Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ramos vs. COMELEC

Facts: On November 16, 1947, the respondent Osmundo Posugac was proclaimed mayor-elect of the municipality of Bato, Camarines Sur, by the municipal board of canvassers. The next day the local representative of the Nationalista Party addressed a complaint to the COMELEC requesting an investigation and the annulment of the canvass made by the said board of canvassers, on the ground that the latter, instead of counting the genuine election return from precinct No. 10, included in the canvass a falsified return. COMELEC did not proceed with the investigation in view of the pendency of an election protest filed in the meantime by petitioner Ramos in the CFI of Camarines Sur, seeking to nullify the election of respondent Posugac. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration with the COMELEC which was denied, hence this petition for mandamus praying for the reversal of the ruling of the COMELEC, for an order directing the municipal board of canvassers of Bato to make a new canvass and to include therein the genuine election return from precinct No. 10, and for the consequent proclamation of the petitioner as mayor-elect of the municipality of Bato, Camarines Sur. 

Issue: Whether or not it is the duty of the COMELEC to investigate 

Held: Since the only question that properly presents itself is whether the COMELEC had unlawfully neglected to perform an act specifically enjoined as duty or, stated otherwise, whether the duty of the respondent Commission to investigate and act on a matter such as that denounced to it by the petitioner or his representative, is ministerial (in which case mandamus lies) or discretionary (in which case mandamus does not lie). 

There is every indication that the Commission on Elections is clothed with discretion in the matter. Before the proclamation of election, any candidate may petition the Court of First Instance to recount the votes cast in any precinct in case of discrepancies between copies of statements of election (secs. 163 and 168, Revised Election Code). After the proclamation, any candidate may file an election protest within two weeks (sec. 174 Id.). These specific legal provisions logically compel any candidate, within short time limits, to seek in the Court of First Instance the corresponding relief against the regularity of a canvass of election, and to the same extent relieve the Commission on Elections from the duty of conducting similar investigations. To contend that the Commission on Elections has the ministerial function, and therefore may be compelled by mandamus, to look into and act on all election frauds, is indirectly to incapacitate it; for with its limited personnel and facilities, the Commission on Elections cannot be expected to take cognizance and promptly dispose of every complaint, similar to that made by the petitioner, possibly to originate from countless municipalities in the Philippines. 

If the charges alleged by the petitioner are true, we have no doubt that the Court of First Instance will be as able as the Commission on Elections, or any competent authority for that matter, to see the point; and it is needless to say that there is enough in our laws under which the culprits may be prosecuted and punished. 

As the vote of the Court both during the first deliberation and after a rehearing is five to five, pursuant to Rule of Court No. 56, section 2, the petition is hereby denied and the writ of preliminary injunction heretofore issued dissolved, with costs against the petitioner. So ordered.

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