[G.R. No. 12118. November 6, 1916. ]
CATALINO GALANG, Petitioner, v. VICENTE MIRANDA, judge of first instance of Nueva Ecija, and GONZALO DE LEON, Respondents.
C. de la Fuente for Petitioner.
Sumulong & Estrada for Respondents.
1. ELECTIONS; PROTESTS; AMENDMENT OF PLEADINGS; MANDAMUS. — Section 110 of the Code of Procedure in Civil Actions provides that courts shall, in the furtherance of justice, . . . allow a party to amend any pleading or proceeding at any state of the action, . . . by adding or striking out the name of any party, either plaintiff or defendant, . . . or a mistaken or inadequate allegation or description, in any other respect, so that the actual merits of the controversy may speedily be determined without regard to technicalities. In accordance with said section, when a court dismisses a complaint, when the petitioner stands ready to amend the same, upon a mere technicality and thereby deprives the parties of their day in court, mandamus will issue for the purpose of acquiring a reinstatement of said cause, for the purpose of giving the party a hearing, and if necessary, to permit him to amend his pleadings.
2. STATUTES; ELECTION LAWS TO BE LIBERALLY CONSTRUED. — Statutes providing for election contests are to be liberally construed, to the end that the will of the people in the choice of public officers may not be defeated by merely technical objections. to that end immaterial defects in pleadings should be disregarded and necessary and proper amendments should be allowed as promptly as possible.
3. ELECTIONS; PROTESTS; DISMISSAL; MANDAMUS TO REINSTATE. — When an election protest is dismissed upon an erroneous view of the law, mandamus will issue, for the purpose of compelling a reinstatement of the protest for the purpose of giving the protestant an opportunity to be heard upon the merits of his protest.
D E C I S I O N
JOHNSON, J. :
This was an original petition presented in the Supreme Court for the writ of mandamus. Its purpose was to obtain the extraordinary legal remedy of mandamus to require the respondent judge to reinstate protest No. 1401, pending in the Court of First Instance of the Province of Nueva Ecija, and to continue to hear the same.
From the record the following facts appear:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
First. That on the 13th of June, 1916, the petitioner herein, Catalino Galang, presented a protest in the Court of First Instance of the Province of Nueva Ecija against the election of Gonzalo de Leon, one of the respondents herein, as president of the municipality of Cabiao.
Second. That on the 15th of June, 1916, the respondent Gonzalo de Leon answered said petition. The answer contained a general denial and a counter-protest.
Third. That on the issue presented by the petition and answer the cause was brought on for trial.
Fourth. That during the trial of said cause the petitioner herein as protestant presented proof for the purpose of showing that the municipal board of canvassers of said municipality of Cabiao had declared that the said Gonzalo de Leon had been declared that the said Gonzalo de Leon had been declared elected to the position of president of said municipality.
Fifth. That the protestee, Gonzalo de Leon, objected to said proof, to wit, that "the municipal board of canvassers had declared him elected as such president," upon the ground that there was no allegation in the complaint to support said proof.
Sixth. That the lower court sustained the objection made against the admissibility of said proof and after hearing test upon the ground that he was without jurisdiction to hear and determine it.
Seventh. To that ruling of the court the protestant, the petitioner herein, duly excepted.
An examination of paragraph 3 of the original petition will show that the protestant alleged that "on the 7th of June, 1916, ’La Junta de Inspectores de Elecion’ . . . proclaimed that Gonzalo de Leon had been elected to the office of president of said municipality."cralaw virtua1aw library
The protestant offered to amend his pleadings so as to show that Gonzalo de Leon had been declared elected as president by "the municipal board of canvassers." He offered to show that the allegation in his complaint that "La Junta de Inspectores" meant could not proclaim the election of any candidate for a municipal office, and that the municipal board of canvassers was the only body with the authority to declare the election of municipal office, and that the municipal board of canvassers was the only body with the authority to declare the election of municipal officers. The lower court, notwithstanding the offer to amend, together with the explanations made by the protestant, refused to allow the amendments made by the protestant, refused to allow the amendment and dismissed the protest.
To the petition presented, the respondent demurred upon the ground that the facts set out in the petition were not sufficient to constitute a cause of action.
Upon the issue presented by the petition and the demurrer the question was duly submitted for decision. The petitioner, in effect, alleges that by reason of the refusal of the lower court to permit him to amend his petition, even granting that an amendment was necessary, he has been deprived of his day in court; that he has been deprived of his right to be heard upon the questions presented by his protest. Generally speaking the right to amend pleadings is within the sound discretion of the court. Section 110 of the Code of Procedure in Civil Actions provides that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"The court shall, in furtherance of justice, and on such terms, if any, as may be proper, allow a party to amend any pleading or proceeding and at any stage of the action, in either the Court of First Instance or the Supreme Court, by adding or striking out the name of any party, either plaintiff or defendant, or by correcting a mistake in the name of a party, or a mistaken or inadequate allegation or description in any other respect, so that the actual merits of the controversy may speedily be determined, without regard to technicalities, and in the most expeditious and inexpensive manner."cralaw virtua1aw library
It has been frequently decided, and it may be stated as a general rule recognized by all the courts, that statutes providing for election contests are to be liberally construed, to the end that the will of the people in the choice of public officers may not be defeated by merely technical objections. To that end immaterial defects in pleadings should be disregarded and necessary and proper amendments should be allowed as promptly as possible. (Heyfron v. Mahoney, 18 Am. St. Rep., 757, 763; McCrary on Elections, 3d ed., sec. 396.)
From a reading of the petition and taking into consideration the fact that the precinct inspectors were without authority to proclaim the election of municipal officers, and that the municipal board of canvassers is the only body which can proclaim the election of municipal officers, it seems clear to us that the allegation in the complaint to the effect that "La Junta de Inspectores" was intended to be and was alleged for the purpose of showing that the "municipal board of canvassers" had proclaimed the election of Gonzalo de Leon; that said allegation was not intended to mean that the precinct inspectors had proclaimed the election of Gonzalo de Leon. That interpretation of the pleadings clearly shows that the ruling of the court was based upon a mere technicality and that he should have either disregarded it or permitted the plaintiff to have amended his petition, to the end that the controversy might be "speedily determined in the most expeditious and inexpensive manner." Instead, however, of permitting the protestant to amend his pleadings for the purpose of correcting "an inadequated allegation or description," the lower priced the protestant of a right to be heard upon the merits of the controversy. The protestant could not file a new protest for the reason that the time specified by law within which protests must be filed had expired. It is very clear, therefore, that the protestant has been deprived of his day in court absolutely, if the decision of the lower court is to stand, by a mere technicality and he is without a remedy unless he can in some way secure the reinstatement of his cause or protest.
But it is objected that mandamus is not the proper remedy for the purpose of correcting the errors complained of in the present proceedings. In the case of De Castro v. Salas and Santiago (34 Phil. Rep., 818), we said:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"No rule of law is better established than the one that provides that mandamus will not issue to control the discretion of an officer or a court when honestly exercised and when such power and authority is not abused. A distinction however must be made between a case where the writ of mandamus is sought to control the decision of a curt upon the merits of the cause, and cases where the court has refused to go into the merits of the action, upon an erroneous view of the law or practice. If the court has erroneously dismissed an action upon a preliminary objection and upon an erroneous construction of the law, then mandamus is the proper remedy to compel it to reinstate the action and to proceed to hear it upon its merits. . . .’For example, when, in statutory proceedings instituted to test the election of an officer, the court below refuses to try the case upon its merits, and quashes the proceedings upon the ground that the protestant has not erred in its construction of the statute as to the notice required, the writ (mandamus) will be granted to compel it to reinstate the case and proceed to hearing.’"
For all of the foregoing reasons, we are of the opinion that the facts stated in the petition herein are sufficient to justify the granting of the remedy prayed for, and therefore the demurrer is hereby overruled and the respondents are hereby given five days from the receipt of notice hereof to present their answer. If, however, the respondents fail within said period to file or to present their answer, let the remedy of mandamus, as prayed for, be issued directed to the respondent judge to reinstate said protest and to hear the same upon its merits, and without any finding as to costs, it is so ordered.
Torres, Carson, Trent, and Araullo, JJ., concur.
Moreland, J., dissents.
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