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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila

AM. No. 07-4-15-SC

RULES OF PROCEDURE IN ELECTION CONTESTS BEFORE THE COURTS INVOLVING


ELECTIVE MUNICIPAL AND BARANGAY OFFICIALS

PURSUANT to the provisions of Article VIII, Section 5(5) of the Constitution, and in order to
achieve an expeditious, inexpensive and just determination of election cases before the
courts, the Supreme Court hereby adopts and promulgates the following rules.

RULE 1
SCOPE

SECTION 1. Coverage. - These Rules shall govern the filing of pleadings, practice and
procedure in election protests and petitions for quo warranto before courts of general
jurisdiction and courts of limited jurisdiction relating to elective municipal and barangay
officials.

SEC. 2. Application of the Rules of Court. - The Rules of Court shall apply by analogy or
in a suppletory character, and whenever practicable and convenient.

SEC. 3. Definitions. - As used in these Rules:

(a) Courts - refer to the Regional Trial Courts or the Municipal Trial Courts, including
the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts
and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.

(b) Election - means the choice or selection of candidates to public office by popular
vote through the use of the ballot. Specifically, it may refer to the conduct of the polls,
including the listing of voters, the holding of the electoral campaign, and the casting
and counting of ballots and canvassing of returns.

(c) Election Contests - refer to election protests or petitions for quo warranto.

(d) Election Protest - refers to an election contest relating to the election and returns
of elective officials, grounded on frauds or irregularities in the conduct of the
elections, the casting and counting of the ballots and the preparation and canvassing
of returns. The issue is who obtained the plurality of valid votes cast.

(e) Quo Warranto under the Omnibus Election Code - refers to an election contest
relating to the qualifications of an elective official on the ground of ineligibility or
disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines. The issue is whether respondent
possesses all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications prescribed by law.

(f) Revision of Ballots - refers to the process of a recount of the ballots involving
physical counting and segregation of ballots for the protestant, protestee and other
candidates for the same position and the recording of objections and claims to
ballots.

(g) Promulgation - refers to the process by which a decision is published, officially


announced, made known to the public and delivered to the clerk of court for filing,
coupled with notice to the parties or their counsel.

SEC. 4. Inherent powers of the court. - When performing its functions, a court shall have
the inherent power to:

(a) Preserve and enforce order in its immediate presence;

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(b) Enforce order in proceedings before it, or before a person or persons empowered
to conduct a judicial investigation under its authority;

(c) Compel obedience to its judgments, orders and processes, and to the lawful
orders of a judge out of court, in a case pending therein;

(d) Control, in furtherance of justice, the conduct of its ministerial officers, and of all
other persons in any manner connected with a case before it, in every manner
appertaining thereto;

(e) Compel the attendance of persons to testify in a case pending therein;

(f) Administer or cause to be administered oaths in a case pending therein, and in all
other cases where it may be necessary in the exercise of its powers;

(g) Amend and control its processes and orders so as to make them conformable to
law and justice; and

(h) Authorize a copy of a lost or destroyed pleading or other paper to be filed and
used instead of the original and to restore and supply deficiencies in its records and
proceedings.

SEC. 5. Means to carry jurisdiction into effect. - All auxiliary writs, processes, and other
means necessary to carry into effect its powers or jurisdiction may be employed by the court
and, if the procedure to be followed in the exercise of such jurisdiction is not specifically
provided by law or these Rules, the court may adopt any suitable process or mode of
process which appears conformable to the spirit of said law or rules.

RULE 2
ELECTION CONTESTS

SECTION 1. Jurisdiction of regional trial courts. - Regional trial courts shall have
exclusive original jurisdiction over all election contests involving elective municipal officials.

SEC. 2. Jurisdiction of municipal trial courts. - Municipal trial courts shall have exclusive
original jurisdiction over all election contests involving elective barangay officials.

SEC. 3. How initiated. - An election contest is initiated by the filing of an election protest or
a petition for quo warranto against an elective municipal or barangay official. An election
protest or a petition for quo warranto shall be filed directly with the proper court in three
legible copies plus such number of copies corresponding to the number of protestees or
respondents.

An election protest shall not include a petition for quo warranto, nor shall a petition for quo
warranto include an election protest.

SEC. 4. Modes of service and filing. - Service and filing of pleadings, including the
initiatory petition and other papers, shall be done personally. Except with respect to papers
emanating from the court, a resort to other modes of service must be accompanied by a
written explanation why the service or filing was not done personally. A violation of this Rule
shall be cause to consider the pleading or paper as not filed.

SEC. 5. Election protest. - A petition contesting the election or returns of an elective


municipal or barangay official shall be filed with the proper regional trial court or municipal
trial court by any candidate who was voted for the same office and who received the second
or third highest number of votes or, in a multi-slot position, was among the next four
candidates following the last-ranked winner duly proclaimed, as reflected in the official
results of the election contained in the Statement of Votes By Precinct. The party filing the
protest shall be designated as the protestant; the adverse party shall be known as the
protestee.

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Each contest shall refer exclusively to one office; however, contests for offices
of Sangguniang Bayan or Sangguniang Barangay may be consolidated in one case.

SEC. 6. Quo Warranto. - A petition for quo warranto against an elective municipal or
barangay official shall be filed with the proper regional trial court or municipal trial court by
any registered voter who has voted in the election concerned. The party filing the petition
shall be designated as the petitioner; the adverse party shall be known as the respondent.

SEC. 7. Petition must be verified and accompanied by a certificate of non-forum


shopping. - An election protest or a petition for quo warranto shall be verified by an affidavit
stating that the affiant has read the petition and that the allegations therein are true and
correct of affiant's own knowledge or based on authentic records. A verification based on
"information and belief" or upon the "knowledge, information and belief" is not a sufficient
verification.

The protestant or petitioner shall sign personally the certificate of non-forum shopping which
must be annexed to the election protest or petition for quo warranto.

An unverified petition or one with insufficient verification or unaccompanied by a certificate of


non-forum shopping shall be dismissed outright and shall not suspend the running of the
reglementary period to file an election protest or petition for quo warranto.

SEC. 8. Period to file protest or petition; non-extendible. - The election protest or petition
for quo warranto shall be filed within the non-extendible period of ten days following the
date of proclamation.1

SEC. 9. Pendency of pre-proclamation controversy. - The pendency of a pre-


proclamation controversy involving the validity of the proclamation as defined by law shall
suspend the running of the period to file an election protest or petition for quo warranto.

SEC. 10. COMELEC judgment in disqualification case. - A decision of the Commission on


Elections, either in division or en banc, in a disqualification case shall not bar the filing of a
petition for quo warranto based on the same ground, except when the Supreme Court has
affirmed the COMELEC decision.

SEC. 11. Contents of the protest or petition. - An election protest or petition for quo
warranto shall specifically state the following facts:

(a) the position involved;

(b) the date of proclamation; and

(c) the number of votes credited to the parties per proclamation.

An election protest shall also state:

(d) the total number of precincts of the municipality or the barangay concerned;

(e) the protested precincts and votes of the parties in the protested precincts per the
Statement of Votes By Precinct or, if the votes of the parties are not specified, an
explanation why the votes are not specified; and

(f) a detailed specification of the acts or omissions complained of showing the


electoral frauds, anomalies or irregularities in the protested precincts.

SEC. 12. Raffle of cases. - The Supreme Court shall designate the courts which shall take
cognizance of election protests and petitions for quo warranto. Assignment of cases to such
courts shall be done exclusively through raffle conducted by the executive judge or by the

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judges designated by the Supreme Court. No court may assume jurisdiction over an election
contest unless assigned to it by raffle. Twenty-four hours before the raffle, the clerk of court
must serve notice personally on the parties, stating its date and time. Proof of service shall
be submitted. The raffle shall be open to the public. The Supreme Court shall issue the
necessary circular implementing this proviso.

The Court may order a change of venue or place of trial for compelling reasons to avoid a
miscarriage of justice.

SEC. 13. Summary dismissal of election contest. - The court shall summarily
dismiss, motu proprio, an election protest, counter-protest or petition for quo warranto on any
of the following grounds:

(a) The court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter;

(b) The petition is insufficient in form and content as required in Section 11 hereof;

(c) The petition is filed beyond the period prescribed in these Rules;

(d) The filing fee is not paid within the period for filing the election protest or petition
for quo warranto; and

(e) In case of protest where a cash deposit is required, the cash deposit is not paid
within five days from the filing of the protest.

RULE 3
SUMMONS

SECTION 1. Summons. - Within twenty-four hours from the filing of the protest or petition,
the clerk of court shall issue the corresponding summons to the protestee or respondent,
together with a copy of the protest or petition, requiring the filing of an answer within a non-
extendible period of five days from notice.

SEC. 2. Service of summons. - The summons shall be served by handing a copy to the
protestee or respondent in person or, in case of refusal of the protestee or respondent to
receive and sign for it, by tendering the same.

If, for justifiable causes, the protestee or respondent cannot be served in person as provided
above, service may be effected by leaving copies of the summons at:

(a) the residence of protestee or respondent with some person of suitable age and
discretion residing therein, or

(b) the office or regular place of business of protestee or respondent with some
competent person in charge thereof.

SEC. 3. By whom served. - The summons shall be served by the sheriff, deputy sheriff,
process server or any suitable person authorized by the court issuing the summons.

RULE 4
ANSWER AND COUNTER-PROTEST

SECTION 1. Verified answer; counter-protest. - The answer shall be verified and may set
forth admissions and denials, special and affirmative defenses and a compulsory
counterclaim. The protestee may incorporate a counter-protest in the answer. Within five
days from receipt of the summons and a copy of the protest or petition, the protestee or
respondent shall file an answer in three legible copies, with proof of service of a copy upon
the protestant or petitioner.

The counter-protest shall specify the counter-protested precincts and any votes of the parties
therein per the Statement of Votes By Precinct, or, if not so specified, an explanation why the

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votes are not specified, and a detailed specification of the acts or omissions complained of
showing the electoral frauds, anomalies or irregularities in the counter-protested precincts.

SEC. 2. Answer to counterclaim or counter-protest. - The protestant or petitioner shall


answer the counterclaim or counter-protest within a non-extendible period of five days from
notice.

SEC. 3. Allegations in the answer. -

(a) Specific denial. - A protestee or respondent must specify each material allegation
of fact the truth of which is not admitted and, whenever practicable, shall set forth the
substance of the matters relied upon in support of the denial. The protestee or
respondent shall specify so much of the averments that are true and material and
shall deny the remainder.

(b) Allegations not specifically denied deemed admitted. - Material averment in the
protest or petition, other than the amount of unliquidated damages and issues as to
the appreciation of ballots, shall be deemed admitted when not specifically denied.

SEC. 4. Effect of failure to plead. -

(a) Defenses and objections not pleaded. - Defenses and objections not pleaded are
deemed waived. However, when it appears from the pleadings or the evidence on
record that the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter, that there is another
action pending between the same parties for the same cause, or that the action is
barred by a prior judgment or the statute of limitations, the court shall dismiss the
claim.

(b) Compulsory counterclaim or cross-claim not set up barred. - A compulsory


counterclaim, or a cross-claim not set up shall be barred.

(c) Effect of failure to answer. -I n an election protest that does not involve ballot
revision or a petition for quo warranto, if the protestee or respondent fails to file an
answer within the time allowed, the court shall, upon motion of the protestant or
petitioner with notice to the protestee or respondent and upon proof of such failure,
proceed to render judgment on the basis of the allegations of the verified election
protest or petition for quo warranto granting the relief prayed for, unless the court in
its discretion requires the protestant or petitioner to submit evidence ex parte.

However, in the case of election protests involving ballot revision or examination, verification
or re-tabulation of the election returns, the court shall order such revision of ballots or
examination, verification or re-tabulation of election returns. The court shall proceed to
render judgment based on the results of the revision or examination, verification or re-
tabulation of election returns. During the revision or examination, verification or re-tabulation
of election returns, only the revisors of the protestant may participate. The protestee or duly
authorized representative has the right to be present and observe the proceedings without
the right to object and make claims to ballots and election returns.

SEC. 5. How to compute time. - In computing any period of time prescribed or allowed by
these Rules, or by order of the court, or by any applicable statute, the day of the act or event
from which the designated period of time begins to run is to be excluded and the date of
performance included. If the last day of the period, as thus computed, falls on a Saturday, a
Sunday, or a legal holiday in the place where the court sits, the time shall not run until the
next working day.

SEC. 6. Amendments; limitations. - After the expiration of the period for the filing of the
election protest, counter-protest or petition for quo warranto, substantial amendments that
broaden the scope of the action or introduce an additional cause or causes of action may be
allowed only upon leave of court. Such leave may be refused if it appears to the court that
the motion was made with intent to delay. Any amendment in matters of form, such as a
defect in the designation of the parties and other clearly clerical or typographical errors, may

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be summarily corrected by the court at any stage of the proceedings, at its initiative or on
motion, provided no prejudice is caused thereby to the adverse party.

RULE 5
MOTIONS

SECTION 1. Motions must be in writing. - Except those made in open court during the
course of the proceedings, all motions shall be in writing.

SEC. 2. Proof of service necessary. - No written motion shall be acted upon by the court
without proof of service on the adverse party.

SEC. 3. No hearings on motions. - Motions shall not be set for hearing, unless the court
directs otherwise. No oral argument shall be allowed in support thereof. The adverse party
may file written objections five days from its service upon the expiration of which such motion
is deemed submitted for resolution. The court shall resolve the motion within five days.

RULE 6
PROHIBITED PLEADINGS

SECTION 1. Prohibited pleadings and motions. - The following pleadings, motions or


petitions shall not be allowed in the cases covered by these Rules:

(a) Motion to dismiss the petition except on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the
subject matter;

(b) Motion for a bill of particulars;

(c) Demurrer to evidence;

(d) Motion for new trial, or for reconsideration of a judgment, or for reopening of trial;

(e) Petition for relief from judgment;

(f) Motion for extension of time to file pleadings, affidavits or other papers;

(g) Memoranda, except as provided under Section 7, Rule 13 of these Rules;

(h) Motion to declare the protestee or respondent in default;

(i) Dilatory motion for postponement;

(j) Motion to inhibit the presiding judge except on clearly valid grounds;

(k) Reply or rejoinder; and

(l) Third-party complaint.

SEC. 2. Grounds to dismiss must be set up in the answer. - All grounds to dismiss an
election protest or petition for quo warranto must be set up or pleaded as affirmative or
special defenses. Defenses not raised are deemed waived. The court may, in its discretion,
hold a preliminary hearing on the grounds so pleaded.

RULE 7
FILING FEES AND CASH DEPOSITS

SECTION 1. Filing fees. - No protest, counter-protest or petition for quo warranto shall be
accepted for filing without the payment of a filing fee in the amount of Three Thousand Pesos
(P3,000.00) for each interest.

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If claims for damages and attorney's fees are set forth in a protest or counter-protest,
additional filing fees shall be paid in accordance with the schedule provided for in Rule 141
of the Rules of Court, as amended.

SEC. 2. Cash deposit. - (a) In addition to the fees prescribed in the preceding section, the
protestant in an election protest requiring revision of ballots or examination, verification or re-
tabulation of election returns, or which may require the bringing to the court of copies of other
election documents and paraphernalia, shall make a cash deposit with the court in the
following amounts:

(1) One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00) for each precinct involved in the protest or
counter-protest; provided that, in no case shall the deposit be less than Twenty-Five
Thousand Pesos (P25,000.00) to be paid upon the filing of the election protest
(counter-protest);

(2) If the amount to be deposited does not exceed One Hundred Thousand Pesos
(P100,000.00), the same shall be paid in full within ten days after the filing of the
protest; and

(3) If the deposit exceeds One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00), a cash
deposit in the amount of One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) shall be
made within ten days after the filing of the protest.

The balance shall be paid in such installments as may be required by the court with
at least five days advance notice to the party required to make the deposit.

The cash deposit shall be applied by the court to the payment of the compensation of
revisors as provided under Section 3, Rule 10 of these Rules and of all expenses incidental
to revision but not limited to supplies and miscellaneous expenses of the revision committee.
When the court determines that the circumstances so demand, as when the deposit has
been depleted, it may require additional cash deposits. Any unused cash deposit shall be
returned to the party making the same after complete termination of the protest or counter-
protest.

The same amount of cash deposit shall be required from the protestee (counter-protestant),
should continuation of revision be ordered pursuant to paragraph 2, Section 9, Rule 10 of
these Rules. Once required, the protestee (counter-protestant) shall pay the cash deposit
within a non-extendible period of three days from receipt of the corresponding order.

(b) Failure to make the cash deposits required within the prescribed time limit shall result in
the automatic dismissal of the protest, or counter-protest.

RULE 8
PRODUCTION AND CUSTODY OF BALLOT BOXES AND ELECTION DOCUMENTS

SECTION 1. Issuance of precautionary protection order. - Where the allegations in a


protest so warrant, and simultaneously with the issuance of summons, the court shall order
the municipal treasurer and election officer concerned to take immediate steps or measures
to safeguard the integrity of all the ballot boxes, lists of voters with voting records, books of
voters and other documents or paraphernalia used in the election.

SEC. 2. When ballot boxes and election documents are brought before the court. -
Within forty-eight hours from receipt of the answer with counter-protest, if any, and whenever
the allegations in a protest or counter-protest so warrant, the court shall order the ballot
boxes with their keys, lists of voters with voting records, books of voters and other
documents or paraphernalia involved in the protest or counter-protest, to be brought before
it.

The court shall notify the parties of the date and time for the retrieval from their respective
custodians of the ballot boxes and election documents. The parties may send
representatives to witness the activity. The absence, however, of a representative of a party

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shall not be reason to postpone or delay the bringing of the ballot boxes and election
documents into the custody of the court.

The court, in its discretion, may seek the assistance of the Philippine National Police or the
Armed Forces of the Philippines in ensuring the safe delivery of the ballot boxes and election
paraphernalia into the custody of the court.

Where any of the ballot boxes, ballots, election returns, election documents or paraphernalia
mentioned in the first paragraph above are also involved in election contests before other
fora , such as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, the Senate Electoral Tribunal, the House of
Representatives Electoral Tribunal or the Commission on Elections, which, under COMELEC
Resolution No. 2812 dated 17 October 1995, have preferential right over the custody and
revision of ballots involved in simultaneous protests, the court shall make the appropriate
coordination and request with the higher tribunal involved as to temporary prior custody of
ballot boxes and revision of ballots and other documents, or synchronization of such revision
of ballots and other election documents.

The expenses necessary and incidental to the bringing of the ballot boxes and election
documents shall be shouldered and promptly paid by the protestant. The expenses
necessary and incidental to the return of the ballot boxes and election documents to their
original custodians or the proper tribunal after the termination of the case shall be shared
proportionately by the protestant and protestee based on the number of precincts
respectively contested by them.

RULE 9
PRELIMINARY CONFERENCE

SECTION 1. Preliminary conference; mandatory. - Within three days after filing of the last
responsive pleading allowed by these Rules, or the expiration of the same period without any
responsive pleading having been filed, the court shall conduct a mandatory preliminary
conference among the parties to consider:

(1) The simplification of issues;

(2) The necessity or desirability of amendments to the pleadings;

(3) The possibility of obtaining stipulations or admission of facts and of documents to


avoid unnecessary proof;

(4) The limitation of the number of witnesses;

(5) The nature of the testimonies of the witnesses and whether they relate to
evidence aliunde the ballots, or otherwise;

(6) The withdrawal of certain protested or counter-protested precincts (especially


those where the ballot boxes or ballots are unavailable or are missing and cannot be
located or destroyed due to natural disasters or calamities);

(7) The number of revision committees to be constituted;

(8) The procedure to be followed in case the election protest or counter-protest


seeks, wholly or partially, the examination, verification or re-tabulation of election
returns; and

(9) Such other matters as may aid in the prompt disposition of the case.

SEC. 2. Notice through counsel. - The notice of preliminary conference shall be served on
counsel or on the party who has no counsel. Notice to counsel is notice to the party, as
counsel is charged with the duty to notify the party represented.

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SEC. 3. Appearances of parties. - It shall be the duty of the parties and counsel to appear
before the court in person at the preliminary conference.

SEC. 4. Preliminary conference brief. - The parties shall file with the court and serve on
the adverse party, in such manner as shall ensure their receipt at least one day before the
date of the preliminary conference, their respective briefs which shall contain the following:

(1) A summary of admitted facts and proposed stipulation of facts;

(2) The issues to be tried or resolved;

(3) The pre-marked documents or exhibits to be presented, stating their purpose;

(4) A manifestation of their having availed or their intention to avail themselves of


discovery procedures or referral to commissioners;

(5) The number and names of the witnesses, their addresses, and the substance of
their respective testimonies. The testimonies of the witnesses shall be by affidavits in
question and answer form as their direct testimonies, subject to oral cross
examination;

(6) A manifestation of withdrawal of certain protested or counter-protested precincts,


if such is the case;

(7) The proposed number of revision committees and names of their revisors and
alternate revisors; and

(8) In case the election protest or counter-protest seeks the examination, verification
or re-tabulation of election returns, the procedure to be followed.

SEC. 5. Failure tofile brief. - Failure to file the brief or to comply with its required contents
shall have the same effect as failure to appear at the preliminary conference.

SEC. 6. Effect of failure to appear. - The failure of the protestant or counsel to appear at
the preliminary conference shall be cause for dismissal, motu proprio , of the protest or
counter-protest. The failure of the protestee or counsel to appear at the preliminary
conference shall have the same effect as provided in Section 4(c), Rule 4 of these Rules,
that is, the court may allow the protestant to present evidence ex parte and render judgment
based on the evidence presented.

SEC. 7. Preliminary conference order. - Within three days following the date of the
preliminary conference, the court shall issue an order summarizing the matters taken up and
stipulations or agreements reached during the conference. The court shall specify in the
preliminary conference order when the revision of ballots will commence, which shall be
within five days from the termination of the preliminary conference.

RULE 10
REVISION OF BALLOTS

SECTION 1. Start of revision. - The revision of ballots shall commence on the date
specified in the preliminary conference order.

SEC. 2. Revision committee; under the supervision of the court. - There shall be
constituted such number of revision committees as may be necessary. Each revision
committee shall be composed of a chairperson and two members, one designated by the
protestant and another designated by the protestee. The court shall designate the
chairperson from among its personnel. The parties shall also designate their respective
substitute revisors.

The revision committee shall conduct the revision in the court premises or at such other
place as may be designated by the court, in every case under its strict supervision.

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The revisors shall discharge their duties with the highest degree of integrity, conducting the
proceedings with the same dignity and discipline as if undertaken by the court itself. They
shall exercise extraordinary diligence and take precautionary measures to prevent the loss,
disappearance or impairment of the integrity(such as marking or spoilage by any means) of
the ballots and election documents.

SEC. 3. Compensation of the revisors. - The court shall fix the compensation of the
revisors at Four Hundred Pesos(P400.00) per ballot box for the chairperson and One
Hundred Fifty Pesos (P150.00) per ballot box for each party revisor. The party revisors shall
be entitled to an additional per diem of Five Hundred Pesos (P500.00) each per day. This
compensation shall be chargeable against the cash deposit as provided for in Section 2,
Rule 7 of these Rules.

SEC. 4. Continuous revision. -

(a) Period for revision. - Revision shall be conducted from 8:30 o'clock in the morning
to 12:00 noon and from 1:30 to 4:30 o'clock in the afternoon from Monday to Friday,
except on non-working holidays. The revisors may take a fifteen-minute break in
each session.

(b) Revision to continue even if a party revisor is absent or late. - The revision of
ballots shall not be delayed or postponed by reason of the absence or tardiness of a
party revisor or substitute revisor, as long as the chairperson and one party revisor
are present. The court may at any time designate another chairperson if the regular
chairperson fails for any reason to report.

(c) If the revisor of the protestee is absent or late. - If the revisor of the protestee is
absent or late for thirty minutes and no alternate appears as a substitute, the revision
shall, nevertheless, commence; the protestee shall be deemed to have waived the
right to appear and to object to the ballots in the precinct or precincts scheduled for
revision on that particular day.

(d) If the revisor of protestant or the revisors of both parties fail to appear. - If the
revisor of the protestant or the revisors of both parties and alternates fail to appear
for no justifiable reason within one hour after fixed hours from the start of the
revision, the ballot boxes scheduled for revision on that day, and the corresponding
keys in the possession of the chairperson, shall be returned to the ballot box
custodian of the court and shall no longer be revised; it is understood that the parties
waive their right to revise the same, and the chairperson concerned shall state such
facts in the corresponding revision report.

SEC. 5. Prohibited access. - During the revision of ballots, no person other than the judge,
the clerk of court, the chairperson and the members of the revision committees, the parties
and their duly authorized representatives, shall have access to the revision area.

SEC. 6. Preparation and submission of revision report. - The committee shall prepare
and submit to the court a revision report per precinct stating the following:

(a) the precinct number;

(b) the date, place and time of revision;

(c) the votes of the parties per physical count;

(d) the condition and serial numbers of the following:

(1) ballot boxes;

(2) self-locking security metal or plastic seals(inner and outer) and padlocks
of the ballot boxes;

(3) security envelopes containing the election returns; and

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(4) numbered paper seal of the envelopes;

(e) the votes of the parties per ballot-box copy of the election returns and per the tally
sheet/board found inside the ballot box;

(f) the number of ballots objected to by the parties indicating therein the exhibit
numbers;

(g) the grounds of objections;

(h) the number of stray ballots;

(i) the claims on ballots with their exhibit numbers; and

(j) the entries in the Minutes of Voting and Counting, particularly:

(1) the number of registered voters;

(2) the number of voters who actually voted;

(3) the number of official ballots together with their serial numbers used in the
election;

(4) the number of ballots actually used indicating the serial numbers of the
ballots; and

(5) the unused ballots together with their serial numbers.

The revision forms shall be made available prior to revision. The per-precinct revision report
shall be signed and certified to by the chairperson and the revisors of the parties, and shall
form part of the records of the case. A copy of the required form for the revision report is
hereto attached.

In addition to the per-precinct revision report, the revision committee shall also prepare and
submit to the court, within three days from termination of the revision, a committee report
summarizing the data, votes, ballot objections and claims, and significant observations made
in the revision of ballots from the protested precincts and later from the counter-protested
precincts, if so conducted based on the provisions of Section 9 hereof. Each party furnished
with a copy of the committee report may submit their comments thereon within a non-
extendible period of three days from notice.

SEC. 7. Order of revision. - Revision of ballots shall start with those from the protested
precincts, subject to the provisions of Section 9 hereof.

SEC. 8. Inquiry as to security markings and vital information relative to ballots and
election documents. - When a revision of ballots is ordered, and for the guidance of the
revisors, the court shall inquire about the security markings on the ballots and election
documents from the Chairman, Commission on Elections, who shall be obliged to indicate
such markings and other vital information that may aid the court in determining the
authenticity of ballots and election documents. The parties shall be notified of the results of
such inquiry.

SEC. 9. Post-revision determination of the merit or legitimacy of protest prior to


revision of counter-protest.- Immediately after the revision of ballots or the examination,
verification or re-tabulation of election returns in all protested precincts, the protestant shall
be required to pinpoint a number of precincts, corresponding to twenty percent of the total
revised protested precincts, that will best attest to the votes recovered or will best exemplify
the frauds or irregularities pleaded in the protest. In the meanwhile, the revision of ballots or
the examination, verification or re-tabulation of election returns in the counter-protested
precincts shall be suspended for a period not exceeding fifteen days, during which the court

11
shall determine through appreciation of ballots or election documents the merit or legitimacy
of the protest relative to the twenty percent pinpointed precincts.

Based on the results of such post-revision determination, the court may dismiss the protest
without further proceedings, if and when no reasonable recovery was established from the
twenty percent pinpointed precincts, or proceed with revision of the ballots or the
examination, verification or re-tabulation of election returns in the counter-protested
precincts. In the latter case, the protestee shall be required to pay the cash deposit within a
non-extendible period of three days from notice.

SEC. 10. Continuation of appreciation of ballots. - While the ballots or election


documents from the counter-protested precincts are being revised, the court shall continue
with its appreciation of ballots from the remaining revised eighty percent protested precincts
and, once completed, shall proceed with the appreciation of ballots from the counter-
protested precincts.

RULE 11
TECHNICAL EXAMINATION

SECTION 1. Motion for technical examination; contents. - A party may move for the
technical examination within five days after completion of revision in the protest or counter-
protest, except when it involves allegation of massive substitute voting in the protest or
counter-protest, specifying:

(a) The nature of the technical examination requested (e.g., fingerprint


examination, etc.);

(b) The documents to be subjected to technical examination;

(c) The objections made in the course of the revision of ballots which the movant
intends to substantiate with the results of the technical examination; and

(d) The ballots covered by such objections.

SEC. 2. Technical examination; time limits. - The court may grant the motion for technical
examination at its discretion and under such conditions it may impose. If the motion is
granted, the technical examination shall start within five days from notice to both parties and
shall be completed within the period specified by the court, in no case to exceed twenty
successive working days, unless the court grants an extension based on exceptionally
meritorious ground. A party may attend the technical examination, either personally or
through a representative. However, the technical examination shall proceed with or without
the attendance of the party, provided due notice has been given to the party.

The expenses for technical examination shall be for the account of the party requesting the
examination and under the supervision of the clerk of court.

SEC. 3. Experts; who shall provide. - Experts necessary for the conduct of technical
examination shall be provided by the party requesting the same and may come from the
National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police(PNP) Crime Laboratory, the
Commission on Elections, or experts in private practice. The other party may secure the
services of an expert who may only observe, not interfere with, the examination conducted
by the experts of the movant.

RULE 12
PHOTOCOPYING OF BALLOTS

SECTION 1. Photocopying simultaneous with revision. - On motion of a party, the court


may allow the photocopying of ballots and election documents, upon such terms and
conditions as it may impose. The photocopying, if allowed, must start at the commencement
of revision and, as far as practicable, must be completed simultaneously with the termination
of revision.

12
SEC. 2. Where conducted; parties to provide own photocopying units. - Photocopying
shall be done within the premises of the court, near the revision area, and shall be under the
supervision of the clerk of court. The party concerned shall provide an efficient photocopying
unit and shall bear all expenses relative thereto.

RULE 13
PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE

SECTION 1. Presentation and reception of evidence; order of hearing. - If at the


preliminary conference the parties have agreed on issues aliunde the ballots or other
election documents (e.g., vote-buying, fraud, terrorism or violence), the reception of evidence
on the issues, including the testimonies of witnesses, shall be done simultaneously with the
revision of ballots.

The reception of evidence on all other matters or issues incidental to or interwoven with the
ballots and related election documents shall be made upon completion of (a) the revision of
ballots or election documents, or (b) the technical examination, if allowed by the court under
the provisions of Rule 11 of these Rules.

Reception of evidence shall be made in accordance with the following order of hearing:

(1) The protestant or petitioner shall present evidence in support of the protest or
petition;

(2) The protestee or respondent shall then adduce evidence in support of the
defense, counterclaim or counter-protest, if any;

(3) The parties may then respectively offer rebutting evidence only, unless the court
for good reasons, in the furtherance of justice, permits them to offer evidence upon
their original case; and

(4) No sur-rebuttal evidence shall be allowed.

In offering testimonial evidence, the party shall require the proposed witness to execute an
affidavit which shall be considered as the direct testimony, subject to the right of the adverse
party to object to its inadmissible portions and to orally cross-examine the witness. The
affidavit shall be based on personal knowledge, shall set forth facts as would be admissible
in evidence, and shall show affirmatively that the affiant is competent to testify on the matters
stated therein. The affidavit shall be in question and answer form. The affidavit shall be
submitted to the court and served on the adverse party at least three days before the
hearing. Failure to submit the affidavit of a witness within the specified time shall constitute a
waiver of the party's right to present testimonial evidence.

The one-day-cross-examination-of-witness rule, that is, a witness has to be fully cross-


examined in one day only shall be strictly adhered to. The court, at its discretion, may extend
the cross-examination for justifiable reasons.

The revision reports, as well as the objected and claimed ballots referred to therein, shall
automatically form part of court records and may be adopted by the parties as their evidence.

SEC. 2. Offer of evidence. - The court shall consider no evidence that has not been formally
offered. Offer of evidence shall be done orally on the last day of hearing allowed for each
party after the presentation of the last witness. The opposing party shall be required to
immediately interpose objections thereto. The court shall rule on the offer of evidence in
open court. However, the court may, at its discretion, allow the party to make an offer of
evidence in writing, which shall be submitted within three days. If the court rejects any
evidence offered, the party may make a tender of the excluded evidence.

SEC. 3. Reception of evidence continuous. - Reception of evidence, once commenced,


shall continue from day to day as far as practicable until terminated. In no case shall the
entire period for reception of evidence exceed ten successive days for each party from the
first day of such reception, unless authorized by the Supreme Court.

13
SEC. 4. Adjournments and postponements. - No motion for postponement shall be
allowed, except for clearly meritorious reasons, in no case to exceed three times of three
calendar days interval each. The filing of dilatory pleadings or motions shall constitute direct
contempt of court and shall be punished accordingly.

SEC. 5. Burden of proof. - Burden of proof is the duty of a party to present evidence of the
facts in issue, necessary to establish one's claim or defense.

SEC. 6. Disputable presumptions. - The following presumptions are considered as facts,


unless contradicted and overcome by other evidence:

(a) On the election procedure:

(1) The election of candidates was held on the date and time set and in the
polling place determined by the Commission on Elections;

(2) The Boards of Election Inspectors were duly constituted and organized;

(3) Political parties and candidates were duly represented by pollwatchers;

(4) Pollwatchers were able to perform their functions; and

(5) The Minutes of Voting and Counting contains all the incidents that
transpired before the Board of Election Inspectors.

(b) On election paraphernalia:

(1) Ballots and election returns that bear the security markings and features
prescribed by the Commission on Elections are genuine;

(2) The data and information supplied by the members of the Boards of
Election Inspectors in the accountable forms are true and correct; and

(3) The allocation, packing and distribution of election documents or


paraphernalia were properly and timely done.

(c) On appreciation of ballots:

(1) A ballot with appropriate security markings is valid;

(2) The ballot reflects the intent of the voter;

(3) The ballot is properly accomplished;

(4) A voter personally prepared one ballot, except in the case of assistors;
and

(5) The exercise of one's right to vote was voluntary and free.

SEC. 7. Submission of memoranda. - The court may allow the parties to submit their
respective memoranda within a non-extendible period of ten days from the verbal ruling of
the court on the last offer of exhibits; or, if the offer was made in writing, within ten days from
receipt of the written ruling of the court. No supplemental, reply or rebuttal memorandum
shall be allowed.

RULE 14
DECISION

SECTION 1. Rendition of decision. - The court shall decide the election contest within thirty
days from the date it is submitted for decision, in no case beyond six months after its filing,
unless the Supreme Court authorizes an extension in writing. Failure to comply herewith

14
shall be considered a serious offense and shall be ground for disciplinary action against the
judge. In addition, after the expiration of six months, the judge shall be relieved of all duties
and functions, except to decide the election case.

An election protest is deemed submitted for decision after completion of the reception of
evidence or, if the parties were allowed to submit memoranda, upon submission of such
memoranda or the expiration of the period for their filing, whichever is earlier. In an election
protest, the winner shall be the candidate who obtained the plurality of the valid votes cast.

SEC. 2. Form of decision in election protests. - After termination of the revision of ballots
and before rendering its decision in an election protest that involved such revision, the court
shall examine and appreciate the original ballots. The court, in its appreciation of the ballots
and in rendering rulings on objections and claims to ballots of the parties, shall observe the
following rules:

(a) On Marked Ballots - The court must specify the entries in the ballots that clearly
indicate that the intention of the voter is to identify the ballot. The specific markings in
the ballots must be illustrated or indicated;

(b) On Fake or Spurious Ballots - The court must specify the COMELEC security
markings that are not found in the ballots that are considered fake or spurious;

(c) On Stray Ballots - The court must specify and state in detail why the ballots are
considered stray;

(d) On Pair or Group of Ballots Written by One or Individual Ballots Written By Two -
When ballots are invalidated on the ground of written by one person, the court must
clearly and distinctly specify why the pair or group of ballots has been written by only
one person. The specific strokes, figures or letters indicating that the ballots have
been written by one person must be specified. A simple ruling that a pair or group of
ballots has been written by one person would not suffice. The same is true when
ballots are excluded on the ground of having been written by two persons. The court
must likewise take into consideration the entries of the Minutes of Voting and
Counting relative to illiterate or disabled voters, if any, who cast their votes through
assistors, in determining the validity of the ballots found to be written by one person,
whether the ballots are in pairs or in groups; and

(e) On Claimed Ballots - The court must specify the exact basis for admitting or
crediting claimed votes to either party.

SEC. 3. Several judgments. - In a protest or petition against several protestees or


respondents, the court may, when a several judgment is proper, render judgment against
one or more of them, leaving the protest or petition to proceed against the others.

SEC. 4. Promulgation of decision. - The decision signed by the presiding judge shall be
promulgated by the reading of the dispositive portion in open court and its filing with the clerk
of court, on a date set with due notice to the parties, or through delivery of a copy of the
signed decision to the clerk of court who shall forthwith indicate the date of rendition and
cause true copies thereof to be served, personally or by registered mail, upon the counsel or
the parties, if not represented by counsel.

SEC. 5. Finality of decision. - The decision of the court shall become final and executory
five days after filing with the clerk of court and receipt of notice by the parties.

SEC. 6. Entry of judgment. - If no appeal is filed within the time provided in these Rules, the
judgment shall be entered by the clerk in the book of entries of judgments. The date of
finality of the judgment shall be the date of its entry. The record shall contain the dispositive
part of the judgment and shall be signed by the clerk, with a certificate that such judgment
has become final and executory.

15
SEC. 7. Notice of final decision. - As soon as the decision becomes final, the clerk of court
shall send notices to the Commission on Elections, the Department of the Interior and Local
Government, and the Commission on Audit.

SEC. 8. Appeal. - An aggrieved party may appeal the decision to the Commission on
Elections, within five days after promulgation, by filing a notice of appeal with the court that
rendered the decision, with copy served on the adverse counsel or party if not represented
by counsel.

SEC. 9. Appeal fee. - The appellant in an election contest shall pay to the court that
rendered the decision an appeal fee of One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00), simultaneously
with the filing of the notice of appeal.

SEC. 10. Immediate transmittal of records of the case. - The clerk of court shall, within
fifteen days from the filing of the notice of appeal, transmit to the Electoral Contests
Adjudication Department, Commission on Elections, the complete records of the case,
together with all the evidence, including the original and three copies of the transcript of
stenographic notes of the proceedings.

SEC. 11. Execution pending appeal. - On motion of the prevailing party with notice to the
adverse party, the court, while still in possession of the original records, may, at its
discretion, order the execution of the decision in an election contest before the expiration of
the period to appeal, subject to the following rules:

(a) There must be a motion by the prevailing party with three-day notice to the
adverse party. Execution pending appeal shall not issue without prior notice and
hearing. There must be good reasons for the execution pending appeal. The court, in
a special order, must state the good or special reasons justifying the execution
pending appeal. Such reasons must:

(1) constitute superior circumstances demanding urgency that will outweigh


the injury or damage should the losing party secure a reversal of the
judgment on appeal; and

(2) be manifest, in the decision sought to be executed, that the defeat of the
protestee or the victory of the protestant has been clearly established.

(b) If the court grants an execution pending appeal, an aggrieved party shall have
twenty working days from notice of the special order within which to secure a
restraining order or status quo order from the Supreme Court or the Commission on
Elections. The corresponding writ of execution shall issue after twenty days, if no
restraining order or status quo order is issued. During such period, the writ of
execution pending appeal shall be stayed.

SEC. 12. Jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections in certiorari cases. - The


Commission on Elections has the authority to issue the extraordinary writs of certiorari,
prohibition and mandamus only in aid of its appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the courts
in election cases involving elective municipal and barangay officials.

SEC. 13. Preferential disposition of election contests. - The courts shall give preference
to election contests over all other cases, except habeas corpus.

RULE 15
COSTS, DAMAGES AND ATTORNEY'S FEES

SECTION 1. Costs; when allowed. - Costs shall be allowed to the prevailing party as a
matter of course. The court shall have the power, for special reasons, to apportion the costs,
as may be equitable. The court may render judgment for costs if a protest, a counter-protest
or a petition for quo warranto is dismissed. When a protest, a counter-protest or a petition
for quo warranto is found to be frivolous, double or treble costs may be imposed on the
protestant, the counter-protestant or the petitioner.

16
SEC. 2. Damages and attorney's fees. - In all election contests, the court may adjudicate
damages and attorney's fees, as it may deem just and as established by the evidence, if the
aggrieved party has included such claims in the pleadings.

RULE 16
TRANSITORY PROVISION

SECTION 1. Applicability. - These Rules shall apply to election protests and petitions
for quo warranto that remain pending and undetermined after their effectivity.

RULE 17
FINAL PROVISIONS

SECTION 1. Repealing clause. - All rules, resolutions, regulations or circulars of the


Supreme Court or parts thereof that are inconsistent with any provision of these Rules are
hereby deemed repealed or modified accordingly.

Rules 35 and 36 of the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure governing election contests
and quo warranto cases before the trial courts are deemed superseded by these Rules.

SEC. 2. Effectivity clause. - These Rules shall take effect on May 15, 2007 following their
publication in two newspapers of general circulation in the Philippines not later than May 3,
2007.

17
EN BANC

G.R. No. 166542 July 25, 2006

NILO L. DOJILLO, petitioner,


vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and RODRIGO N. VIDAL, respondents.

DECISION

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This is a petition for certiorari1 of the Order dated 29 April 20032 and the Resolution dated 3 January
20053 of the Commission on Elections En Banc ("COMELEC En Banc"). The 3 January 2005
Resolution affirmed with modification the findings of the Commission on Elections' Second Division
("COMELEC Second Division"). The COMELEC Second Division reversed the Decision dated 8
August 20024 of the 4th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of San Fabian, San Jacinto, Pangasinan ("trial
court").

The trial court proclaimed petitioner Nilo L. Dojillo ("petitioner") the duly elected Punong Barangay
of Barangay Nibaliw Vidal, San Fabian, Pangasinan and nullified the previous proclamation of
respondent Rodrigo N. Vidal ("respondent") by the Board of Election Tellers (BET) of Nibaliw Vidal.
The COMELEC En Banc's 29 April 2003 Order was a status quo ante order directing the restoration
of conditions that prevailed before the issuance of the trial court's decision. The 29 April 2003 Order
reinstated respondent to the position of Punong Barangay of Nibaliw Vidal, San Fabian, Pangasinan.

The Facts

Petitioner and respondent were two of three candidates for Punong Barangay of Nibaliw Vidal, San
Fabian, Pangasinan in the 15 July 2002 synchronized elections for the Barangay and the Sangguniang
Kabataan. Respondent obtained 374 votes while petitioner received 371 votes. The BET declared
respondent as the elected Punong Barangay by a plurality of three votes.

Petitioner filed an election protest before the trial court on 19 July 2002. Docketed as Election Protest
No. 012 (SF-02), petitioner questioned the election results in Precinct Nos. 84-A, 86-A1, and 87-A1
on grounds of misappreciation of ballots and incorrect tallying of votes. On 24 July 2002, respondent
filed his answer with counter-protest on grounds of misappreciation of ballots, padding of votes, and
presence of flying voters. On 3 August 2002, the trial court issued an order dismissing the counter-
protest due to respondent's failure to pay the required filing fee within the period of filing his answer.
Respondent promptly filed a notice of appeal. However, the Regional Trial Court denied respondent's
appeal for lack of jurisdiction, apart from the order being merely interlocutory.

In his election protest, petitioner objected to 26 ballots5 as marked ballots for respondent and claimed
two ballots6as votes. For his part, respondent objected to 36 ballots7 as marked ballots for petitioner
and claimed five ballots8as votes.

The Ruling of the Trial Court

In its decision dated 8 August 2002, the trial court found that one ballot previously regarded as a stray
vote should be counted in favor of petitioner and that 11 ballots previously counted in favor of
respondent should be declared as marked ballots. The trial court tallied its findings as follows:

In Precinct 84-A:

Votes for [Petitioner] 48+1 = 49 votes

Votes for [Respondent] 54-3 = 51 votes

In Precinct 87A-1:

1
Votes for [Petitioner] = 28 votes

Votes for [Respondent] 77-3 = 74 votes

In Precinct 86A-1:

Votes for [Petitioner] = 48 votes

Votes for [Respondent] 63-5 = 58 votes

Thus the total votes garnered by each of the parties are as follows:

For [Petitioner] 371+1 = 372 total votes

For [Respondent] 374-11 = 363 total votes9

The dispositive portion of the trial court's decision reads thus:

WHEREFORE, a Decision is hereby rendered declaring the protestant NILO L. DOJILLO,


winner by nine (9) votes over protestee as Chairman or Punong Barangay of Nibaliw Vidal,
San Fabian, Pangasinan and hereby proclaims the said NILO L. DOJILLO the duly elected
Chairman/Punong Barangay of Barangay Nibaliw, Vidal, San Fabian, Pangasinan, and hereby
declares the previous proclamation of protestee Rodrigo N. Vidal as the duly elected
Chairman/Punong Barangay made by the Board of Election Tellers of Nibaliw Vidal nullified
and of no effect.

Let [a] copy of this Decision be furnished:

The Comelec, the Department of [Interior and] Local Government and the Commission on
Audit.

SO ORDERED.10

Respondent filed his notice of appeal on 14 August 2002 and submitted his appeal brief to the
COMELEC Second Division.

The Ruling of the COMELEC

The COMELEC Second Division visually scrutinized all the questioned ballots and changed the
election results according to its findings. The COMELEC Second Division tallied its findings as
follows:

DOJILLO VIDAL
Total votes per Election Returns 371 374
Add valid claims 1 3
Total 372 377
Less invalid votes 2 2
Total valid votes 370 37511

In a Resolution dated 20 March 2003, the COMELEC Second Division reversed the decision of the
trial court. The dispositive portion of the Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division reads thus:

WHEREFORE, the decision of the 4th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of San Fabian, San
Jacinto, Pangasinan rendered on August 3, 2002 in Election Protest No. 012 (SF-02) entitled
"Nilo N. [sic] Dojillo, Protestant versus Rodrigo N. Nival [sic], Protestee" is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.Protestee-Appellant Rodrigo N. Vidal is hereby
declared as the duly elected Punong Barangay of Barangay Nibaliw Vidal, San Fabian,
Pangasinan.

No costs.

2
SO ORDERED.12

Petitioner filed his Motion for Reconsideration with the COMELEC En Banc on 25 March 2003. On
29 April 2003, the COMELEC En Banc, through Chairman Benjamin S. Abalos, issued a Status Quo
Ante Order the pertinent portions of which read:

In the meantime, pending resolution of the instant motion, after due deliberation, and finding
that there was no writ of execution of decision pending appeal issued by the lower court, this
Commission hereby issues a STATUS QUO ANTE ORDER, which is the condition
prevailing before the promulgation of the questioned decision of the court a quo dated August
8, 2002 in EP No. 012(SF-02) entitled Dojillo vs. Vidal, reinstating protestee-appellant
Rodrigo N. Vidal to his position as Punong Barangay of Nibaliw [Vidal], Pangasinan,
effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Commission.

SO ORDERED.13

Respondent filed an Urgent Ex Parte Motion to have the Status Quo Ante Order personally served by
an officer of the COMELEC. This motion was granted in an Order dated 30 April 2003. On 5 May
2003, petitioner filed an Extremely Urgent Motion for Partial Reconsideration to Lift Status Quo Ante
Order. Petitioner alleged that the Status Quo Ante Order is procedurally misplaced because he did not
include it in the prayer in his appeal. Moreover, the Status Quo Ante Order is without factual and legal
basis. Petitioner asserted that the incumbent occupied the position of Punong Barangay before the trial
court promulgated its decision. Respondent never occupied the position of Punong Barangay and thus
the COMELEC cannot reinstate him to that position. On 13 May 2003, petitioner filed his
Memorandum with the COMELEC. He also filed an Urgent Motion for Early Resolution of Motion
for Partial Reconsideration to Lift Status Quo Ante Order on the same day.

Without discussing the question raised by its issuance of the Status Quo Ante Order, the
COMELEC En Banc denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration in a Resolution dated 3 January
2005. The COMELEC En Banc also modified the COMELEC Second Division's findings as follows:

DOJILLO VIDAL
Total votes per Election Returns 371 374
Add valid claims 1 3
Total 372 377
Less invalid votes 1 3
Total 371 374
Add valid votes 1 0
14
Total valid votes 372 374

The dispositive portion of the COMELEC En Banc's Resolution reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the summary of findings of the Second Division is


AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. The Motion for Reconsideration is hereby DENIED.

SO ORDERED.15

The Issues

Petitioner alleged that as the COMELEC's Resolutions are not supported by substantial evidence and
are contrary to law and settled jurisprudence, COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack of or excess of jurisdiction. Petitioner raised the following issues before this Court:

1. THE COMELEC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO


LACK OF AND/OR IN EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION IN ITS APPRECIATION OF
BALLOTS PARTICULARLY IN EXHIBITS "1-J", "A-5", "B-1", "B-2", "3-8", "C",
"C-1", "C-3" TO "C-5", WHICH SHOULD NOT BE COUNTED FOR VIDAL.

2. THE COMELEC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO


LACK OF AND/OR IN EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION IN ADDING THE DECLARED
STRAY BALLOTS OF VIDALPARTICULARLY EXHIBITS "2-F", "A", "A-1", "A-

3
3", "B-3" "3-8" AND "C-10", TO HIS VOTES WHERE IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN
DEDUCTED FROM HIS VOTES.

3. THE COMELEC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO


LACK OF AND/OR IN EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION WHEN THE COMELEC
THROUGH ITS CHAIRMAN BENJAMIN ABALOS ARBITRARILY AND
CAPRICIOUSLY ISSUED THE 29 APRIL 2003 STATUS QUO ANTE ORDER
"REINSTATING OR REINSTALLING" VIDAL TO THE POSITION HE NEVER
OCCUPIED OR ASSUMED (Emphasis in the original).16

The Ruling of the Court

The petition has partial merit.

The main issue in this appeal is whether respondent is the duly elected Punong Barangay of Barangay
Nibaliw Vidal, San Fabian, Pangasinan. A discussion on the issues of appreciation of ballots and of
the propriety of the issuance of the Status Quo Ante Order is necessary to resolve the main issue.

Appreciation of Ballots

A ballot indicates the voter's will. There is no requirement that the entries in the ballot be written
nicely or that the name of the candidate be spelled accurately.17 In the reading and appreciation of
ballots, every ballot is presumed valid unless there is a clear reason to justify its rejection. The object
in the appreciation of ballots is to ascertain and carry into effect the intention of the voter, if it can be
determined with reasonable certainty.18

Petitioner separates his question on appreciation of ballots into two. First is the appreciation of ballots
which petitioner previously objected to as marked ballots and which the COMELEC should not have
counted in favor of respondent. Second is the appreciation of ballots which are stray votes and which
the COMELEC should not have counted in favor of respondent.

Petitioner appeals the COMELEC's ruling on the following ballots for being marked ballots: Exhibits
"1-J", "A-5", "B-1", "B-2", "3-8", "C", "C-1", "C-3" to "C-5."19

We relied on the descriptions of the ballots given by the parties, the trial court, and the COMELEC,
and weighed their assertions. Based on jurisprudence, Section 211 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, as
amended ("Omnibus Election Code"), and Section 49 of COMELEC Resolution No. 4846
("Resolution 4846"), which enumerate the rules on appreciation of ballots, we find that we have no
reason to overturn the COMELEC's decision. We shall refer to the pertinent rulings of the trial court
and of the COMELEC Second Division and COMELEC En Banc accordingly.

Respondent objected to Exhibit "1-J" as a marked ballot for petitioner. The trial court ruled that this is
a valid vote for petitioner. The COMELEC Second Division reversed the trial court and stated that
Exhibit "1-J" is indeed a marked ballot: "The distinctive use of, and several impositions with blue ink
on the name of Dojillo with the rest of the votes written in black ink, indicates no other intention than
to identify the ballot." The COMELEC En Banc affirmed the COMELEC Second Division's finding.
In affirming the ruling against the validity of Exhibit "1-J", we apply paragraph 22 of Section 211 of
the Omnibus Election Code, the pertinent portion of which reads: "Unless it should clearly appear that
they have been deliberately put by the voter as identification marks, xxx the use of two or more kinds
of writing shall not invalidate the ballot."

Petitioner objected to Exhibit "A-5" as a marked ballot for respondent. The trial court ruled that this is
a marked ballot: "A big 'X' is written on the space[s] 2 to 7 for kagawad after Pedeglorio Victor L. x x
x The voter is quite intelligent as shown by the hand writing, but the big X can not be considered as
desistance, but to mark and identify his vote." The COMELEC Second Division reversed the trial
court and ruled that the "X" mark merely indicates the voter's desistance from voting further. The
COMELEC En Banc affirmed the COMELEC Second Division's finding. In affirming the ruling for
the validity of Exhibit "A-5", we apply paragraph 21 of Section 211 of the Omnibus Election Code,
the pertinent portion of which reads: "[C]rosses x x x put on the spaces on which the voter has not
voted shall be considered as signs to indicate his desistance from voting and shall not invalidate the
ballot."

4
Petitioner objected to Exhibit "B-1" as an invalid vote for respondent. The trial court stated: "What
was written is neither the name or surname of [respondent]. It can not even be considered under the
rule on idem sonans, the writing seems to be in latin [sic] or greek [sic] VIONI, VIOBI,
IMBERRP, DUCA, SERONO." The COMELEC Second Division reversed the trial court and
ruled that the vote is valid under the intent and idem sonans rule. The voter intended to write "Vidal"
but, due to poor handwriting, only "Vida" was legible. The COMELEC En Banc affirmed the
COMELEC Second Division's finding. In affirming the ruling for the validity of Exhibit "A-5", we
apply paragraph 7 of Section 211 of the Omnibus Election Code, which reads: "A name or surname
incorrectly written which, when read, has a sound similar to the name or surname of a candidate when
correctly written shall be counted in his favor." The idem sonans rule does not require exactitude nor
perfection in the spelling of names. The question whether a name sounds the same as another is not
one of spelling but of pronunciation.20

Petitioner objected to Exhibit "B-2" as a marked ballot for respondent. The trial court agreed with
petitioner. However, the COMELEC Second Division considered the sequence of votes written on
Exhibit "B-2" and ruled that Exhibit "B-2" is a valid vote for respondent under the intent rule. The
ballot contained two names on the space for Punong Barangay: "Vedal Jing" and "Vic Pedeglorio."
The COMELEC En Banc affirmed the COMELEC Second Division's finding. In affirming the ruling
for the validity of Exhibit "B-2", we apply paragraph 19 of Section 211 of the Omnibus Elections
Code, which states that "[a]ny vote in favor of x x x a candidate for an office for which he did not
present himself shall be considered as a stray vote but it shall not invalidate the whole ballot." Vic
Pedeglorio was not a candidate for Punong Barangay, but for Kagawad.

Petitioner objected to Exhibit "C" as a stray ballot that should not be counted for respondent. The trial
court's description of the ballot states that the entry in the space for Punong Barangay is "JINV
Pedeglorio." The trial court decreed that Exhibit "C" is indeed a stray ballot. However, the
COMELEC Second Division held that Exhibit "C" is a valid vote for respondent. It saw that the name
Jing Pedeglorio was written on the space for Punong Barangay, with the surname Vidal superimposed
in capital letters over the surname Pedeglorio. The ballot indicated the voter's intention to correct his
vote for respondent. The COMELEC En Banc affirmed the COMELEC Second Division's finding. In
affirming the ruling for the validity of Exhibit "C", we apply paragraph 22 of Section 211 of the
Omnibus Election Code, the pertinent portion of which reads: "Unless it should clearly appear that
they have been deliberately put by the voter as identification marks, x x x the use of two or more kinds
of writing shall not invalidate the ballot."21We also apply paragraph 9 of the same section, which
reads: "When in a space in the ballot there appears a name of a candidate that is erased and another
clearly written, the vote is valid for the latter."

Petitioner objected to Exhibit "C-1" as a marked ballot for respondent. The trial court agreed with
petitioner because respondent's name is written in "big printed and bold capital letters" unlike the rest
of the entries. Again, the COMELEC Second Division disagreed with the trial court and ruled that the
name "JING-VIDAL", which was boldly written, does not nullify the ballot as marked. The voter
merely emphasized his intent to vote for respondent. The COMELEC En Banc affirmed the
COMELEC Second Division's finding. In affirming the ruling for the validity of Exhibit "C-1", we
apply paragraph 22 of Section 211 of the Omnibus Election Code, the pertinent portion of which
reads: "Unless it should clearly appear that they have been deliberately put by the voter as
identification marks, x x x hyphens between the first name and surname of a candidate x x x, the use
of two or more kinds of writing shall not invalidate the ballot."

Petitioner objected to Exhibits "C-3" to "C-5" as marked ballots for respondent. The trial court agreed
with petitioner's position. There was a star drawn on Exhibit "C-3," a human head was drawn after the
entry of "Juvy Vidal" for Kagawad on line 4 of Exhibit "C-4," and a drawing was made after the entry
of "Rodrigo Vidal" for Punong Barangay on Exhibit "C-5." Both the COMELEC Second Division and
the COMELEC En Banc disagreed with the trial court and stated the figures or symbols which
appeared on Exhibits "C-3" to "C-5" were written by a person other than the voter after the voting
process. The COMELEC Second Division and the COMELEC En Banc considered the difference in
the writing materials used in Exhibits "C-3" and "C-5" and the color of the pen used in Exhibit "C-4."
In affirming the ruling for the validity of Exhibits "C-3" to "C-5", we apply jurisprudence22 which
ruled on marks made after the ballot was cast. A ballot should be counted if it is marked afterwards by
some person or persons other than the voter himself. Subsequent changes in the ballot made by a
person other than the voter should not be permitted to affect the result of the election or destroy the
will of the voters.

5
Petitioner appeals the COMELEC's ruling on the following ballots for being stray ballots: Exhibits "2-
F", "A", "A-1", "A-3", "B-3", "3-8" and "C-10."23 As in the previous paragraphs, we shall refer to the
pertinent rulings of the trial court and of the COMELEC Second Division and COMELEC En
Banc accordingly.

Respondent claimed that in Exhibit "2-F" the name "Jing Calong" is written in the space for Punong
Barangay. "Jing" is respondent's nickname, while "Calong" is petitioner's nickname. The trial court
ruled that this is a stray ballot. The COMELEC Second Division agreed with the trial court. The
COMELEC En Banc was silent on Exhibit "2-F." In affirming the ruling against the validity of
Exhibit "2-F", we apply paragraph 14 of Section 211 of the Omnibus Election Code, the pertinent
portion of which reads: "Any vote x x x which does not sufficiently identify the candidate for whom it
is intended shall be considered as a stray vote but shall not invalidate the whole ballot."24

Petitioner objected to Exhibits "A", "A-1", "A-3", "B-3" and "C-10" as stray ballots and should not
have been counted in favor of respondent. These ballots had "J. Vidal" written on the space for
Punong Barangay. The trial court considered these as valid votes for respondent. The COMELEC
Second Division and COMELEC En Banc upheld the trial court and stated that "J" in "J. Vidal" stands
for the initial of "Jing," Vidal's registered nickname. In affirming the ruling for the validity of Exhibits
"A", "A-1", "A-3", "B-3" and "C-10", we apply the ruling in Gonzaga v. Seno25and Moya v. Del
Fierro:26 the initial of the nickname of the candidate may be used together with the surname of the
candidate for the purpose of identifying the candidate for whom the voter votes.

Propriety of the Issuance of the Status Quo Ante Order

Petitioner also questions the propriety of the Status Quo Ante Order as it reinstates respondent to a
position which he never assumed.

We agree with petitioner that, as written, the Status Quo Ante Order raised more questions than it
solved the legal problems of the case. The Status Quo Ante order had the nature of a temporary
restraining order. We agree with petitioner that the Status Quo Ante Order had a life span of more than
20 days since the directive was qualified by the phrase "until further orders from this Commission." In
line with Repol v. Commission on Elections,27 the Status Quo Ante Order automatically ceased to
have effect on 19 May 2003 since the COMELEC En Banc did not issue a writ of preliminary
injunction.

However, in contrast to Repol, no execution pending appeal was ever issued to any party in the
present case. Upon examination of the events in this case, we find that respondent was proclaimed as
the duly elected Punong Barangay of Nibaliw Vidal, San Fabian, Pangasinan by the BET on 15 July
2002. This was the condition prevailing before the promulgation of the 8 August 2002 decision of the
trial court. On the other hand, the trial court found that petitioner is the duly elected Punong Barangay.
Thus, if an execution pending appeal were issued by the trial court, petitioner should have occupied
the position of Punong Barangay. It is the court's decision that should prevail between the
determination by the trial court of who of the candidates won the elections and the finding of the
Board of Canvassers as to whom to proclaim.28

Nevertheless, the COMELEC's subsequent ruling in favor of respondent and our succeeding
affirmation of the COMELEC's ruling defeats the execution pending appeal and brings us to the
present situation: notwithstanding the previous oaths of office taken by both parties, respondent is the
duly elected Punong Barangay of Nibaliw Vidal, San Fabian, Pangasinan.

WHEREFORE,we PARTIALLY GRANT the petition. We AFFIRM the Resolution of the


Commission on Elections En Banc dated 3 January 2005. We PROCLAIM respondent Rodrigo N.
Vidal the duly elected Punong Barangay of Nibaliw Vidal, San Fabian, Pangasinan with a total of 374
votes against petitioner Nilo L. Dojillo with a total of 372 votes, or a winning margin of two votes.
We SET ASIDE the Order of the Commission on Elections En Banc dated29 April 2003.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

6
Panganiban, C.J., Puno, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Austria-Martinez,
Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Tinga, Chico-Nazario, Garcia, Velasco, Jr.,
J.J., concur.

Footnotes

1
Under Rule 64 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

2
Penned by Chairman Benjamin S. Abalos.

3
Penned by Commissioner Rufino S.B. Javier, with Chairman Benjamin S. Abalos and
Commissioners Mehol K. Sadain, Resurreccion Z. Borra, Florentino A. Tuason, Jr., Virgilio
O. Garcillano, and Manuel A. Barcelona, concurring.

4
Penned by Judge Aniceto L. Madronio.

5
Precinct 84-A: Exhibits "A", "A-1" to "A-6"; Precinct 87A-1: Exhibits "B", "B-1" to "B-5";
and Precinct 86A-1: Exhibits "C", "C-1" to "C-12."

6
Precinct 84-A: Exhibits "A-7" to "A-8."

7
Precinct 84-A: Exhibits "1", "1-A" to "1-K"; Precinct 87A-1: Exhibits "2", "2-A" to "2-E";
and Precinct 86A-1: Exhibits "3", "3-A" to "3-Q."

8
Precinct 84-A: Exhibits "1-L" to "1-M"; Precinct 87A-1: Exhibit "2-F"; and Precinct 86A-1:
Exhibit "3-R" to "3-S."

9
Rollo, p. 78.

10
Id.

11
Id. at 54.

12
Id. at 55.

13
Id. at 57.

14
Id. at 66.

15
Id.

16
Id. at 22.

17
See Abrea v. Lloren, 81 Phil. 809 (1948); Mandac v. Samonte, 49 Phil. 284 (1926) .

18
See Farin v. Gonzales, 152 Phil. 598 (1973).

19
There is no Exhibit "3-8" mentioned in the decision of the trial court or in any of the
resolutions of the COMELEC.

20
See Cecilio v. Tomacruz, 62 Phil. 689 (1935).

21
See also Torres v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 144491, 6
February 2001, 351 SCRA 312; Juliano v. Court of Appeals, 127 Phil. 207 (1967).

7
22
See Valenzuela v. Carlos and Lopez de Jesus, 42 Phil. 428 (1921); Dayrit v. San
Agustin and Valdez, 40Phil. 782 (1920); Paulino v. Cailles, 37 Phil. 825 (1918); Hontiveros
v. Altavas, 26 Phil. 213 (1913).

23
See note 19.

24
See also Garcia v. Court of Appeals, 146 Phil. 1065 (1970).

25
No. L-20522, 23 April 1963, 7 SCRA 741.

26
69 Phil. 199 (1939).

27
G.R. No. 161418, 28 April 2004, 428 SCRA 321.

28
See Santos v. Comelec and Panulaya, 447 Phil. 760 (2003).

8
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 174620 March 4, 2009

ALDO B. CORDIA, Petitioner,


vs.
JOEL G. MONFORTE AND COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, Respondents.

DECISION

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

Aldo B. Cordia (petitioner) and Joel G. Monforte (respondent) were official candidates for the position of
Punong Barangay of Barangay 16 (East Washington) in Legazpi City, Albay during the July 15, 2002
synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

After the canvassing of votes, the Barangay Board of Canvassers proclaimed petitioner as the winning
candidate, having obtained 614 votes against the 609 votes obtained by respondent.

On July 18, 2002, respondent filed an Election Protest before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC)
of Legazpi City, alleging that "(f)or lack of familiarity with the Rules on Appreciation of ballot[s] under
Sec. 49 of COMELEC Resolution No. 4846 dated June 13, 2002, the Board of Election Teller failed to
credit [him]with as many as ten (10) votes."1

The MTCC ordered a recount of the votes which yielded the following results: 2

JOEL MONFORTE ALDO CORDIA


[respondent] [petitioner]
UNCONTESTED VOTES 591 440
ADD: CONTESTED/OBJECTED
18 174
But Credited Votes
ADD: CLAIMED and ADMITTED VOTES 7 0
TOTAL: 616 614

The MTCC thereupon rendered judgment in favor of respondent, accordingly annulling and setting aside
the proclamation of petitioner, declaring respondent as the lawful and duly elected Punong Barangay,
directing petitioner to vacate the Office of the Punong Barangay and to relinquish said position to
respondent, and ordering petitioner to pay the total amount of ₱6,350.00 representing the honoraria of the
members of the Revision Committee and its support staff and other miscellaneous expenses. 3

On appeal, the Second Division of the COMELEC affirmed the MTCC Decision by Resolution 4 of August
14, 2003.

On Motion for Reconsideration, the COMELEC En Banc affirmed 5 the decision of the Second Division by
a 5-1 vote with Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento dissenting.6

Hence, petitioner’s present Petition for Certiorari (With Urgent Application for Temporary Restraining
Order),7alleging that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion

(I)

x x x in applying the neighborhood rule when it disregarded judicial precedents and credited as votes in
favor of respondent, a candidate for punong barangay, the questioned ballots marked as Exhibits A, D, E, F,
H, and K on the mere basis that his name was written on the first space or line intended for the position of
kagawad

1
(II)

x x x in applying the principle of idem sonans when it counted in favor of private respondent the vote
"Mantete" appearing in the questioned ballot marked as Exhibit "A" and worse, written not on the line or
space for punong barangay but kagawad.

(III)

x x x when it ruled that the circle mark on the ballot marked as Exhibit C-17 xxx is but an ink smudge
which is not a marking of the ballot.8 (Emphasis supplied)

In the meantime, the MTCC issued on October 31, 2006 a writ of execution.9 In view of petitioner’s filing
before this Court of an Extremely Urgent Motion Reiterating the Application for Issuance of Temporary
Restraining Order,10 the MTCC recalled and set aside the Writ of Execution.11 And, on respondent’s
Motion for Execution of Judgment,12 the COMELEC declared its Resolution final and executory, 13 and
entered its judgment.14 On January 15, 2007, respondent took his oath of office.15

The Court finds the petition bereft of merit.

The object of the appreciation of ballots is to ascertain and carry into effect the intention of the voter, if it
can be determined with reasonable certainty.16 When placed in issue, the appreciation of contested ballots
and election documents, which involves a question of fact, is best left to the determination of the
COMELEC.17

The COMELEC, in crediting to respondent the vote for "Mantete" in Exhibit "A," following the idem
sonans rule, the Court finds no grave abuse discretion.

Petitioner posits that "Mantete" could refer to Pedro Andes, a candidate for kagawad who, according to
him, was fondly called "Pete" or "Mang Pete" in the barangay. 18 As respondent counters, that there is no
proof that "Mang Pete" is Andes’ registered nickname.19

Neither does the Court find grave abuse of discretion in the COMELEC’s application to Exhibits "A," "D,"
"E," "F," "H," and "K"20 of the "neighborhood rule," which rule refers to:

As used by this Court, this nomenclature, loosely based on a rule of the same name devised by the House of
Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), refers to an exception to the rule on appreciation of misplaced
votes under Section 211 (19) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 (Omnibus Election Code) which provides:

"Any vote in favor of a person who has not filed a certificate of candidacy or in favor of a candidate for an
office for which he did not present himself shall be considered as a stray vote but it shall not invalidate the
whole ballot." (Emphasis supplied.)1avvphi1

Section 211 (19) is meant to avoid confusion in the minds of the election officials as to the candidates
actually voted for and to stave off any scheming design to identify the vote of the elector, thus defeating the
secrecy of the ballot which is a cardinal feature of our election laws. Section 211 (19) also enforces Section
195 of the Omnibus Election Code which provides that in preparing the ballot, each voter must "fill his
ballot by writing in the proper place for each office the name of the individual candidate for whom he
desires to vote."

Excerpted from Section 211 (19) are ballots with (1) a general misplacement of an entire series of names
intended to be voted for successive offices appearing in the ballot, (2) a single or double misplacement of
names where such names were preceded or followed by the title of the contested office or where the voter
wrote after the candidate’s name a directional symbol indicating the correct office for which the misplaced
name was intended; and (3) a single misplacement of a name written (a) off-center from the designated
space, (b) slightly underneath the line for the contested office, (c) immediately above the title for the
contested office, or (d) in the space for an office immediately following that for which the candidate
presented himself. In these instances, the misplaced votes are nevertheless credited to the candidates for the
office for which they presented themselves because the voters’ intention to so vote is clear from the face of
the ballots. This is in consonance with the settled doctrine that ballots should be appreciated with liberality
to give effect to the voters’ will.21 (Underscoring and italics supplied)

Nor does the Court find grave abuse of discretion in the COMELEC’s not rejecting Exhibit "C-17"22 as a
marked ballot, there being no indication that the blot therein was deliberately placed to identify the voter.
Thus, Section 211 (22) of the Omnibus Election Code states

2
Unless it should clearly appear that they have been deliberately put by the voter to serve as identification
marks, commas, dots, lines, or hyphens between the first name and surname of a candidate, or in other parts
of the ballot, traces of the letter "T", "J", and other similar ones, the first letters or syllables of names which
the voter does not continue, the use of two or more kinds of writing and unintentional or accidental
flourishes, strokes, or strains, shall not invalidate the ballot. (Underscoring supplied)

Petitioner argues, nevertheless, that the COMELEC did not examine the original ballot marked as Exhibit
"C-17," for if it did, it could have seen that what appears thereon is not a mere ink smudge but a hole with
"searing around it deliberately burned by a lighted cigarette."23 Both parties admitted the authenticity of the
copies of the ballots examined in the case, however.24

Even assuming that what appears to be an ink smudge on Exhibit "C-17" is actually a hole burned by a
lighted cigarette, there is no proof that the burning was deliberately done to identify the voter.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING ANTONIO T. CARPIO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

(ON OFFICIAL LEAVE) (ON OFFICIAL LEAVE)


CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO* MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ*
Associate Justice Associate Justice

(ON OFFICIAL LEAVE)


RENATO C. CORONA
DANTE O. TINGA*
Associate Justice
Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ARTURO D. BRION DIOSDADO M. PERALTA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION

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

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

Footnotes

3
* On official leave.

1
Rollo, p. 51.

2
Id. at 62.

3
Id. at 63.

4
Penned by Commissioner Florentino A. Tuason, Jr. with the concurrences of Commissioenrs
Ralph C. Lantion and MeHol K. Sadain. Id. at 64-71.

5
Resolution of September 6, 2006, penned by Commissioner Resurreccion Z. Borra, with the
concurrences of Chairman Benjamin S. Abalos, Florentino A. Tuason, Jr., Romeo A. Brawner,
and Nicodemo T. Ferrer and with the dissent of Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento. Id. at 64-77.

6
Id. at 78-82.

7
Id. at 3-39.

8
Id. at 14.

9
Id. at 106-107.

10
Id. at 86-unnumbered page after p. 88.

11
Id. at 108.

12
Id. at 162-163.

13
Id. at 162-163.

14
Id. at 164-164.

15
Rollo, unnumbered page between pp. 164-165.

16
Juan v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 166639, April 24, 2007, 522 SCRA 119, 126.

17
Id. at 126-127.

18
Rollo, p. 30.

19
Id. at 144.

20
Id. at 40-45.

21
Velasco v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 166931, February 22, 2007, 516 SCRA 447,
456-459.

22
Rollo, p. 46.

23
Id. at 31-32.

24
Id. at 51.

4
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 184268 September 15, 2009

ERNESTO BATALLA, Petitioner,


vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and TEODORO BATALLER, Respondents.

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

The Case

In a Petition for Certiorari under Rules 65 in Relation to Rule 64 of the Rules of Court, petitioner assails the
Order1of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division dated April 3, 2008 dismissing his appeal
from the February 12, 2008 Decision2 of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC), Bacacay, Albay, in
Election Case No. B-2007-2, and the Order3 of the Comelec En Banc dated August 5, 2008 denying his
motion for reconsideration.

The Facts

Petitioner Ernesto Batalla (Batalla), who was a former Punong Barangay, and private respondent Teodoro
Bataller (Bataller), then incumbent Punong Barangay, were candidates for the position of Punong Barangay
or Barangay Chairperson in Barangay Mapulang Daga, Bacacay, Albay during the October 29, 2007
barangay elections. During the count, Batalla garnered 113 votes while Bataller garnered 108 votes.
Consequently, Batalla was proclaimed the Punong Barangay winner in Barangay Mapulang Daga, Bacacay,
Albay.

On November 7, 2007, Bataller filed an election protest,4 docketed as Election Case No. B-2007-2, before
the MCTC in Bacacay, Albay against Batalla and six members of the Board of Election Tellers in Precincts
107-A and 108-A for Barangay Mapulang Daga. Bataller claimed misappreciation of seven ballots. During
the revision on December 7, 2007, Batalla did not protest any ballots.

The Ruling of the MCTC

On February 12, 2008, the trial court rendered its Decision finding that Batalla and Bataller had garnered an
equal number of votes. The fallo reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered:

1. Declaring that the protestant [Bataller] and the protestee [Batalla] have received equal number of votes
for the position of Punong Barangay of Mapulang Daga, Bacacay, Albay, in the October 29, 2007 barangay
election, and the winning candidate between the two shall be proclaimed as elected in accordance with
Section 240, Article XIX of the Omnibus Election Code.

SO ORDERED.5

Section 2406 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 881, as amended, otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code,
provides for the drawing of lots in case of a tie of two or more electoral candidates garnering the same or
equal highest number of votes, with the proclamation as winner of the candidate favored by luck.

Of the seven ballots protested, the trial court appreciated five of them in favor of Bataller by applying the
neighborhood and intent rules as enunciated in Ferrer v. Comelec7 and Velasco v. Commission on
Elections,8 and the application of the doctrine of idem sonans. Consequently, the MCTC found both Batalla
and Bataller garnering an equal number of 113 votes each.

Aggrieved, Batalla timely filed his Notice of Appeal9 of the trial court’s decision elevating the election
protest before the Comelec, docketed as EAC (BRGY.) No. 89-2008.

1
The Ruling of the Comelec First Division

On April 3, 2008, the Comelec First Division issued the first assailed Order dismissing Batalla’s appeal in
this wise:

Pursuant to Sections 3 and 4, Rule 40 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure which provide for the payment
of appeal fee in the amount of [P3,000.00] within the period to file the notice of appeal, and Section 9 (a),
Rule 22 of the same Rules which provides that failure to pay the correct appeal fee is a ground for the
dismissal of the appeal, the Commission (First Division) RESOLVED as it here RESOLVES to DISMISS
the instant case for Protestee-Appellant’s [Batalla] failure to pay the appeal fee as prescribed by the
Comelec Rules of Procedure within the five-(5)-day reglementary period.

SO ORDERED.

Aggrieved further, Batalla elevated before the Comelec En Banc the above Order of the Comelec First
Division by filing on April 11, 2008 his Motion for Reconsideration 10 followed by a Supplemental Motion
for Reconsideration11on April 30, 2008.

The Ruling of the Comelec En Banc

On August 5, 2008, the Comelec En Banc issued the second assailed Order affirming the Comelec First
Division’s earlier Order dismissing the appeal for Batalla’s failure to pay the appeal fee and, moreover,
denying his motion for reconsideration for his failure to verify the motion. The second assailed Order, in its
entirety, reads:

Acting on the Motion for Reconsideration filed via registered mail on April 11, 2008 by protestee-appellant
[Batalla], through counsel, seeking reconsideration of the Order issued by the Commission (First Division)
on April 3, 2008 dismissing the herein appeal for protestee-appellant’s [Batalla] failure to pay the appeal
fee as prescribed by the Comelec Rules of Procedure within the five-day reglementary period and the
Manifestation filed via registered mail on April 23, 2008 by protestant-appellee [Bataller], through counsel,
stating that the Motion for Reconsideration was not verified and therefore inadmissible on record and must
be expunged therefrom, and praying that the Order of April 3, 2008 be declared as final, the
Commission En Banc resolved to:

1. DENY the Motion for Reconsideration for movant’s [Batalla] failure to VERIFY the same in accordance
with Section 3, Rule 19 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure, which states:

"Rule 19 – Motions for Reconsideration.

Section 3. Form and Contents of Motion for Reconsideration – The motion shall be verified x x x"

2. Declare the Order of April 3, 2008 to have become final and executory as of April 25, 2008, there being
no motion for reconsideration to speak of, pursuant to Section 13 (c), Rule 18 of the Comelec Rules of
Procedure, to wit:

"Section 13. Finality of Decisions or Resolutions.

xxxx

(c) Unless a motion is seasonably filed, a decision or resolution of a Division shall become final and
executory after the lapse of five (5) days in Special Actions and Special Cases and after fifteen (15) days in
all other actions or proceedings following its promulgation."

ACCORDINGLY, the Clerk of the Commission, Electoral Contests Adjudication Department, is hereby
directed to immediately issue an Entry of Judgment and the Chief, Judicial Records Division of the same
department, to remand the records of the case to the lower court for its proper disposition.

Let copies of this Order and the Order of April 3, 2008 be furnished to Her Excellency, President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo, the Secretary, Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Chairman,
Commission on Audit and the Secretary, Sangguniang Barangay of Barangay Mapulang Daga, Bacacay,
Albay, pursuant to Section 11 (b), Rule 18 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure.

SO ORDERED.

2
Consequently, on August 11, 2008, the Comelec Electoral Contests Adjudication Department issued an
Entry of Judgment12 in EAC No. 89-2008.

The Issues

Thus the instant petition, with Batalla raising the following issues for our consideration:

A. WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT COMELEC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF


DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT ISSUED THE
ASSAILED RESOLUTION DISMISSING THE APPEAL ON TWO GROUNDS OF TECHNICALITIES:
A) FOR FAILURE ON THE PART OF THE PETITIONER TO PAY THE APPEAL FEE ON TIME;
AND B) FAILURE TO VERIFY THE MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION.

B. WHETHER OR NOT THE FIVE CONTESTED VOTES BE DECLARED VOID AND THE HEREIN
PETITIONER BE DECLARED AS THE WINNER IN THE BARANGAY ELECTION LAST OCTOBER
29, 2007.13

The foregoing issues can be summarized into two: first, the procedural issue of whether Batalla’s appeal
ought to be given due course despite the procedural infirmities of belated payment of the appeal fee and the
non-verification of his motion for reconsideration; and second, the corollary substantive issue—if the
appeal is given due course—of whether the appeal is meritorious.

The Court’s Ruling

The petition is meritorious.

Procedural Issue: Appeal Already Perfected

Respondent Comelec grievously erred and gravely abused its discretion when it dismissed and denied
petitioner’s appeal.

The records show that Batalla received the February 12, 2008 MCTC Decision on February 20, 2008. He
timely filed his Notice of Appeal on February 22, 2008 with the MCTC and paid the PhP 1,000 appeal fee
pursuant to A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC.14 He admits paying to the Comelec the additional appeal docket fee of
PhP 3,20015 only on March 5, 2008 or 11 days after he received a copy of the MCTC Decision on February
20, 2008, way beyond the five-day reglementary period to file the appeal under Secs. 3 and 4, Rule 40 of
the Comelec Rules of Procedure. Batalla, however, postulates that the delay in the payment of the appeal
fee in the Comelec was caused by his difficulty in getting to Manila from Barangay Mapulang Daga which
is located in an island off the poblacion of Bacacay, Albay due to the massive floods that inundated the
Bicol area in the months of February and March 2008, aside from the difficulty in getting a bus ride from
Bacacay, Albay to Manila.

While Batalla concedes that his motion for reconsideration of the April 3, 2008 Order of the Comelec First
Division was not verified, he submits that he cured the omission by attaching to the instant petition his
Verification16 as compliance for his motion. He begs our indulgence in light of the Court’s ruling
in Buenaflor v. Court of Appeals,17which reiterated the liberal application of the rules in the perfection of
an appeal upon substantial justice and equity considerations.

Be it noted that while the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on behalf of public respondent Comelec
filed its Comment18 on the instant petition, respondent Bataller, despite notice,19 failed to register his
comment. Thereafter, Bataller was sent notice20 requiring him to show cause and to comply with the earlier
notice to file his comment. To date, Bataller has neither filed his comment nor complied with the show-
cause order. Thus, his opportunity to submit his comment is dispensed with.

The OSG argues that the instant petition is bereft of merit, since the Comelec did not gravely abuse its
discretion in dismissing Batalla’s appeal. The Comelec cannot be faulted for issuing the assailed orders,
applying the clear provisions of the Comelec Rules of Procedure, specifically Sec. 9(a) of Rule 22.
Moreover, the OSG reasons out that Batalla’s late payment of the additional appeal fee to the Comelec is
fatal, since his appeal was never perfected. The mere filing of a notice of appeal is not enough, for the
timely payment of the full appeal fee is an essential requirement for the perfection of an appeal, based
on Rodillas v. Comelec.21 And finally, the OSG cites Loyola v. Commission on Election22 and other
cases,23 which consistently emphasized that non-payment of filing fees in election cases is no longer
excusable.

3
The general rule is that payment of appellate docket fees within the prescribed reglementary period for
filing an appeal is mandatory for the perfection of an appeal. Secs. 324 and 425 of Rule 40 of the Comelec
Rules of Procedure provide for the payment of an additional appeal fee in the amount of PhP 3,200 within
the period to file the notice of appeal, i.e., within five days from receipt of the assailed decision of the trial
court.26 And an appellant’s failure to pay the said appeal fee is a ground for the dismissal of the appeal by
the Comelec under the succeeding Sec. 9(a) of Rule 22. 27

Payment of the two appeal fees perfects the appeal

In the instant case, however, we find that Batalla already perfected his appeal by filing his Notice of Appeal
and by paying the PhP 1,000 appeal fee, pursuant to A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC, within the five-day
reglementary period, to the MCTC; and by paying the additional appeal fee of PhP 3,200 to the Comelec
Cash Division on March 5, 2008. Consequently, the Comelec First Division committed grave abuse of
discretion in dismissing Batalla’s appeal and, likewise, so did the Comelec En Banc in not correcting this
error by denying Batalla’s motion for reconsideration.

The issue of the correct appeal fee to be paid for the perfection of an appeal from the decision of the trial
court in electoral cases was clarified in very recent cases––Aguilar v. Commission on
Elections28 and Divinagracia v. Commission on Elections.29 In both cases, the Court clarified that the
appellant in an electoral protest case decided by the trial court must file his notice of appeal and pay the
PhP 1,000 appeal fee to the trial court that rendered the decision, and must pay to the Comelec Cash
Division the required additional PhP 3,200 appeal fee.

In Aguilar, the earlier case decided on June 30, 2009, the Court ruled that the issuance of A.M. No. 07-4-
15-SC on April 24, 2007, which became effective on May 15, 2007, had superseded Secs. 3 and 4, Rule 40
of the Comelec Rules of Procedure (which provided for the payment of the additional PhP 3,200 appeal fee
to the Comelec Cash Division within the same five-day reglementary period for filing the notice of appeal)
in that the payment of the PhP 1,000 appeal fee to the trial court already perfected the appeal of appellant.
The Court added that the nonpayment or the insufficient payment of said additional appeal fee to the
Comelec Cash Division does not affect the perfection of the appeal or result in the outright or ipso
facto dismissal of the appeal; and that the Comelec is merely given the discretion to dismiss the appeal or
not, following Sec. 9 (a), Rule 22 of the Comelec Rules, or the Comelec may refuse to take action thereon
until the appeal fees are paid pursuant to Sec. 18, Rule 40 of the Comelec Rules. This ruling, however, has
been abandoned in Divinagracia.

In Divinagracia, decided on July 27, 2009, the Court took a second look at the issue of an appellant’s
compliance with the payment of the required appeal fees (both to the trial court and to the Comelec) in the
backdrop of Comelec Resolution No. 8486 in relation to A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC. The Court ruled, thus:

Considering that a year has elapsed after the issuance on July 15, 2008 of Comelec Resolution No. 8486,
and to further affirm the discretion granted to the Comelec which it precisely articulated through the
specific guidelines contained in said Resolution, the Court NOW DECLARES, for the guidance of the
Bench and Bar, that for notice of appeal filed after the promulgation of this decision, errors in the
matter of non-payment or incomplete payment of the two appeal fees in election cases are no longer
excusable.

Comelec Resolution No. 8486,30 issued on July 15, 2008, clarified the procedural rules on the payment of
appeal fees. In said resolution, the Comelec clarified that: (a) if the appellant had paid the PhP 1,000
appeal fee to the trial court within the five-day reglementary period pursuant to A.M. No. 07-4-15-
SC and his appeal was given due course by the trial court, said appellant was required to pay the
additional appeal fee of P3,200.00 to the Commission’s Cash Division within a period of fifteen (15)
days from the time of the filing of the Notice of Appeal with the lower court, or else the appeal would
be dismissible under Sec. 9 (a) of Rule 22; and (b) if the appellant had failed to pay the PhP 1,000
appeal fee to the trial court within the five (5) day period as required under A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC,
but the case was nonetheless elevated to the Comelec, no appeal was perfected and it should be
dismissed outright pursuant to Sec. 9 (a) of Rule 22.

Thus, in holding that Aguilar had not diluted the force of Comelec Resolution No. 8486, the Court
in Divinagraciacategorically ruled that for an appeal to be perfected in an election case from the trial court,
the appellant must: (1) file his Notice of Appeal and pay the PhP 1,000 appeal fee within the five-day
reglementary period to the trial court that rendered the assailed decision, pursuant to A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC;
and (2) pay to the Comelec Cash Division the additional PhP 3,200 appeal fee within 15 days from the time
of the filing of the Notice of Appeal with the lower court pursuant to Comelec Resolution No. 8486. Thus,
any error in the matter of nonpayment or incomplete payment of the two appeal fees in election cases is no
longer excusable and is a cause for the outright dismissal of the appeal.

4
We, however, note that under the present Comelec Rules of Procedure, Sec. 3, Rule 40 provides for the
payment of the additional PhP 3,200 appeal fee to the Comelec Cash Division. The period in which to pay
such additional appeal fee is provided under Sec. 4, Rule 40, thus:

Sec. 4. Where and When to Pay. - The fees prescribed in Sections 1, 2 and 3 hereof shall be paid to, and
deposited with, the Cash Division of the Commission within a period to file the notice of appeal.

And the period to file the notice of appeal is provided under Sec. 3 of Rule 22, thus:

Sec. 3. Notice of Appeal. - Within five (5) days after promulgation of the decision of the court, the
aggrieved party may file with said court a notice of appeal, and serve a copy thereof upon the attorney of
record of the adverse party.

The promulgation of the decision is understood to mean the receipt by a party of a copy of the decision.
Thus, to recapitulate, under Sec. 4, Rule 40 in relation to Sec. 3, Rule 22 of the Comelec Rules of
Procedure, an appellant from a decision of a trial court in an election protest case is given a reglementary
period of five days from the receipt of a copy of the decision within which to pay the PhP 3,200 additional
appeal fee to the Comelec Cash Division.

Considering that the Comelec En Banc issued on July 15, 2008 Comelec Resolution No. 8486, which
allowed the payment of the additional appeal fee of PhP 3,200 to the Comelec Cash Division within 15
days from the filing of the notice of appeal, said Resolution, however, has effectively amended Sec. 4,
Rule 40 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure. Thus, the Comelec is advised to reflect such amendment in
their rules for the proper guidance of the Bench, the Bar, and litigants.

In the instant case, it is undisputed that Batalla had already perfected his appeal by paying the required
appeal fees. He paid the PhP 1,000 appeal fee to the trial court on February 22, 2008 within the five-day
period from receipt of the decision and the additional PhP 3,200 appeal fee to the Comelec Cash Division
on March 5, 2008 or within 15 days from the filing of his notice of appeal. It is, thus, clear that Batalla had
perfected his appeal by complying with the appeal requirements.

It must be noted that the required payment of separate and distinct appeal fees to the trial court under A.M.
No. 07-4-15-SC and to the Comelec under its Rules of Procedure has caused much confusion to litigants. In
fact, it became necessary for the Comelec to clarify the procedural rules on the payment of these appeal
fees, and for this purpose issued Comelec Resolution No. 8486 on July 15, 2008.

While it seems that the Comelec First Division may not be faulted for following the then prevailing
Comelec Rules of Procedure, still, it cannot close its eyes to the fact of the confusion in the payment of
distinct appeal fees, which many litigants––like petitioner Batalla––went through. It must be noted that
Batalla complied in good faith with the required payment of the additional appeal fee as soon as he was
able.

But what was worse was the Comelec En Banc’s denial of Batalla’s motion for reconsideration on mere
procedural grounds, through the second assailed Order of August 5, 2008, after it had already issued
clarificatory Resolution No. 8486 on July 15, 2008. Having issued said clarificatory resolution a scant 16
days before it issued the second assailed Order, the Comelec En Banc was duty-bound to recognize the
timeliness and the compliance of Batalla’s appeal. Procedural rules are applied retroactively when no
vested rights are prejudiced. Such was the case with Batalla’s appeal. He had paid the PhP 1,000 appeal fee
to the MCTC within the five-day reglementary period under Sec. 4 of Rule 40 of the Comelec Rules of
Procedure. And he paid the additional PhP 3,200 appeal fee to the Comelec Cash Division within the 15-
day period granted under Resolution No. 8486. Clearly, he had complied with the procedural appeal
requirements of the Comelec.

Fairness and prudence dictate that the Comelec En Banc should have recognized Batalla’s compliance with
clarificatory Resolution No. 8486 when it resolved his motion for reconsideration and should not have
merely denied it on the procedural ground of non-verification. It is true that the verification requirement
was not complied with, but such procedural lapse pales in the face of the manifest error in the dismissal of
Batalla’s appeal by the Comelec First Division when the Comelec En Banc had already issued Resolution
No. 8486, granting an appellant—in this case, Batalla—15 days within which to pay the additional fee of
PhP 3,200, with which he had already complied.

Perforce, then, the assailed Orders must be reversed and set aside for having been issued with grave abuse
of discretion. Accordingly, the appeal of Batalla must be given due course.

Substantive Issue: Petitioner Won in the Protested Election

5
In the interest of expeditious dispensation of justice, the Court will no longer remand Batalla’s appeal to the
Comelec and instead rule on the merits of the appeal in this petition. The core issue is whether the five
protested ballots were correctly appreciated by the MCTC as votes for Bataller, resulting into a tie between
the contenders.

Batalla’s arguments

Batalla vehemently disagrees with the findings of the trial court in appreciating the five protested ballots in
favor of Bataller, specifically arguing that:

(a) Ballot 1: Exhibit "A"31 shows, contrary to the finding of the MCTC, the contested name written
on the line for Punong Barangay, but the surname is not discernable as it was written in a way
susceptible to different interpretations, i.e., it can be read either as Batalla or Bataller. Batalla thus
contends that this is a case of writing the first name of a candidate and the surname of the
opposing candidate, in which case the ballot ought to be considered a stray ballot under Sec.
211(6)32 of the Omnibus Election Code.

(b) Ballot 2: Exhibit "B"33 shows that while the space for Punong Barangay is left blank, the first
of the names for kagawad is unreadable and does not sufficiently identify Bataller, since the name
written seems to be "tododer" and as such cannot be equated to Teodoro (Bataller), much less,
credited to him pursuant to Sec. 211(14)34 of the Omnibus Election Code, for there is no way of
determining the intention of the voter as held in Bautista v. Comelec.35 Moreover, Batalla
maintains that "tododer" cannot also be appreciated under the doctrine of idem sonans in favor of
his opponent, as the MCTC erroneously held, for Bataller did not indicate or apply for "tododer"
to be recognized as one of the names for which he can be voted, and neither has it been shown that
Bataller is known in the barangay as such.

(c) Ballot 3: Exhibit "C,"36 similar to Exhibit "B," should be deemed a stray ballot, for the real
intention of the voter cannot be determined.

(d) Ballot 4: Exhibit "E"37 shows the name of Teodoro Bataller written on the space for the
candidates for kagawad, with that for Punong Barangay left blank, and should be considered a
stray vote pursuant to Sec. 211(8)38 of the Omnibus Election Code.

(e) Ballot 5: Exhibit "G"39 is not legible and does not sufficiently identify the candidate, and to
consider it a vote for Bataller is highly speculative and conjectural.

Only three ballots to be credited to Bataller

After a scrutiny of the five (5) contested ballots subject of Batalla’s instant position, we rule that three (3)
ballots marked as Exhibits "A," "E," and "G" were properly appreciated and credited in favor of Bataller
under the neighborhood rule and intent rule. On the other hand, the ballots marked as Exhibits "B" and "C"
are stray ballots.

We explain our ruling this way:

(1) The above Exhibit "A" ballot clearly shows the first name "Teodoro," while the surname
written is a bit confusing; still, it certainly cannot be read as "Batalla" since the way it is written
clearly indicates eight characters. The first six characters clearly make out "Batall," and the last
two characters are the ones that are quite illegible. The name "Batalla" consists of only seven
characters, while "Bataller" consists of eight characters. Thus, with the eight characters of the
surname and the first name properly made out as "Teodoro," the benefit of the doubt tilts in favor
of Bataller. More so, if the first name alone of a candidate (where no other candidate has a similar
name)––in this case, for example, Teodoro or Ernesto––is sufficient to appreciate the vote for that
candidate, with more reason should the first name of Teodoro and the surname making out
"Bataller" be appreciated in his favor. Evidently, the voter wanted to cast his ballot in favor of
Bataller as Punong Barangay. The intent rule is well settled in this jurisdiction that in the
appreciation of the ballot, the objective should be to ascertain and carry into effect the intention of
the voter, if it could be determined with reasonable certainty. Hence, the intention of the voter to
vote for Bataller is unequivocal from the face of the Exhibit "A" ballot. The ballot in question
should be liberally appreciated to effectuate the voter’s choice of Bataller.

(2) The ballot marked as Exhibit "E" above was properly credited in Bataller’s name under the
neighborhood rule as applied in Ferrer40 and, more recently, in Abad v. Co41 where the Court

6
applied the same rule and credited to the candidates for Punong Barangay the votes written on the
first line for kagawad with the spaces for Punong Barangay left vacant.

The neighborhood rule is a settled rule stating that where the name of a candidate is not written in the
proper space in the ballot, but is preceded by the name of the office for which he is a candidate, the vote
should be counted as valid for said candidate.42 Such rule is usually applied in consonance with the intent
rule which stems from the principle that in the appreciation of the ballot, the object should be to ascertain
and carry into effect the intention of the voter, if it could be determined with reasonable certainty.

In Velasco, the Court explained the neighborhood rule and its application in this wise:

The votes contested in this appeal are all misplaced votes, i.e., votes cast for a candidate for the wrong or,
in this case, inexistent office. In appreciating such votes, the COMELEC applied the "neighborhood rule."
As used by the Court, this nomenclature, loosely based on a rule of the same name devised by the House of
Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), refers to an exception to the rule on appreciation of misplaced
votes under Section 211(19) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 (Omnibus Election Code) which provides:

Any vote in favor of a person who has not filed a certificate of candidacy or in favor of a candidate for an
office for which he did not present himself shall be considered as a stray vote but it shall not invalidate the
whole ballot. (Emphasis supplied.)

Section 211(19) is meant to avoid confusion in the minds of the election officials as to the candidates
actually voted for and to stave off any scheming design to identify the vote of the elector, thus defeating the
secrecy of the ballot which is a cardinal feature of our election laws. Section 211(19) also enforces Section
195 of the Omnibus Election Code which provides that in preparing the ballot, each voter must "fill his
ballot by writing in the proper place for each office the name of the individual candidate for whom he
desires to vote."

Excepted from Section 211(19) are ballots with (1) a general misplacement of an entire series of names
intended to be voted for the successive offices appearing in the ballot; (2) a single or double misplacement
of names where such names were preceded or followed by the title of the contested office or where the
voter wrote after the candidate’s name a directional symbol indicating the correct office for which the
misplaced name was intended; and (3) a single misplacement of a name written (a) off-center from the
designated space, (b) slightly underneath the line for the contested office, (c) immediately above the title
for the contested office, or (d) in the space for an office immediately following that for which the candidate
presented himself. In these instances, the misplaced votes are nevertheless credited to the candidates for the
office for which they presented themselves because the voters’ intention to so vote is clear from the face of
the ballots. This is in consonance with the settled doctrine that ballots should be appreciated with liberality
to give effect to the voters’ will.43

The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) first laid down the particulars of the above
"neighborhood rule" in Nograles v. Dureza.44 Nograles and subsequent related rulings were later codified in
its "Rules and Rulings on Appreciation of Ballots" (HRET Rules). We note that the HRET
Rules45 provided for the "neighborhood rule" and the "intent rule," and that the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s
Rules on Appreciation of Ballots has adopted the HRET’s "neighborhood rule."

Thus, the MCTC is correct in appreciating name of Teodoro Bataller in the Exhibit "E" ballot as a vote for
Bataller although written on the space for Kagawad pursuant to the neighborhood and intent doctrines.

(3) The ballot marked as Exhibit "G" above was likewise properly credited in Bataller’s name
under the neighborhood rule and the intent rule, being similarly situated as the ballot marked as
Exhibit "E." Moreover, contrary to Batalla’s contention, the name of Bataller, written in this ballot
on the first line for kawagad, is quite distinct and legible.

(4) The Exhibit "B" ballot above is a stray ballot and cannot be credited to Bataller. We agree with
Batalla that neither the neighborhood rule nor the doctrine of idem sonans apply to this
instance. First, the neighborhood rule applies when the name for Punong Barangay is left vacant,
while the name of a candidate for Punong Barangay is clearly legible or discernable. This
particular ballot does not clearly show the name of the candidate written on the first space for
kagawad. Second, the word "tododer" written on the first line for kagawad does not necessarily
refer to Teodoro Bataller. The word "tododer" does not sound like Teodoro under the idem sonans
(having the same sound) rule. Said rule of law states that the occurrence in a document of a
spelling of a material word that is wrong but has the sound of the word intended does not vitiate
the instrument.46 Neither was it shown that Bataller is known by that name in Barangay Mapulang
Daga in Bacacay, Albay. Third, while it is paramount to give full expression to the voter’s will

7
under the intent rule as indicated in the ballots––thus, the liberality in ballot appreciation––it is
necessary that the voter’s intention be at least discernable with certainty. It has not been
satisfactorily shown that "tododer" is used as a name of a person or the nickname of a candidate.
Absent any indication of such discernable intent, we cannot appreciate this particular ballot in
favor of Bataller. Thus, the MCTC erroneously credited this ballot to Bataller.

(5) Exhibit "C" ballot above is also a stray vote, for Bataller’s name is not found on or near any of
the lines corresponding to the offices of Punong Barangay and kagawads, and, thus, does not
relate to any office. The name of Bataller was written in the upper portion of the ballot, above the
instructions to the voter, but below the words "Bacacay, Albay," while the lines provided for the
kagawads were properly filled up.

In Velasco,47 a similar factual situation transpired in two protested ballots during the 2002 barangay
elections. A particular ballot marked as Exhibit "13" showed that the lines for kagawad were properly filled
up, but the line for Punong Barangay was left vacant and therein private respondent’s name written above
the instructions to the voter and below the words "San Pablo City." On the other hand, the ballot marked as
Exhibit "9" similarly had the lines for kagawad properly filled up, but therein private respondent’s name
was written in the left uppermost part of the ballot. The Court ruled that the votes in the ballots marked as
Exhibits "9" and "13" for therein private respondent were stray votes, for they did not relate to any office,
and ratiocinated thus:

x x x Section 211(19), which treats misplaced votes as stray, speaks of a vote for a candidate "for
an office for which he did not present himself." Thus, there is more reason to apply this rule here as the
votes in Exhibits "9" and "13" do not even relate to any office.

Nor do the votes in question fall under any of the exceptions to Section 211(19) enumerated above. x x x
Exhibits "9" and "13" present an unusual case of extremes—while respondent’s name was written way off
its proper place, the names of persons who were presumably candidates for Sangguniang Barangay
Kagawad were properly placed, without the slightest deviation, in the first of the seven lines for that
office.1avvphi1

This gives only two possible impressions. First, that the voters in these two ballots knew in fact where to
write the candidates’ names, in which case the votes for respondent written way off its proper place become
stray votes. Second, the voters’ manner of voting was a devise to identify the ballots, which renders the
ballots invalid. We adopt the more liberal view—that the misplaced votes in Exhibits "9" and "13" are stray
votes under Section 211(19), thus, leaving the ballots valid.

Considering that the vote for Teodoro in Exhibit "C" ballot does not even relate to any office, then said
misplaced vote is treated as stray.

Thus, to recapitulate, of the five protested ballots, three are properly credited in favor of Bataller while the
other two ballots are declared stray votes for Punong Barangay. Consequently, Batalla having garnered a
total of 113 votes prevailed by two votes over Bataller, who only garnered an adjusted total of 111 votes
(less the two ballots with stray votes, i.e., ballots marked as Exhibits "B" and "C").

WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is hereby GRANTED. The assailed Orders of the Comelec First
Division and Comelec En Banc, dated April 3, 2008 and August 5, 2008, respectively, are REVERSED and
SET ASIDE. The appeal of Ernesto Batalla is given DUE COURSE and the Decision of the MCTC in
Bacacay, Albay dated February 12, 2008 is accordingly REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Ernesto Batalla is
hereby DECLARED the WINNER for the position of Punong Barangay or Barangay Chairperson of
Mapulang Daga, Municipality of Bacacay, Albay during the Barangay Elections held on October 29, 2007.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

(On official leave)


LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO*
Associate Justice
Associate Justice

8
ANTONIO T. CARPIO RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ARTURO D. BRION DIOSDADO M. PERALTA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice
CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the
above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of
the Court.
REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

Footnotes
* On official leave.
1
Rollo, p. 29. Per Presiding Commissioner Romeo A. Brawner and Commissioner Moslemen T.
Macarambon, Sr.
2
Id. at 22-27, per Presiding Judge Marietta Lea B. Rosana.
3
Id. at 38 and 40, per Chairperson Jose A.R. Melo and Commissioners Rene V. Sarmiento,
Nicodemo T. Ferrer, Moslemen T. Macarambon, Sr., Leonardo L. Leonida and Lucenito N. Tagle.
4
Id. at 16-18, Petition dated October 31, 2007.
5
Id. at 27.
6
Sec. 240. Election resulting in tie.––Whenever it shall appear from the canvass that two or more
candidates have received an equal and highest number of votes, or in cases where to or more
candidates are to be elected for the same position and two or more candidates received the same
number of votes for the last place in the number to be elected, the board of canvassers, after
recording this fact in its minutes, shall by resolution, upon five days notice to all the tied
candidates, hold a special public meeting at which the board of canvassers shall proceed to the
drawing of lots of the candidates who have tied and shall proclaim as elected the candidates who
may be favored by luck, and the candidates so proclaimed shall have the right to assume office in
the same manner as if he had been elected by plurality of vote. The board of canvassers shall
forthwith make a certificate stating the name of the candidate who had been favored by luck and
his proclamation on the basis thereof. Nothing in this section shall be construed as depriving a
candidate of his right to contest the election.
7
G.R. No. 139489, April 10, 2000, 330 SCRA 229.
8
G.R. No. 166931, February 22, 2007, 516 SCRA 447.
9
Rollo, p. 28, dated February 22, 2008.
10
Id. at 30-33, dated April 11, 2008.
11
Id. at 34-37, dated April 30, 2008.
12
Id. at 39.
13
Id. at 7.
14
Rules of Procedure in Election Cases before the Courts involving Elective Municipal and
Barangay Officials, dated May 15, 2007.
15
Rollo, p. 47, Official Receipt No. 0513533.
16
Id. at 45.
17
G.R. No. 142021, November 29, 2000, 346 SCRA 563.
18
Rollo, pp. 62-69, dated January 22, 2009.
19
Id. at 48, Resolution dated September 30, 2008.
20
Id. at 82, Resolution dated April 28, 2009.
21
G.R. No. 119055, July 10, 1995, 245 SCRA 702; citing Galang v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No.
76221, July 29, 1991, 199 SCRA 683.
22
G.R. No. 124137, March 25, 1997, 270 SCRA 404.

9
23
Soller v. Comelec, G.R. No. 139853, September 5, 2000, 339 SCRA 685, 693; Miranda v.
Castillo; G.R. No. 126361, June 19, 1997, 274 SCRA 503; Gatchalian v. Court of Appeals, G.R.
No. 107979, June 19, 1995, 245 SCRA 208; Pahilan v. Tabalba, G.R. No. 110170, February 21,
1994, 230 SCRA 205.
24
Sec. 3. Appeal Fees. – The appellant in election cases shall pay an appeal fee as follows:
a. Election cases appealed from Regional Trial Courts P1,000.00.
b. Election cases appealed from courts of limited jurisdiction …. P500.00.
In every case, a legal research fee of P20.00 shall be paid by the appellant in accordance
with Sec. 4, Republic Act No. 3870, as amended. (Comelec’s Reolution No. 02-0130,
issued on September 18, 2002, prescribes P3,000 as appeal fee plus P50 for legal research
and P150 for bailiff’s fee.)
25
Sec. 4. Where and When to Pay. - The fees prescribed in Sections 1, 2 and 3 hereof shall be paid
to, and deposited with, the Cash Division of the Commission within a period to file the notice of
appeal.
26
Comelec Rules of Procedure, Rule 22, Sec. 3.
27
Sec. 9. Grounds for Dismissal of Appeal.––The appeal may be dismissed upon motion of either
party or at the instance of the Commission on any of the following grounds:
(a) Failure of the appellant to pay the correct appeal fee.
28
G.R. No. 185140, June 30, 2009.
29
G.R. Nos. 186007 & 186016, July 27, 2009.
30
Entitled "In the Matter of Clarifying the Implementation of COMELEC Rules Re: Payment of
Filing Fees for Appealed Cases Involving Barangay and Municipal Elective Positions From the
Municipal Trial Courts, Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts and Regional
Trial Courts."
31
Rollo, p. 41.
32
6. When two words are written on the ballot, one of which is the first name of the candidate and
the other is the surname of his opponent, the vote shall not be counted for either.
33
Rollo, p. 42.
34
14. Any vote containing initials only or which is illegible or which does not sufficiently identify
the candidate for whom it is intended shall be considered as a stray vote but shall not invalidate
the whole ballot.
35
G.R. No. 133840, November 3, 1998, 298 SCRA 480.
36
Rollo, p. 43.
37
Id. at 44.
38
8. When a name of a candidate appears in a space of the ballot for an office for which he is a
candidate and in another space for which he is not a candidate, it shall be counted in his favor for
the office for which he is a candidate and the vote for the office for which he is not a candidate
shall be considered as stray, except when it is used as a means to identify the voter, in which case,
the whole ballot shall be void.
39
Rollo, p. 46.
40
Supra note 7.
41
G.R. No. 167438, July 25, 2006, 496 SCRA 505.
42
See Farin v. Gonzales, No. L-36893, September 28, 1973, 53 SCRA 237.
43
Supra note 8, at 455-459.
44
HRET Case No. 34, June 16, 1989, 1 HRET Reports 138.
45
Under the HRET Rules, the "neighborhood rule" provides:
A vote shall be counted in favor of a claimant where his name is found:
a) On any of the lines for Governor, Vice-Governor, Members of Sangguniang
Panlalawigan, Provincial Board Member, Mayor, Vice-Mayor and Members
Sangguniang Panlungsod/City Council provided that:
i. the line for Representative is blank;
ii. no other name of a congressional candidate was written on the ballot;
iii. the misplaced vote was not intended as an identifying mark; and
iv. there were no intervening votes between the line for Representative
and the line on which the claimant’s name could be found, except when
the vote was written on the line for Governor, in which case, this
requisite is no longer necessary.
b) On the line for President, provided that:
i. the line for Representative is blank;
ii. no other name of a congressional candidate was written on the ballot;
iii. the misplaced vote was not intended as an identifying mark; and
iv. the lines for Vice-President, Senators and Party-List are also blank.
c) On the line for Vice-President, provided that:
i. the line for Representative is blank;
ii. no other name of a congressional candidate was written on the ballot;
iii. the misplaced vote was not intended as an identifying mark; and
iv. the lines for Senators and Party-List are also blank.

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d) On lines 1 and 2 for Senators, provided that:
i. the line for Representative is blank;
ii. no other name of a congressional candidate was written on other
lines for Senators in the same ballot; and
iii. the misplaced vote was not intended as an identifying mark.
The HRET also adopted the "Intent Rule," comprising two parts (the "Evident Intent
Rule" and "Correct Sequence Rule"), which provides:
A) Evident Intent Rule
Claimed ballots shall be admitted where the name of the party-claimant appeared on any
line other than that for Representative, and is preceded by the descriptive title
"Congressman" or "Representative," or the word "Congressman" or "Representative" was
written on a space immediately followed by the name of a claimant, or with an arrow
pointing to the space for Representative subject to the following conditions:
1) the line for Representative is blank, or has an entry which is not a
congressional candidate but with an arrow pointing to the appropriate space
where the vote should be;
2) no other name of a congressional candidate is written on the ballot; and
3) the misplaced vote was not intended as an identifying mark.
B) Correct Sequence Rule
1) A misplaced name of a congressional candidate may be admitted provided it
can be discerned from the sequence of votes or entries that the voter intended to
vote for the congressional candidate named therein, provided that:
a) the line for Representative is blank or need not be blank if the voter
was not so lettered;
b) no other name of a congressional candidate was written on the
ballot; and
c) the misplaced vote was not intended as an identifying mark.
2) Where the name of the party claimant appears below the line or space for
Representative/Congressman and is followed by the name of a gubernatorial
candidate or the names of the gubernatorial and vice-gubernatorial candidates,
respectively, subject to the following conditions:
a) the line for Representative is blank;
b) no other name of a congressional candidate was written on the
ballot;
c) the misplaced vote was not intended as an identifying mark; and
d) in case of misplaced names followed by a name of a gubernatorial
candidate or by names of a gubernatorial and a Vice-gubernatorial
candidates, respectively, the lines for Governor and Vice-Governor are
also blank.
3) Where the name of the party claimant appears on other lines, but
a) was preceded by the name of a candidate for Party-List and followed
by the name of a candidate for Governor; or
b) was followed by the name of a candidate for Governor and a
candidate for Vice-Governor provided that:
i. the line for Representative is blank;
ii no other name of a congressional candidate was written on
the ballot; and
iii. the misplaced vote was not intended as an identifying
mark.
46
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 1122 (1993).
47
Supra note 8.

11