Sunday, January 29, 2012

Perman vs. COMELEC, et.al., February 8, 2007

Facts: Pet Perman and Private-Respondent Iddong are candidates for Punong Barangay in the 15 July 2002 Synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections. Iddong was proclaimed winner by 67 votes.

Perman filed as election protest with MCTC. After revision of ballots, trial court invalidated 83 of the ballots for Iddong for being marked and deducted the same from his total votes. Consequently, MCTC rendered decision saying that Perman won the election by 13 votes.

Private-Respondent Iddong appealed with COMELEC and on 23 Feb 2005, COMELE validated the then invalidated ballots and ruled in favor of Iddong.

Motion for Reconsideration by Pet Perman to COMELEC was denied, hence this petition.

Issue: Whether the COMELEC En banc committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in its appreciation of the contested ballots, sixty-five (65) ballots for private respondent and two (2) ballots for petitioner.

Held: No. Pet contends that the 65 ballots validated by COMELEC should be invalidated for they were written by 2 persons. And as per the 2 ballots for Pet, Perman contended that the poll body should have credited the two (2) ballots to him consistent with its rulings on similarly situated ballots of private respondent and with the rules of appreciation of ballots which favor validity in case of doubt in order to uphold the will of the voters. BOTH CONTENTIONS ARE BEREFT OF MERIT.

The rule embodied in Rule 23 under Sec. 211 of the Omnibus Election Code (B.P. Blg. 881), provides:

23. Any ballot which clearly appears to have been filled by two distinct persons before it was deposited in the ballot box during the voting is totally null and void.

The rule in Trajano v. Inciso is that if at the time it was cast it was filled only by one person, but thereafter it was tampered and entries were made thereon by other persons, the ballot is valid. If, on the other hand, it already bore the fillings of two or more persons when cast, said ballots are deemed marked and thus void.

The presumption juris tantum is that a ballot found to be with the handwriting of two or more persons suffered this defect before it was cast. It is only a presumption juris tantum, rebuttable by evidence.

The presumption that a ballot found to be in the handwriting of two or more persons suffered this defect before it was cast was overcome in Trajano. Similarly, in the case at bar, the COMELEC En banc, found that the presumption had indeed been overcome. Following Columbres v. COMELEC, the presumption was overcome by evidence that the ballots were tampered with after they had been deposited in the ballot box.

The COMELEC found that:

In all the said ballots, only one and the same person made the insertions based on handwriting;

It was made a point that the insertion was clear and noticeable based on the difference in pen color;

The insertions are redundant, primarily to serve as to clarify what was already written by the real voter.

Hence, in view of the findings above, the sixty-five (65) ballots for private respondent were tampered with after they were deposited in the ballot box. We agree with the conclusion reached by the COMELEC En banc.

As to the 2 ballots for pet, In order for a ballot to be considered marked, in the sense necessary to invalidate it, it must appear that the voter designedly placed some superfluous sign or mark on the ballot which might serve to identify it thereafter. No ballot should be discarded as a marked ballot unless its character as such is unmistakable. The distinguishing mark which the law forbids to be placed on the ballots is that which the elector may have placed with the intention of facilitating the means of identifying said ballot, for the purpose of defeating the secrecy of suffrage which the law establishes. Thus, marked ballots are ballots containing distinguishing marks, the purpose of which is to identify them.

In the case at bar, Exhibits 24 and 24-A contained the encircled numbers "16" and "15," respectively, in the voter’s own handwriting after the name of petitioner. There can be no reason for placing the said numbers immediately after the name of the candidate, which mark is too big for a period, except to mark the ballot.

Finally, this is a petition for certiorari under Rule 64 of the Rules of Court. Under this rule, findings of fact of the COMELEC supported by substantial evidence shall be final and non-reviewable. We see no reason to depart from the principle.

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2 comments: on "Perman vs. COMELEC, et.al., February 8, 2007"

Daniel Milstein said...

That is so true. As an author and business man, I can relate to how you said "The distinguishing mark which the law forbids to be placed on the ballots is that which the elector may have placed with the intention of facilitating the means of identifying said ballot, for the purpose of defeating the secrecy of suffrage which the law establishes". I hope more people discover your blog because you really know what you're talking about. Can't wait to read more from you!

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