Estrella v. Comelec : 160465 : April 28, 2004 : J. Carpio-Morales : En
Banc : Resolution
[G.R. NO. 160465 : April
ROMEO M. ESTRELLA, Petitioners, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, HON.
COMMISSIONER RALPH C. LANTION and ROLANDO F. SALVADOR,
R E S O L U T I O N
Before this Court is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule
64 seeking to set aside and nullify the November 5, 2003 Status Quo Ante
Order1 issued by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) En Banc in EAC No. A-10-2002, Romeo F.
Estrella v. Rolando F. Salvador.
Romeo M. Estrella (petitioner) and Rolando F. Salvador
(respondent) were mayoralty candidates in Baliuag, Bulacan during the May
14, 2001 Elections.
The Municipal Board of Canvassers proclaimed respondent as
winner. Petitioner thereafter filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Bulacan an election protest, docketed as EPC No. 10-M-2001, which was raffled
to Branch 10 thereof.2 cralawred
By Decision of April 10,
2002, the RTC annulled respondents proclamation and declared
petitioner as the duly elected mayor of Baliuag.3 cralawred
Respondent appealed the RTC decision to the COMELEC where it was docketed
as EAC No. A-10-2002, and
raffled to the second Division thereof, while petitioner filed before the
RTC a motion for execution of the decision pending appeal.4 cralawred
The RTC, by Order of April
16, 2002, granted petitioners motion for execution pending appeal
and accordingly issued a writ of execution.5 cralawred
Respondent thus assailed the April 16, 2002 Order of the RTC via
petition for certiorari filed on April 24, 2002 before the COMELEC where it was
docketed as SPR No. 21-2002, and
raffled also to the Second Division thereof.6 cralawred
Petitioner later moved for the inhibition7 of Commissioner Ralph C. Lantion, a member of the COMELEC Second Division.
On May 30, 2002,
the COMELEC Second Division issued a Status Quo Ante Order,8 cralawred
By Order of July 9, 2002,
the motion for inhibition of Commissioner Lantion was denied by the COMELEC
On July 11, 2002, petitioner filed before this Court a Petition for Certiorari questioning the COMELEC Second Division May 20, 2002 Status Quo Ante Order, which petition was supplemented on July 30,
The petition was docketed by this
Court as G.R. No. 154041.
As no temporary restraining order was issued by this Court, the
May 30, 2002 Status Quo Ante Order of the COMELEC Second Division was
implemented on or about July 17, 2003,
resulting in the ouster of petitioner from the mayoral post.
In the meantime, during the July 23, 2002 hearing of SPR No. 21-2002, COMELEC Commissioner
Lantion inhibited himself.9 Commissioner Ressureccion Z. Borra was, by Order of August
25, 2002,10 thus designated in place of Commissioner Lantion.
During the pendency of G.R. No. 154041 before this Court, the
COMELEC Second Division, by Order of January 16, 2003, nullified in SPR No. 21-2002 the writ of execution11 issued by the RTC.
Respondent filed a
Motion for Reconsideration of the said Order which motion was duly certified to
the COMELEC En Banc.
On September 16, 2003, this Court, by Resolution on even date, dismissed
No. 154041 on the grounds that 1) the case had become
moot and academic because of the COMELEC Second Divisions resolution on the
merits of SPR No. 21-2002, and (2)
this Court has no jurisdiction over Division orders or rulings of the COMELEC.
On October 15, 2003,
the COMELEC Second Division, issued in EAC
No. A-10-2002 an Order12 adopting the order of substitution in SPR
No. 21-2002 dated August 25, 2002
designating Commissioner Borra as substitute member thereof.
On October 20, 2003,
the COMELEC Second Division issued in EAC
No. A-10-2002 a Resolution13 affirming with modifications the RTC decision and declaring petitioner as the
duly elected mayor.
On even date,
respondent moved to reconsider14 the said October 20, 2003
Petitioner, in the meantime, filed on October 22, 2003 a motion
for immediate execution15 of the COMELEC Second Division October 20, 2003 Resolution, which was set for
hearing on October 28, 2003 but reset to November 4, 2003.
On October 29, 2003,
respondent filed before the COMELEC Second Division a very urgent motion to
consider the instant case certified to the Commission en banc.16 cralawred
Respondent later filed on November
3, 2003 a very urgent manifestation and motion to suspend
Hearing of the incidents in EAC
No. A-10-2002 was conducted on November
The following day
or on November 5, 2003, the
COMELEC Second Division issued an Order18 denying respondents plea for suspension of proceedings and granting
petitioners motion for execution pending appeal and accordingly directing the
issuance of a writ of execution. On even date, the COMELEC En Banc issued the questioned November 5, 2003 Status Quo Ante Order.
members including Commissioner Lantion participated in this November 5, 2003 Order wherein Commissioner
Lantion stated that his previous voluntary inhibition is only in the SPR cases
and not in the EAC and as further agreed in the Second Division, [he] will
not participate in the Division deliberations but will vote when the case is
elevated [to the] en banc. Of the five Commissioners, Commissioner
Hence, the present petition, alleging as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
I.THE NOV. 5 STATUS QUO
ANTE ORDER IS NULL AND VOID FOR WANT OF CONSTITUTIONAL AND STATUTORY AUTHORITY
OF THE COMELEC TO ISSUE SUCH AND ORDER.
II.THE COMELEC EN BANC
PALPABLY ACTED WITHOUT JURISDICTION AND IN FLAGRANT BREACH OF INTER-COLLEGIAL
COMITY WHEN IT ISSUED THE NOV. 5 ORDER CONSIDERING THAT EAC NO. A-10-2002 IS
STILL UNDER THE PRIMARY AND CONTINUING JURISDICTION OF THE SPECIAL SECOND
DIVISION WHICH HAS YET TO FULLY DISPOSE OF ESTRELLAS TIMELY FILED MOTION FOR
III.DUE TO HIS PREVIOUS
VOLUNTARY INHIBITION IN A RELATED CASE, SPR NO. 21-2002 AND AT THE DIVISION
LEVEL IN THE SAME CASE, EAC NO. A-10-2002, COMMISSIONER LANTIONS VOTE IN THE
ASSAILED ORDER SHOULD BE DISREGARDED AND CANCELLED. THE EN BANCS NOV. 5 ORDER
IS THUS INVALID FOR FURTHER REASON THAT IT IS NOT SUPPORTED BY THE REQUIRED
EN BANC ALSO ACTED ARBITRARILY AND IN MANIFEST GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION
AMOUNTING TO LACK AND/OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT PREVENTED THE
ENFORCEMENT OF THE DIVISIONS ORDER OF EXECUTION THE ISSUANCE OF WHICH IS
LEGALLY JUSTIFIED UNDER THE APPLICABLE CASE PRECEDENTS AND WARRANTED UNDER THE
SPECIFIC FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE.
V.THE COMELEC EN BANC
GROSSLY VIOLATED ESTRELLAS RIGHT TO EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS AND EQUAL OR
FAIR TREATMENT WHEN IT IGNORED ITS OWN CASE PRECEDENTS AND PRACTICE. IN STARK
CONTRAST TO WHAT IT DID IN THIS CASE, THE EN BANC HAD PREVIOUSLY ALLOWED THE
FIRST DIVISION, IN AT LEAST TWO RECENT CASES (EPC NO. 2001-19 AND EAC NO.
A-4-20030 TO RESOLVE TIMELY FILED MOTION FOR EXECUTION PENDING RECONSIDERATION
AND GAVE SAID DIVISION A FREE HAND AT FULLY DISPOSING OF SAID INCIDENTS.
Petitioner argues that Commissioner Lantions vote in the
assailed order should be disregarded because of his previous inhibition in a
similar case and in the same case in the Division level, thus making said
assailed order null and void as it was not concurred by the required majority.
Petitioners argument is meritorious.
Commissioner Lantions voluntary piecemeal inhibition cannot be
Nowhere in the COMELEC
Rules does it allow a Commissioner to voluntarily inhibit with
To allow him to
participate in the En Banc proceedings when he previously inhibited
himself in the Division is, absent any satisfactory justification, not only
judicially unethical but legally improper and absurd.
Since Commissioner Lantion could not participate and vote in the
issuance of the questioned order, thus leaving three (3) members concurring
therewith, the necessary votes of four (4) or majority of the members of the
COMELEC was not attained.
thus failed to comply with the number of votes necessary for the pronouncement
of a decision or order, as required under Rule 3, Section 5(a) of the COMELEC
Rules of Procedure which provides:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Section 5. Quorum; Votes Required. (a) When sitting en banc, four
(4) Members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum for the purpose of
concurrence of a majority of the Members of the Commission shall be
necessary for the pronouncement of a decision, resolution, order or ruling.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The Status Quo Ante Order dated November
5, 2003 issued by the COMELEC En Banc is hereby NULLIFIED.
This Resolution is IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing,
Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr.,
Azcuna, and TINGA, JJ., concur.
Corona, J., on leave.
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