EN BANC

 

HENRY JUN DUEAS, JR., G.R. No. 185401

Petitioner,

Present:

PUNO, C.J.,

QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,*

CARPIO,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,*

- versus - CHICO-NAZARIO,

VELASCO, JR.,

NACHURA,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

BRION,

PERALTA and

BERSAMIN, JJ.

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL and

ANGELITO JETT P. REYES, Promulgated:

Respondents.

July 21, 2009

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

 

D E C I S I O N

CORONA, J:

Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodies? (But who is to guard the guardians themselves?)[1]

 

Under our constitutional scheme, the Supreme Court is the ultimate guardian of the Constitution, particularly of the allocation of powers, the guarantee of individual liberties and the assurance of the peoples sovereignty.[2] The Court has the distinguished but delicate duty of determining and defining constitutional meaning, divining constitutional intent and deciding constitutional disputes. Nonetheless, its judicial supremacy is never judicial superiority (for it is co-equal with the other branches) or judicial tyranny (for it is supposed to be the least dangerous branch).[3] Instead, judicial supremacy is the conscious and cautious awareness and acceptance of its proper place in the overall scheme of government with the objective of asserting and promoting the supremacy of the Constitution. Thus, whenever the Court exercises its function of checking the excesses of any branch of government, it is also duty-bound to check itself. Otherwise, who will guard the guardian?

The Court should exercise judicial restraint as it resolves the two interesting issues that confront it in this petition: first, whether the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied petitioner Henry Jun Dueas, Jr.s motion to withdraw or abandon his remaining 75% counter-protested precincts and second, whether the HRET committed grave abuse of discretion when it ordered that its own funds be used for the revision of the ballots from said 75% counter-protested precincts.

 

Factual Backdrop

 

Petitioner Henry Jun Dueas, Jr. and private respondent Angelito Jett P. Reyes were rival candidates for the position of congressman in the 2nd legislative district of Taguig City in the May 14, 2007 synchronized national and local elections. After the canvass of the votes, petitioner was proclaimed the winner, having garnered 28,564 votes[4] as opposed to private respondents 27,107 votes.[5]

 

Not conceding defeat, private respondent filed an election protest ad cautelam,[6] docketed as HRET Case No. 07-27, in the HRET on June 4, 2007. He prayed for a revision/recount in 170[7] of the 732 precincts in the 2nd legislative district of Taguig City so that the true and real mandate of the electorate may be ascertained.[8] In support of his protest, he alleged that he was cheated in the protested precincts through insidious and well-orchestrated electoral frauds and anomalies which resulted in the systematic reduction of his votes and the corresponding increase in petitioners votes.[9]

Petitioner filed his answer[10] on June 25, 2007. Not to be outdone, he also counter-protested 560 precincts claiming that massive fraud through deliberate misreading, miscounting and misappreciation of ballots were also committed against him in said precincts resulting in the reduction of his votes in order to favor private respondent.[11]

 

After the issues were joined, the HRET ordered that all ballot boxes and other election materials involved in the protest and counter-protest be collected and retrieved, and brought to its offices for custody.

 

In the preliminary conference held on July 26, 2007, petitioner and private respondent agreed that, since the total number of the protested precincts was less than 50% of the total number of the precincts in the 2nd legislative district of Taguig City, all of the protested precincts would be revised without need of designation of pilot precints by private respondent pursuant to Rule 88 of the HRET Rules.[12]

 

The HRET thereafter directed the revision of ballots starting September 18, 2007.[13] Reception of evidence of the contending parties followed after the revision of ballots in 100% of the protested precincts and 25% pilot of the counter-protested precincts. The case was then submitted for resolution upon submission by the parties of their memoranda.

 

In an order dated September 25, 2008, the HRET directed the continuation of the revision and appreciation of the remaining 75% of the counter-protested precincts pursuant to Rule 88 of the HRET Rules, [i]t appearing that the [HRET] cannot determine the true will of the electorate from the initial revision and appreciation of the 100% protested precincts and 25% counter-protested precincts and in view of the discovery of fake/spurious ballots in some of the protested and counter-protested precincts.[14]

 

Petitioner moved for reconsideration[15] but the HRET denied his motion in an order dated October 21, 2008.[16] On the same day, the HRET issued another order directing petitioner to augment his cash deposit in the amount of P320,000 to cover the expenses of the revision of ballots in the remaining 75% counter-protested precincts within a non-extendible period of ten days from notice.[17]

 

Instead of complying with the order, petitioner filed an urgent motion to withdraw/abandon the remaining 75% counter-protested precincts on October 27, 2008.[18] This was denied by the HRET in Resolution No. 08-353 dated November 27, 2008, reiterating its order directing the continuation of the revision of ballots in the remaining 75% counter-protested precincts and recalling its order requiring petitioner to augment his cash deposit. The Tribunal instead ordered the use of its own funds for the revision of the remaining 75% counter-protested precincts.[19]

 

In issuing Resolution No. 08-353 dated November 27, 2008, the HRET invoked Rule 88 of the HRET Rules and settled jurisprudence, ruling that it had the discretion either to dismiss the protest or counter-protest, or to continue with the revision if necessitated by reasonable and sufficient grounds affecting the validity of the election. This was with the end in view of ascertaining the true choice of the electorate. It was the HRETs position that the mere filing of a motion to withdraw/abandon the unrevised precincts did not automatically divest the HRET of its jurisdiction over the same. Moreover, it ruled that its task of determining the true will of the electorate was not confined to the examination of contested ballots. Under its plenary power, it could motu propio review the validity of every ballot involved in a protest or counter-protest and the same could not be frustrated by the mere expedient of filing a motion to withdraw/abandon the remaining counter-protested precincts. Convinced that it could not determine the true will of the electorate of the 2nd legislative district of Taguig City on the basis alone of the initial revision of the 100% protested precincts and the 25% counter-protested precincts, it had no other recourse but to continue the revision and appreciation of all the remaining 75% counter-protested precincts.[20]

Aggrieved by the HRETs Resolution No. 08-353 dated November 27, 2008, petitioner elevated the matter to this Court.

 

 

Central Issue To be Resolved

 

The core issue for our determination is whether the HRET committed grave abuse of discretion, amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, in issuing Resolution No. 08-353 dated November 27, 2008.

 

Contentions Of The Parties

Petitioner argues mainly that private respondent as protestant in the election protest at the HRET had the burden of proving his cause. Failing to do so, the protest should have been dismissed promptly and not unduly prolonged. For petitioner, the HRETs declaration of its failure to ascertain the true will of the electorate after the complete revision of all protested precincts demonstrated private respondents failure to discharge his burden. Thus, the HRET committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering the continuation of the revision of ballots in the remaining unrevised precincts as its acts amounted to giving private respondent the undeserved chance to prevail by assisting him in his search for evidence to support his case. The HRET in effect took the cudgels for him and thereby compromised its impartiality and independence.

 

Petitioner also avers that private respondents failure to prove his contentions and his (petitioners) concomitant exercise of his right to withdraw his counter-protest made the continued revision irrelevant. He claims that, since a counter-protest is designed to protect and advance the interest of the protestee, private respondent should not expect to derive any benefit therefrom. This justified the allowance of the withdrawal of the counter-protest.[21]

Petitioner also labels as grave abuse of discretion the HRETs assumption of the burden of the costs of the continued revision. For him, the funds of the HRET should not be used for the benefit of a private party, specially when its only objective was to speculate whether the failed protestant can win.[22] Also, the HRETs act amounted to an illegal and unconstitutional disbursement of public funds which is proscribed under Section 29 (1),[23] Article VI of the Constitution.[24]

 

Petitioner adds that the discretion extended to the HRET pursuant to Rule 88 of the HRET Rules (whether or not to continue with the revision) may be exercised only when the results of the initial revision show that the same reasonably affected the officially-proclaimed results of the contested election. However, the HRET never made any determination that the results of the revision showed private respondent to have made substantial recoveries in support of his cause but simply directed the continuation of the revision on the premise of its failure to determine the true will of the electorate as well as in its discovery of fake/spurious ballots. Yet, the total number of alleged fake/spurious ballots was only 75, or a little over 5% of his 1,457 lead votes; hence, it could not reasonably be inferred to have affected the officially proclaimed results. Thus, for petitioner, the fake/spurious ballots could not be made the basis for the continuation of revision of ballots.[25]

 

In his comment,[26] private respondent counters that no grave abuse of discretion could be attributed to the HRET in issuing the assailed resolution. The HRET had every right to order the continuation of the revision of ballots after its discovery of fake/spurious ballots in favor of petitioner. Its pronouncement that it could not determine the true will of the electorate centered on this discovery. Thus, its constitutional mandate dictated that it ferret out the truth by completing the said revision.[27]

 

Private respondent further argues that, under Rule 88 of its Rules, the HRET had the discretion to either dismiss the counter-protest or continue with the revision based on the outcome of the initial revision and appreciation proceedings and initial evidence presented by the parties. The mere filing of a motion to withdraw the protest on the remaining unrevised precincts did not divest the HRET of its jurisdiction over the electoral protest.[28]

 

Furthermore, the HRET could use its available funds to shoulder the cost of revision as this was merely an incident to its discretion under Rule 88 and of its plenary powers under the Constitution. To hold otherwise would render its mandated functions meaningless and nugatory.[29]

 

For its part, the HRET insists in its comment[30] that it did not commit any grave abuse of discretion. It contends that there was a sufficient and legitimate reason to proceed with the revision of the remaining 75% counter-protested precincts. The discovery of fake/spurious ballots created serious doubts about the sanctity of the ballots subject matter of the protest and counter-protest. Thus, the HRET had no other choice but to open the ballot boxes in the counter-protested precincts and continue with its revision in order to ascertain and determine the true will of the electorate. Moreover, its discretion under the HRET Rules gave it the imprimatur to order the continuation of the revision if, based on its independent evaluation of the results of the initial revision, the same affected the officially proclaimed results of the contested election. Since the discovery of fake/spurious ballots, to its mind, had a bearing on the true results of the election, the HRET submits that it was justified in issuing said order.[31]

 

The HRET also points out that the withdrawal of the revision of ballots was not a vested right of any party but must give way to the higher dictates of public interest, that of determining the true choice of the people. This determination did not depend on the desire of any party but was vested solely on the discretion of the HRET as the sole judge of all contests relating to the elections, returns and qualifications of members of the House of Representatives. Moreover, under the HRETs plenary powers, it could motu proprio review the validity of every ballot involved in a protest or counter-protest.[32]

 

The HRET further claims that petitioner had no reason to worry or to object to its disbursement of its funds for the continuation of the revision since it had the allotted budget for the same under paragraph I, (C.1) of RA[33] No. 9498,[34] or the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2008.[35]

 

Ruling Of The Court

The petition has no merit.

We base our decision not only on the constitutional authority of the HRET as the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications[36] of its members but also on the limitation of the Courts power of judicial review.

The Court itself has delineated the parameters of its power of review in cases involving the HRET

 

... so long as the Constitution grants the HRET the power to be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of members of the House of Representatives, any final action taken by the HRET on a matter within its jurisdiction shall, as a rule, not be reviewed by this Court . the power granted to the Electoral Tribunal x x x excludes the exercise of any authority on the part of this Court that would in any wise restrict it or curtail it or even affect the same.[37] (emphasis supplied)

 

 

Guided by this basic principle, the Court will neither assume a power that belongs exclusively to the HRET nor substitute its own judgment for that of the Tribunal.

The acts complained of in this case pertain to the HRETs exercise of its discretion, an exercise which was well within the bounds of its authority.

 

Power of HRET to Deny the Motion

To Withdraw/Abandon Counter-Protest

 

 

Petitioner submits that there was no point in continuing with the revision of the remaining 75% of the counter-protested precincts because, notwithstanding the revision of 100% of the protested precincts and 25% of the counter-protested precincts, petitioners margin over private respondent was still more than a thousand votes.

 

Petitioner is wrong.

 

First, there are 732 precincts in the 2nd Legislative District of Taguig City, where respondent protested the election results in 170 precincts and petitioner counter-protested 560 precincts.[38] All in all, therefore, 730 precincts were the subject of the revision proceedings. While 100% of the protested precincts were already revised, only 25% or 140 of the counter-protested precincts (or a total of 310 precincts) were actually done. Yet, with 420 more precincts to go had the HRET only been allowed to continue its proceedings, petitioner claims that respondents were only speculating that a sufficient number of fake/spurious ballots would be discovered in the remaining 75% counter-protested precincts and that these fake/spurious ballots would overturn the result of the election.

 

 

This is ironic because, while petitioner faults the HRET for allegedly engaging in speculation, his position is itself based on conjectures. He assumes that revising the 420 remaining precincts will not substantially or significantly affect the original result of the election which will remain the same. As such, he speculates that, if revised, the 420 remaining precincts will only yield the same or similar finding as that generated in the 310 precincts already subjected to revision. He presupposes that the HRET can determine the true will of the electorate even without the 420 or 75% of counter-protested precincts. (This in fact constitutes 57% of all 730 precincts in the legislative district.)

 

Petitioner may have assumed too much.

 

Indeed, due regard and respect for the authority of the HRET as an independent constitutional body require that any finding of grave abuse of discretion against that body should be based on firm and convincing proof, not on shaky assumptions. Any accusation of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the HRET must be established by a clear showing of arbitrariness and improvidence.[39] But the Court finds no evidence of such grave abuse of discretion by the HRET.

 

In Co v. HRET,[40] we held that:

 

The Court does not venture into the perilous area of trying to correct perceived errors of independent branches of the Government. It comes in only when it has to vindicate a denial of due process or correct an abuse of discretion so grave or glaring that no less than the Constitution calls for remedial action.[41] (emphasis supplied)

 

 

Second, the Constitution mandates that the HRET shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications[42] of its members. By employing the word sole, the Constitution is emphatic that the jurisdiction of the HRET in the adjudication of election contests involving its members is exclusive and exhaustive.[43] Its exercise of power is intended to be its own full, complete and unimpaired.[44]

Protective of its jurisdiction and assertive of its constitutional mandate, the Tribunal adopted Rule 7 of the HRET Rules:

 

RULE 7. Control of Own Functions. The Tribunal shall have exclusive control, direction and supervision of all matters pertaining to its own functions and operation. (emphasis supplied)

 

In this connection and in the matter of the revision of ballots, the HRET reserved for itself the discretion to continue or discontinue the process. Rule 88 of the HRET Rules provides:

 

RULE 88. Pilot Precincts; Initial Revision. Any provision of these Rules to the contrary notwithstanding, as soon as the issues in any contest before the Tribunal have been joined, it may direct and require the protestant and counter-protestant, in case the protest or counter-protest involves more than 50% of the total number of precincts in the district, to state and designate in writing within a fixed period at most twenty-five (25%) percent of the total number of precincts involved in the protest or counter-protest, as the case may be, which said party deems as best exemplifying or demonstrating the electoral irregularities or frauds pleaded by him; and the revision of the ballots and/or reception of evidence shall begin with such pilot precincts designated. Upon the termination of such initial revision and/or reception of evidence, which presentation of evidence should not exceed ten (10) days, and based upon what reasonably appears therefrom as affecting or not the officially-proclaimed results of the contested election, the Tribunal may direct motu propio the continuation of the revision of ballots in the remaining contested precincts, or dismiss the protest, or the counter-protest, without further proceedings. (emphasis supplied)

 

 

 

 

The meaning of Rule 88 is plain. The HRET could continue or discontinue the revision proceedings ex propio motu, that is, of its own accord.[45] Thus, even if we were to adopt petitioners view that he ought to have been allowed by HRET to withdraw his counter-protest, there was nothing to prevent the HRET from continuing the revision of its own accord by authority of Rule 88.

 

The only prerequisite to the exercise by the HRET of its prerogative under Rule 88 was its own determination that the evidence thus far presented could affect the officially proclaimed results. Much like the appreciation of contested ballots and election documents, the determination of whether the evidence could influence the officially proclaimed results was a highly technical undertaking, a function best left to the specialized expertise of the HRET. In Abubakar v. HRET,[46] this Court declined to review the ruling of the HRET on a matter that was discretionary and technical. The same sense of respect for and deference to the constitutional mandate of the HRET should now animate the Court in resolving this case.

 

On this specific point, the HRET held that it [could] not determine the true will of the electorate from the [result of the] initial revision and appreciation.[47] It was also convinced that the revision of the 75% remaining precincts [was] necessary under the circumstances in order to attain the objective of ascertaining the true intent of the electorate and to remove any doubt as to who between [private respondent] and [petitioner] obtained the highest number of votes in an election conducted in a fair, regular and honest manner.[48]

 

At the risk of unduly encroaching on the exclusive prerogative of the HRET as the sole judge of election contests involving its members, the Court cannot substitute its own sense or judgment for that of the HRET on the issues of whether the evidence presented during the initial revision could affect the officially proclaimed results and whether the continuation of the revision proceedings could lead to a determination of the true will of the electorate. Regrettably, that is what petitioner actually wants the Court to do. But in the exercise of its checking function, the Court should merely test whether or not the governmental branch or agency has gone beyond the constitutional limits of its jurisdiction, not that it erred or had a different view.[49]

Petitioners position disregards, or at least waters down, Rules 7 and 88 of the HRET Rules. If the Court will dictate to the HRET on how to proceed with these election protest proceedings, the Tribunal will no longer have exclusive control, direction and supervision of all matters pertaining to its own functions and operation. It will constitute an intrusion into the HRETs domain and a curtailment of the HRETs power to act of its own accord on its own evaluation of the evidentiary weight and effect of the result of the initial revision.

Libanan v. HRET[50] expressed the Courts recognition of the limitation of its own power vis--vis the extent of the authority vested by the Constitution on the HRET as sole judge of election contests involving its members. The Court acknowledged that it could not restrict, diminish or affect the HRETs authority with respect to the latters exercise of its constitutional mandate. Overturning the HRETs exercise of its power under Rule 88 will not only emasculate its authority but will also arrogate unto this Court that bodys purely discretionary function.

Finally, it is hornbook doctrine that jurisdiction, once acquired, is not lost at the instance of the parties but continues until the case is terminated.[51] Thus, in Robles v. HRET,[52] the Court ruled:

 

The mere filing of the motion to withdraw protest on the remaining uncontested precincts, without any action on the part of respondent tribunal, does not by itself divest the tribunal of its jurisdiction over the case. Jurisdiction, once acquired, is not lost upon the instance of the parties but continues until the case is terminated. We agree with respondent House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal when it held:

We cannot agree with Protestee's contention that Protestant's 'Motion to Withdraw Protest on Unrevised Precincts' effectively with drew the precincts referred to therein from the protest even before the Tribunal has acted thereon. Certainly, the Tribunal retains the authority to grant or deny the Motion, and the withdrawal becomes effective only when the Motion is granted. To hold otherwise would permit a party to deprive the Tribunal of jurisdiction already acquired.

 

We hold therefore that this Tribunal retains the power and the authority to grant or deny Protestant's Motion to Withdraw, if only to insure that the Tribunal retains sufficient authority to see to it that the will of the electorate is ascertained.

x x x x x x x x x

Where the court has jurisdiction over the subject matter, its orders upon all questions pertaining to the cause are orders within its jurisdiction, and however erroneous they may be, they cannot be corrected by certiorari. This rule more appropriately applies to respondent HRET whose independence as a constitutional body has time and again been upheld by Us in many cases. As explained in the case of Lazatin v. The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and Timbol, G.R. No. 84297, December 8, 1988, thus:

The use of the word 'sole' emphasizes the exclusive character of the jurisdiction conferred [Angara v. Electoral Commission, supra, at 162]. The exercise of the Power by the Electoral Commission under the 1935 Constitution has been described as `intended to be complete and unimpaired as if it had remained originally in the legislature' [Id. at 175]. Earlier, this grant of power to the legislature was characterized by Justice Malcolm as 'full, clear and complete' [Veloso v. Board of Canvassers of Leyte and Samar, 39 Phil. 886 (1919)]. Under the amended 1935 Constitution, the power was unqualifiedly reposed upon the Electoral Tribunal [Suanes v. Chief Accountant of the Senate, 81 Phil. 818 (1948)] and it remained as full, clear and complete as that previously granted the legislature and the Electoral Commission [Lachica v. Yap, G.R. No. L-25379, September 25, 1968, 25 SCRA 140]. The same may be said with regard to the jurisdiction of the Electoral Tribunals under the 1987 Constitution. Thus, 'judicial review of decisions or final resolutions of the House Electoral Tribunal is (thus) possible only in the exercise of this Court's so-called extraordinary jurisdiction, . . . upon a determination that the tribunal's decision or resolution was rendered without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion or, paraphrasing Morrera, upon a clear showing of such arbitrary and improvident use by the Tribunal of its power as constitutes a denial of due process of law, or upon a demonstration of a very clear unmitigated ERROR, manifestly constituting such a GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION that there has to be a remedy for such abuse.[53] (emphasis supplied)

 

Petitioners argument will in effect deprive the HRET of the jurisdiction it has already acquired. It will also hold the HRET hostage to the whim or caprice of the parties before it. If the HRET is the independent body that it truly is and if it is to effectively carry out its constitutional mandate, the situation urged by petitioner should not be allowed.

Discretion of HRET to Use Its

Own Funds In Revision Proceedings

 

 

When jurisdiction is conferred by law on a court or tribunal, that court or tribunal, unless otherwise provided by law, is deemed to have the authority to employ all writs, processes and other means to make its power effective.[54] Where a general power is conferred or duty enjoined, every particular power necessary for the exercise of one or the performance of the other is also conferred.[55] Since the HRET possessed the authority to motu propio continue a revision of ballots, it also had the wherewithal to carry it out. It thus ordered the disbursement of its own funds for the revision of the ballots in the remaining counter-protested precincts. We hark back to Rule 7 of the HRET Rules which provides that the HRET has exclusive control, direction and supervision of its functions. The HRETs order was but one aspect of its power.

Moreover, Rule 8 of the HRET Rules provides:

 

RULE 8. Express and Implied Powers. The Tribunal shall have and exercise all such powers as are vested in it by the Constitution or by law, and such other powers as are necessary or incidental to the accomplishment of its purposes and functions as set forth in the Constitution or as may be provided by law. (emphasis supplied)

 

 

Certainly, the HRETs order that its own funds be used for the revision of the ballots from the 75% counter-protested precincts was an exercise of a power necessary or incidental to the accomplishment of its primary function as sole judge of election protest cases involving its members.

Petitioner contends that, even if the HRET could lawfully order the continuation of the revision, RA 9498 did not authorize the Tribunal to use its own funds for the purpose. This belief is questionable on three grounds.

First, if petitioner hypothetically admits that the HRET has the power to order the continuation of the revision of the 75% remaining counter-protested precincts, then he should also necessarily concede that there is nothing to prevent the HRET from using its own funds to carry out such objective. Otherwise, the existence of such power on the part of the HRET becomes useless and meaningless.

Second, petitioner has a very restrictive view of RA 9498. He conveniently fails to mention that Section 1, Chapter 1 of RA 9498 provides that the HRET has an allotted budget for the Adjudication of Electoral Contests Involving Members of the House of Representatives.[56] The provision is general and encompassing enough to authorize the use of the HRETs funds for the revision of ballots, whether in a protest or counter-protest. Being allowed by law, the use of HRET funds for the revision of the remaining 75% counter-protested precincts was not illegal, much less violative of Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code.

To reiterate, the law (particularly RA 9498) itself has appropriated funds for adjudicating election contests in the HRET. As an independent constitutional body, and having received the proper appropriation for that purpose, the HRET had wide discretion in the disbursement and allocation of such funds.

Third, even assuming that RA 9498 did not expressly authorize the HRET to use its own funds for the adjudication of a protest or counter-protest, it had the inherent power to suspend its own rules[57] and disburse its funds for any lawful purpose it deemed best. This is specially significant in election contests such as this where what is at stake is the vital public interest in determining the true will of the electorate. In any event, nothing prevented the HRET from ordering any of the parties to make the additional required deposit(s) to cover costs, as respondent in fact manifested in the HRET.[58] Petitioner himself admits in his pleadings that private respondent filed a

Formal Manifestation with the respondent HRET informing respondent HRET that he [was] willing to make the added cash deposit to shoulder the costs and expenses for the revision of [the] counter-protested precincts.[59]

 

Such disbursement could not be deemed a giving of unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference to a party since the benefit would actually redound to the electorate whose true will must be determined. Suffrage is a matter of public, not private, interest. The Court declared in Aruelo, Jr. v. Court of Appeals[60] that [o]ver and above the desire of the candidates to win, is the deep public interest to determine the true choice of the people.[61] Thus, in an election protest, any benefit to a party would simply be incidental.

 

Moreover, the action of the HRET was permitted by the HRET Rules. Rule 33 of the HRET Rules provides:

 

RULE 33. Effect of Failure to Make Cash Deposit. If a party fails to make the cash deposits or additional cash deposits herein provided within the prescribed time limit, the Tribunal may dismiss the protest, counter-protest, or petition for quo warranto, or take such action as it may deem equitable under the premises. (emphasis supplied)

 

 

All told, it should be borne in mind that the present petition is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. It alleges that the HRET committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it promulgated Resolution No. 08-353 dated November 27, 2008. But what is grave abuse of discretion? It is such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment which is tantamount to lack of jurisdiction. Ordinary abuse of discretion is insufficient. The abuse of discretion must be grave, that is, the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility. It must be so patent and gross as to amount to evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by or to act at all in contemplation of the law. In other words, for a petition for certiorari to prosper, there must be a clear showing of caprice and arbitrariness in the exercise of discretion. There is also grave abuse of discretion when there is a contravention of the Constitution, the law or existing jurisprudence.[62] Using the foregoing as yardstick, the Court finds that petitioner miserably failed to discharge the onus probandi imposed on him.

In sum, the supremacy of the Constitution serves as the safety mechanism that will ensure the faithful performance by this Court of its role as guardian of the fundamental law. Awareness of the proper scope of its power of judicial review in cases involving the HRET, an independent body with a specific constitutional mandate, behooves the Court to stay its hands in matters involving the exercise of discretion by that body, except in clear cases of grave abuse of discretion.

 

A Final Word

 

 

We are not declaring any winner here. We do not have the authority to do so. We are merely remanding the case to the HRET so that revision proceedings may promptly continue, precisely to determine the true will of the electorate in the 2nd legislative district of Taguig City for the 2007-2010 congressional term.

Indeed, considering the paramount need to dispel the uncertainty now beclouding the choice of the electorate and the lifting of the status quo ante order on June 16, 2009, the revision proceedings shall resume immediately and the electoral case resolved without delay.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED and Resolution No. 08-353 dated November 27, 2008 of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

 

 

 

 

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

 

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

 

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

 

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice

 

 

 

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

 

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

 

 

 

 

 



* No part.

[1] Juvenal (Roman poet and author [AD. 60-138]), Satires.

[2] These correspond to the basic parts of a constitution, namely, the constitution of government, the constitution of liberties or rights and the constitution of sovereignty.

[3] This is how the American constitutional scholar Alexander Bickel describes the Supreme Court, the least dangerous branch.

[4] Rollo, p. 68.

[5] Id., p. 131.

[6] Id., pp. 57-66.

[7] Id., pp. 108-111.

[8] Id., pp. 61-63.

[9] Id., pp. 57-66.

[10] Id., pp. 113-128.

[11] Id., p. 118.

[12] Id., p. 131.

[13] Id., pp. 136-137.

[14] Id., p. 167.

[15] Id., pp. 168-177.

[16] Id., p. 183.

[17] Id., p. 184.

[18] Id., pp. 185-199.

[19] Id., pp. 53-55.

[20] Id.

[21] Id., pp. 18-21, 32-36.

[22] Id., pp. 14-18.

[23] SEC. 29 (1) No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.

x x x x

[24] Rollo, pp. 14-18.

[25] Id., pp. 21-29.

[26] Id., pp. 255-278.

[27] Id., pp. 256-258, 270.

[28] Id., pp. 263-267.

[29] Id., p. 272.

[30] Id., pp. 288-318.

[31] Id., pp. 301-306.

[32] Id., pp. 306-307.

[33] Republic Act.

[34] An Act Appropriating Funds for the Operation of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines from January One to December Thirty-One, Two Thousand and Eight, and for Other Purposes.

[35] Rollo, p. 312.

[36] Section 17, Article VI, Constitution.

[37] Libanan v. HRET, 347 Phil. 797, 804 (1997).

[38] 170 protested precincts plus 560 counter-protested precincts equals 730 precincts. This leaves 2 unprotested precincts.

[39] Robles v. HRET, G.R. No. 86647, 05 February 1990, 181 SCRA 780.

[40] G.R. Nos. 92191-92 and 92202-03, 30 July 1991, 199 SCRA 692.

[41] Id.

[42] Supra note 36.

[43] Dimaporo v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 158359, 23 March 2004, 426 SCRA 226; Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil. 139 (1936).

[44] Angara v. Electoral Commission, id., p. 175.

[45] Black's Law Dictionary.

[46] G.R. No. 173310, 07 March 2007, 517 SCRA 762.

[47] HRET order dated September 25, 2008. Rollo, p. 167.

[48] HRET order dated October 21, 2008. Id., pp. 180-183.

[49] Co v. HRET, supra note 40.

[50] Supra note 37.

[51] Jimenez v. Nazareno, G. R. No. L-37933, 15 April 1988, 160 SCRA 1.

[52] Supra note 39.

[53] Id. (citations omitted), pp. 784-786.

[54] Suanes v. Chief Accountant, 81 Phil. 818 (1948).

[55] Angara v. Electoral Commission, supra note 43.

[56] In particular, the amount of P49,727,000 was appropriated for this purpose.

[57] This power is a necessary incident of the power of the electoral tribunals to create their own rules. (See II Records of the Constitutional Commission 87-88.)

[58] In the memorandum (p. 22), filed by private respondent in this Court, he mentioned his manifestation in the HRET that he is willing to shoulder the expenses of the revision of the remaining unrevised precincts.

[59] Petition, p. 13. Rollo, p. 15. Petitioner made a similar statement in his memorandum (p. 18):

[REYES] filed hisFormal Manifestation with the Respondent HRET declaring that, even as PROTESTANT, he was more than willing [to] shoulder the costs and remit the added cash deposits for the revision of [petitioners] protested precincts

[60] G.R. No. 107852, 20 October 1993, 227 SCRA 311.

[61] Id.

[62] Perez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 162580, 27 January 2006, 480 SCRA 411, 416.