Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1966 > January 1966 Decisions > G.R. No. L-25399 January 27, 1966 MARIANO H. ACUÑA v. CESARIO GOLEZ, ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. L-25399. January 27, 1966.]

MARIANO H. ACUÑA, Petitioner, v. HON. CESARIO GOLEZ, ETC., ET AL., Respondents.

Leonardo Amores for the petitioner.

A.R. C. Dinglasan, for the respondents.


SYLLABUS


1. ELECTION LAW; ELECTION RETURNS; "ANOTHER COPY OR OTHER AUTHENTIC COPY" THEREOF EXCLUDES COPY GIVEN TO THE TWO MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES. — In applying Section 163 of the Revised Election Code, the phrase "another copy or other authentic copy" therein used shall not be construed to include any of the additional copies of the election returns distributed to the two major political parties, pursuant to a resolution of the Commission on Elections, for the simple reason that, in using the aforementioned phrase, the framers of the Revised Election Code evidently had in mind the four (4) copies mentioned in Section 150 thereof and intended, one for the ballot box, another for the municipal treasurer, still another for the provincial treasurer and the last for the Commission on Elections. In other words, the lawmakers could not have referred to any other copies, for no such copies were prescribed in the Code.

2. ID.; STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION; SECTION 163 SHOULD BE CONSTRUED RESTRICTIVELY. — Section 163 of the Revised Election Code should be construed restrictively (Parlade v. Quicho, L-16259, December 29, 1959; Samson v. Estenzo, L-16268, January 30, 1960; Lawsin v. Escalona, L-22540, July 31, 1964), because of the special nature of the authority conferred therein and because otherwise that authority could be so used as to delay the proclamation of the winning candidate beyond the date set for the beginning of the term of the office involved. The effect of said delay is, in the case of national offices, for which there is no hold over, to leave the office without any incumbent, and, in the case of local offices, whose incumbents may hold over, to often permit the defeated candidate to unduly extend his tenure, at the expense of the true choice of the electorate.

3. ID.; AUTHORITY OF THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS TO ISSUE RESOLUTION REQUIRING DISTRIBUTION OF ELECTION RETURNS AMONG THE TWO MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES. — This decision should not be understood, however, as annulling the resolution of the Commission on Elections requiring the preparation of additional copies of the election returns and the distribution thereof among the two (2) major political parties, for said resolution does not contravene the law. The existence of said additional copies in the possession of the major political parties may discourage or deter the tampering of the four (4) copies contemplated in Section 150, owing to the probability, if not certainty, of detecting the irregularity.


D E C I S I O N


CONCEPCION, J.:


Petitioner Mariano H. Acuña and respondent Carmen D. Consing were candidates of the Liberal Party and the Nacionalista Party, respectively, for the office of Representative for the First District of Capiz in the general elections held on November 9, 1965. While the provincial board of canvassers of Capiz was canvassing the election returns for said congressional district, on November 26, 1965, respondent Consing instituted Election Case No. 242 of the Court of First Instance of Capiz, presided over by Hon. Cesario Golez, Judge — one of the respondents herein — for the judicial recount of the votes cast in Precinct No. 1 of the Municipality of Cuartero, Capiz, upon the ground that the entry in the column for names of the candidates for said office, in the copy for the Nacionalista Party of the election return for said precinct, could not be read. On December 1, 1965, petitioner Acuña moved to dismiss the petition in said case, but on December 2, 1965, Judge Golez issued an order denying said motion and giving Acuña three (3) days within which to take up the matter with the Supreme Court.

The next day, or on December 3, 1965, respondent Consing commenced Election Case No. 245 of said Court of First Instance, for the judicial recount of the votes cast in precincts Nos. 12, 15, 16, 19, 22 and 32 of Dao, Capiz, upon the ground that there were discrepancies between the entries in the copies for the Nacionalista Party of the election returns for said precincts and those in the corresponding copies of the election returns in the possession of the Provincial Treasurer. A similar proceeding was initiated by respondent Consing on December 4, 1965, with respect to nine (9) precincts (seemingly precincts Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 22) of the municipality of Dumarao, Capiz.

Soon thereafter, or on December 7, 1965, petitioner Acuña instituted the present action against respondent Consing, and Judge Golez and the Commission on Elections, for a writ of certiorari and prohibition to annul said order of Judge Golez, dated December 2, 1965, and to restrain him from acting upon the aforesaid petitions for judicial recount of respondent Consing, upon the ground that the lower court had not acquired jurisdiction to entertain said petitions or that the same were premature. Forthwith, or on December 8, 1965, we passed a resolution requiring respondents herein to file their answer on or before December 13, 1965, issuing a restraining order, to take effect immediately and up to and including December 16, 1965, and setting the case for hearing on December 15, 1965. Petitioner’s counsel and that of the Commission on Elections then appeared and argued before this Court, which passed a resolution, dated December 15, 1965, continuing its aforementioned restraining order "until further advice."cralaw virtua1aw library

On December 17, 1965, respondent Consing filed a motion praying that this resolution of December 15, 1965, be set aside, that she be allowed to file her answer, which was attached to the motion, and that, thereafter, the case be set for trial on the merits, for the reason that her failure to file her answer prior thereto was due to the fact that she had not been seasonably advised of our first resolution of December 8, 1965. Four days later respondent Consing moved to dismiss the present case upon the ground that the aforementioned Election Case No. 242 of the Court of First Instance of Capiz had been dismissed on December 8, 1965. Acting upon the motion of respondent Consing dated December 17, 1965, this Court, on December 22, 1965, reset the case for hearing on January 7, 1966.

Meanwhile, on December 23, 1965, petitioner Acuña had filed an urgent supplemental petition alleging the respondent Consing had caused said Election Cases Nos. 242 and 245 to be dismissed, for the purpose of evading the effects of the aforementioned restraining order issued by this Court, in violation of the provisions thereof; that respondent Consing had, moreover, filed Election Case No. 249 of said Court of First Instance for the judicial recount of the votes cast in the election precincts involved in said Election Cases Nos. 242 and 245, in addition to other election precincts (namely, Precinct No. 1 of Cuartero, Precincts Nos. 3, 8, 12, 15, 16, 18, 19, 22, 29 and 32 of Dao, Precincts Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 22 of Dumarao, Precincts Nos. 9, 16, 17 and 18 of Ivisan, Precincts Nos. 3, 21, 27 and 34 of Panay, Precincts Nos. 9, 10, 25, 32 and 36 of Panitan, Precincts Nos. 1, 2, 12, 13, 14, 18, 21, 25, 26, 27 and 30 of Pilar, Precinct No. 25 of Pontevedra, Precincts Nos. 6, 8, 19, 20 and 23 of President Roxas and Precincts Nos. 53, 62, 63, 74, 81, 83, 89, 91 and 93 of Roxas City), based upon the same grounds relied upon in said Election Cases Nos. 242 and 245; and that, acting upon the petition in said Election Case No. 249, respondent Judge had set the production and opening of the ballot boxes of said precincts, for purposes of recount, for December 27, 1965. Premised upon these allegations, petitioner Acuña prayed that the restraining order theretofore issued by this Court be extended to said Election Case No. 249 and that the same be included in the determination of the legal issues and questions raised in the present action.

Answering this supplemental petition, respondent Consing alleged, upon the other hand, that she had sought the dismissal of Election Cases Nos. 242 and 245 merely to forestall a technical objection thereto, not to circumvent the effect of our restraining order herein; that Election Case No. 249 involves many precincts not included in Election Cases Nos. 242 and 245, but included in Election Cases Nos. 244, 246, 247 and 248, which had been similarly dismissed; that the issues raised or questions posed in said Election Case No. 249 are different from those involved in Election Cases Nos. 242 and 245; and that the supplemental petition is premature.

At the outset, we note that, with respect to six (6) precincts — namely, Precinct No. 1 of Cuartero, Precincts Nos. 15 and 22 of Dao, Precinct No. 16 of Dumarao, Precinct No. 9 of Panay, and Precinct No. 36 of Panitan — respondent Consing claims that the entries in the Nacionalista copy of the corresponding election returns are illegible. Her petition for recount as regards the fifty-three (53) other precincts involved in Election Case No. 249 is predicated upon alleged discrepancies between the entries in the Nacionalista copy of the corresponding election returns and those in the copies of the provincial treasurer submitted to the Provincial Board of Canvassers. The issues thus raised in connection with these two (2) sets of election precincts have, however, one point in common, namely: whether a judicial recount may be ordered, under Section 163 of the Revised Election Code, when there is a discrepancy between the copies of election returns for the provincial treasurer, on the one hand, and, on the other, the copies of either of the major political parties participating in the elections.

In this connection, section 150 of the Revised Election Code provides that immediately after the count, the Board of Inspectors shall make, complete and sign a written statement thereof in quadruplicate" (italics ours.) The four (4) copies of this statement, otherwise referred to in Section 151 as "election returns," must, pursuant to Section 152 of said Code, be distributed as follows: one copy shall be placed in the box for valid ballots, another copy shall be delivered to the municipal treasurer, the third copy shall be sent by registered mail to the provincial treasurer, and the fourth shall be forwarded, likewise, by registered mail, to the Commission on Elections. Pursuant, however, to a resolution of the Commission on Elections in Case No. 488 thereof, the two (2) major political parties are provided with one (1) copy each of the election return for each precinct. As a consequence, the main issue before us boils down to whether, in applying Section 163 of the Revised Election Code, pursuant to which:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"In case it appears to the provincial board of canvassers that another copy or other authentic copies of the statement from an election precinct submitted to the board give to a candidate a different number of votes and the difference affects the result of the election, the Court of First Instance of the province, upon motion of the board or of any candidate affected, may proceed to recount the votes cast in the precinct for the sole purpose of determining which is the true statement or which is the true result of the count of the votes cast in said precinct for the office in question. Notice of such proceeding shall be given to all candidates affected." (Italics ours.)

the phrase "another copy or other authentic copy" therein used shall or may be construed to include any of the additional copies thus required, not by law, but by the Commission on Elections.

Upon mature consideration of the pros and cons of the aforementioned question, the Court is of the considered opinion that the same must be decided in the negative, for the simple reason that, in using the aforementioned phrase, the framers of the Revised Election Code evidently had in mind the four (4) copies mentioned in Section 150 thereof and intended, one for the ballot box, another for the municipal treasurer, still another for the provincial treasurer and the last for the Commission on Elections. In other words, the lawmakers could not have referred to any other copies, for no such copies were prescribed in the Code.

Indeed, since Provincial Board v. Barot, G.R. No. L-3483 (December 16, 1949), we have consistently adhered to the view that Section 163 of the Revised Election Code should be construed restrictively (Parlade v. Quicho, L-16259, December 29, 1959; Samson v. Estenzo, L-16268, January 30, 1960; Lawsin v. Escalona, L-22540, July 31, 1964), because of the special nature of the authority conferred therein and because otherwise that authority could be so used as to delay the proclamation of the winning candidate beyond the date set for the beginning of the term of the office involved. The necessity of avoiding this contingency becomes apparent when we consider that, the effect of said delay is, in the case of national offices, for which there is no hold over, to leave the office without any incumbent, and, in the case of local offices, whose incumbents may hold over, to often permit the defeated candidate to unduly extend his tenure, at the expense of the true choice of the electorate.

This decision should not be understood, however, as annulling the resolution, in said Case No. 488 of the Commission on Elections, requiring the preparation of additional copies of the election returns and the distribution thereof among two (2) major political parties, for we do not believe that said resolution contravenes the law. To be sure, the existence of said additional copies in the possession of the major political parties may have a general salutary effect, in that it may discourage or deter the tampering of the four (4) copies contemplated in Section 150, owing to the probability, if not certainty, of detecting the irregularity. In fact, when the Party for Philippine Progress filed its petition in Case G.R. No. L-25144 (Manuel P. Manahan, in his capacity as President of the Party for Philippine Progress [PPP]) Petitioner, v. The Commission on Elections, Respondent), we dismissed, on October 20, 1965, the petition for lack of merit. At any rate, even if said resolution were deemed unwise, this would not necessarily detract from the authority of the Comelec to issue it or affect its validity.

Since the original petition herein referred only to election precincts in the municipalities of Cuartero, Dao and Dumarao, is it proper to seek in this action, by means of a supplemental petition, a determination of the propriety of the petition for a judicial recount as regards precincts of the municipalities of Ibisan, Panay, Panitan, Pilar, Pontevedra, President Roxas and Roxas City? As above indicated, the issue in connection with these precincts is substantially the same as that raised with respect to the precincts of Cuartero, Dao and Dumarao — namely, whether the copy of the election returns for either of the major political parties may properly be used as basis for the judicial recount authorized in Section 163 of the Revised Election Code — which should be decided in the negative. It is obvious to us that the interest of justice and equity, in general, and that of the constituency of the first congressional district of Capiz, in particular, demand that petitioner’s supplemental petition be favorably entertained, in order that the undue obstacle offered by Election Case No. 249 of Capiz to the completion of the canvass of the election returns for the aforementioned district may be removed and the result of the elections in said district proclaimed without further delay.

Wherefore, the motion to dismiss filed by respondent Carmen D. Consing on December 17, 1965, is denied and judgment is hereby rendered in favor of petitioner Mariano H. Acuña and against respondents herein, who are hereby enjoined perpetually from proceeding with the judicial recount of the votes cast in the precincts involved in said Election Case No. 249, without prejudice to such steps, measures or proceedings as may be appropriate in an election protest, should there be any. It is so ordered.

Bengzon, C.J., Bautista Angelo, Regala, Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P. and Zaldivar, JJ., concur.

Reyes, J.B.L., Barrera and Sanchez, took no part.




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