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SYLLABI/SYNOPSIS

ENBANC

[G.R.No.133676.April14,1999]

TUPAYT.LOONG,petitioner,vs.COMMISSIONONELECTIONSandABDUSAKUR
TAN,respondents,YUSOPJIKIRI,intervenor.
DECISION
PUNO,J.:

In a bid to improve our elections, Congress enacted R.A. No. 8436 on December 22, 1997
prescribingtheadoptionofanautomatedelectionsystem.ThenewsystemwasusedintheMay11,
1998regularelectionsheldintheAutonomousRegioninMuslimMindanao(ARMM)whichincludes
the Province of Sulu. Atty. Jose Tolentino, Jr. headed the COMELEC Task Force to have
administrativeoversightoftheelectionsinSulu.
The voting in Sulu was relatively peaceful and orderly.[1] The problem started during the
automatedcountingofvotesforthelocalofficialsofSuluattheSuluStateCollege.Atabout6a.m.
ofMay12,1998,someelectioninspectorsandwatchersinformedAtty.Tolentino,Jr.ofdiscrepancies
betweentheelectionreturnsandthevotescastforthemayoraltycandidatesinthemunicipality of
Pata.SomeballotspickedatrandombyAtty.Tolentino,Jr.confirmedthatvotesinfavorofamayoralty
candidatewerenotreflectedintheprintedelectionreturns.Hesuspendedtheautomatedcountingof
ballotsinPataandimmediatelycommunicatedtheproblemtothetechnicalexpertsofCOMELECand
the suppliers of the automated machine. After consultations, the experts told him that the
problemwascausedbythemisalignmentoftheovalsoppositethenamesofcandidatesinthe
local ballots. They found nothing wrong with the automated machines. The error was in the
printingofthelocalballots,asaconsequenceofwhich,theautomatedmachinesfailedtoreadthem
correctly.[2]
At12:30p.m.ofthesameday,Atty.Tolentino,Jr.calledforanemergencymeetingofthelocal
candidates and the militarypolice officials overseeing the Sulu elections.Those who attended were
the various candidates for governor, namely, petitioner Tupay Loong, private respondent Abdusakur
Tan, intervenor Yusop Jikiri and Kimar Tulawie. Also in attendance were Brig. Gen. Edgardo
Espinosa, AFP, Marine forces, Southern Philippines, Brig. Gen. Percival Subala, AFP, 3rd Marine
Brigade,Supt.CharlemagneAlejandrino,ProvincialDirector,Sulu,PNPCommandandcongressional
candidateBensandiTulawie.[3]
ThemeetingdiscussedhowtheballotsinPatashouldbecountedinlightofthemisalignedovals.
Therewaslackofagreement.ThosewhorecommendedashifttomanualcountwereBrig.Generals
Espinosa and Subala, PNP Director Alejandrino, gubernatorial candidates Tan and Tulawie and
congressional candidate Bensandi Tulawie. Those who insisted on an automated count were
gubernatorial candidates Loong and Jikiri. In view of their differences in opinion, Atty. Tolentino, Jr.
requestedthepartiestosubmittheirwrittenpositionpapers.[4]
Reports that the automated counting of ballots in other municipalities in Sulu was not
workingwellwerereceivedbytheCOMELECTaskForce.Localballotsinfive(5)municipalities
wererejectedbytheautomatedmachines.ThesemunicipalitieswereTalipao, Siasi, Tudanan,
TapulandJolo.Theballotswererejectedbecausetheyhadthewrongsequencecode.[5]
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PrivaterespondentTanandAtty.Tolentino,Jr.sentseparatecommunicationstotheCOMELEC
en banc in Manila. Still, on May 12, 1998, Tan requested for the suspension of the automated
counting of ballots throughout the Sulu province.[6] On the same day, COMELEC issued Minute
ResolutionNo.981747orderingamanualcountbutonlyinthemunicipalityofPata.The resolution
reads:[7]
"xxxxxxxxx
"InthematterofthePetitiondatedMay12,1998ofAbdusakurTan,Governor,Sulu,tosuspendor
stopcountingofballotsthroughautomation(sic)machinesforthefollowinggrounds,quotedtowit
'1..TheElectionReturnsfortheMunicipalityofPata,ProvinceofSuluDistrictIIdonotreflector
revealthemandateofthevoters:
'DISCUSSIONS
'Thatthewatcherscalledtheattentionofourpoliticalleadersandcandidatesregardingtheirdiscovery
thattheelectionreturnsgeneratedafterthelastballotsforaprecinctisscannedrevealedthatsome
candidatesobtainedzerovotes,amongotherstheProvincialBoardMembers,Mayor,ViceMayor,
andthecouncilorsfortheLAKASNUCDUMDP
'Thatthetopballot,however,revealsthattheballotscontainedvotesforAntonBurahan,
candidateforMunicipalMayorwhiletheElectionReturnshowszerovote
'ThatfurtherreviewoftheElectionReturnrevealsthatJohnMasillam,candidateforMayor
undertheLAKASNUCDUMDPMNLFobtains(sic)100%votesofthetotalnumberofvoters
whoactuallyvoted
'Theforegoingdiscrepancieswerelikewisenotedandconfirmedbythechairmen,pollclerksand
membersoftheBoardofElectionInspectors(BEI)suchasRenaJawan,MatankaHajirul,Dulba
Kadil,TeddyMirajuli,RainerTalcon,MikeJupakal,ArminaAkmad,RomuloRoldanandLerma
Marawalitomentionsome
'ThePataincidentcanbeconfirmedbynolessthanAtty.JoseTolentino,Head,TaskForceSulu,
whoseattentionwascalledregardingthediscrepancies
'Theforegoingisaclearevidencethattheautomatedmachine(scanner)cannotberelieduponasto
trulyreflectthecontentsoftheballots.IfsuchhappenedintheMunicipalityofPata,itisverypossible
thatthesameishappeninginthecountingofvotesintheothermunicipalitiesofthisprovince.Ifthis
willnotbesuspendedorstopped,theuseofautomatedmachineswillserveasavehicletofrustrate
thewillofthesovereignpeopleofSulu
'Wherefore,theforegoingpremisesconsideredandintheinterestofanhonestandorderlyelection,it
isrespectfullyprayedofthisHonorableCommissionthatanOrderbeissuedimmediatelysuspending
orstoppingtheuseoftheautomatedmachine(scanner)inthecountingofvotesforalltheeighteen
(18)municipalitiesintheProvinceofSuluandinlieuthereof,toavoiddelay,countingbedonethrough
theusualwayknownandtestedbyus.'
"Whilethecommissiondoesnotagreewiththeconclusionsstatedinthepetition,andthe
failureofthemachinetoreadthevotesmayhavebeenoccasionedbyotherfactors,amatter
thatrequiresimmediateinvestigation,butinthepublicinterest,theCommission,
'RESOLVEDtograntthePetitiondatedMay12,1998andtoOrderthatthecountingofvotes
shallbedonemanuallyintheMunicipalityofPATA,theonlyplaceinSuluwheretheautomated
machinefailedtoreadtheballots,subjecttonoticetoallpartiesconcerned."'
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BeforemidnightofMay12,1998,Atty.Tolentino,Jr.wasabletosendtotheCOMELECenbanchis
reportandrecommendation,urgingtheuseofthemanualcountintheentireProvinceofSulu,viz:[8]
"TheundersignedstoppedthecountinginthemunicipalityofPatasincehediscoveredthatvotesfora
candidateformayorwascreditedinfavoroftheothercandidate.VerificationwiththeSuluTechnical
Staff,includingPatSquiresofES&S,revealsthatthecauseoftheerroristhewaytheballotwas
printed.Asidefrommisalignmentoftheovalsanduseofcodesassignedtoanothermunicipality
(whichcausedtherejectionofalllocalballotsinoneprecinctinTalipao),errormessagesappearedon
thescreenalthoughtheactualconditionoftheballotswouldhaveshownadifferentmessage.
Becauseofthese,theundersigneddirectedthatcountingforallballotsinSulubestoppedtoenable
theCommissiontodeterminetheproblemandrectifythesame.Itissubmittedthatstoppingthe
countingismoreinconsonancewiththeCommission'smandatethanproceedingwithanautomated
butinaccuratecount.
"InviewoftheerrordiscoveredinPataandtheundersigned'sordertosuspendthecounting,the
followingdocumentsweresubmittedtohim.
"1.UnsignedletterdatedMay12,1998submittedbyCongressmanTulawieformanualcountingand
canvassing
"2.PetitionofGovernorSakurTanformanualcounting
"3.PositionpaperofTupayLoong,BenjaminLoongandAsaniTamangforautomatedcount
"4.MNLFPositionforautomatedcountand
"5.RecommendationofGeneralE.V.Espinosa,GeneralPMSubala,andPDCSAlejandrinofor
manualcount
"AdditionalmarineshavebeendeployedattheSSC.Theundersignedisnotsureifitismerely
intendedtotameadisorderlycrowd,insideandoutsideSSC,orashowofforce.
"Itissubmittedthatsinceanerrorwasdiscoveredinamachinewhichissupposedtohavean
errorrateof1:1,000,000,notafewpeoplewouldbelievethatthiserrorinPatawouldextendto
theothermunicipalities.Whetherornotthisistrue,itwouldbemoreprudenttostayaway
fromalifelessthingthathassowntensionandanxietyamongandbetweenthevotersofSulu.
Respectfullysubmitted:
12May1998
(Sgd.)JOSEM.TOLENTINO,JR."
Thenextday,May13,1998,COMELECissuedResolutionNo.981750approvingAtty.Tolentino,
Jr.'s recommendation and the manner of its implementation as suggested by Executive Director
ResurreccionZ.Borra.TheResolutionreads:[9]
"InthematteroftheMemorandumdated13May1998ofExecutiveDirectorResurreccionZ.Borra,
pertinentportionofwhichisquotedasfollows:
"InconnectionwithMin.Res.No.981747promulgatedMay12,1998whichresolvedtoorderthatthe
countingofvotesshallbedonemanuallyinthemunicipalityofPata,theonlyplaceinSuluwherethe
automatedcountingmachinefailedtoreadtheballots,subjecttonoticetoallpartiesconcerned,
pleasefindthefollowing:
"1.HandwrittenMemoofDirectorJoseM.Tolentino,Jr.,TaskForceHead,Sulu,addressedtothe
ExecutiveDirectoronthesubjectcountingandcanvassinginthemunicipalityofPataduetothe
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errorsofthecountingofvotesbythemachinebroughtaboutbytheerrorintheprintingoftheballot,
causingmisalignmentofovalsanduseofcodesassignedtoanothermunicipality.
HerecommendedtoreverttothemanualcountingofvotesinthewholeofSulu.Heattachedthe
standofCongressmanTulawie,GovernorSakurTanandrecommendationofBrigadierGeneral
EdgardoEspinosa,GeneralPercivalSubla,P/Supt.CharlemagneAlejandrinoformanualcounting.
ThepositionpaperofformerGovernorTupayLoong,Mr.BenjaminLoongandMr.AsaniS.Tammang,
whoarecandidatesforGovernorandCongressmanof1stand2ndDistrictsrespectively,whowanted
thecontinuationoftheautomatedcounting.
"WhiletheforcesofAFParereadytoprovidearm(sic)securitytoourComelecofficials,BEIs
andotherdeputies,thepoliticaltensionsandimminentviolenceandbloodshedmaynotbe
prevented,asperreportreceived,theMNLFforcesarereadyingtheirforcestosurroundthe
venueforautomatedcountingandcanvassinginSuluinorderthattheautomationprocess
willcontinue.
"DirectorBorrarecommends,thatwhilehesupportsMinuteResolutionNo.981747,implementation
thereofshallbedoneasfollows:
"1.ThatallthecountingmachinesfromJolo,SulubetransportedbackbyC130toManilaand
belocatedattheavailablespaceatPICCforpurposesofbothautomatedandmanual
operations.ThisapproachwillkeeptheCOMELECofficialsawayfromviolenceandbloodshed
betweenthetwocampswhoaredeterminedtoslugeachotherasabovementionedinJolo,
Sulu.OnlyauthorizedpoliticalpartyandcandidatewatcherswillbeallowedinPICCwith
propersecurity,bothinsideandoutsidetheperimetersofthevenueatPICC.
"2.Withthisprocess,therewillbeanobjectiveanalysisandsupervisionoftheautomatedand
manualoperationsbyboththeMISandTechnicalExpertoftheES&Sawayfromthe
thunderingmortarsandthesoundsofsophisticatedheavyweaponsfrombothsidesofthe
warringfactions.
"3.Lastly,itwillbedirectlyundertheclosesupervisionandcontrolofCommissiononElectionsEn
Banc.
"RESOLVED:
"1.TotransportallcountingmachinesfromJolo,SulubyC130toManilaforpurposesofboth
automatedandmanualoperations,withnoticetoallpartiesconcerned
"2.Toauthorizetheofficialtraveloftheboardofcanvassersconcernedfortheconductofthe
automatedandmanualoperationsofthecountingofvotesatPICCundertheclose
supervisionandcontroloftheCommissionEnBanc.Forthispurpose,tomakeavailablea
designatedspaceatthePICC
"3.Toauthorizethepresenceofonlythedulyauthorizedrepresentativeofthepoliticalparties
concernedandthecandidateswatchersbothoutsideandinsidetheperimetersofthevenueat
PICC."
Atty.Tolentino,Jr.furnishedthepartieswithcopiesofMinuteResolutionNo.981750and
called for another meeting the next day, May 14, 1998, to discuss the implementation of the
resolution.[10]Themeetingwasattendedbytheparties,byLt.Gen.JoselinNazareno,thentheChief
oftheAFPSouthernCommand,theNAMFREL,media,andthepublic.Especiallydiscussedwasthe
manneroftransportingtheballotsandthecountingmachinestothePICCinManila.Theyagreedto
alloweachpoliticalpartytohaveatleastone(1)escort/watcherforeverymunicipalitytoacompany
theflight.TwoC130swereusedforthepurpose.[11]
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OnMay15,1998,theCOMELECenbancissuedMinuteResolutionNo.981796layingdown
therulesforthemanualcount,viz:[12]
"InthematteroftheMemorandumdated15May1998ofExecutiveDirectorResurreccionZ.Borra,
quotedtowit:
'IntheimplementationofCOMELECMin.ResolutionNo.981750promulgated13May1998inthe
manualcountingofvotesofPata,Sulu,andinviewofthearrivalofthecountingmachines,ballot
boxes,documentsandotherelectionparaphernaliaforthewholeprovinceofSulunowstoredin
PICC,aswellasthearrivaloftheMunicipalBoardofCanvassersofsaidMunicipalityinSulu,and
afterconferencewithsomemembersoftheSeniorStaffandTechnicalCommitteeofthis
Commission,thefollowingareherebyrespectfullyrecommended:
'1.ManualcountingofthelocalballotsoftheautomatedelectionsysteminPata,Sulu
'2.Automatedcountingofthenationalballotsconsideringthattherearenoquestionsraisedonthe
NationalElectiveOfficialsaspreprintedinthemarksensedballots
'3.ThecreationofthefollowingSpecialBoardsofInspectorsunderthesupervisionofAtty.JoseM.
Tolentino,Jr.,TaskForceHead,Sulu,namely:
a)Atty.MamasapunodM.Aguam
Ms.GloriaFernandez
Ms.EsperanzaNicolas
b)DirectorEsterL.VillaflorRoxas
Ms.CeliaRomero
Ms.RebeccaMacaraya
c)Atty.ZenaidaS.Soriano
Ms.JocelynGuiang
Ma.JacelynTan
d)Atty.ErlindaC.Echavia
Ms.TheresaA.Torralba
Ms.Ma.CarmenLlamas
e)DirectorEstrellaP.deMesa
Ms.TeresitaVelasco
Ms.NellyJaena
'4.AdditionalSpecialBoardofInspectorsmaybecreatedwhennecesary.
'5.TheProvincialBoardofCanvasserswhichbystandingResolutionisheadedbytheTaskForce
SuluHeadshallconsolidatethemanualandautomatedresultsassubmittedbytheMunicipalBoards
ofCanvassersofthewholeprovincewithtwomemberscomposedofDirectorsEstrellaP.deMesa
andEsterL.VillaflorRoxas
'6.ThepoliticalpartiesandthecandidatesinSuluaswellasthePartyListCandidatesareauthorized
toappointtheirownwatchersuponapprovaloftheCommission',
'RESOLVEDtoapprovetheforegoingrecommendationsintheimplementationofMin.ResolutionNo.
981750promulgatedon13May1998providingforthemanualcountingofvotesinthemunicipalityof
Pata,Sulu.
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'RESOLVED,moreover,consideringtherecommendationofComm.ManoloB.Gorospe,
CommissionerInCharge,ARMM,toconductaparallelmanualcountingonall18municipalitiesof
Suluasafinalguidanceofthereliabilityofthecountingmachinewhichwillserveasbasisforthe
proclamationofthewinningcandidatesandforfuturereferenceontheuseoftheautomatedcounting
machine."'
OnMay18,1998,petitionerfiledhisobjectiontoMinuteResolutionNo.981796,viz:[13]
"1.TheminuteresolutionunderagendaNo.981796violatestheprovisionsofRepublicActNo.8436
providingforanautomatedcountingoftheballotsintheAutonomousRegioninMuslimMindanao.
Theautomatedcountingismandatoryandcouldnotbesubstitutedbyamanualcounting.Wherethe
machinesareallegedlydefective,theonlyremedyprovidedforbylawistoreplacethemachine.
Manualcountingisprohibitedbylaw
"2.TherearestrongindicationsthatinthemunicipalityofPatatheballotsofthesaidmunicipalitywere
rejectedbythecountingmachinebecausetheballotsweretamperedand/orthetextureoftheballots
fedtothecountingmachinearenottheofficialballotsoftheComelec
"3.TheautomatedcountingmachinesoftheComelechavebeendesignedinsuchawaythatonly
genuineofficialballotscouldbereadandcountedbythemachine
"4.Thecountingmachinesintheothermunicipalitiesareinorder.Infact,theautomatedcountinghas
alreadystarted.TheautomatedcountinginthemunicipalitiesofLugusandPanglimaTahilhasbeen
completed.Thereisnolegalbasisforthe'parallelmanualcounting'ordainedinthedisputedminute
resolution."
Nonetheless,COMELECstartedthemanualcountonthesamedate,May18,1998.
OnMay25,1998,petitionerfiledwiththisCourtapetitionforcertiorariandprohibitionunderRule
65oftheRulesofCourt.Hecontendedthat:(a)COMELECissuedMinuteResolutionNos.981747,
981750, and 981798 without prior notice and hearing to him (b) the order for manual counting
violated R.A. No. 8436 (c) manual counting gave "opportunity to the following election cheatings,"
namely:
"(a)Thecountingbyhumanhandsofthetampered,fakeandcounterfeitballotswhichthecounting
machineshavebeenprogrammedtoreject(Section7,8&9ofRep.Act8436).
"(b)TheopportunitytosubstitutetheballotsallstoredatthePICC.Infact,nolessthantheheadof
theCOMELECTaskForceofSulu,Atty.JoseM.Tolentino,Jr.whorecommendedtotheCOMELEC
theanomalousmanualcounting,hadapproachedthewatchersofpetitionerstoallowtheretrievalof
theballots,saying"tayo,tayolangmgawatchers,pagusapannatin,"dearlyindicatingovertures
ofpossiblebriberyofthewatchersofpetitioner(ANNEXE).
"(c)WiththecreationbytheCOMELECofonly22BoardsofElectionInspectorstomanuallycount
the1,194precincts,themanipulatorsaregivensufficienttimetochangeandtampertheballotstobe
manuallycounted.
"(d)Thereistheopportunityofdelayingtheproclamationofthewinningcandidatesthroughthe
usuallydilatorymovesinapreproclamationcontroversybecausethereturnsandcertificatesof
canvassarealreadyhuman(sic)made.Intheautomatedcountingthereisnoroomforanydilatory
preproclamationcontroversybecausethereturnsandtheMBCandPBCcertificatesofcanvassare
machinemadeandimmediateproclamationisordainedthereafter."
Petitionerthenprayed:
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"WHEREFORE,itismostespeciallyprayedoftheHonorableCourtthat:
"1.uponfilingofthispetition,atemporaryrestrainingorderbeissuedenjoiningtheCOMELECfrom
conductingamanualcountingoftheballotsofthe1,194precinctsofthe18municipalitiesofthe
ProvinceofSulubutinsteadproceedwiththeautomatedcountingoftheballots,preparationofthe
electionreturnsandMBC,PBCcertificatesofcanvassandproclaimthewinningcandidatesonthe
basisoftheautomatedcountingandconsolidationofresults
"2.thispetitionbegivenduecourseandtherespondentsberequiredtoanswer
"3.afterduehearing,thequestionedCOMELECEnBancMinuteResolutionsofMay12,13,15,and
17,1998bealldeclarednullandvoidabinitioforhavingbeenissuedwithoutjurisdictionand/orwith
graveabuseofdiscretionamountingtolackofjurisdictionandforbeinginviolationofdueprocessof
law
"4.thewinningcandidatesoftheProvinceofSulubeproclaimedonthebasisoftheresultsofthe
automatedcounting,automatedelectionreturns,automatedMBCandPBCcertificatesofcanvass
"xxx."
On June 8, 1998, private respondent Tan was proclaimed governor elect of Sulu on the
basisofthemanualcount.[14]Privaterespondent garnered 43,573 votes. Petitioner was third
with35,452votesoradifferenceof8,121votes.
OnJune23,1998,thisCourtrequiredtherespondentstofiletheirCommenttothepetitionand
directedtheparties"tomaintainthestatusquoprevailingatthetimeofthefilingofthepetition."[15]
Thevicegovernorelectwasallowedtotemporarilydischargethepowersandfunctionsofgovernor.
OnAugust20,1998,YusopJikiri,theLAKASNUCDUMDPMNLFcandidateforgovernorfileda
motionforinterventionandaMemoranduminIntervention.[16]Theresultofthemanualcountshowed
he received 38,993 votes and placed second. Similarly, he alleged denial of due process, lack of
factual basis of the COMELEC resolutions and illegality of manual count in light of R.A. No. 8436.
TheCourtnotedhisintervention.[17]AssimilarpetitionforinterventionfiledbyAbdulwahidSahidulla,a
candidateforvicegovernor,onOctober7,1998wasdeniedasitwasfiledtoolate.
Induetime,thepartiesfiledtheirrespectiveComments.OnSeptember25,1998,theCourtheard
thepartiesinoralarguments[18]whichwasfollowedbythesubmissionoftheirwrittenmemoranda.
Theissuesforresolutionarethefollowing:
1. Whether or not a petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is the
appropriateremedytoinvalidatethedisputedCOMELECresolutions.
2.Assumingtheappropriatenessoftheremedy,whetherornotCOMELECcommittedgraveabuseof
discretionamountingtolackofjurisdictioninorderingamanualcount.
2.a.Istherealegalbasisforthemanualcount?
2b.Areitsfactualbasesreasonable?
2.c.WerethepetitionerandtheintervenordenieddueprocessbytheCOMELECwhenitordereda
manualcount?
3.Assumingthemanualcountisillegalandthatitsresultisunreliable,whetherornotitispropertocall
foraspecialelectionforthepositionofgovernorofSulu.

Weshallresolvetheissuesinseriatim.
First.Weholdthatcertiorariistheproperremedyofthepetitioner.Section7,ArticleIX(A)ofthe
1987Constitutionstatesthatif"unlessprovidedbythisConstitutionorbylaw,anydecision,orderor
rulingofeachCommissionmaybebroughttotheSupremeCourtoncertioraribytheaggrievedparty
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within thirty days from receipt of a copy thereof." We have interpreted this provision to mean final
orders,rulingsanddecisionsoftheCOMELECrenderedintheexerciseofitsadjudicatoryorquasi
judicialpowers.[19]Contrariwise,administrativeordersoftheCOMELECarenot,asageneralrule,fit
subjectsofapetitionfor certiorari.ThemainissueinthecaseatbariswhethertheCOMELECgravely
abuseditsdiscretionwhenitorderedamanualcountofthe1998Sululocalelections.Aresolutionof
theissuewillinvolveaninterpretationofR.A.No.8436onautomatedelectioninrelationtothebroad
power of the COMELEC under Section 2(1), Article IX(C) of the Constitution "to enforce and
administeralllawsandregulationsrelativetotheconductofanelectionxxx."Theissueisnotonly
legalbutoneoffirstimpressionandundoubtedlysuffusedwithsignificancetotheentirenation.It is
adjudicatoryoftherightofthepetitioner,theprivaterespondentandtheintervenortothepositionof
governorofSulu.Theseareenoughconsiderationstocallforanexerciseofthecertiorarijurisdiction
ofthisCourt.
Second.Thebigissue,oneoffirstimpression,iswhethertheCOMELECcommittedgraveabuse
ofdiscretionamountingtolackofjurisdictionwhenitorderedamanualcountinlightofR.A.No.8436.
The post election realities on ground will show that the order for a manual count cannot be
characterizedasarbitrary,capriciousorwhimsical.
a.Itiswellestablishedthattheautomatedmachinesfailedtoreadcorrectlytheballotsinthemunicipality
ofPata.Amayoraltycandidate,Mr.AntonBurahan,obtainedzerovotesdespitetherepresentations
of the Chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors and others that they voted for him. Another
candidategarnered100%ofthevotes.
b.Itislikewiseconcededthattheautomatedmachinesrejectedandwouldnotcountthelocalballotsin
themunicipalitiesofTalipao,Siasi,Indanan,TapalandJolo.
c. These flaws in the automated counting of local ballots in the municipalities of Pata, Talipao, Siasi,
Indanan, Tapal and Jolo were carefully analyzed by the technical experts of COMELEC and the
supplieroftheautomatedmachines.Allofthemfoundnothingwrongwiththeautomatedmachines.
TheytracedtheproblemtotheprintingoflocalballotsbytheNationalPrintingOffice.Inthecaseof
the municipality of Pata, it was discovered that the ovals of the local ballots were misaligned and
couldnotbereadcorrectlybytheautomatedmachines.InthecaseofthemunicipalitiesofTalipao,
Siasi,Indanan,TapalandJolo,itturnedoutthatthelocalballotscontainedthewrongsequencecode.
Each municipality was assigned a sequence code as a security measure. Ballots with the wrong
sequencecodewereprogrammedtoberejectedbytheautomatedmachines.

Itisplainthattocontinuewiththeautomatedcountinthesefive(5)municipalitieswouldresultin
agrosslyerroneouscount.Itcannotalsobegainsaidthatthecountinthesefive(5)municipalitieswill
affect the local elections in Sulu. There was no need for more sampling of local ballots in these
municipalitiesastheysufferedfromthesamedefects.AlllocalballotsinPatawithmisalignedovals
will be erroneously read by the automated machines. Similarly, all local ballots in Talipao, Siasi,
Indanan, Tapal and Jolo with wrong sequence codes are certain to be rejected by the automated
machines.Thereisnoshowingintherecordsthatthelocalballotsinthesefive(5)municipalitiesare
dissimilarwhichcouldjustifythecallfortheirgreatersampling.
Third.ThesefailuresofautomatedcountingcreatedpostelectiontensioninSulu,aprovincewith
ahistoryofviolentelections.COMELEChadtoactdecisivelyinviewofthefastdeterioratingpeace
andordersituationcausedbythedelayinthecountingofvotes.Theevidence ofthis fragilepeace
and order cannot be downgraded.In his handwritten report to the COMELEC dated May 12, 1998,
Atty.Tolentino,Jr.stated:
"xxx
"AdditionalmarineshavebeendeployedattheSSC.Theundersignedisnotsureifitismerely
intendedtotameadisorderlycrowdinsideandoutsideSSC,orashowofforce.
"Itissubmittedthatsinceanerrorwasdiscoveredinamachinewhichissupposedtohaveanerror
rateof1:1,000,000,notafewpeoplewouldbelievethatthiserrorinPatawouldextendtotheother
municipalities.Whetherornotthisistrue,itwouldbemoreprudenttostayawayfromalifeless
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thingthathassowntensionandanxietyamongandbetweenthevotersofSulu."
ExecutiveDirectorResurreccionZ.Borra,TaskForceHead,ARMMinhisMay13,1998Memorandum
totheCOMELEClikewisestated:
"xxx
"WhiletheforcesofAFParereadytoprovidearm(sic)securitytoourCOMELECofficials,
BEI'sandotherdeputies,thepoliticaltensionsandimminentviolenceandbloodshedmaynot
beprevented,asperreportreceived,theMNLFforcesarereadyingtheirforcestosurround
thevenueforautomatedcountingandcanvassinginSuluinorderthatautomationprocess
willcontinue."
Last but not the least, the military and the police authorities unanimously recommended manual
countingtopreservepeaceandorder.Brig.Gen.EdgardoV.Espinosa,CommandingGeneral,Marine
Forces Southern Philippines, Brig. Gen. Percival M. Subala, Commanding General, 3rd Marine
Brigade, and Supt. Charlemagne S. Alejandrino, Provincial Director, Sulu PNP Command explained
thatit"xxxwillnotonlyservetheinterestofmajorityofthepoliticalpartiesinvolvedintheelectoral
process but also serve the interest of the military and police forces in maintaining peace and order
throughouttheprovinceofSulu."
AnautomatedcountofthelocalvotesinSuluwouldhaveresultedinawrongcount,atravestyof
thesovereigntyoftheelectorate.Itsaftermathcouldhavebeenabloodbath.COMELECavoidedthis
imminent probability by ordering a manual count of the votes. It would be the height of irony if the
CourtcondemnsCOMELECforabortingviolenceintheSuluelections.
Fourth.WealsofindthatpetitionerLoongandintervenorJikiriwerenotdenieddueprocess.The
Tolentinomemorandumclearlyshowsthattheyweregivenevery opportunity to oppose the manual
countofthelocalballotsinSulu.Theywereorallyheard.Theylatersubmittedwrittenpositionpapers.
Their representatives escorted the transfer of the ballots andthe automated machines from Sulu to
Manila. Their watchers observed the manual count from beginning to end. We quote the Tolentino
memorandum,viz:
"xxx
"Onorabout6:00a.m.ofMay12,1998,whileautomatedcountingofalltheballotsfortheprovinceof
SuluwasbeingconductedatthecountingcenterlocatedattheSuluStateCollege,theCOMELEC
SuluTaskForceHead(TFHead)proceededtotheroomwherethecountingmachineassignedtothe
municipalityofPatawasinstalledtoverifythecauseofthecommotiontherein.
"DuringtheinterviewconductedbytheTFHead,themembersoftheBoardofElectionInspectors
(BEI)andwatcherspresentinsaidroomstatedthatthecountingmachineassignedtothemunicipality
ofPatadidnotreflectthetrueresultsofthevotingthereat.ThemembersoftheBEIcomplainedthat
theirvoteswerenotreflectedintheprintoutoftheelectionreturnssinceperelectionreturnsoftheir
precincts,thecandidatetheyvotedforobtained"zero".Afterverifyingtheprintoutofsomeelection
returnsasagainsttheofficialballots,theTFHeaddiscoveredthatvotescastinfavorofamayoralty
candidatewerecreditedinfavorofhisopponents.
"Inhisattempttoremedythesituation,theTFHeadsuspendedthecountingofallballotsforsaid
municipalitytoenableCOMELECfieldtechnicianstodeterminethecauseofthetechnicalerror,
rectifythesame,andthereafterproceedwithautomatedcounting.Inthemeantime,thecountingof
theballotsfortheothermunicipalitiesproceededundertheautomatedsystem.
"TechnicalexpertsofthesupplierbasedinManilawereinformedoftheproblemandafternumerous
consultationsthroughlongdistancecalls,thetechnicalexpertsconcludedthatthecauseoftheerror
wasinthemannertheballotsforlocalpositionswereprintedbytheNationalPrintingOffice(NPO),
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namely,thattheovalsoppositethenamesofthecandidateswerenotproperlyaligned.Asregardsthe
ballotsfornationalpositions,noerrorwasfound.
"Sincetheproblemwasnotmachinerelated,itwasobviousthattheuseofcountingmachinesfrom
othermunicipalitiestocounttheballotsofthemunicipalityofPatawouldstillresultinthesame
erroneouscount.Thus,itwasfoundnecessarytodeterminetheextentoftheerrorintheballot
printingprocessbeforeproceedingwiththeautomatedcounting.
"Toavoidasituationwhereproceedingwithautomationwillresultinanerroneouscount,theTFHead,
onorabout11:45a.m.orderedthesuspensionofthecountingofallballotsintheprovincetoenable
himtocallameetingwiththeheadsofthepoliticalpartieswhichfieldedcandidatesintheprovince,
informthemofthetechnicalerror,andfindsolutionstotheproblem.
"Onorabout12:30p.m.,theTFHeadpresidedoveraconferenceatCampGeneralBautista(3rd
MarineBrigade)todiscusstheprocessbywhichthewilloftheelectoratecouldbedetermined.
Presentduringthemeetingwere:
1.Brig.Gen.EdgardoEspinoza
MarineForces,SouthernPhilippines
2.Brig.Gen.PercivalSubala
3rdMarineBrigade
3.ProvincialDir.CharlemagneAlejandrino
SuluPNPCommand
4.GubernatorialCandidateTupayLoong
LAKASNUCDLoongWing
5.GubernatorialCandidateAbdusakurTan
LAKASNUCDTanWing
6.GubernatorialCandidateYusopJikiri
LAKASNUCDMNLFWing
7.GubernatorialCandidateKimarTulawie
LAMMP
8.CongressionalCandidateBensaudiTulawie
LAMMP
"Duringsaidmeeting,alloftheabovepartiesverballyadvancedtheirrespectivepositions.Those
infavorofamanualcountwere:
1.Brig.Gen.EdgardoEspinoza
2.Brig.Gen.PercivalSubala
3.ProvincialDir.CharlemagneAlenjandrino
4.GubernatorialCandidateAbdusakurTan
5.GubernatorialCandidateKimarTulawie
6.CongressionalCandidateBensaudiTulawieandthoseinfavorofanautomatedcountwere:
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1.GubernatorialCandidateTupayLoong
2.GubernatorialCandidateYusopJikiri

"SaidpartieswerethenrequestedbytheTFHeadtosubmittheirrespectivepositionpapers
sothatthesamemaybeforwardedtotheCommissionenbanc,togetherwiththe
recommendationsoftheTFHead.
'TheTFHeadreturnedtothecountingcenterattheSuluStateCollegeandcalledhistechnicalstaff
todeterminetheextentofthetechnicalerrorandtoenablehimtosubmittheappropriate
recommendationtotheCommissionenbanc.
"Uponconsultationwiththetechnicalstaff,itwasdiscoveredthatintheMunicipalityofTalipao,some
ofthelocalballotswererejectedbythemachine.Verificationshowedthatwhiletheballotswere
genuine,ballotpaperbearingawrong"sequencecode"wasusedbytheNPOduringtheprinting
process.
"Briefly,thefollowingisthemannerbywhichasequencecode"determinedgenuinenessofaballot.A
municipalityisassignedaspecificmachine(exceptforJolo,whichwasassignedtwo(2)machines,
andsharingofone(1)machinebytwo(2)municipalities,namely,H.P.TahilandMaimbung,Pandami
andK.Caluang,PataandTongkilandPanamaoandLugus).Amachineisthenassignedaspecific
"sequencecode"asoneofthesecurityfeaturestodetectwhethertheballotspassingthroughitare
genuine.Sinceacountingmachineisprogrammedtoreadthespecific"sequencecode"assignedto
it,ballotswhichbeara"sequencecode"assignedtoanothermachine/municipality,evenifsaidballots
weregenuine,willberejectedbythemachine.
"Othermunicipalities,suchasSiasi,Indanan,TapulandJoloalsohadthesameproblemofrejected
ballots.However,sincethemachineoperatorswerenotawarethatoneofthereasonsforrejectionof
ballotsistheuseofwrong"sequencecode",theyfailedtodeterminewhetherthecauseforrejection
ofballotsforsaidmunicipalitieswasthesameasthatforthemunicipalityofTalipao.
"Inthecaseof'misalignedovals',thecountingmachinewillnotrejecttheballotbecauseallthe
securityfeatures,suchas"sequencecode",arepresentintheballot,however,sincetheovalis
misalignedornotplacedinitsproperposition,themachinewillcredittheshadedovalfortheposition
wherethemachineisprogrammedto"read"theoval.Thus,insteadofrejectingtheballot,the
machinewillcreditthevotesofacandidateinfavorofhisopponent,orintheadjacentspacewhere
theovalshouldbeproperlyplaced.
"Itcouldnotbedeterminediftheothermunicipalitiesalsohadthesametechnicalerrorintheirofficial
ballotssincethe"misalignedovals"werediscoveredonlyaftermembersoftheBoardofElection
InspectorsoftheMunicipalityofPatacomplainedthattheirvoteswerenotreflectedintheprintoutof
theelectionreturns.
"Astheextentorcoverageofthetechnicalerrorscouldnotbedetermined,theTFHead,upon
consultationwithhistechnicalstaff,wasofthebeliefthatitwouldbemoreprudenttocounttheballots
manuallythantoproceedwithanautomatedsystemwhichwillresultinanerroneouscount.
"TheTFHeadthusorderedtheindefinitesuspensionofcountingofballotsuntilsuchtimeasthe
Commissionshallhaveresolvedthepetition/positionpaperstobesubmittedbytheparties.TheTF
HeadandhisstaffreturnedtoCampGeneralBautistatoawaitthesubmissionofthepositionpapers
ofthepartiesconcerned.
"Uponreceiptofthepositionpapersoftheparties,theTFHeadfaxedthesameintheevening
ofMay12,1998,togetherwithhishandwrittenrecommendationtoproceedwithamanual
count."AttachedarecopiesoftherecommendationsoftheTFHead(Annex"1"),andtheposition
papersofthePhilippineMarinesandPhilippineNationalPolice(Annex"2"),LAKASNUCDTanWing
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Annex(Annex"3"),LakasNUCDLoongWing(Annex"4"),LAKASNUCDMNLFWing(Annex"5")
andLAMMP(Annex"6").Saidrecommendationsandpositionpaperswerethebasesforthe
promulgationofCOMELECMinuteResolutionNo.981750datedMay13,1998(Annex"7"),directing
amongotherthings,thattheballotsandcountingmachinesbetransportedbyC130toManilaforboth
automatedandmanualoperations.
"MinuteResolutionNo.981750wasreceivedbytheTFHeadthroughfaxonorabout5:30in
theeveningofMay13,1998.Copieswerethenservedthroughpersonaldeliverytotheheads
ofthepoliticalparties,withnoticetothemthatanotherconferencewillbeconductedatthe3rd
MarineBrigadeonMay14,1998at9:00o'clockinthemorning,thistime,withLt.General
JoselinNazareno,thenAFPCommander,SouthernCommand.Attachedisacopyofsaid
notice(Annex"8")bearingthesignaturesofcandidatesTan(Annex"8A")andLoong(Annex
"8B"),andtherepresentativesofcandidatesTulawie(Annex"8C")andJikiri(Annex"8D").
"OnMay14,1998,theTFHeadpresidedoversaidconferenceinthepresenceoftheheadsofthe
politicalpartiesofSulu,togetherwiththeircounsel,includingLt.Gen.Nazareno,Brig.Gen.Subala,
representativesoftheNAMFREL,mediaandthepublic.
"Afterhearingthesidesofallpartiesconcerned,includingthatofNAMFREL,theprocedureby
whichtheballotsandcountingmachinesweretobetransportedtoManilawasfinalized,with
eachpoliticalpartyauthorizedtosendatleastone(1)escort/watcherforeverymunicipalityto
accompanytheballotboxesandcountingmachinesfromthecountingcenterattheSuluState
CollegetotheSuluAirportuptothePICC,wheretheCOMELECwasthenconductingits
SenatorialCanvass.Therebeingfourparties,atotalofseventytwo(72)escorts/watchers
accompaniedtheballotsandcountingmachines.
"TwoC130sleftSuluonMay15,1998totransportalltheballotboxesandcountingmachines,
accompaniedbyalltheauthorizedescorts.SaidballotsboxesreachedthePICConthesame
day,withalltheescorts/watchersallowedtostationthemselvesattheballotboxstoragearea.
OnMay17,1998,anotherC130leftSulutoferrythemembersoftheboardofcanvassers."
Fifth.Theevidenceisclearthattheintegrityofthelocalballotswassafeguardedwhentheywere
transferredfromSulutoManilaandwhentheyweremanuallycounted.
As shown by the Tolentino memorandum, representatives of the political parties escorted the
transfer of ballots from Sulu to PICC. Indeed, in his May 14, 1992 letter to Atty. Tolentino, Jr.,
petitionerTupayLoonghimselfsubmittedthenamesofhisrepresentativeswhowouldaccompanythe
ballotboxesandotherelectionparaphernalia,viz:[20]
"DearAtty.Tolentino:
"Submittedherewitharethenamesofescort(s)toaccompanytheballotboxesandotherelection
pharaphernaliatobetransportedtoCOMELEC,Manila,towit:
1.JoloJosephLu
2.PatikulFathieB.Loong
3.IndananDixonJadi
4.SiasiJamalIsmael
5.K.KaluangEnjimarAbam
6.PataMarvinHassan
7.ParangSiyangLoong
8.PangutaranHji.NasserLoong
9.MarunggasTaibMangkabong
10.LuukJunArbison
11.PandamiOrkanOsman
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12.TongkilUsmanSahidulla
13.TapulAlphawanisTupay
14.LugusPattaAlih
15.MaimbongMikeBangahan
16.P.EstinoYasirlbba
17.PanamaoHambaLoong
18.TalipaoIsmaelSali
"Hopingforyourkindand(sic)considerationforapprovalonthismatter.
"Thankyou.
Verytrulyyours,
(Sgd.)TupayT.Loong
(Sgd.)AsaniS.Tammang"
Theballotboxeswereconsistentlyunderthewatchfuleyesoftheparties'representatives.They
wereplacedinanopenspaceatthePICC.Thewatchersstationedthemselvessomefive(5)meters
awayfromtheballotboxes.Theywatched24hoursadayandsleptatthePICC.[21]
Theparties'watchersagainaccompaniedthetransferoftheballotboxesfromPICCtothepublic
schoolsofPasayCitywheretheballotswerecounted.Afterthecountingtheyoncemoreescortedthe
returnoftheballotboxestoPICC.[22]
In fine, petitioner's charge that the ballots could have been tampered with before the manual
countingistotallyunfounded.
Sixth.Theevidencealsorevealsthattheresultofthemanualcountisreliable.
It bears stressing that the ballots used in the case at bar were specially made to suit an
automatedelection.Theballotswereuncomplicated.Theyhadfairlylargeovalsoppositethenames
ofcandidates.Avoterneededonlytochecktheovaloppositethenameofhiscandidate.When the
COMELEC ordered a manual count of the votes, it issued special rules as the counting involved a
differentkindofballot,albeit,moresimpleballots.TheOmnibusElectionCoderulesonappreciation
ofballotscannotapplyfortheyonlyapplytoelectionswherethenamesofcandidatesarehandwritten
intheballots.TheruleswerespelledoutinMinuteResolution981798,viz:[23]
"InthematteroftheMemorandumdated17May1998ofExecutiveDirectorResurreccionZ.Borra,re
procedureofthecountingofvotesforSulufortheconveningoftheBoardofElectionInspectors,the
MunicipalBoardofCanvassersandtheProvincialBoardofCanvassersonMay18,1998at9:00a.m.
atthePhilippineInternationalConventionCenter(PICC),
'RESOLVEDtoapprovethefollowingprocedureforthecountingofvotesforSuluatthePICC:
'I.CommonProvisions:
'1.Opentheballotbox,retrievetheMinutesofVotingandtheuncountedballotsorthe
envelopecontainingthecountedballotsasthecasemaybe
'2.Segregatethenationalballotsfromthelocalballots
'3.Countthenumberofpiecesofboththenationalandlocalballotsandcomparethesame
withthenumberofvoteswhoactuallyvotedasstatedintheMinutesofVoting:
IfthereisnoMinutesofVoting,refertotheVotingRecordsatthebackoftheVRRsto
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determinethenumberofvoterswhoactuallyvoted.
Iftherearemoreballotsthanthenumberofvoterswhoactuallyvoted,thepollclerkshall
drawoutasmanylocalandnationalballotsasmaybeequaltotheexcessandplace
themintheenvelopeforexcessballots.
'IICountingofVotes
'A.NationalBallots:
'1.Ifthenationalballotshavealreadybeencounted,returnthesameinsidetheenvelopefor
countedballots,resealandplacetheenvelopeinsidetheballotbox
'2.Ifthenationalballotshavenotyetbeencounted,placetheminsideanenvelopeandgive
theenvelopethroughaliaisonofficertothemachineoperatorconcernedforcounting
andprintingoftheelectionreturns
'3.Themachineoperatorshallaffixhissignatureandthumbmarkthereon,andreturnthe
sametothemembersoftheBEIconcernedfortheirsignaturesandthumbmarks
'4.Thesaidreturnsshallthenbeplacedincorrespondingenvelopesfordistribution
'B.LocalBallots:
'1.Groupthelocalballotsinpilesoffifty(50)
'2.TheChairmanshallreadthevoteswhilethepollclerkandthethirdmembershall
simultaneouslyaccomplishtheelectionreturnsandthetallyboardrespectively.
'Ifthevotersshadedmoreovalsthanthenumberofpositionstobevotedfor,no
voteshallbecountedinfavorofanycandidate.
'3.Afterallthelocalballotsshallhavebeenmanuallycounted,thesameshallbegiventothe
machineoperatorconcernedforcountingbythescanningmachine.Themachine
operatorshallthensavetheresultsinadisketteandprintouttheelectionreturnsfor
COMELECreference.
'4.TheBEIshallaccomplishthecertificationportionoftheelectionreturnsandannouncetheresults
'5.Placetheelectionreturnsintheirrespectiveenvelopesanddistributethemaccordingly
'6.Returnallpertinentelectiondocumentsandparaphernaliainsidetheballotbox.
'III.ConsolidationofResults
'A.NationalBallots
'1.Theresultsofthecountingforthenationalballotsforeachmunicipalityshallbe
consolidatedbyusingtheERsoftheautomatedelectionsystem
'2.Aftertheconsolidation,theMachineOperatorshallprintthecertificateofcanvassby
municipalityandstatementofvotesbyprecinct
'3.Toconsolidatetheprovincialresults,theMOshallloadallthediskettesusedinthescannertothe
ERs
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'4.TheMOshallprinttheprovincialcertificateofcanvassandtheSOVbymunicipality
'5.Incasethereissystemfailureinthecountingand/orconsolidationoftheresults,the
POBC/MOBCshallreverttomanualconsolidation.
'B.LocalBallots
'1.TheconsolidationofvotesshallbedonemanuallybytheProvincial/MunicipalBoardof
Canvassers
'2.Theproclamationofwinningcandidatesshallbebasedonthemanualconsolidation.
'RESOLVED,moreover,thatthepertinentprovisionsofCOMELECResolutionNos.
2971and3030shallapply.
'LettheExecutiveDirectorimplementthisresolution."'
Asaforestated,five(5)SpecialBoardswereinitiallycreatedunderAtty.Tolentino,Jr.toundertake
themanualcounting,[24]viz:
"a)Atty.MamasapunodM.Aguam
Ms.GloriaFernandez
Ms.EsperanzaNicolas
b)DirectorEsterL.VillaflorRoxas
Ms.CeliaRomero
Ms.RebeccaMacaraya
c)Atty.ZenaidaS.Soriano
Ms.JocelynGuiang
Ma.JocelynTan
d)Atty.ErlindaC.Echavia
Ms.TeresaA.Torralba
Ms.Ma.CarmenLlamas
e)DirectorEstrellaP.deMesa
Ms.TeresitaVelasco
Ms.NellyJaena"
Later, the COMELEC utilized the services of 600 public school teachers from Pasay City to do the
manualcounting.Five(5)elementaryschoolsservedasthevenuesofthecounting,viz:[25]
"1.GotamcoElementarySchool,GotamcoStreet,PasayCityforthemunicipalitiesofIndanan,
Pangutaran,PanglimaTahil,Maimbung
"2.ZamoraElementarySchool,ZamoraStreet,PasayCityforthemunicipalitiesofJolo,Talipao,
PanglimaEstino,andTapul
"3.EpifanioElementarySchool,TramoStreet,PasayCityforthemunicipalitiesofParang,Lugus,
Panamao
"4.BurgosElementarySchool,BurgosStreet,PasayCityforthemunicipalitiesofLuukandTongkil
5.PalmaElementarySchoolforthemunicipalitiesofSiasiandKalingalangCaluang."
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From beginning to end, the manual counting was done with the watchers of the parties
concernedinattendance.Thereafter,thecertificatesofcanvasswerepreparedandsignedby
the City/Municipal Board of Canvassers composed of the Chairman, ViceChairman, and
Secretary.Theywerealsosignedbytheparties'watchers.[26]
The correctness of the manual count cannot therefore be doubted. There was no need for an
experttocountthevotes.Thenakedeyecouldseethecheckmarksoppositethebigovals. Indeed,
nobody complained that the votes could not be read and counted. The COMELEC representatives
had no difficulty counting the votes.The 600 public school teachers of Pasay City had no difficulty.
Thewatchersofthepartieshadnodifficulty.Petitionerdidnotobjecttotherulesonmanualcounton
thegroundthattheballotscannotbemanuallycounted.Indeed,inhisoriginalPetition,petitionerdid
not complain that the local ballots could not be counted by a layman. Neither did the intervenor
complaininhispetitionforintervention.Theallegationthatitwilltakeatrainedeyetoreadtheballots
ismoreimaginedthanreal.
This is not all. As private respondent Tan alleged, the manual count could not have been
manipulatedinhisfavorbecausetheresultsshowthatmostofhispoliticalopponentswon.Thus,"the
officialresultsshowthatthetwocongressionalseatsinSuluwerewonbyCongressmanHussinAmin
oftheLAKASMNLFWingforthe1stDistrictandCongressmanAsaniTammangoftheLAKASLoong
Wing for the 2nd District. In the provincial level, of the eight (8) seats for the Sangguniang
Panlalawigan,two(2)werewonbythecampofrespondentTanthree(3)bythecampofpetitioner
Loongtwo(2)bytheMNLFandone(1)byLAMMP.Inthemayoralrace,seven(7)outofeighteen
(18) victorious municipal mayors were identified with respondent Tan four (4) with petitioner Loong
three (3) with the MNLF two (2) with LAMMP and one (1) with REPORMA."[27] There is logic to
privaterespondentTan'scontentionthatifthemanualcountwastampered,hiscandidateswouldnot
havemiserablylost.
Seventh.WefurtherholdthatpetitionercannotinsistonautomatedcountingunderR.A.No.8436
afterthemachinesmisreadorrejectedthelocalballotsinfive(5)municipalitiesinSulu.Section9of
R.A.No.8436provides:
"SEC.9.SystemsBreakdownintheCountingCenter.Intheeventofasystemsbreakdownofall
assignedmachinesinthecountingcenter,theCommissionshalluseanyavailablemachineorany
componentthereoffromanothercity/municipalityuponapprovaloftheCommissionEnBancoranyof
itsdivisions.
Thetransferofsuchmachinesoranycomponentthereofshallbeundertakeninthepresenceof
representativesofpoliticalpartiesandcitizens'armoftheCommissionwhoshallbenotifiedbythe
electionofficerofsuchtransfer.
Thereisasystemsbreakdowninthecountingcenterwhenthemachinefailstoreadtheballotsor
failstostore/saveresultsorfailstoprinttheresultsafterithasreadtheballotsorwhenthecomputer
failstoconsolidateelectionresults/reportsorfailstoprintelectionresults/reportsafterconsolidation."
Asthefactsshow,itwasinutilefortheCOMELECtouseothermachinestocountthelocalvotesin
Sulu. The errors in counting were due to the misprinting of ovals and the use of wrong sequence
codesinthelocalballots.Theerrorswerenotmachinerelated.Needlesstostate,tograntpetitioner's
prayertocontinuethemachinecountofthelocalballotswillcertainlyresultinanerroneouscountand
subvertthewilloftheelectorate.
Eighth.InenactingR.A.No.8436,Congressobviouslyfailedtoprovidearemedywheretheerror
in counting is not machinerelated for human foresight is not allseeing.We hold, however, that the
vacuuminthelawcannotpreventtheCOMELECfromlevitatingabovetheproblem.Section2(1)of
ArticleIX(C)oftheConstitutiongivestheCOMELECthebroadpower"toenforceandadministerall
laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum and
recall."Undoubtedly,thetextandintentofthisprovisionistohaveCOMELECallthenecessaryand
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incidentalpowersforittoachievetheobjectiveofholdingfree,orderly,honest,peaceful,andcredible
elections. Congruent to this intent, this Court has not been niggardly in defining the parameters of
powersofCOMELECintheconductofourelections.Thus,weheldinSumulongv.COMELEC:[28]
"Politicsisapracticalmatter,andpoliticalquestionsmustbedealtwithrealisticallynotfromthe
standpointofpuretheory.TheCommissiononElections,becauseofitsfactfindingfacilities,its
contactswithpoliticalstrategists,anditsknowledgederivedfromactualexperienceindealingwith
politicalcontroversies,isinapeculiarlyadvantageouspositiontodecidecomplexpoliticalquestionsx
xx.Therearenoreadymadeformulasforsolvingpublicproblems.Timeandexperienceare
necessarytoevolvepatternsthatwillservetheendsofgoodgovernment.Inthematterofthe
administrationoflawsrelativetotheconductofelection,xxxwemustnotbyanyexcessivezealtake
awayfromtheCommissiononElectionstheinitiativewhichbyconstitutionalandlegalmandates
properlybelongstoit."
Inthecaseatbar,theCOMELECorderforamanualcountwasnotonlyreasonable.Itwastheonly
way to count the decisive local votes in the six (6) municipalities of Pata, Talipao, Siasi, Tudanan,
TapulandJolo.Thebottomlineisthatbymeansofthemanualcount,thewillofthevotersofSulu
washonestlydetermined.Wecannotkickawaythewillofthepeoplebygivingaliteralinterpretation
to R.A. 8436. R.A. 8436 did not prohibit manual counting when machine count does not work.
Countingispartandparceloftheconductofanelectionwhichisunderthecontrolandsupervisionof
the COMELEC. It ought to be selfevident that the Constitution did not envision a COMELEC that
cannotcounttheresultofanelection.
Ninth.Ourelectionsarenotconductedunderlaboratoryconditions.Inrunningforpublicoffices,
candidatesdonotfollowtherulesofEmilyPost.Toooften,COMELEChastomakesnapjudgments
to meet unforseen circumstances that threaten to subvert the will of our voters. In the process, the
actionsofCOMELECmaynotbeimpeccable,indeed,mayevenbedebatable.Wecannot,however,
engageinaswivelchaircriticismoftheseactionsoftentakenunderverydifficultcircumstances.Even
more,wecannotorderaspecialelectionunlessdemandedbyexceptionalcircumstances.Thus,the
pleaforthisCourttocallaspecialelectionforthegovernorshipofSuluiscompletelyoffline.Theplea
can only be grounded on failure of election.Section 6 of the Omnibus Election Code tells us when
thereisafailureofelection,viz:
"Sec.6.Failureofelection.Ifonaccountofforcemajeure,terrorism,fraud,orotheranalogous
causes,theelectioninanypollingplacehasnotbeenheldonthedatefixed,orhadbeensuspended
beforethehourfixedbylawfortheclosingofthevoting,orafterthevotingandduringthepreparation
andthetransmissionoftheelectionreturnsorinthecustodyorcanvassthereof,suchelectionresults
inafailuretoelect,andinanyofsuchcasesthefailureorsuspensionofelectionwouldaffectthe
resultoftheelection,theCommissionshallonthebasisofaverifiedpetitionbyanyinterestedparty
andafterduenoticeandhearing,callfortheholdingorcontinuationoftheelection,notheld,
suspendedorwhichresultedinafailuretoelectbutnotlaterthanthirtydaysafterthecessationofthe
causeofsuchpostponementorsuspensionoftheelectionorfailuretoelect."
To begin with, the plea for a special election must be addressed to the COMELEC and not to this
Court.Section 6 of the Omnibus Election Code should be read in relation to Section 4 of R.A. No.
7166whichprovides:
"Sec.4.Postponement,FailureofElectionandSpecialElections.Thepostponement,
declarationoffailureofelectionsandthecallingofspecialelectionsasprovidedinSections5,6,and
7oftheOmnibusElectionCodeshallbedecidedbytheCommissionenbancbyamajorityvoteofits
members.Thecausesforthedeclarationofafailureofelectionmayoccurbeforeoraftercastingof
votesoronthedayoftheelection."
Thegroundsforfailureofelectionforcemajeure,terrorism,fraudorotheranalogouscausesclearly
involvequestionsoffact.ItisforthisreasonthattheycanonlybedeterminedbytheCOMELECen
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banc after due notice and hearing to the parties. In the case at bar, petitioner never asked the
COMILECenbanctocallforaspecialelectioninSulu.Even in his original petition with this Court,
petitionerdidnotprayforaspecialelection.Hispleaforaspecialelectionisamereafterthought.Too
late in the day and too unprocedural. Worse, the grounds for failure of election are inexistent. The
recordsshowthatthevotersofSuluwereabletocasttheirvotesfreelyandfairly.Theirvoteswere
countedcorrectly,albeitmanually.Thepeoplehavespoken.Theirsovereignwillhastobeobeyed.
ThereisanotherreasonwhyaspecialelectioncannotbeorderedbythisCourt.Toholdaspecial
election only for the position of Governor will be discriminatory and will violate the right of private
respondenttoequalprotectionofthelaw.TherecordsshowthatallelectedofficialsinSuluhavebeen
proclaimed and are now discharging their powers and duties. Thus, two (2) congressmen, a vice
governor,eight(8)membersoftheSangguniangPanlalawiganandeighteen(18)mayors,numerous
vicemayorsandmunicipalcouncilorsarenowservingintheirofficialcapacities.Theseofficialswere
proclaimed on the basis of the same manually counted votes of Sulu. If manual counting is illegal,
theirassumptionofofficecannotalsobecountenanced.Private respondent's election cannot be
singledoutasinvalidforalikescannotbetreatedunalikes.
A final word. Our decision merely reinforces our collective efforts to endow COMELEC with
enoughpowertoholdfree,honest,orderlyandcredibleelections.Aquickflashbackofitshistoryis
necessarylestoureffortsbelostinthelabyrinthoftime.
The COMELEC was organized under Commonwealth Act No. 607 enacted on August 22,1940.
ThepowertoenforceourelectionlawswasoriginallyvestedinthePresidentandexercisedthrough
the Department of Interior. According to Dean Sinco,[29] the view ultimately emerged that an
independentbodycouldbetterprotecttherightofsuffrageofourpeople.Hence,theenforcementof
ourelectionlaws,whileanexecutivepower,wastransferredtotheCOMELEC.
Fromastatutorycreation,theCOMELECwastransformedtoaconstitutionalbodybyvirtueofthe
1940amendmentstothe1935ConstitutionwhichtookeffectonDecember2,1940.COMELECwas
generouslygrantedthepowerto"haveexclusivechargeoftheenforcementandadministrationofall
lawsrelativetotheconductofelectionsxxx."[30]
Thencamethe1973Constitution.ItfurtherbroadenedthepowersofCOMELECbymakingitthe
soleJudgeofallelectioncontestsrelatingtotheelection,returnsandqualificationsofmembersofthe
national legislature and elective provincial and city officials.[31] In fine, the COMELEC was given
judicialpowerasidefromitstraditionaladministrativeandexecutivefunctions.
The 1987 Constitution quickened this trend of strengthening the COMELEC. Today, COMLEC
enforces and administers all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of elections, plebiscites,
initiatives, referenda and recalls. Election contests involving regional, provincial and city elective
officials are under its exclusive original jurisdiction. All contests involving elective municipal and
barangayofficialsareunderitsappellatejurisdiction.[32]
OurdecisionshavebeenincadencewiththemovementtowardsempoweringtheCOMELECin
order that it can more effectively perform its duty of safeguarding the sanctity of our elections. In
Cautonvs.COMELEC,[33]welaiddownthisliberalapproach,viz:
xxx
'ThepurposeoftheRevisedElectionCodeistoprotecttheintegrityofelectionsandtosuppressall
evilsthatmayviolateitspurityanddefeatthewillofthevoters.Thepurityoftheelectionsisoneofthe
mostfundamentalrequisitesofpopulargovernment.TheCommissiononElections,byconstitutional
mandate,mustdoeverythinginitspowertosecureafairandhonestcanvassofthevotescastinthe
elections.Intheperformanceofitsduties,theCommissionmustbegivenaconsiderablelatitudein
adoptingmeansandmethodsthatwillinsuretheaccomplishmentofthegreatobjectiveforwhichit
wascreatedtopromotefree,orderly,andhonestelections.Thechoiceofmeanstakenbythe
CommissiononElections,unlesstheyareclearlyillegalorconstitutegraveabuseof
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discretion,shouldnotbeinterferedwith."
In Pacis vs. COMELEC,[34] we reiterated the guiding principle that "clean elections control the
appropriateness of the remedy." The dissent, for all its depth, is out of step with this movement. It
condemnstheCOMELECforexercisingitsdiscretiontoresorttomanualcountwhenthiswasitsonly
viablealternative.It would set aside the results of the manual count even when the results are free
fromfraudandirregularity.Worse,itwouldsetasidethejudgmentofthepeopleelectingtheprivate
respondent as Governor. Upholding the sovereignty of the people is what democracy is all
about. When the sovereignty of the people expressed thru the ballot is at stake, it is not
enoughforthisCourttomakeastatementbutitshoulddoeverythingtohavethatsovereignty
obeyedbyall.Welldoneisalwaysbetterthanwellsaid.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition of Tupay Loong and the petition in intervention of Yusop Jikiri
aredismissed,therebeingnoshowingthatpublicrespondentgravelyabuseditsdiscretioninissuing
Minute Resolution Nos. 981748, 981750, 981796 and 981798.Our status quo order of June 23,
1998islifted.Nocosts.
SOORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Quisumbing, Purisima,
Buena,andGonzagaReyes,JJ.,concur.
Pardo,J.,Nopart.
Panganiban,J.,seedissentingopinion.
YnaresSantiago,J.,nopart.Didnotparticipateinthedeliberation.
[1]SeeReportofCharlemagneSalamatAlejandro,PoliceSuperintendent,GSC,ProvincialDirector,pp.12Rollo,pp.318
319.
[2]SeeMemorandumofAtty.Tolentino,Jr.toAtty.JoseBalbuena,DirectorIV,LegalDepartment,Comelec,pp.12Rollo,
pp.284285.
[3]Ibid.,p.3Rollo,p.286.
[4]Ibid.,p.4Rollo,p.287.
[5]Ibid.,p.6Rollo,p.289.
[6]Rollo,pp.303304.
[7]Ibid.,pp.2526.
[8]Rollo,pp.299301.
[9]Rollo,pp.2729.
[10]Rollo,pp.290291.
[11]Ibid.
[12]Ibid.,pp.3032
[13]Rollo,pp.3745.
[14]Rollo,p.54.
[15]Ibid.,p.46.
[16]Ibid.,pp.157184.
[17]Ibid.,p.330.
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[18]Ibid.,p.392.
[19]FilipinoEngineeringandMachineShopv.Ferrer,135SCRA25(1985).
[20]Rollo,p.314.
[21]SupplementalMemorandumoftheSolicitorGeneral,pp.1112Rollo,pp.433434.
[22]Tolentinomemorandum,op.Cit.,p.14Rollo,p.297.
[23]Rollo,pp.3435.
[24]SeeRosolutionNo.981796.
[25]Rollo,p.328.
[26]Rollo,pp.6297.
[27]Memorandum,p.9Rollo,p.264.
[28]73Phil.288,295296(1941).
[29]PhilippinePoliticalLaw,1962ed.,pp.383386.
[30]Section2,Art.Xofthe1935Constitution.
[31]Section2,Art.XII(c)ofthe1973Constitution.
[32]Section2,Art.IX(C)ofthe1987Constitution.
[33]19SCRA911922(1967).
[34]25SCRA377,388(1968).

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