Case Digest: Lokin, Jr. v. COMELEC

G.R. No. 193808 : June 26, 2012

LUIS K. LOKIN, JR. AND TERESITA F. PLANAS, Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS (COMELEC) ET AL., Respondents.

SERENO,J.:


FACTS:

Respondent CIBAC party-list is a multi-sectoral party registered under Republic Act No. (R.A.) 7941, otherwise known as the Party- List System Act. As stated in its constitution and bylaws, the platform of CIBAC is to fight graft and corruption and to promote ethical conduct in the countrys public service. Under the leadership of the National Council, its highest policymaking and governing body, the party participated in the 2001, 2004, and 2007 elections. On 20 November 2009, two different entities, both purporting to represent CIBAC, submitted to the COMELEC a Manifestation of Intent to Participate in the Party-List System of Representation in the May 10, 2010 Elections.

The first Manifestation was signed by a certain Pia B. Derla, who claimed to be the partys acting secretary-general. At 1:30 p.m. of the same day, another Manifestation6 was submitted by herein respondents Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales and Virginia Jose as the partys vice-president and secretary-general, respectively.

On 15 January 2010, the COMELEC issued Resolution No. 87447 giving due course to CIBACs Manifestation, WITHOUT PREJUDICE the determination which of the two factions of the registered party-list/coalitions/sectoral organizations which filed two (2) manifestations of intent to participate is the official representative of said party-list/coalitions/sectoral organizations.

On 19 January 2010, respondents, led by President and Chairperson Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, submitted the Certificate of Nomination of CIBAC to the COMELEC Law Department. The nomination was certified by Villanueva and Virginia S. Jose. On 26 March 2010, Pia Derla submitted a second Certificate of Nomination, which included petitioners Luis Lokin and Teresita Planas as party-list nominees. Derla affixed to the certification her signature as acting secretary-general of CIBAC.

Claiming that the nomination of petitioners Lokin, Jr. and Planas was unauthorized, respondents filed with the COMELEC a Petition to Expunge From The Records And/Or For Disqualification, seeking to nullify the Certificate filed by Derla. Respondents contended that Derla had misrepresented herself as acting secretary-general, when she was not even

a member of CIBAC; that the Certificate of Nomination and other documents she submitted were unauthorized by the party and therefore invalid; and that it was Villanueva who was duly authorized to file the Certificate of Nomination on its behalf.

In the Resolution dated 5 July 2010, the COMELEC First Division granted the Petition, ordered the Certificate filed by Derla to be expunged from the records, and declared respondents faction as the true nominees of CIBAC. Upon Motion for Reconsideration separately filed by the adverse parties, the COMELEC en banc affirmed the Divisions findings.

Petitioners now seek recourse with this Court in accordance with Rules 64 and 65 of the Rules of Court.

ISSUES:

1) Whether the authority of Secretary General Virginia Jose to file the partys Certificate of Nomination is an intra-corporate matter, exclusively cognizable by special commercial courts, and over which the COMELEC has no jurisdiction; and

2) Whether the COMELEC erred in granting the Petition for Disqualification and recognizing respondents as the properly authorized nominees of CIBAC party-list.

HELD: As earlier stated, this Court denies the petition for being filed outside the requisite period. The review by this Court of judgments and final orders of the COMELEC is governed specifically by Rule 64 of the Rules of Court, which states:

REMEDIAL LAW: review of judgments and final orders or resolutions of the COMELEC and the COA

Sec. 1. Scope. This rule shall govern the review of judgments and final orders or resolutions of the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit.

Sec. 2. Mode of review. A judgment or final order or resolution of the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit may be brought by the aggrieved party to the Supreme Court on certiorari under Rule 65, except as hereinafter provided.

The exception referred to in Section 2 of this Rule refers precisely to the immediately succeeding provision, Section 3 thereof, which provides for the allowable period within which to file petitions for certiorari from judgments of both the COMELEC and the Commission on Audit. Thus, while Rule 64 refers to the same remedy of certiorari as the general rule in Rule 65, they cannot be equated, as they provide for different reglementary periods. Rule 65 provides for a period of 60 days from notice of judgment sought to be assailed in the Supreme Court, while Section 3 expressly provides for only 30 days, viz:

SEC. 3. Time to file petition.The petition shall be filed within thirty (30) days from notice of the judgment or final order or resolution sought to be reviewed. The filing of a motion for new trial or reconsideration of said judgment or final order or resolution, if allowed under the procedural rules of the Commission concerned, shall interrupt the period herein fixed. If the motion is denied, the aggrieved party may file the petition within the remaining period, but which shall not be less than five (5) days in any event, reckoned from notice of denial.

Petitioner received a copy of the first assailed Resolution on 12 July 2010. Upon the Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioners on 15 July 2010, the COMELEC en banc issued the second assailed Resolution on 31 August 2010. This per curiam Resolution was received by petitioners on 1 September 2010.16 Thus, pursuant to Section 3 above, deducting the three days it took petitioners to file the Motion for Reconsideration, they had a remaining period of 27 days or until 28 September 2010 within which to file the Petition for Certiorari with this Court.

However, petitioners filed the present Petition only on 1 October 2010, clearly outside the required period.

POLITICAL LAW: COMELECs jurisdiction over intra-party disputes

In the 2010 case Atienza v. Commission on Elections, it was expressly settled that the COMELEC possessed the authority to resolve intra-party disputes as a necessary tributary of its constitutionally mandated power to enforce election laws and register political parties. The Court therein cited Kalaw v. Commission on Elections and Palmares v. Commission on Elections, which uniformly upheld the COMELECs jurisdiction over intra-party disputes:

The COMELECs jurisdiction over intra-party leadership disputes has already been settled by the Court. The Court ruled in Kalaw v. Commission on Elections that the COMELECs powers and functions under Section 2, Article IX-C of the Constitution, include the ascertainment of the identity of the political party and its legitimate officers responsible for its acts. The Court also declared in another case that the COMELECs power to register political parties necessarily involved the determination of the persons who must act on its behalf. Thus, the COMELEC may resolve an intra-party leadership dispute, in a proper case brought before it, as an incident of its power to register political parties.

ELECTION LAW: party-list system law

Furthermore, matters regarding the nomination of party-list representatives, as well as their individual qualifications, are outlined in the Party-List System Law. Sections 8 and 9 thereof state:

Sec. 8. Nomination of Party-List Representatives. Each registered party, organization or coalition shall submit to the COMELEC not later than forty-five (45) days before the election a list of names, not less than five (5), from which party-list representatives shall be chosen in case it obtains the required number of votes.

A person may be nominated in one (1) list only. Only persons who have given their consent in writing may be named in the list. The list shall not include any candidate for any elective office or a person who has lost his bid for an elective office in the immediately preceding election. No change of names or alteration of the order of nominees shall be allowed after the same shall have been submitted to the COMELEC except in cases where the nominee dies, or withdraws in writing his nomination, becomes incapacitated in which case the name of the substitute nominee shall be placed last in the list. Incumbent sectoral representatives in the House of Representatives who are nominated in the party-list system shall not be considered resigned.

Sec. 9. Qualifications of Party-List Nominees. No person shall be nominated as party-list representative unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, a resident of the Philippines for a period of not less than one (1) year immediately preceding the day of the election, able to read and write, a bona fide member of the party or organization which he seeks to represent for at least ninety (90) days preceding the day of the election, and is at least twenty-five (25) years of age on the day of the election.

By virtue of the aforesaid mandate of the Party-List Law vesting the COMELEC with jurisdiction over the nomination of party-list representatives and prescribing the qualifications of each nominee, the COMELEC promulgated its Rules on Disqualification Cases Against Nominees of Party-List Groups/ Organizations Participating in the 10 May 2010 Automated National and Local Elections. Adopting the same qualifications of party-list nominees listed above, Section 6 of these Rules also required that:

The party-list group and the nominees must submit documentary evidence in consonance with the Constitution, R.A. 7941 and other laws to duly prove that the nominees truly belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sector/s, the sectoral party, organization, political party or coalition they seek to represent, which may include but not limited to the following:
a. Track record of the party-list group/organization showing active participation of the nominee/s in the undertakings of the party-list group/organization for the advancement of the marginalized and underrepresented sector/s, the sectoral party, organization, political party or coalition they seek to represent; 
b. Proofs that the nominee/s truly adheres to the advocacies of the party-list group/organizations (prior declarations, speeches, written articles, and such other positive actions on the part of the nominee/sshowing his/her adherence to the advocacies of the party-list group/organizations); 
c. Certification that the nominee/s is/are a bona fide member of the party-list group/ organization for at least ninety (90) days prior to the election; and 
d. In case of a party-list group/organization seeking representation of the marginalized and underrepresented sector/s, proof that the nominee/s is not only an advocate of the party-list/organization but is/are also a bona fide member/s of said marginalized and underrepresented sector.
The Law Department shall require party-list group and nominees to submit the foregoing documentary evidence if not complied with prior to the effectivity of this resolution not later than three (3) days from the last day of filing of the list of nominees.

Contrary to petitioners stance, no grave abuse of discretion is attributable to the COMELEC First Division and the COMELEC en banc.

The tribunal correctly found that Pia Derlas alleged authority as acting secretary-general was an unsubstantiated allegation devoid of any supporting evidence. Petitioners did not submit any documentary evidence that Derla was a member of CIBAC, let alone the representative authorized by the party to submit its Certificate of Nomination.

WHEREFORE, finding no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC in issuing the assailed Resolutions, the instant Petition is DISMISSED. This Court AFFIRMS the judgment of the COMELEC expunging from its records the Certificate of Nomination filed on 26 March 2010 by Pia B. Derla.

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