolution
holding that private respondent was guilty of vote-buying
and disqualifying him as Congressman of the 6th District
of Manila. Anent the second issue of whether petitioner can
be proclaimed the duly elected Congressman, the HRET
held:

“x x x Jurisprudence has long established the doctrine that a


second placer cannot be proclaimed the first among the remaining
qualified candidates. The fact that the candidate who obtained the
highest number of votes is later declared to be disqualified or not
eligible for the office to which he was elected does not necessarily
give the candidate who obtained the second highest number of
votes the right to be declared the winner of the elective office. x x x
It is of no moment that there is only a margin of 768 votes
between protestant and protestee. Whether the margin is ten or
ten thousand, it still remains that protestant did not receive the
mandate of the majority during the elections. Thus, to proclaim
him as the duly elected representative in the stead of protestee
would be anathema to the most basic precepts of republicanism
and democracy as enshrined within our Constitution. In effect, we
would be advocating a massive disenfranchisement of the
majority of the voters of the sixth district of Manila.
Congressional elections are different from local government
elections. In local government elections, when the winning
candidate for governor or mayor is subsequently disqualified, the
vice-governor or the vice-mayor, as the case may be, succeeds to
the position by virtue of the Local Government Code. It is
different in elections for representative. When a voter chooses his
congressional candidate, he chooses only one. If his choice is
concurred in by the majority of voters, that candidate is declared
the winner. Voters are not afforded the opportunity of electing a
‘substitute congressman’ in the eventuality that their first choice
dies, resigns, is disqualified, or in any other way leaves the post
vacant. There can only be one representative for that particular
legislative district. There are no runners-up or second placers.
Thus, when the person vested with the mandate of the majority is
disqualified from holding the post he was elected to, the only
recourse to ascertain the new choice of the electorate is to hold
another election. x x x
This does not mean that the Sixth Legislative District of
Manila will be without adequate representation in Congress.
Article VI, Section 9 of the Constitution, and Republic Act No.
6645 allows Congress to call a special election to fill up this
vacancy. There are at least 13 months until the next
congressional elections, which is more than sufficient time within

148

148 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Ocampo vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal

which to hold a special election to enable the electorate of the


Sixth District of Manila to elect their representative.
For this reason, the Tribunal holds that protestant cannot be
proclaimed as the duly elected representative of the Sixth
legislative District of Manila.
In view of the conclusion herein reached, it is unnecessary to
rule on the recount and revision of ballots in the protested and
counter-protested precincts.
WHEREFORE, the Tribunal Resolved to:
x x x      x x x
2) DENY protestant’s (petitioner) Motion to Implement Section
6, Republic Act No. 6646 by declaring the votes cast for Mario
Crespo as stray votes.”

Petitioner filed a partial motion for reconsideration but was


denied. Hence, the present petition for certiorari.
Petitioner contends that the HRET committed grave
abuse of discretion when it ruled that “it is unnecessary to
rule on the recount and revision of ballots in the protested
and counter-protested precincts.” He maintains that it is
the ministerial duty of the HRET to implement the
provisions of Section 6, R.A. No. 6646 specifically providing
that “any candidate who has been declared by final
judgment to be disqualified shall not be voted for, and the
votes cast for him shall not be counted.”
In his comment, private respondent counters that what
the law requires is that the disqualification by final
judgment takes place before the election. Here, the HRET
Resolutions disqualifying him as Representative of the 6th
District of Manila were rendered long after the May 14,
2001 elections. He also claims that the Resolutions are not
yet final and executory because they are the subjects of
certiorari proceedings before this Court. Hence, all his
votes shall be counted and none shall be considered stray.
The HRET, in its comment, through the Office of the
Solicitor General, merely reiterates its ruling.
The petition must be dismissed.
The issues here are: (1) whether the votes cast in favor
of private respondent should not be counted pursuant to
Section 6 of R.A. No. 6646; and (2) whether petitioner, a
second placer in the May 14, 2001 congressional elections,
can be proclaimed the duly elected Congressman of the 6th
District of Manila.

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VOL. 432, JUNE 15, 2004 149


Ocampo vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal

The issues raised are not novel. In Codilla, Sr. vs. De


10
Venecia, we expounded on the application of Section 6,
R.A. No. 6646. There, we emphasized that there must be a
final judgment before the election in order that the votes of
a disqualified candidate can be considered “stray”, thus:

“Section 6 of R.A. No. 6646 and section 72 of the Omnibus


Election Code require a final judgment before the election for the
votes of a disqualified candidate to be considered “stray.” Hence,
when a candidate has not yet been disqualified by final judgment
during the election day and was voted for, the votes cast in his
favor cannot be declared stray. To do so would amount to
disenfranchising the electorate in whom sovereignty resides.”

The obvious rationale behind the foregoing ruling is that in


voting for a candidate who has not been disqualified by
final judgment during the election day, the people voted for
him bona fide, without any intention to misapply their
franchise, and in the honest belief that the candidate was
then qualified to be the person to whom they would entrust
11
the exercise of the powers of government.
In the present case, private respondent was declared
disqualified almost twenty-two (22) months after the May
14, 2001 elections. Obviously, the requirement of “final
judgment before election” is absent. Therefore, petitioner
can not invoke Section 6 of R.A. No. 6646.
Anent the second issue, we revert back to the settled
jurisprudence that the subsequent disqualification of a
candidate who obtained the highest number of votes does
not entitle the candidate who garnered the second highest
12
number of votes to be declared the winner. This principle
has been reiterated in a number our decisions, such as
13 14
Labo, Jr. vs. COMELEC, Abella vs. COMELEC, Benito
15 16
vs. COMELEC and Domino vs. COMELEC. As a

_______________

10 G.R. No. 150605, December 10, 2002, 393 SCRA 639.


11 Reyes vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 120905, March 7, 1996,
254 SCRA 514; Nolasco vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. Nos. 122250 &
122258, July 21, 1997, 275 SCRA 762.
12 Sunga vs. Commission on Elections, supra.
13 G.R. No. 86564, August 1, 1989, 176 SCRA 1.
14 G.R. No. 100710, September 3, 1991, 201 SCRA 253.
15 G.R. No. 106053, August 17, 1994, 235 SCRA 436.
16 G.R. No. 134015, July 19, 1999, 310 SCRA 546.

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150 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Ocampo vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal

matter of fact, even as early as 1912, it was held that the


candidate who lost in an election cannot be proclaimed the
winner in the event that the candidate who won is found to
17
be ineligible for the office for which he was elected.
18
In Geronimo vs. Ramos, if the winning candidate is not
qualified and cannot qualify for the office to which he was
elected, a permanent vacancy is thus created. The second
placer is just that, a second placer—he lost in the elections,
he was repudiated by either the majority or plurality of
voters. He could not be proclaimed winner as he could not
be considered the first among the qualified candidates. To
rule otherwise is to misconstrue the nature of the
democratic electoral process and the sociological and
19
psychological underpinnings behind voters’ preferences.
At any rate, the petition has become moot and academic.
The Twelfth Congress formally adjourned on June 11,
2004. And on May 17, 2004, the City Board of Canvassers
proclaimed Bienvenido Abante the duly elected
Congressman of the Sixth District of Manila pursuant to
the May 10, 2004 elections.
In the recent case of Enrile vs. Senate Electoral
20
Tribunal, we ruled that a case becomes moot and
academic when there is no more actual controversy
between the parties or no useful purpose can be served in
passing upon the merits. Worth reiterating is our
pronouncement in Gancho-on vs. Secretary of Labor and
21
Employment, thus:

“It is a rule of universal application, almost, that courts of justice


constituted to pass upon substantial rights will not consider
questions in which no actual interests are involved; they decline
jurisdiction of moot cases. And where the issue has become moot
and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, so that a
declaration thereon would be of no practical use or value. There is
no actual substantial relief to which petitioner would be entitled
and which would be negated by the dismissal of the petition.”

_______________

17 Topacio vs. Paredes, 23 Phil. 238 (1912).


18 G.R. Nos. L-60504, L-60591, 60732-39, May 14, 1985, 136 SCRA 435.
19 Aquino vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 120265, September 18,
1995, 248 SCRA 400.
20 G.R. No. 132986, May 19, 2004, 428 SCRA 472.
21 G.R. No. 108033, April 14, 1997, 271 SCRA 204, 207-208.

151

VOL. 432, JUNE 15, 2004 151


Honasan II vs. The Panel of Investigating Prosecutors of
the Department of Justice

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED.


SO ORDERED.

     Davide, Jr. (C.J.), Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Carpio-


Morales, Callejo, Sr. Azcuna and Tinga, JJ., concur.
     Puno, J., No part. Participated in HRET case.
     Vitug and Corona, JJ., On Official Leave.
          Panganiban, J., No part. Participated in
deliberations in HRET.
     Quisumbing, J., No part. Prior action in HRET.
     Ynares-Santiago, J., On Leave.
Petition dismissed.

Note.—Jurisprudence provides that all votes cast in an


election must be considered, otherwise voters shall be
disenfranchised. (Immam vs. Commission on Elections, 322
SCRA 866 [2000])

——o0o——

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