July 2010 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
[G.R. No. 191938 : July 02, 2010]
ABRAHAM KAHLIL B. MITRA, PETITIONER, VS. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ANTONIO V. GONZALES, AND ORLANDO R. BALBON, JR., RESPONDENTS.
D E C I S I O N
The requirement is rooted in the recognition that officials of districts or localities should not only be acquainted with the metes and bounds of their constituencies; more importantly, they should know their constituencies and the unique circumstances of their constituents - their needs, difficulties, aspirations, potentials for growth and development, and all matters vital to their common welfare. Familiarity, or the opportunity to be familiar, with these circumstances can only come with residency in the constituency to be represented.
The purpose of the residency requirement is "best met by individuals who have either had actual residence in the area for a given period or who have been domiciled in the same area either by origin or by choice." At the same time, the constituents themselves can best know and evaluate the candidates' qualifications and fitness for office if these candidates have lived among them.
Read and understood in this manner, residency can readily be appreciated as a requirement that goes into the heart of our democratic system; it directly supports the purpose of representation - electing those who can best serve the community because of their knowledge and sensitivity to its needs. It likewise adds meaning and substance to the voters' freedom of choice in the electoral exercise that characterizes every democracy.
In the present case, the respondent Commission on Elections (COMELEC) canceled the certificate of candidacy (COC) of petitioner Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra for allegedly misrepresenting that he is a resident of the Municipality of Aborlan, Province of Palawan where he ran for the position of Governor. Mitra came to this Court to seek the reversal of the cancellation.
When his COC for the position of Governor of Palawan was declared cancelled, Mitra was the incumbent Representative of the Second District of Palawan. This district then included, among other territories, the Municipality of Aborlan and Puerto Princesa City. He was elected Representative as a domiciliary of Puerto Princesa City, and represented the legislative district for three (3) terms immediately before the elections of 2010.
On March 26, 2007 (or before the end of Mitra's second term as Representative), Puerto Princesa City was reclassified as a "highly urbanized city" and thus ceased to be a component city of the Province of Palawan. The direct legal consequence of this new status was the ineligibility of Puerto Princesa City residents from voting for candidates for elective provincial officials.
On March 20, 2009, with the intention of running for the position of Governor, Mitra applied for the transfer of his Voter's Registration Record from Precinct No. 03720 of Brgy. Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa City, to Sitio Maligaya, Brgy. Isaub, Municipality of Aborlan, Province of Palawan. He subsequently filed his COC for the position of Governor of Palawan as a resident of Aborlan.
Soon thereafter, respondents Antonio V. Gonzales and Orlando R. Balbon, Jr. (the respondents) filed a petition to deny due course or to cancel Mitra's COC. They essentially argued that Mitra remains a resident of Puerto Princesa City who has not yet established residence in Aborlan, and is therefore not qualified to run for Governor of Palawan. Mitra insisted in his Answer that he has successfully abandoned Puerto Princesa City as his domicile of origin, and has established a new domicile in Aborlan since 2008.
The Parties' Claims and Evidence
The respondents' petition before the COMELEC claimed that Mitra's COC should be cancelled under the following factual premises: (a) Mitra bought, in June 2009, a parcel of land in Aborlan where he began to construct a house, but up to the time of the filing of the petition to deny due course or to cancel Mitra's COC, the house had yet to be completed; (b) in the document of sale, Puerto Princesa City was stated as Mitra's residence (attached as Annex "J" of the Respondents' Petition before the COMELEC); (c) Mitra's Puerto Princesa City residence was similarly stated in his application for a building permit (attached as Annex "K" of the Respondents' Petition before the COMELEC); and (d) Mitra's community tax certificate states that his residence was Puerto Princesa City (attached as Annex "M" of the Respondents' Petition before the COMELEC). The respondents presented several affidavits attesting to the non-completion of the construction of the house, and asserted that without a fully constructed house, Mitra could not claim residence in Aborlan.
Mitra denied the respondents' allegations in his Answer. He claimed that the respondents misled the COMELEC by presenting photographs of his unfinished house on the land he purchased from a certain Rexter Temple. He claimed, on the contrary, that his residence is located inside the premises of the Maligaya Feedmill and Farm (Maligaya Feedmill) which the owner, Carme Caspe, leased to him; and that he purchased a farm and presently has an experimental pineapple plantation and a cock farm. The transfer of his residence, he claimed, began in 2008.
He submitted the following: (a) the Sinumpaang Salaysay of Ricardo Temple; Florame T. Gabrillo, the Punong Barangay of Isaub, Aborlan; Marissa U. Zumarraga, Councilor of Aborlan; Virginia J. Agpao and Elsa M. Dalisay, both Sangguniang Barangay members of Isaub, Aborlan, attesting that Mitra resides in their locality; (b) photographs of the residential portion of the Maligaya Feedmill where he claims to reside, and of his Aborlan experimental pineapple plantation, farm, farmhouse and cock farm; (c) the lease contract over the Maligaya Feedmill; (d) the community tax certificate he claims he himself secured, stating that Aborlan is his residence; and (e) an updated identification card issued by the House of Representatives stating that Aborlan is his residence.
To refute Mitra's claimed residence in Aborlan - specifically, that he resides at the Maligaya Feedmill property - the respondents additionally submitted: (a) the affidavits of the 14 Punong Barangays of Aborlan and of six residents of Aborlan, all stating that Mitra is not a resident of Aborlan and has never been seen in that municipality; (b) a Certification from the Barangay Captain of Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa City stating that Mitra was a resident of that barangay as of November 16, 2009; (c) the affidavit of Commodore Nicanor Hernandez attesting that Mitra continues to reside in Puerto Princesa City; and (d) 24 affidavits of former employees, workers, Aborlan residents and a customer of the Maligaya Feedmill attesting that they have never seen Mitra during the time he claimed to have lived there and that the area where Mitra supposedly lives is, in fact, the office of the feedmill and is unlivable due to noise and pollution.
The Ruling of the COMELEC's First Division
The Law. The First Division defined the governing law with the statement that residence means domicile under the Court's consistent rulings since 1928 in Nuval v. Guray. Domicile imports not only the intent to reside in a fixed place but also personal presence in that place, coupled with conduct indicative of this intention.
To acquire a new domicile - a domicile by choice - the following must concur: (1) residence or bodily presence in a new locality; (2) an intention to remain there; and (3) an intention to abandon the old domicile. In other words, there must be an animus non revertendi with respect to the old domicile, and an animus manendi at the domicile of choice. The intent to remain in or at the domicile of choice must be for an indefinite period of time and the acts of the person must be consistent with this intent.
The First Division's Evaluation of the Parties' Evidence. Based on its consideration of the submitted evidence (including various affidavits submitted by both parties and the photographs of the room that Mitra claims to be his residence) and citing jurisprudence, the First Division granted the respondents' petition to cancel Mitra's COC.
To the First Division, Mitra's submitted pictures are telling; they show a small, sparsely furnished room that is evidently unlived in, located at the second floor of a structure that appears to be a factory or a warehouse; the residence appears hastily set-up, cold, and utterly devoid of any indication of Mitra's personality such as old family photographs and memorabilia collected through the years. What the supposed residence lacks, in the First Division's perception, are the loving attention and details inherent in every home to make it one's residence; perhaps, at most, this small room could have served as Mitra's resting area whenever he visited the locality, but nothing more than this.
These observations - coupled with the statements from former employees and customers of the Maligaya Feedmill that the claimed residence is located in an unsavory location (for its noise and pollution), and that it had been in fact Maligaya Feedmill's office just a few months back - militated against Mitra's claim. These pieces of information made it clear, to the First Division, that this room is not the home that a residence is supposed to be.
A person's domicile of origin is not easily lost, the First Division further said. The fact that Mitra registered as a voter in Aborlan, has a cock farm, a farm, a rest house and an experimental pineapple plantation in Maligaya Feedmill, was occasionally seen staying in Aborlan, and held meetings with Aborlan constituents does not necessarily establish Mitra's status as an Aborlan resident, or prove his abandonment of his domicile of origin in Puerto Princesa City. Mere absence from one's residence or domicile of origin to pursue studies, engage in business, or practice one's vocation is not sufficient to constitute abandonment or loss of domicile. Registration or voting in a place other than one's domicile does not eliminate an individual's animus revertendi to his domicile of origin; the natural desire and longing of every person to return to the place of birth and his strong feeling of attachment to this place can only be shown to have been overcome by a positive proof of abandonment of this place for another.
Also, the First Division said that Mitra's witnesses' sworn statements appear to have been prepared by the same person, as they use similar wordings, allegations, and contents; thus, putting into question the credibility of the statements. Furthermore, the lease contract over the Maligaya Feedmill between Mitra and Carme Caspe is effective only up to February 28, 2010, thus casting doubt on Mitra's claim of residency in Aborlan.
The COMELEC En Banc Ruling
The COMELEC en banc - in a divided decision - subsequently denied Mitra's motion to reconsider the First Division ruling under the following outlined reasons.
First, registration as a voter of Aborlan is not sufficient evidence that Mitra has successfully abandoned his domicile of origin.
Second, mere intent cannot supplant the express requirement of the law; the "physical presence" required to establish domicile connotes actual, factual and bona fide residence in a given locality. The COMELEC en banc agreed with the First Division's evidentiary findings on this point.
Third, the First Division's Resolution was based on a careful and judicious examination and consideration of all evidence submitted by the parties. The summary nature of the proceedings is not necessarily offensive to a party's right to due process.
Fourth, Fernandez v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal is not on all fours with the present case - Fernandez stemmed from a quo warranto case while the present case involves a petition to deny due course or cancel the COC. Likewise, Fernandez successfully proved that his transfer to Sta. Rosa City, Laguna several years prior to his candidacy was prompted by valid reasons, i.e., existence of his business in the area and the enrolment of his children at Sta. Rosa schools, thereby erasing doubts as to the bona fide nature of his transfer. In the present case, the COMELEC en banc found that Mitra admitted that his transfer to Aborlan in 2008 was prompted by his plans to run for governor in the 2010 national and local elections. The COMELEC en banc also noted that Fernandez involved an individual who had earned an overwhelming mandate from the electorate. The COMELEC en banc's ruling on Mitra's case, on the other hand, came before the 2010 elections; thus, the people had not then voted.
In his Dissent, Commissioner Sarmiento points out that the following acts of Mitra, taken collectively, indubitably prove a change of domicile from Puerto Princesa to Aborlan:
(a) in January 2008, [Mitra] started a pineapple growing project in a rented farmland near Maligaya Feedmill and Farm located in Barangay Isaub, Aborlan;
(b) in February 2008, [Mitra] leased the residential portion of the said Maligaya Feedmill;
(c) in March 2008, after the said residential portion has been refurbished and renovated, [Mitra] started to occupy and reside in the said premises;
(d) in 2009, [Mitra] purchased his own farmland in the same barangay but continued the lease involving the Maligaya Feedmill, the contract of which was even renewed until February 2010; and
(e) [Mitra] caused the construction of a house in the purchased lot which has been recently completed.
Mitra supports his petition with the following ARGUMENTS:
6.1 x x x COMELEC's GRAVE ABUSE is most patent as IT forgets, wittingly or unwittingly that the solitary GROUND to deny due course to a COC is the DELIBERATE false material representation to DECEIVE, and not the issue of the candidate's eligibility which should be resolved in an appropriate QUO WARRANTO proceedings post election.
6.2 Deny Due Course Petitions under Section 78 of the OEC, being SUMMARILY decided and resolved, the same must be exercised most sparingly, with utmost care and extreme caution; and construed most strictly against the proponent/s, and liberally in favor of the candidate sought to be eliminated. When exercised otherwise and with apparent biased in favor of the proponents, as in this instance, GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION necessarily sets in.
6.3 The mandate to be extremely cautious and careful in the SUMMARY exercise of the awesome power to simplistically cancel [one's] candidacy x x x is further made manifest by the availability of a QUO WARRANTO proceeding appropriately prosecuted post election.
6.4 Absent any formal HEARINGS and Presentation of Evidence; Lacking the actual inspection and verification; and without actual confrontation of affiants/alleged witnesses - ALL the "conclusions" of COMELEC on the RESIDENCE issue, were indeed predicted (sic) on sheer SPECULATION[.]
6.5 A grievous procedural flaw, FATAL in character. THE BURDEN OF PROOF MUST ALWAYS BE PLACED ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE PROPONENT/s. Not so in the present controversy, where COMELEC's assailed decision/s were devoted exclusively to the alleged weakness of MITRA's submissions and COMELEC's speculative conclusions, rather than on the strength of proponents' unverified and unconfirmed submissions and unconfronted sworn statements of supposed affiants[.]
The petition also asks for ancillary injunctive relief. We granted the application for injunctive relief by issuing a status quo ante order, allowing Mitra to be voted upon in the May 10, 2010 elections.
The respondents' Comment states the following counter-arguments:
a. Procedural Arguments:
II. THE INSTANT PETITION FAILED TO ATTACH CERTIFIED TRUE COPIES OF THE MATERIAL PORTIONS OF THE RECORDS REFERRED TO THEREIN IN GROSS CONTRAVENTION OF SECTION 5 OF RULE 64 OF THE RULES OF COURT. CONSEQUENTLY, IT MUST BE DISMISSED OUTRIGHT.
III. THE INSTANT PETITION RAISES MERE ERRORS OF JUDGMENT, WHICH ARE OUTSIDE THIS HONORABLE COURT'S CERTIORARI JURISDICTION.
b. Arguments on the Merits
B. THE LAW, IN IMPOSING A RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT, MANDATES NOT ONLY FAMILIARITY WITH THE NEEDS AND CONDITIONS OF THE LOCALITY, BUT ALSO ACTUAL PHYSICAL, PERSONAL AND PERMANENT RESIDENCE THEREIN. PETITIONER'S SUPPOSED FAMILIARITY WITH THE "NEEDS, DIFFICULTIES, ASPIRATIONS, POTENTIALS (SIC) FOR GROWTH AND ALL MATTERS VITAL TO THE WELFARE OF HIS CONSTITUENCY WHICH CONSTITUTES ONE/THIRD OF THE WHOLE PROVINCE OF PALAWAN" AS A THREE-TERM CONGRESSMAN ABSENT SUCH RESIDENCE DOES NOT SUFFICE TO MEET THE RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT OF THE LAW.
IV. FINDINGS OF FACTS OF ADMINISTRATIVE BODIES SUCH AS THE COMELEC, ARE ACCORDED GREAT RESPECT, IF NOT FINALITY BY THE COURTS, ESPECIALLY IF SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE. BECAUSE THE FINDINGS OF FACTS OF THE COMELEC IN THE INSTANT CASE ARE OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE, THIS HONORABLE COURT MAY NOT REVERSE SUCH FINDINGS.
V. THE COMELEC DID NOT COMMIT ANY GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN ISSUING THE ASSAILED RESOLUTION DATED 04 MAY 2010.
A. THE COMELEC CORRECTLY RULED THAT PETITIONER'S REGISTRATION AS A VOTER IN ABORLAN, PALAWAN IS NOT SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE THAT HE HAS SUCCESSFULLY ABANDONED HIS DOMICILE OF ORIGIN AT PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, PALAWAN.
B. THE COMELEC CORRECTLY RULED THAT PETITIONER'S MERE INTENT TO TRANSFER RESIDENCE TO ABORLAN, PALAWAN, ABSENT ACTUAL, FACTUAL, AND BONA FIDE RESIDENCE THEREIN DOES NOT SUFFICE TO PROVE HIS TRANSFER OF RESIDENCE FROM PUERTO PRINCESA, PALAWAN TO ABORLAN, PALAWAN.
C. THE COMELEC THOROUGHLY EVALUATED THE EVIDENCE, AND CORRECTLY ARRIVED AT THE ASSAILED DECISION ONLY AFTER MUCH DELIBERATION AND CAREFUL ASSESSMENT OF THE EVIDENCE, ALBEIT THROUGH SUMMARY PROCEEDINGS PARTICIPATED IN ACTIVELY BY PETITIONER. THE COMELEC CORRECTLY DID NOT GIVE CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONIES OF PETITIONER'S WITNESSES FOR BEING INCREDIBLE AND CONTRARY TO THE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE, ESPECIALLY PERTAINING TO HIS ALLEGED RESIDENCE AT THE FEEDMILL PROPERTY.
D. THE COMELEC CORRECTLY RULED THAT PETITIONER HAS NOT TRANSFERRED HIS RESIDENCE FROM PUERTO PRINCESA, PALAWAN TO ABORLAN, PALAWAN.
E. THE ALLEGED LEASE OF THE RESIDENTIAL PORTION OF THE FEEDMILL PROPERTY IS A SHAM.
VI. GIVEN HIS STATURE AS A MEMBER OF THE PROMINENT MITRA CLAN OF PALAWAN, AND AS A 3-TERM CONGRESSMAN, IT IS HIGHLY INCREDIBLE THAT A SMALL ROOM IN A FEEDMILL HAS SERVED AS HIS RESIDENCE SINCE 2008.
VII. THE COMELEC CORRECTLY RULED THAT PETITIONER MAY NOT INVOKE THE CASE OF FERNANDEZ V. HRET AS PETITIONER IS NOT SIMILARLY SITUATED AS DAN FERNANDEZ.
VIII. THE MATERIAL STATEMENT IN PETITIONER'S COC RESPECTING HIS RESIDENCE HAS BEEN SHOWN TO BE FALSE. BY MAKING SUCH FALSE STATEMENT, PETITIONER DELIBERATELY TRIED TO MISLEAD AND TO MISINFORM THE ELECTORATE AS TO HIS ACTUAL RESIDENCE. HENCE, HIS COC WAS CORRECTLY DENIED DUE COURSE AND CANCELED.
In the recently concluded elections of May 10, 2010, Mitra obtained the most number of votes for Governor and was accordingly proclaimed winner of the Palawan gubernatorial contest.
We required the respondents and the COMELEC to comment on the petition. They complied on May 6, 2010 and June 2, 2010, respectively. On May 17, 2010, the petitioner filed a "Supplemental Petition."
On May 26, 2010, the respondents filed a "Supplemental Comment (with Omnibus Motion to Annul Proclamation and for Early Resolution)" to the petitioner's "Supplemental Petition." We deemed the case ready for resolution on the basis of these submissions.
The Court's Ruling
We find the petition meritorious.
The Limited Review in Certiorari Petitions under
Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65 of the Rules of Court
A preliminary matter before us is the respondents' jurisdictional objection based on the issues raised in the present petition. The respondents assert that the questions Mitra brought to us are beyond our certiorari jurisdiction. Specifically, the respondents contend that Mitra's petition merely seeks to correct errors of the COMELEC in appreciating the parties' evidence - a question we cannot entertain under our limited certiorari jurisdiction.
Mitra brought his case before us pursuant to Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. Our review, therefore, is based on a very limited ground - the jurisdictional issue of whether the COMELEC acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
Whether the COMELEC, by law, has jurisdiction over a case or matter brought to it is resolved by considering the black-letter provisions of the Constitution and pertinent election laws, and we see no disputed issue on this point. Other than the respondents' procedural objections which we will fully discuss below, the present case rests on the allegation of grave abuse of discretion - an issue that generally is not as simple to resolve.
As a concept, "grave abuse of discretion" defies exact definition; generally, it refers to "capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction"; the abuse of discretion must be patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion and hostility. Mere abuse of discretion is not enough; it must be grave. We have held, too, that the use of wrong or irrelevant considerations in deciding an issue is sufficient to taint a decision-maker's action with grave abuse of discretion.
Closely related with the limited focus of the present petition is the condition, under Section 5, Rule 64 of the Rules of Court, that findings of fact of the COMELEC, supported by substantial evidence, shall be final and non-reviewable. Substantial evidence is that degree of evidence that a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion.
In light of our limited authority to review findings of fact, we do not ordinarily review in a certiorari case the COMELEC's appreciation and evaluation of evidence. Any misstep by the COMELEC in this regard generally involves an error of judgment, not of jurisdiction.
In exceptional cases, however, when the COMELEC's action on the appreciation and evaluation of evidence oversteps the limits of its discretion to the point of being grossly unreasonable, the Court is not only obliged, but has the constitutional duty to intervene. When grave abuse of discretion is present, resulting errors arising from the grave abuse mutate from error of judgment to one of jurisdiction.
Our reading of the petition shows that it is sufficient in form with respect to the requisite allegation of jurisdictional error. Mitra clearly alleged the COMELEC acts that were supposedly tainted with grave abuse of discretion. Thus, we do not agree with the respondents' contention that the petition on its face raises mere errors of judgment that are outside our certiorari jurisdiction. Whether the allegations of "grave abuse" are duly supported and substantiated is another matter and is the subject of the discussions below.
Nature of the Case under Review:
COC Denial/Cancellation Proceedings
The present petition arose from a petition to deny due course or to cancel Mitra's COC. This is the context of and take-off point for our review. From this perspective, the nature and requisites of the COC cancellation proceedings are primary considerations in resolving the present petition.
Section 74, in relation to Section 78, of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) governs the cancellation of, and grant or denial of due course to, COCs. The combined application of these sections requires that the candidate's stated facts in the COC be true, under pain of the COC's denial or cancellation if any false representation of a material fact is made. To quote these provisions:
SEC. 74. Contents of certificate of candidacy. -- The certificate of candidacy shall state that the person filing it is announcing his candidacy for the office stated therein and that he is eligible for said office; if for Member of the Batasang Pambansa, the province, including its component cities, highly urbanized city or district or sector which he seeks to represent; the political party to which he belongs; civil status; his date of birth; residence; his post office address for all election purposes; his profession or occupation; that he will support and defend the Constitution of the Philippines and will maintain true faith and allegiance thereto; that he will obey the laws, legal orders, and decrees promulgated by the duly constituted authorities; that he is not a permanent resident or immigrant to a foreign country; that the obligation imposed by his oath is assumed voluntarily, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that the facts stated in the certificate of candidacy are true to the best of his knowledge.
x x x x
SEC. 78. Petition to deny due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy. - A verified petition seeking to deny due course or to cancel a certificate of candidacy may be filed by any person exclusively on the ground that any material representation contained therein as required under Section 74 hereof is false. The petition may be filed at any time not later than twenty-five days from the time of the filing of the certificate of candidacy and shall be decided, after due notice and hearing not later than fifteen days before the election.
The false representation that these provisions mention must necessarily pertain to a material fact. The critical material facts are those that refer to a candidate's qualifications for elective office, such as his or her citizenship and residence. The candidate's status as a registered voter in the political unit where he or she is a candidate similarly falls under this classification as it is a requirement that, by law (the Local Government Code), must be reflected in the COC. The reason for this is obvious: the candidate, if he or she wins, will work for and represent the political unit where he or she ran as a candidate.
The false representation under Section 78 must likewise be a "deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact that would otherwise render a candidate ineligible." Given the purpose of the requirement, it must be made with the intention to deceive the electorate as to the would-be candidate's qualifications for public office. Thus, the misrepresentation that Section 78 addresses cannot be the result of a mere innocuous mistake, and cannot exist in a situation where the intent to deceive is patently absent, or where no deception on the electorate results. The deliberate character of the misrepresentation necessarily follows from a consideration of the consequences of any material falsity: a candidate who falsifies a material fact cannot run; if he runs and is elected, he cannot serve; in both cases, he can be prosecuted for violation of the election laws.
Based on these standards, we find that Mitra did not commit any deliberate material misrepresentation in his COC. The COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in its appreciation of the evidence, leading it to conclude that Mitra is not a resident of Aborlan, Palawan. The COMELEC, too, failed to critically consider whether Mitra deliberately attempted to mislead, misinform or hide a fact that would otherwise render him ineligible for the position of Governor of Palawan.
Under the evidentiary situation of the case,
there is clearly no basis for the conclusion
that Mitra deliberately attempted to mislead
the Palawan electorate.
From the start, Mitra never hid his intention to transfer his residence from Puerto Princesa City to Aborlan to comply with the residence requirement of a candidate for an elective provincial office. Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code, does not abhor this intended transfer of residence, as its Section 39 merely requires an elective local official to be a resident of the local government unit where he intends to run for at least one (1) year immediately preceding the day of the election. In other words, the law itself recognizes implicitly that there can be a change of domicile or residence, but imposes only the condition that residence at the new place should at least be for a year. Of course, as a continuing requirement or qualification, the elected official must remain a resident there for the rest of his term.
Mitra's domicile of origin is undisputedly Puerto Princesa City. For him to qualify as Governor - in light of the relatively recent change of status of Puerto Princesa City from a component city to a highly urbanized city whose residents can no longer vote for provincial officials - he had to abandon his domicile of origin and acquire a new one within the local government unit where he intended to run; this would be his domicile of choice. To acquire a domicile of choice, jurisprudence, which the COMELEC correctly invoked, requires the following:
(1) residence or bodily presence in a new locality;
(2) an intention to remain there; and
(3) an intention to abandon the old domicile.
The contentious issues in Mitra's case relate to his bodily presence, or the lack of it, in Aborlan, and the declaration he made on this point. The respondents anchor their cause of action on the alleged falsity of Mitra's statement that he is a resident of Aborlan. To support this contention, the respondents claim that the construction of the supposed Mitra residence or house, other than the leased premises in Maligaya Feedmill, has yet to be completed, leaving Mitra with no habitable place in Aborlan. When Mitra successfully refuted this original claim, the respondents presented sworn statements of Aborlan residents contradicting Mitra's claimed physical residence at the Maligaya Feedmill building in Aborlan. They likewise point out, by sworn statements, that this alleged residence could not be considered a house that Mitra could properly consider his residence, on the view that the feedmill place is beneath what Mitra - a three-term congressman and a member of the Mitra political clan of Palawan - would occupy.
Mitra, on the other hand, presented sworn statements of various persons (including the seller of the land he purchased, the lessor of the Maligaya Feedmill, and the Punong Barangay of the site of his residence) attesting to his physical residence in Aborlan; photographs of the residential portion of Maligaya Feedmill where he resides, and of his experimental pineapple plantation, farm, farmhouse and cock farm; the lease contract over the Maligaya Feedmill; and the deed of sale of the lot where he has started constructing his house. He clarified, too, that he does not claim residence in Aborlan at the house then under construction; his actual residence is the mezzanine portion of the Maligaya Feedmill building.
Faced with the seemingly directly contradictory evidence, the COMELEC apparently grossly misread its import and, because it used wrong considerations, was led into its faulty conclusion.
The seeming contradictions arose from the sworn statements of some Aborlan residents attesting that they never saw Mitra in Aborlan; these are controverted by similar sworn statements by other Aborlan residents that Mitra physically resides in Aborlan. The number of witnesses and their conflicting claims for and against Mitra's residency appear to have sidetracked the COMELEC. Substantial evidence, however, is not a simple question of number; reason demands that the focus be on what these differing statements say.
For example, the sworn statements that Mitra has never been seen in Aborlan border on the unbelievable and loudly speak of their inherent weakness as evidence.
Mitra has established business interests in Aborlan, a fact which the respondents have never disputed. He was then the incumbent three-term Representative who, as early as 2008, already entertained thoughts of running for Governor in 2010. It is not disputed, too, that Mitra has started the construction of a house on a lot he bought from Rexter Temple; the site is very near the Maligaya Feedmill that he leased from its owner, Carme Caspe.
While Mitra might not have stayed in Aborlan nor in Palawan for most of 2008 and 2009 because his office and activities as a Representative were in Manila, it is hardly credible that he would not be seen in Aborlan. In this regard, the sworn statement of the Punong Barangay of Isaub, Aborlan should carry a lot more weight than the statements of punong barangay officials elsewhere since it is the business of a punong barangay to know who the residents are in his own barangay. The COMELEC apparently missed all these because it was fixated on the perceived coldness and impersonality of Mitra's dwelling.
The parties' submitted documentary evidence likewise requires careful consideration for the correct appraisal of its evidentiary value. On the one hand, the document of sale of the Temple property, the building permit for the house under construction, and the community tax certificate used in these transactions all stated that Mitra's residence was Puerto Princesa City. On the other hand, Mitra introduced a notarized contract of lease - supported by the sworn explanation of the lessor (Carme Caspe) - showing that he indeed leased Maligaya Feedmill. He submitted, too, a residence certificate showing Aborlan as his residence, and an identification card of the House of Representatives showing Aborlan as his residence.
We cannot give full evidentiary weight to the contract of sale as evidence relating to Mitra's residence for two reasons. First, it is a unilateral contract executed by the seller (Rexter Temple); thus, his statement and belief as to Mitra's personal circumstances cannot be taken as conclusive against the latter. Second, the sale involved several vendees, including Mitra's brother (Ramon B. Mitra) and one Peter Winston T. Gonzales; his co-vendees still live in Puerto Princesa City; hence, they were all loosely and collectively described to have their residence in Puerto Princesa City. Parenthetically, the document simply stated: "I, REXTER TEMPLE, of legal age, Filipino, single and resident of Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan, hereby by these presents, x x x do hereby SELL, TRANSFER and CONVEY unto the said Vendees, ABRAHAM KAHLIL B. MITRA, single; RAMON B. MITRA, married to Mary Ann Mitra; PETER WINSTON T. GONZALES, married to Florecita R. Gonzales, all of legal ages and residents [of] Rancho Sta. Monica, Brgy. Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa City, their heirs and assigns." Thus, the contract contained a mere general statement that loosely described the vendees as Puerto Princesa City residents. This general statement solely came from the vendor.
The building permit, on the other hand, was filed by Mitra's representative, an architect named John Quillope, who apparently likewise filled the form. That Mitra only signed the building permit form is readily discernible from an examination of the face of the form; even the statement on his community tax certificate bearing a Puerto Princesa City residence does not appear in his handwriting. Significantly, Mitra's secretary - Lilia Camora - attested that it was she who secured the community tax certificate for Mitra in February 2009 without the latter's knowledge. Annex "M" of the respondents' Petition before the COMELEC indeed shows that the community tax certificate did not bear the signature of Mitra. Mitra secured his own certificate in Aborlan on March 18, 2009. This community tax certificate carries his own signature. Parenthetically, per Carme Caspe's statement, Mitra leased the feedmill residence in February 2008 and started moving in his belongings in March 2008, confirming the veracity of his Aborlan presence at the time he secured his community tax certificate. In these lights, the February 3, 2009 community tax certificate, if at all, carries very little evidentiary value.
The respondents expectedly attacked the validity of the lease contract; they contended in their Memorandum that the feedmill was situated in a forest land that cannot be leased, and that the contract, while notarized, was not registered with the required notarial office of the court.
The validity of the lease contract, however, is not the issue before us; what concerns us is the question of whether Mitra did indeed enter into an agreement for the lease, or strictly for the use, of the Maligaya Feedmill as his residence (while his house, on the lot he bought, was under construction) and whether he indeed resided there. The notary's compliance with the notarial law likewise assumes no materiality as it is a defect not imputable to Mitra; what is important is the parties' affirmation before a notary public of the contract's genuineness and due execution.
A sworn statement that has no counterpart in the respondents' evidence in so far as it provides details (particularly when read with the statement of Ricardo Temple) is Carme Caspe's statement on how Mitra's transfer of residence took place. Read together, these statements attest that the transfer of residence was accomplished, not in one single move but, through an incremental process that started in early 2008 and was in place by March 2009, although the house Mitra intended to be his permanent home was not yet then completed.
In considering the residency issue, the COMELEC practically focused solely on its consideration of Mitra's residence at Maligaya Feedmill, on the basis of mere photographs of the premises. In the COMELEC's view (expressly voiced out by the Division and fully concurred in by the En Banc), the Maligaya Feedmill building could not have been Mitra's residence because it is cold and utterly devoid of any indication of Mitra's personality and that it lacks loving attention and details inherent in every home to make it one's residence. This was the main reason that the COMELEC relied upon for its conclusion.
Such assessment, in our view, based on the interior design and furnishings of a dwelling as shown by and examined only through photographs, is far from reasonable; the COMELEC thereby determined the fitness of a dwelling as a person's residence based solely on very personal and subjective assessment standards when the law is replete with standards that can be used. Where a dwelling qualifies as a residence - i.e., the dwelling where a person permanently intends to return to and to remain - his or her capacity or inclination to decorate the place, or the lack of it, is immaterial.
Examined further, the COMELEC's reasoning is not only intensely subjective but also flimsy, to the point of grave abuse of discretion when compared with the surrounding indicators showing the Mitra has indeed been physically present in Aborlan for the required period with every intent to settle there. Specifically, it was lost on the COMELEC majority (but not on the Dissent) that Mitra made definite, although incremental transfer moves, as shown by the undisputed business interests he has established in Aborlan in 2008; by the lease of a dwelling where he established his base; by the purchase of a lot for his permanent home; by his transfer of registration as a voter in March 2009; and by the construction of a house all viewed against the backdrop of a bachelor Representative who spent most of his working hours in Manila, who had a whole congressional district to take care of, and who was establishing at the same time his significant presence in the whole Province of Palawan.
From these perspectives, we cannot but conclude that the COMELEC's approach - i.e., the application of subjective non-legal standards and the gross misappreciation of the evidence - is tainted with grave abuse of discretion, as the COMELEC used wrong considerations and grossly misread the evidence in arriving at its conclusion. In using subjective standards, the COMELEC committed an act not otherwise within the contemplation of law on an evidentiary point that served as a major basis for its conclusion in the case.
With this analysis and conclusion in mind, we come to the critical question of whether Mitra deliberately misrepresented that his residence is in Aborlan to deceive and mislead the people of the Province of Palawan.
We do not believe that he committed any deliberate misrepresentation given what he knew of his transfer, as shown by the moves he had made to carry it out. From the evidentiary perspective, we hold that the evidence confirming residence in Aborlan decidedly tilts in Mitra's favor; even assuming the worst for Mitra, the evidence in his favor cannot go below the level of an equipoise, i.e., when weighed, Mitra's evidence of transfer and residence in Aborlan cannot be overcome by the respondents' evidence that he remained a Puerto Princesa City resident. Under the situation prevailing when Mitra filed his COC, we cannot conclude that Mitra committed any misrepresentation, much less a deliberate one, about his residence.
The character of Mitra's representation before the COMELEC is an aspect of the case that the COMELEC completely failed to consider as it focused mainly on the character of Mitra's feedmill residence. For this reason, the COMELEC was led into error - one that goes beyond an ordinary error of judgment. By failing to take into account whether there had been a deliberate misrepresentation in Mitra's COC, the COMELEC committed the grave abuse of simply assuming that an error in the COC was necessarily a deliberate falsity in a material representation. In this case, it doubly erred because there was no falsity; as the carefully considered evidence shows, Mitra did indeed transfer his residence within the period required by Section 74 of the OEC.
The respondents significantly ask us in this case to adopt the same faulty approach of using subjective norms, as they now argue that given his stature as a member of the prominent Mitra clan of Palawan, and as a three term congressman, it is highly incredible that a small room in a feed mill has served as his residence since 2008.
We reject this suggested approach outright for the same reason we condemned the COMELEC's use of subjective non-legal standards. Mitra's feed mill dwelling cannot be considered in isolation and separately from the circumstances of his transfer of residence, specifically, his expressed intent to transfer to a residence outside of Puerto Princesa City to make him eligible to run for a provincial position; his preparatory moves starting in early 2008; his initial transfer through a leased dwelling; the purchase of a lot for his permanent home; and the construction of a house in this lot that, parenthetically, is adjacent to the premises he leased pending the completion of his house. These incremental moves do not offend reason at all, in the way that the COMELEC's highly subjective non-legal standards do.
Thus, we can only conclude, in the context of the cancellation proceeding before us, that the respondents have not presented a convincing case sufficient to overcome Mitra's evidence of effective transfer to and residence in Aborlan and the validity of his representation on this point in his COC, while the COMELEC could not even present any legally acceptable basis to conclude that Mitra's statement in his COC regarding his residence was a misrepresentation.
Mitra has significant relationship with,
and intimate knowledge of, the constituency
he wishes to serve.
Citing jurisprudence, we began this ponencia with a discussion of the purpose of the residency requirement under the law. By law, this residency can be anywhere within the Province of Palawan, except for Puerto Princesa City because of its reclassification as a highly urbanized city. Thus, residency in Aborlan is completely consistent with the purpose of the law, as Mitra thereby declared and proved his required physical presence in the Province of Palawan.
We also consider that even before his transfer of residence, he already had intimate knowledge of the Province of Palawan, particularly of the whole 2nd legislative district that he represented for three terms. For that matter, even the respondents themselves impliedly acknowledged that the Mitras, as a family, have been identified with elective public service and politics in the Province of Palawan. This means to us that Mitra grew up in the politics of Palawan.
We can reasonably conclude from all these that Mitra is not oblivious to the needs, difficulties, aspirations, potential for growth and development, and all matters vital to the common welfare of the constituency he intends to serve. Mitra who is no stranger to Palawan has merely been compelled - after serving three terms as representative of the congressional district that includes Puerto Princesa City and Aborlan - by legal developments to transfer his residence to Aborlan to qualify as a Province of Palawan voter. To put it differently, were it not for the reclassification of Puerto Princesa City from a component city to a highly urbanized city, Mitra would not have encountered any legal obstacle to his intended gubernatorial bid based on his knowledge of and sensitivity to the needs of the Palawan electorate.
This case, incidentally, is not the first that we have encountered where a former elective official had to transfer residence in order to continue his public service in another political unit that he could not legally access, as a candidate, without a change of residence.
In Torayno, Sr. v. COMELEC, former Governor Vicente Y. Emano re-occupied a house he owned and had leased out in Cagayan de Oro City to qualify as a candidate for the post of Mayor of that city (like Puerto Princesa City, a highly urbanized city whose residents cannot vote for and be voted upon as elective provincial officials). We said in that case that -
In other words, the actual, physical and personal presence of herein private respondent in Cagayan de Oro City is substantial enough to show his intention to fulfill the duties of mayor and for the voters to evaluate his qualifications for the mayorship. Petitioners' very legalistic, academic and technical approach to the residence requirement does not satisfy this simple, practical and common-sense rationale for the residence requirement.
In Asistio v. Hon. Trinidad Pe-Aguirre, we also had occasion to rule on the residency and right to vote of former Congressman Luis A. Asistio who had been a congressman for Caloocan in 1992, 1995, 1998 and 2004, and, in the words of the Decision, "is known to be among the prominent political families in Caloocan City." We recognized Asistio's position that a mistake had been committed in his residency statement, and concluded that the mistake is not "proof that Asistio has abandoned his domicile in Caloocan City, or that he has established residence outside of Caloocan City." By this recognition, we confirmed that Asistio has not committed any deliberate misrepresentation in his COC.
These cases are to be distinguished from the case of Velasco v. COMELEC where the COMELEC cancelled the COC of Velasco, a mayoralty candidate, on the basis of his undisputed knowledge, at the time he filed his COC, that his inclusion and registration as a voter had been denied. His failure to register as a voter was a material fact that he had clearly withheld from the COMELEC; he knew of the denial of his application to register and yet concealed his non-voter status when he filed his COC. Thus, we affirmed the COMELEC's action in cancelling his COC.
If there is any similarity at all in Velasco and the present case, that similarity is in the recognition in both cases of the rule of law. In Velasco, we recognized - based on the law - that a basic defect existed prior to his candidacy, leading to his disqualification and the vice-mayor-elect's assumption to the office. In the present case, we recognize the validity of Mitra's COC, again on the basis of substantive and procedural law, and no occasion arises for the vice-governor-elect to assume the gubernatorial post.
Mitra has been proclaimed winner
in the electoral contest and has therefore
the mandate of the electorate to serve
We have applied in past cases the principle that the manifest will of the people as expressed through the ballot must be given fullest effect; in case of doubt, political laws must be interpreted to give life and spirit to the popular mandate. Thus, we have held that while provisions relating to certificates of candidacy are in mandatory terms, it is an established rule of interpretation as regards election laws, that mandatory provisions, requiring certain steps before elections, will be construed as directory after the elections, to give effect to the will of the people.
Quite recently, however, we warned against a blanket and unqualified reading and application of this ruling, as it may carry dangerous significance to the rule of law and the integrity of our elections. For one, such blanket/unqualified reading may provide a way around the law that effectively negates election requirements aimed at providing the electorate with the basic information for an informed choice about a candidate's eligibility and fitness for office. Short of adopting a clear cut standard, we thus made the following clarification:
We distinguish our ruling in this case from others that we have made in the past by the clarification that COC defects beyond matters of form and that involve material misrepresentations cannot avail of the benefit of our ruling that COC mandatory requirements before elections are considered merely directory after the people shall have spoken. A mandatory and material election law requirement involves more than the will of the people in any given locality. Where a material COC misrepresentation under oath is made, thereby violating both our election and criminal laws, we are faced as well with an assault on the will of the people of the Philippines as expressed in our laws. In a choice between provisions on material qualifications of elected officials, on the one hand, and the will of the electorate in any given locality, on the other, we believe and so hold that we cannot choose the electorate will.
Earlier, Frivaldo v. COMELEC provided the following test:
[T]his Court has repeatedly stressed the importance of giving effect to the sovereign will in order to ensure the survival of our democracy. In any action involving the possibility of a reversal of the popular electoral choice, this Court must exert utmost effort to resolve the issues in a manner that would give effect to the will of the majority, for it is merely sound public policy to cause elective offices to be filled by those who are the choice of the majority. To successfully challenge a winning candidate's qualifications, the petitioner must clearly demonstrate that the ineligibility is so patently antagonistic to constitutional and legal principles that overriding such ineligibility and thereby giving effect to the apparent will of the people would ultimately create greater prejudice to the very democratic institutions and juristic traditions that our Constitution and laws so zealously protect and promote. [Emphasis supplied.]
With the conclusion that Mitra did not commit any material misrepresentation in his COC, we see no reason in this case to appeal to the primacy of the electorate's will. We cannot deny, however, that the people of Palawan have spoken in an election where residency qualification had been squarely raised and their voice has erased any doubt about their verdict on Mitra's qualifications.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we GRANT the petition and ANNUL the assailed COMELEC Resolutions in Antonio V. Gonzales and Orlando R. Balbon, Jr. v. Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra (SPA No. 09-038 [C]). We DENY the respondents' petition to cancel Abraham Kahlil Mitra's Certificate of Candidacy. No costs.
Carpio, Carpio Morales, Nachura, Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Abad, Villarama, Jr., and Mendoza, JJ., concur.
Corona, C.J., and Perez, JJ., joins the dissent of J. Velasco, Jr.
Velasco, Jr., J., pls. see dissenting opinion.
 Section 3, Article X of the 1987 Constitution pertinently provides:
Section 3. The Congress shall enact a local government code which shall provide for the qualifications, election, appointment and removal, term, salaries, powers and functions and duties of local officials, and all other matters relating to the organization and operation of the local units.
 Section 39 of the Local Government Code of 1991 states:
SEC. 39. Qualifications. - (a) An elective local official must be a citizen of the Philippines; a registered voter in the barangay, municipality, city, or province x x x where he intends to be elected; a resident therein for at least one (1) year immediately preceding the day of the election; and able to read and write Filipino or any other local language or dialect.
 Torayno, Sr. v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 137329, August 9, 2000, 337 SCRA 574, 584, citing Romualdez-Marcos v. COMELEC, 248 SCRA 300, 313 (1995), per Kapunan, J.; citing Gallego v. Vera, 73 Phil. 453, 459 (1941).
 Id. at 587.
 Rollo, pp. 3-259.
 Id. at 61.
 Id. at 88-138.
 Id. at 139-215.
 Id. at 32-133.
 Id. at 135.
 Id. at 137.
 Id. at 116-121.
 Supra note 11.
 Rollo, pp. 172-193.
 Id. at 200-205.
 Id. at 206-212.
 Id. at 169-171.
 Id. at 198.
 Id. at 215.
 See Attachments in the Respondents' Memorandum filed before the COMELEC; and the Decision of the First Division of the COMELEC, id. at 58-68.
 52 Phil. 645, 651 (1928).
 Rollo, p. 62.
 Id. at 62-63.
 Id. at 65-66.
 Id. at 67.
 Dated May 4, 2010. Chairman Jose A.R. Melo, no part; Commissioners Nicodemo T. Ferrer, Armando C. Velasco, Elias R. Yusoph and Gregorio Y. Larrazabal, concurring; Commissioners Rene V. Sarmiento and Lucenito N. Tagle, dissenting. Id. at 70-82.
 Id. at 74-76.
 Id. at 76-77.
 Id. at 77-79.
 G.R. No. 187478, December 21, 2009.
 Rollo, pp. 79-81.
 Id. at 83-85; supported by Commissioner Lucenito N. Tagle.
 Id. at 84.
 Id. at 17.
 Id. at 21.
 Id. at 25.
 Id. at 28-29.
 Id. at 42-43.
 Resolution dated May 7, 2010; id. at 971-973.
 Id. at 268-360.
 See the Petitioner's Manifestation dated May 24, 2010. The petitioner garnered 146, 847 votes while candidate Jose C. Alvarez garnered the second highest with 131, 872 votes. Id. at 1012-1019. See also: COMELEC Comment of June 2, 2010, attached to which is the Certificate of Proclamation for Mitra as Governor-elect. Id. at 1076-1078.
 Supra note 45.
 Supra note 46.
 Id. at 1062-1080.
 Id. at 1001-1005.
 Id. at 1024-1061.
 Section 2, Rule 64 of the Rules of Court states:
SEC. 2. Mode of review. - A judgment or final order or resolution of the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit may be brought by the aggrieved party to the Supreme Court on certiorari under Rule 65, except as hereinafter provided.
 Quintos v. COMELEC, 440 Phil. 1045 (2002).
 Suliguin v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 166046, March 23, 2006, 485 SCRA 219.
 Varias v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 189078, February 11, 2010.
 Id., citing Section 5, Rule 134 of the Rules of Court.
 Section 1, par. 2, Article VIII of the Constitution.
 Supra note 56, citing De Guzman v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 159713, March 31, 2004, 426 SCRA 698.
 See Velasco v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 180051, December 24, 2008, 575 SCRA 590, 602-603.
 Id. at 603-604.
 Id. at 604.
 See Fernandez v. HRET, supra note 36.
 Rollo, p. 132.
 See Annex "M" of the Respondents Petition before the COMELEC dated December 5, 2009. Id. at 137.
 In her Affidavit dated December 9, 2009, Lilia Camora alleged that:
2. Part of my duties as District Staff is to keep the records of Congressman Mitra including the renewal of various documents, permits and license.
3. In February 2009, considering that there are documents requiring an updated Community Tax Certificate of Congressman Mitra, I took it upon myself to secure a Community Tax Certificate in Barangay Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa City for Congressman Mitra without his knowledge and consent.
4. Although I am aware that he already changed his residence, considering that I do not know the exact address of his new residence, I decided to place his old residence in Puerto Princesa City in the Community Tax Certificate issued without any intention of malice or to do harm to anyone but simply to comply with my record keeping duties.
5. In fact, the issued Community Tax Certificate does not bear any signature or thumbprint of Congressman Mitra. [Emphasis supplied] Id. at 197.
 Id. at 137.
 Id. at 198.
 Id. at 163.
 See the Respondents' Memorandum before the COMELEC en banc dated February 23, 2010. Id. at 925-930.
 In his December 7, 2009 Sworn Statement, Ricardo Temple alleged that: (1) he is a "Kagawad" of Barangay Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan; (2) he knew Congressman Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra (Cong. Mitra) since the year 2001; (3) on January 2008, Cong. Mitra frequently visited Brgy. Isaub to establish his Pineapple Farm Project in a plot of leased land near the Maligaya Feedmill; (4) in March 2008, Cong. Mitra told him that he intended to permanently reside at Maligaya Feedmill and that he was interested in purchasing a lot where he could build his new house; (5) after a few months, he sold a lot, belonging to his son located in Sitio Maligaya, Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan which was situated near the Maligaya Feedmill and Farm to Cong. Mitra to which the latter paid in full in April 2009; (6) on June 5, 2009, Rexter Temple and Cong. Mitra executed a Deed of Sale over the lot; (7) starting April 2009, Cong. Mitra commenced the construction of a fence surrounding the lot, a farmhouse and a water system; (8) in June 2009, Cong. Mitra initiated the construction of a concrete house on the lot; (9) in June 2009, Cong. Mitra's fighting cocks arrived in Sitio Maligaya; and (10) at present, Cong. Mitra continues to reside at Maligaya Feedmill pending the completion of his house in Sitio Maligaya. Id. at 172-173.
 Id. at 163-164.
 See also, in this regard, the Dissent of Commissioner Rene Sarmiento; id. at 83-85.
 Supra note 23, at 65-66.
 The term "residence" is to be understood not in its common acceptation as referring to "dwelling" or "habitation," but rather to "domicile" or legal residence, that is "the place where a party actually or constructively has his permanent home, where he, no matter where he may be found at any given time, eventually intends to return and remain (animus manendi). Coquilla v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 151914, July 31, 2002, 385 SCRA 607, 616, citing Aquino v. COMELEC, 248 SCRA 400, 420 (1995).
 See the Respondents' Comment, supra note 46.
 Supra note 45, at 333-336.
 Supra note 3, at 587.
 G.R. No. 191124, April 27, 2010.
 Supra note 60.
 Supra note 3, at 587-588.
 Supra note 60.
 Id. at 615.
 G.R. Nos. 120295 and 123755, June 28, 1996, 257 SCRA 727, 771-772.
VELASCO, JR., J.:
Respondent Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra (for brevity, "Mitra") is the incumbent Representative of the Second District of Palawan which includes, among others, the Municipality of Aborlan and Puerto Princesa City. Mitra likewise admitted that he was a long time resident of Puerto Princesa City which domicile he abandoned in 2008 in favor of [the] Municipality of Aborlan.
I register my dissent to the ponencia granting the petition.
The facts, as found by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) First Division, are as follows:
On 26 March 2007, Puerto Princesa City ceased to be a component city of the Province of Palawan after it was classified as a "Highly Urbanized City." Consequently, its residents are no longer eligible to vote for candidates for elective provincial officials such as Governor, Vice-Governor, and the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
On 20 March 2009, with the intention of running for the position of Governor, Mitra applied for the transfer of his Voters Registration Record from Precinct No. 03720 of Barangay Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa City to Sitio Maligaya, Barangay Isaub, Municipality of Aborlan, Province of Palawan.
Eventually, on 28 November 2009, Mitra filed his Certificate of Candidacy for the position of Governor of the Province of Palawan. Petitioners Antonio V. Gonzales (for brevity, "Gonzales") and Orlando R. Balbon, Jr. (for brevity, "Balbon") thereafter filed the present petition to Deny Due Course of to Cancel Certificate of Candidacy.
In their Petition to deny due course to or cancel the Certificate of Candidacy (COC) of Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra (Mitra) before the COMELEC, private respondents Antonio V. Gonzales (Gonzales) and Orlando R. Balbon, Jr. (Balbon) claim that contrary to what Mitra had stated in his COC and in his application for transfer of Voter's Registration Records, Mitra has not established legal residence or even semblance of residency in Sitio Maligaya, Barangay Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan. To prove the foregoing, they proffer the following arguments and factual premises: (a) That Mitra bought a parcel of land in Barangay Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan, together with Ramon B. Mitra and Winston T. Gonzales only on 05 June 2009, which house remained unfinished and uninhabitable at the time of the filing of the petition; (b) That Mitra remains a resident of Sta. Monica Puerto Princesa City as shown by the following: (i) deed of sale executed by Rexter Temple - that indicated that Mitra's residence is in Puerto Princesa; (ii) application for building permit dated 15 July 2009, wherein Puerto Princesa is also indicated as Mitra's residence; (iii) Certification issued by the Punong Barangay of Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa City, dated 11 November 2009, stating that Mitra is a bona fide resident of Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa and that Mitra obtained his Community Tax Certificate from the said barangay on 03 February 2009; (iv) A certified true copy of Mitra's Community Tax Certificate that he secured from Barangay Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa, which he used in his application for a building permit, which application, Mitra signed twice. Private respondents further presented numerous sworn statements executed by some residents of Sitio Maligaya attesting to the fact that they have not seen Mitra in their locality but that they know of the unfinished house that he is building.
In his answer to the petition to deny due course or cancel his COC, Mitra denied private respondents' allegations and claimed that he was a constant visitor to Aborlan, even before he transferred his residence thereto. Mitra also asserts that his legal residence and domicile in Aborlan, Palawan is not the unfinished house, but the residential portion of the farmhouse of the Maligaya Feedmill and Farm. Mitra adds that he regularly meets with his Aborlan constituents, and all of his other visitors from Puerto Princesa, Manila and elsewhere at the farmhouse. Mitra presented the following to prove his assertions: (a) Sworn statement of Carme E. Caspe, stating that Mitra had started a "pineapple growing project" in Aborlan; and that Mitra had been renting the residential portion of the Maligaya Feedmill since February 2008; (b) Letter-Agreement between Carme E. Caspe and Mitra confirming the lease of the residential portion of the Maligaya Feedmill and Farm, dated 18 February 2008; (c) Lease Contract over the ff: (i) Chicken layer house; (ii) Chicken growing house; and (iii) a portion of the residential area at the Maligaya Feedmill; (d) Photographs of the residential portion of the Maligaya Feedmill; and photographs of Mitra's supposed pineapple growing farm, farmhouse, and cock farm; and (e) A copy of Mitra's Community Tax Certificate issued in Aborlan dated 18 March 2009. Mitra also presented several sworn statements, including that of the Punong Barangay of Isaub, Aborlan, stating among others that Mitra resides in their locality.
After the hearing on 21 December 2009, the COMELEC First Division ordered the parties to submit their memoranda.
In their memorandum, private respondents claim that Mitra's residence at the Maligaya Feedmill is a mere afterthought after it was shown in their petition that his house is still unfinished and uninhabitable. Private respondents further claim that the lease contract was a sham by presenting the Special Land Use Permit covering the Maligaya Feedmill which authorizes the land's use only as a feedmill and which prohibits its sublease to other parties; and by stressing on the point that though the lease contract appears to have been notarized on 02 February 2009, such document was not recorded in the Notarial Register of the notary public and was not submitted to the Notarial Section of the RTC Makati, even when the notary's report was only submitted on 24 July 2009. In addition, private respondents submitted a joint affidavit of 14 Punong Barangays of Aborlan stating that Mitra does not reside in Aborlan; several sworn statements of certain residents of Aborlan, and former employees and customers of the Maligaya Feedmill and Farm stating among others that: (a) the feedmill is not suitable as a residential area because of the noise and pollution in the area; (b) the supposed residence of Mitra in the mezzanine of the feedmill is not suitable for residential purposes because it does not have bathroom and kitchen facilities, and that the said space is actually the office of the Maligaya Feedmill where its business is conducted; (c) that most of them, though working at the feedmill, have not seen Mitra in the premises of the feedmill; and those of them that have, attest that he only visits there to talk to Dr. Caspe and does not stay too long. Private respondents also presented the sworn statements of five witnesses for Mitra who have recanted their previous statements. Private respondents further presented in addition to the certification of the Punong Barangay of Sta. Monica Puerto Princesa, the affidavit of Mitra's neighbor who stated that he has observed and knows that Mitra still resides in their house in Puerto Princesa City.
On the merits, Mitra stated in his memorandum that his COC does not contain false material representation; that his legal residence and domicile for purposes of the 10 May 2010 elections is the residential portion of the feedmill and not the unfinished house; and that Mitra has successfully abandoned his Puerto Princesa City. Mitra additionally submitted four sworn statements to support his position.
Ruling of the COMELEC First Division
On 10 February 2010, the COMELEC First Division held that Mitra had failed to prove that he had effected an abandonment of his domicile of origin and successfully established a new domicile of choice. The pertinent portion and the fallo of the Resolution read as follows:
Although the law imposes no property qualification on anyone who seeks to run as governor, an appreciation of the respondent's alleged "residence" through the evidence he presented is key in enabling Us to determine whether the same is truly his home and residence. A home need not be a palace or a castle in order to be considered [as] such. What is controlling is the manifest intention of the occupant which may be gleaned from his treatment of his "residence."
A judicious consideration of all the evidence submitted, including various affidavits proffered by both parties and photographs of the small room which respondent claims to be his residence, and guided by jurisprudence discussed herein, this Commission is inclined to grant the petition.
The pictures presented by Mitra of his supposed "residence" are telling. The said pictures show a small, sparsely furnished room which is evidently unlived in and which is located on the second floor of a structure that appears like a factory or a warehouse. These pictures likewise show that the "residence" appears hastily set-up, cold, and utterly devoid of any personalty which would have imprinted Mitra's personality thereto such as old family photographs and memorabilia collected through the years. In fact, an appreciation of Mitra's supposed "residence" raises doubts whether or not he indeed lives there. Verily, what is lacking therein are the loving attention and details inherent in every home to make it one's residence. Perhaps, at most, and to this Commission's mind, this small room could have served as Mitra's resting area whenever he visited the said locality but nothing more.
This observation coupled with the numerous statements from former employees and customers of Maligaya Feed Mill and Farm that Mitra's residence is located in an unsavoury location, considering the noise and pollution of being in a factory area, and that the same, in fact, had been Maligaya Feed Mill's office just a few months back, militates against Mitra's claim that the same has been his residence since early 2008. These information make it clear to this Commission that this room is not a home.
A person's domicile of origin is not easily lost. The fact that Mitra has registered as a voter in Aborlan, has a cockfarm, a farm, a resthouse, and an experimental pineapple plantation in Maligaya Feed Mill; was occasionally seen staying in Aborlan; and held meetings therein with his constituents does not ipso facto prove his status as a resident therein and his alleged abandonment of his domicile of origin in Puerto Princesa City.
Mere absence from one's residence or domicile of origin to pursue studies, engage in business, or practice one's [vocation], is not sufficient to constitute abandonment or less of residence. Registration or voting in a place other than one's domicile does not eliminate such an individual's animus revertendi to his domicile or residence of origin, which finds justification in the natural desire and longing of every person to return to the place of birth which strong feeling of attachment must be over come by positive proof of abandonment for another.
Also, this Commission takes note of Mitra's witnesses' sworn statements which appear to have been prepared by the same person, the said statements having used similar wordings, allegations and contents, thereby putting into question the credibility of these affiants. Furthermore, the lease contract over the Maligaya Feed Mill between Mitra and Dr. Carme E. Caspe shows its effectivity until 28 February 2010 only, further casting doubts on Mitra's status as a resident of Aborlan.
In the instant case, Mitra, through his external actions and through the evidence he presented, failed to prove, to Our satisfaction, that he had effected an abandonment of his domicile or origin in Puerto Princesa City and has successfully established a new domicile of choice in Aborlan, Palawan. It may be so that Mitra has decided to abandon his domicile of origin, but until Mitra has shown and proved, through evidence and by his own actions, that he has successfully established a new domicile somewhere else, his domicile of origin continues to be his residence. Consequently, Mitra, not being a resident of Aborlan and being domiciled in Puerto Princesa City, is not qualified to be a candidate for the position of Governor of the Province of Palawan.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition is GRANTED and the certificate of candidacy of respondent Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra is DENIED DUE COURSE and CANCELLED.
From this Resolution, Mitra moved for reconsideration, praying to reconsider and set aside the Resolution of the COMELEC First Division. Mitra argues that the transfer of his registration as a voter to Aborlan clearly shows that he has successfully abandoned his domicile of origin; that his intention to abandon Puerto Princesa City and to transfer to Aborlan, Palawan is most evident through his actions; that the private respondents failed to indubitably establish his disqualification through the summary proceedings conducted by the COMELEC; and that he did not make any deliberate false misrepresentation in his COC in respect of his residence in Aborlan, Palawan. Mitra also prays for the application of the Fernandez v. HRET case.
Ruling of the COMELEC En Banc
On 04 May 2010, six days before the elections, the COMELEC En Banc, voting four to two, came up with its Resolution denying Mitra's motion for reconsideration and wholly affirming the 10 February 2010 Resolution of the COMELEC First Division. The fallo of the Resolution reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant motion for reconsideration is DENIED for lack of merit. The First Division's Resolution dated 10 February 2010 is hereby AFFIRMED.
Immediately thereafter, Mitra filed before this Court the instant petition with a prayer for the issuance of a status quo order or a temporary restraining order. We granted the application for injunctive relief by issuing a status quo order and allowing Mitra to be voted for in the 10 May 2010 elections. A supplemental petition was filed by Mitra, which was answered by private respondents in their supplemental comment. In the interim, Mitra emerged as the candidate who obtained the highest votes and was proclaimed as Governor of the Province of Palawan on 14 May 2010.
In his petition, Mitra presents the following issues for our consideration:
1. The issue of a candidate's eligibility should be resolved in an appropriate Quo Warranto proceedings after an election;
2. The COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in ruling strictly against Mitra and liberally in favor of private respondents;
3. The COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in deciding the petition to deny due course to or cancel certificate of candidacy in a summary proceedings where a Quo Warranto proceeding is most appropriate;
4. With the lack of a formal hearing and presentation of evidence; actual inspection and verification of the residence; and without actual confrontation of the witnesses, the conclusions of the COMELEC were predicated on sheer speculation; and
5. The burden of proof should have been placed on the private respondents and the COMELEC should not have based its resolutions on the alleged weakness of Mitra's submissions.
The petition should be dismissed.
Contrary to the opinion of the ponente, it is without a doubt that the petition is wanting in form and substance to merit this Court's exercise of its certiorari jurisdiction. The instant petition miserably failed to show any error of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the COMELEC to merit this Court's review of the COMELEC's factual findings. It is a time tested rule that in the absence of grave abuse of discretion or any jurisdictional infirmity or error of law, the factual findings, conclusions, rulings and decisions rendered by the COMELEC on matters falling within its competence shall not be interfered with by this Court. Furthermore, We do not ordinarily review the COMELEC's appreciation and evaluation of evidence since any error on this regard generally involves and error of judgment, not an error of jurisdiction. Hence, where the issue or question involved affects the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision - not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision - the same is beyond the province of a special civil action for certiorari. We note the Solicitor General's comment on the matter:
There is no reason for this Honorable Court to disturb the factual findings of public respondent. It is axiomatic that factual findings of administrative agencies which have acquired expertise in their field are binding and conclusive on the court. An application for certiorari against actions of public respondent is confined to instances of grave abuse of discretion amounting to patent and substantial denial of due process, considering that public respondent is presumed to be most competent in matters falling within its domain.
Moreover, the evaluation and calibration of the evidence necessarily involves consideration of factual issues - an exercise that is not appropriate for a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45. This rule provides that the parties may raise only questions of law, because the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts. Otherwise stated, it is not this Honorable Court's function to review, examine and evaluate or weigh the probative value of the evidence presented. A question of fact would arise in such event. While there may be exceptions to this rule, petitioners miserably failed to show why the exceptions should be applied here.
The private respondents and the Solicitor General are in unison in pointing out that Mitra had failed to establish that the COMELEC committed any error of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion. Nonetheless, the ponencia supports its review of the factual findings of the COMELEC on the mere fact that Mitra had alleged in his petition that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion. The ponencia did not even specify which of Mitra's issues merited this Court's exercise of its limited certiorari jurisdiction. It merely concluded that grave abuse of discretion was committed and proceeded to evaluate and calibrate the evidence submitted by the parties. A mere allegation of grave abuse of discretion, no matter how adamant, should not merit affirmative action from this Court when the same is not supported by clear and convincing examples or evidence. Otherwise, we will be constrained to review the factual findings on each and every case submitted to our jurisdiction.
It is further noteworthy that the Solicitor General opines that the COMELEC did not commit grave abuse of discretion:
With the power of public respondent well-defined, it is incumbent on petitioner to prove that there is a capricious, arbitrary and whimsical exercise of power. The writ of certiorari is intended for the correction of errors of jurisdiction only or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Its principal office is only to keep the inferior court within the parameters of its jurisdiction or to prevent it from committing such a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
Here, [there] is no abuse of power, much less one that is capricious, arbitrary and whimsical warranting the issuance of the extraordinary writ of certiorari. Petitioner evidently made a material representation that is false when he declared in his Certificate of Candidacy that he is a resident of Aborlan, Palawan. By his own admission, he is merely "in the process of constructing his very own residential house in the same area of Aborlan." This is an admission against interest which is the best evidence as it affords the greatest certainty of the facts in dispute. Indeed, a man's acts, conduct, and declaration, wherever made, if voluntary, are admissible against him, for the reason that it is fair to presume that they correspond with the truth, and it is his fault if they do not.
Moreover, it should be pointed out that the COMELEC based its ruling and conclusions on substantial evidence. Mitra failed to demonstrate which finding of the COMELEC is or are not supported by evidence. Thus, Section 5 of Rule 64 should apply, thereby, preventing Us from further reviewing the factual findings of the COMELEC. Sec. 5 of Rule 64 states:
Sec. 5. Form and contents of petition.--x x x The petition shall state the facts with certainty, present clearly the issues involved, set forth the grounds and brief arguments relied upon for review, and pray for judgment annulling or modifying the questioned judgment, final order or resolution. Findings of fact of the Commission supported by substantial evidence shall be final and non-reviewable.
x x x x (Emphasis added.)
With this, the ponencia is clearly in error when it substituted the factual findings of the COMELEC based on substantial evidence with its own findings of facts which are based on controverted or unsubstantiated evidence. Thus, inasmuch as Mitra failed to adduce evidence to demonstrate grave abuse of discretion and since the factual findings of the COMELEC are based on substantial evidence, this Court should not re-evaluate and calibrate the factual findings of the COMELEC.
Nonetheless, to offer a final determination on the merits of the case, I will discuss the main arguments set forth by Mitra.
Mitra claims that the COMELEC has no jurisdiction to entertain a petition to deny due course or cancel a certificate of candidacy when an action for quo warranto is available after the elections.
This contention is without merit.
The COMELEC is the constitutional body entrusted with the exclusive jurisdiction over all contests relating to the qualifications of all regional, provincial, and city officials. The basis for a petition to deny due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy is found in Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), while that for a petition for quo warranto is found in Section 253 of the OEC. These are two different causes of action which may both result in the disqualification of a candidate. It is settled that the COMELEC has jurisdiction over a petition filed under Section 78 of the OEC. If a candidate states a material representation in his COC that is false, as in this case, the COMELEC, following the law, is empowered to deny due course to or cancel such certificate of candidacy. We note the opinion of the Solicitor General, to wit:
The powers and functions of public respondent, conferred upon it by the 1987 Constitution and the Omnibus Election Code, embrace the power to resolve controversies arising from the enforcement of election laws, and to be the sole judge of all pre-proclamation controversies; and of all contests relating to the elections, returns, and qualifications.
In the exercise of the said jurisdiction, its is within the competence of public respondent to determine whether false representation as to material facts was made in the Certificate of Candidacy, that will include, among others, the residence of the candidate. x x x
x x x x
The distinction between a summary proceeding under Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code and quo warranto proceeding is well-established, to wit:Lest it be misunderstood, the denial of due course to or the cancellation of the Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) is not based on the lack of qualifications but on a finding that the candidate made a material representation that is false, which may relate to the qualifications required of the public office he/she is running for. It is noted that the candidate states in his/her CoC that he/she is eligible for the office he/she seeks. Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), therefore, is to be read in relation to the constitutional and statutory provisions on qualifications or eligibility for public office. If the candidate subsequently states a material representation in the CoC that is false, the COMELEC, following the law, is empowered to deny due course to or cancel such certificate. Indeed, the Court has already likened a proceeding under Section 78 to a quo warranto proceeding under Section 253 of the OEC since they both deal with the eligibility or qualification of a candidate, with the distinction mainly in the facts that a "Section 78" petition is filed before proclamation, while a petition for quo warranto is filed after proclamation of the winning candidate.br>
Accordingly, public respondent properly took cognizance of the petition for cancellation of [the] Certificate of Candidacy.
It is thus clear that the COMELEC has jurisdiction over the petition and properly exercised it when it denied due course to and cancelled Mitra's certificate of candidacy.
Mitra claims that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in ruling strictly against Mitra and liberally in favor of private respondents.
This issue is without merit. This issue and argument is without legal and factual basis. This claim is a bare allegation that is not supported by evidence and Mitra failed to demonstrate that the COMELEC was biased against him and in favor of private respondents. It also appears on record that Mitra was given every opportunity to submit pleadings, motions and evidence in support thereof at every stage of the proceeding.
Mitra's third and fourth issues are intertwined and will be discussed together. Mitra argues that a summary proceeding should not have been conducted where a full-blown trial is more appropriate. He adds that because of the lack of a formal hearing and proper presentation of evidence; the lack of an actual inspection and verification of the residence; and without actual confrontation of the witnesses, the conclusions of the COMELEC were predicated on sheer speculation
These arguments are untenable.
A formal trial-type hearing is not always essential to due process. Absent evidence of gross violation of due process or grave abuse of discretion, factual determination through summary proceedings cannot be disturbed. As properly pointed out by the Solicitor General, Mitra cannot insist on a full blown trial on the merits, to wit:
Moreover, petitioner cannot insist on a full-blown trial on the merits. The proceedings in a petition to deny due course to or cancel a Certificate of Candidacy is summary. The parties are only required submit their position papers together with affidavits, counter-affidavits, and other documentary evidence in lieu of oral testimony. When there is a need for clarification of certain matters, at the discretion of the Commission En Banc or Division, the parties may be allowed to cross-examine the affiants. In the present case, petitioner was given the opportunity to submit a Memorandum, as he in fact did. He cannot be heard now to complain on the sufficiency of the proceedings before the public respondent.
Moreover, the rulings of the COMELEC are not based on sheer speculation as Mitra and the ponencia would have it. It is clear from the assailed Resolutions that the COMELEC based its decisions on several facts which, taken together, prove that Mitra's claimed residence in the mezzanine of a feeds factory is unbelievable and is a mere afterthought.
Mitra makes much issue of the COMELEC's appreciation of the pictures which he himself submitted to prove his residence in the mezzanine of the feeds factory. The ponencia would even deduce that COMELEC's main reason for its conclusion is that the images appearing on the photographs appear "cold and utterly devoid of any indication of Mitra's personality and that it lacks loving attention and details inherent in every home to make it one's residence." The ponencia even went as far as to use this particular conclusion of the COMELEC to taint its ruling with grave abuse of discretion.
A careful reading of the assailed resolution, however, shows that the COMELEC, indeed, made a judicious consideration of the evidence submitted by both parties. The impression made by the COMELEC on Mitra's supposed residence is not a personal and subjective standard on which it based its conclusion. Rather, the said statements were made to support its observation that Mitra's supposed residence was "unlived in" and "hastily set-up." Contrary to the view of the ponencia, the COMELEC was not assailing Mitra's residence for its interior decoration but was merely indicating their impression of his supposed room from the evidence he submitted which show that, indeed, Mitra does not actually reside at that supposed room at the mezzanine of the Feedmill.
Moreover, the COMELEC also discussed the other evidence to support their ruling, aside from its accurate observation on the state of Mitra's supposed residence at the feeds factory, they stated as follows:
This observation coupled with the numerous statements from former employees and customers of Maligaya Feed Mill and Farm that Mitra's residence is located in an unsavoury location, considering the noise and pollution of being in a factory area, and that the same, in fact, had been Maligaya Feed Mill's office just a few months back, militates against Mitra's claim that the same has been his residence since early 2008. These information make it clear to this Commission that this room is not a home.
The COMELEC further pointed out, and I agree, that the effectivity of the lease covering the room in the mezzanine of the feeds factory is only until 28 February 2010, thereby disproving Mitra's claim in his Answer, that this room is his legal residence and domicile in Aborlan, Palawan.
Thus, it is clear that the COMELEC's findings of facts on which it based its conclusions are not based on sheer speculation and do not illustrate or demonstrate an error of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion.
As his final issue, Mitra claims that the burden of proof should have been placed on the private respondents; and the COMELEC should not have based its resolutions on the alleged weakness of Mitra's submissions.
Unlike in criminal cases where the quantum of evidence necessary to convict an accused is "proof beyond reasonable doubt," the quantum of evidence necessary to prove a candidate's disqualification in a quasi-judicial or administrative proceeding needs only such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind will accept to support a conclusion." Moreover, as the private respondents have successfully established - and Mitra has admitted, that Puerto Princessa City is Mitra's domicile of origin, the burden was then shifted to Mitra to prove that he had indeed actually and physically transferred to Aborlan, Palawan. Unfortunately for Mitra, he did not overcome his burden.
It is also clear that the private respondents have mustered enough evidence to satisfy the quantum of evidence in this case. Private respondents have submitted competent and credible evidence to show that (a) Mitra's house in Aborlan was recently bought and was even unfinished at the time of the filing of the petition; (b) the lease contract was a mere afterthought and is a spurious document considering that the Feedmill premises cannot be subleased to other people and that the same, though, notarized on 02 February 2009 is not recorded and was not even part of the notary's report submitted on 24 July 2009; (c) Mitra's supposed residence at the feeds factory was a not a residential area but the office of the Maligaya Feedmill and Farm (this fact was never explained nor controverted by Mitra); (d) Mitra still continued to frequent his house in Puerto Princesa (this fact admitted by Mitra and his witnesses); (e) at the time of purchase of his lot in Aborlan, Mitra was identified by the vendor as from Puerto Princesa City; (f) that even until 15 July 2009, Mitra himself indicated in the Application for Building Permit that he is still a resident of Puerto Princesa City; and (g) that even until 9 November 2009, Mitra is still a bona fide resident of Puerto Princesa City.
On the other hand, it should have been incumbent for Mitra to prove that he had actually transferred his residence from his domicile of origin in Puerto Princesa to his alleged domicile of choice in Aborlan, Palawan. He, however, failed to controvert the evidence submitted by private respondents.
It is puzzling why Mitra did not submit evidence to controvert private respondent's submission that the lease contract is a sham and a mere afterthought, and that his supposed residence at the feeds factory is not habitable - considering the noise and pollution of the factory, and because it has no comfort room and kitchen, and more importantly, that his supposed room is actually the office of the Maligaya Feedmill and Farm. No less than the employees and customers of the feeds factory attest to the fact that there is no residential portion at the feeds factory and that Mitra's supposed residence is the office of the Maligaya Feedmill where they regularly transact business.
In view of the ponente's extensive discussion on his appreciation and evaluation of the evidence submitted before the COMELEC, there is a need to further discuss the same in the light of the evidence submitted by the parties.
The ponencia failed to give due weight to the contract of sale where the vendor clearly indicated that Mitra is a resident of Puerto Princesa City. This only shows that Mitra is not known to be a resident of Sitio Maligaya, Barangay Isaub, Aborlan, contrary to his claim that he has been a resident of Aborlan since 2008. The ponencia claims that the address Puerto Princesa City refers to the address of Mitra's co-vendees, Ramon B. Mitra and Peter Winston T. Gonzales. This conclusion of the ponencia is clearly without basis. No evidence was submitted to prove that Mitra's co-vendees are residents of Puerto Princesa and not registered voters of Aborlan.
The ponencia also fails to give due credit to the Application for Building Permit, dated 15 July 2009, signed by Mitra himself, twice, which indicates on at least two entries therein that Mitra's residence is Puerto Princesa City. The ponente holds that it is apparent that Mitra was not the one who prepared the document as seen from the statement of his community tax certificate bearing a Puerto Princesa City residence, which does not appear in his handwriting. This conclusion of the ponente is again without factual basis. It does not appear on record that Mitra ever submitted his handwriting specimen. Thus, there is no basis to determine whether a particular hand-written statement is Mitra's or not. The ponente, however, fails to appreciate that there is another entry on this very same document which clearly states that Mitra's residence is "STA. MONICA PUERTO PRINCESA CITY," in big bold letters, printed just above Mitra's name and signature. Whether it was John Quillope who prepared the said document is immaterial because Mitra himself signed the document twice. Moreover, the ponencia fails to appreciate that the CTC used by Mitra in this application is the CTC issued in Puerto Princesa City on 03 February 2009 and not the one he supposedly obtained on 18 March 2009 from Barangay Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan. The ponente explains that it was Mitra's staff, Lilia Camora, who obtained the CTC from Puerto Princesa City. It is however lost on the ponente that the Barangay Captain of Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa City issued a Certification stating that it was Mitra himself and not Lilia Camora who obtained a CTC on 03 February 2009; and, even if it was Lilia Camora, who obtained the CTC, it is evident that Mitra, nonetheless, used this Puerto Princesa CTC in his application, instead of the supposed CTC issued in Aborlan. In any case, John Quillope's and Lilia Camora's explanations are without much evidentiary value given that even as late as 15 July 2009, while they appear to have closely worked with Mitra in Palawan, both of them were unaware of his supposed new residence in Aborlan and still persisted on holding that Puerto Princesa City is Mitra's residence - clearly, confirming that Puerto Princesa City is, indeed, his true and actual residence.
The ponencia also gives too much weight on Carme Caspe's sworn statement, holding that the same was not controverted by the private respondents. This, again, is without factual basis. Private respondents have presented the statements of former employees of the Maligaya Feedmill who attest to the fact that Mitra was not a resident of the Maligaya Feedmill and that the room, where Mitra supposedly resides, is actually the business office of the Maligaya Feedmill - a fact which Mitra never controverted.
Furthermore, I do not agree with the ponente's conclusion that the transfer of residence was accomplished, not in one single move, but through an incremental process that started in 2008 but was in place by March 2009, although the house Mitra intended to be his permanent home was not yet completed. Again, this conclusion of the ponente has no legal or factual basis. By March 2009, the home that he intended to be his permanent home was not only incomplete and uninhabitable, but also a mere figment of his imagination. Mitra, admittedly, acquired the lot from Rexter Temple, only on 05 June 2009 and only began to construct a house thereon much later. It is also clear from Mitra's submissions before the COMELEC that this house is not his legal residence and domicile. Thus, the ponente and dissenting opinion of Commissioner Sarmiento, are in error.
Also, Mitra's supposed business interests does not have much evidentiary value since, save for bare allegations, the records are bereft of any evidence to prove that Mitra owns and operates this supposed pineapple growing project in Aborlan which allegedly started in 2008. It appears on record that the supposed lease over the residential area of the feeds factory does not contain any reference to the supposed experimental pineapple growing project.
The ponencia also holds that Mitra did not commit any deliberate material misrepresentation in his COC since Mitra never hid his intention to transfer his residence.
To deny due course to or cancel a candidate's certificate of candidacy under Section 78 of the OEC, it must be proven that there was deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, and hide the true state of his residence, which would otherwise render him ineligible. In light of the discussion above, it is clear that Mitra deliberately indicated Sitio Maligaya, Barangay Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan, when in truth and in fact, he is still a resident of Puerto Princesa City. Thus, it is irrelevant, contrary to the ponente's view, whether the candidate surreptitiously or openly transferred his residence. What is important is whether the candidate knowingly indicated a residence - which he is not a resident of, just to make him eligible for an elective position. Clearly, Mitra indicated Sitio Maligaya, Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan, as his residence in his COC, though he is not a resident thereof, just to make him eligible to be a candidate for Governor of the Province of Palawan, thereby violating the law and meriting his disqualification from being a candidate.
It is also the ponente's view that from an evidentiary perspective, the evidence confirming residence at Aborlan decidedly tilts in Mitra's favor; even assuming the worst for Mitra, the evidence in his favor cannot go below the level of an equipoise. As discussed above, and contrary to this ponencia, Mitra's evidence is clearly wanting. He evidently failed to refute and controvert damaging evidence against his claim of residence at the feeds factory. Weighed against the evidence submitted by private respondents, Mitra's evidence is inadequate to support a conclusion that he has been a resident of Aborlan since 2008.
Thus, it is my view that the COMELEC correctly denied due course to and cancelled Mitra's COC in view of the overwhelming evidence submitted by private respondents. The petition of petitioner Mitra must fall to the ground for lack of factual and legal basis.
 Rollo, pp. 59-68.
 Id. at 361-379.
 (Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Candidacy) Ibid, p. 6
 (Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Candidacy, Annex "J") Ibid, pp. 610-611.
 (Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Candidacy, Annex "J") Id.
 (Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Candidacy, Annex "K") Id.
 (Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Candidacy, Annex "L") Id.
 (Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Candidacy, Annex "M") Id.
 (Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Candidacy, Annexes "C," "D," "E," "F," and "G") Id.
 Rollo, p. 415
 Id. at 415-416 and 421-422.
 Id. at 415.
 Id. at 434-435.
 Id. at 438.
 Id. at 439-441.
 Id. at 470-484.
 Id. at 468.
 Id. at 499-502.
 Id. at 616-618.
 Id. at 731-766.
 Id. at 733.
 Id. at 767-771.
 Supra note 7, at 614.
 Supra note 19, at 730.
 Ibid at 776.
 Rollo, pp. 800-804.
 Id. at 59-68.
 G.R. No. 187478, 21 December 2009.
 Rollo, pp. 21-48.
 Ernesto M. Punzalan v. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 126669, 27 April 1998, 289 SCRA 702.
 Lydia R. Pagaduan v. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 172278, 29 March 2007, 519 SCRA 512.
 Ibid. citing Pp. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 142051, 24 February 2004, 423 SCRA 605.
 Rollo, pp. 268-359.
 Id. at 1062-1080.
 Ponencia, p. 15.
 SEC. 2(2), Article IX C, 1987 CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES.
 Mike A. Fermin v. Commission on Elections et al., G.R. No. 179695, 18 December 2008, 574 SCRA 782.
 Jamela Salic Maruhom v. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 179430, 27 July 2009, 594 SCRA 108.
 Batul v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 157687, 26 February 2004, 424 SCRA 26.
 Rollo, pp. 470-484.
 Id. at 59-68.
 Id. at 66.
 Id. at 67.
 Hon. Primo C. Miro v. Reynaldo M. Dosono, G.R. No. 170697, 30 April 2010.
 Rollo, pp. 386-406.
 Id. at 616-618.
 Memorandum for Private Respondents "O" and "P".
 Rollo, pp. 731-766.
 Id. at 237, 861, 863, 865, 868.
 Id. at 610-611.
 Id. at 613.
 Id. at 614.
 Id. at 731-766.
 (Petition to Deny Due Course, Annex "J") Rollo, p. 132.
 Rollo, p. 613.
 Rollo, pp. 412-414.
 Id. at 415-416.
 Nardo M. Velasco v. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 180051, 24 December 2008, 575 SCRA 590.