Case Digest: Galang, Jr. v. Hon. Geromino & Ramos

G.R. No. 192793 : February 22, 2011

FESTO R. GALANG, JR.,Petitioner, v. HON. RAMIRO R. GERONIMO, as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Romblon, Branch 81; and NICASIO M. RAMOS, Respondents.



Petitioner was proclaimed winner for the mayoralty race during the May 10, 2010 Automated Elections for the Municipality of Cajidiocan, Province of Romblon. The proclamation was based on the COC, but without the official signed Certificate of Canvass for Proclamation (COCP). This was done with the approval of the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) Chairman.

Subsequently, private respondent Nicasio Ramos, who was also a mayoralty candidate in the same election, requested the COMELEC to conduct a manual reconciliation of the votes cast. The COMELEC then issued Resolution No. 8923, granting said request. As for the COCP for the previously proclaimed mayoralty and vice-mayoralty candidates, the total number of votes for each of the candidates remained the same even after the manual reconciliation; hence, only the date was erased and changed to read "May 20, 2010" to correspond with the date of the manual reconciliation.

On May 27, 2010, private respondent filed an election protest case against petitioner before the RTC. The following day, the court sheriff went to petitioner's residence to serve summons with a copy of the petition. The Sheriff's Return of Summons stated that the sheriff was able to serve Summons on petitioner by leaving the same and the attached copy of the protest with a certain Gerry Rojas, who was then at petitioner's residence.

Petitioner, together with his counsel, Atty. Abner Perez, appeared in court and requested a copy of the summons with a copy of the election protest. Petitioner filed a Motion to Admit Answer, to which was attached his Answer with Affirmative Defense and Counterclaim. One of his affirmative defenses was that the electoral protest was filed out of time, since it was filed more than ten (10) days after the date of proclamation of the winning candidate.

The trial court then issued an order finding the service of Summons on petitioner on May 28, 2010 as valid, and declaring the Answer as filed out of time.

On July 12, 2010, petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion to: (1) Restore Protestee's Standing in Court; (2) Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated June 24, 2010; and (3) Suspend Proceedings Pending Resolution of Falsification Case Before the Law Department of the COMELEC. However, the trial court denied petitioner's Omnibus Motion.

Hence, the present petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65, alleging that respondent judge acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in considering as valid, the Sheriff's Service of Summons on May 28, 2010 on a person not residing in petitioner's residence.

On the other hand, respondents pointed out that the petition for certiorari should not be filed with this Court but with the COMELEC.

ISSUE: Whether the respondent judge acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction

HELD: The decision of the COMELEC is sustained.

POLITICAL LAW jurisdiction of the COMELEC

In election cases involving an act or an omission of a municipal or a regional trial court, the petition shall be filed exclusively with the Commission on Elections, in aid of its appellate jurisdiction.

The question then is, would taking cognizance of a petition for certiorari questioning an interlocutory order of the regional trial court in an electoral protest case be considered in aid of the appellate jurisdiction of the COMELEC? The Court finds in the affirmative.

Interpreting the phrase "in aid of its appellate jurisdiction," the Court held in J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Jaramillo, et al. 118 Phil. 1022 (1963) that if a case may be appealed to a particular court or judicial tribunal or body, then said court or judicial tribunal or body has jurisdiction to issue the extraordinary writ of certiorari, in aid of its appellate jurisdiction. This was reiterated in De Jesus v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 101630, August 24, 1992 where the Court stated that a court may issue a writ of certiorari in aid of its appellate jurisdiction if said court has jurisdiction to review, by appeal or writ of error, the final orders or decisions of the lower court.

Since it is the COMELEC which has jurisdiction to take cognizance of an appeal from the decision of the regional trial court in election contests involving elective municipal officials, then it is also the COMELEC which has jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorariin aid of its appellate jurisdiction. Clearly, petitioner erred in invoking this Court's power to issue said extraordinary writ.

The petition is dismissed.