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COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS vs. HON. TOMAS B.

NOYNAY
G.R. No. 132365 July 9, 1998

FACTS:
In its Minute Resolution No. 96-3076 of 29 October 1996, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) resolved to file
an information for violation of Section 261(i) of the Omnibus Election Code against private respondents Diosdada
Amor, a public school principal, and Esbel Chua and Ruben Magluyoan, both public school teachers, for having
engaged in partisan political activities. The COMELEC authorized its Regional Director in Region VIII to handle the
prosecution of the cases.

Forthwith, nine informations for violation of Section 261(i) of the Omnibus Election were filed with Branch 23 of the
Regional Trial Court of Alien, Northern Samar.

In an Order issued on 25 August 1997, respondent Judge Tomas B. Noynay, as presiding judge of Branch 23, motu
proprio ordered the records of the cases to be withdrawn and directed the COMELEC Law Department to file the
cases with the appropriate Municipal Trial Court on the ground that pursuant to Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129 as
amended by R.A. No. 7691, the Regional Trial Court has no jurisdiction over the cases since the maximum imposable
penalty in each of the cases does not exceed six years of imprisonment.

The two motions for reconsideration separately filed by the COMELEC Regional Director of Region VIII and by the
COMELEC itself through its Legal Department having been denied by the public respondent in the Order of 17
October 1997, the petitioner filed this special civil action. It contends that public respondent "has erroneously
misconstrued the provisions of Rep. Act No. 7691 in arguing that the Municipal Trial Court has exclusive original
jurisdiction to try and decide election offenses" because pursuant to Section 268 of the Omnibus Election Code and
this Court's ruling in "Alberto [sic] vs. Judge Juan Lavilles, Jr.," Regional Trial Courts have the exclusive original
jurisdiction over election offenses.

In their Comment, private respondents maintain that R.A. No. 7691 has divested the Regional Trial Courts of
jurisdiction over offenses where the imposable penalty is not more than 6 years of imprisonment; moreover, R.A.
7691 expressly provides that all laws, decrees, and orders inconsistent with its provisions are deemed repealed or
modified accordingly. They then conclude that since the election offense in question is punishable with imprisonment
of not more than 6 years, it is cognizable by Municipal Trial Courts.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the Regional Trial Court has no jurisdiction over the case, pursuant to Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129 as
amended by R.A. No. 7691.

HELD:
Under Section 268 of the Omnibus Election Code, Regional Trial Courts have exclusive original jurisdiction to try and
decide any criminal action or proceedings for violation of the Code except those relating to the offense of failure to
register or failure to vote.
Among the offenses punished under the Election Code are those enumerated in Section 261 thereof. The offense
allegedly committed by private respondents is covered by paragraph (i) of said Section, thus:
Sec. 261. Prohibited Acts. The following shall be guilty of an election offense:
(i)

Intervention of public officers and employees. Any officer or employee in the civil
service, .. directly or indirectly, intervenes in any election campaign or engages in any
partisan political activity.

(ii)

Under Section 264 of the Code the penalty for an election offense under the Code, except
that of failure to register or failure to vote, is "imprisonment of not less than one year but
not more than six years" and the offender shall not be subject to probation and shall suffer
disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage.

Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129 as amended by Section 2 of R.A. No. 7691, provides as follows:
Sec. 32. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Criminal
Cases. Except in cases falling within the exclusive original jurisdiction of Regional Trial Court and of the
Sandiganbayan, the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall
exercise.
By virtue of the exception provided for in the opening sentence of Section 32, the exclusive original jurisdiction of
Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts does not cover those criminal
cases which by specific provisions of law fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of Regional Trial Courts and of
the Sandiganbayan, regardless of the penalty prescribed therefor.
Undoubtedly, pursuant to Section 268 of the Omnibus Election Code, election offenses also fall within the exception.
As we stated in Morales, jurisdiction is conferred by the Constitution or by Congress. Outside the cases enumerated
in Section 5(2) of Article VIII of the Constitution, Congress has the plenary power to define, prescribe, and apportion
the jurisdiction of various courts. Congress may thus provide by law that a certain class of cases should be
exclusively heard and determined by one court. Such law would be a special law and must be construed as an
exception to the general law on jurisdiction of courts, namely, the Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended, and the
Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980. R.A. No. 7691 can by no means be considered as a special law on jurisdiction;
it is merely an amendatory law intended to amend specific sections of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980.
Hence, R.A. No. 7691 does nut have the effect of repealing laws vesting upon Regional Trial Courts or the
Sandiganbayan exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and decide the cases therein specified. That Congress never
intended that R.A. No. 7691 should repeal such special provisions is indubitably evident from the fact that it did not
touch at all the opening sentence of Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129 providing for the exception.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs. HONORABLE ENRIQUE B. INTING


G.R. No. 88919 July 25, 1990

On February 6, 1988, Mrs. Editha Barba filed a letter-complaint against OIC-Mayor Dominador Regalado of Tanjay,
Negros Oriental with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), for allegedly transferring her, a permanent Nursing
Attendant, Grade I, in the office of the Municipal Mayor to a very remote barangay and without obtaining prior
permission or clearance from COMELEC as required by law.

Acting on the complaint, COMELEC directed Atty. Gerardo Lituanas, Provincial Election Supervisor of Dumaguete
City:
(1) to conduct the preliminary investigation of the case;
(2) to prepare and file the necessary information in court;
(3) to handle the prosecution if the evidence submitted shows a prima facie case and (3) to issue a resolution of
prosecution or dismissal as the case may be.

The directive to conduct the preliminary investigation was pursuant to COMELEC Resolution No. 1752 dated January
14, 1986. The resolution, in turn, is based on the constitutional mandate that the COMELEC is charged with the
enforcement and administration of all laws relative to the conduct of elections for the purpose of ensuring free, orderly
and honest elections (sec. 2, Article XII-C of the 1973 Constitution) and on the Omnibus Election Code which
implements the constitutional provision. The Resolution authorized Regional Election Directors and Provincial
Election Supervisors to conduct preliminary investigations of election offenses committed in their respective
jurisdictions, file the corresponding complaints and/or informations in court whenever warranted, and to prosecute the
same pursuant to Section 265 of the Omnibus Election Code.

After a preliminary investigation of Barba's complaint, Atty. Lituanas found a prima facie case. Hence, on September
26, 1988, he filed with the respondent trial court a criminal case for violation of section 261, Par. (h), Omnibus
Election Code against the OIC-Mayor.

In an Order dated September 30, 1988, the respondent court issued a warrant of arrest against the accused OIC
Mayor.

However, in an order dated October 3, 1988 and before the accused could be arrested, the trial court set aside its
September 30, 1988 order on the ground that Atty. Lituanas is not authorized to determine probable cause pursuant
to Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution.

In another order dated November 22, 1988, the court gave Atty. Lituanas fifteen (15) days from receipt to file another
information charging the same offense with the written approval of the Provincial Fiscal.

Atty. Lituanas failed to comply with the order. Hence, in an order dated December 8, 1988, the trial court quashed the
information. A motion for reconsideration was denied.

The respondent trial court justifies its stand on the ground that the COMELEC through its Provincial Election
Supervisor lacks jurisdiction to determine the existence of probable cause in an election offense which it seeks to
prosecute in court.

ISSUE:
Whether or not a preliminary investigation conducted by a provincial election supervisor involving an election offense
have to be coursed through the provincial prosecutor.

HELD:

Article IX C Section 2 of the Constitution provides:


Sec. 2. The Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and functions
(1) Enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative,
referendum, and recall.
(6) File, upon a verified complaint, or on its own initiative, petitions in court for inclusion or exclusion of
votes, investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute cases of violation of election laws, including acts or omission
constituting election frauds, offenses, and practices.

In effect the 1987 Constitution mandates the COMELEC not only to investigate but also to prosecute cases of
violation of election laws. This means that the COMELEC is empowered to conduct preliminary investigations in
cases involving election offenses for the purpose of helping the Judge determine probable cause and for filing an
information in court. This power is exclusive with COMELEC.

The grant to the COMELEC of the power, among others, to enforce and administer all laws relative to the conduct of
election and the concomittant authority to investigate and prosecute election offenses is not without compelling
reason. The evident constitutional intendment in bestowing this power to the COMELEC is to insure the free, orderly
and honest conduct of elections, failure of which would result in the frustration of the true will of the people and make
a mere idle ceremony of the sacred right and duty of every qualified citizen to vote. To divest the COMELEC of the
authority to investigate and prosecute offenses committed by public officials in relation to their office would thus
seriously impair its effectiveness in achieving this clear constitutional mandate.

An examination of the provisions of the Constitution and the Election Code of 1978 reveals the clear intention to place
in the COMELEC exclusive jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute election offenses committed by any person,
whether private individual or public officer or employee, and in the latter instance, irrespective of whether the offense
is committed in relation to his official duties or not. In other words, it is the nature of the offense and not the
personality of the offender that matters. As long as the offense is an election offense jurisdiction over the same rests
exclusively with the COMELEC, in view of its all-embracing power over the conduct of elections.

Hence, the Provincial Fiscal, as such, assumes no role in the prosecution of election offenses. If the Fiscal or
Prosecutor files an information charging an election offense or prosecutes a violation of election law, it is because he
has been deputized by the COMELEC. He does not do so under the sole authority of his office.

The Commission may avail of the assistance of other prosecuting arms of the government.

It is only after a preliminary examination conducted by the COMELEC through its officials or its deputies that section
2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution comes in. This is so, because, when the application for a warrant of arrest is
made and the information is filed with the court, the judge will then determine whether or not a probable cause exists
for the issuance of a warrant of arrest.

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS vs. HON. LORENZO R. SILVA


G.R. No. 129417 February 10, 1998

Pursuant to its power under Art. IX-C, 2(6) of the Constitution, the COMELEC charged private respondents Erasto
Tanciongco and Norma Castillo with violations of 27 of R.A. No. 6646, together with Zenon Uy, in twelve separate
informations filed with the Regional Trial Court of Bataan. Tanciongco, who is provincial prosecutor of Bataan, was
vice chairman, while Castillo, who is division superintendent of schools, was secretary of the Provincial Board of
Canvassers of Bataan. Uy, who is assistant regional director of elections, was chairman of the board. In each
information, the three were accused of having tampered, in conspiracy with one another, with the certificates of
canvass by increasing the votes received by then senatorial candidate Juan Ponce Enrile in certain municipalities of
Bataan in the May 8, 1995 elections.

The twelve cases were raffled to three branches of the court presided over the respondent judges, Honorable
Lorenzo R. Silva Jr. (Branches 2 and 3) and Honorable Benjamin T. Vianzon (Branch 1).

On October 30, 1996, Tanciongco and Castillo filed a joint "Omnibus Motion for Examination of Evidence to
Determine the Existence of Probable Cause; Suspension of Issuance of Warrant of Arrest; and Dismissal of the
Cases." Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuo, who had been designated by the Commission on Elections to
prosecute the cases, filed a comment joining in private respondents' request. On the other hand, the complainant,
Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. expressed no objection to the dismissal of the cases against the two.

In orders dated March 31, and April 7, 1997, respectively, Judges Silva and Vianzon summarily dismissed the cases
against private respondents.

The COMELEC sought to appeal the dismissal of the cases to the Court of Appeals by filing notices on April 18,
1997, but the judges denied due course to its appeal. The sole basis for the denials was the fact that the prosecutor,
whom the COMELEC had deputized to prosecute the cases, had earlier taken a contrary stand against the
COMELEC.

Hence this petition for certiorari and mandamus seeking the nullification of the orders of the two judges, denying due
course to the Notices of Appeal of the COMELEC.

ISSUE:
Who as between the COMELEC or its designated prosecutor has authority to decide whether or not to appeal from
the orders of dismissal?

HELD:

The authority to decide whether or not to appeal the dismissal belongs to the COMELEC. Art. IX-C, 2(6) of the
Constitution expressly vests in it the power and function to "investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute cases of
violations of election laws, including acts or omissions constituting election frauds, offenses, and malpractices."

Prosecutors designated by the COMELEC to prosecute the cases act as its deputies. They derive their authority from
it and not from their offices. Consequently, it was beyond the power of Chief State Prosecutor Zuo to oppose the
appeal of the COMELEC. For that matter, it was beyond his power, as COMELEC-designated prosecutor, to leave to
the trial courts the determination of whether there was probable cause for the filing of the cases and, if it found none,
whether the cases should be dismissed. Those cases were filed by the COMELEC after appropriate preliminary
investigation. If the Chief State Prosecutor thought there was no probable cause for proceeding against private
respondents, he should have discussed the matter with the COMELEC and awaited its instruction. If he disagreed
with the COMELEC's findings, he should have sought permission to withdraw from the cases. But he could not leave
the determination of probable cause to the courts and agree in advance to the dismissal of the cases should the
courts find no probable cause for proceeding with the trial of the accused. It was, therefore, grave abuse of discretion
on the part of the respondent judges to rely on the manifestation of Chief State Prosecutor Zuo as basis for denying
due course to the notices of appeal filed by the COMELEC.

Whether the orders of dismissal should be appealed is for the COMELEC to decide, not for Chief State Prosecutor
Zuo whom it has merely deputized to represent in it court.

Their sole contention is that the petition should be dismissed because, so it is argued, it should have been brought in
the name of the People of the Philippines and have been filed by the Solicitor General.

This contention is without merit. This is not the first time the COMELEC has come to this Court in its own name in
regard to an action taken against it in cases filed by it in the lower courts.

The COMELEC has sufficient interest in filing the petition [for certiorari] to set aside the decision of the Court of
Appeals having sustained the demurrer to evidence in the criminal case against private respondent for violation of the
Election Laws. This is so, for it is not only entrusted with the duty to enforce the said law but also to prosecute all
election offenses.

KILOSBAYAN vs.COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS


G.R. No. 128054 October 16, 1997

FACTS:
On December 14, 1993, public respondent Commission on Elections (Comelec) received from petitioner Kilosbayan a
letter informing the former of "two . . . serious violations of election laws", thus:

The documented admission of Secretary of Budget Salvador Enriquez, in the October 5, 1993 hearing of the
Commission on Appointments, that the amount of P70 million was released by his department, shortly before the
elections of May 11, 1992, in favor of a private entity, the so-called "Philippine Youth, Health and Sports Development
Foundation," headed by Mr. Ronaldo Puno, who had been repeatedly identified by columnist Teodoro Benigno as a
key member of the Sulu Hotel Operation (SHO), which had reportedly engaged in dirty election tricks and practices in
said elections. . . .

The illegal diversion of P330 million by Malacanang from the Countryside Development Fund to the Department of
Interior and Local Government which disbursed this huge amount shortly before the May 11, 1992 elections, as
revealed by DILG Budget Officer Barata, in a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Vicente
Sotto III, held last November 22, 1993.

On December 14, 1993, then Comelec Chairman Christian Monsod called a meeting of the Comelec En Bancwhich
resolved to refer petitioner Kilosbayan's letter-complaint to the Law Department for comment and/or
recommendation. Said letter-complaint was docketed as E.O. Case No. 93-193.

The evidence proffered by Kilosbayan in support of its letter-complaint consisted of the published writings of Teodoro
Benigno in his column in the Philippine Star newspaper imputing to the so-called Sulo Hotel Operation (SHO) headed
by PYHSDFI's chairman, Ronaldo Puno, the commission of illegal election activities during the May 11, 1992
elections, including the obtention of government funds for electioneering purposes.

Kilosbayan did not submit evidence to prove its case which ended in the dismissal of the same.

Petitioner Kilosbayan contended that it is the Comelec that is duty-bound to search for evidence to prove its lettercomplaint.

ISSUE:
Whether or not it is the Comelec that is duty-bound to search for evidence to prove a letter-complaint.

HELD:
The task of the Comelec as investigator and prosecutor, acting upon any election offense complaint, is not the
physical searching and gathering of proof in support of a complaint for an alleged commission of an election offense.
A complainant, who in effect accuses another person of having committed an act constituting an election offense, has
the burden, as it is his responsibility, to follow through his accusation and prove his complainant. If the complainant
fails to proffer the necessary evidence to show probable cause, notwithstanding the lack of denial or any evidence in
controversion, of the accusation, the complaint must be dismissed, since any person accused of a crime is presumed
innocent and does not at all have to make a response or reaction to the charges against him.

The Comelec, in acting upon an election offense complaint in the course of preliminary investigation, initially
facilitates the confrontation process between the complainant and the respondents by requiring the submission of and
interfacing, their respective evidences. Ultimately, the Comelec passes upon the contending parties' respective
submission and proofs and weighs the fact and circumstances established therefrom. Contrary to the asseveration of
petitioner Kilosbayan, the preliminary investigation is not an occasion for the Comelec to, as a duty, spoonfeed the
complainant with evidence needed to prove its case.