Reyes v. Comelec (G.R. No. 207264; October 22, 2013)


FACTS: This is a Motion for Reconsideration of the En Banc Resolution of June 25, 2013 which found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Commission on Elections and affirmed the March 27, 2013 Resolution of the COMELEC First Division.Petitioner raised the issue in the petition which is: Whether or not Respondent COMELEC is without jurisdiction over Petitioner who is duly proclaimed winner and who has already taken her oath of office for the position of Member of the House of Representatives for the lone congressional district of Marinduque. Petitioner is a duly proclaimed winner and having taken her oath of office as member of the House of Representatives, all questions regarding her qualifications are outside the jurisdiction of the COMELEC and are within the HRET exclusive jurisdiction.

The averred proclamation is the critical pointer to the correctness of petitioner submission.The crucial question is whether or not petitioner could be proclaimed on May 18, 2013. Differently stated, was there basis for the proclamation of petitioner on May 18 , 2013.

The June 25, 2013 resolution held that before May 18, 2013, the COMELEC En Banc had already finally disposed of the issue of petitioner lack of Filipino citizenship and residency via its resolution dated May 14, 2013, cancelling petitioner certificate of candidacy. The proclamation which petitioner secured on May 18, 2013 was without any basis. On June 10, 2013, petitioner went to the Supreme Court questioning the COMELEC First Division ruling and the May 14, 2013 COMELEC En Banc decision, baseless proclamation on 18 May 2013 did not by that fact of promulgation alone become valid and legal.

ISSUE: Was Reyes denied of due process?

HELD: Petitioner alleges that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion when it took cognizance of "newly-discovered evidence" without the same having been testified on and offered and admitted in evidence. She assails the admission of the blog article of Eli Obligacion as hearsay and the photocopy of the Certification from the Bureau of Immigration. She likewise contends that there was a violation of her right to due process of law because she was not given the opportunity to question and present controverting evidence.

It must be emphasized that the COMELEC is not bound to strictly adhere to the technical rules of procedure in the presentation of evidence. Under Section 2 of Rule I, the COMELEC Rules of Procedure "shall be liberally construed in order to achieve just, expeditious and inexpensive determination and disposition of every action and proceeding brought before the Commission." In view of the fact that the proceedings in a petition to deny due course or to cancel certificate of candidacy are summary in nature, then the "newly discovered evidence" was properly admitted by respondent COMELEC.

Furthermore, there was no denial of due process in the case at bar as petitioner was given every opportunity to argue her case before the COMELEC. From 10 October 2012 when Tan's petition was filed up to 27 March 2013 when the First Division rendered its resolution, petitioner had a period of five (5) months to adduce evidence. Unfortunately, she did not avail herself of the opportunity given her.

In administrative proceedings, procedural due process only requires that the party be given the opportunity or right to be heard. As held in the case of Sahali v. COMELEC: The petitioners should be reminded that due process does not necessarily mean or require a hearing, but simply an opportunity or right to be heard. One may be heard, not solely by verbal presentation but also, and perhaps many times more creditably and predictable than oral argument, through pleadings. In administrative proceedings moreover, technical rules of procedure and evidence are not strictly applied; administrative process cannot be fully equated with due process in its strict judicial sense. Indeed, deprivation of due process cannot be successfully invoked where a party was given the chance to be heard on his motion for reconsideration.

In moving for the cancellation of petitioner's COC, respondent submitted records of the Bureau of Immigration showing that petitioner is a holder of a US passport, and that her status is that of a "balikbayan." At this point, the burden of proof shifted to petitioner, imposing upon her the duty to prove that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen and has not lost the same, or that she has re-acquired such status in accordance with the provisions of R.A. No. 9225. Aside from the bare allegation that she is a natural-born citizen, however, petitioner submitted no proof to support such contention. Neither did she submit any proof as to the inapplicability of R.A. No. 9225 to her. DENIED.

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