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Carlos v.

Angeles (2000)
Facts: In the May 11, 1998 elections, Jose Carlos was proclaimed as the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela over Antonio Serapio. Serapio filed an election protest challenging the results and the case was assigned to Judge Angeles of the RTC of Caloocan (because of the inhibition of all the judges of the RTC in Valenzuela). The final tally showed that Carlos won over a margin of 17,007 votes. However, the trial court set aside the final tally of valid votes because of its finding of significant badges of fraud. The trial court held that the fraud was attributable to Carlos and it declared Serapio as the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela City. Issues: 1. W/N the SC has jurisdiction. 2. W/N the trial court acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. Held/Ratio: 1. YES. The SC has jurisdiction over the present petition. Both the Supreme Court and Comelec (in aid of its appellate jurisdiction) have concurrent jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus over decisions of trial courts of general jurisdiction (RTC) in election cases involving elective municipal officials. The Court that takes jurisdiction first shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the case. 2. YES. The trial court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in proclaiming Serapio the duly elected mayor of Valenzuela even without a majority of votes cast in his favor. The trial court in its decision actually pronounced a failure of election by disregarding and setting aside the results of the election. The trial court erred to the extent of ousting itself of jurisdiction because the grounds for failure of election were not significant and even nonexistent. More importantly, the commission of fraud cannot be attributed to Carlos as there was no evidence on record that he had a hand in any of the irregularities that Serapio averred. The court annuls and declares void the trial court decision. The case is remanded to the trial court for decision. For recit purposes: The significant badges of fraud are belied by the facts pointed out by the SC: a. that the keys turned over did not fit into the padlocks of the ballot boxes: The mere inability of the keys to fit into the padlocks attached to the ballot boxes does not affect the integrity of the ballots. b. that 7 ballot boxes did not contain any ballot and 2 of the 7 did not contain any election returns: It is a standard procedure of the Comelec to provide extra empty ballot boxes for the use of the Board of Election Inspectors or the Board of Canvassers, in case of necessity. c. that some precincts experienced various brownouts: Witnesses testified that the counting of votes proceeded smoothly and no commotion or violence occurred during the brownout. d. that some of the assigned watchers of Serapio were not in their posts: As long as notices were duly served to the parties, the counting and canvassing of votes may validly proceed in the absence of watchers. Even assuming that the TC was correct in holding that the final tally of valid votes may be set aside because of the significant badges of fraud, the same would be tantamount to a ruling that there was failure of election. In a petition to annul an election, two conditions must be averred: (1) the illegality must affect more than 50% of the votes cast and (2) the good votes can be distinguished from the bad ones. Neither of these conditions was present in the case at bar.