CASE DIGEST: Dumarpa v. COMELEC (G.R. No. 192249)

G.R. No. 192249 : April 2, 2013 | SALIC DUMARPA, Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, Respondent. PEREZ, J.:

FACTS: Dumarpa was a congressional candidate for the 1st District of Lanao del Sur at the 10 May 2010 elections. The COMELEC declared a total failure of elections in seven (7) municipalities, including the three (3) Municipalities of Masiu, Lumba Bayabao and Kapai, which are situated in the 1st Congressional District of Province of Lanao del Sur. The conduct of special elections in the seven (7) Lanao del Sur municipalities was originally scheduled for 29 May 2010.On 25 May 2010, COMELEC issued Resolution No. 8946, resetting the special elections to 3 June 2010. Subsequently, COMELEC issued the herein assailed resolution which provided, among others, the constitution of Special Board of Election Inspectors (SBEI) in Section 4 and Clustering of Precincts in Section 12.

Dumarpa filed a Motion for Reconsideration concerning only Sections 4 and 12 thereof as it may apply to the Municipality of Masiu, Lanao del Sur. The COMELEC did not act on Dumarpas motion.

A day before the scheduled special elections, on 2 June 2010, Dumarpa filed the instant petition alleging that "both provisions on Re-clustering of Precincts (Section 12) and constitution of SBEIs [Special Board of Election Inspectors] (Section 4) affect the Municipality of Masiu, Lanao del Sur, and will definitely doom petitioner to certain defeat, if its implementation is not restrained or prohibited by the Honorable Supreme Court."

Parenthetically, at the time of the filing of this petition, Dumarpa was leading by a slim margin over his opponent Hussin Pangandaman in the canvassed votes for the areas which are part of the 1st Congressional District of Lanao del Sur where there was no failure of elections.

A temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction was not issued. Thus, the special elections on 3 June 2010 proceeded as scheduled.

ISSUE: Whether or not the petition has become moot and academic?

HELD: Yes. A moot and academic case is one that ceases to present a justiciable controversy by virtue of supervening events, so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical value.

Indeed, the special elections held on 3 June 2010 mooted the issues posed by Dumarpa. The opponent of Dumarpa, Hussin Pangandaman, was proclaimed winner in the 1st Congressional District of Lanao del Sur. We see this as a supervening event which, additionally, mooted the present petition as the issues raised herein are resolvable in the election protest.

In any event, the petition is unmeritorious.

COMELEC's power to enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election.

COMELEC issued the assailed Resolution, in the exercise of its plenary powers in the conduct of elections enshrined in the Constitution and statute. Thus, it brooks no argument that the COMELEC's broad power to "enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum and recall,carries with it all necessary and incidental powers for it to achieve the objective of holding free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections.

The Commission on Elections, by constitutional mandate, must do everything in its power to secure a fair and honest canvass of the votes cast in the elections. In the performance of its duties, the Commission must be given a considerable latitude in adopting means and methods that will insure the accomplishment of the great objective for which it was created - to promote free, orderly, and honest elections. The choice of means taken by the Commission on Elections, unless they are clearly illegal or constitute grave abuse of discretion, should not be interfered with.

Dumarpas objections conveniently fail to take into account that COMELEC Resolution No. 8965, containing the assailed provisions on re-clustering of the precincts and the designation of special board of election inspectors, was issued precisely because of the total failure of elections in seven (7) Municipalities in the Province of Lanao del Sur, a total of fifteen (15) Municipalities where there was a failure of elections. Notably, the COMELEC's declaration of a failure of elections is not being questioned by Dumarpa. In fact, he confines his objections on the re-clustering of precincts, and only as regards the Municipality of Masiu.

Plainly, it is precisely to prevent another occurrence of a failure of elections in the fifteen (15) municipalities in the province of Lanao del Sur that the COMELEC issued the assailed Resolution No. 8965. The COMELEC, through its deputized officials in the field, is in the best position to assess the actual condition prevailing in that area and to make judgment calls based thereon. Too often, COMELEC has to make snap judgments to meet unforeseen circumstances that threaten to subvert the will of our voters. In the process, the actions of COMELEC may not be impeccable, indeed, may even be debatable.We cannot, however, engage in an academic criticism of these actions often taken under very difficult circumstances. Petition dismissed.