Bello v. COMELEC (G.R. No. 191998; December 7, 2010)


FACTS: Ang Galing Pinoy Party-List(AGPP) filed with the Commission on Elections its Manifestation of Intent to Participate in theMay 10, 2010 elections. Subsequently, onMarch 23, 2010, AGPP filed its Certificate of Nomination together with the Certificates of Acceptance of its nominees.

On March 25, 2010, the COMELEC issued Resolution No. 8807 which prescribed the rules of procedure applicable to petitions to disqualify a party-list nominee for purposes of the May 10, 2010 elections.

On March 25, 2010, petitioners Liza L. Maza, Saturnino C. Ocampo, and Bayan Muna Party-List, represented by Teodoro Casi, (collectively referred to as certiorari petitioners) filed with the COMELEC a petition for disqualification against Arroyo, pursuant to Resolution No. 8696, in relation with Sections 2 and 9 of Republic Act (RA) No. 7941 (the Party- List System Act).

The certiorari petitioners argued that not only must the party-list organization factually and truly represent the marginalized and the underrepresented; the nominee must as well be a Filipino citizen belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, citing in this regard the case ofAng Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. COMELEC. On this basis, thecertioraripetitioners concluded that Arroyo cannot be considered a member of the marginalized and underrepresented sector, particularly, the sector which the AGPP represents tricycle drivers and security guards because he is not only a member of the First Family, but is also (a) an incumbent member of the House of Representatives; (b) the Chairman of the Houses Energy Committee; and, (c) a member of key committees in the House, namely: Natural Resources, Aquaculture, Fisheries Resources, Ethics and Privileges, Justice, National Defense and Security, Public Works and Highways, Transportation and Ways and Means.

On April 6, 2010, petitioners Walden F. Bello and Loretta Ann P. Rosales (mandamus petitioners) wrote the COMELEC Law Department a letter requesting for a copy of the documentary evidence submitted by AGPP, in compliance with Section 6 of Resolution No. 8807.On the same day, the COMELEC Law Department replied that as of that date, the AGPP had not yet submitted any documentary evidence required by Resolution No. 8807.

The mandamus petitioners requested the COMELEC and its Law Department to act, consistently with Section 10 of Resolution No. 8807, and declare the disqualification of the nominees of AGPP for their failure to comply with the requirements of Section 6 of Resolution No. 8807. Section 6 of the Resolution provides that the party-list group and the nominees must submit documentary evidence to duly prove that the nominees truly belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sector/s, and to the sectoral party, organization, political party or coalition they seek to represent. It likewise provides that the COMELEC Law Department shall require party-list groups and nominees to make the required documentary submissions.

In its May 7, 2010 Joint Resolution, the COMELEC Second Division dismissed the petitions for disqualification against Arroyo. It noted that Section 9 of RA 7941 merely requires the nominee to be "abona fidemember [of the party or organization which he seeks to represent for] at least ninety (90) days preceding the day of the elections." The COMELEC En Banc refused to reconsider.

The mandamus petitioners filed with the Supreme Court their Petition for Mandamus and Prohibition with Application for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction,docketed asG.R. No. 191998.They sought to compel the COMELEC to disqualify motu proprio the AGPP nominees for their failure to comply with Section 6 of Resolution No. 8807, and to enjoin the COMELEC from giving due course to the AGPPs participation in the May 10, 2010 elections.

On July 23 and 29, 2010, thecertioraripetitioners elevated their case to the Supreme Courtviatwo (2) separate petitions forcertiorari, docketed asG.R. Nos. 192769 and192832, to annul the COMELEC Second Divisions May 7, 2010 joint resolution and the COMELECen bancsJuly 19, 2010 consolidated resolution that dismissed their petitions for disqualification against Arroyo as AGPPs nominee.

In the interim, AGPP obtained in theMay 10, 2010elections the required percentage of votes sufficient to secure a single seat.This entitled Arroyo, as AGPPs first nominee, to sit in the House of Representatives. OnJuly 21, 2010, the COMELEC, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers, proclaimed Arroyo as AGPPs duly-elected party-list representative in the House of Representatives.
ISSUES: [1] Does mandamus lie to compel the COMELEC to disqualify AGPPs nomineesmotu proprioor to cancel AGPPs registration?
[2] Can the COMELEC be enjoined from giving due course to AGPPs participation in the May 10, 2010 elections, the canvassing of AGPPs votes, and proclaiming it a winner?
[3] Does the HRET havejurisdiction over the question of Arroyos qualifications as AGPPs nominee after his proclamation and assumption to office as a member of the House of Representatives?

HELD: The petitions are dismissed.

ISSUE [1]. For a writ of mandamus to issue (inG.R. No. 191998), Petitioners must comply with the condition that there be "no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law." However, they failed to do so.Under Section 2, in relation with Section 4, of COMELEC Resolution No. 8807 (quoted below), any interested party may file with the COMELEC a petition for disqualification against a party-list nominee. Furthermore, under Section 6 of RA 7941, any interested party may file a verified complaint for cancellation of registration of a party-list organization. These provisions effectively provide the "plain, speedy and adequate remedy" that the mandamus petitioners should have taken. In filing the present petition, the mandamus petitioners also violated the rule on the exhaustion of administrative remedies. The rule on exhaustion of administrative remedies provides that a party must exhaust all administrative remedies to give the administrative agency an opportunity to decide and thus prevent unnecessary and premature resort to the courts.

ISSUE [2]. The court finds that the second issue has been mooted by the supervening participation, election and proclamation of AGPP after it secured the required percentage of votes in the May 10, 2010 elections.The prohibition issue has been rendered moot since there is nothing now to prohibit in light of the supervening events.A moot case is one that ceases to present a justiciable controversy by virtue of supervening events, so that a declaration thereon (in this case, the prevention of the specified acts) can no longer be done.

ISSUE [3]. The consistent judicial holding is that the HRET has jurisdiction to pass upon the qualifications of party-list nominees after their proclamation and assumption of office; they are, for all intents and purposes, "elected members" of the House of Representatives although the entity directly voted upon was their party. In the present case, it is not disputed that Arroyo, AGPPs first nominee, has already been proclaimed and taken his oath of office as a Member of the House of Representatives.The court takes judicial notice, too, of the filing of two (2) petitions forquo warrantoagainst Arroyo, now pending before the HRET.The court holds that the Court has no jurisdiction over the present petitions and that the HRET now has the exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and rule upon Arroyos qualifications as a Member of the House of Representatives.
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