Enrile v. Senate Electoral Tribunal : 132986 : May 19, 2004 : J.
Sandoval-Gutierrez : En Banc : Decision
[G.R. NO. 132986 : May 19, 2004]
JUAN PONCE ENRILE, Petitioner, v. SENATE ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL and AQUILINO PIMENTEL, JR., Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Before us is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of
the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, assailing for having been issued
with grave abuse of discretion Resolution 97-221 denying petitioners Motion to Annul/Set Aside Partial Results in Pimentels
Protest and to Conduct Another Appreciation of Ballots in the Presence of All
Parties; and Resolution No. 98-022 denying his motion for reconsideration in SET Case No. 001-95, Aquilino
Pimentel, Jr. v. Gregorio B. Honasan, et al.
The antecedent facts of the case are as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
On January 20, 1995, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, private
respondent herein, filed with the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) an election
protest against Senator Juan Ponce Enrile,
Petitioner, and other senatorial
candidates who won in the May 1995 senatorial elections, docketed as SET Case
On June 30, 1995, petitioner filed his answer with
Issues having been
joined, the SET required the parties to submit the list of pilot precincts
numbering not more that 25% of the total precincts involved in respondents protest.
Subsequently, the SET conducted the revision of ballots in the
pilot precincts, namely: Paoay, Ilocos Norte; Tarlac, Tarlac; Tawi-Tawi;
Maguindanao; Sulu; Bulacan; Lanao del Sur; Lanao del Norte; Pasig City; Bian,
Laguna; Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija; Pangasinan; Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte.
Thereafter, the SET directed the parties to
submit their evidence and memoranda.
On August 21, 1997, the SET, without resolving the election
protest, held a press conference at the Supreme Court Session Hall announcing
the partial and tentative results of the revision of ballots in the pilot
A press release entitled
Partial Results in Pimentels Protest3 was then issued accompanied by the tabulation of votes for the parties.
In the said tabulation, the name of
petitioner dropped from number 11 to number 15.4 cralawred
On September 24, 1997, petitioner filed a Motion to Set Aside
Partial Results in Pimentels Protest and to Conduct Another Appreciation of
Ballots in the Presence of All Parties.5 Petitioner alleged that the partial results were manifestly erroneous.
The SET then issued Resolution No. 97-20
requiring all the parties to file their respective comments on petitioners
Only respondent and Senator
Nikki Coseteng filed their separate comments alleging, among others, that
petitioners motion is premature considering that the SET has not yet resolved
respondents election protest.
In its assailed Resolution No. 97-22, the SET admitted there was
an oversight, hence, the tally of votes for Paoay, Ilocos Norte should be
Consequently, the 30,000 votes
deducted by the SET from those garnered by petitioner were given back to him.
Nevertheless, the SET denied petitioners motion, holding that
there is no sufficient basis to discard its partial tabulation.
The Tribunal took pains in reviewing its records and hereby
acknowledges that an adjustment should be made in the tally of votes for the
Municipality of Paoay, Ilocos Norte.
However, the Tribunal alone should not be faulted for this oversight.
Although the Regional Tally for Region I was
offered in evidence by the Protestant, Protestee Enrile, far from claming that
the same reflected the accurate number of votes garnered by the senatorial
candidates, even went to the extent of objecting to its admissibility.
In the province of Ilocos Norte, the vote total of Enrile in the
SOV/M of 65,343 is listed in the PCOC at 95,343 or an increase of 30,000 votes.
As unearthed, Enriles votes had already
been corrected by the COMELEC in the Regional Tally such that the 30,000 votes
deducted by the Tribunal must be, as it is hereby, given back to him.
Similarly, Mitra regains the 20,000 votes
deducted from him in this province.
These corrections, notwithstanding, the Tribunal finds no
sufficient basis to discard its partial tabulation.In fact, the ranking of the parties is not at all affected by the
Finally, to grant Enriles prayer to have himself represented in
the appreciation of ballots by the Tribunal amounts to an encroachment on judicial
Needless to state,
appreciation of evidence is the Tribunals exclusive domain.
Petitioner filed his motion for reconsideration but was denied by
the SET in its Resolution No. 98-02.
Hence, this petition, petitioner contending that:
PUBLIC RESPONDENT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF
DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN RULING THAT NO
SIFFICIENT BASIS EXISTS TO ANNUL THE MANIFESTLY ERRONEOUS TABULATION OF THE
RESULTS OF REVISION AND APPRECIATION OF BALLOTS.
PUBLIC RESPONDENT COMMITTED PATENT AND
GROSS ERROR IN RECTIFYING THE RESULTS OF THE PHYSICAL COUNT, AS REFELCTED IN
THE REVISION RPORTS BY USING OTHER ELECTIOB DOCUMENTS.
PUBLIC RESPONDENT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF
DISCRETION WHEN IT RELEASED PARTIAL AND TENTATIVE RESULTS WHICH CAUSED GRAVE
PREJUDICE TO HEREIN PETITIONER.
THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COMMITTED GRAVE
ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN RULING THAT PETITIONER IS NOT ENTITLED TO BE HEARD IN
THE APPRECIATION PROCEEDINGS.
The main issue for our resolution is whether or not the SET
committed grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioners Motion To Set
Aside Partial Results in Pimentels Protest and to Conduct Another Appreciation
of Ballots in the Presence of all Parties.
Petitioner contends that the partial results released by the SET
are erroneous because they are improbable and not supported by evidence.
In their comments, both respondent and the Solicitor General
maintain that the SET did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing the
the Solicitor General asserts that the present petition has become moot and
academic because the tenure of the contested senatorial position subject of
respondents protest where the assailed Resolutions originated expired on June
In its assailed Resolution No. 97-22, the SET explained the
process in determining the partial results, thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The entire process in determining the parties votes in the pilot
municipalities is explained in the corresponding written reports thereon
shortly to be completed.
meantime, let it be stressed that the proceedings conducted by the Tribunal
with respect to the pilot areas of Protestant Pimentel consisted of several
stages or steps, to wit:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
a.Recount and revision of the ballots
where the parties are represented;
b.Recount and revision of the ballots
where the parties are represented;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
c.Examination of the different election
documents including the verification of the accuracy of the addition of the
figures appearing on Statement of Votes by Precincts (SOV/M or SOV/C); andcralawlibrary
d.Comparison of the figures appearing on
the SOV/P, the Municipal or City Certificate of Canvass (MCOC or CCOPC),
SOV/M or SOV/C and the Provincial Certificate of Canvass (PCOC).
From the arguments of protestee Enrile, it is apparent that only
the revision of ballots and the SOV/P were taken into account.
Worse, he speculated on the rulings made in
the appreciation of ballots.
x x x
Put differently, the number of ballots objected to against a
particular party is not necessarily the maximum number of votes that may be
deducted from the said party, in the same way as the number of ballots/votes
claimed by a party is not necessarily the maximum number of votes that may be credited
to said party.
As a result of the
appreciation of the contested ballots, the parties may be deducted more votes
than the number of ballots specifically objected to against them, or may be
credited with additional votes even if the parties made no claims.
Aside from the ruling on the claims and objections, the Tribunal
likewise verified the accuracy of the counting of ballots done by the revision
teams. Errors in the revision reports were rectified which also resulted in the
addition to, or deduction of votes from the parties.
Consistent with the allegation of Protestant Pimentel that
Operation Dagdag-Bawas was affected through the padding or deduction of votes
in the different election documents, the Tribunal also conducted accuracy
checks on the addition of the figures appearing on the SOV/P and the SOV/M.
The verification process disclosed errors
which have resulted in the addition or deduction of votes from the parties.
To ensure that the correct figures were recorded from one election
document to the other, the Tribunal compared the figures appearing on the SOV/P
vis--vis the MCOC/CCOC; the MCOC/CCOC with the PCOC.Where the discrepancies in the figures were noted, the
corresponding adjustments were made which resulted in the addition or deduction
of votes from the parties.
Thus, while the votes of the parties in the municipal level are
determined through the counting and appreciation of the ballots, the votes of
the parties on the provincial level are also adjusted on the basis of the
comparison of the different election documents.The written report/decision on the pilot precincts, soon to be
released, contains the specifics and sets forth in detail the reason for each
addition or deduction of votes.
The above process clearly shows why the figures presented by
petitioner in his motion do not tally with the figures released by the SET.
At any rate, we agree with the Solicitor General that the
petition has become moot and academic.
The tenure of the contested senatorial position subject of this petition
expired as early as June 30, 1998.
A case becomes moot and academic when there is no more actual
controversy between the parties or no useful purpose can be served in passing
upon the merits.6 cralawred
In Garcia v. COMELEC ,7 we held that where the issues
have become moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, thereby
rendering the resolution of the same of no practical use or value.
Likewise, in Gancho-on v. Secretary of Labor and
8 we ruled:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
It is a rule of universal application that courts of justice
constituted to pass upon substantial rights will not consider questions in
which no actual interests are involved; they decline jurisdiction of moot
And where the issue has become
moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, so that a declaration
thereon would be of no practical use or value. There is no actual substantial
relief to which petitioners would be entitled and which would be negated by the
dismissal of the petition.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.
Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio,
Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and TINGA, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr. C.J., and Puno, J., on official leave.
Vitug, J., acting Chief
Justice, no part.
3 Annex C, Petition for Certiorari at 49-56.
7 G.R. No. 121139, July 12, 1996, 258 SCRA 754, 757.
8 G.R. No. 108033, April 14, 1997, 271 SCRA 204, 207-208.
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