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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT JURISPRUDENCE
 

 
PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT JURISPRUDENCE
 

   
April-2006 Jurisprudence                 

  • A.M. No. 04-6-332-RTC - REPORT ON THE INVESTIGATION CONDUCTED ON THE ALLEGED SPURIOUS BAILBONDS ETC.

  • A.M. No. 2005-18-SC - RE: ANONYMOUS COMPLAINT AGAINST MR. RODEL M. GABRIEL

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  • A.M. No. P-03-1739 - OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR VS. NORMALYN P. NACURAY

  • A.M. No. P-06-2158 - JUDGE DOMINGO C. SAN JOSE, JR. VS. ROBERT T. CAMURONGAN

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  • A.M. No. P-03-1739 - OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR v. NORMALYN P. NACURAY

  • A.M. No. P-06-2110 and A.M. NO. P-03-1692 - CRISTETA D. ORFILA v. ESTIFANA S. ARELLANO

  • A.M. No. P-06-2158 - JUDGE DOMINGO C. SAN JOSE, JR. v. ROBERT T. CAMURONGAN

  • A.M. No. P-06-2159 - ABSENCE WITHOUT OFFICIAL LEAVE (AWOL) OF EDWIN V. GARROBO ETC.

  • A.M. No. RTJ-05-1920, A. M. No. RTJ-99-1432, A.M. NO. RTJ-01-1623 adn A. M. No. 10425-Ret. - CONCERNED TRIAL LAWYERS OF MANILA VS. JUDGE LORENZO B. VENERACION

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  • A.M. No. RTJ-06-1993 - AUGUSTUS M. GONZALES VS. JUDGE ANTONIO B. BANTOLO

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  • A.M. No. RTJ-06-1993 - AUGUSTUS M. GONZALES v. JUDGE ANTONIO B. BANTOLO

  • A.M. No. RTJ-05-1941 - OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR v. JUDGE LOURDES M. GARCIA-BLANCO, ET AL.

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  • G.R. No. 146556 - DANILO L. PAREL v. SIMEON B. PRUDENCIO

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  • G.R. No. 152149 - BENJAMIN SUBIDO v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

  • G.R. No. 153022 - NATIONAL POWER CORPORATION v. AGUSTIN A. ZOZOBRADO

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  • G.R. No. 157331 - ARNOLD ALVA v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. 158268 - RHODA CASTOR-GARUPA v. ECC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 158637 - MARICALUM MINING CORPORATION v. ANTONIO DECORION

  • G.R. No. 158883 - PHILIPPINE TRANSMARINE CARRIERS, INC. v. JOHN MELCHOR A. LAURENTE

  • G.R. No. 159354 - UNITED PHILIPPINE LINES, INC., ET AL. v. FRANCISCO D. BESERIL

  • G.R. No. 159507 - ANICETO G. SALUDO, JR. v. AMERICAN EXPRESS INTERNATIONAL, INC., ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 159457 - NATIONAL POWER CORPORATION v. PHILIPPINE ELECTRIC PLANT OWNERS ASSOCIATION (PEPOA), INC

  • G.R. No. 159828 - KASAPIAN NG MALAYANG MANGGAGAWA SA COCA-COLA v. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 159887 - BERNARDO REMIGIO v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 160351 - NOEL VILLANUEVA v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 160614 - LEONARDO M. DALWAMPO, ET AL. v. QUINOCOL FARMERS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 161811 - THE CITY OF BAGUIO, ET AL. v. FRANCISCO NI O, ET AL.

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  • G.R. No. 163269 - ROLANDO C. RIVERA v. SOLIDBANK CORPORATION

  • G.R. No. 163217 - CELESTINO MARTURILLAS v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

  • G.R. No. 164225 - JUHARY A. GALO v. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 164774 - STAR PAPER CORPORATION, ET AL. v. RONALDO D. SIMBOL, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 164929 - ERNELIZA Z. MAMARIL v. CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION

  • G.R. No. 165727 - TOWER INDUSTRIAL SALES, ET AL. v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 165881 - OSCAR VILLAMARIA, JR. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 165910 - HANJIN ENGINEERING, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 165934 - United Philippine Lines, Inc., et al. v. Francisco D. Beseril

  • G.R. No. 166040 - Niel F. Llave v. People of the Philippines

  • G.R. No. 167033 - ESTRELITA "NENG" JULIANO v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 167193 - IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR HABEAS CORPUS v. ENGR. ASHRAF KUNTING

  • G.R. No. 167048 - MARIETTA T. CAUGMA, ET AL. v. THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 167639 - REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES v. PRINCIPALIA MANAGEMENT, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 167798 and G.R. NO. 167930 - KILUSANG MAYO UNO, ET AL. v. THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 167959 - FILIPINAS SYSTEMS "FILSYSTEMS," INC., ET AL. VS. ERNESTO GATLABAYAN, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 168222 - SPS. TEODULO RUMARATE, ET AL. v. HILARIO HERNANDEZ, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 168736 - SPS. ADELINA S. CUYCO AND FELICIANO U. CUYCO v. SPS. RENATO CUYCO AND FILIPINA CUYCO

  • G.R. No. 168821 - GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM (GSIS) v. JAIME A. VALENCIANO

  • G.R. No. 169108 - INTERCONTINENTAL BROADCASTING CORPORATION (IBC-13) v. HON. ROSE MARIE ALONZO LEGASTO, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 169393 - TONY L. BENWAREN v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 169777, G.R. NO. 169659, G.R. NO. 169660, G.R. NO. 169667, G.R. NO. 169834 and G.R. NO. 171246 - SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES, ET AL. v. EDUARDO R. ERMITA ETC.

  • G.R. No. 170695 - UNITED OVERSEAS BANK PHILIPPINES, INC. v. SIONY CHING AND TOWNTEC REALTY & DEVELOPMENT CORP

  • G.R. No. 169838, G.R. NO. 169848 and G.R. NO. 169881 - BAYAN, ET AL. v. EDUARDO ERMITA, ET AL.

  •  





     
     

    G.R. No. 169393 - TONY L. BENWAREN v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ET AL.

      G.R. No. 169393 - TONY L. BENWAREN v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ET AL.

    PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

    EN BANC

    [G.R. NO. 169393 : April 7, 2006]

    TONY L. BENWAREN, Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and EDWIN CRISOLOGO, Respondents.

    D E C I S I O N

    AZCUNA, J.:

    This is a petition for certiorari alleging that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) en banc gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the Resolution of August 3, 2005, which denied the motion to reconsider the COMELEC's First Division Resolution dated February 18, 2005.

    The COMELEC's First Divison Resolution dated February 18, 2005 dismissed petitioner's Petition to Annul Proclamation or to Suspend the Effects Thereof and Petition to Declare Illegal [the] Proceedings of the New Board of Canvassers of Tineg, Abra.

    The antecedents are as follows:

    Petitioner Tony L. Benwaren and private respondent Edwin Crisologo were candidates for the position of Municipal Mayor of the Municipality of Tineg, Abra in the May 2004 elections. After the elections, the Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBC) of Tineg, Abra canvassed 14 out of 16 election returns from the 16 precincts that functioned on the day of the elections. The election returns from Precincts Nos. 8A and 16A were contested and became the subject of pre-proclamation controversies before the COMELEC.

    During the canvass of the election return of Precinct No. 16A on May 15, 2004, counsel for petitioner objected to the inclusion of the election return on the ground that the same was allegedly prepared under duress, force or intimidation, or was prepared by persons other than the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) concerned. He added that the other copies of the election return were likewise tampered with, altered, falsified, inauthentic or prepared under duress, threat, intimidation or coercion or by unauthorized persons.

    On May 16, 2004, the MBC issued a Ruling excluding the election return of Precinct No. 16A of Tineg, Abra insofar as the mayoralty candidates were concerned on the following grounds:

    x x x It is very apparent on the face of the election return that irregularities were attendant in its preparation and its submission to the Board. No names of BEI appeared in the ER, [the ER is] not signed and thumbmark[ed] and the copy for the ER inten[d]ed for national positions is missing. Likewise the BEIs cannot be located.

    The MBC deferred the proclamation of the winning candidate for the position of Municipal Mayor because it contended that the contested election return from Precinct No. 16A would affect the result of the election for the position.

    On May 19, 2004, Benwaren filed a petition1 before the COMELEC, docketed as COMELEC Case No. SPC 04-091, praying for the issuance of an order granting authority to re-open the ballot box from Precinct No. 16A and to recount its ballots.

    On June 28, 2004, the COMELEC's First Division dismissed the petition. However, on July 21, 2004, it issued a Supplemental Resolution, the dispositive portion of which reads:

    Thus, to finally and speedily settle and put an end to the controversy at hand following the procedure laid down in Section 235 of the Omnibus Election Code, this Commission (First Division) hereby ORDERS the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Tineg, Abra to:

    1. Reconvene, upon prior notice to the parties, candidates, and persons concerned;

    2. Retrieve the other authentic copies of subject election returns and if necessary, the copy inside the ballot box and canvass the same;

    3. Retrieve, after giving notice to the candidates concerned, the ballot box containing the ballots in the subject precinct from the Municipal Treasurer should the other copies of the return [appear] likewise to be tampered with, altered or falsified, or otherwise not authentic, or [to have been] prepared by the board of election inspectors under duress, force, intimidation, or prepared by persons other than the member[s] of the board of election inspectors;

    4. Determine if the identity and integrity of the said ballot box and the ballots contained therein were not violated; and, proceed to recount the votes of the candidates affected and prepare a new election return for the said precinct; and then

    5. Canvass the said return and proclaim the winning candidate/s; or

    6. Proclaim the winning candidate/s based on the remaining uncontested returns, [if] the integrity of the ballot box and the ballots contained therein have not been preserved and are no longer intact.

    For the above purpose, a new board of Canvassers is hereby constituted to be composed of Atty. Armando Velasco as chairman, and Atty. Jubil Surmieda and Atty. Ma. Norina Tangaro-Casingal, as Vice Chairman and Secretary, respectively, the same to convene at the Comelec Main Office, Manila.

    SO ORDERED.2

    The New MBC issued notices to the concerned parties that it will convene on August 3, 2004 to canvass the contested election return from the ballot box of Precinct No. 16A, Barangay Lanec, Tineg, Abra.

    On August 3, 2004, the New MBC convened and the counsels for both parties were present. Petitioner alleged that before the integrity of the ballot box of Precinct No. 16A and its contents was determined, his counsel moved that the officially canvassed returns must first be tabulated, including the election return from Precinct No. 8A, to determine the actual results. However, the New MBC denied the motion and ruled that Precinct No. 8A cannot be included in the canvass because of the pending pre-proclamation case entitled In the Matter of the Petition to Exclude Election Returns of Precinct No. 8A, Municipality of Tineg, Abra, Edwin Crisologo, petitioner (SPC 2004-216), and the results therein were recorded in a Temporary Statement of Votes.

    After opening the ballot box of Precinct No. 16A, the New MBC issued a Ruling, thus:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

    Pursuant to the Resolution of the First Division in SPC No. 04-091 in re "IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION FOR AUTHORITY TO RE-OPEN BALLOT BOX AND RECOUNT BALLOTS FROM PRECINCT NO. 16-A OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF TINEG, ABRA, - the Board proceeded with the determination of the identity and integrity of the ballot box from precinct 16-A and the ballots contained therein x x x and found as follows:

    1. The Board found the integrity of the ballot box to have been violated considering the fact and as borne out by the Minutes of the previous Board, [that] the ballot box of Precinct 16-A was left at the lobby of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Building unattended, it was not delivered to the Municipal Trea[s]urer of Tineg, Abra, who is the proper custodian of the same as provided under the Omnibus Election Code;

    2. The Board likewise found that the integrity of the ballots [was] no longer intact considering the fact that the said ballots were not placed in its proper envelope and neither was it sealed with the paper seal provided for by the Commission.

    Considering the foregoing including the manifestations and counter manifestations of both parties, the Board rules as follows:

    1. the board is left with no recourse but to proceed with the implementation of paragraph six (6) of the above stated Resolution, "To proclaim the winning candidate/s based on the remaining uncontested returns, [if] the integrity of the ballot box and the ballots contained therein have not been preserved and are no longer intact.";

    2. the Motion of counsel for complainant Benwaren to have a physical count of the votes for petitioner and respondent as part of the inventory is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.3

    The New MBC proclaimed private respondent Crisologo as the duly elected mayor of Tineg, Abra based on the results of the remaining uncontested election returns.

    On August 9, 2004, petitioner filed a Petition to Annul Proclamation or to Suspend the Effects Thereof and Petition to Declare Illegal [the] Proceedings of the New Board of Canvassers of Tineg, Abra, docketed as SPC No. 04-297.

    In a Resolution dated February 18, 2005, the COMELEC First Division dismissed the petition for lack of merit, declaring the New MBC was specifically mandated by it to determine whether the identity and integrity of the ballot box for Precinct No. 16A and its ballots were violated. Thus, it held that the matter was left to the sound discretion of the members of the New MBC, which complied with its order. It added that the New MBC is presumed to have regularly performed its official duty absent a strong proof to the contrary by petitioner.

    The COMELEC First Division also ruled that the proclamation of respondent Crisologo, even without the election return from Precinct No. 8A having been canvassed, was proper under Section 20 (i) of Republic Act No. 7166, thus:

    The Board of Canvassers shall not proclaim any candidate as winner unless authorized by the Commission after the latter has ruled on the object brought to it on appeal by the losing party. Any proclamation made in violation hereof shall be void ab initio, unless the contested returns will not adversely affect the results of the election.

    The COMELEC First Division stated that if the votes of Benwaren and Crisologo in Precinct No. 8A are added to their votes in the uncontested precincts, Crisologo still emerges as the winner.

    Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied for lack of merit by the COMELEC en banc in a Resolution dated August 31, 2005.

    Petitioner thus filed this petition, raising the following issues:

    1. The COMELEC gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it affirmed the ruling of the New MBC that the integrity of the ballot box for Precinct No. 16A, Barangay Lanec, Tineg, Abra, and its contents had been violated.

    2. The COMELEC gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it illegally proclaimed private respondent Crisologo based on incomplete canvass of votes.

    3. The COMELEC en banc Resolution dated August 31, 2005 was illegally promulgated since former Commissioners Virgilio O. Garcillano and Manuel A. Barcelona, Jr. were no longer members of the COMELEC at the time of promulgation.4

    Petitioner contendsthat the COMELEC en banc gravely abused its discretion in sustaining the First Division's Resolution that affirmed the Ruling of the New MBC that the integrity of the ballot box of Precinct No. 16A and its contents had been violated despite insufficient evidence to justify the ruling. He argues that the finding of the New MBC that the integrity of the ballot box for Precinct No. 16A and its contents was violated because the ballot box was "left at the lobby of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan unattended," and that the "ballots were not placed in its proper envelope and neither was it sealed with the paper seal provided for by the Commission" is insufficient as basis for concluding against the integrity of the ballot box and ballots from Precinct No. 16A. Hence, he asserts that the results of Precinct No. 16A should not have been excluded.

    The contention is without merit.

    In its Supplemental Resolution dated July 21, 2004, the COMELEC First Division specifically mandated the New MBC to determine whether the identity and integrity of the ballot box of Precinct No. 16A and its ballots were violated. After convening for that purpose, the New MBC found that the integrity of the ballot box of Precinct No. 16A and its contents was violated and it issued a Ruling accordingly. The COMELEC upheld the factual finding of the New MBC and declared that the New MBC is presumed to have regularly performed its official duty absent any proof to the contrary by petitioner. The factual findings of administrative agencies which have acquired expertise in their field are generally binding and conclusive on the courts in the absence of grave abuse and none has been shown in this case.

    Next, petitioner contends that private respondent Crisologo's proclamation is void, because it was based on an incomplete canvass of votes. He claims that the New MBC hastily made the proclamation despite the pending petition for exclusion of the election return of Precinct No. 8A; hence, the votes contained in the election return of Precinct No. 8A and the votes in Precinct No. 16A, which would materially affect the result of the election, were not counted.

    Respondent Crisologo, on the other hand, claims that the ruling of the MBC on the election return of Precinct No. 8A is pending appeal before the COMELEC, so that it may be deduced that the MBC denied his petition to exclude from the canvass the election return of Precinct No. 8A.

    The COMELEC ruled that based on Section 20 (i) of Republic Act No. 7166,5 earlier cited, the proclamation of private respondent Crisologo was proper because the contested returns would not adversely affect the results of the election, thus: Petitioner Benwaren himself admitted that excluding the votes cast in the two contested precincts, he (Benwaren) had 807 votes, while Crisologo had 914 votes. If the votes in Precinct No. 8A as reflected on the contested return are added to their votes in the uncontested precincts, the result would be 918 as against 924, in favor of private respondent Crisologo who still emerges the winner by a margin of six (6) votes.

    It bears noting that it was private respondent Crisologo, and not petitioner, who contested the election return of Precinct No. 8A, so petitioner cannot claim to get more than what is reflected in the election return of that precinct. The propriety of including or excluding the said return, therefore, is thereby rendered moot and academic. Consequently, the proclamation of respondent Crisologo has to be sustained.

    In view of the foregoing, the COMELEC en banc did not gravely abuse its discretion in upholding the proclamation of private respondent.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

    Lastly, petitioner contends that the COMELEC en banc Resolution promulgated on August 31, 2005 is null and void, because Commissioners Virgilio O. Garcillano and Manuel A. Barcelona, Jr., who participated in the Resolution, were no longer members of the COMELEC en banc at the time of its promulgation. Petitioner asserts that it is public knowledge that as of June 9, 2005, Garcillano and Barcelona were no longer connected with the COMELEC since their ad interim appointments were bypassed by the

    Commission on Appointments and they were not re-appointed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

    In his Comment, private respondent Crisologo admits that the questioned COMELEC en banc Resolution bore the signatures of former Commissioners Garcillano and Barcelona, who were no longer COMELEC Commissioners during the promulgation of the Resolution. Nevertheless, he contends that their participation will not affect the validity of the Resolution because four other Commissioners and the Chairman concurred with the ponencia. He adds that it was a unanimous decision by the sitting and actual members of the COMELEC, since no other commissioners were appointed at that time.

    The Court agrees with private respondent. A decision becomes binding only after it is validly promulgated.6 Consequently, if at the time of the promulgation of a decision or resolution, a member of the collegiate court who had earlier signed or registered his vote has vacated his office, his vote is automatically withdrawn or cancelled.7 The Resolution, in this case, remains valid because it is still supported by a majority of the COMELEC en banc.

    WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The Resolution of the Commission on Elections en banc dated August 3, 2005, denying reconsideration of the Resolution of the Commission on Elections First Division dated February 18, 2005, is AFFIRMED.

    No costs.

    SO ORDERED.


    Endnotes:


    1 Entitled IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION FOR AUTHORITY TO RE-OPEN BALLOT BOX AND RECOUNT BALLOTS FROM PRECINCT NO. 16-A OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF TINEG, ABRA, TONY L. BENWAREN, Petitioner.

    2 Rollo, pp. 47-48.

    3 Rollo, p. 50.

    4 Rollo, pp. 19-20.

    5 Entitled, "AN ACT PROVIDING FOR SYNCHRONIZED NATIONAL AND LOCAL ELECTIONS AND FOR ELECTORAL REFORMS, AUTHORIZING APPROPRIATIONS THEREFOR, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES."

    6 Jamil v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 123648, December 15, 1997, 283 SCRA 349, 371.

    7 Ibid.

    G.R. No. 169393 - TONY L. BENWAREN v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ET AL.


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