Case Digest: Cagas v. COMELEC

G.R. No. 194139 : January 24, 2012




The petitioner and respondent Claude P. Bautista (Bautista) contested the position of Governor of the Province of Davao del Sur in the May 10, 2010 automated national and local elections. Results led to the completion by May 14, 2010 of the canvassing of votes cast for Governor of Davao del Sur, and the petitioner was proclaimed the winner.

Alleging fraud, anomalies, irregularities, vote-buying and violations of election laws, rules and resolutions, Bautista filed an electoral protest on May 24, 2010 (EPC No. 2010-42).

In his answer submitted on June 22, 2010, the petitioner averred as his special affirmative defenses that Bautista did not make the requisite cash deposit on time; and that Bautista did not render a detailed specification of the acts or omissions complained of. COMELEC First Division issued the first assailed order denying the special affirmative defenses of the petitioner.

The petitioner moved to reconsider on the ground that the order did not discuss whether the protest specified the alleged irregularities in the conduct of the elections. He prayed that the matter be certified to the COMELEC en banc. Bautista countered that the assailed orders, being merely interlocutory, could not be elevated to the COMELEC en banc pursuant to the ruling in Panlilio v. COMELEC.

COMELEC First Division issued its second assailed order, denying the petitioners motion for reconsideration for failing to show that the first order was contrary to law. Not satisfied, the petitioner commenced this special civil action directly in this Court.

ISSUE: Whether or not COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in refusing to dismiss the protest for insufficiency in form and content

HELD: No. Petition Denied

Political Law- SC cannot review a decision of a COMELEC Division

The governing provision is Section 7, Article IX of the 1987 Constitution, which provides:

Section 7. Each Commission shall decide by a majority vote of all its Members any case or matter brought before it within sixty days from the date of its submission for decision or resolution. A case or matter is deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the rules of the Commission or by the Commission itself. Unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law, any decision, order, or ruling of each Commission may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by the aggrieved party within thirty days from receipt of a copy thereof.

This provision, although it confers on the Court the power to review any decision, order or ruling of the COMELEC, limits such power to a final decision or resolution of the COMELEC en banc, and does not extend to an interlocutory order issued by a Division of the COMELEC. Otherwise stated, the Court has no power to review on certiorari an interlocutory order or even a final resolution issued by a Division of the COMELEC.

The mode by which a decision, order or ruling of the Comelec en banc may be elevated to the Supreme Court is by the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1964 Revised Rules of Court, now expressly provided in Rule 64, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.

Rule 65, Section 1, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, requires that there be no appeal, or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. A motion for reconsideration is a plain and adequate remedy provided by law. Failure to abide by this procedural requirement constitutes a ground for dismissal of the petition.

In like manner, a decision, order or resolution of a division of the Comelec must be reviewed by the Comelec en banc via a motion for reconsideration before the final en banc decision may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari. The pre-requisite filing of a motion for reconsideration is mandatory.

There is no question, therefore, that the Court has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the petition forcertiorari assailing the denial by the COMELEC First Division of the special affirmative defenses of the petitioner. The proper remedy is for the petitioner to wait for the COMELEC First Division to first decide the protest on its merits, and if the result should aggrieve him, to appeal the denial of his special affirmative defenses to the COMELEC en banc along with the other errors committed by the Division upon the merits.

Political Law- no final decision, resolution or order has yet been made which will necessitate the elevation of the case and its records to the Commission en banc

In the instant case, it does not appear that the subject controversy is one of the cases specifically provided under the COMELEC Rules of Procedure in which the Commission may sit en banc. Neither is it shown that the present controversy a case where a division is not authorized to act nor a situation wherein the members of the First Division unanimously voted to refer the subject case to the Commission en banc. Clearly, the Commission en banc, under the circumstances shown above, cannot be the proper forum which the matter concerning the assailed interlocutory orders can be referred to.

In a situation such as this where the Commission in division committed grave abuse of discretion or acted without or in excess of jurisdiction in issuing interlocutory orders relative to an action pending before it and the controversy did not fall under any of the instances mentioned in Section 2, Rule 3 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, the remedy of the aggrieved party is not to refer the controversy to the Commission en banc as this is not permissible under its present rules but to elevate it to this Court via a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.