Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Galido vs. COMELEC

Facts: Petitioner and private respondent were candidates during the January 18, 1988 local elections for the position of Mayor in the municipality of Garcia-Hernandez, Province of Bohol. Petitioner was proclaimed the duly-elected Mayor by the Municipal Board of Canvassers. Private respondent Saturnino Galeon filed an election protest before the RTC of Bohol, Tagbilaran City, wherein the court upheld the proclamation of petitioner. Private respondent appealed the RTC decision to the COMELEC which reversed the trial court’s decision through its First Division and declared private-respondent the duly-elected mayor. Petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the COMELEC en banc, affirming the decision of the First Division. COMELEC held that the 15 ballots in the same precinct containing the initial “C” after the name “Galido” were marked ballots, and, therefore, invalid. Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari and injunction before the Supreme Court, who resolved to dismiss the said petition. Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration which was denied with finality by the SC. Still, the petitioner filed another petition for certiorari and injunction which contained the same allegations and legal issues. A TRO was issued by the SC and the private respondent Galeon now seeks for the dismissal of the present petition for 3 main reasons: 1) Final decisions, orders or rulings of the COMELEC in election contests involving elective municipal offices are final and executory, and not appealable. 2) The petition involves pure questions of fact as they relate to appreciation of evidence which is beyond the power of review of the SC. 3) It is exactly the same petition which was already dismissed with finality by the SC. These allegations were answered by the petitioner: 1) According to the Constitution, the present petition can still be brought to the SC by certiorari, not by an ordinary appeal. 2) The petition involves pure questions of law. 3) The dismissal with finality of the first petition did not refer to the merits of the petition.

Issues:
(1) Whether COMELEC has jurisdiction over the case

(2) May a COMELEC decision be brought to the Supreme Court by a petition for certiorari by the aggrieved party? 

(3) Did the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in rendering the decision?

Held:
(1) Yes. COMELEC has exclusive jurisdiction over all contests relating to the elections, returns, and qualifications of all elective regional, provincial, and city officials and has appellate jurisdiction over all contests involving municipal officials decided by trial courts of general jurisdiction or involving elective barangay officials decided by trial courts of limited jurisdiction.

(2) Yes. The fact that decisions, final orders or rulings of the COMELEC in contests involving municipal and barangay officials are final, executory, and not appealable, does not preclude a recourse to the SC by way of a special civil action of certiorari.

(3) No. COMELEC has the inherent power to decide an election contest and the extent to which such precedents apply rests on its discretion, the exercise of which should not be controlled unless such discretion has been abused to the prejudice of either party. But this petition has become moot and academic because private respondent has already assumed the position of Mayor of Garcia-Hernandez as the duly-elected Mayor of the municipality by virtue of the COMELEC decision. Petition dismissed.

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