G.R. No. 120193 March 6, 1996 LUIS MALALUAN, petitioner, vs.

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and JOSEP

E!ANGELISTA, respondents.

ERMOSISIMA, JR., J.:p Novel is the situation created by the decision of the Commission on Elections which declared the winner in an election contest and awarded damages, consisting of attorney's fees, actual expenses for xerox copies, unearned salary and other emoluments for the period, from March, 1 ! to "pril, 1 #, en masse denominated as actual damages, notwithstanding the fact that the electoral controversy had become moot and academic on account of the expiration of the term of office of the Municipal Mayor of $idapawan, North Cotabato. %efore us is a petition for certiorari and prohibition, with a prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary in&unction, see'ing the review of the decision en banc 1 of the Commission of Elections (C)ME*EC+ denying the motion for reconsideration of the decision 2 of its ,irst -ivision, 3 which reversed the decision " of the .egional /rial Court# in the election case 6 involving the herein parties. 0hile the .egional /rial Court had found petitioner *uis Malaluan to be the winner of the elections for the position of Municipal Mayor of $idapawan, North Cotabato, the C)ME*EC, on the contrary, found private respondent 1oseph Evangelista to be the rightful winner in said elections. 2etitioner *uis Malaluan and private respondent 1oseph Evangelista were both mayoralty candidates in the Municipality of $idapawan, North Cotabato, in the 3ynchroni4ed National and *ocal Elections held on May 11, 1 5. 2rivate respondent 1oseph Evangelista was proclaimed by the Municipal %oard of Canvassers as the duly elected Mayor for having garnered 16,! 7 votes as against petitioner's ,8 5 votes. Evangelista was, thus, said to have a winning margin of 869 votes. %ut, on May 55, 1 5, petitioner filed an election protest with the .egional /rial Court contesting 9! out of the total 171 precincts of the said municipality. /he trial court declared petitioner as the duly elected municipal mayor of $idapawan, North Cotabato with a plurality of 1#! votes. "cting without precedent, the court found private respondent liable not only for Malaluan's protest expenses but also for moral and exemplary damages and attorney's fees. )n ,ebruary :, 1 !, private respondent appealed the trial court decision to the C)ME*EC. 1ust a day thereafter that is, on ,ebruary !, 1 !, petitioner filed a motion for execution pending appeal. /he motion was granted by the trial court, in an order, dated March 7, 1 !, after petitioner posted a bond in the amount of 2#66,666.66. %y virtue of said order, petitioner assumed the office of Municipal Mayor of $idapawan, North Cotabato, and exercised the powers and functions of said office. 3uch exercise was not for long, though. ;n the herein assailed decision adverse to Malaluan's continued governance of the Municipality of $idapawan, North Cotabato, the ,irst -ivision of the Commission on Elections (C)ME*EC+ ordered Malaluan to vacate the office, said division having found and so declared private respondent to be the duly elected Municipal Mayor of said municipality. /he C)ME*EC en banc affirmed said decision. Malaluan filed this petition before us on May :1, 1 # as a conse<uence.

;t is significant to note that the term of office of the local officials elected in the May, 1 5 elections expired on 1une :6, 1 #. /his petition, thus, has become moot and academic insofar as it concerns petitioner's right to the mayoralty seat in his municipality $ because expiration of the term of office contested in the election protest has the effect of rendering the same moot and academic. % 0hen the appeal from a decision in an election case has already become moot, the case being an election protest involving the office of mayor the term of which had expired, the appeal is dismissible on that ground, unless the rendering of a decision on the merits would be of practical value. 9 /his rule we established in the case of Yorac vs. Magalona 10 which we dismissed because it had been mooted by the expiration of the term of office of the Municipal Mayor of 3aravia, Negros )ccidental. /his was the ob&ect of contention between the parties therein. /he recent case of Atienza vs. Commission on Elections, 11 however, s<uarely presented the situation that is the exception to that rule. Comparing the scenarios in those two cases, we explained= 3econd, petitioner's citation of Yorac vs. Magalona as authority for his main proposition is grossly inappropriate and misses the point in issue. /he sole <uestion in that case centered on an election protest involving the mayoralty post in 3aravia, Negros )ccidental in the general elections of 1 ##, which was

rendered moot and academic by the expiration of the term of office in -ecember. 1 # . /he C)ME*EC found petitioner liable for attorney's fees. . default in payment by petitioner of which shall result in the collection of said amount from the bond posted by petitioner on the occasion of the grant of his motion for execution pending appeal in the trial court. and forthwith dismissed the case for being moot. 5565. actual expenses for xerox copies. is that the same is in accordance with law.n crimes and quasi-delicts. . and observe honesty and good faith. malice or wanton attitude. . the monetary claim of a party in an election case must necessarily be hinged on either a contract or a <uasiBcontract or a tortious act or omission or a crime. the Court held > citing the same provision of the . /he )mnibus Election Code provides that Aactual or compensatory damages may be granted in all election contests or inquo warranto proceedings in accordance with law.or instance. 12 . 5561. act with &ustice.ules of 2rocedure provide that Ain all election contests the Court may ad&udicate damages and attorney's fees as it may deem &ust and as established by the evidence if the aggrieved party has included such claims in his pleadings. the obliger shall be responsible for all damages which may be reasonably attributed to the nonBperformance of the obligation. 56. 0hat looms large as the issue in this case is whether or not the C)ME*EC gravely abused its discretion in awarding the aforecited damages in favor of private respondent. wilfully or negligently causes damage to another.n contracts and <uasiBcontracts. .n contradistinction to ?orac. shall indemnify the latter for the same. the claimant may cite any of the following provisions of the Civil Code under the chapter on human relations. and unearned salary and other emoluments from March. . it must be remembered. "rticle 51 of the Civil Code mandates that Aexcept as provided by law or by stipulation. . 1# .A 1" /his appears to re<uire only that the &udicial award of damages be &ust and that the same be borne out by the pleadings and evidence /he overriding re<uirement for a valid and proper award of damages.t did not involve a monetary award for damages and other expenses incurred as a result of the election protest. and which the parties have foreseen or could have reasonably foreseen at the time the obligation was constituted.ules of Court upon which petitioner staunchly places reliance > that a decision on the merits in the case would have no practical value at all. in order to effectively recover actual or compensatory damages. Considering that actual or compensatory damages are appropriate only in breaches of obligations in cases of contracts and <uasiBcontracts and on the occasion of crimes and quasi-delicts where the defendant may be held liable for all damages the proximate cause of which is the act or omission complained of. 3uch compensation is referred to as actual or compensatory damages.ndeed. crime or negligence.n the absence of any or all of these.n case of fraud. give everyone his due. specifically. "rt.t is not necessary that such damages have been foreseen or could have reasonably been foreseen by the defendant. bad faith.A /he Civil Code further prescribes the proper setting for allowance of actual or compensatory damages in the following provisions= "rt. the defendant shall be liable for all damages which are the natural and probable conse<uences of the act or omission complained of. this petition appears now to be moot and academic because the herein parties are contesting an elective post to which their right to the office no longer exists.A 13 C)ME*EC . 1 . . . en masse denominated as actual damages. contrary to law. the damages for which the obligor who acted in good faith is liable shall be those that are the natural and probable conse<uences of the breach of the obligation.n response to the petitioner's contention that the issues presented before the court were novel and important and that the appeal should not be dismissed. a decision on the merits in the case at bench would clearly have the practical value of either sustaining the monetary award for damages or relieving the private respondent from having to pay the amount thus awarded. 1 ! to "pril. the provisions of the Civil Code pertinent to damages. but directly by law= "rt. Every person who. one is entitled to an ade<uate compensation only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has duly proved. which provisions create obligations not by contract. "rt. /hat is not the case here. 1 #. Athe claimant must be able to point out a specific provision of law authori4ing a money claim for election protest expenses against the losing partyA 16. . @owever. 2etitioner naturally contests the propriety and legality of this award upon private respondent on the ground that said damages have not been alleged and proved during trial. the <uestion as to damages remains ripe for ad&udication. Every person must in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties.

except insofar as attorney's fees are concerned. who directly or indirectly obstructs. other than &udicial costs. tortious acts. /his is in 'eeping with the ordinary course of events. /he emolument must go to the person who rendered the service unless the contrary is provided. whether or not the defendant's act or omission constitutes a criminal offense. fees and emoluments received by or paid to him during his illegal incumbency would be a proper item of recoverable damage. 1$ Claimed as part of the damages to which private respondent is allegedly entitled to.!#9.n his concurring opinion in the same case. 20 /he criterion for a &ustifiable award of election protest expenses and salaries and emoluments. crimes or a specific legal provision authori4ing the money claim in the context of election cases. /he longBstanding rule in this &urisdiction is that notwithstanding his subse<uent ouster as a result of an election protest. cannot be recovered. attorney's fees and expenses of litigation. while the general rule is that the ousted elective official is not obliged to reimburse the emoluments of office that he had received before his ouster.n criminal cases of malicious prosecution against the plaintiffC (!+ .n that event the salary. or any private individual. /here is no averment in the complaint that he is lin'ed with any irregularity vitiating his election. emoluments and allowances legally provided for the position.xxx xxx xxx "rt.n any of the cases referred to in this article. 19 . 1ustice 2adilla e<ually stressed that. . . 5567. an elective official who has been proclaimed by the C)ME*EC as winner in an electoral contest and who assumed office and entered into the performance of the duties of that office. . Tan that= /his is as it should be. however. . /his is simple &ustice. directly or indirectly. 0e cannot recall of any precedent wherein the contrary rule has been upheld.reedom of suffrageC . :5. 1 ! to "pril. thus. except= (1+ 0hen exemplary damages are awardedC (5+ 0hen the defendant's act or omission has compelled the plaintiff to litigate with third persons or to incur expenses to protect his interestC (:+ . since the Civil Code enumerates the specific instances when the same may be awarded by the court.n the absence of stipulation.66 constituting salary and other emoluments from March.n case of a clearly unfounded civil action or proceeding against the plaintiffC . when in truth and in fact he was not so elected. violates or in any manner impedes or impairs any of the following rights and liberties of another person shall be liable to the latter for damages= xxx xxx xxx (#+ . is entitled to the compensation. "bsent any of these. 0e <uote the pertinent portion of that opinion for emphasis= Nevertheless. remains to be the existence of a pertinent breach of obligations arising from contracts or <uasiBcontracts. "ny public officer or employee. he would be liable for damages in case he would be found responsible for any unlawful or tortious acts in relation to his proclamation. "rt. 1 # that would have accrued to him had there not been an execution of the trial court's decision pending appeal therefrom in the C)ME*EC. the aggrieved party has a right to commence an entirely separate and distinct civil action for damages. he would be answerable for damages. /he right of the persons elected to compensation during their incumbency has always been recogni4ed. had committed unlawful or tortious acts which led to and resulted in his proclamation as senatorBelect. we could not even begin to contemplate liability for damages in election cases. 1% 0e ratiocinated in the case of Rodriguez vs. and for other relief. is 219 . if the defendant. defeats. /his is the policy and the rule that has been followed consistently in this &urisdiction in connection with positions held by persons who had been elected thereto but were later ousted as a result of an election protest. .

. /here was no good and special reason at all to &ustify the execution of &udgment pending appeal because the protestee's winning margin was 1! votes while that of the protestant > after the Court declared him a winner > was only a margin of 1#! votes. and salary and other emoluments that should have accrued to him from March. "ctual damages for loss of salary and other emoluments since March 1 ! as per attached Certification issued by the Municipal "ccount of $idapawan ./C not issued an order for execution pending appeal.or these reasons.7:5.ules of Court.n the instant case. /he erroneous ruling of the Court which invalidated ballots which were clearly valid added more in&ury to the protesteeB appellant. . however.ule : of the .#66. apparently the protest was filed in bad faith without sufficient cause or has been filed for the sole purpose of molesting the protesteeBappellant for which he incurred expenses. . /his would have been bearable since he was able to perfect his appeal to this Commission.n a separate civil action to recover civil liability arising from a crimeC (16+ 0hen at least double &udicial costs are awardedC (11+ . 85!+ disallowed recovery of salaries and allowances (as damages+ from elected officials who were later ousted. . . . Clearly. "nd. 0e are disposed to conclude that the election protest filed by the protestant is clearly unfounded.n actions for indemnity under wor'men's compensation and employer's liability lawsC ( + . 1 # had the . . &ust and demandable claimC (9+ . . 2 9. came when the Court ordered the execution of &udgment pending appeal which. . Carlos Tan ( 1 2hil. . while the case of Eulogio Rodriguez. the instant case is different. however. under the present legal setting. @e was ousted not by final &udgment bur by an order of execution pending appeal . /he final blow. Sr. under the theory that persons elected has ( sic+ a right to compensation during their incumbency. 21 Diven the aforecited laws. vs.#6 . did not comply with the re<uirements of 3ection 5.n any other case where the court deems it &ust and e<uitable that attorney's fees and expenses of litigation should be recovered. /he protesteeBappellant was the one elected. it is more difficult than in the past to secure an award of actual or compensatory damages either against the protestant or the protestee because of the re<uirerments of the law. laborers and s'illed wor'ersC (7+ .66 :. "s borne out by the results of the appreciation of ballots conducted by this Commission. "ctual expenses for xerox copying of ballots . "ctual expenses for xerox copying of "ppellants %rief and the annexes (1! copies at 21.66 (up to )ctober 1 ! only+ Ender "rticle 5567 of the New Civil Code attorney's fees and expenses of litigation can be recovered (as actual damages+ in the case of clearly unfounded civil action or proceeding. . the order of execution of &udgment pending appeal was issued with grave abuse of discretion. .56 !. 2:85. let us now loo' into the basis of respondent C)ME*EC for awarding actual damages to private respondent in the form of reimbursement for attorney's fees.(#+ 0here the defendant acted in gross and evident bad faith in refusing to satisfy the plaintiffs plainly valid.n actions for the recovery of wages of household helpers. 1 . . /he .irst -ivision of the C)ME*EC ruled on private respondent's claim for actual or compensatory damages in this wise= .66 5. 2:. 1 ! to "pril. from all indications. "ctual damages representing attorney's fees for the new counsel who handled the "ppeal and the 2etition for Certiorari before the Court of "ppeals .5:#. and &urisprudence on the matter at issue.n actions for legal supportC (8+ . 211. protesteeBappellant see's to recover the following= 1. actual expenses for xerox copies.

. the &udge has the benefit of all the evidence the parties can offer and of admittedly better technical preparation and bac'ground. "ctual damages in the form of reimbursement for attorney's fees (2:85. however. not having been elected to the office.A 2$ .ules of Court.666. de !esus 2# that A3ection 5. . . totalled 2##8. . @ence.A23 0e find respondent C)ME*EC's reasoning in awarding the damages in <uestion to be fatally flawed.n other words. the election protest not having been a clearly unfounded one under the aforementioned circumstances.666. of course.16!.116.66 which he put up before the Court as a condition for the issuance of the order of execution of &udgment pending appeal. .66+. practically raising ( sic+ against time. among others. it is nonetheless fallacious to conclude a malicious intention on the part of petitioner to molest private respondent on the basis of what respondent C)ME*EC perceived as an erroneous ruling of the trial court. .666. 2% . /o ( sic+ this amount.66+. Neither has private respondent been Aable to point out to a specific provision of law authori4ing a money claim for election protest expenses against the losing party. unearned salary and other emoluments from March 1 ! to "pril 1 # or 1! months at 215. however. ex gratia argumentis. on the other hand. 2:66. the board of canvassers is composed of persons who are less technically prepared to ma'e an accurate appreciation of the ballots. find that the trial court acted &udiciously in the exercise of its prerogatives under the law in issuing the order granting execution pending appeal.ules of Court. the issue now solely remaining and in need of final ad&udication in view of the mootness of the other issues anent petitioner's right to the contested office the term for which has already expired. persuasive in character or sufficiently provocative to compel reconsideration of said decision and accordingly affirmed in toto the said decision. are its own. the amount will be assessed. relating to execution pending appeal. 0hy should the proclamation by the board of canvassers suffice as basis of the right to assume office. the board must act summarily. however. levied and collected from the bond of 2#66. may be made to apply by analogy or suppletorily to election contests decided by them. but merely installed through a baseless court order. 2rotestantBappellee occupied the position in an illegal manner as a usurper and. actual expenses for xerox copies (21#. .66+.66 representing that portion of attorney's fees denominated as success fee' must be deducted this being premised on a contingent event the happening of which was uncertain from the beginning. in the absence of clear proof. it should be noted that the applicability of the provisions of the .116. and any alleged error on its part does not. sub&ect to future contingencies attendant to a protest. . which allows . 0e. while.nsofar as the award of protest expenses and attorney's fees are concerned. he certainly had no right to the salaries and emoluments of the office. 0e have painsta'ingly gone over the records of this case and we can attribute to petitioner no breach of contract or <uasiB contractC or tortious act nor crime that may ma'e him liable for actual damages. "ssuming. ma'e the suit Aclearly unfoundedA for which the complainant ought to be penali4ed. . has ceased to be debatable after we definitively ruled in arcia vs.A 26 . the actuations of the trial court. 22 2etitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the aforecited decision on March 5 .ules of Court. apart from their being more apt to yield extraneous considerations .66 a month (219 . . this petition raises.ule : of the .t goes without saying that if the protestantBappellee fails to pay the actual damages of 25#8. . /he C)ME*EC en banc. . disallowed not falling within the purview of 3ection 5# of the )mnibus Election Code.espondent C)ME*EC also found the order granting execution of &udgment pending appeal to be defective because of alleged nonBcompliance with the re<uirement that there be a good and special reason 2" to &ustify execution pending appeal.!#9. Moral damages and exemplary damages claimed are.t is also now a settled rule that Aas much recognition should be given to the value of the decision of a &udicial body as a basis for the right to assume office as that given by law to the proclamation made by the %oard of Canvassers.which was groundless and issued with grave abuse of discretion.66 as re<uired under the .ndeed . /he C)ME*EC found the election protest filed by the petitioner to be clearly unfounded because its own appreciation of the contested ballots yielded results contrary to those of the trial court.66. 1 #. . . .irst.#66. and not the decision of a court of &usticeF .66. apart from his being allowed ample time for conscientious study and mature deliberation before rendering &udgment . after the filing of a case before it. did not find any new matter substantial in nature. therefore we find them to have been awarded by respondent C)ME*EC without basis.1#!.egional /rial Courts to order executions pending appeal upon good reasons stated in a special order.t is not disputed that petitioner filed a bond in the amount of 2#66. that this is a reasonable observation not without basis. .

29 . /he appeal before the C)ME*EC would undoubtedly cause the political vacuum in said municipality to persist. "gain. at different stages of the electoral process."N/E-. or a wrong done to a man for which the law provides no remedy.+ handwriting experts which findings private respondent did not even bother to rebut. 0e hold that petitioner was not a usurper because. is the dominant consideration for the execution pending appeal. Evidently. in &ustifying the award of damages. 0e thus see no reason to disregard the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty on the part of the trial court &udge. /he victorious party in an election case cannot be indemnified for expenses which he has incurred in an electoral contest in the absence of a wrongful act or omission or breach of obligation clearly attributable to the losing party. that portion of the decision is deemed moot and academic because the term of office for mayor has long expired. Tan 30 because while in that case the official ousted was the one proclaimed by the C)ME*EC.-E. we deem the award of salaries and other emoluments to be improper and lac'ing legal sanction. "t the ris' of sounding repetitive. has had possession of the office and had discharged the duties pertaining theretoA 33 and is thus Alegally entitled to the emoluments of the office. while a usurper is one who underta'es to act officially without any color of right. to be a Ade facto officer who.t is true that mere posting of a bond is not enough reason to &ustify execution pending appeal. in good faith.E.t matters not that it was the trial court and not the C)ME*EC that declared petitioner as the winner. the petitioner occupied the position in an illegal manner as a usurper. petitioner was proclaimed winner only by the trial court and assumed office by virtue of an order granting execution pending appeal.E-. the petition for certiorari is D. or damage or in&ury inflicted without in&ustice. the bond posted by petitioner could cover any damages suffered by any aggrieved party. 3# 0@E.A 3" /o recapitulate. which is. we note on the face of its decision that the trial court relied on the findings of the National %ureau of . "nyway. 3) ). that since petitioner was ad&udged the winner in the elections only by the trial court and assumed the functions of the office on the strength merely of an order granting execution pending appeal. 3ection 5# of the )mnibus Election Code only provides for the granting in election cases of actual and compensatory damages in accordance with law.). respondent C)ME*EC sweepingly concluded. /hat portion of the decision awarding actual damages to private respondent 1oseph Evangelista is hereby declared null and void for having been issued in grave abuse of discretion and in excess of &urisdiction. 1 # that private respondent 1oseph Evangelista is the winner in the election for mayor of the Municipality of $idapawan. therefore.inally. . 32 . and so the trial court reasonably perceived execution pending appeal to be warranted and &ustified. because both. Capping this combination of circumstances which impel the grant of immediate execution is the undeniable urgency involved in the political situation in the Municipality of $idapawan.nvestigation (N%. for both are undisputedly legally sanctioned.E. that damage may be said to be e<uivalent to damnum abs<ue in&uria. we must reiterate that the decision of a &udicial body is no less a basis than the proclamation made by the C)ME*ECBconvened %oard of Canvassers for a winning candidate's right to assume office. North Cotabato. . or loss or damage without violation of a legal right. . 31 the petitioner exercised the duties of an elective office under color of election thereto.espondent C)ME*EC ruled that inapplicable in the instant case is the ruling in Rodriguez vs. 0e deem petitioner. but the nexus of circumstances aforechronicled considered together and in relation to one another. have the power to so proclaim winners in electoral contests. if any damage had been suffered by private respondent due to the execution of &udgment pending appeal. damage without in&ury. if only to emphasi4e this point. 0hile we uphold the C)ME*EC decision dated May #. North Cotabato.0ithout evaluating the merits of the trial court's actual appreciation of the ballots contested in the election protest. in the instant case.