Idulza v. Comelec : 160130 : April 14, 2004 : J. Tinga : En Banc :
[G.R. NO. 160130.
ISIDRO IDULZA and GODOFREDO CABANA,
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and TERESITA
A. BOLLOZOS, REY L. MORTIZ, MIGUEL P. PADERANGA, JOJAC Q. ASUNCION and CIFERINO
L. GARCIA, JR.,
R E S O L U T I O N
An election protest was filed by three unsuccessful candidates
for seats in the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Gingoog City, directed at
three proclaimed candidates. The COMELEC found merit in the protest and ordered
the protestees to vacate their posts. In reviewing the COMELECs actions, the
Court is guided by two principles particular to election cases: the recognition
of the COMELECs specialized role in the supervision of elections, and the
liberal construction of election laws to the end that the will of the people
may not be defeated by mere technical objections.
On 17 May 2001, petitioners Isidro Idulza (Idulza) and
Godofredo Cabana (Cabana) were proclaimed as the seventh (7th) and eighth
(8th) winning candidates for the office of members of the Sangguniang
Panglungsod of Gingoog City.
Private respondents Miguel Paderanga (Paderanga),
(Asuncion), and Ciferino L. Garcia, Jr. (Garcia),
all losing candidates for
the same office, filed an election protest with the COMELEC on 25 May 2001,
against the two petitioners therein and Besben Maquiso (Maquiso),
placed ninth (9th) in the canvass results. The election protest was docketed as
COMELEC Case No. EPC 2001-3.
conducting the revision of ballots, the COMELEC Second Division (Second
Division) on 16 January 2003 promulgated a Resolution that settled the
election protest at that point. It determined that the parties garnered the
following number of votes:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Cabana -16,2661 cralawred
At the same time, the Second Division
determined that one Rey Y. Mortiz (Mortiz),
who was not a party to the
election protest, had garnered more votes than the three protestants.
Apparently, per the Certificate of Canvass, Mortiz had placed tenth
(10th) in the city council election, though he had not been impleaded in the
protest as he was a party-mate of the protestants.2 cralawred
Consequently, the Second Division disposed of the election
protest in this wise:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, the instant protest is hereby GRANTED.
Protestants Paderanga, Asuncion and Garcia are hereby declared
winners and councilors-elect of Gingoog City, in the following order:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
1.8th place Miguel P. Paderanga
place Jojac Q. Asuncion
place Ceferino (sic) L. Garcia, Jr.
As a consequence of the final numerical results of the votes
obtained by the winning candidates vis--vis the number of those authorized to
be elected, Rey Y. Mortiz, who garnered more votes than the three Protestants
herein, wins the seventh (7th) rank in the City Council.
Protestees Isidro Idulsa, Besben Maquiso, and Godofredo Cabana are
hereby ordered to vacate their positions as Councilors No. 7, 8 and 9 in the
City Council, Gingoog City.
SO ORDERED.3 cralawred
Obviously aggrieved, the protestees, filed a Motion for
Reconsideration before the COMELEC En Banc on 21 January 2003. Aside
from contesting the Second Divisions appreciation of the contested ballots, the
petitioners also specifically questioned the proclamation of Mortiz, who was
not a party to the election protest. Petitioners also noted therein that
Asuncion and Garcia had filed certificates of candidacy for Punong Barangay
and Barangay Kagawad respectively in the 15 July 2002 barangay
elections, and Asuncion was elected. As a result, it was argued, Asuncion and
Garcia should be deemed to have abandoned their election protest.4 cralawred
On 17 February 2003, before the COMELEC En Banc had
resolved the Motion for Reconsideration, private respondent Teresita A.
who was not a party to the election protest, filed a Motion
for Leave to Intervene in `COMELEC Case No. EPC 2001-3, with her Motion
for Intervention appended thereto. She alleged therein that she too was a
losing candidate for the Gingoog City Sanggunian, yet her vote total according
to the records had surpassed the number of votes ascribed to Asuncion and
Garcia.5 She therefore asserted that she should have been proclaimed as the ninth (9th)
winning candidate in lieu of Asuncion, who should have placed tenth (10th)
On 18 September 2003, the COMELEC En Banc issued a Resolution
partially affirming the Second Divisions Resolution. It held that the
Second Division committed no reversible error as to the appreciation of the
contested ballots, and in declaring Mortiz as the seventh (7th) place
councilor. However, the COMELEC also considered Bollozos claim as meritorious,
as according to it, [r]ecords reveal that Bollozos garnered a total of
seventeen thousand twenty-three (17,023) votes, clearly outnumbering
[Asuncions] 16,567 votes and [Garcias] 16,502 votes.6 Bollozos Motion for Intervention was thus granted, and Bollozos was
proclaimed as the ninth (9th) place candidate. At the same time, the
COMELEC En Banc also ruled that Asuncion should not be proclaimed, as he
has been deemed to have abandoned his protest due to his successful candidacy
for Punong Barangay in the 15 July 2002 elections. Accordingly, the
tenth (10th) place was declared vacant.
Petitioners now come before this Court on a Petition for
Certiorari, assailing the Resolutions of the COMELEC. They assert
that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in proclaiming Mortiz and
Bollozos, the former having no participation in the election protest, while the
latter having filed her motion for intervention beyond the period provided by
law.7 They also question the manner of appreciation by the COMELEC of the contested
ballots.8 Finally, they applied for a Temporary Restraining Order, which the Court
has not granted.
The appreciation of contested ballots and election documents
involves a question of fact best left to the determination of the COMELEC, a
specialized agency tasked with the supervision of elections all over the
country.9 The findings of fact of the COMELEC when supported by substantial evidence are
final and non-reviewable.10 Petitioners want this Court to review the specific appreciation by the Second
Division of ballots cast in forty-eight (48) precincts in Gingoog City. The bar
for this manner of review is quite high, considering that the Court is not a
trier of facts. Yet before this Court, petitioners merely direct us to examine
the contrary conclusions made by Commissioner Florentino Tuason in his dissenting
opinion, without particularly explaining why we should substitute the findings
of one commissioner in lieu of those of the COMELEC speaking as a collegial
An examination of the Tuason dissent reveals that it is
predicated not on any broad question of law, but on the specific application of
principles of election law vis--vis particular ballots. His
disagreement with the majority is purely factual in basis, too detailed to the
point of being pernickety. On the other hand, the thirty (30) -page majority
opinion is just as detailed in providing for the general principles applicable
in appreciating the ballots, and in explaining why each particular contested
ballot was interpreted in the particular way that it was. Petitioners are
unable to point out why the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in the
appreciation of the contested ballots. Notwithstanding the dissenting opinion,
the Second Divisions factual findings, as affirmed by the COMELEC En Banc,
are supported by substantial evidence and thus beyond the ken of review by the
Thus, the Court is bound by the findings of the COMELEC as to how
many votes the parties had obtained in the city council election. The COMELEC
had also noted that Mortiz, who had originally placed tenth (10th),
the seventh (7th) placer, considering that his original vote total still
surpassed that of the protestants.
are unable to see how such declaration by the COMELEC could constitute grave
abuse of discretion, even if Mortiz had not been a party to the election
protest. He was not a losing candidate elevated into victory, as he apparently
was already proclaimed a duly elected city councilor in May of 2001.11 The petitioners were dislodged from their respective seats because the private
respondents garnered more votes than them. Mortizs vote total remained
unchanged despite the protest. His elevation to seventh (7th) place is but a
necessary consequence of the finding of the COMELEC that the petitioners had
actually obtained less number of votes than as reflected in the first canvass
results. It would be patently ridiculous for the Court or the COMELEC to hold
that he should still be deemed as the tenth (10th) placer when the amended vote
totals reveal that he had garnered more votes than the new eighth (8th) placer.
Presumptively, the vote totals as amended after the revision more accurately
reflect the true will of the voters of Gingoog City, and the elevation of
councilor Mortiz from tenth (10th) to seventh (7th) place is in consonance with
the electoral mandate.
Election protests are guided by an extra-ordinary rule of
interpretation 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 mere technical objections.12 For that reason, the Court sustains the allowance by the COMELEC of Bollozos Intervention.
It would have been explicitly anomalous had Bollozos not been seated in the
City Council, considering that her uncontested vote total had exceeded that of
Asuncion, the ninth (9th) placer according to the Second Division. The people
of Gingoog City had chosen Bollozos to serve as their councilor, and it was but
proper for the COMELEC to recognize that electoral will and accordingly amend
the Second Divisions Resolution.
Besides, in allowing the Bollozos Intervention, the
COMELEC did not stretch itself by applying an overarching equitable principle
that would have disturbed the judicially sedate. Statutory prescription on the right
to intervene in an election protest is provided only by the COMELEC Rules of
Procedure, particularly Rule 8, Section 1. The aforementioned rule does state
that the motion for intervention be filed before or during the trial of an
action or proceeding.13 At the same time, the COMELEC Rules of Procedure are to be construed liberally
in order to promote the effective and efficient implementation of the
objectives of ensuring the holding of free, orderly, honest, peaceful and
credible elections and to achieve just, expeditious and inexpensive
determination and disposition of every action and proceeding before the
COMELEC.14 The allowance of the motion for intervention was clearly geared towards
fostering honest, credible elections and a just outcome centered around the
proper proclamation of a candidate whom the voters have chosen to serve as
Admittedly, the Rules of Court provides that a motion to
intervene be filed at any time before rendition of judgment of the trial court.15 However, the suppletory role of the Rules of Court in this case must be
dispensed with if its application would frustrate the electoral will. Further,
as the Solicitor General points out in his Comment filed in behalf of
the COMELEC, the Court has, in exceptional cases, allowed intervention
notwithstanding the rendition of judgment by the trial court16,
or even after the case had become final and executory.17 The Court is not ordinarily predisposed, on account of broad claims of equity,
to disregard infractions of procedural rules. Yet election cases are of such an
exceptional character that the supervening State interest is to ensure that the
true results of its elections are given efficacy. We find that the COMELECs
grant of the Bollozos Intervention is in accord with this superior
principle which is grounded on the imperative to seek and make the sovereign
will of the people prevail.
Finally, none of the parties question the COMELEC En Bancs declaration
of vacancy of the tenth (10th) seat in the Sangguniang Panglungsod of
Gingoog City on the premise that the tenth (10th) placer Asuncions subsequent
active candidacy and election as Punong Barangay should be deemed an
abandonment of his protest. In so holding, the COMELEC En Banc cited the
Courts majority opinion in the case of Defensor-Santiago v. Ramos.18 The parties adduced no compelling reason for the Court to disturb this
conclusion of the COMELEC. At the same time, the eleventh (11th) placer Garcia
cannot be elevated to the tenth (10th) spot, for the simple reason that the
electorate of Gingoog City did not elect him as one of the ten (10) city
petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing,
Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona,
Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., and
Azcuna, JJ., concur.
Per Comment of Private Respondents dated 2 February 2004, page 3, Footnote
Number 4, Rollo
, p. 176.
, p. 55. The Resolution was signed by Commissioners Ralph C.
Lantion and Mehol K. Sadain. Commissioner Florentino A. Tuason, Jr. filed a
19-page dissenting opinion, which took issue with the majoritys appreciation
of particular ballots after revision. Based on Commissioner Tuasons own Summary
of Votes, the protestees would have still obtained a higher vote total than
that of the protestants. See Rollo
, pp. 56-74.
Section 5, Rule 64, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
. COMELEC, supra
7, citing Bince, Jr. v
. COMELEC, 242 SCRA 273 (1995); Benito v. COMELEC,
235 SCRA 436 (1994); Pahilan v
. Tabalba, 230 SCRA 205 (1994); Aruelo,
. Court of Appeals, 227 SCRA 311 (1993); Tatlonghari v. COMELEC,
199 SCRA 849 (1991); Unda v
. COMELEC, 190 SCRA 827 (1990); De Leon v
Guadiz, Jr., 104 SCRA 591 (1981).
See Section 1, Rule 8, COMELEC Rules of Procedure.
Section 3, Rule 1, COMELEC Rules of Procedure.
Section 2, Rule 19, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
See Director of Lands v
. Court of Appeals, 93 SCRA 238 (1979).
See Defensor-Santiago v
. Ramos, 253 SCRA 559, 573 (1996).
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 entitle the candidate who obtained the second
highest number of votes to be declared the winner of the elective office.
Labo, Jr. v
. COMELEC, 176 SCRA 1, 21 (1989).
Back to Home | Back to Main