February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected February 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

Equal protection;  requisites. The equal protection clause does not require the universal application of the laws to all persons or things without distinction. What it simply requires is equality among equals as determined according to a valid classification. The test developed by jurisprudence here and yonder is that of reasonableness, which has four requisites:

(1) The classification rests on substantial distinctions;

(2) It is germane to the purposes of the law;

(3) It is not limited to existing conditions only; and

(4) It applies equally to all members of the same class.

The assailed Decision readily acknowledged that these deemed-resigned provisions satisfy the first, third and fourth requisites of reasonableness. It, however, proffers the dubious conclusion that the differential treatment of appointive officials vis-à-vis elected officials is not germane to the purpose of the law.  Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.

Expropriation;  private use.  It is well settled that the taking of private property by the Government’s power of eminent domain is subject to two mandatory requirements: (1) that it is for a particular public purpose; and (2) that just compensation be paid to the property owner. These requirements partake of the nature of implied conditions that should be complied with to enable the condemnor to keep the property expropriated.

More particularly, with respect to the element of public use, the expropriator should commit to use the property pursuant to the purpose stated in the petition for expropriation filed, failing which, it should file another petition for the new purpose. If not, it is then incumbent upon the expropriator to return the said property to its private owner, if the latter desires to reacquire the same. Otherwise, the judgment of expropriation suffers an intrinsic flaw, as it would lack one indispensable element for the proper exercise of the power of eminent domain, namely, the particular public purpose for which the property will be devoted. Accordingly, the private property owner would be denied due process of law, and the judgment would violate the property owner’s right to justice, fairness, and equity.

In light of these premises, we now expressly hold that the taking of private property, consequent to the Government’s exercise of its power of eminent domain, is always subject to the condition that the property be devoted to the specific public purpose for which it was taken. Corollarily, if this particular purpose or intent is not initiated or not at all pursued, and is peremptorily abandoned, then the former owners, if they so desire, may seek the reversion of the property, subject to the return of the amount of just compensation received. In such a case, the exercise of the power of eminent domain has become improper for lack of the required factual justification.  Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) and Air Transportation Office (ATO) vs. Bernardo Lozada, et al., G.R. No. 176625, February 25, 2010.

Gerrymandering; meaning. “Gerrymandering” is a term employed to describe an apportionment of representative districts so contrived as to give an unfair advantage to the party in power. Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, defined “gerrymandering” as the formation of one legislative district out of separate territories for the purpose of favoring a candidate or a party. The Constitution proscribes gerrymandering, as it mandates each legislative district to comprise, as far as practicable, a contiguous, compact and adjacent territory.

As stated by the Office of the Solicitor General, the Province of Dinagat Islands consists of one island and about 47 islets closely situated together, without the inclusion of separate territories. It is an unsubstantiated allegation that the province was created to favor Congresswoman Glenda Ecleo-Villaroman.  Rodolfo G. Navarro, et al. vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180050, February 10, 2010.

House of Representative Electoral Tribunal (HRET);  jurisdiction. The HRET has jurisdiction over the question of qualifications of petitioners Abayon and Palparan as nominees of Aangat Tayo and Bantay party-list organizations, respectively, who took the seats at the House of Representatives that such organizations won in the 2007 elections.

Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution provides that the HRET shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to, among other things, the qualifications of the members of the House of Representatives. Since party-list nominees are “elected members” of the House of Representatives no less than the district representatives are, the HRET has jurisdiction to hear and pass upon their qualifications. By analogy with the cases of district representatives, once the party or organization of the party-list nominee has been proclaimed and the nominee has taken his oath and assumed office as member of the House of Representatives, the COMELEC’s jurisdiction over election contests relating to his qualifications ends and the HRET’s own jurisdiction begins.  Electoral Tribunal, et al. /Congressman Jovito S. Palparan, Jr. vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), et al., G.R. No. 189466/G.R. No. 189506,. February 11, 2010.

Judicial review; requisites. The courts’ power of judicial review, like almost all other powers conferred by the Constitution, is subject to several limitations, namely: (1) there must be an actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power; (2) the person challenging the act must have “standing” to challenge; he must have a personal and substantial interest in the case, such that he has sustained or will sustain, direct injury as a result of its enforcement; (3) the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity; and (4) the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case. Respondents assert that the second requisite is absent in this case.

Generally, a party will be allowed to litigate only when (1) he can show that he has personally suffered some actual or threatened injury because of the allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable action. The question on standing is whether such parties have “alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.”

In David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, summarizing the rules culled from jurisprudence, the Supreme Court held that taxpayers, voters, concerned citizens, and legislators may be accorded standing to sue, provided that the following requirements are met:

(1) cases involve constitutional issues;

(2) for taxpayers, there must be a claim of illegal disbursement of public funds or that the tax measure is unconstitutional;

(3) for voters, there must be a showing of obvious interest in the validity of the election law in question;

(4) for concerned citizens, there must be a showing that the issues raised are of transcendental importance which must be settled early; and

(5) for legislators, there must be a claim that the official action complained of infringes upon their prerogatives as legislators.

Petitioner having alleged a grave violation of the constitutional prohibition against Members of the Cabinet, their deputies and assistants holding two (2) or more positions in government, the fact that he filed this suit as a concerned citizen sufficiently confers him with standing to sue for redress of such illegal act by public officials.  Dennis B. Funa vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita, Office of the President, G.R. No. 184740, February 11, 2010.

Judicial review; standing to sue. In her Memorandum, respondent Governor Geraldine B. Ecleo-Villaroman of the Province of Dinagat Islands raises procedural issues. She contends that petitioners do not have the legal standing to question the constitutionality of the creation of the Province of Dinagat, since they have not been directly injured by its creation and are without substantial interest over the matter in controversy. Moreover, she alleges that the petition is moot and academic because the existence of the Province of Dinagat Islands has already commenced; hence, the petition should be dismissed.

The contention is without merit.

In Coconut Oil Refiners Association, Inc. v. Torres, the Court held that in cases of paramount importance where serious constitutional questions are involved, the standing requirements may be relaxed and a suit may be allowed to prosper even where there is no direct injury to the party claiming the right of judicial review. In the same vein, with respect to other alleged procedural flaws, even assuming the existence of such defects, the Court, in the exercise of its discretion, brushes aside these technicalities and takes cognizance of the petition considering its importance and in keeping with the duty to determine whether the other branches of the government have kept themselves within the limits of the Constitution.

Further, supervening events, whether intended or accidental, cannot prevent the Court from rendering a decision if there is a grave violation of the Constitution. The courts will decide a question otherwise moot and academic if it is capable of repetition, yet evading review.  Rodolfo G. Navarro, et al. vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180050, February 10, 2010.

Local government; creation of province. The Constitution clearly mandates that the creation of local government units must follow the criteria established in the Local Government Code. Any derogation of or deviation from the criteria prescribed in the Local Government Code violates Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution.

R.A. No. 9355 (creating the province of Dinagat Islands) is unconstitutional for its failure to comply with the criteria for the creation of a province prescribed in Sec. 461 of the Local Government Code.  The provision in Article 9 (2) of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991 stating, “The land area requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one (1) or more islands,” is null and void.  Rodolfo G. Navarro, et al. vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180050, February 10, 2010.

President; immunity from suit. Petitioners first take issue on the President’s purported lack of immunity from suit during her term of office. The 1987 Constitution, so they claim, has removed such immunity heretofore enjoyed by the chief executive under the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions.

Petitioners are mistaken. The presidential immunity from suit remains preserved under our system of government, albeit not expressly reserved in the present constitution. Addressing a concern of his co-members in the 1986 Constitutional Commission on the absence of an express provision on the matter, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. observed that it was already understood in jurisprudence that the President may not be sued during his or her tenure. The Court subsequently made it abundantly clear in David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, a case likewise resolved under the umbrella of the 1987 Constitution, that indeed the President enjoys immunity during her incumbency.

And lest it be overlooked, the petition is simply bereft of any allegation as to what specific presidential act or omission violated or threatened to violate petitioners’ protected rights.  Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

Overbreadth.  In the United States, claims of facial overbreadth have been entertained only where, in the judgment of the court, the possibility that protected speech of others may be muted and perceived grievances left to fester (due to the possible inhibitory effects of overly broad statutes) outweighs the possible harm to society in allowing some unprotected speech or conduct to go unpunished. Facial overbreadth has likewise not been invoked where a limiting construction could be placed on the challenged statute, and where there are readily apparent constructions that would cure, or at least substantially reduce, the alleged overbreadth of the statute.

In the case at bar, the probable harm to society in permitting incumbent appointive officials to remain in office, even as they actively pursue elective posts, far outweighs the less likely evil of having arguably protected candidacies blocked by the possible inhibitory effect of a potentially overly broad statute.

In this light, the conceivably impermissible applications of the challenged statutes – which are, at best, bold predictions – cannot justify invalidating these statutes in toto and prohibiting the State from enforcing them against conduct that is, and has for more than 100 years been, unquestionably within its power and interest to proscribe. Instead, the more prudent approach would be to deal with these conceivably impermissible applications through case-by-case adjudication rather than through a total invalidation of the statute itself.  Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.

Public assembly; modification of permit. In modifying the permit outright, respondent Mayor of Manila gravely abused his discretion when he did not immediately inform the IBP who should have been heard first on the matter of his perceived imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil that may warrant the changing of the venue. The opportunity to be heard precedes the action on the permit, since the applicant may directly go to court after an unfavorable action on the permit.

Respondent failed to indicate how he had arrived at modifying the terms of the permit against the standard of a clear and present danger test which, it bears repeating, is an indispensable condition to such modification. Nothing in the issued permit adverts to an imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil, which “blank” denial or modification would, when granted imprimatur as the appellate court would have it, render illusory any judicial scrutiny thereof.  Intergrated Bar of the Philippines, represented by its National President Jose Anselmo I. Cadiz, H. Harry L. Roque, et al. vs. Honorable Manila Mayor Jose “Lito” Atienza, G.R. No. 175241, February 24, 2010.

Public officials; multiple office. The prohibition against holding dual or multiple offices or employment under Section 13, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution was held inapplicable to posts occupied by the Executive officials specified therein, without additional compensation in an ex-officio capacity as provided by law and as required by the primary functions of said office. The reason is that these posts do not comprise “any other office” within the contemplation of the constitutional prohibition but are properly an imposition of additional duties and functions on said officials. Apart from their bare assertion that respondent Bautista did not receive any compensation when she was OIC of MARINA, respondents failed to demonstrate clearly that her designation as such OIC was in an ex-officio capacity as required by the primary functions of her office as DOTC Undersecretary for Maritime Transport.

Given the vast responsibilities and scope of administration of the MARINA, we are hardly persuaded by respondents’ submission that respondent Bautista’s designation as OIC of MARINA was merely an imposition of additional duties related to her primary position as DOTC Undersecretary for Maritime Transport. It appears that the DOTC Undersecretary for Maritime Transport is not even a member of the Maritime Industry Board, which includes the DOTC Secretary as Chairman, the MARINA Administrator as Vice-Chairman, and the following as members: Executive Secretary (Office of the President), Philippine Ports Authority General Manager, Department of National Defense Secretary, Development Bank of the Philippines General Manager, and the Department of Trade and Industry Secretary.

It must be stressed though that while the designation was in the nature of an acting and temporary capacity, the words “hold the office” were employed. Such holding of office pertains to both appointment and designation because the appointee or designate performs the duties and functions of the office. The 1987 Constitution in prohibiting dual or multiple offices, as well as incompatible offices, refers to the holding of the office, and not to the nature of the appointment or designation, words which were not even found in Section 13, Article VII nor in Section 7, paragraph 2, Article IX-B. To “hold” an office means to “possess or occupy” the same, or “to be in possession and administration,” which implies nothing less than the actual discharge of the functions and duties of the office.

The disqualification laid down in Section 13, Article VII is aimed at preventing the concentration of powers in the Executive Department officials, specifically the President, Vice-President, Members of the Cabinet and their deputies and assistants. Civil Liberties Union traced the history of the times and the conditions under which the Constitution was framed, and construed the Constitution consistent with the object sought to be accomplished by adoption of such provision, and the evils sought to be avoided or remedied. We recalled the practice, during the Marcos regime, of designating members of the Cabinet, their deputies and assistants as members of the governing bodies or boards of various government agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations. This practice of holding multiple offices or positions in the government led to abuses by unscrupulous public officials, who took advantage of this scheme for purposes of self-enrichment. The blatant betrayal of public trust evolved into one of the serious causes of discontent with the Marcos regime. It was therefore quite inevitable and in consonance with the overwhelming sentiment of the people that the 1986 Constitutional Commission would draft into the proposed Constitution the provisions under consideration, which were envisioned to remedy, if not correct, the evils that flow from the holding of multiple governmental offices and employment.  Dennis B. Funa vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita, Office of the President, G.R. No. 184740, February 11, 2010.

Administrative Law

Proceedings; evidence. In administrative and quasi-judicial proceedings, the quantum of proof required for a finding of guilt is only substantial evidence, “that amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, even if other minds, equally reasonable, might conceivably opine otherwise.”

In the present case, petitioner’s Order of May 18, 2004 finding respondent administratively liable for neglect of duty, which “implies the failure to give proper attention to a task expected of an employee arising from either carelessness or indifference,” was adequately established by substantial evidence.  Office of the Ombudsman (Mindanao) vs. Asteria E. Cruzabra, G.R. No. 183507, February 24, 2010.

Election Law

Appointive officials; filing of certificate of candidacy. Under Section 13 of RA 9369, which reiterates Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code, any person holding a public appointive office or position, including active members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and officers and employees in government-owned or -controlled corporations, shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his office upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy. On the other hand, pursuant to Section 14 of RA 9006 or the Fair Election Act, which repealed Section 67 of the Omnibus Election Code and rendered ineffective Section 11 of R.A. 8436 insofar as it considered an elected official as resigned only upon the start of the campaign period corresponding to the positions for which they are running, an elected official is not deemed to have resigned from his office upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy for the same or any other elected office or position. In fine, an elected official may run for another position without forfeiting his seat.

Section 4(a) of Resolution 8678, Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code, and the second proviso in the third paragraph of Section 13 of RA 9369 are not violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution and does not suffer from overbreadth.  Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.  (Note: The Supreme Court reconsidered its earlier decision of December 1, 2009.)

Automation project; validity.  The contract-award of the 2010 Election Automation Project to the joint venture of Total Information Management Corporation (TIM) and Smartmatic International Corporation (Smartmatic) is valid.  H. Harry L. Roque, Jr., Joel R. Butuyan, Romel R. Bagares, et al. vs. Commission on Elections, represented by Hon. Chaiman Jose Melo, et al., Pete Quirino-Qaudra (Petitioner-in-intervention) Senate of the Philippines, represented by its President Juan Ponce Enrili (Movant-Intervenor), G.R. No. 188456, February 10, 2010.  (Note:  The Supreme Court denied the motion to reconsider its earlier decision of September 10, 2009.)

Ballot; tampering. The COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in declaring Peñano, based on the results of the revision of ballots, the winner in the mayoralty contest for the Municipality of Alfonso, Cavite. The ballots, after proof of tampering, cannot be considered reflective of the will of the people of Alfonso.  Mayor Virgilio P. Varias vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 189078, February 11, 2010.

COMELEC; ballot appreciation. The records of the case indicate that the COMELEC en banc proceeded to conduct a fresh appreciation of the contested ballots without first ascertaining whether the ballots to be recounted had been kept inviolate. The COMELEC cannot proceed to conduct a fresh appreciation of ballots without first ascertaining the integrity thereof.  Sandra Y Eriguel vs. Commission on Elections and Ma. Theresa Dumpit-Michelena, G.R. No. 190526, February 26, 2010.

COMELEC;  elevation to en banc without division decision.  The COMELEC, in the exercise of its quasi-judicial functions, is bound to follow the provision set forth in Section 3, Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution, which reads: “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.”

It therefore follows that when the COMELEC is exercising its quasi-judicial powers such as in the present case, the Commission is constitutionally mandated to decide the case first in division, and en banc only upon motion for reconsideration.

Indeed, it is a basic doctrine in procedural law that the jurisdiction of a court or an agency exercising quasi-judicial functions (such as the COMELEC) over the subject-matter of an action is conferred only by the Constitution or by law. Jurisdiction cannot be fixed by the agreement of the parties; it cannot be acquired through, or waived, enlarged or diminished by, any act or omission of the parties. Neither can it be conferred by the acquiescence of the court, more particularly so in election cases where the interest involved transcends those of the contending parties.

This being so, the Special Second Division of the COMELEC clearly acted with grave abuse of discretion when it immediately transferred to the Commission en banc a case that ought to be heard and decided by a division. Such action cannot be done without running afoul of Section 3, Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution. Instead of peremptorily transferring the case to the Commission en banc, the Special Second Division of COMELEC, should have instead assigned another Commissioner as additional member of its Special Second Division, not only to fill in the seat temporarily vacated by Commissioner Ferrer, but more importantly so that the required quorum may be attained.  Sandra Y Eriguel vs. Commission on Elections and Ma. Theresa Dumpit-Michelena, G.R. No. 190526, February 26, 2010.

COMELEC; failure of elections. The 1987 Constitution vests in the COMELEC the broad power to enforce all the laws and regulations relative to the conduct of elections, as well as the plenary authority to decide all questions affecting elections except the question as to the right to vote.

Section 6 of the Omnibus Election Code provides for the instances when the COMELEC may declare failure of elections. The COMELEC en banc based its decision to declare a failure of elections in Precinct No. 6A/7A on the second instance stated in Section 6 of the Omnibus Election Code, that is, the election in any polling place had been suspended before the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud or other analogous causes.

The COMELEC en banc ruled that since both parties agreed that the elections were suspended before the hour fixed by law due to violence caused by undetermined persons, there was obviously a failure of elections in the aforementioned precinct.

The findings of fact of the COMELEC en banc are binding on this Court. The grounds for failure of election (i.e., force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or other analogous cases) involve questions of fact, which can only be determined by the COMELEC en banc after due notice to and hearing of the parties. An application for certiorari against actions of the COMELEC is confined to instances of grave abuse of discretion, amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. TheCOMELEC, as the administrative agency and specialized constitutional body charged with the enforcement and administration of all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum, and recall, has the expertise in its field so that its findings and conclusions are generally respected by and conclusive on the Court.

Petitioner’s allegation of grave abuse of discretion by public respondent COMELEC en banc implies such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction or, in other words, the exercise of the power in an arbitrary manner by reason of passion, prejudice, or personal hostility; and it must be so patent or gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. It is not present in this case, as public respondent issued the COMELEC Resolution dated October 17, 2005 based on the evidence on record and the law on the matter.  Abdul Gaffar P.M. Dibaratun vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 170365, February 2, 2010.

COMELEC; injunction. If instead of issuing a preliminary injunction in place of a TRO, a court opts to decide the case on its merits with the result that it also enjoins the same acts covered by its TRO, it stands to reason that the decision amounts to a grant of preliminary injunction. Such injunction should be deemed in force pending any appeal from the decision. The view of petitioner Panlilio—that execution pending appeal should still continue notwithstanding a decision of the higher court enjoining such execution—does not make sense. It will render quite inutile the proceedings before such court.  Mayor Jose Marquez Lisboa Panlilio vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 184286. February 26, 2010

COMELEC jurisdiction over intra-party leadership disputes. The COMELEC’s jurisdiction over intra-party leadership disputes has already been settled by the Court. The Court ruled in Kalaw v. Commission on Elections that the COMELEC’s powers and functions under Section 2, Article IX-C of the Constitution, “include the ascertainment of the identity of the political party and its legitimate officers responsible for its acts.” The Court also declared in another case that the COMELEC’s power to register political parties necessarily involved the determination of the persons who must act on its behalf. Thus, the COMELEC may resolve an intra-party leadership dispute, in a proper case brought before it, as an incident of its power to register political parties.

The validity of respondent Roxas’ election as LP president is a leadership issue that the COMELEC had to settle. Under the amended LP Constitution, the LP president is the issuing authority for certificates of nomination of party candidates for all national elective positions. It is also the LP president who can authorize other LP officers to issue certificates of nomination for candidates to local elective posts. In simple terms, it is the LP president who certifies the official standard bearer of the party. Jose L. Atienza, Jr., et al. vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 188920, February 16, 2010.

COMELEC; tampered votes. We find the manner in which the COMELEC excluded the subject returns to be fatally flawed. In the absence of clearly convincing evidence, the validity of election returns 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. Corrolarily, any plausible explanation, one which is acceptable to a reasonable man in the light of experience and of the probabilities of the situation, should suffice to avoid outright nullification, which results in disenfranchisement of those who exercised their right of suffrage. As will be discussed shortly, there is a patent lack of basis for the COMELEC’s findings that the subject returns were tampered. In disregard of the principle requiring “extreme caution” before rejecting election returns, the COMELEC proceeded with undue haste in concluding that the subject returns were tampered. This is grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

In sum, it was highly irregular for the COMELEC to outrightly exclude the subject returns resulting in the disenfranchisement of some 1,127 voters as per the records of this case. The proper procedure in case of discrepancy in the other authentic copies of the election returns is clearly spelled out in Section 236 of the OEC. For contravening this legal provision, the COMELEC acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.  Rose Marie D. Doromal vs. Hernan G. Biron and Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 181809, February 17, 2010.

Disqualification; voter inclusion/exclusion proceedings. Voters’ inclusion/exclusion proceedings, on the one hand, essentially involve the issue of whether a petitioner shall be included in or excluded from the list of voters based on the qualifications required by law and the facts presented to show possession of these qualifications.

On the other hand, COC denial/cancellation proceedings involve the issue of whether there is a false representation of a material fact. The false representation must necessarily pertain not to a mere innocuous mistake but to a material fact or those that refer to a candidate’s qualifications for elective office. Apart from the requirement of materiality, the false representation must consist of a deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render a candidate ineligible or, otherwise stated, with the intention to deceive the electorate as to the would-be candidate’s qualifications for public office.

In Velasco, the Court rejected Velasco’s contention that the Comelec improperly ruled on the right to vote when it cancelled his COC. The Court stated that the Comelec merely relied on or recognized the RTC’s final and executory decision on the matter of the right to vote in the precinct within its territorial jurisdiction.

In the present petition, it is Panlaqui’s turn to proffer the novel interpretation that the RTC properly cancelled Velasco’s COC when it ruled on his right to vote. The Court rejects the same.

It is not within the province of the RTC in a voter’s inclusion/exclusion proceedings to take cognizance of and determine the presence of a false representation of a material fact. It has no jurisdiction to try the issues of whether the misrepresentation relates to material fact and whether there was an intention to deceive the electorate in terms of one’s qualifications for public office. The finding that Velasco was not qualified to vote due to lack of residency requirement does not translate into a finding of a deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render him ineligible.  Mozart P. Panlaqui vs. Commission on Elections and Nardo M. Velasco, G.R. No. 188671, February 24, 2010.

Pre-proclamation controversy; contested returns. It is settled that a pre-proclamation controversy is summary in character; indeed, it is the policy of the law that pre-proclamation controversies be promptly decided, so as not to delay canvass and proclamation. The Board of Canvassers (BOC) will not look into allegations of irregularity that are not apparent on the face of ERs that appear otherwise authentic and duly accomplished.

Consistent with the summary character and limited scope of a pre-proclamation controversy, Section 20 of RA 7166 lays down the procedure to be followed when ERs are contested before the BOC. Compliance with this procedure is mandatory, so as to permit the BOC to resolve the objections as quickly as possible.

Section 20 of RA 7166 and Section 36 of COMELEC Resolution 2962 provide that any candidate may contest the inclusion of an ER by making an oral objection at the time the questioned return is submitted for canvass; the objecting party shall also submit his objections in writing simultaneously with the oral objections. The BOC shall consider the written objections and opposition, if any, and summarily rule on the petition for exclusion. Any party adversely affected by such ruling must immediately inform the BOC if he intends to appeal such ruling.

After the BOC rules on the contested returns and canvasses all the uncontested returns, it shall suspend the canvass. Any party adversely affected by the ruling has 48 hours to file a Notice of Appeal; the appeal shall be filed within five days. Upon receipt of the notice of appeal, the BOC will make its report to the COMELEC, and elevate the records and evidence.

Moreover, pursuant to Section 235 of the Omnibus Election Code, in cases where the ERs appear to have been tampered with, altered or falsified, the COMELEC shall examine the other copies of the questioned returns and, if the other copies are likewise tampered with, altered, falsified, or otherwise spurious, after having given notice to all candidates and satisfied itself that the integrity of the ballot box and of the ballots therein have been duly preserved, shall order a recount of the votes cast, prepare a new return which shall be used by the BOC as basis for the canvass, and direct the proclamation of the winner accordingly.

Based on the records of this case, we find that petitioner failed to timely make his objections to the contested ERs.   Themistocles A. Saño, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 182221, February 3, 2010.

Local Government

Succession; sannggunian. Sec. 45(b) of RA 7160 provides for the rule on succession in cases of permanent vacancies in the Sanggunian. The law provides for conditions for the rule of succession to apply: First, the appointee shall come from the same political party as that of the Sanggunian member who caused the vacancy. Second, the appointee must have a nomination and a Certificate of Membership from the highest official of the political party concerned.  Atty. Lucky M. Damasen vs. Oscar G. Tumamao, G.R. No. 173165, February 17, 2010.

Public officers

Appointment;  submission to Civil Service Commission. The deliberate failure of the appointing authority (or other responsible officials) to submit respondent’s appointment paper to the CSC within 30 days from its issuance did not make her appointment ineffective and incomplete.

Under Article 1186 of the Civil Code, “[t]he condition shall be deemed fulfilled when the obligor voluntarily prevents its fulfillment.” Applying this to the appointment process in the civil service, unless the appointee himself is negligent in following up the submission of his appointment to the CSC for approval, he should not be prejudiced by any willful act done in bad faith by the appointing authority to prevent the timely submission of his appointment to the CSC. While it may be argued that the submission of respondent’s appointment to the CSC within 30 days was one of the conditions for the approval of respondent’s appointment, however, deliberately and with bad faith, the officials responsible for the submission of respondent’s appointment to the CSC prevented the fulfillment of the said condition. Thus, the said condition should be deemed fulfilled.

The Court has already had the occasion to rule that an appointment remains valid in certain instances despite non-compliance of the proper officials with the pertinent CSC rules.  Arlin B. Obiasca vs. Jeane O. Basallote, G.R. No. 176707, February 17, 2010.

Advertisements