Lloren vs COMELEC (G.R. No. 196355 September 18, 2012)

Lloren vs COMELEC
G.R. No. 196355 September 18, 2012

Facts: Petitioner and respondent Rogelio Pua, Jr. (Pua) were the candidates for Vice Mayor of the Municipality of Inopacan, Leyte in the May 10, 2010 Automated National and Local Elections. The Municipal Board of Canvassers proclaimed Pua as the winning candidate with a plurality of 752 votes for garnering 5,682 votes as against petitioner’s 4,930 votes. Alleging massive vote-buying, intimidation, defective PCOS machines in all the clustered precincts, election fraud, and other election-related manipulations, petitioner commenced Election Protest Case (EPC) No. H-026 in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Hilongos, Leyte. In his answer with special and affirmative defenses and counterclaim, Pua alleged that the election protest stated no cause of action, was insufficient in form and content, and should be dismissed for failure of petitioner to pay the required cash deposit.

Issues: Whether or not appeal was perfected.

Whether or not there was a valid election contest.

Held: Yes. The rules on the timely perfection of an appeal in an election case requires two different appeal fees, one to be paid in the trial court together with the filing of the notice of appeal within five days from notice of the decision, and the other to be paid in the COMELEC Cash Division within the 15-day period from the filing of the notice of appeal.

In A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC, the Court promulgated the Rules of Procedure In Election Contests Before The Courts Involving Elective Municipal and Barangay Officials (hereafter, the Rules in A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC), effective on May 15, 2007, to set down the procedure for election contests and quo warranto cases involving municipal and barangay officials that are commenced in the trial courts. The Rules in A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC superseded Rule 35 (“Election Contests Before Courts of General Jurisdiction”) and Rule 36 (“Quo Warranto Case Before Courts of General Jurisdiction”) of the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure.

Under Section 8, of Rule 14 of the Rules in A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC, an aggrieved party may appeal the decision of the trial court to the COMELEC within five days after promulgation by filing a notice of appeal in the trial court that rendered the decision, serving a copy of the notice of appeal on the adverse counsel or on the adverse party if the party is not represented by counsel. Section 9, of Rule 14 of the Rules in A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC prescribes for that purpose an appeal fee of P 1,000.00 to be paid to the trial court rendering the decision simultaneously with the filing of the notice of appeal.

It should be stressed, however, that the Rules in A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC did not supersede the appeal fee prescribed by the COMELEC under its own rules of procedure. As a result, “the requirement of two appeal fees by two different jurisdictions caused a confusion in the implementation by the COMELEC of its procedural rules on the payment of appeal fees necessary for the perfection of appeals.” To remove the confusion, the COMELEC issued Resolution No. 8486, effective on July 24, 2008, whereby the COMELEC clarified the rules on the payment of the two appeal fees by allowing the appellant to pay the COMELEC’s appeal fee of P 3,200.00 at the COMELEC’s Cash Division through the ECAD or by postal money order payable to the COMELEC within a period of 15 days from the time of the filing of the notice of appeal in the trial court.

The non-payment of the motion fee of P 300.00 at the time of the filing of the motion for reconsideration did not warrant the outright denial of the motion for reconsideration, but might only justify the COMELEC to refuse to take action on the motion for reconsideration until the fees were paid, or to dismiss the action or proceeding when no full payment of the fees is ultimately made. The authority to dismiss is discretionary and permissive, not mandatory and exclusive, as expressly provided in Section 18, Rule 40 of the 1993 Rules of Procedure.

Yes. Section 10(c), Rule 2 of the Rules in A.M. No. 10-4-1-SC pertinently provides as follows: Section 10. Contents of the protest or petition.—

xxx

c. An election protest shall also state: (i) that the protestant was a candidate who had duly filed a certificate of candidacy and had been voted for the same office; (ii) the total number of precincts in the municipality; (iii) the protested precincts and votes of the parties in the protested precincts per the Statement of Votes by Precinct or, if the votes of the parties are not specified, an explanation why the votes are not specified; and (iv) a detailed specification of the acts or omissions complained of showing the electoral frauds, anomalies or irregularities in the protested precincts.

As the findings of the RTC show, petitioner did not indicate the total number of precincts in the municipality in his election protest. The omission rendered the election protest insufficient in form and content, and warranted its summary dismissal, in accordance with Section 12, Rule 2 of the Rules in A.M. No. 10-4-1-SC.

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