S. DE CASTRO,
G. R. No. 125249
February 7, 1997
E C I S I O N
and AMANDO A. MEDRANO,
HERMOSISIMA, JR., J.:
Before Us is a
petition for certiorari raising
twin issues as regards the effect of the contestant's death in an
protest: Is said contest a personal action extinguished upon the death
of the real party in interest? If not, what is the mandatory period
which to effectuate the substitution of parties?
The following antecedent facts have been culled
from the pleadings and are not in dispute:
proclaimed Mayor of Gloria, Oriental
Mindoro during the May 8, 1995 elections. In the same elections,
respondent was proclaimed Vice-Mayor of the same municipality.
On May 19, 1995, petitioner's rival candidate,
the late Nicolas M. Jamilla, filed an election protest
before the Regional Trial Court of Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro.
During the pendency of the said contest, Jamilla died.
Four days after such death or on December 19, 1995, the trial court
the election protest ruling as it did that "[a]s this case is personal,
the death of the protestant extinguishes the case itself. The issue or
issues brought out in this protest have become moot and academic".
On January 9,
1995, private respondent learned
about the dismissal of the protest from one, Atty. Gaudencio S.
who, as the late Jamilla's counsel, was the one who informed the trial
court of his client's demise. On January 15, 1996, private respondent
his Omnibus Petition/Motion [For Intervention and/or Substitution with
Motion for Reconsideration].
Opposition thereto was filed by petitioner on January 30, 1996.
In an Order dated
the trial court denied private respondent's Omnibus Petition/Motion and
stubbornly held that an election protest being personal to the
is ipso facto terminated by the latter's death.cralaw
Unable to agree
with the trial court's dismissal
of the election protest, private respondent filed a petition for
and mandamus before the Commission on Elections [COMELEC]; private
mainly assailed the trial court orders as having been issued with grave
abuse of discretion.
COMELEC granted the
for certiorari and mandamus.
It ruled that an election contest involves both the private interests
the rival candidates and the public interest in the final determination
of the real choice of the electorate, and for this reason, an election
contest necessarily survives the death of the protestant or the
It is true that a
public office is personal to
the public officer and is not a property transmissible to his heirs
Thus, applying the doctrine of actio personalis moritur cum
upon the death of the incumbent, no heir of his may be allowed to
holding his office in his place.
But while the right to a public office is
and exclusive to the public officer, an election protest is not
personal and exclusive to the protestant or to the protestee such that
the death of either would oust the court of all authority to continue
contest, after all, involves not merely
conflicting private aspirations but is imbued with paramount public
As We have held in the case of Vda. de De Mesa v. Mencias:
It is axiomatic that an election contest,
as it does not only the adjudication and settlement of the private
of the rival candidates but also the paramount need of dispelling once
and for all the uncertainty that beclouds the real choice of the
with respect to who shall discharge the prerogatives of the offices
their gift, is a proceeding imbued with public interest which raises it
into a plane over and above ordinary civil actions. For this reason,
perspectives of public policy impose upon courts the imperative duty to
ascertain by all means within their command who is the real candidate
in as expeditious a manner as possible, without being fettered by
and procedural barriers to the end that the will of the people may not
be frustrated [Ibasco vs. Ilao, et al., G. R. L-17512, December 29,
Reforma vs. De Luna, G. R. L-13242, July 31, 1958]. So inextricably
are the interests of the contestants and those of the public that there
can be no gainsaying the logic of the proposition that even the
cessation in office of the protestee not only does not ipso facto
divest him of the character of an adversary in the contest inasmuch as
he retains a party interest to keep his political opponent out of the
and maintain therein his successor, but also does not in any manner
or detract from the jurisdiction of the court to pursue the proceeding
to its final conclusion [De Los Angeles vs. Rodriguez, 46 Phil. 595,
Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 62 Phil. 584, 587; Galves vs.
G. R. L-13206].
Upon the same principle, the death of the
De Mesa did not abate the proceedings in the election protest filed
him, and it may be stated as a rule that an election contest survives
must be prosecuted to final judgment despite the death of the protestee.
The death of
the protestant, as in this case, neither
constitutes a ground for the dismissal of the contest nor ousts the
court of its jurisdiction to decide the election contest. Apropos is
following pronouncement of this Court in the case of Lomugdang v.
Determination of whether a candidate
in fact elected is a matter clothed with public interest, wherefore,
policy demands that an election contest, duly commenced, be not abated
by the death of the contestant. We have squarely so ruled in Sibulo
de Mesa vs. Judge Mencias, G. R. No. L-24583, October 29, 1966, in the
same spirit that led this Court to hold that the ineligibility of the
is not a defense [Caesar vs. Garrido, 53 Phil. 57], and that the
cessation in office is not a ground for the dismissal of the contest
detract the Court's jurisdiction to decide the case [Angeles vs.
46 Phil. 595; Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 62 Phil. 584].
asseveration of petitioner that private respondent
is not a real party in interest entitled to be substituted in the
protest in place of the late Jamilla, is utterly without legal basis.
was our ruling in Vda. de Mesa and Lomugdang that:
The Vice Mayor elect has the status of a
party in interest in the continuation of the proceedings and is
to intervene therein. For if the protest succeeds and the Protestee is
unseated, the Vice-Mayor succeeds to the office of Mayor that becomes
if the one duly elected cannot assume the post.
dispose of this case, We rule that the
filing by private respondent of his Omnibus Petition/Motion on January
15, 1996, well within the period of thirty days from December 19, 1995
when Jamilla's counsel informed the trial court of Jamilla's death, was
in compliance with Section 17, Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of Court.
the Rules of Court, though not generally applicable to election cases,
may, however, be applied by analogy or in a suppletory character,
private respondent was correct to rely thereon.
jurisprudence is not ancient; in fact
these legal moorings have been recently reiterated in the 1991 case of
De la Victoria vs. COMELEC.
If only petitioner's diligence in updating himself with case law is as
spirited as his persistence in pursuing his legal asseverations up to
highest court of the land, no doubt further derailment of the election
protest proceedings could have been avoided.cralaw
premises considered, the instant petition
for certiorari is hereby DISMISSED. Costs against petitioner.cralaw
Padilla, Regalado, Davide,
Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.cralaw
Election Protest Case No. 8-95.
Branch 41 presided by Judge Antonio R Quizon.
Jamilla died on December 15, 1995.
Order dated December 19, 1995; Rollo, p. 26.
Rollo, pp. 78-83.
ld., pp. 85-86.
Id., p. 27.
Resolution of the COMELEC dated May 28, 1996, penned by Commissioner
F. Desamito; Rollo, pp. 19-24.
Santos v. Secretary of labor, 22 SCRA 848, 850 .
18 SCRA 533 .
Id., p. 538.
21 SCRA 402 .
Id., p. 407.
Vda. De Mesa v. Mencias, 18 SCRA 533, 539 .
199 SCRA 561.