Calo v. Comelec (G.R. No. 185222; January 19, 2010)


FACTS: Respondent Ramon M. Calo was proclaimed winner in the May 14, 2007 mayoralty race in the Municipality of Carmen, Province of Agusan del Sur.His opponent, petitioner Jesus M. Calo, is his brother, whom he beat by 278 votes. Petitioner filed an election protest in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Butuan City, Branch 3, questioning the election results. The RTC issued its decision on the protest finding petitioner to have received the majority votes and declaring him the duly elected mayor.Petitioner filed a motion for the issuance of a writ of execution pending appeal.On February 15, 2008, the RTC issued its special order granting petitioner's motion for the issuance of a writ of execution pending appeal. Respondent filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) raising as ground the grave abuse of discretion committed by the RTC. The COMELEC First Division issued its resolution granting the petition, setting aside the RTC special order dated February 15, 2008, quashing the accompanying writ of execution, issuing a status quo anteorder directing the parties to observe the status quo prevailing prior to the February 15, 2008 special order and directing respondent to continue as the municipal mayor of the Municipality of Carmen.

ISSUE: Was the COMELEC correct in setting side the RTC's special order dated February 15, 2008?

HELD: A motion for execution pending appeal filed by the prevailing party shall contain a three-day notice to the adverse party and execution pending appeal shall not issue without prior notice and hearing. It should be emphasized that these requirements are for the purpose of avoiding surprises that may be sprung upon the adverse party who must be given time to study and meet the arguments in the motion before a resolution by the court.Where a party had the opportunity to be heard, then the purpose has been served and the requirement substantially complied with.In this case, even the COMELEC admitted that respondent was heard and afforded his day in court;hence, it should not have annulled the RTC special order on said ground.The COMELEC should have accorded respect and weight to the RTCs decision proclaiming petitioner as winner.Note that aside from the evidence presented by the parties during the election contest and the expert testimony of the witnesses from the National Bureau of Investigation, the RTC made its own assessment and findings on the contested ballots.The RTC also laid down the superior circumstances necessitating the grant of execution pending appeal: (1) allowing the status quo to continue would unjustly give premium to the perpetrators of fraud, anomalies and irregularities and suppress the will of the electorate; (2) the sovereign will of the people should be given utmost respect and (3) the injury or damage to be sustained by petitioner would outweigh the injury or damage of respondent. Given that the RTCs exercise of its discretionary power to grant execution pending appeal per special order dated February 15, 2008 was not tainted with any bias or capricious and whimsical arbitrariness, the COMELEC committed an error in annulling and setting it aside. GRANTED.