Case Digest: Sahali v. COMELEC

G.R. No. 201796 : January 15, 2013

Governor Sadikul A. Sahali and Vice-Governor Ruby M. Sahali, Petitioners, v. Commission on Elections, Rashidin H. Matba and Jilkasi J. Usman, Respondents.

REYES, J.:

FACTS:

During the 2010 elections, Sadikul A. Sahali (Sadikul) and private respondent Rashidin H. Matba (Matba) were two of the four candidates who ran for the position of governor in the Province of Tawi-Tawi while Ruby and private respondent Jilkasi J. Usman (Usman) ran for the position of Vice-Governor.

The Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) proclaimed petitioners Sadikul and Ruby as the duly elected governor and vice-governor, respectively.

Matba and Usman filed an Election Protest Ad Cautelam with the COMELEC. Matba contested the results in 39 out of 282 clustered precincts that functioned in the province of TawiTawi. Sadikul and Ruby filed their answer with counter protest.

The COMELEC First Division directed its Election Records and Statistics Department (ERSD) to conduct a technical examination of the said election paraphernalia by comparing the signature and thumbmarks appearing on the EDCVL as against those appearing on the VRRs and the Book of Voters. Sadikul and Ruby jointly filed with the COMELEC First Division a Strong Manifestation of Grave Concern and Motion for Reconsideration.

The COMELEC First Division issued the herein assailed Order which denied the said motion for reconsideration filed by Sadikul and Ruby.

Sadikul and Ruby filed the instant petition asserting that the COMELEC First Division committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

ISSUES: Whether or not Sadikul and Ruby’s resort to the remedy of certiorari to assail an interlocutory order issued by the COMELEC first division is proper?

Whether or not Sadikul and Ruby were denied due process when the COMELEC granted the motion for technical examination filed by Matba and Usman without giving them the opportunity to oppose the said motion?

HELD: Petition is denied.

POLITICAL LAW: Section 7, Art. IX of the 1987 Constitution; due process


FIRST ISSUE: The power of the Supreme Court to review election cases falling within the original exclusive jurisdiction of the COMELEC only extends to final decisions or resolutions of the COMELEC en banc, not to interlocutory orders issued by a Division thereof.

In Ambil, Jr. v. COMELEC, Supreme Court elucidated on the import of Section 7, Art IX of the Constitution in this wise: “We have interpreted this provision to mean final orders, rulings and decisions of the COMELEC rendered in the exercise of its adjudicatory or quasi-judicial powers.” This decision must be a final decision or resolution of the Comelec en banc, not of a division, certainly not an interlocutory order of a division. The Supreme Court has no power to review via certiorari, an interlocutory order or even a final resolution of a Division of the Commission on Elections.

Here, the Orders issued by the First Division of the COMELEC were merely interlocutory orders since they only disposed of an incident in the main case i.e. the propriety of the technical examination of the said election paraphernalia. Thus, the proper recourse for Sadikul and Ruby is to await the decision of the COMELEC First Division in the election protests filed by Matba and Usman, and should they be aggrieved thereby, to appeal the same to the COMELEC en banc by filing a motion for reconsideration.

SECOND ISSUE: The Supreme Court cannot see how due process was denied to the petitioners in the issuance of the COMELEC First Division’s Order.

It bears stressing that the COMELEC, in election disputes, is not duty-bound to notify and direct a party therein to file an opposition to a motion filed by the other party. It is incumbent upon the party concerned, if he/she deems it necessary, to file an opposition to a motion within five days from receipt of a copy of the same without awaiting for the COMELEC’s directive to do so.

Sadikul and Ruby were able to present their opposition to the said motion for technical examination in their manifestation and motion for reconsideration which they filed with the COMELEC First Division. Indeed, their objections to the technical examination of the said election paraphernalia were exhaustively discussed by the COMELEC First Division’s Resolution. Having filed a motion for reconsideration of the COMELEC First Division’s Order, their claim of denial of due process is clearly unfounded.

The petitioners should be reminded that due process does not necessarily mean or require a hearing, but simply an opportunity or right to be heard.

COMELEC, AFFIRMED.

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