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EN BANC

[G.R. No. 122250 & 122258. July 21, 1997]

EDGARDO
C.
NOLASCO, petitioner, vs.
COMMISSION
ON
ELECTIONS,
MUNICIPAL
BOARD
OF
CANVASSERS,
MEYCAUAYAN,
BULACAN,
and
EDUARDO
A.
ALARILLA, respondents.
FLORENTINO P. BLANCO, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS and EDUARDO A. ALARILLA, respondents.
DECISION
PUNO, J.:

First, we rewind the facts. The election for mayor of Meycauayan, Bulacan was held
on May 8, 1995. The principal protagonists were petitioner Florentino P. Blanco and
private respondent Eduardo A. Alarilla. Blanco received 29,753 votes, while Alarilla got
23,038 votes. Edgardo Nolasco was elected Vice-Mayor with 37,240 votes.
[1]

On May 9, 1995, Alarilla filed with the COMELEC a petition to disqualify Blanco. He
alleged:
xxxxxxxxx

4. Based on intelligence reports that respondent was maintaining his own `private
army' at his aforesaid resident, P/Insp. Ronaldo O. Lee of the Philippine National
Police assigned with the Intelligence Command at Camp Crame, applied for and was
granted search warrant no. 95-147 by Branch 37 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila
on 5 May 1995. A copy of the said search warrant is attached as Annex "A" hereof.
5. In compliance with said search warrant no. 95-147, an elite composite team of the
PNP Intelligence Command, Criminal Investigation Service (CIS), and Bulacan
Provincial Command, backed up by the Philippine National Police Special Action
Force, accompanied by mediamen who witnessed and recorded the search by video
and still cameras, raided the house of respondent Florentino Blanco at his stated
address at Bancal, Meycauayan, Bulacan.
6. Enclosed as Annex "A-1" is a video tape taken of the proceedings during the raid.

7. The composite team was able to enter the said premises of respondent Florentino
Blanco where they conducted a search of the subject firearms and ammunition.
8. The search resulted in the arrest of six (6) men who were found carrying various
high powered firearms without any license or authority to use or possess such long
arms. These persons composing respondent's `private army,' and the unlicensed
firearms are as follows:
A. Virgilio Luna y Valderama 1. PYTHOM (sic) Cal. 347 SN 26946 with six (6) Rounds of Ammo.
2. INGRAM M10 Cal. 45 MP with Suppressor SN: 45457 with two (2)
Mags and 54 Rounds of Ammo.
B. Raymundo Bahala y Pon 1. HKMP5 Sn. C334644 with two (2) Mags and 47 Rounds of Ammo.
C.Roberto Santos y Sacris 1. Smith and Wesson 357 Magnum Sn: 522218 with six (6) Rounds of
Ammo.
D. Melchor Cabanero y Oreil 1. Armscor 12 Gauge with three (3) Rounds of Ammo.
E. Edgardo Orteza y Asuncion 1. Paltik Cal. 38 Rev with six (6) Rounds of Ammo.
F. Francisco Libari y Calimag 1. Paltik Cal. 38 SN: 36869
Copies of the inventory receipts are hereto attached as Annexes "B" to "B-5" hereof.
9. During the search, members of the composite team saw through a large clear glass
window, respondent's Galil assault rifle on a sofa inside a closed room of the subject
premises.

10. Not allowed entry thereto by respondent and his wife, the members of the
composite police-military team applied for the issuance of a second search warrant
(Annex "B-6") so that they could enter the said room to seize the said firearm.
11. While waiting for the issuance of the second search warrant, respondent's wife and
respondent's brother, Mariano Blanco, claiming to be the campaign manager of
respondent in the Nationalist People's Coalition Party, asked permission to enter the
locked room so they could withdraw money in a vault inside the locked room to pay
their watchers, and the teachers of Meycauayan in the 8 May 1995 elections.
12. For reasons not known to petitioner, Mrs. Florentino Blanco and Mariano Blanco,
were allowed to withdraw ten (10) large plastic bags from the vault.
13. When the said PNP composite team examined the ten (10) black plastic bags, they
found out that each bag contained ten (10) shoe boxes. Each shoe box when examined
contained 200 pay envelopes, and each pay envelope when opened contained the
amount of P1,000.00. When questioned, respondent's brother Mariano Blanco and
respondent's wife, admitted to the raiding team that the total amount of money in the
ten (10) plastic bags is P10,000,000.00.
14. The labels found in the envelope shows that the money were intended as
respondent's bribe money to the teachers of Meycauayan. Attached as Annex "C" is
the cover of one of the shoe boxes containing the inscription that it is intended to the
teachers of Brgy. Lawa, Meycauayan, Bulacan.
15. On election day 8 May 1995, respondent perpetrated the most massive votebuying activity ever in the history of Meycauayan politics. Attached as Annex "D" is
the envelope where this P10,000,000.00 was placed in 100 peso denominations
totalling one thousand pesos per envelope with the inscription `VOTE!!! TINOY.'
This massive vote-buying activity was engineered by the respondent through his
organization called `MTB' or `MOVEMENT FOR TINOY BLANCO
VOLUNTEERS.' The chairman of this movement is respondent's brother, Mariano P.
Blanco, who admitted to the police during the raid that these money were for the
teachers and watchers of Meycauayan, Bulacan.
Attached as Annex "E" hereof is an MTB ID issued to one Armando Bulan of Precinct
77-A, Brgy. Jasmin, Bancal, Meycauayan, Bulacan. You will note that the ID is
perforated in the middle. The purpose is for the voter to tear the office copy and return
it to respondent's headquarters to receive the balance of the P500.00 of the bribe
money after voting for respondent during the elections. The voter will initially be
given a down-payment of P500.00.

16. This massive vote-buying was also perpetrated by respondent thru the familiar use
of flying voters. Attached as Annex "F" hereof is a copy of the Police Blotter dated 8
May 1995 showing that six (6) flying voters were caught in different precincts of
Meycauayan, Bulacan, who admitted after being caught and arrested that they were
paid P200.00 to P300.00 by respondent and his followers, to vote for other voters in
the voter's list.
17. Not satisfied, and with his overflowing supply of money, respondent used another
scheme as follows. Respondent's paid voter will identify his target from the list of
voter and will impersonate said voter in the list and falsify his signature.
Attached as Annex "G" hereof is the Minutes of Voting and Counting of Votes in
Precinct No. 26, Brgy. Calvario, Meycauayan, Bulacan. Annex "G-1" is the statement
of one Ma. Luisa de los Reyes Cruz stating that when she went to her precinct to vote,
her name was already voted upon by another person. This entry was noted by Leticia
T. Villanco, Poll Chairman; Estelita Artajo, - Poll Clerk; and Nelson John Nito - Poll
Member.
18. Earlier before the election, respondent used his tremendous money to get in the
good graces of the local Comelec Registrar, who was replaced by this Office upon the
petition of the people of Meycauayan.Attached as Annex "H" hereof is an article in
the 3 May 1995 issue of Abante entitled `1 M Suhol sa Comelec Registrar.'
19. The second search warrant on respondent's residence yielded to more firearms and
thousands of rounds of ammunition. These guns were used by respondent to terrorize
the population and make the people afraid to complain against respondent's massive
vote buying and cheating in today's elections. Respondent's bribery of the teachers
ensured the implementation of his vote-buying ballot box switching, impersonations,
and other cheating schemes.
Attached as Annexes `I-1' to I-2' are the pertinent Receipts of the guns and
ammunitions seized from respondent. Attached as Annex "J" is a Certification to the
same effect.
20. The above acts committed by respondent are clear grounds for disqualification
under Sec. 68 of the Omnibus Election Code for giving money to influence, induce or
corrupt the voters or public officials performing election functions; for committing
acts of terrorism to enhance his candidacy; and for spending in his election campaign
an amount in excess of that allowed by the Election Code. There are only 97,000
registered voters in Meycauayan versus respondent's expenses of at least
P10,000,000.00 as admitted above. (Emphasis supplied).

On May 15, 1995, Alarilla filed a Very Urgent Ex Parte Motion to Suspend
Proclamation. The COMELEC (First Division) granted the motion after finding that there
was a "probable commission of election offenses which are grounds for disqualification
pursuant to the provisions of section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code (BP 881), and
the evidence in support of disqualification is strong." It directed the Municipal Board of
Canvassers "to complete the canvassing of election returns of the municipality of
Meycauayan, but to suspend proclamation of respondent Florentino P. Blanco should he
obtain the winning number of votes for the position of Mayor of Meycauayan, Bulacan
until such time when the petitions for disqualification against him shall have been
resolved."
On May 25, 1995, Blanco filed a Motion to Lift or Set Aside the Order suspending
his proclamation. On May 29, 1995, he filed his Answer to the petition to disqualify him.
On May 30, 1995, the COMELEC (First Division) heard the petition to disqualify
Blanco. The parties thereafter submitted their position papers. Blanco even replied to
the position paper of Alarilla on June 9, 1995.
[2]

On August 15, 1995, the COMELEC (First Division) disqualified Blanco on the
ground of vote-buying, viz.:
[3]

xxxxxxxxx

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission (First Division) RESOLVES


to DISQUALIFY Respondent Florentino P. Blanco as a candidate for the Office of
Mayor of Meycauayan, Bulacan in the May 8, 1995 elections for having violated
Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code. The Order suspending the
proclamation of herein Respondent is now made PERMANENT. The Municipal
Board of Canvassers of Meycauayan, Bulacan shall immediately reconvene and, on
the basis of the completed canvass of the election returns, determine the winner out of
the remaining qualified candidates who shall be immediately proclaimed.
SO ORDERED."
Blanco moved for reconsideration on August 19, 1995 in the COMELEC en
banc. Nolasco, as vice mayor, intervened in the proceedings. He moved for
reconsideration of that part of the resolution directing the Municipal Board of
Canvassers to "immediately reconvene and, on the basis of the completed canvass of
the election returns, determine the winner out of the remaining qualified candidates who
shall be immediately proclaimed." He urged that as vice-mayor he should be declared
mayor in the event Blanco was finally disqualified. The motions were heard on
September 7, 1995. The parties were allowed to file their memoranda with right of
reply. On October 23, 1995, the COMELEC en banc denied the motions for
reconsideration.
[4]

In this petition for certiorari, Blanco contends:


[5]

xxxxxxxxx

18. Respondent COMELEC En Banc committed grave abuse of discretion amounting


to lack or excess of jurisdiction and acted arbitrarily in affirming en toto and adopting
as its own the majority decision of the First Division in that:
18.1 It upheld the validity of the May 17, 1995 order suspending proclamation of
Petitioner Blanco herein as the winning candidate for Mayor of Meycauayan without
the benefit of any notice or hearing in gross and palpable violation of Blanco's
constitutional right to due process of law.
18.2 It violated the provisions of COMELEC Res. No. 2050 as amended, prescribing
the procedure for disposing of disqualification cases arising out of the prohibited acts
mentioned in Sec. 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, which Resolution this Honorable
Tribunal explicitly sanctioned in the case of Lozano vs. Yorac. Moreover, it
(COMELEC) violated Blanco's right to equal protection of the laws by setting him
apart from other respondents facing similar disqualification suits whose case were
referred by COMELEC to the Law Department pursuant to Com. Res. No. 2050 and
ordering their proclamation -- an act which evidently discriminated against Petitioner
Blanco herein.
18.3 It decided Petitioner Blanco's disqualification case in a SUMMARY
PROCEEDING in violation of law and the precedents which consistently hold that
questions of VOTE-BUYING, terrorism and similar such acts should be resolve in a
formal election protest where the issue of vote buying is subjected to a full-dress
hearing instead of disposing of the issue in a summary proceeding;
18.4 It declared Petitioner Blanco as having been involved in a conspiracy to engage
in VOTE-BUYING without that minimum quantum of proof required to establish a
disputable presumption of vote-buying in gross and palpable violation of the
provisions of Section 28, Rep. Act. 6646;
18.5 It ordered the proclamation of a SECOND PLACER as the duly elected Mayor
of Meycauayan, Bulacan, in gross violation and utter disregard of the doctrine laid
down by this Honorable Supreme Court in the case of LABO vs. COMELEC which
was reiterated only recently in the case of Aquino vs. Syjuco.
On the other hand, Nolasco contends in his petition for certiorari that he should be
declared as Mayor in view of the disqualification of Blanco. He cites section 44 of R.A.
No. 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991 and our decision in
Labo vs. COMELEC.
[6]

[7]

We shall first resolve the Blanco petition.


Blanco was not denied due process when the COMELEC (First Division) suspended
his proclamation as mayor pending determination of the petition for disqualification

against him.Section 6 of R.A. No. 6646 and sections 4 and 5 of the Rule 25 of the
Comelec Rules of Procedure merely require that evidence of guilt should be strong to
justify the COMELEC in suspending a winning candidate's proclamation. It ought to be
emphasized that the suspension order is provisional in nature and can be lifted when
the evidence so warrants. It is akin to a temporary restraining order which a court can
issue ex-parte under exigent circumstances.
In any event, Blanco was given all the opportunity to prove that the evidence on his
disqualification was not strong. On May 25, 1995, he filed a Motion to Lift or Set Aside
the Order suspending his proclamation. On May 29, 1995, he filed his Answer to the
petition to disqualify him. The COMELEC heard the petition. Blanco thereafter submitted
his position paper and reply to Alarilla's position paper. The COMELEC considered the
evidence of the parties and their arguments and thereafter affirmed his
disqualification. The hoary rule is that due process does not mean prior hearing but only
an opportunity to be heard. The COMELEC gave Blanco all the opportunity to be heard.
Petitions for disqualification are subject to summary hearings.
[8]

Blanco also faults the COMELEC for departing from the procedure laid down in
COMELEC Resolution 2050 as amended, in disqualification cases. The resolution
pertinently provides:
xxxxxxxxx

Where a similar complaint is filed after election but before proclamation of the
respondent candidate the complaint shall, nevertheless, be dismissed as a
disqualification case. However, the complaint shall be referred for preliminary
investigation to the Law Department. If, before proclamation, the Law Department
makes a prima facie finding of guilt and the corresponding information has been filed
with the appropriate trial court, the complainant may file a petition for suspension of
the proclamation of the respondent with the court before which the criminal case is
pending and the said court may order the suspension of the proclamation if the
evidence of guilt is strong."
It is alleged that the violation is fatal as it deprived Blanco of equal protection of our
laws.
We do not agree. It cannot be denied that the COMELEC has jurisdiction over
proclamation and disqualification cases. Article IX-C, section 2 of the Constitution
endows the COMELEC the all encompassing power to "enforce and administer all laws
and regulations relative to the conduct of an election x x x." We have long ruled that this
broad power includes the power to cancel proclamations. Our laws are no less explicit
on the matter. Section 68 of B.P. Blg. 881 (Omnibus Election Code) provides:
[9]

"Sec. 68. Disqualifications. - Any candidate who, in an action or protest in which he is


a party is declared by final decision of a competent court guilty of, or found by the
Commission of having (a) given money or other material consideration to influence,
induce or corrupt the voters or public officials performing electoral functions; (b)

committed acts of terrorism to enhance his candidacy; (c) spent in his election
campaign an amount in excess of that allowed by this Code; (d) solicited, received or
made any contribution prohibited under Sections 89, 95, 96, 97 and 104; or (e)
violated any of Sections 80, 83, 85, 86 and 261, paragraphs d, e, k, v, and cc, subparagraph 6, shall be disqualified from continuing as a candidate, or if he has been
elected, from holding the office. Any person who is a permanent resident of or an
immigrant to a foreign country shall not be qualified to run for an elective office under
this Code, unless said person has waived his status as permanent resident or
immigrant of a foreign country in accordance with the residence requirement provided
for in the elections laws."
Section 6 of R.A. No. 6646 likewise provides:

"Sec. 6. Effect of Disqualification Case - Any candidate who has been declared by
final judgment to be disqualified shall not be voted for, and the votes cast for him
shall not be counted. If for any reason a candidate is not declared by final judgment
before an election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the winning
number of votes in such election, the Court or Commission shall continue with the
trial and hearing of the action, inquiry or protest and, upon motion of the complainant
or any intervenor, may during the pendency thereof order the suspension of the
proclamation of such candidate whenever the evidence of his guilt is strong."
Despite these laws and existing jurisprudence, Blanco contends that COMELEC
must follow the procedure in Resolution No. 2050 as amended. We hold that
COMELEC cannot always be straitjacketed by this procedural rule. The COMELEC has
explained that the resolution was passed to take care of the proliferation of
disqualification cases at that time. It deemed it wise to delegate its authority to its Law
Department as partial solution to the problem. The May 8, 1995 elections, however, did
not result in a surfeit of disqualification cases which the COMELEC cannot
handle. Hence, its decision to resolve the disqualification case of Blanco directly and
without referring it to its Law Department is within its authority, a sound exercise of its
discretion. The action of the COMELEC is in accord with Section 28 of R.A. No.
6646, viz:
"x x x.

"SEC. 28. Prosecution of Vote-Buying and Vote-selling. - The presentation of a


complaint for violations of paragraph (a) or (b) of Section 261 of Batas Pambansa
Blg. 881 supported by affidavits of complaining witness attesting to the offer or
promise by or of the voter's acceptance of money or other consideration from the
relatives, leaders or sympathizers of a candidate, shall be sufficient basis for an
investigation to be immediately conducted by the Commission, directly or through its
duly authorized legal officers under Section 68 or Section 265 of said Batas Pambansa
Blg. 881. (emphasis supplied)

"x x x."
Indeed, even Commissioner Maambong who dissented from the majority ruling,
clings to the view that "Resolution No. 2050 cannot divest the Commission of its duty to
resolve disqualification cases under the clear provision of section 6 of R.A. No.
6646." Clearly too, Blanco's contention that he was denied equal protection of the law
is off-line. He was not the object of any invidious discrimination. COMELEC assumed
direct jurisdiction over his disqualification case not to favor anybody but to discharge its
constitutional duty of disposing the case in a fair and as fast a manner as possible.
[10]

Blanco also urges that COMELEC erred in using summary proceedings to resolve
his disqualification case. Again, the COMELEC action is safely anchored on section 4 of
its Rules of Procedure which expressly provides that petitions for disqualification "shall
be heard summarily after due notice." Vote-buying has its criminal and electoral
aspects. Its criminal aspect to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused cannot
be the subject of summary hearing. However, its electoral aspect to ascertain whether
the offender should be disqualified from office can be determined in an administrative
proceeding that is summary in character.
The next issue is whether there is substantial evidence to prove the vote buying
activities of Blanco. The factual findings of the COMELEC (First Division) are as follows:
[11]

"x x x

"Respondent argues that the claim of vote-buying has no factual basis because the
affidavits and sworn statements admitted as evidence against him are products of
hearsay; inadmissible because of the illegal searches; they violate the Rule of Res
Inter Alios Acta and the offense of vote-buying requires consummation.
We are not impressed.
A studied reading of the affidavits [Respondent's affidavit is unsigned] attached to the
Reply of the Respondent to the Position Paper of the Petitioner [Annexes 1, 2 and 3]
would reveal that they are in the nature of general denials emanating from individuals
closely associated or related to respondent Blanco.
The same holds true with the affidavits attached to Respondent's Position Paper
[Annexes 1, 2, 3 and 4]. Said affidavits were executed by Blanco's political leaders
and private secretary.
On the other hand, the affidavit of Romeo Burgos [Exhibit "E-1"] is rich in detail as to
how the alleged vote-buying was conducted.
Moreover, the same is corroborated by object evidence in the nature of MTB
[Movement for Tinoy Blanco] cards which were in the possession of the affiants and
allegedly used as a means to facilitate the vote-buying scheme.

There are also admissions of certain individuals who received money to vote for
Respondent [Annexes "E-2", "E-3", "E-4", "E-5", "E-6", "E-7", "E-8", "E-9" and "E10"].
On the day of the elections, two individuals were apprehended for attempting to vote
for Respondent when they allegedly are not registered voters of Meycauayan. A
criminal complaint for violation of section 261 [2] of BP 881 was filed by P/Sr.
Inspector Alfred S. Corpus on May 9, 1995 with the Municipal Trial Court of
Bulacan. The same was docketed as Criminal Case 95-16996 [Exhibit F-2].
Again, similar pay envelopes with money inside them were found in the possession of
the suspected flying voters.
The incident was corroborated by Adriano Llorente in his affidavit narrating the same
[Exhibit "F-1"]. Llorente, a poll watcher of Petitioner, was the one who accosted the
two suspected flying voters when the latter attempted to vote despite failing to locate
their names in the voter's list.
From this rich backdrop of detail, We are disappointed by the general denial offered
by Respondent. In People of the Philippines vs. Navarro, G.R. No. 96251, May 11,
1993, 222 SCRA 684, the Supreme Court noted that "Denial is the weakest defense'
[page 692].
In People of the Philippines vs. Rolando Precioso, et al., G.R. No. 95890, May 12,
1993, 221 SCRA 1993, the Supreme Court observed that,
`We have consistently ruled that denials if unsubstantiated by clear and convincing
evidence are negative and self-serving evidence which deserves no weight in law and
cannot be given greater evidentiary weight over the testimony of credible
witnesses. Ergo, as between the positive declarations of the prosecution witness and
the negative statements of the accused, the former deserves more credence." [page
754].'
However, Respondent conveniently resorts to section 33, Rule 130 of the Revised
Rules of Court which states that a declaration of an accused acknowledging his guilt
of the offense charged, or of any offense necessarily included herein, may be given in
evidence against him [affiants who executed Exhibits E-1 to E-10] but not against
Respondent.
There is no merit in this contention.

The affiants are not the accused. Their participation in the herein case is in the nature
of witnesses who have assumed the risk of being subsequently charged with violating
Section 261 [1] of BP 881. In fact, their affidavits were sought by the Petitioner and
not by any law enforcement agency. Even Respondent admits this finding when he
filed his Reply to Petitioner's Position Paper and Motion to Refer for Preliminary
Investigation and Filing of Information in Court against the Persons Who Executed
Exhibits E-1 to E-10 for Having Admitted Commission of Election Offense. If they
were the accused, why file the motion? Would not this be redundant if not irrelevant?
xxx

Another telling blow is the unexplained money destined for the teachers. Why such a
huge amount? Why should the Respondent, a mayoralty candidate, and according to
his own admission, be giving money to teachers a day before the elections? What
were the peso bills doing in pay envelopes with the inscription "VOTE!!! TINOY",
and kept in shoe boxes with the word "Teachers" written on the covers thereof?
There is also something wrong with the issuance of the aforementioned MTB cards
when one considers the testimony of Burgos that more or less 50,000 of these cards,
which is equivalent to more or less 52% of the 97,000 registered voters of
Meycauayan, Bulacan, were printed by respondent; that there are only 443 precincts
in Meycauayan; that under the law, a candidate is allowed only one watcher per
polling place and canvassing area; and, finally, that there is no explanation at all by
the respondent as to what these "watchers" did in order to get paid P300.00 each.
xxx

Respondent also avers that for an allegation of vote-buying to prosper, the act of
giving must be consummated.
Section 281 [a] of BP 881 states "any person who gives, offers, or promises money x
x x." Section 28 of RA 6646 also states that "the giver, offeror, the promisor as well as
the solicitor, recipient and conspirator referred to in paragraphs [a] and [b] of section
261 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 shall be liable as principals: x x x.
While the giving must be consummated, the mere act of offering or promising
something in consideration for someone's vote constitutes the offense of vote-buying.
In the case at bar, the acts of offering and promising money in consideration for the
votes of said affiants is sufficient for a finding of the commission of the offense of
vote-buying."

These factual findings were affirmed by the COMELEC en banc against the lone
dissent of Commissioner Maambong.
There is an attempt to discredit these findings. Immediately obvious in the effort is
the resort to our technical rules of evidence. Again, our ingrained jurisprudence is that
technical rules of evidence should not be rigorously applied in administrative
proceedings especially where the law calls for the proceeding to be summary in
character. More importantly, we cannot depart from the settled norm of reviewing
decisions of the COMELEC, i.e., that "this Court cannot review the factual findings of
the COMELEC absent a grave abuse of discretion and a showing of arbitrariness in its
decision, order or resolution."
[12]

We now come to the petition of Nolasco that he should be declared as mayor in the
event Blanco is finally disqualified. We sustain the plea. Section 44, Chapter 2 of the
Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. No. 7160) is unequivocal, thus:
[13]

"x x x

"SEC. 44. Permanent Vacancies in the Offices of the Governor, Vice Governor,
Mayor, and Vice Mayor.- (a) If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the
governor or mayor, the vice governor or vice mayor concerned shall become the
governor or mayor. If a permanent vacancy occurs in the offices of the governor, vice
governor, mayor, or vice mayor, the highest ranking sanggunian member or, in case of
his permanent inability, the second highest ranking sanggunian member, shall become
the governor, vice governor, mayor or vice mayor, as the case may be. Subsequent
vacancies in the said office shall be filled automatically by the other sanggunian
members according to their ranking as defined herein.
(b) If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the punong barangay, the highest
ranking sanggunian barangay member or, in case of his permanent inability, the
second highest ranking sanggunian member, shall become the punong barangay.
(c) A tie between or among the highest ranking sangguniang members shall be
resolved by the drawing of lots.
(d) The successors as defined herein shall serve only the unexpired terms of their
predecessors.
For purposes of this Chapter, a permanent vacancy arises when an elective local
official fills a higher vacant office, refuses to assume office, fails to qualify, dies, is
removed from office, voluntarily resigns, or is otherwise permanently incapacitated to
discharge the functions of his office.
For purposes of succession as provided in this Chapter, ranking in the sanggunian
shall be determined on the basis of the proportion of votes obtained by each winning

candidate to the total number of registered voters in each distribution the immediately
preceding election."
In the same vein, Article 83 of the Rules and Regulations Implementing, the Local
Government Code of 1991 provides:

"x x x.
"ART. 83. Vacancies and Succession of Elective Local Officials.- (a) What constitutes
permanent vacancy - A permanent vacancy arises when an elective local official fills a
higher vacant office, refuses to assume office, fails to qualify, dies, is removed from
office, voluntarily resigns, or is otherwise permanently incapacitated to discharge the
functions of his office.
(b) Permanent vacancies in the offices of the governor, vice governor, mayor and vice
mayor (1) If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the governor or mayor, the vice
governor or vice mayor concerned shall ipso facto become the governor or mayor. If a
permanent vacancy occurs in the offices of the governor, vice governor, mayor, or
vice mayor, the highest ranking sanggunian member or, in case of his permanent
inability, the second highest ranking sanggunian member, shall ipso facto become the
governor, vice governor, mayor or vice mayor, as the case may be. Subsequent
vacancies in the said office shall be filled automatically by the other sanggunian
members according to their ranking as defined in this Article."
Our case law is now settled that in a mayoralty election, the candidate who obtained
the second highest number of votes, in this case Alarilla, cannot be proclaimed winner
in case the winning candidate is disqualified. Thus, we reiterated the rule in the fairly
recent case of Reyes v. COMELEC, viz:
[14]

"x x x x x x x x x

"We likewise find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC in
denying petitioner Julius O. Garcia's petition to be proclaimed mayor in view of the
disqualification of Renato U. Reyes.
"That the candidate who obtains the second highest number of votes may not be
proclaimed winner in case the winning candidate is disqualified is now settled. The
doctrinal instability caused by see-sawing rulings has since been removed. In the
latest ruling on the question, this Court said:

To simplistically assume that the second placer would have received the other votes
would be to substitute our judgment for the mind of the voter. The second placer is
just that, a second placer. He lost the elections. He was repudiated by either a majority
or plurality of voters. He could not be considered the first among qualified candidates
because in a field which excludes the disqualified candidate, the conditions would
have substantially changed. We are not prepared to extrapolate the results under the
circumstances.
"Garcia's plea that the votes cast for Reyes be invalidated is without merit. The votes
cast for Reyes are presumed to have been cast in the belief that Reyes was qualified
and for that reason can not be treated as stray, void, or meaningless. The subsequent
finding that he is disqualified cannot retroact to the date of the elections so as to
invalidate the votes cast for him."
Consequently, respondent COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion insofar
as it failed to follow the above doctrine, a descendant of our ruling in Labo v.
COMELEC.
[15]

A final word. The dispute at bar involves more than the mayoralty of the municipality
of Meycauyan, Bulacan. It concerns the right of suffrage which is the bedrock of
republicanism. Suffrage is the means by which our people express their sovereign
judgment. Its free exercise must be protected especially against the purchasing power
of the peso. As we succinctly held in People v. San Juan, "each time the enfranchised
citizen goes to the polls to assert this sovereign will, that abiding credo of
republicanism is translated into living reality. If that will must remain undefiled at the
starting level of its expression and application, every assumption must be indulged in
and every guarantee adopted to assure the unmolested exercise of the citizen's free
choice. For to impede, without authority valid in law, the free and orderly exercise of
the right of suffrage, is to inflict the ultimate indignity on the democratic process."
[16]

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the resolution of the respondent COMELEC en banc dated


October 23, 1995 is affirmed with the modification that petitioner Edgardo C. Nolasco is
adjudged as Mayor of Meycauyan, Bulacan in view of the disqualification of Florentino
P. Blanco. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa,
C.J.,
Regalado,
Davide,
Jr.,
Romero,
Melo,
Mendoza and Francisco, JJ., concur.
Bellosillo, J., please see Concurring and Dissenting Opinion.
Hermosisima, Jr., and Torres, Jr., JJ., on official leave.
Kapunan, J., on leave.
Padilla, J., no part on leave during deliberation.
Panganiban, J., no part. Former law office was counsel of petitioner Blanco.

Vitug,

[1]

A third candidate, Mauro SC del Rosario received 6, 359 votes.

[2]

Blanco submitted his position paper on June 5, 1995.

[3]

Composed of Presiding Commissioner Regalado E. Maambong and Commissioners Graduacion A.


Reyes-Claravall and Julio F. Desamito with Commissioner Maambong dissenting.

[4]

He filed a Motion to Admit Intervenor's Motion for Reconsideration on August 18, 1995.

[5]

G.R. No. 122258.

[6]

G.R. No. 122250.

[7]

176 SCRA 1.

[8]

See Section 4 of COMELEC Rules of Procedure.

[9]

Lacson v. COMELEC, G.R. No. L-16261, December 28, 1951.

[10]

See p. 27 of his August 15, 1995 Concurring and Dissenting Opinion.

[11]

See pp. 50-53 of August 15, 1995 Resolution.

[12]

Lozano v. Yorac, 203 SCRA 256.

[13]

The same plea is made by Blanco in his petition.

[14]

254 SCRA 514 (1996).

[15]

Supra.

[16]

22 SCRA 505.

G.R. No. L-46863

November 18, 1939

IRINEO MOYA, petitioner,


vs.
AGRIPINO GA. DEL FIERO, respondent.
Elpidio Quirino for petitioner.
Claro M. Recto for respondent.

LAUREL, J.:
This is a petition for review by certiorari of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in the above entitled case
declaring the respondent, Agripino Ga. del Fierro, the candidate-elect for the office of mayor of the municipality
of Paracale, Province of Camarines Norte, with a majority of three votes over his rival, Irineo Moya. In the
general elections held on December 14, 1937, the parties herein were contending candidates for the aforesaid
office. After canvass of the returns the municipal council of Paracale, acting as board of canvassers,
proclaimed the petitioner as the elected mayor of said municipality with a majority of 102 votes. On December
27, 1937, the respondent field a motion of protest in the Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte, the Court
of Appeals, on July 13, 1939 rendered the judgment hereinbefore mentioned which is sought by the petitioner
to be reviewed and reversed upon the errors alleged to have been committed by the Court of Appeals:
1. In admitting and counting in favor of the respondent, 8 ballots either inadvertently or contrary to the
controlling decisions of this Honorable Court.
2. In admitting and counting in favor of the respondent, 3 ballots marked "R. del Fierro."
3. In admitting and counting in favor of the respondent, 7 ballots marked "Rufino del Firro."
4. In admitting and counting in favor of the respondent, 72 ballots marked "P. del Fierro."
Taking up seriatim the alleged errors, we come to the first assignment involving the eight (8) ballots now to be
mentioned. (1) With reference to ballot Exhibit F-175 in precinct No. 2, alleged to have been inadvertently
admitted in favor of the respondent, such inadvertence raises a question of fact which could have been
corrected by the Court of Appeals and which could we are not in a position to determine in this proceeding for
review bycertiorari. Upon the other hand, if the error attributed to the Court of Appeals consisted in having
admitted ballot Exhibit F-175 in precinct No. 2 instead of the ballot bearing the same number corresponding to
precinct No. 1, and this latter ballot clearly appears admissible for the respondent because the name written on
the space for mayor is "Primo del Fierro" or "Pimo de Fierro", the error is technical and deserves but scanty
consideration. (2) Ballot Exhibit F-26 in precinct No. 3 was erroneously admitted for the respondent by the
Court of Appeals, the name written on the space for mayor being "G.T. Krandes." It is true that on the fourth line
for the councilor "Alcalde Pinong del Fierro": appears; but the intention of the elector is rendered vague and
incapable of ascertaining and the ballot was improperly counted for the respondent. As to this ballot, the
contention of the petitioner is sustained (3) Ballot Exhibit F-77 in precinct No. 2 should also have been rejected
by the Court of Appeals. The ballot bears the distinguishing mark "O. K." placed after the name "M. Lopis"
written on space for vice-mayor. The contention of the petitioner in this respect is likewise sustained. (4) Ballot
Exhibit F-9 in precinct No. 2 was properly admitted for respondent. On this ballot the elector wrote within the
space for mayor the name of Regino Guinto, a candidate for the provincial board and wrote the respondent's
name immediately below the line for mayor but immediately above the name "M. Lopez" voted by him for vice-

mayor. The intention of the elector to vote for the respondent for the office of the mayor is clear under the
circumstances. (5) Ballot F-131 in precinct No. 1 was also properly counted for the respondent. On this ballot
the elector wrote the respondent's name on the space for vice-mayor, but, apparently realizing his mistake, he
placed an arrow connecting the name of the respondent to the word "Mayor" (Alcalde) printed on the left side of
the ballot. The intention of the elector to vote for the respondent for the office of mayor is thus evident, in the
absence of proof showing that the ballot had been tampered with. (6) Ballot F-7 in precinct No. 5 is admissible
for the respondent and the Court of Appeals committed no error in so adjudicating. Although the name of the
respondent is written on the first space for member of the provincial board, said name is followed in the next
line by "Bice" Culastico Palma, which latter name is followed in the next line by word "consehal" and the name
of a candidate for this position. The intention of the elector to vote for the respondent for the office of mayor
being manifest, the objection of the petitioner to the admission of this ballot is overruled. (7) Ballot F-1 in
precinct No. 2 is valid for the respondent. On this ballot the Christian name of the respondent was written on
the second space for member of the provincial board, but his surname was written on the proper space for
mayor with no other accompanying name or names. The intention of the elector being manifest, the same
should be given effect in favor of the respondent. (8) Ballot F-44 in precinct No. 2 wherein "Agripino F. Garcia"
appears written on the proper space, is valid for the respondent. In his certificate of candidacy the respondent
gave his name as "Agripino Ga. del Fierro." The conclusion of the trial court, upheld by the Court of Appeals,
that the letter "F" stands for "Fierro" and "Garcia" for the contraction "Ga." is not without justification and, by
liberal construction, the ballot in question was properly admitted for the respondent.
The second error assigned by the petitioner refers to three ballots, namely, Exhibit F-119 in precinct No. 1
Exhibit F-24 in precinct No. 2, and Exhibit F-6 in precinct No. 4. These three ballots appear to be among the 75
ballots found by the Court of Appeals as acceptable for the respondent on the ground that the initial letter "P"
stands for "Pino" in "Pino del Fierro" which is a name mentioned in the certificate of candidacy of the
respondent. The petitioner contends that the initial "R" and not "P". Even if we could reverse this finding, we do
not feel justified in doing so after examining the photostatic copies of these ballots attached to the herein
petition for certiorari. The second assignment of error is accordingly overruled.
Upon the third assignment of error, the petitioner questions the correctness of the judgment of the Court of
Appeals in adjudicating to the respondent the seven ballots wherein "Rufino del Fierro" was voted for the office
of mayor. We are of the opinion that the position taken by the Court of Appeals is correct. There was no other
candidate for the office of mayor with the name of "Rufino" or similar name and, as the respondent was
districtly identified by his surname on these ballots, the intention of the voters in preparing the same was
undoubtedly to vote for the respondent of the office for which he was a candidate.
lawphi1.net

The fourth assignment of error deals with the 72 ballots wherein "P. del Fierro" was voted for the office of
mayor, and it is the contention of the petitioner that said ballots should not have been counted by the Court of
Appeals in favor of the respondent. For the identical reason indicated under the discussion of petitioner's
second assignment of error, namely, that "P" stands for "Pino" in "Pino del Fierro" which is a name mentioned
in the certificate of candidacy of the respondent, we hold that there was no error in the action of the Court of
Appeals in awarding the said ballots to the respondent.
With the exception of ballot marked as Exhibit F-26 in precinct No. 3 and ballot marked as Exhibit F-77 in
precinct No. 2, we are inclined to accept the rest of the disputed ballots for the respondent not only for the
specific reasons already given but also and principally for the more fundamental reason now to be stated. As
long as popular government is an end to be achieved and safeguarded, suffrage, whatever may be the
modality and form devised, must continue to be the manes by which the great reservoir of power must be
emptied into the receptacular agencies wrought by the people through their Constitution in the interest of good
government and the common weal. Republicanism, in so far as it implies the adoption of a representative type
of government, necessarily points to the enfranchised citizen as a particle of popular sovereignty and as the
ultimate source of the established authority. He has a voice in his Government and whenever called upon to act

in justifiable cases, to give it efficacy and not to stifle it. This, fundamentally, is the reason for the rule that
ballots should be read and appreciated, if not with utmost, with reasonable, liberality. Counsel for both parties
have called our attention to the different and divergent rules laid down by this Court on the appreciation of
ballots. It will serve no good and useful purpose for us to engage in the task of reconciliation or harmonization
of these rules, although this may perhaps be undertaken, as no two cases will be found to be exactly the same
in factual or legal environment. It is sufficient to observe, however, in this connection that whatever might have
been said in cases heretofore decided, no technical rule or rules should be permitted to defeat the intention of
the voter, if that intention is discoverable from the ballot itself, not from evidence aliunde. This rule of
interpretation goes to the very root of the system. Rationally, also, this must be the justification for the
suggested liberalization of the rules on appreciation of ballots which are now incorporated in section 144 of the
Election Code (Commonwealth Act No. 357).
It results that, crediting the petitioner with the two ballots herein held to have been erroneously admitted by the
Court of Appeals for the respondent, the latter still wins by one vote. In view whereof it becomes unnecessary
to consider the counter-assignment of errors of the respondent.
With the modification of the decision of the Court of Appeals, the petition for the writ of certiorari is hereby
dismissed, without pronouncement regarding costs.
Avancea, C.J., Villa-Real, Imperial, Diaz, Concepcion and Moran, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. L-33541 January 20, 1972


ABDULGAFAR PUNGUTAN, petitioner,
vs.
BENJAMIN ABUBAKAR, COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, and THE PROVINCIAL BOARD OF
CANVASSERS OF SULU. respondents.
Jose W. Diokno and Manuel M. Gonzales for petitioner.
Salonga, Ordoez, Yap, Sicat and Associates for respondent Benjamin Abubakar.
Teao, Garcia and Apostol for respondent COMELEC, etc.

FERNANDO, J.:p
The resolution of respondent Comelec 1 now assailed in this petition for review, was undoubtedly motivated

by the objective of insuring free, orderly and honest elections in the discharge of its constitutional function
to enforce and administer electoral laws. 2 It excluded from the canvass for the election of delegates for
the lone district of the province of Sulu the returns from 107 precincts of Siasi, 56 precincts of Tapul, 67
precincts of Parang and 60 precincts of Luuk for being spurious or manufactured and therefore no returns
at all. Unless set aside then, petitioner Abdulgafar Pungutan, who otherwise would have been entitled to
the last remaining seat for delegates to the Constitutional Convention, there being no question as to the
election of the other two delegates, 3 would lose out to respondent Benjamin Abubakar. Petitioner would
thus dispute the power of respondent Commission to exclude such returns as a result of oral testimony as
well as the examination of the fingerprints and signatures of those who allegedly voted as the basis for
the holding that no election in fact did take place. This contention is, however, unavailing, in the light of
our holding last month in Usman v. Comelec. 4The other principal question raised is whether the
recognition of such prerogative on the part of respondent Commission would contravene the constitutional
provision that it cannot pass on the right to vote. The appropriate answer as will be made clear is likewise
adverse to petitioner. Hence, respondent Commission must be sustained.
The case had its origin from a petition filed on December 16, 1970, by respondent Abubakar and the other
candidates, 5 superseding an earlier one dated December 7, 1970 alleging that in the towns of Siasi, Tapul,

Parang and Luuk, no elections were in effect held in view of massive violence, terrorism and fraud. 6 The
respondents named therein, including now petitioner Pungutan, answered on December 18, 1970 to the
effect that the elections were duly held in the above-mentioned municipalities and denied the allegation as
to the existence of massive fraud, terrorism and serious irregularities. The case was duly heard, with oral
testimony from five chairmen of certain precincts in Tapul, five teachers from Parang, five teachers from
Luuk and three teachers from Siasi, followed by an examination of the precinct book of voters from said
towns and the fingerprints and signatures of those who voted, as shown at the back of CE Form No. 1
and CE Form No. 39 for the 1970 elections for the Constitutional Convention.
After reciting the relevant facts, respondent Commission came to this conclusion: "In the light of the foregoing
findings of the Commission with respect to the manner in which the elections were conducted in Siasi, Tapul,
Parang and Luuk, the Commission is of the opinion that the elections in said municipalities were just as bad if
not worse than the elections in Karomatan, Lanao del Norte. Actually no elections were held in said
municipalities as the voting was done by persons other than the registered voters while armed men went from

precinct to precinct, prepared the ballots and dictated how the election returns were to be prepared. The same
reasons which compelled the Commission to reject the returns from Karomatan and to consider said returns as
no returns at all or spurious or manufactured returns not one notch above returns prepared at gunpoint (again
paraphrasing in the reverse the second Pacis case) compel us with much greater justification to find that the
returns from Siasi, Tapul, Parang and Luuk are spurious returns or manufactured returns and no returns at all
and that the elections in said municipalities are sham." 7 The above findings of fact found support in the light

of the competent and credible evidence sustaining that the most flagrant irregularities did attend the socalled elections in Siasi, Tapul, Parang and Luuk.
As to Siasi: "In Siasi where there were 21,688 registered voters it was made to appear that 20,970 had voted.
However, the result of the examination of the thumbmarks and signatures of those who voted compared with
the fingerprints of the registered voters appearing in their registration record, CE Form 1 showed that only 460
of the registered voters had been definitely established to have actually voted, 131 identified through the
thumbmarks and 329 by their signatures. The 11,154 of those who voted were found to be substitute voters:
7,557 were discovered to be voters voting in substitution of the registered voters through their thumbmarks and
3,597 through their signatures. No opinion was made with respect to the rest of the votes cast because not all
of the 13,282 voters whose thumbprints could not be analyzed were referred to the NBI for signature
examination. Only 4,631 of these blurred thumbprints from 28 precincts were referred to the NBI for signature
examination. Examination of these 4,631 signatures revealed that 3,597 were by persons other than the
registered voters, only 329 were by the register voters and no opinion could be rendered with respect to 705 for
lack of sufficient basis of comparison. In 26 precincts of Siasi there was 100% voting but not necessarily by the
registered voters. The overall average for the whole town is 96.6% voting. There were 80 persons who were
able to vote without any CE Form 1 or without voting in the name of the voters registered in the precinct." 8
With respect to Tapul: "In Tapul where there were 12,223 registered voters it appeared that 11,575 votes were
cast. 197 persons were able to vote without CE Form No. 1 without using the names of registered voters in the
precinct. When the thumbprints corresponding to the 11,575 votes cast were examined by the Fingerprint
Identification Division of the Commission, only 3 were found to be identical with the thumbprints of the
registered voters in their registration record: one each in Precincts 8, 29 and 20-A. 5,300 thumbmarks were
found to be not identical with the corresponding thumbmarks of the registered voters in their registration
records, CE Form 1. 6,199 thumbmarks, however, could not be analyzed because they were blurred, smudged
or faint. Of these 6,199 blurred thumbprints from 56 precincts, 4,187 from 31 precincts were referred to the NBI
handwriting experts for signature examination. The result of said examination by the NBI of these 4,187
signatures showed that only 13 were found to be identical with the signatures of the registered voters in their
registration record, CE Form 1, while 2,897 were those of persons other than the registered voters. No opinion
could be rendered on 1,277 signatures for lack of sufficient basis of comparison." 9 Further: "It appeared,

therefore, that in the whole town of Tapul out of the 11,575 votes cast only 13 were definitely established
as cast by the registered voters. 8,197 were definitely established as cast by substitute voters. No opinion
could be rendered with respect to 1,277 for lack of sufficient basis, 2,012 were not examined anymore
since these were in precincts where the number of substitute voting had been found to constitute a very
high percentage. It has been also established that on Election Day about one hundred men armed with
long arms were seen going around from precinct to precinct in Tapul driving away the voters and
instructing the teachers-inspectors on how to prepare the election returns. Some of the ballot boxes were
seen to have been brought to the Municipal Treasurer's office early in the afternoon of Election Day hours
before the closing of voting. Nineteen (19) precincts of Tapul reported 100% voting while the over-all
percentage of voting in the whole municipality was 94.5%." 10
Then came the recital as to Parang: "In Parang, where there were 11,761 registered voters in 67 precincts, it
was made to appear that 11,083 votes were cast. 66 voters who were not registered in the precinct were able
to vote illegally without even using the names of the registered voters therein. An examination of the

thumbprints of those who voted appearing in CE Form 39 or at the back of CE Form 1 compared with the
corresponding thumbprints of the registered voters appearing in their registration record in CE Form 1 showed
that only 39 thumbprints of the registered voters in his CE Form 1, while 4,698 were different from those of the
registered voters. 6,539 thumbmarks could not be analyzed because they were blurred, smudged or faint.
However, only 2,647 of these 6,539 smudged thumbprints were referred to the NBI for signature examination
since the rest of said blurred thumbmarks were in precincts where a high percentage of non-identical
thumbmarks was already discovered. 1,573 signatures were found to be by persons other than the registered
voters and only 83 were found to be identical with those of the registered voters. No opinion could be rendered
with respect to 991 signatures for lack of sufficient basis. In 20 precincts it was made to appear that all the
registered voters had voted. The overall percentage for the whole town of Parang was 94%. The evidence also
showed that in a number of precincts in Parang armed men had entered the polling places and prepared the
ballots. The registered voters were not able to vote." 11 Lastly, as to Luuk: "In Luuk where there were 13,124

registered voters, 12,263 votes were cast. 281 persons who were not registered voters in this precinct
were able to vote illegally without even using the names of the registered voters. The thumbprints of those
who voted appearing in their voting record either in CE Form 1 or in CE Form 39 compared with the
thumbprints of the registered voters appearing in the voter's registration record in CE Form 1 showed that
only 22 of the thumbmarks of those who voted were identical with the thumbmarks of the registered
voters, while 6,021 were found to be different from those of the registered voters. 6,134 thumbmarks
could not, however, be analyzed because they were found to be blurred, smudged or faint. However, the
signatures of those who voted in 13 precincts were examined by the NBI and it was found that the said
signatures were written by just a few persons as explained with greater particularity in the earlier pages of
this resolution." 12
In the light of the above and finding no need to determine how the election was in fact conducted as to Pata,
Patikul, Indanan, Panamao, South Ubian, Balimbing, Bongao and Tandubas, it was the holding of the
Commission in the resolution of May 14, 1971: "1. To rule by unanimous vote that the returns from the 107
precincts of Siasi, 56 precincts of Tapul, 67 precincts of Parang and 60 precincts of Luuk are spurious and/or
manufactured returns or no returns at all and as such should be excluded from the canvass for the election of
delegates for the lone congressional district of the province of Sulu; 2. To hold also by unanimous vote that
further hearings on the petition of [Benjamin Abubakar, et al] for the rejection or exclusion from the canvass of
the returns from Indanan, Panamao, Pata, Tandubas South Ubian, Patikul, Bongao and Balimbing would no
longer be necessary, it appearing that the results of the election would no longer be affected by the returns
from said municipalities after the rejection of the returns from the four towns of Siasi, Tapul, Parang and Luuk
and, therefore, for the purpose of the completion of the canvass, to direct the Board of Canvassers to include
the returns from said municipalities in the canvass; 3. By majority vote of the members of the Commission to
direct the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Sulu to reconvene in Jolo and complete the canvass excluding
from said canvass the returns from the towns of Siasi, Parang, Tapul, and Luuk and to proclaim the 3rd winning
candidate at 5:00 P.M. on May 28, 1971, unless restrained by the Supreme Court." 13 On May 22, 1971, this

petition for the review of the above resolution of May 14, 1971 of respondent Commission was filed.
Three days later, a resolution was adopted by this Court requiring respondents to file an answer not later
than June 4, 1971. Both respondent Commission on Elections and respondent Abubakar duly filed their
answers on said date. Respondent Commission took pains to explain with even more detail why such a
resolution had to be issued considering the "massive voting anomalies ranging from substitute voting to
grabbing of ballots to preparation of election returns and other election documents at gunpoint" thus
justifying its conclusion that the elections in the four towns amounted to a sham. The case was heard on
June 8, 1971 with petitioner Pungutan represented by Attorney Jose W. Diokno. Respondent Abubakar,
represented by Attorney Jovito R. Salonga, sought permission to submit a memorandum, which was
received by this Court on June 28, 1971. Petitioner was given the opportunity to reply thereto, and he did
so in his memorandum filed with this Court on October 18, 1971. The case was deemed submitted on
December 3, 1971. It is the decision of this Court, as noted at the outset, after a careful study of the

pleadings and in the light of our decision last month in Usman v. Commission on Elections 14 that the
challenged resolution of respondent Commission of May 14, 1971 is in accordance with law. The petition
must therefore fail.
1. There is no merit to the contention that respondent Commission is devoid of power to disregard and annul
the alleged returns from 107 precincts of Siasi, 56 precincts of Tapul, 67 precincts of Parang and 60 precincts
of Luuk for being spurious or manufactured. So we have held on facts analogous in character in the above
Usman decision rendered last month. Nor is it to be wondered at. Any other view would indict itself for lack of
fealty to reason and to the realities of the situation. It goes without saying that what is contemplated in the law
is that the electors in the exercise of their free will can go to the polls and exercise their right of suffrage, with
the boards of inspectors crediting each candidate with the votes duly obtained after an honest count. It is on
that basis that election returns are to be made. Where no such election was in fact held as was found by
respondent Commission with respect to the four towns, it is not only justified but it is its clear duty to stigmatize
the alleged returns as clearly spurious and manufactured and therefore bereft of any value. The words of
Justice Castro, in the Usman decision, referring to the election returns from Karomatan, considered as likewise
not entitled to credit because of their lack of integrity and authenticity, are opposite: "These circumstances
definitely point, not merely to a few isolated instances of irregularities affecting the integrity and authenticity of
the election returns, but to an organized, well-directed large-scale operation to make a mockery of the elections
in Karomatan. We find and so hold that the election returns from the 42 precincts in question were prepared
under circumstances conclusively showing that they are false, and are so devoid of value as to be completely
unworthy of inclusion in the canvass. We have no alternative but to affirm the Comelec's finding that they are
spurious and manufactured." 15 Nor is it to be lost sight of that the power to reject returns of such a

character has been exercised most judiciously. Even a cursory perusal of the mode and manner of inquiry
conducted by respondent Commission resulting in the challenged resolution should suffice to remove any
doubt as to the absence of any impropriety or improvidence in the exercise of such a prerogative. Clearly,
there was care and circumspection to assure that the constitutional objective of insuring that an election
be "free, orderly and honest" be realized. If, under the circumstances disclosed, a different conclusion
were arrived at, then certainly there is a frustration of such an ideal. Moreover, this Court has not
displayed any reluctance in yielding the imprimatur of its approval to the action taken by respondent
Commission in the discharge of its constitutional function of the enforcement of all laws relative to the
conduct of elections. The long line of decisions especially so since Cauton v. Commission on
Elections, 16 is not susceptible of any other interpretation. Only thus may there be an assurance that the
canvassing and proclamation reflect with fidelity and accuracy the true results of an election, in fact
actually held. We do so again. As a matter of fact, such a sympathetic approach to the results arrived at in
the discharge of its functions started with the leading case of Sumulong v. Commission on Elections. 17 As
was so well put by Justice, later Chief Justice, Abad Santos: "The Commission on Elections is a
constitutional body. It is intended to play a distinct and important part in our scheme of government. In the
discharge of its functions, it should not be hampered with restrictions that would be fully warranted in the
case of a less responsible organization. The Commission may err, so may this Court also. It should be
allowed considerable latitude in devising means and methods that will insure the accomplishment of the
great objective for which it was created -- free, orderly and honest elections. We may not agree fully with
its choice of means, but unless these are clearly illegal or constitute gross abuse of discretion, this court
should not interfere." 18 The same approach is reflected in the opinion of the Chief Justice in Lucman v.
Dimaporo when as he pointed out if "pursuant to our Administrative Law, the findings of fact of
administrative organs created by ordinary legislation will not be disturbed by courts of justice, except
when there is absolutely no evidence or no substantial evidence in support of such findings ... there is no
reason to believe that the framers of our Constitution intended to place the Commission on Elections
created and explicitly made 'independent' by the Constitution itself on a lower level than said statutory
administrative organs; ... ." 19

2. The right to vote has reference to a constitutional guarantee of the utmost significance. It is a right without
which the principle of sovereignty residing in the people becomes nugatory. 20 In the traditional terminology, it

is a political right enabling every citizen to participate in the process of government to assure that it
derives its power from the consent of the governed. What was so eloquently expressed by Justice Laurel
comes to mind: "As long as popular government is an end to be achieved and safeguarded, suffrage,
whatever may be the modality and form devised, must continue to be the means by which the great
reservoir of power must be emptied into the receptacular agencies wrought by the people through their
Constitution in the interest of good government and the common weal. Republicanism, in so far as it
implies the adoption of a representative type of government, necessarily points to the enfranchised citizen
as a particle of popular sovereignty and as the ultimate source of the established authority." 21
Its enforcement under the
Constitution is, as noted, vested in respondent Commission. Such a power, however, is purely executive
or administrative. So it was characterized by the Chief Justice in Abcede v. Imperial: 23 "Lastly, as the
branch of the executive department although independent of the President to which the Constitution
has given the 'exclusive charge' of the 'enforcement and administration of all laws relative to the conduct
of elections,' the power of decision of the Commission is limited to purely 'administrative questions.' ...."
How such a right is to be exercised is regulated by the Election Code.

22

It becomes obvious then why the right to vote, a denial of which should find redress in the judiciary as the
guardian of constitutional rights, is excluded from the authority vested in respondent Commission. If the
exclusion of the returns from the four towns in Sulu involved a question as to such a right, then, clearly, what
the Commission did was beyond its competence. Such is not the case however. What is deemed outside such
a sphere is the determination of whether or not a person can exercise or is precluded from exercising the right
of suffrage. Thus, the question of inclusion or exclusion from the list of voters is properly judicial. 24 As to

whether or not an election has been held is a question of a different type. It is properly within the
administrative jurisdiction of respondent Commission. If, as is our decision, no such voting did take place,
considering the massive irregularities that attended it in the four towns, then the exclusion of the alleged
returns is not tainted by infirmity. In that sense, the second issue raised by petitioner that in so acting the
respondent Commission exceeded its constitutional power by encroaching on terrain properly judicial, the
right to vote being involved, is likewise to be resolved against him. At any rate, what was set forth by
Justice J.B.L. Reyes in Diaz v. Commission on
Elections 25 would likewise dispose of such a contention adverse to petitioner. Thus: "It is pleaded by
respondents that the rejection of the Sagada returns would result in the disfranchisement of a large
number of legitimate voters. But such disfranchisement would only be provisional, subject to the final
determination of the validity of the votes at the protest that may be filed with the Constitutional
Convention." 26
3. As to the plea in the prayer of the petition that in the event that the challenged resolution of May 14, 1971 as
to the power of respondent Commission is sustained, a special election be called by it in all the 290 precincts in
the four municipalities of Siasi, Tapul, Parang and Luuk, it suffices to refer to our ruling in Usman v.
Commission on Elections, where a similar point was raised without success. So it should be in this case. We
see no reason to order such a special election. 27
WHEREFORE, the petition is dismissed and the resolution of the Commission on Elections dated May 14,
1971 is affirmed. The Commission on Elections is directed to order the board of canvassers to convene without
delay and forthwith proceed with and complete the canvass of the election returns from all the precincts of
Sulu, excluding therefrom all the election returns from 107 precincts of Siasi, 56 precincts of Tapul, 67 precincts
of Parang and 60 precincts of Luuk, and thereafter proclaim the winning candidate for the third Constitutional

Convention seat allotted to the said province. This decision is hereby declared immediately executory. No
pronouncement as to costs.
Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Teehankee, Villamor and Makasiar, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions

BARREDO, J., concurring:


Concurs without committing himself as to whether or not the same considerations herein invoked would apply
to elections other than those of the delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention.

Separate Opinions
BARREDO, J., concurring:
Concurs without committing himself as to whether or not the same considerations herein invoked would apply
to elections other than those of the delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention.
Footnotes
1 Resolution No. RR-904 of the Commission on Elections of May 14, 1971, Annex G to
Petition.
2 Sec. 2 of Art. X of the Constitution, insofar as pertinent, reads: "The Commission on
Elections shall have exclusive charge of its enforcement and administration of all laws relative
to the conduct of elections and shall exercise all other functions which may be conferred upon
it by law. It shall decide, save those involving the right to vote, all administrative questions,
affecting elections, including the determination of the number and location of polling places,
and the appointment of election inspectors and of other election officials. All law enforcement
agencies and instrumentalities of the Government when so required by the Commission, shall
act as its deputies for the purpose of insuring free, orderly, and honest elections. The
decisions, orders, and rulings of the Commission shall be subject to review by the Supreme
Court." .
3 Jal Anni and Tating Sangkula. .

4 G.R. No. L-33325, December 29, 1971. .


5 The other candidates are: Jose Fernandez, Tiblani Jamiri, Nurulaji Misuari, Jacob Ismi, Kalbi
Tupay and Tome Biteng.
6 The towns of Indanan, Panamao Luuk, Pata, Tandubaso, South Ubian, Patikul, Bongao and
Balimbong were likewise included.
7 Resolution No. RR-904 of the Commission on Elections of May 14, 1971, Annex G to
Petition, pp. 55-56.
8 Ibid, pp. 49-50.
9 Ibid, pp. 50-51.
10 Ibid, pp. 51-52.
11 Ibid, pp. 52-53.
12 Ibid, pp. 53-54.
13 Ibid, pp. 58-59.
14 L-33325, December 29, 1971. .
15 Usman v. Comelec, L-33325, December 29, 1971, p. 18.
16 L-25467, April 27, 1967, 19 SCRA 911. The other cases are Espino v. Zaldivar, L-22325,
Dec. 11, 1967, 21 SCRA 1204; Ong v. Commission on Elections, L-28415, Jan. 29, 1968, 22
SCRA 241; Mutuc v. Commission on Elections, L-28517, Feb. 21, 1968, 22 SCRA 662; Pedido
v. Commission on Elections, L-28539, March 30, 1968, 22 SCRA 1403; Aguam v. Commission
on Elections, L-28955, May 28, 1968, 23 SCRA 883; Pelayo, Jr. v. Commission on Elections,
L-28869, June 29, 1968, 23 SCRA 1374; Pacis v. Commission on Elections, L-29026, Sept.
28, 1968, 25 SCRA 377; Ligot v. Commission on Elections, L-31380, Jan. 21, 1970, 31 SCRA
45; Abrigo v. Commission on Elections, L-31374, Jan. 21, 1970, 31 SCRA 26; Moore v.
Commission on Elections L-31394, Jan. 23, 1970, 31 SCRA 60; Ilarde v. Commission on
Elections, L-31446, Jan. 23, 1970, 31 SCRA 72; Antonio Jr. v. Commission on Elections, L31604, April 17, 1970, 32 SCRA 319; Lucman v. Dimaporo, L-31558, May 29, 1970, 33 SCRA
387; Diaz v. Commission on Elections, L-33378, Nov. 29, 1971; Usman v. Commission on
Elections, L-33325, Dec. 29, 1971.
17 73 Phil. 288 (1941).
18 Ibid, p. 294.
19 Lucman v. Dimaporo, L-31558, May 29, 1970, 33 SCRA 387, 401.
20 According to Sec. 1 of Art. II of the Constitution: "The Philippines is a republican state.
Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them."

21 Moya v. Del Fierro, 69 Phil. 199, 204 (1939).


22 Cf. Election Code of 1971, Republic Act No. 6388.
23 103 Phil. 136, 141 (1958).
24 Cf. Secs. 136 and 137 of the Election Code of 1971 (Republic Act No. 6388), formerly
Secs. 119 and 121 of the Revised Election Code (Republic Act No. 180, as amended [1947]).
25 L-33378, November 29, 1971.
26 Ibid, p. 7.
27 The conclusion reached by this Court in Antonio v. Comelec, L-31604, April 17, 1970, 32
SCRA 319, as to the absence of any need for the holding of a special election may likewise be
invoked. Parenthetically, it may be observed that the writer of this opinion dissented from nine
of his colleagues on that point, but as spokesman for the Court now, he would accord to such
a view due respect and deference.

G.R. No. L-29333

February 27, 1969

MARIANO LL. BADELLES, protestant-appellant,


vs.
CAMILO P. CABILI, protegee-appellee.
-------------------------G.R. No. L-29334

February 27, 1969

BONIFACIO P. LEGASPI and CECILlO T. BARAZON protestants-appellants,


vs.
FELIX Z. ACTUB, PROVIDENCIO P. ABRAGAN, MANUEL F. CELDRAN, CASIMERO P. CABIGON and
BENITO ONG, protestees-appellees.
Bonifacio P. Legaspi for and in his own behalf.
Camilo P. Cabili. Gerardo B. Padilla and Ignacio Espaol and Voltaire I. Roviro for protestees-appellees.
FERNANDO, J.:
Two election protests against the duly proclaimed Mayor and Councilors of Iligan City, after the Nov. 14, 1967
elections, based on the allegations of flagrant violations of certain mandatory provisions of the Election Code,
to be more specifically set forth hereafter, were dismissed in a single order by the Court of First Instance of
Lanao del Norte, the Honorable Teodulo C. Tandayag presiding. The cases are now before us on appeal.
In one of them, 1 the election of Honorable Camilo P. Cabili to the Office of City Mayor of Iligan City, was
contested by protestant, now appellant, Mariano Badelles. In the other, 2 the protestants are the now appellants,
Bonifacio P. Legaspi and Cecilia T. Barazon who along with the five protestees 3 were among those who were
registered candidates voted for in such election for councilors in the City of Iligan, with the protestees being
credited with the five highest number of votes, with protestants Legaspi and Barazon obtaining sixth and
seventh places, respectively.
In such order of dismissal, it was admitted that while irregularities as well as misconduct on the part of election
officers were alleged in the election protests filed, there was however an absence of an allegation that they
would change the result of the election in favor of the protestants and against the protestees, that such
irregularities would destroy the secrecy and integrity of the ballots cast, or that the protestees knew of or
participated in the commission thereof. For the lower court then, the lack of a cause of action was rather
evident.
Hence the order of dismissal of March 23, 1968, which was sought to be fortified by the invocation of the
doctrines that voters should not be deprived of their right to vote occasioned by the failure of the election
officials to comply with the formal prerequisites to the exercise of the right of suffrage and that the rules and
regulations for the conduct of elections while mandatory before the voting should be considered directory
thereafter. The validity of such order of dismissal is now to be inquired into by us in this appeal.
In the petition of protestant Badelles, dated December 8, 1967, and marked as received the next day by the
Clerk of Court of the Court of First Instance of Lanao del Norte, 15th Judicial District, it was stated that both he
and protestee Camilo P. Cabili were the duly registered candidates for the Office of City Mayor of Iligan City,
both having filed their respective certificates of candidacy in accordance with law and as such candidates voted
for in the November 14, 1967 election. It was then alleged that the Board of Canvassers, on November 25,
1967, proclaimed as elected protestee for having obtained 11,310 votes while protestant was credited with
8,966 votes. Protestant would impugn the election of Cabili on the ground that there were "flagrant violation of
mandatory provisions of law relating to or governing elections ...." in that more than 200 voters were registered
per precinct contrary to the provision limiting such number of 200 only and that no publication of the list of

voters for each precinct was made up to the election day itself, enabling persons who under the law could not
vote being allowed to do so. As a result of such alleged "flagrant violations of the laws relation to or governing
elections" around 8,300 individuals were allowed to vote illegally.
It was likewise asserted that not less than 8,000 qualified voters were unable to exercise their right of suffrage
in view of their failure, without any fault on their part, to have the proper identification cards or the non-listing of
their names in the list of voters. It was stated further that even in the case of those individuals provided with
identification cards with their names included in the list of voters, they could not avail themselves of their right
of suffrage as their applications for registration could not be found. Mention was also made of the fact that the
final lists of voters and the applications for registration were delivered to their respective precincts late on
election day itself thus preventing them from voting. Moreover, confusion, so it was alleged, was caused by the
excessive number of voters being listed and many having been assigned to precincts other than the correct
ones.
What was thus objected to is the fact that illegal votes were cast by those not qualified to do so, numbering
8,300 or more and that an approximately equal number, who were duly registered with the Commission on
Elections, Iligan City, were unable to vote due to the above circumstances. The proclamation then could not
have reflected the true will of the electorate as to who was the mayor elected, as the majority of protestee
Cabili over the protestant consisted of only 2,344 votes.
The prayer was among others for the proclamation of protestee as well as other candidates for elective
positions in the City of Iligan being set aside and declared null and void, protestant pleading further that he be
granted other such relief as may be warranted in law and equity.
The protest of the candidates for councilor Legaspi and Barazon in the other case against protestees 4 was in
substance similarly worded. The prayer was for the setting aside and declaring null and void the proclamation
of protestees with protestants seeking such other relief which should be theirs according to law and to equity.
In the first case, protestee Cabili moved to dismiss the petition on the following grounds: "1. That the protest
was filed beyond the reglementary period allowed by the Revised Election Code; 2. That [the lower court] has
no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the present case, the Commission on Elections being the proper body
to hear the same; 3. That the complaint states no cause of action." 5 This very same grounds were relied upon
in a motion to dismiss by protestees Actub and Cabigon, filed in the other suit.
As above noted, in a single order of March 23, 1968, the two above election protests were dismissed, the lower
court being of the opinion that neither petition alleged a cause of action "to justify [it] to try the same." The first
ground of the motion to dismiss to the effect that the protests in both cases were filed beyond the reglementary
period was rejected. The claim as to lack of jurisdiction was likewise held to be without merit. The single order
of dismissal in both cases as indicated was based on the lack of a cause of action.
The reasoning followed by the lower court in reaching the above conclusion that there was no cause of action,
proceeded along these lines: "Mere irregularities or misconduct on the part of election officers which do not
tend to affect the result of the elections are not of themselves either ground for contest or for proper matters of
inquiry... There is no allegation in the protest that the alleged irregularities committed by the election officers
would tend to change the result of the election in favor of the protestants and against the protestees. There is
no allegation in the petition that the 8,000 voters who failed to vote were all voters of protestants and the 8,300
illegal voters who voted were for the protestees. There is, therefore, no legal and practical justification for the
court to inquire into the irregularities committed by the election officials, as alleged in the petition, for it would
not give any benefit in favor of the protestants to the end that they will be declared the duly elected mayor and
councilors, respectively, of this City." 6
It was further stated in such order of dismissal: "There is no allegation in the petition that the irregularities
committed by the election officials have destroyed the secrecy and integrity of the ballots cast. There is no
allegation in the petition that the non-compliance of the election officials of the provisions of the election laws
regarding the registration of voters were intentional on their part for the purpose of committing frauds for the
benefit of the protestees. There is no allegation in the petition that because of the alleged irregularities

committed by the election officials in not following the provisions of the election laws regarding the registration
of voters and the distribution of the precincts, that all the votes cast during said elections are illegal, nor is there
an allegation in the protests that the irregularities committed by the election officials would affect the election in
favor of the protestees." 7
A greater regard for the cause of accuracy ought to have admonished the lower court from asserting in an
uncompromising tone the absence of an allegation that the protestants in both cases failed to allege that if the
facts pleaded by them were proved the result would not have been different. It is true the complaints could
have been more explicitly worded, but as they stood, the absence of such a claim could not be so confidently
asserted.
To repeat, both protests were dismissed. We do not discount a certain degree of plausibility attaching to the line
of reasoning thus pursued by the lower court. We are not unaware of the undeniable fact that both petitions
were not distinguished by skill in their drafting or precision in their terminology. Nonetheless the seriousness
and gravity of the imputed failure to have the elections conducted freely and honestly, with such irregularities
alleged, give rise to doubts, rational and honest, as to who were the duly elected officials. Such allegations, it is
to be stressed, would have to be accepted at their face value for the purpose of determining whether there is a
cause of action, a motion to dismiss amounting to a hypothetical admission of facts thus pleaded. We cannot in
law and in conscience then sustain the order of dismissal.
Without the lower court having so intended, the dismissal would amount to judicial abnegation of a sworn duty
to inquire into and pass upon in an appropriate proceeding allegations of misconduct and misdeeds of such
character. Accordingly, we reverse.
Abes v. Commission on Elections 8 points the way, but the lower court was apparently impervious to its teaching.
It may not be controlling, but it furnishes more than a hint. It would seem, though, that for the court below, its
message did not ring out loud and clear.
The opinion in the Abes case, penned by Justice Sanchez, starts thus: "Petitioner's cry for relief, so their
petition avers, is planted upon the constitutional mandate of free, orderly, and honest elections. Specifically,
they list a number of repressible acts." Among those mentioned were that blank official registration forms were
taken from the office of the Quezon City Comelec Register several weeks before election day, November 14,
1967; that active campaigning within the polling places by Nacionalista leaders or sympathizers of Nacionalista
candidates were allowed; that voters were permitted to vote on mere mimeographed notices of certain
Nacionalista candidates; that voters were compelled to fill their official ballots on open tables, desks and in
many precincts outside the polling places; that thousands of voters sympathetic to the Nacionalista candidates
were allowed to vote beyond the hours for voting allowed by law; that identification cards were delivered by
partisan leaders of respondents Nacionalista candidates, and those who did not signify their preference for
Nacionalista candidates were not given such cards; that the precinct books of voters were not sealed within the
deadline fixed by law; and that the resulting effect of irregularities was to prevent full fifty-one per cent of the
registered voters from voting.
One of the issues raised on the above facts is whether or not the Commission on Elections could annul the
aforesaid election in Quezon City on the above allegations of fraud, terrorism and other illegal practices
committed before and during the election. The petition did not prosper; it was dismissed. The remedy, we held,
lay not with the Commission on Elections but with the courts of justice in an election protest.
In the language of Justice Sanchez: "The boundaries of the forbidden area into which Comelec may not tread
are also marked by jurisprudence. That Comelec is not the proper forum to seek annulment of an election
based on terrorism, frauds and other illegal practices, is a principle emphasized in decisions of this Court." For
as announced in Nacionalista Party v. Commission on Elections, 9 assuming that there be a failure to conduct
an election in a free, orderly and honest manner, "the duty to cure or remedy the resulting evil" did not rest with
the Commission on Elections but in "some other agencies of the Government." More specifically, with reference
to provincial and municipal officials, election contests "are entrusted to the courts." Then came this express
affirmation: "The power to decide election contests necessarily includes the power to determine the validity or
nullity of the votes questioned by either of the contestants." .

As so emphatically observed in the Abes opinion, "there has been neither deviation nor retreat from the
foregoing pronouncement." After which came the following: "The ratiocination advanced that there was failure
of election due to rampancy of terrorism, frauds, and other irregularities, before and during elections, such that
allegedly about 51% of the registered voters were not able to vote, will not carry the day for petitioners. For, in
the first place, this is grounded upon bare assertions. Respondents contest the correctness thereof. And in the
answer of respondents Amoranto, Mathay and others, they aver that out of 162,457 registered voters in
Quezon City, 100,382 voters actually cast their votes about 62% of the registered voters. But above all, as
pointed out in City Board of Canvassers vs. Moscoso, [the] nullity of an election for municipal officials should be
determined in a petition contesting the election of municipal officers-elect to be filed before the Court of First
Instance."
Why an election protest is more fitly and appropriately the procedure for determining whether irregularities or
serious violations of the electoral law vitiated the conduct of elections was clearly and succinctly explained in
the Moscoso decision above cited, the opinion coming from Justice Makalintal. 10 Thus: "The question of
whether or not there had been terrorism, vote-buying and other irregularities in the 1959 elections in Tacloban
City should be ventilated in a regular election protest, pursuant to section 174 of the Election Code, and not in a
petition to enjoin the city board of canvassers from canvassing the election returns and proclaiming the winning
candidates for municipal offices."
It would follow then that if the grievance relied upon is the widespread irregularities and the flagrant violations
of the election law, the proper remedy is the one availed of here, the protest.
That such should be the case should occasion no surprise. Time and time again, 11 we have stressed the
importance of preserving inviolate the right of suffrage. If that right be disregarded or frittered away, then
popular sovereignty becomes a myth.
As Justice Laurel correctly pointed out: "As long as popular government is an end to be achieved and
safeguarded, suffrage, whatever may be the modality and form devised, must continue to be the means by
which the great reservoir of power must be emptied into the receptacular agencies wrought by the people
through their Constitution in the interest of good government and the common weal. Republicanism, in so far as
it implies the adoption of a representative type of government, necessarily points to the enfranchised citizen as
a particle of popular sovereignty and as the ultimate source of the established authority." 12
A republic then to be true to its name requires that the government rests on the consent of the people, consent
freely given, intelligently arrived at, honestly recorded, and thereafter counted. Only thus can they be really
looked upon as the ultimate sources of established authority. It is their undeniable right to have officials of their
unfettered choice. The election law has no justification except as a means for assuring a free, honest and
orderly expression of their views. It is of the essence that corruption and irregularities should not be permitted
to taint the electoral process.
It may not always be thus unfortunately. That should be the ideal however. If there be a failure to observe the
mandates of the Election Code, the aggrieved parties should not be left remediless. Under the law as it stands,
it is precisely an election protest that fitly serves that purpose.
lawphi1.nt

It was sought to be thus utilized in these two cases, perhaps in a rather awkward and far from entirely
satisfactory manner. Than itself is no reason for the courts to slam the door against any opportunity for redress.
Yet, that is what would happen if the order of dismissal complained of were not set aside.
Hence the inevitability of its reversal. The scope of our decision must not be misinterpreted however. All that it
directs is that the protetees in both cases be required to answer. Thereafter, if, as is not unlikely, there be a
denial of the serious imputations made as to the alleged irregularities, the lower court could properly inquire
into what actually transpired. After the facts are thus ascertained in accordance with the accepted procedural
rules, then the appropriate law could be applied.
It must be clearly emphasized that we do not at this stage intimate any view as to the merit, or lack of it, of
either protest. That would be premature to say the least. All we do is to set aside the order of dismissal.

WHEREFORE, the order of dismissal of March 23, 1968, is reversed and the two cases remanded to the lower
court for proceeding and trial in accordance with this opinion and the law. Without costs.
Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Zaldivar, Sanchez, Castro, Capistrano and Teehankee, JJ.,
concur.

Separate Opinions

BARREDO, J., concurring:


I concur whole-heartedly in everything contained in the ably written opinion of our distinguished colleague, Mr.
Justice Fernando, including, of course, the disposition he makes therein of these cases before Us. It may not
be amiss, nonetheless, to add a few words which I consider appropriate, in the light of my experience in
handling some election cases before my appointment as Solicitor General.
The thing that has struck me most in these two cases, both denominated as election protests, is that the
prayers of the two petitions therein are identical in that they do not ask for the seating of the petitioners, who
call themselves protestants, in the places of the protestees-respondents. What they ask in the main is that "the
proclamation of the protegees as duly elected (mayor and councilors) be set aside and declared null and void".
This sole principal prayer was precisely what gave appellees in both cases cause to contend that (1) the Court
of First Instance of Lanao del Sur had no jurisdiction over the subject matter, it being allegedly the Commission
on Elections that has such jurisdiction, and (2) neither of the petitions state any cause of action. Of course, the
trial court properly overruled the first ground. It is, however, best for all concerned that the observations and
arguments adduced by the trial judge in disposing of the second ground are placed in proper light.
Ruling on the first ground above-stated, His Honor held thus:
Mere irregularities or misconduct on the part of election officers which do not tend to affect the result of
the elections are not of themselves either ground for contest or for proper matters of inquiry... There is
no allegation in the protest that the alleged irregularities committed by the election officers would tend
to change the result of the election in favor of the protestants and against the protestees. There is no
allegation in the petition that the 8,000 voters who failed to vote were all voters of protestants and the
8,300 illegal voters who voted were for the protetees. There is, therefore, no legal and practical
justification for the court to inquire into the irregularities committed by the election officials, as alleged
in the petition, for it would not give any benefit in favor of the protestants to the end that they will be
declared the duly elected mayor and councilors, respectively, of this City.
The failure of election of officers to obey the mandatory provisions of a statute relating to the
conduct of the election and designed to secure the secrecy and integrity of the ballot may so
taint the votes with irregularity as to cause the rejection of the entire votes of the district. It
should be remembered, however, that all statutes tending to limit the citizen in the exercise of
the right of suffrage are to be construed liberally in his favor, and that the courts are loath to
disfranchise voters who are wholly innocent of wrongdoing. As a consequence, it is a firmly
established general rule that voters will not be rejected, even though election officers fail to
comply with the directory provisions of a statute, if there is no fraud or other irregularity and
failure to comply is unintentional; nor is it material in this connection that the failure of the
election officers to perform their duty subjects them to penalties. Likewise, the courts will not
permit the will of the voters to be defeated by fraud on the part of election officers if it is
possible to avoid such a result. In short, a fair election and an honest return should be
considered as paramount in importance to minor requirements which prescribe the formal
steps to reach that end, and the law should be so construed as to remedy the evils against

which its provisions are directed and at the same time not to disfranchise voters further than is
necessary to attain that object. In case of a violation of the law on the part of an election
officer, punishment may be provided therefor, and in this way the law can be rendered
effectual without going to the extent of depriving a voter of his right to have his vote counted in
consequence of such violation. It may, therefore, be stated as a general rule that if ballots are
cast by voters who are, at the time, qualified to cast them and who have done all on their part
that the law requires of voters to make their voting effective, an erroneous or even unlawful
handling of the ballots by the election officers, charged with such responsibility will not be held
to disfranchise such voters by throwing out their votes on account of erroneous procedure had
sorely by the election officers, provided the votes are legal votes in their inception and are still
capable of being given proper effect as such. Nor will an election be set aside because of
regularities on the part of the election officials unless it appears that such irregularities affect
the results. (18 Am. Jur. Sec. 225, pp. 331-332, cited on pp. 621-622, Revised Election Code
by Francisco).
There is no allegation in the petition that the irregularities committed by the election officials have
destroyed the secrecy and integrity of the ballots cast. There is no allegation in the petition that the
non-compliance of the election officials of the provisions of the election laws regarding the registration
of voters were intentional on their part for the purpose of committing frauds for the benefit of the
protestees. There is no allegation in the petition that because of the alleged irregularities committed by
the election officials in not following the provisions of the election laws regarding the registration of
voters and the distribution of the precincts, that all the votes cast during said elections are illegal, nor is
there an allegation in the protests that the irregularities committed by the election officials would affect
the election in favor of protestees.
A misconduct or irregularity committed by an election official is not a sufficient ground to annul
the votes cast in the precincts where the person elected neither knew of nor participated in the
misconduct and it is not shown that any elector who voted or the persons elected either
participated in such misconduct. (18 Am. Jur. Sec. 228, p. 333, cited on page 622, Revised
Election Code by Francisco).
While this ruling is, on the whole, correct, His Honor failed to emphasize that the cases before him were
precisely ones for the annulment and setting aside of the election for Mayor and Councilors in the City of Iligan
and that, therefore, the only question that should be resolved is whether or not the facts alleged in the petitions
in question constitute sufficient grounds for such relief. Instead, the trial court made as may be seen above, a
long discourse on the thesis that "the purpose of an election contest is to correct the canvass," and that "the
general rule is that whatever may be the cause of an election contest, the true gravamen of the case is to
determine who receives the highest number of votes, etc." (pp. 5-8, Order in question) and then held that there
was no allegation in both petitions that "would give any benefit in favor of the protestants to the end that they
will be declared the duly elected mayor and councilors, respectively, of this City" ergo, the said petitions do not
state any cause of action. More specifically, the trial court looked in vain for allegations to the effect that "the
alleged irregularities committed by the elections in favor of the protestants and against the protestees." (p.
7, id.) For example, His Honor reasoned out that "there is no allegation ... that the 8,000 voters who failed to
vote were all voters of protestants and the 8,300 illegal voters who voted were for the protetees." (id.).
I am afraid that such discourse, if quite impressive as an exposition of considerable learning in election law
matters, is rather irrelevant. I believe that what should be emphasized in these cases is that ruling in Our
decision to the effect that in an election protest, (otherwise entitled at times, petition or complaint or motion of
protest) it is not necessary to allege that the true results of the election in question would be in favor of
protestant and against protestee on the basis of the legal votes, or that the proclaimed result would be changed
if the facts alleged are proven, when the sole ground of protest and the only purpose of the protestant is to
have the whole election in a precinct or municipality annulled and set aside. Indeed, as pointed out in the brief
of appellants:
In the case G.R. No. L-29333, the prayer is for the annulment of the proclamation of protesteeappellee Camilo P. Cabili and of the local elections held in Iligan City on November 14, 1967, while in

case G.R. No. L-29334, the prayer is for the annulment of the proclamation of protestee-appellees
Felix Z. Actub et al. and of the local elections held in Iligan City on November 14, 1967.
Section 177 of the Revised Election Code provides:
SEC. 177. Decision of the Contest. The court shall decide the protest ... and shall declare who
among the parties has been elected, or in the proper case, that none of them has been legally
elected....
Under the above-quoted provision of law, the courts are authorized to declare that none of the
candidates has been legally elected, which in effect would mean that the elections are annulled.
If it were not the intention of the lawmaker not to authorize the courts to annul an election, such
authority would not have been provided in Section 177 of the Revised Election Code quoted above.
Francisco, in his book How to Try Election Cases, 1952 Edition, p. 82, citing as authorities the
decisions of this Honorable Court in Bustos vs. Moir and Fajardo 35 Phil. 16; and Manalo vs. Sevilla,
24 Phil. 609, states:
The court is authorized, in a proper case, not only to recount the ballots and reject those
which it considers illegal and accept those which it considers valid but it is also authorized, in
a proper case, to annul the election completely.
It is therefore clear that the trial court erred in holding that the purpose of the protestants in
filing these protest is not in accord with the purpose of the Revised Election Code in allowing
a defeated candidate to file an election protest.
In other words, I like to make it very clear that an election protest may be filed not only for the purpose
of having the protestant declared elected, but even for the purpose alone of having the election
annulled. Otherwise stated, protestants may come to court, not necessarily to win an election, but even
if solely to have the court declare that no one has won because the election is void and that it is
obvious and pure common sense that in the latter case, the protestant does not have to allege the
probability of his being the real victor, for in such a case, his prayer precisely is that it be declared,
using the language of the law, "that none of them has been legally elected." Surely, the following ruling
of the trial court:
An election contest is a summary proceeding the object of which is to expedite the settlement
of the controversy between candidates as to who received the majority of the legal ballots
(Gardiner vs. Romulo, 26 Phil. 522, 524). The purpose of an election contest is to correct the
canvass of which the proclamation is a public manifestation and the power granted by law to
the court must agree with and be adequate to such an object. Hence, the court can directly
declare which candidate is to be elected leaving the canvass made by the Board null and
void, and the candidate so declared elected may assume position of the office (Aquino vs.
Calebia & Sahagun, 55 Phil. 984). It being the policy of the law to give effect to elections, the
general rule is that whatever may be the cause of an election contest, the true gravamen of
the case is to determine who receives the highest number of votes (20 C.J. 217). In an
election case, the court has an imperative duty to ascertain by all means within its command
who is the real candidate elected by the electorate. (Ibasco vs. Ilao, G.R. No. L-17512,
December 29, 1960). Hence, only candidates have the right to file an election protest. (Gil
Hermanos vs. Hord, 10 Phil. 217).
From the foregoing authorities, it could be concluded that the purpose of the election law to
allow a candidate to file an election protest is for the court to determine whether the protestant
or the protestee is the winner of the election under protest. In the present case, the object of
the protestants in filing their protests based on the prayer of their petitions is not to declare
them the duly elected mayor and councilors, respectively, of this City but merely to declare

null and void the proclamation and election of the protestees as well as the elections held in
Iligan City of November 14, 1967. The purpose, therefore of the protestants in filing these
protests is not in accord with the purpose of the Revised Election Code in allowing a defeated
candidate to file an election protest.
must be emphatically denounced as a misreading by His Honor of the real import of the authorities cited by
Him. Such proposition represents the most narrow concept of the judicial remedies in matters of election. No
single precedent in extant jurisprudence whether here or in any other country can be found to support it. I am
equally confident that no thesis in any of the existing legal publications can be referred to as upholding such an
illogical idea. To sanction such a ruling is to kill almost entirely all hopes for a clean, orderly and honest suffrage
in this country, which the Commission on Elections alone may not be able to achieve in all possible cases.
Indeed, as pointed out by appellants the trial court would have been right if it had only adhered to the decisions
already rendered by this Court on the subject, cited by said appellants in their brief.
The real issue then in these cases is whether or not the facts alleged in the respective petitions of appellants
constitute sufficient ground or grounds for annulment of the election of Mayor and Councilors in Iligan City, held
in November, 1967. On this score, it has to be admitted that, indeed, the petitions of appellants which appear to
have been prepared by a single counsel are not as accurately and precisely worded as to fit exactly into the
pattern that may perhaps be most ideal in cases of this nature, but I cannot go along with His Honor's ruling
that the allegations in said petitions are legally inadequate to serve as a basis for the relief of annulment of the
election therein prayed for. His Honor seemed to be more concerned with what he considered the need for
direct averments that the irregularities and violations of the election law alleged by appellants resulted in the
destruction of the "secrecy and integrity of the ballot cast," that "all the votes cast in said elections are illegal"
and that "the irregularities committed by the election officials would affect the election in favor of the
protestees." (p. 8, id.) I feel that His Honor was asking too much and unnecessarily because, as they appear to
me, these allegations as well as the others His Honor considered as indispensably required, are more in the
nature of legal conclusions, not supposed to be averred in the pleadings, rather than statements of ultimate
facts. The truth of the matter is that, viewed as a whole, the petitions in question sufficiently lead to the
conclusion that what appellants are complaining about is that the elections held in Iligan City in November,
1967 were characterized by general and specific circumstances, that leave rational doubt as to whether or not
the true will of the people of said City could be reflected in the proclaimed results. In the more polished and
inimitable language of Mr. Justice Fernando, "... the seriousness and gravity of the imputed failure to have the
elections conducted freely and honestly, with such irregularities alleged, give rise to doubts, rational and
honest, as to who were the duly elected officials".
It is my considered opinion that while it is truly desirable that election protests should be discouraged where
they have hardly any basis in fact or in law, the earlier to free from doubt the title to their respective offices of
those chosen to direct the affairs of our government, whether national or local, thereby giving them the peace
of mind and freedom of action gravely needed in the formulation of policies and the implementation thereof,
courts should also be careful in seeing to it that their doors are not untimely shut to complaints regarding the
commission of electoral frauds, irregularities and illegalities, the most despicable banes of popular suffrage,
which though unhappily worded are fairly indicative of a situation wherein the will of the electorate has not been
freely and clearly expressed. To my mind, the rule foIlowed in an unbroken line of decisions of this Court, to the
effect that the commission of irregularities by election officials, no matter how serious, and the actual discovery
of frauds and violations of law by either candidates or voters, are not in themselves sufficient to cause the
annulment of an election unless so expressly provided by law, or that the frauds, illegalities and irregularities
are so rampant and diffusive as to place the result of such election in grave doubt, is one that governs more the
rendition of judgments in election cases and the evaluation of the circumstances surrounding the elections in
question, as portrayed in the evidence already presented before the court, rather than as a strict criterion for
determining whether a complaint or petition or motion of protest sufficiently states a cause of action for
annulment. Respecting contrary opinion others may entertain on the matter, I regard it as a sound rule that
pleadings in election cases, at least, should not be subjected to such minute examination as should be done to
facts duly established after proper hearing, if only because facts are unerring manifestations of the truth, while
allegations in pleadings often suffer from the common flaws in the means of human expressions as well as
from the usual imperfection of human language. If words are but children of thoughts, parents and offsprings
not always, as among men and animals, look exactly alike. Pleadings in such cases must, therefore, be read
with more liberality so as to make it difficult, if not impossible for grievances against the suppression in one
form or another of the expression of the popular will, well-grounded in fact, may not be thrown out merely

because of lack of skill and precision in the formulation of the corresponding protests. More importance should
be given to the substantial matters sufficiently appearing in such pleadings as intended to be brought to the
court for a remedy, than to the form, at times, ambiguous and often ungrammatically phrased, in which they are
expressed. In any event, in case of doubt as to which should be done, such doubt must be resolved in giving
due course to the protest, unless it is manifestly evident that the same has been filed for other than legitimate
purposes.
As already indicated, my vote is for the reversal of the appealed order sustaining the motion to dismiss filed by
appellees in the court below, because I agree with the decision herein of Mr. Justice Fernando that there are
enough indications, within the four corners of the questioned petitions, of irregularities and illegalities which, if
proven, may result in the annulment of the elections prayed for by appellants.

Footnotes
1

L-29333.

L-29334.

Felix Z. Actub, Providencio P. Abragan, Manuel F. Celdran, Casimero P. Cabigon, and Benito Ong.

Felix Z. Actub, Providencio P. Abragan, Manuel F. Celdran, Casimero P. Cabigon, and Benito Ong.

Motion to Dismiss of Protestee Cabili.

Order of the lower court of March 23, 1968, pp. 6-7.

Ibid, p. 8.

L-28348, December 15, 1967.

85 Phil. 149 (1949).


City Board of Canvassers v. Moscoso, L-16365, September 30, 1963.

10

Cf. Gardiner v. Romulo, 26 Phil. 521 (1914); Garchitorena v. Crescini, 39 Phil. 258 (1918); Cailles v.
Gomez, 42 Phil. 496 (1921); Mandac v. Samonte, 49 Phil. 284 (1926); De Leon v. Cruz, 92 Phil. 403
(1952); Ticao v. Nanawa L-17890, August 30, 1962; and City Board of Canvassers v. Moscoso, L16365, September 30, 1963.
11

Moya v. Del Fierro, 69 Phil. 199, 204 (1939).

12

G.R. No. 104960 September 14, 1993


PHILIP G. ROMUALDEZ, petitioner,
vs.
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 7, TACLOBAN CITY, DONATO ADVINCULA, BOARD OF ELECTION
INSPECTORS, PRECINCT No. 9, MALBOG, TOLOSA, LEYTE, and the MUNICIPAL REGISTRAR
COMELEC, TOLOSA, LEYTE, respondents.
Otilia Dimayuga-Molo for petitioner.
The Solicitor General for respondents.

VITUG, J.:
An event in this decade, which future generations would likely come to know simply as the "EDSA People's
Power Revolution of 1986," has dramatically changed the course of our nation's history. So, too, not a few of
our countrymen have by it been left alone in their own personal lives. One such case is that of the petitioner in
this special civil action for certiorari.
The petitioner is Philip Romualdez, a natural born citizen of the Philippines, the son of the former Governor of
Leyte, Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez, and nephew of the then First Lady Imelda Marcos. Sometime in the early
part of 1980, the petitioner, in consonance with his decision to establish his legal residence at Barangay
Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte, 1 caused the construction of his residential house therein. He soon thereafter also

served as Barangay Captain of the place. In the 1984 Batasan Election and 1986 "snap" Presidential
Election, Romualdez acted as the Campaign Manager of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) in Leyte
where he voted. 2
When the eventful days from the 21st to the 24th of February, 1986, came or were about to come to a close,
some relatives and associates of the deposed President, fearing for their personal safety, whether founded or
not, "fled" the country. Petitioner Romualdez, for one, together with his immediate family, left the Philippines
and sought "asylum" in the United States which the United States (U.S.) government granted. 3 While abroad,

he took special studies on the development of Leyte-Samar and international business finance. 4
In the early part of 1987, Romualdez attempted to come back to the Philippines to run for a congressional seat
in Leyte. On 23 March 1987, he finally decided to book a flight back to the Philippines but the flight was
somehow aborted. 5
On 25 September 1991, Romualdez received a letter from Mr. Charles Cobb, District Director of the U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service, informing him that he should depart from the U.S. at his expense on or
before 23 August 1992, thus:
. . . Failure to depart on or before the specified date may result in the withdrawal of voluntary
departure and action being taken to effect your deportation. In accordance with a decision
made to your case, you are required to depart from the United States at your expense on or
before 23 August 1992. 6
Upon receipt of the letter, Romualdez departed from the U.S. for the Philippines, arriving on December 1991
apparently without any government document. 7

When Romualdez arrived in the Philippines, he did not delay his return to his residence at Malbog, Tolosa,
Leyte. During the registration of voters conducted by the Commission on Election ("COMELEC") on 01
February 1992 for the Synchronized National and Local Election scheduled for 11 May 1992, petitioner
registered himself anew as a voter at Precinct No. 9 of Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte. The chairman of the Board of
Election Inspectors, who had known Romualdez to be a resident of the place and, in fact, an elected Barangay
Chairman of Malbog in 1982, allowed him to be registered.
Romualdez's registration, however, was not to be unquestioned. On 21 February 1992, herein private
respondent Donato Advincula ("Advincula") filed a petition with the Municipal Trial Court of Tolosa, Leyte,
praying that Romualdez be excluded from the list of voters in Precinct No. 9 of Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte, under BP
881 and RA 7166. 8 Advincula alleged that Romualdez was a resident of Massachusetts, U.S.A.; that his

profession and occupation was in the U.S.A.; that he had just recently arrived in the Philippines; and that
he did not have the required one-year residence in the Philippines and the six-month residence in Tolosa
to qualify him to register as a voter in Barangay Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte. 9
On 25 February 1992, Romualdez filed an answer, contending that he has been a resident of Tolosa, Leyte,
since the early 1980's, and that he has not abandoned his said residence by his physical absence therefrom
during the period from 1986 up to the third week of December 1991. 10
After due hearing, the Municipal Court of Tolosa, Leyte rendered a decision

11

on 28 February 1992, the

dispositive portion of which reads:


WHEREFORE PREMISES CONSIDERED, the court finds the respondent to be a resident of
Brgy. Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte and qualified to register as a voter thereat. Hence, the instant
petition for exclusion of Philip G. Romualdez from the list of voter of Precinct No. 9, Malbog,
Tolosa, Leyte is hereby ordered DENIED and petition DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
Upon receipt of the adverse decision, Advincula appealed the case to the respondent court.
On 03 April 1992, the respondent court rendered the assailed decision,

12

thus:

WHEREFORE, this Court finds respondent Philip Romualdez disqualified to register as a


voter for the 1992 elections and hereby reverses the decision of the lower court in toto.
The Municipal Registrar of the Commission on Elections of Tolosa, Leyte, is hereby ordered to
delete and cancel the name of respondent Philip G. Romualdez from the list of qualified voters
registered February 1, 1992, at Precinct 9, barangay Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte.
SO ORDERED.
Hence, this recourse.
On 7 May 1992, this Court issued a temporary restraining order directing respondent Regional Trial Court
Judge Pedro Espino to cease and desist from enforcing questioned decision. 13
The petitioner has raised several issues which have been well synthesized by the Solicitor General into

(1) Whether or not the MTC and RTC acquired jurisdiction over, respectively, Case No. 01-S. 1992 and Case
No. 92-03-42, the petition having been filed by one who did not allege to be himself a registered voter of the
municipality concerned; and
(2) Whether or not the respondent court erred in finding the petitioner to have voluntarily left the country and
abandoned his residence in Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte.
The petition is impressed with merit.
Anent the first issue, the petitioner assails for the first time the jurisdiction of the respondent Court and the MTC
of Tolosa, Leyte, in taking cognizance of the case, despite an absence of any allegation in the petition filed with
the MTC that Advincula was himself a registered voter in Precinct No. 9 of Barangay Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte
conformably with Section 142 of the Omnibus Election Code. 14
When respondent Advincula filed the petition with the MTC for the exclusion of herein petitioner Romualdez,
the latter countered by filing his answer 15 and praying for the denial of the petition, without raising the issue

of jurisdiction. But what can be telling is that when the MTC decision, denying the petition for
disqualification, went on appeal to the RTC, Romualdez, in his own appeal-memorandum,
explicitly prayed that the MTC decision be affirmed. This unassailable incident leads us to reiterate that
"while lack of jurisdiction may be assailed at any stage, a party's active participation in the proceedings
before a court without jurisdiction will estop such party from assailing such lack of
jurisdiction." 16Undoubtedly, the petitioner is now estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the
respondent not only by his active participation in the proceedings thereat but, more importantly, in having
sought an affirmative relief himself when the appeal was made to the latter court whose jurisdiction he, in
effect, invoked. Furthermore, the question is not really as much the jurisdiction of the courts below as
merely the locus standi of the complainant in the proceedings, a matter that, at this stage, should be
considered foreclosed.
In any case, we consider primordial the second issue of whether or not Romualdez voluntarily left the country
and abandoned his residence in Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte. Here, this time, we find for the petitioner.
The Solicitor General himself sustains the view of petitioner Romualdez. Expressing surprise at this stance
given by the Solicitor General, respondent Advincula posits non sequitur argument 17 in his comment assailing

instead the person of Solicitor Edgar Chua. If it would have any value, at all, in disabusing the minds of
those concerned, it may well be to recall what this Court said in Rubio vs. Sto. Tomas: 18
It is also incumbent upon the Office of the Solicitor General to present to the Court the position
that will legally uphold the best interest of the government, although it may run counter to a
client's position.
In election cases, the Court treats domicile and residence as synonymous terms, thus: "(t)he term "residence"
as used in the election law is synonymous with "domicile", which imports not only an intention to reside in a
fixed place but also personal presence in that place, coupled with conduct indicative of such
intention." 19 "Domicile" denotes a fixed permanent residence to which when absent for business or

pleasure, or for like reasons, one intends to return. 20 That residence, in the case of the petitioner, was
established during the early 1980's to be at Barangay Malbog, Tolosa, Leyte. Residence thus acquired,
however, may be lost by adopting another choice of domicile. In order, in turn, to acquire a new domicile
by choice, there must concur (1) residence or bodily presence in the new locality, (2) an intention to
remain there, and (3) an intention to abandon the old domicile. 21 In other words, there must basically

be animus manendicoupled with animus non revertendi. The purpose to remain in or at the domicile of
choice must be for an indefinite period of time; the change of residence must be voluntary; and the
residence at the place chosen for the new domicile must be actual. 22
The political situation brought about by the "People's Power Revolution" must have truly caused great
apprehension to the Romualdezes, as well as a serious concern over the safety and welfare of the members of
their families. Their going into self-exile until conditions favorable to them would have somehow stabilized is
understandable. Certainly, their sudden departure from the country cannot be described as "voluntary," or as
"abandonment of residence" at least in the context that these terms are used in applying the concept of
"domicile by choice."
We have closely examined the records, and we find not that much to convince us that the petitioner had, in
fact, abandoned his residence in the Philippines and established his domicile elsewhere.
It must be emphasized that the right to vote is a most precious political right, as well as a bounden duty of
every citizen, enabling and requiring him to participate in the process of government so as to ensure that the
government can truly be said to derive its power solely from the consent of the governed. 23 We, therefore,

must commend respondent Advincula for spending time and effort even all the way up to this Court, for as
the right of suffrage is not to be abridged, so also must we safeguard and preserve it but only on behalf of
those entitled and bound to exercise it.
WHEREFORE, finding merit on the petition the same is hereby GRANTED DUE COURSE; of the Decision of
the respondent Regional Trial Court dated 03 April 1992 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and the
Decision of the Municipal Trial Court dated 28 February 1992 is hereby REINSTATED and the Temporary
Restraining Order issued by the Court in this case is correspondingly made PERMANENT. No pronouncement
as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Cruz, Padilla, Bidin, Grio-Aquino, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Nocon, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason and Puno,
JJ., concur.
Narvasa, C.J., and Feliciano, J., are on leave.

# Footnotes
1 RTC decision, Rollo, 48.
2 Rollo, 6; 48; 59.
3 Rollo, 7.
4 Ibid., 8.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid., 148-149.

7 Ibid., 9.
8 Rollo, 10.
9 Annex "B", Rollo, 55-56; 10; 68.
10 P. 10.
11 Per Judge Paulino Cabello, Rollo 68-75.
12 Per Judge Pedro Espina; Rollo 45-54.
13 Rollo, 122-124.
14 Sec. 142. Petition for exclusion of voters from the list.
Any registered voter in a city or municipality may apply at any time except during
the period beginning with the twenty-first day after the last registration day of any
election up to and including election day with the proper municipal or metropolitan
trial court, for the exclusion of a voter from the list, giving the name and residence of
the latter, the precinct in which he is registered and the grounds for the challenge.
The petition shall be sworn to and accompanied by proof of notice to the board of
election inspectors concerned, if the same is duly constituted, and to the challenged
voters.
15 Annex "C", Rollo, 57-66.
16 Aquino vs. CA, G.R. No. 91896, 204 SCRA 240 [1991]; Salen vs. Dinglasan, G.R. No.
59082, 198 SCRA 623 [1991]; Tijam vs. Sibonghanoy, G.R. No. L-21450, 23 SCRA 29 [1986].
17 xxx xxx xxx
4. That further investigation showed that Solicitor Edgar Y. Chua is the brother of ExAssemblyman Edward Chua (Youth Representative in the Batasan) a protege of Imee
Marcos Manotoc the first cousin of Philip Romualdez.
xxx xxx xxx
6. That Edward Chua has influence over his brother Solicitor Edgar Y. Chua, who
favored Philip Romualdez.
18 183 SCRA 571.
19 Nuval v. Guray, 52 Phil. 645.
20 Ong Huan Tin v. Republic, G.R. No. L-20997, 19 SCRA 966 (1967).
21 Gallego v. Vera, 73 Phil. 453.

22 17 Am. Jur., sec, 16, pp. 599-601.


23 Pugutan v. Abubakar, G.R. No. L-33541, 43 SCRA 1 [1972].