Political Law

Maliksi vs COMELEC (G.R. No. 203302 April 11, 2013)

Maliksi vs COMELEC
G.R. No. 203302 April 11, 2013

Facts: During the 2010 Elections, the Municipal Board of Canvassers proclaimed Saquilayan the winner for the position of Mayor of Imus, Cavite. Maliksi, the candidate who garnered the second highest number of votes, brought an election protest in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Imus, Cavite alleging that there were irregularities in the counting of votes in 209 clustered precincts. Subsequently, the RTC held a revision of the votes, and, based on the results of the revision, declared Maliksi as the duly elected Mayor of Imus commanding Saquilayan to cease and desist from performing the functions of said office. Saquilayan appealed to the COMELEC. In the meanwhile, the RTC granted Maliksi’s motion for execution pending appeal, and Maliksi was then installed as Mayor. In resolving the appeal, the COMELEC First Division, without giving notice to the parties, decided to recount the ballots through the use of the printouts of the ballot images from the CF cards. Thus, it issued an order dated March 28, 2012 requiring Saquilayan to deposit the amount necessary to defray the expenses for the decryption and printing of the ballot images. Later, it issued another order dated April 17, 2012 for Saquilayan to augment his cash deposit.

Issue: Whether or not the conduct of recount by the first division of the COMELEC is proper.

Held: No. It bears stressing at the outset that the First Division should not have conducted the assailed recount proceedings because it was then exercising appellate jurisdiction as to which no existing rule of procedure allowed it to conduct a recount in the first instance. The recount proceedings authorized under Section 6, Rule 15 of COMELEC Resolution No. 8804, as amended, are to be conducted by the COMELEC Divisions only in the exercise of their exclusive original jurisdiction over all election protests involving elective regional (the autonomous regions), provincial and city officials.

Section 6, Rule 10 (Conduct of Revision) of the 2010 Rules of Procedure for Municipal Election Contests, which governs the proceedings in the Regional Trial Courts exercising original jurisdiction over election protests, provides:

x x x x

(m) In the event that the revision committee determines that the integrity of the ballots and the ballot box have not been preserved, as when proof of tampering or substitution exists, it shall proceed to instruct the printing of the picture image of the ballots stored in the data storage device for the precinct. The court shall provide a non-partisan technical person who shall conduct the necessary authentication process to ensure that the data or image stored is genuine and not a substitute. Only after this determination can the printed picture image be used for the recount.

The foregoing rules further require that the decryption of the images stored in the CF cards and the printing of the decrypted images take place during the revision or recount proceedings. There is a good reason for thus fixing where and by whom the decryption and the printing should be conducted. It is during the revision or recount conducted by the Revision/Recount Committee when the parties are allowed to be represented, with their representatives witnessing the proceedings and timely raising their objections in the course of the proceedings. Moreover, whenever the Revision/Recount Committee makes any determination that the ballots have been tampered and have become unreliable, the parties are immediately made aware of such determination.

The disregard of Maliksi’s right to be informed of the decision to print the picture images of the ballots and to conduct the recount proceedings during the appellate stage cannot be brushed aside by the invocation of the fact that Maliksi was able to file, after all, a motion for reconsideration. To be exact, the motion for reconsideration was actually directed against the entire resolution of the First Division, while Maliksi’s claim of due process violation is directed only against the First Division’s recount proceedings that resulted in the prejudicial result rendered against him. Notably, the First Division did not issue any order directing the recount. Without the written order, Maliksi was deprived of the chance to seek any reconsideration or even to assail the irregularly-held recount through a seasonable petition for certiorari in this Court. In that context, he had no real opportunity to assail the conduct of the recount proceedings.

The service of the First Division orders requiring Saquilayan to post and augment the cash deposits for the printing of the picture images did not sufficiently give Maliksi notice of the First Division’s decision to print the picture images. The said orders did not meet the requirements of due process because they did not specifically inform Maliksi that the ballots had been found to be tampered. Nor did the orders offer the factual bases for the finding of tampering. Hence, to leave for Maliksi to surmise on the factual bases for finding the need to print the picture images still violated the principles of fair play, because the responsibility and the obligation to lay down the factual bases and to inform Maliksi as the party to be potentially prejudiced thereby firmly rested on the shoulders of the First Division.

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Demigillo vs TIDCORP (G.R. No. 168613 March 5, 2013)

Manalang-Demigillo vs Trade and Investment Development Corporation of the Philippines
G.R. No. 168613 March 5, 2013

Facts: On February 12, 1998, the Philippine Export and Foreign Loan Guarantee was renamed Trade and Investment Development Corporation of the Philippines (TIDCORP) pursuant to Republic Act No. 8494 entitled An Act Further Amending Presidential Decree No. 1080, As Amended, by Reorganizing And Renaming the Philippine Export and Foreign Loan Guarantee Corporation, Expanding Its Primary Purpose, and for Other Purposes. Republic Act No. 8494 reorganized the structure of TIDCORP. The issuance of appointments in accordance with the reorganization ensued. Petitioner Rosario Manalang-Demigillo (Demigillo) was appointed as Senior Vice President (PG 15) with permanent status, and was assigned to the Legal and Corporate Services Department (LCSD) of TIDCORP. Petitioner was evaluated and given a ‘poor’ rating for two consecutive evaluations due to her unimproved performance resulting to her name being dropped from the rolls of TIDCORP.

Issue: Whether or not the reorganization is valid resulting to Demigillo’s reassignment valid.

Held: Yes. Under the circumstances, when the members of the Board of Directors effected the assailed 2002 reorganization, they were acting as the responsible members of the Board of Directors of TIDCORP constituted pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1080, as amended by Republic Act No. 8494, not as the alter egos of the President. We cannot stretch the application of a doctrine that already delegates an enormous amount of power. Also, it is settled that the delegation of power is not to be lightly inferred.

The result of the lengthy consultations and close coordination was the comprehensive reorganization plan that included a new organizational structure, position classification and staffing pattern, qualification standards, rules and regulations to implement the reorganization, separation incentive packages and timetable of implementation. Undoubtedly, TIDCORP effected the reorganization within legal bounds and in response to the perceived need to make the agency more attuned to the changing times.

Having found the 2002 reorganization to be valid and made pursuant to Republic Act No. 8494, we declare that there are no legal and practical bases for reinstating Demigillo to her former position as Senior Vice President in the LCSD. To be sure, the reorganization plan abolished the LCSD, and put in place a setup completely different from the previous one, including a new staffing pattern in which Demigillo would be heading the RCMSS, still as a Senior Vice President of TIDCORP. With that abolition, reinstating her as Senior Vice President in the LCSD became legally and physically impossible.

Demigillo’s contention that she was specifically appointed to the position of Senior Vice President in the LCSD was bereft of factual basis. The records indicate that her permanent appointment pertained only to the position of Senior Vice President. Her appointment did not indicate at all that she was to hold that specific post in the LCSD. Hence, her re-assignment to the RCMSS was by no means a diminution in rank and status considering that she maintained the same rank of Senior Vice President with an accompanying increase in pay grade.

The assignment to the RCMSS did not also violate Demigillo’s security of tenure as protected by Republic Act No. 6656. We have already upheld reassignments In the Civil Service resulting from valid reorganizations. Nor could she claim that her reassignment was invalid because it caused the reduction in her rank, status or salary. On the contrary, she was reappointed as Senior Vice President, a position that was even upgraded like all the other similar positions to Pay Grade 16, Step 4, Level II. In every sense, the position to which she was reappointed under the 2002 reorganization was comparable with, if not similar to her previous position.

Ombudsman vs De Leon (G.R. No. 154083 February 27, 2013)

Office of the Ombudsman vs De Leon
G.R. No. 154083 February 27, 2013

Facts: Acting on a report of illegal quarrying being committed in the Municipality of Baras, Rizal, Graft Investigation Officer Dante D. Tornilla of the Fact Finding Investigation Bureau (FFIB) of the Office of the Ombudsman conducted an investigation pursuant to a mission order dated April 17, 1998. On June 8, 1998, Tornilla filed his report to Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, through Assistant Ombudsman Abelardo L. Aportadera, Jr. and Director Agapito B. Rosales, confirming the illegal quarrying. Tornilla recommended that a preliminary investigation be conducted against  Baras  Municipal Mayor Roberto Ferrera, Baras Municipal Planning and Coordinator Jonathan Llagas, and property owner Venancio Javier for the probable violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); and that administrative proceedings for violations of the Civil Service Rules be also undertaken. In his report and recommendation dated July 13, 1998, DILG Resident Ombudsman Rudiger G. Falcis II sought the inclusion in the investigation of De Leon as the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) and as concurrently the Chairman of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) of Rizal. After the preliminary investigation, Graft Investigation Officer II Edgardo V. Geraldez of the FFIB, Office of the Ombudsman, issued a decision dated April 29, 1999, dismissing the complaint against all the respondents for lack of substantial evidence. However, Assistant Ombudsman Aportadera, Jr. recommended the disapproval of the said decision.  Ombudsman Desierto approved the recommendation of Assistant Ombudsman Aportadera, Jr. The case was then referred to Atty. Sabino M. Cruz, Resident Ombudsman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), who ultimately submitted a memorandum on October 20, 1999,  duly approved by the Ombudsman, finding De Leon liable for gross neglect of duty.

Issues: Whether or not respondent is liable for gross neglect of duty.

Whether or not the decisions of the Ombudsman is final and immediately executory.

Held: Yes. Gross neglect of duty or gross negligence “refers to negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but wilfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to the consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected. It is the omission of that care that even inattentive and thoughtless men never fail to give to their own property.” It denotes a flagrant and culpable refusal or unwillingness of a person to perform a duty. In cases involving public officials, gross negligence occurs when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable.

In contrast, simple neglect of duty means the failure of an employee or official to give proper attention to a task expected of him or her, signifying a “disregard of a duty resulting from carelessness or indifference.

Conformably with these concepts, De Leon, given his rank and level of responsibility, was guilty of gross neglect in not performing the act expected of him as the PENRO under the circumstances obtaining. He was precisely assigned to perform tasks that imposed on him the obligation to do everything reasonably necessarily and permissible under the law in order to achieve the objectives of environmental protection. He could not feign ignorance of the Government’s current efforts to control or prevent environmental deterioration from all hazards, including uncontrolled mining and unregulated illegal quarrying, but he chose to be passive despite clear indications of the illegal quarrying activities that had been first brought to his official attention as early as in 1997 by Teresita Fabian of the Provincial Tourism Office of Rizal. The most that he did on the complaint was to dispatch two of his subordinates to verify the report of quarrying. After the subordinates returned with the information that there were no quarrying activities at the site, he was apparently content with their report. He was not even spurred into further action by the subordinates’ simultaneous report on having observed at the site the presence of earthmoving equipment (specifically, a backhoe and a payloader). Had he been conscientious, the presence of the earth moving equipment would have quickly alerted him to the high probability of their being used in quarrying activities at the site. We presume that he was not too obtuse to sense such high probability. The seriousness of the matter should have prodded him to take further actions, including personally inspecting the site himself either to confirm the findings of the subordinates or to satisfy himself that the earthmoving equipment was not being used for quarrying. By merely denying having granted any permit or unwarranted benefit to any quarry operator, he seemingly considered the report of his subordinates satisfactory.

Yes. An appeal shall not stop the decision from being executory. In case the penalty is suspension or removal and the respondent wins such appeal, he shall be considered as having been under preventive suspension and shall be paid the salary and such other emoluments that he did not receive by reason of the suspension or removal.

On 15 September 2003, AO 17 was issued, amending Rule III of the  Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman. Thus, Section 7, Rule III of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman was further amended and now reads:

Section 7. Finality and execution of decision. – Where the respondent is absolved of the charge, and in case of conviction where the penalty imposed is public censure or reprimand, suspension of not more than one month, or a fine equivalent to one month salary, the decision shall be final, executory and unappealable. In all other cases, the decision may be appealed to the Court of Appeals on a verified petition for review under the requirements and conditions set forth in Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, within fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the written Notice of the Decision or Order denying the Motion for Reconsideration.

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.—

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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.

GSIS vs Cancino-Erum (A.M. No. RTJ-09-2182 September 5, 2012)

GSIS vs Cancino-Erum
A.M. No. RTJ-09-2182 September 5, 2012

Facts: This administrative complaint emanated from the filing on July 18, 2008 by one Belinda Martizano (Martizano) of a suit to restrain the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Stradcom Corporation (STRADCOM), Insurance Commission, and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) from implementing DOTC Department Order No. 2007-28 (DO 2007-28), an issuance that constituted the LTO the sole insurance provider of compulsory third party liability (CTPL) that was required for the registration of motor vehicles. The suit, docketed as Civil Case No. MC08-3660 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Mandaluyong City, claimed that the implementation of DO 2007-28 would deprive Martizano of her livelihood as an insurance agent.3 She applied for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO). On July 21, 2008, Civil Case No. MC08-3660 was raffled and assigned to Branch 213 of the RTC, presided by respondent Judge Carlos A. Valenzuela. On October 2, 2008, GSIS charged respondent RTC Judge Maria A. CancinoErum, the then Executive Judge of the RTC in Mandaluyong City, with grave misconduct, gross ignorance of the law, and violation of the Rules of Court. On the same date, GSIS also charged Judge Valenzuela with grave misconduct, gross ignorance of the law, violation of the Rules of Court, and knowingly rendering an unjust order.6 The charges against the respondents were both based on the non-raffling of Civil Case No.MC08-3660. Allegedly, Judge Erum violated Section 2, Rule 20 of the Rules of Court by assigning Civil Case No. MC08-3660 to Branch 213 without the benefit of a raffle.

Issues: Whether or not the filing of an administrative complaint is the proper remedy against erring judges.

Whether or not respondent Judge violated the rule on raffling of cases.

Held: No. Administrative case is improper for Judges – We have always regarded as a fundamental precept that an administrative complaint against a judge is inappropriate as a remedy for the correction of an act or omission complained of where the remedy of appeal or certiorari is a recourse available to an aggrieved party. Two reasons underlie this fundamental precept, namely: (a) to hold otherwise is to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try the facts or to interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment; and (b) to follow a different rule can mean a deluge of complaints, legitimate or otherwise, and our judges will then be immersed in and be ceaselessly occupied with answering charges brought against them instead of performing their judicial functions.

No. The 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure has expressly made the raffle the exclusive method of assigning cases among several branches of a court in a judicial station by providing in Section 2 of Rule 20, as follows:

Section 2. Assignment of Cases. – The assignment of cases to the different branches of a court shall be done exclusively by raffle. The assignment shall be done in open session of which adequate notice shall be given so as to afford interested parties the opportunity to be present.

The avowed purpose of instituting raffle as the exclusive method of assigning cases among several branches of a court in the same station is two-fold: one, to equalize the distribution of the cases among the several branches, and thereby foster the Court’s policy of promoting speedy and efficient disposition of cases; and, two, to ensure the impartial adjudication of cases and thereby obviate any suspicion regarding assignment of cases to predetermined judges.

Circular No. 7, supra, stated that only the maximum number of cases, according to their dates of filing, as could be equally distributed to all the branches in the particular station or grouping should be included in the raffle; and that cases in excess of the number sufficient for equal distribution should be included in the next scheduled raffle.

Despite not strictly following the procedure under Circular No. 7 in assigning Civil Case No. MC08-3660 to Branch 213, the respondents as members of the Raffle Committee could not be held to have violated the rule on the exclusivity of raffle because there were obviously less TRO or injunction cases available at anytime for raffling than the number of Branches of the RTC. Given the urgent nature of TRO or injunction cases, each of them had to be immediately attended to. This peculiarity must have led to the adoption of the practice of raffling such cases despite their number being less than the number of the Branches in Mandaluyong City. The practice did not absolutely contravene Circular No. 7 in view of the circular itself expressly excepting under its fourth paragraph, supra, any incidental or interlocutory matter of such urgent nature (like a TRO application) that might not wait for the regular raffle.

The urgent nature of an injunction or TRO case demands prompt action and immediate attention, thereby compelling the filing of the case in the proper court without delay.