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March-1997 Jurisprudence                 

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  • G.R. No. 123881 March 13, 1997 - VIVA PRODUCTIONS, INC. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 91694 March 14, 1997 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. SABAS CALVO, JR., ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 97626 March 14, 1997 - PHIL. BANK OF COMMERCE, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 114387 March 14, 1997 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ALEJANDRO DEVILLERES

  • G.R. No. 120592 March 14, 1997 - TRADERS ROYAL BANK EMPLOYEES UNION v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 121765 March 14, 1997 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. RANDOLF B. MONTEALTO

  • G.R. No. 122646 March 14, 1997 - ADELIA C. MENDOZA v. ANGELITO C. TEH, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 112229 March 18, 1997 - RAYMOND PE LIM v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. Nos. 114924-27 March 18, 1997 - DANTE NACURAY, ET AL. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 119321 March 18, 1997 - CATALINO F. BAÑEZ, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • Bar Matter No. 712 March 19, 1997 - PETITION OF AL ARGOSINO TO TAKE THE LAWYER’S OATH

  • G.R. Nos. 100382-100385 March 19, 1997 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. MARIO TABACO

  • G.R. No. 111157 March 19, 1997 - ITOGON-SUYOC MINES, INC. v. OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 117029 March 19, 1997 - PELTAN DEVELOPMENT, INC., ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

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  • G.R. No. 127325 March 19, 1997 - MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO, ET AL. v. COMELEC, ET AL.

  • Adm. Matter No. P-95-1159 March 20, 1997 - COURT ADMINISTRATOR v. WILLIAM C. SEVILLO

  • G.R. No. 88684 March 20, 1997 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. CESAR LACBANES

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  • Adm. Matter No. MTJ-96-1091 March 21, 1997 - WILFREDO NAVARRO v. DEOGRACIAS K. DEL ROSARIO

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  • Adm. Matter No. P-96-1184 March 24, 1997 - NBI, ET AL. v. RODOLFO TULIAO

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  • Adm. Matter No. RTJ-89-318 March 25, 1997 - LUCIANA Vda. DE ARAGO v. PATERNO T. ALVAREZ

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  • G.R. No. 121031 March 26, 1997 - ROSAURO I. TORRES v. COMELEC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 122013 March 26, 1997 - JOSE C. RAMIREZ v. COMELEC, ET AL.

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  • G.R. No. 119877 March 31, 1997 - BIENVENIDO ONGKINGCO, ET AL. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  •  




     
     

    G.R. No. 121031   March 26, 1997 - ROSAURO I. TORRES v. COMELEC, ET AL.

     
    PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

    EN BANC

    [G.R. No. 121031. March 26, 1997.]

    ATTY. ROSAURO I. TORRES, Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and VICENTE RAFAEL A. DE PERALTA, Respondents.

    Fojas and Fojas for Petitioner.

    Delos Reyes Bonifacio Delos Reyes for Private Respondent.


    SYLLABUS


    1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; COMMISSION ON ELECTION; EN BANC; MAY ORDER A CORRECTION OF THE STATEMENT OF VOTES EVEN AFTER PROCLAMATION OF THE WINNING CANDIDATE; RATIONALE. — In Castromayor v. Comelec, G.R. No. 120426, 23 November 1995, 250 SCRA 298, we held that although Sec. 7 Rule 27, of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure applies to pre-proclamation controversies, and even if the proclamation of a winning candidate has already been made, there is nothing to prevent its application to cases like the one at bar in which the validity of the proclamation is precisely in question. In Duremdes v. Comelec, G.R. Nos. 86362-63, 27 October 1989, 178 SCRA 746, this Court sustained the power of the COMELEC En Banc to order a correction of the Statement of Votes to make it conform to the election returns in accordance with a procedure similar to the procedure now embodied in Sec. 7, Rule 27, of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure. Since 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. It may be argued that because petitioner has already been proclaimed as winning candidate the remedy of the losing party is an election protest over which the Regional Trial Court — and not the COMELEC nor the Municipal Board of Canvassers — has original jurisdiction. However, as this Court already ruled in Duremdes — It is Duremdes’ further submission that his proclamation could not be declared null and void because a pre-proclamation controversy is not proper after a proclamation has been made, the proper recourse being an election protest. This is on the assumption, however, that there has been a valid proclamation. Where a proclamation is null and void, the proclamation is no proclamation at all and the proclaimed candidate’s assumption of office cannot deprive the COMELEC of the power to declare such nullity and annul the proclamation (Aguam v. Comelec, L-28955, 28 May 1968, 23 SCRA 883). The Statement of Votes is merely a tabulation per precinct of the votes obtained by the candidate as reflected in the election returns.


    D E C I S I O N


    BELLOSILLO, J.:


    This case involves the power of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to annul the proclamation of a winning candidate for Municipal Councilor in view of an error in the computation of totals in the Statement of Votes which was made the basis of the proclamation, and to direct the Municipal Board of Canvassers to reconvene and proclaim the rightful winner.

    On 9 May 1995 the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Tanza, Cavite, issued a Certificate of Canvass of Votes and Proclamation of the Winning Candidates for Municipal Offices (Municipal Councilors) as follows: (1) Wilfredo A. Nuñez, 14,888 votes; (2) Yuri A. Pacumio, 13,445 votes; (3) Rogelino A. Dones, 12,428 votes; (4) Francisco C. Pasco, 12,218 votes; (5) Rosauro I. Torres, 12,055 votes; (6) Rosalita C. Cenizal, 12,035 votes; (7) Eliseo R. Arcaira Jr., 11,939 votes; (8) Policarpio A. Bocalan, 11,790 votes. Accordingly, petitioner Atty. Rosauro I. Torres was proclaimed as the fifth winning candidate for councilor. 1

    Two (2) days after or on 11 May 1995 the same Municipal Board of Canvassers requested the COMELEC for correction of the number of votes garnered by petitioner who was earlier proclaimed as the fifth winning candidate for councilor. The letter-request was signed by Rudolph Melon and Norma Abril as Vice Chairman and Secretary, respectively. The letter reads—

    The undersigned members of the Board of Canvassers, Tanza, Cavite, respectfully request for the correction of votes garnered by Mr. Rosauro I. Torres who was proclaimed as the fifth winning candidate for Councilor instead of Mr. Vicente Rafael A. de Peralta who landed in the number eight (8th) position. The votes intended for MR. BERNARDO C. DIMAALA in the sub-total as reflected in the Statement of Votes by precinct was erroneously added to Mr. Torres for a total of Nine Hundred Thirty Four (934) votes. Mr. Torres should have been number ten (10) in the winning column and that if correction shall be made Mr. Torres shall garner a total of Eleven Thousand One Hundred Twenty One (11,121) votes while Mr. de Peralta garnered a total of Eleven Thousand Six Hundred Ten (11,610) votes. 2

    On 16 May 1995 the COMELEC set the case for hearing. Summonses with notices of hearing were sent to petitioner Atty. Rosauro I. Torres and private respondent Vicente Rafael A. de Peralta requiring them to file their respective answers to the letter of the Municipal Board of Canvassers.

    Petitioner filed his answer alleging that the subject matter of the letter-petition of the Municipal Board of Canvassers, which was the correction of votes garnered by him, properly falls within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court pursuant to Sec. 251 of the Omnibus Election Code. On the other hand, private respondent argued for the annulment of the proclamation of petitioner and prayed for his (private respondent) proclamation as the winning candidate.

    On 28 June 1995 respondent COMELEC issued the assailed En Banc resolution granting the letter-request of the Municipal Board of Canvassers for the correction of the number of votes garnered by petitioner. Respondent COMELEC also ordered the Municipal Board of Canvassers to reconvene and proclaim private respondent Vicente Rafael A. de Peralta as the eighth winning councilor of Tanza, Cavite.

    On 5 July 1995 the Municipal Board of Canvassers issued a corrected Certificate of Canvass of Votes and Proclamation of the Winning Candidates which included private respondent Vicente Rafael A. de Peralta as the eighth winning councilor and excluded petitioner from the new list of winning candidates. 3

    Petitioner came up to this Court alleging that public respondent COMELEC acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction in granting the request of the Municipal Board of Canvassers to correct the votes garnered by petitioner and in ordering the proclamation of private respondent as the eighth winning candidate thereby ousting petitioner from the new list of winners. Petitioner also argues that the Municipal Board of Canvassers had no legal personality to file the action motu proprio before the COMELEC for correction; that corrections are allowed only when there has been no proclamation yet, citing Respicio v. Cusi; 4 and finally, that once the Municipal Board of Canvassers has declared and proclaimed the winners in an election its functions are finished and its existence is terminated.

    The Office of the Solicitor General submits that respondent COMELEC acted beyond the limits of its power and authority when it ordered the Municipal Board of Canvassers to reconvene and correct its alleged mistake in counting the votes cast for candidate Dimaala in favor of petitioner; that by having done so, respondent COMELEC had exercised original jurisdiction over a municipal election contest contrary to what the Constitution mandates; that Art. IX-C, Sec. 2, par 2, of the Constitution provides that the Commission on Elections shall exercise 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.

    Respondent COMELEC filed its own comment alleging that the proclamation of petitioner was flawed from the beginning for being tainted with clerical error or mathematical mistake in the addition of votes; that pursuant to the ruling in Villaroya v. COMELEC 5 public respondent has original jurisdiction on all matters relating to election returns, including the verification of the number of votes received by opposing candidates in the election returns as compared to the statement of votes in order to ensure that the true will of the people is known; and, that according to Tatlonghari v. COMELEC, 6 when what is involved is purely mathematical and/or mechanical error in the operation of the adding machine committed by the board of canvassers but does not involve any opening of ballot boxes, examination and appreciation of ballots and/or election returns, all that is required is to reconvene the board of canvassers to rectify the error it inadvertently committed. Respondent COMELEC also contends that since it has the direct control and supervision over the municipal board of canvassers, the former has authority to direct the latter to reconvene and continue its assigned task in proclaiming the rightful winner for municipal councilor.

    Petitioner’s contentions must fail. The position of COMELEC is well-taken. Sec. 7, Rule 27, of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure provides —

    Sec. 7. Correction of Errors in Tabulation or Tallying of Results by the Board of Canvassers. — (a) where it is clearly shown before proclamation that manifest errors were committed in the tabulation or tallying of election returns, or certificates of canvass, during the canvassing as where (1) a copy of the election returns of one precinct or two or more copies of a certificate of canvass were tabulated more than once, (2) two copies of the election returns or certificate of canvass were tabulated separately, (3) there was a mistake in the adding or copying of the figures into the certificate of canvass or into the statement of votes by precinct, or (4) so-called election returns from non-existent precincts were included in the canvass, the board may motu proprio or upon verified petition by any candidate, political party, organization or coalition of political parties, after due notice and hearing, correct the errors committed.

    In Castromayor v. COMELEC 7 we held that although the above provision applies to pre-proclamation controversies, and even if the proclamation of a winning candidate has already been made, there is nothing to prevent its application to cases like the one at bar in which the validity of the proclamation is precisely in question. In Duremdes v. COMELEC, 8 this Court sustained the power of the COMELEC En Banc to order a correction of the Statement of Votes to make it conform to the election returns in accordance with a procedure similar to the procedure now embodied in Sec. 7, Rule 27, of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure. Since 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.chanrobles.com : virtual lawlibrary

    It may be argued that because petitioner has already been proclaimed as winning candidate the remedy of the losing party is an election protest over which the Regional Trial Court — and not the COMELEC nor the Municipal Board of Canvassers — has original jurisdiction. However, as this Court already ruled in Duremdes —

    It is Duremdes’ further submission that his proclamation could not be declared null and void because a pre-proclamation controversy is not proper after a proclamation has been made, the proper recourse being an election protest. This is on the assumption, however, that there has been a valid proclamation. Where a proclamation is null and void, the proclamation is no proclamation at all and the proclaimed candidate’s assumption of office cannot deprive the COMELEC of the power to declare such nullity and annul the proclamation (Aguam v. COMELEC, L-28955, 28 May 1968, 23 SCRA 883) 9

    The Statement of Votes is merely a tabulation per precinct of the votes obtained by the candidates as reflected in the election returns. What is involved in the instant case is simple arithmetic. In making the correction in the computation the Municipal Board of Canvassers acted in an administrative capacity under the control and supervision of the COMELEC. Pursuant to its constitutional function to decide questions affecting elections, the COMELEC En Banc has authority to resolve any question pertaining to the proceedings of the Municipal Board of Canvassers. 10

    WHEREFORE, the Petition is DISMISSED and the Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc dated 28 June 1995 is AFFIRMED.

    SO ORDERED.

    Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr., and Panganiban, JJ., concur.

    Torres, Jr., J., took no part.

    Endnotes:



    1. Rollo, p. 14.

    2. Id., p. 15.

    3. Id., p. 36.

    4. No. L-34427, 11 April 1972, 44 SCRA 392.

    5. G.R. Nos. 79646-47, 13 November 1987, 155 SCRA 633.

    6. G.R. No. 86645, 31 July 1991, 199 SCRA 849.

    7. G.R. No. 120426, 23 November 1995, 250 SCRA 298.

    8. G.R. Nos. 86362-63, 27 October 1989, 178 SCRA 746.

    9. Id., p. 757.

    10. See Note 7.

    G.R. No. 121031   March 26, 1997 - ROSAURO I. TORRES v. COMELEC, ET AL.




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